UK climate policy in 2020: what to expect

Chris Stark is the Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent public body helping to drive government climate policy. In a recent blog he outlined what 2020 might (and must) hold for climate action in the UK. We take a closer look at the CCC’s forecast of UK climate policy in 2020.

Road to COP26

By all accounts, the outcome of COP25 in Madrid was disappointing. Alongside a protest by Indigenous and youth activists highlighting the prevalence of greenwashing, it revealed how many businesses and governments are happier to drag their heels than take serious action.

COP26 in Glasgow is a chance for the UK to lead the world in making genuine progress on targets, rather than simply making new ones. As Stark writes, this is a chance for the UK to “put its own house in order – not just setting a net zero target, but making credible plans to meet it”.

Climate governance

One key area of focus in 2020 is climate governance. Following Boris Johnson’s election victory in December, all eyes will be on his newly-reformed cabinet, which is due to be announced after we leave the EU on January 31st.

Discussion of resurrecting the Department for Energy and Climate Change would be welcome news, alongside a more recent suggestion of a Climate Cabinet to focus on climate policy at the top table. But more meaningful climate governance is needed at all levels – from Westminster ministers at the top, to local councils, Welsh and Scottish governments.

Reaching net zero

To reach net zero emissions as soon as possible, wide-reaching reform must happen across economic sectors, from buildings to transport, and electricity to agriculture. A recent report by the Green Economy Coalition found that a “new industrial revolution” will be required to transform our energy, food and infrastructure systems.

Support from the Treasury is required to finance the net zero transition. However, such a transition must not come at the cost of people’s jobs and livelihoods. A ‘just transition’ can help lead the way to a greener, but also fairer economy.

Climate adaptation

The CCC’s 2019 Progress Report to Parliament revealed how the UK government is currently “under-prepared for even the most optimistic predictions of temperature increase, let alone the trajectory”.

The CCC highlights four priorities in 2020: reducing flood risk by increasing flood spending; managing the risks from extreme heat; reducing the risk of drought; and protecting the natural environment. If we do not protect against climate-induced natural disasters, we face grave threats to our people and places.

CCC in 2020

What can we expect to see from the CCC in 2020? Today it launched Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK report, outlining a series of recommendations to the UK Government including large-scale woodland creation, protecting and restoring peatlands, and supporting farmers towards net zero. Other projects are expected to include:

  • New projections of UK-wide flood risk and water availability in April.
  • Annual appraisal of UK progress on reducing emissions in June.
  • Recommendation on level of the Sixth Carbon Budget later in 2020.

2020 is expected to be a crunch year – as Stark labels it, “the acid test of the Government’s climate credibility”. Let’s see if the government can deliver.

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