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2023 – gearing up for the next cycle

The new year is a moment to think ahead – and there’s particular importance for the CCC this year.

We plan our work over five years. The Sixth Carbon Budget Advice and the Third Climate Change Risk Assessment were our last major outputs, published two years ago. Now our attention turns to the Seventh Carbon Budget and the Fourth Climate Change Risk Assessment (get ready for ‘CB7’ and ‘CCRA4’ to enter common usage).

2023 is the midpoint of the cycle. This year, we’ll define what we hope to achieve and build a programme of research, engagement and analysis to do it.

The Seventh Carbon Budget takes us into the early 2040s, a period when we should have fully decarbonised some key UK sectors. What happens if we haven’t? How should other sectors respond if decarbonisation is slower or faster than anticipated?

And by that time, the UK is likely to be experiencing much more intense effects from the warming climate. Can we build a coherent view of how these changes will affect the UK and how we might respond? This year we begin the UK’s Fourth Climate Change Risk Assessment, with the intention of providing more in-depth answers to these questions – and how we might quantify the benefits of adaptation and the inherent linkages across our society.

The Climate Change Act requires us to think in this way – a medium-term focus, anchored by a long-term goal – but it’s an outlook I’d commend to others.

Every year we gather more evidence on the multiple benefits of tackling climate change. It requires changes to key systems that we all depend upon – our food, energy and transport systems for example. It needs investment in new infrastructure, new industries, new jobs. These changes are rooted in actions we take now. They take time – and we will fail to realise the benefits if we do not anchor our response to immediate pressures – on energy security, and the cost-of-living crisis– in these longer-term goals.

Our analytical programme in 2023 is driven by this type of thinking. Much of the analysis we are commencing this year will not be published until after the next UK General Election. That adds extra potency – many critical climate policy decisions fall in the crucial second half of the 2020s, early in the next Parliament.

The increasing interconnection of mitigation and adaptation

We have set ourselves a further challenge from 2023 onwards: to integrate our analysis of our twin responsibilities, reducing emissions and adapting to climate change.

Under the Climate Change Act, the CCC has two expert Committees on mitigation and adaptation. To date, the CCC analytical teams have also been separate. But from 2023, we have new CCC teams looking across the interconnected mitigation and adaptation challenges:

  • Built environment – decarbonising buildings, while making our urban areas more climate resilient to heatwaves and flood risks.
  • Infrastructure – understanding the infrastructure requirements of net-zero for industry and transport, while preparing for different and often more intense weather extremes, and the higher risks of supply chain interruptions that climate change will bring.
  • Energy supply – building a deeper understanding of how we decarbonise our energy system, while making it more climate resilient and energy secure, particularly to the weather extremes that could impact on a highly renewable based future energy system.
  • Land, agriculture – perhaps the most exciting area of new analysis. Establishing an integrated view of the changes we need in land and food systems to achieve net-zero in a warming climate – and doing so in a way that protects natural systems, agricultural productivity and enhances biodiversity. This is an area where we hope to look again, over the coming years, at some key elements of the climate and environment challenges.

And we have established analytical teams to consider wider, cross-society, issues:

  • People and business – building a clearer view of the role of business in the transition, how finance will support it – and how changes to incentives might encourage people to play more of a role in the UK’s climate response. And new analytical resource on one of the key aspects of the net zero transition: the changes ahead for workers and skills.
  • International – bringing in evidence of the response in other parts of the world, and greater outreach capacity to allow us to establish stronger links with other climate advisory bodies and their governments.

We’ve also integrated the work of our two Committees, with key members of the mitigation and adaptation committees moving across more freely as our work requires it. These changes are designed to give the CCC a new outlook. It’s exciting to make this a reality – a forerunner of the same challenges that the UK will face in delivering these changes on the ground.

Here are some of the key reports coming up in 2023:
  • February
    • The Impacts of Net Zero on Workers. Analysis of the implications of the Net Zero transition for the UK labour market, assessing risks and opportunities for workers. More work is planned through the year on this theme.
    • Adaptation Investment. Insights on the UK’s adaptation investment requirements and how these can be financed.
  • Spring
    • Requirements of a zero-carbon power system. New analysis of the requirements for a resilient, reliable zero-carbon power system in the UK, with new modelling of the phase-out of unabated gas, and the role of hydrogen and storage in achieving the Government’s aim of zero-carbon power by 2035.
    • Adaptation Progress Report – England. Assessment of progress in delivering adaptation in England, in advance of the third National Adaptation Plan, due from Defra late this year.
    • Role of business in a Net Zero UK. New insights from our business advisory group, formed to consider how business and the private sector can support the Net Zero transition.
    • Adaptation Progress Report – Northern Ireland
    • Adaptation Progress Report – Wales
  • Summer
    • Public Engagement on Climate Change
    • Reducing UK Emissions – Progress Report
    • Fairness and Affordability. New modelling exploring policies for a fair transition – and how costs and benefits can be allocated fairly across UK households.