The UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have ambitious targets to reduce emissions. Now the priority is to deliver against these targets. This shift in focus, from ambition to delivery, is the basis of our new Monitoring Framework, which sets out our updated approach to tracking UK progress.
This is an evolving framework, and we will continue to update our approach over time, including as targets change, when new data becomes available, and after major Government decarbonisation strategies. We welcome feedback and suggestions.
Climate targets in the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has a statutory obligation to monitor Government progress in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases towards the UK’s carbon budgets and climate targets. The CCC also has duties under devolved legislation.
- UK targets. The UK is required by the Climate Change Act to reach Net Zero emissions by 2050 and meet a series of five-year carbon budgets over this period, which the CCC advises on. These are in addition to our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which is a commitment of a 68% reduction in emissions by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. The NDC is a more stringent target than the Fifth Carbon Budget (2028—2032).
- The UK Government published its Net Zero Strategy in 2021, outlining how it expects to meet the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Carbon Budgets with illustrative scenarios for Net Zero in 2050. It committed to providing a public update every year on progress towards these targets. Further detail and revisions to the existing pathways were published in the 2023 Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP). The CBDP also presents some unquantified policies which also contribute towards meeting these targets.
- Since 2009 the CCC has produced an annual progress report. These reports assess the strength and credibility of Government ambition and policy across the economy.
- Scotland’s targets. Scotland must reach Net Zero by 2045, as required by the 2019 Scottish Climate Act. The Act also requires interim targets in 2030 and 2040, and annual targets.
- Scotland’s strategic delivery plan for meeting these targets is updated every five years, most recently in the 2020 Climate Change Plan update. This is accompanied by an annual monitoring report.
- The CCC also publishes an annual report on progress in reducing emissions in Scotland.
- Wales’ targets. Wales has set a 2050 Net Zero target as well as interim targets for 2030 and 2040. Like the UK, this involves five-year carbon budget periods.
- The Welsh Government must publish a statement assessing whether a target or carbon budget has been met within two years of the date of the target (or the end of the budgetary period).
- Welsh legislation requires the CCC to publish a progress report following each interim target and budgetary period.
- Northern Ireland’s targets. Northern Ireland has set a 2050 Net Zero target in the 2022 Climate Change Act. Again, this includes five-year carbon budget periods, along with annual targets and interim targets for 2030 and 2040.
- The Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) has to publish an interim progress report for each budgetary period, monitoring progress against sectoral climate action plans, which are required by the act.
- The CCC will produce progress reports half-way through the first budgetary period (2025), at the end of each budgetary period, and following each interim target.
Underlying principles behind the CCC’s monitoring framework
We have developed our monitoring framework with an aim of identifying as early as possible where changes are needed to stay on track to the UK’s emissions targets. To do that we use the following principles:
- Considering all aspects. Our approach aims to paint a full picture of progress in mitigating climate change. This involves looking at the UK through various lenses. Our main focus is a sectoral framework, where we consider what needs to happen in each sector across the economy (Box 1.1). Beyond this, we consider various cross-cutting themes such as public engagement, skills, governance, trade and consumption emissions, business action, innovation, affordability and fairness. Only by succeeding across those areas will the transition succeed overall.
- Looking for the early signals of change. For some of the changes across the economy, the emissions savings will take a number of years to scale up. Our framework aims to identify what the early signs of progress should be and when we should expect to see them, to highlight where course-correction will be necessary before it is too late.
- Spotting the signal from the noise. Tracking quantitative indicators is only useful to the extent that it brings clarity to the overall picture. We aim to monitor what’s important, not just what’s easy to measure, choosing indicators that accurately represent underlying societal changes. We recognise that progress isn’t always linear and take care not to mistake short-term noise for longer-term trends.
- Being flexible to changing contexts. While we strive to keep our methods stable, we will remain flexible in the face of changing global and national contexts. For example, volatile fossil fuel prices may provide an impetus for going faster than the strategy originally intended.
