How the UK is progressing

The CCC undertakes an annual assessment of whether the UK is on course to meet its carbon budgets, and reports this progress to Parliament. The Committee also reports on Scotland’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions against its annual carbon targets. This includes tracking the latest emissions data and identifying underlying progress, as opposed to reporting on fluctuations related to temporary factors (e.g. the weather).

UK emissions were 44% below 1990 levels in 2018. The first (2008-12) and the second carbon budget (2013-17) have been met and the UK is on track to meet the third (2018-22) carbon budget, but is not on track to meet the fourth, which covers the period 2023-27 and not on track to meet the Fifth Carbon Budget (2028-32). In September 2020, the Committee will be advising on the 6th Carbon Budget (2033-37) which will be the first Carbon Budget set in line with the new Net Zero target.

Focus on: Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming

In May 2019, the CCC produced a report called Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming, the report responded to a request from the Governments of the UK, Wales and Scotland, asking the Committee to reassess the UK’s long-term emissions targets. The CCC recommended a new emissions target for the UK:

  • A net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990. However, this is only possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay.

In June 2019, the updated target was legislated by the UK Government.

Reaching net-zero emissions requires an annual rate of emissions reduction (15 MtCO2e per year, 3% of 2018 emissions) that is 50% higher than under the UK’s previous 2050 target and 30% higher than achieved on average since 1990. This is an indication of how substantial the step up in action must be to cut emissions in every sector.

Monitoring progress

The CCC has developed indicators to track emissions, progress in low-carbon investments, and the development of government policies. This allows early identification of any areas where targets could be missed. Some of the indicators we track include:

  • Emissions in an average unit of electricity – and how low this could go if we used our existing power infrastructure differently.
  • Size of onshore and offshore wind farms at various stages of the project cycle.
  • Emissions from new cars and the rate of development in electric vehicles market.
  • The number of lofts and walls being insulated and boilers upgraded, including moves to low-carbon heat such as ultra-efficient heat pumps.
  • Progress of government policies such as grants for electric vehicles and Electricity Market Reform.

To see more on the rationale for our framework of indicators see our first statutory report to Parliament (2009), and for a full breakdown of our current indicators see our most recent progress report to Parliament (2019).