20 April 2021

Green Alliance releases net zero policy tracker to reach UK climate targets

Environmental think tank Green Alliance publishes its latest net zero policy tracker, which monitors the extent to which the UK Government policy and spending commitments since the start of 2020 will enable the UK to reach its legally binding climate targets.

‘The UK is off track but there is still time to act,’ the report reads, revealing that the UK risks complacency just as the heavy lifting is needed across the economy to create green jobs and reach 2050 net zero target.

Although the UK economy has reduced its carbon emissions at the fastest rate in the world over the past decade, this success is largely due to the phase-out of coal power.

According to the report, the faster than predicted shift to renewable energy is disguising a lack of progress in other sectors of the economy, such as transport, agriculture and land use, and buildings.

This means the UK will struggle to reduce its climate impact and meet its ambitious net zero emissions by the 2050 target. Ahead of hosting the G7 in June and the Glasgow COP26 climate conference in November, Green Alliance states that it is crucial for the UK to maintain its credibility as a leader of climate action.

‘When it comes to cutting emissions and rebuilding the economy after Covid, the prime minister really can have his cake and eat it,’ says Chris Venables, Head of Politics at Green Alliance.

The UK has already made great strides on clean energy, this success now needs to be replicated by all parts of the economy and all departments of government with the same level of drive.’

Key findings of the analysis:

  • Power sector emissions have fallen from 21% in 1990 to only 11% of total UK carbon emissions in 2021.
  • Over half of UK emissions now come from the transport, buildings, and agriculture and land use sectors.
  • Based on current government policy, emissions will be nearly 40% higher than needed to hit the 2030 climate target.
  • The UK has to more than double its annual spending on net zero focused policies from £21.2bln to £43.6bln, every year to 2024, to meet its climate targets.

Green Alliance says that if the government prioritised five key policy asks, it could make significant progress in closing the gap to 2030 and getting the UK on the right course for meeting net zero by 2050.

The five key policy points are as follows:

  • Buildings are responsible for 16% of UK emissions. The government should invest £2.3bln annually to bring down the climate impact of buildings, including replacing the scrapped Green Homes Grant with a robust homes decarbonisation policy that puts in place long term regulation, funding, and incentives to upgrade the UK’s inefficient housing stock over the next decade.
  • Resource extraction and processing causes half of global emissions and contributes 6% of UK emissions. This important and overlooked area of climate policy should be addressed immediately with an ambitious, legally binding target to halve UK resource consumption by 2050. To work, this target must be implemented across the economy to focus all areas on greater efficiency and waste minimisation.
  • Transport is now the largest source of UK emissions, accounting for 31%. An additional £8.7bln annual spending on low carbon transport is required, including to supercharge the transition to electric vehicles and upgrade public and active transport. The main mechanism to deliver large-scale decarbonisation in this sector is through the long-awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
  • To cut emissions from agriculture and land use, the government should increase the ambition and regulations behind the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme to support farm businesses in adopting sustainable land management practices. £6.6bln of additional spending is needed to support the restoration of nature and the establishment of a sustainable food, farming, and fishing sector. 
  • In the power sector, the rapid shift to renewables should continue. A new target to phase out unabated natural gas by 2035 should be legislated for in government to speed up the removal of all polluting fossil fuels from the power system within 15 years.