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The benefits of the Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act has formalised the UK’s approach to tackling climate change – both on mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (increasing resilience to climate change). It provides a clear direction of travel, while allowing for flexibility and innovation.

  • The Act was based on and has helped to maintain a remarkable cross-party consensus.
  • The Act also created the independent Climate Change Committee. The CCC has helped to ensure that the UK’s overall direction of travel on climate change has remained focused on achieving the long-term 2050 target, and kept this aim separate from political fluctuations. As such, much of the Committee’s advice has been instrumental in the UK’s success so far.
  • The Act puts in place a rolling cycle of statutory national risk assessments and a resulting Adaptation Programme that must address the risks. Few other countries have a statutory adaptation process of this kind.
  • The Act has cemented the UK’s position as an international leader in tackling climate change. Other countries have also introduced their own legislation, and many have based it on the UK’s Climate Change Act (e.g. Sweden, New Zealand).
  • Since 2008, five carbon budgets have been approved by Parliament. These budgets create a smooth and practical pathway towards meeting the UK’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 100% compared to 1990 levels.
  • UK emissions have continued to fall since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008. In 2018, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions were 44% below 1990 levels. This means the UK has met the first two carbon budgets (2008-12 and 2013-17) and is on track to meeting the third (2018-22). It is not currently on track to the fourth (2023-2027) or fifth (2028-2032) budgets, however.

The challenges of the next 10 years

  • The next decade is critical if the UK is to build on the strong foundations it has laid through the Climate Change Act.
  • Intensive action is required in many areas:
    • The UK must continue to drive down its emissions right across the economy if it is to meet its legally-binding carbon targets into the 2020s and 2030s at least cost, in line with the science, and fairly.
    • This requires building on current plans and proposals, and supplementing them with additional measures, to ensure the UK is on track to meet the overall Net Zero emissions target by 2050.
    • The UK must ramp efforts to ensure the nation is adequately prepared for and adapting to the effects of changing average conditions and more extreme weather on the natural environment, built environment, infrastructure. Improving UK resilience in the short and longer-term will require a number of changes to people’s behaviour.