The U.K.s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has today asked the government to take urgent action on tackling climate change in its inaugural mandatory report that compels ministers to respond by mid-October.
Noting satisfactory progress in meeting targets up to now, the CCC report outlined its doubts over the governments longer-term policies, suggesting that efforts to hit targets beyond 2020 are likely to fail unless measures are stepped up.
The CCC chairmen, Lord Deben and Lord Krebs, remarked that greater measures were needed to address an increased risk of flooding and heatwaves. "By the 2050s, the sort of heatwaves we might experience in the next few days will be the norm, a typical summer," said Lord Krebs.
Further, the CCC report outlined six special measures that the government must take if it is to ensure carbon emissions fall at the required pace. These measures include an extension of funding for low-carbon electricity generation to 2025 as well as continued support for efficient, low-emission vehicles.
"A whole series of policies end during the course of this Parliament, and investors are trying to make decisions that will result in projects and revenues in the 2020s in the absence of much visibility over policy," the CCCs chief executive officer Matthew Bell told Bloomberg.
The CCC also calls on the government to develop new infrastructure that is "resilient to the impacts of climate change", which would likely include grid upgrades that have the capability of handling greater volumes of renewable energy from solar and wind.
The U.K.s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is confident that it can meet its target of an 80% emissions reduction (based on 1990 levels) by 2050. "We have already made great strides to that goal, with emissions down 36% since 1990," a spokesperson said. "There is still much work to do and we will continue to power our move to a low-carbon economy at best value to customers."
Former Shell chairman Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool said that the U.K. could very quickly "lose its moral authority on the international stage" if it did not accelerate efforts to tackle climate change, while Lord Deben in the report reiterated the stance of the U.K.s Solar Trade Association (STA) and Renewable Energy Association (REA) in calling for a level playing field for renewables.
"Fossil fuels are subsidized, as fossil fuel companies do not bear the cost to the community," Lord Deben said. "Support for renewable energy is a way of leveling the playing field so they can compete." If the real cost of carbon emissions is factored in, Deben added, then many forms of clean energy are now at, or close to, socket parity with fossil fuels, and the cost of renewables is falling rapidly.
Simon Bullock, the senior climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said that the CCC report "turns up the political heat on the government", especially so at a time when critical decisions are being made on new airport runways and coal and fracking plans that could "lock in decades of pollution".
"Ministers must listen to the alternatives recommended by its official advisors: more support for clean energy, better insulated homes, and a huge energy efficiency drive," Bullock said.
"This government has a unique opportunity to shape climate policy through the 2020s," concluded Lord Deben in the report. "It must act now to set out how it plans to keep the U.K. on track. Acting early will help to reduce costs to households, business and the Exchequer. It will improve peoples health and wellbeing and create opportunities for business in manufacturing and in the service sector.
The DECC issued a brief statement following the publication of the CCC report that simply read: "We will provide a full response to the CCCs report in October 2015."