Ten years of the Climate Change Act

Achievements of the Climate Change Act to date

  • The Climate Change Act has formalised how the UK tackles climate change. It provides a clear direction of travel, while allowing for flexibility and innovation.
  • The Act has helped to maintain a remarkable cross-party consensus, with five carbon budgets being approved by Parliament. These budgets create a smooth and practical pathway towards the UK’s 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 80% compared to 1990 levels.
  • UK emissions have continued to fall since the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008. In 2017, the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions were 43% below 1990 levels, while the economy grew by two-thirds over the same period. This means the UK will have met the first two carbon budgets (2008-12 and 2013-17) and is on track to meeting the third (2018-22)
  • The Act has cemented the UK’s position as an international leader in climate change. Other countries have introduced their own legislation, and many have based it on the Climate Change Act (e.g. Sweden).
  • As part of the Climate Change Act, the independent Committee on Climate Change was created. The Committee has helped to ensure that UK’s overall direction of travel on climate change has remained focused on the long-term target, separate from political fluctuations. As such, the Committee’s advice has been instrumental in the UK’s success so far.
  • The Act is also helping the UK to increase it resilience to climate change that is happening now, and future effects.
  • The government is spending more on flood defences, is considering enhanced natural flood management, and is looking at Sustainable Urban Drainage systems – all recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.

 The challenges of the next 10 years

  • The next ten years are critical if the UK is to build on the strong foundations it has laid through the Climate Change Act.
  • Intensive action is required if the UK is to drive down its emissions right across the economy and meet its carbon targets into the 2020s and 2030s at least cost.
  • More action is needed to ensure the nation is adequately prepared for changing average conditions and more extreme weather; in the natural environment, built environment, infrastructure and through changing people’s behaviour.
  • The government’s Clean Growth Strategy sets out how it intends to meet the 4th and 5th carbon budgets, but the Strategy does not yet go far enough. Urgent action is needed to flesh out current plans and proposals, and supplement them with additional measures, to meet the UK’s legally-binding carbon targets in the 2020s and 2030s.

Read our Independent Assessment of the Clean Growth Strategy

Read more about the Climate Change Act and how it works