Our benchmark for measuring UK progress
The Government’s 2021 Net Zero Strategy provides, for the first time, a set of pathways for each sector that, when taken together, would achieve the UK’s legislated carbon budgets, and put us on a path towards Net Zero by 2050. Further detail and revisions to the existing pathways were published in the 2023 Carbon Budget Delivery Plan.
- These pathways intend to illustrate realistic scenarios of how the economy could change in line with the UK’s climate targets. They are developed by modelling the emissions reductions from a range of measures and technologies in all sectors.
- The Government’s analysis is mostly in line with the CCC’s pathways, developed for our advice on the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget. However, there are differences in the mix of measures, technologies and delivery mechanisms involved, and the level of ambition is not equal in all areas. The Government’s pathways are indicative only, they are not viewed by the CCC as sectoral targets. In the CBDP, the Government also presents unquantified plans, which may lead to further emissions reductions beyond the quantified pathway.
- We can monitor progress against a pathway by comparing against historical data, and tracking indicators which tell us how real-world changes compare to the modelled scenarios. For example, we can observe whether uptake of electric vehicles is happening at the calculated rate required to achieve the emissions reductions in the transport pathway.
In our progress reports we will assess progress against the Government’s own pathways, where the data are available, supplemented in places by CCC analysis. Both the Government’s pathway and CCC’s Balanced Pathway are plausible scenarios that will provide useful reference points against which to compare the real-world outcomes.
- For sectors where we agree with the Government’s ambition, we will use the Government Pathway as the basis for our progress monitoring.
- In other areas, where the Government ambition is insufficient (e.g. aviation demand), or the level of detail provided is insufficient to monitor progress in a useful way, the CCC’s pathways will instead be used as the benchmark.
- We assess progress according to our own sector definitions, which are aligned with the policy levers for emissions reductions. These are broadly similar to those in the Government’s strategies, but with a few notable differences (Box 1.1). We convert the Government’s pathways into our sector classification, to ensure that we are comparing like for like.
Many aspects of the transition are inherently uncertain. The Committee recognises that progress may be faster in some sectors, and slower in others. This is acceptable, so long as the overall targets are met. We will highlight areas where Government is on course to underperform, so that action can be taken to get back on track or reduce emissions faster elsewhere.
Key outputs of our monitoring framework
The CCC uses a range of outputs to build a complete picture of real-world progress. These are described in more detail in chapter 1.
- Sector monitoring maps. By understanding the interplay between Government policies, enablers and outcomes, we can focus our progress monitoring towards the most crucial steps. We highlight these key dependencies in our monitoring maps.
- Indicators of progress. We use an extensive array of indicators to measure real-world progress, derived from our sector monitoring maps. They track not only the deployment of low-carbon technologies, but wider enablers of the transition, such as public attitudes and the scale-up of markets.
- Data gaps. Developing a comprehensive list of indicators has allowed us to identify that key data gaps that need filling in order to fully assess progress.
- Assessment of policies and plans. We have developed a framework to monitor whether the Government’s plans are on track to deliver their climate targets in each sector. This includes policy scorecards broken down by sub-sector, and a quantitative assessment of the potential emissions reductions from current plans. This allows us to identify the key risks to meeting UK emissions targets.
- Recommendations. Every year we make recommendations to Government departments and other relevant bodies, outlining the next steps that need taking. We also score progress against the recommendations made in the previous year’s progress report.
|Source: BEIS (2021) Net Zero Strategy
The CCC’s sector definitions, compared to the Government’s in their 2021 Net Zero Strategy & 2023 Carbon Budget Delivery Plan
The CCC’s sector definitions are as follows:
The sector definitions in the Government’s Net Zero Strategy and Carbon Budget Delivery Plan are broadly aligned with the CCC’s, with some notable differences:
 The Balanced Pathway is the CCC’s recommended pathway from our Sixth Carbon Budget analysis. This is based on insights from several exploratory emissions scenarios. While it is not a prescriptive path that must be followed exactly, it provides a good indication of what should be done over the coming years.Back to top