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Progress towards reaching Net Zero in the UK

Last updated: July 2024

This is a summary of the CCC’s July 2024 assessment of the Government’s progress in reducing emissions in line with the UK’s climate targets. This resource doesn’t aim to cover all areas in detail, so for a more comprehensive analysis refer to our latest Progress Report. To learn more about how we track progress, take a look at our Monitoring Framework.

1. Emissions reductions need to speed up and broaden to more sectors

Final emissions data confirm that the UK has achieved its Third Carbon Budget, covering the period 2018 to 2022. The UK has now achieved all three of its carbon budgets to date, demonstrating strength in the UK’s legal framework. The UK’s territorial emissions (excluding emissions from the UK’s contribution to international aviation and shipping) are now less than half the levels in 1990.

More than half of the emissions reductions seen over the first three carbons budgets was from energy supply sectors. Looking forwards, more than three quarters of the required emissions reductions for the next three carbon budgets is expected to come from other sectors. In particular, contributions from transport, buildings, agriculture, land and removals will need to accelerate fast (Figure 1).

Last year, 2023, saw an increase in the rate of emissions reductions compared to the previous seven years, but this was not driven by sustained decarbonisation action. The rate of reduction outside the electricity supply sector will need to accelerate to meet the UK’s 2030 target (Figure 2). From now on, emissions reductions will need to be driven by sustained decarbonisation action including the rapid roll-out of key low-carbon technologies, tree planting and peatland restoration.

2. Most of our delivery indicators are off track

The significant fall in emissions in the last year was driven by a reduced demand for gas. This is reflected by good progress in our indicators for energy demand in buildings. Also on track is our indicator for car traffic levels, which did not fully rebound to pre-pandemic levels, although van traffic remains too high. However, our delivery indicators for low-carbon technology roll-out, tree planting and peatland restoration are off track for what is required to meet the UK’s 2030 and Net Zero targets.

  • The growth in the market share of battery electric cars stagnated last year despite preceding years of rapid growth, bringing levels to 16.5%, and below our recommended pathway for the first time (Figure 3). Sales of electric vans remain significantly off track, with a market share of only 6% in 2023. Sales of both electric cars and vans will need to significantly ramp up to approach 100% by 2030. Installation rates of public electric vehicle charging points are on track, but they need to reach treble current rates by 2030.
  • Progress slowed on offshore wind installations last year. Operational capacity will need to at least triple by 2030 (Figure 4). This will require a three-fold increase in annual installation rates compared to the average rate seen since the start of this decade. Onshore wind installation rates will need to double and solar installation rates will need to increase five times. All three indicators are judged to be off track.
  • Annual heat pump installations in homes were just over 60,000 in 2023 (Figure 5). The total installation rate seen in 2023 will need to increase substantially by the end of the decade, to ensure that approximately 10% of current homes are heated by a heat pump, compared to around 1% today.
  • Tree planting (Figure 6) and peatland restoration rates are significantly off track and will both need to more than double to get as close as possible to the UK’s targets of 30,000 ha new woodland creation per year by 2025 and 32,000 ha peatland restored per year by 2026.

3. Policies and plans are insufficient to achieve the UK’s targets

Our assessment is that the previous Government’s policies and plans were insufficient to achieve the UK’s targets in the 2030s. There were a few good developments in some areas in the past year. However, policy reversals and delays in other areas, together with inconsistent messaging, have hindered progress just when acceleration was needed. With the 2030 target only six years away, and the impacts of climate change intensifying, rapid action is needed to get things back on track.

  • Only around one third of the emissions reductions required to meet the 2030 target are covered by credible plans, mostly in the electricity supply and surface transport sectors (Figure 7). This was assessed to be a quarter last year.
  • The main things that improved our score this year are the ZEV mandate and the move to industrial electrification (Figure 8).
  • However, this been undermined by confusing and inconsistent messaging and actions, which risk undermining consumer confidence and the development of UK supply chains. In particular, the previous UK Government announced:
    • Delays to phase-out dates of fossil-fuel vehicles and boilers, sending mixed messages to investors, businesses and consumers on the UK’s plans.
    • An exemption of 20% of households from the phase-out of fossil-fuel boilers by 2035, which is of particular concern, making Net Zero harder to achieve.
    • A decision not to regulate for improved energy efficiency of rented homes.
  • There remains a significant proportion (14%) of the required emissions reductions covered by completely insufficient plans and an additional 4% gap between the former Government’s quantified pathway and the 2030 NDC target. These insufficient plans are predominantly from the delays and exemptions announced in the last year; in the industry sector; and from a lack of policies for agriculture and land.

4. Priority actions

The new Government has an opportunity to reset the UK’s direction. It must send long-term consistent messages on the importance of climate action to businesses and households, back that up with key policies to support investment, and focus on removing barriers to deployment. Here, we set out ten priority actions for the remainder of this year. Rapid progress is needed to make up lost ground.

  • Make electricity cheaper. Removing policy costs from electricity prices will support industrial electrification and ensure the lower running costs of heat pumps compared to fossil-fuel boilers are reflected in household bills.
  • Reverse recent policy rollbacks. Remove the exemption of 20% of households from the 2035 fossil-fuel boiler installation phase-out, address the gap left by removing obligations on landlords to improve the energy efficiency of rented homes and reinstate the 2030 phase-out of new fossil-fuel car and van sales. The damage of these rollbacks can be limited by quickly reinstating these policies.
  • Remove planning barriers for heat pumps, electric vehicle charge points and onshore wind.
  • Introduce a comprehensive programme for decarbonisation of public sector buildings.
  • Effectively design and implement the upcoming renewable energy CfD auctions. Ensure funding and auction design for the Sixth and Seventh Allocation Rounds are appropriate to deliver at least 50 GW of offshore wind by 2030.
  • Accelerate electrification of industrial heat. Strengthen the UK Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure that its price is sufficient to incentivise decarbonisation and that support is available for a rapid transition to electric heat across much of industry.
  • Ramp up tree planting and peatland restoration. Tree planting must be scaled up in the 2020s for abatement to be sufficient for later carbon budgets and Net Zero. There must be no more delays to addressing the barriers to delivery.
  • Finalise business models for large-scale deployment of engineered removals. Finalise and open to the market the business models for engineered removals.
  • Publish a strategy to support skills. Support workers in sectors which need to grow or transition and in communities that may be adversely impacted.
  • Strengthen NAP3 with a vision that sets clear objectives and targets and reorganise government adaptation policy. Adaptation must become a fundamental aspect of policymaking across all departments and be integrated into other national policy objectives.

We welcome feedback on this resource and our wider Monitoring Framework. Please contact us with any comments.