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Doubling down on climate delivery in 2022

CCC Chief Executive, Chris Stark, looks ahead to a busy year for the Climate Change Committee.

In 2022 the CCC will enter its 15th year. This website lists 325 separate publications since our establishment, a huge library of insights. It’s interesting to browse the titles to get a sense of how the CCC’s focus has changed over the years. Alongside our regular statutory publications, you can spot the climate issues that have taken priority with each passing year. Some now seem from a different age, others are as topical as ever.

Our emphasis will shift again in 2022. The COP26 climate conference in Glasgow provided a focal point for UK climate policy in 2021, the draw for new ambitions from Government and new commitments from the private sector. The UK’s climate goals have been substantially reset, so the focus moves to delivery and implementation. Ministers have made clear that the lion’s share of progress will be made by the private sector, led by Government. So that is where the CCC’s attention must also turn: private sector delivery and implementation of the public policies to underpin it. And ‘delivery’ in 2022 will have to be achieved in the context of a dramatic spike in global fossil fuel prices and new pressures on the cost of living, as we recover from the pandemic.

Our programme of work responds to these new circumstances. This year we will publish new advice that will differ substantially from our output of recent years, considering various aspects of the multiple climate challenges across the UK.

Reducing emissions

Our recent advice on emissions reduction has been dominated by the collective refocusing of efforts on the goal of Net Zero emissions by 2050. It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Government’s actions in the last three years: setting a new UK Net Zero target in 2019, then legislating the Sixth Carbon Budget in 2021 in line with our ‘Balanced Net Zero Pathway’, and finally publishing the Net Zero strategy, which we reviewed here. We’ve seen similar progress in Scotland and Wales, and clear moves towards new climate legislation in Northern Ireland.

The statutory architecture for reaching Net Zero across the UK is now substantially in place, so we must move to a new phase of work.

Our analysis will continue to be rooted in the key sectoral challenges: energy supply; surface transport; buildings; industry; agriculture; aviation; shipping; waste; fluorinated-gases and greenhouse gas removals. And we’ll continue to offer an integrated view of the UK’s infrastructure requirements, land use changes, and key questions over the use of biomass and carbon capture and storage. We plan a reboot in our approach to monitoring progress across these areas and we’ll deepen our advice on the specific circumstances in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

And from 2022 we’ll also provide new advice on the cross-economy enablers of the transition:

  • Governance and delivery – including how delivery is organised within Government and coordinated with local Government and other regulatory or public bodies.
  • People and public engagement – considering public attitudes to the changes ahead and how people can be engaged, informed and consulted.
  • Fair funding – how the benefits and costs of the Net Zero transition can be spread fairly across households, business and the Exchequer, with special focus on fiscal policies and managing impacts on energy bills.
  • Workers and skills – building better insights into the changes ahead for the UK’s workforce, the regional and sectoral challenges, and how the shift in skills demand can be anticipated so it doesn’t present a barrier to rapid progress.
  • Business action, investment and finance – working with the private sector to offer new insights on shaping corporate commitments to complement the national effort and advising on Government policies that are investible and help to reduce the cost of private finance.

Our 2022 publications kick off in the next few weeks, with advice on new oil and gas licensing in the UK, and its compatibility with our climate objectives. And we’ll stay offshore with a new briefing on ‘blue carbon’ in coastal and marine ecosystems, drawing together the latest evidence on the climate contribution of UK waters. Over the year, we’ll also publish some deep dives into the new Net Zero Strategy, beginning with a review of the Government’s approach to decarbonising heat and buildings, taking us into one of the most contested recent topics: how to decarbonise homes and support consumers at the same time.

Adapting to climate change

In 2021 we produced our independent assessment of UK Climate Risk, a comprehensive appraisal of the risks and opportunities presented by current and future climate change here in the UK. Later this month the Government will respond to that assessment, formally laying the third climate change risk assessment before Parliament, as required under the Climate Change Act.

That will mark the end of the third cycle of climate risk assessment and the beginning of the fourth. In our new adaptation work programme, we intend to focus more on the practical response to key climate risks, quantifying and clarifying the goals for adaptation where possible and shining a light on the need for realistic plans in each part of the UK to adapt to climate change.

In the coming months we’ll also publish an assessment of the latest Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme and appraise the reports from critical organisations on how they have factored climate change adaptation into their own business planning, through the Adaptation Reporting Powers contained in Climate Change Act.

International action

The UK holds the COP Presidency for most of 2022, before handing it to Egypt at COP27. This is a unique period for UK climate diplomacy. Our COP26 round-up considered the achievements of Glasgow, the implications of the new Glasgow Climate Pact, and how it might be applied at home. The coming year represents another crucial phase for UK climate leadership, so we will monitor the progress of the UK programme and appraise the global circumstances, just as the Climate Change Act requires.

One of the most valuable legacies of COP26 is the strengthened links the CCC now holds with similar advisory bodies around the world, through the new International Climate Councils Network. We’ll continue to share the UK’s experience and learn from the very different approaches taken in other countries.

Monitoring progress

This year, too, we’ll revamp the CCC’s approach to progress monitoring and reporting, under the Climate Change Act. The Act makes it the responsibility of Government to act on the targets set by Parliament. We are given the twin role of advising Government on the achievement of these goals and appraising the progress of Government in meeting them. We’ve thought carefully about the second of these duties – getting it right will help to inform Parliamentary scrutiny and can itself support new action and better policymaking.

Again, our focus must shift to the real world. It’s no longer enough to look for the existence of a Government policy, most gaps have been filled in some way or another. We now need to appraise whether the programme is delivering real change on the ground. That’s especially challenging when the private sector – individuals and corporates – are often frontline in driving the changes at the scale and pace that’s required.

So, June will be a notable moment, as we publish our latest UK Progress Report to Parliament and launch our updated approach. We are developing new metrics of progress, peering beneath the policies, and building a better dashboard of indicators, with timely information and a broader outlook on what drives real-world progress, including non-Government actions.

We are also working on a new framework for monitoring progress on emissions reduction, and a strengthened framework for monitoring and evaluating adaptation progress. Expect a bumper assessment in June.

A changing committee

And finally, perhaps the most notable change for the CCC this year will be the shifting membership of our two Committees. Up to eight new public appointments will be made, through open competition, as the terms of existing Committee Members come to an end – including that of our Chairman, Lord Deben, later in the year.

The recruitment campaign has already begun to find three new Members for our Adaptation Committee. Do help us to spread the word.

The mix of skills and expertise on our two Committees since 2008 has been one of our key strengths, as an independent, evidence-led organisation. In that library of CCC publications, you’ll see the strong legacy of the current set of CCC commissioners. The coming year will see a changing of the guard and the beginning of the next era for the CCC. I’m excited to see what it will bring.