Government departments should adopt a net-zero carbon emissions policy and improve coordination of anti-climate change measures, an advisory panel has said, in a report calling on the government to demonstrate it is "serious" in its commitment to reaching net-zero emissions in the next 30 years.
In a report published today, the Committee on Climate Change said government had delivered just one of 25 policies needed to ensure emissions targets are on track, and that its "actions to date have fallen short of what is needed for the previous targets and well short of those required for the net-zero target".
It said a net-zero policy must be adopted "across all levels and departments of government, with strong leadership and coordination at the centre... [which] is likely to require changes to the government's overall approach to driving down emissions". Leadership could take the form of a so-called climate cabinet chaired by the prime minister and including the chancellor and secretaries of state, the experts suggested.
The report also called for better coordination of climate change reduction policies between departments, as “too often, efforts have been isolated to single departments or have progressed too slowly”. The foundations for the government’s Clean Growth Strategy had “not been developed into a coordinated approach that will deliver even the existing carbon budgets”, it added.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy must help to encourage "serious steps" towards carbon capture and storage technologies and deployment of onshore wind, having held these areas back, it said.
And the Department for Transport and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government must step up their efforts to drive down emissions, working with BEIS and the Treasury, through measures such as bringing forward the deadline to phase out petrol and diesel care and by strengthening energy-efficiency standards for new buildings, it said.
“The government is not yet addressing adequately all of the climate risks it has itself identified as critical – including from surface water flooding and the impacts of high temperatures on health," CCC adaption committee chair Baroness Brown said.
She added that "government has a window to demonstrate its commitment to addressing these responsibilities".
Committee chair Lord Deben added: “The UK is the first major economy to set a net-zero emissions target and intends to host the world’s leaders at next year’s landmark climate conference (COP26).
“These are historic steps forward and position the UK at the forefront of the global low-carbon transition.
“But international ambition does not deliver domestic action. It’s time for the government to show it takes its responsibilities seriously.
“Reducing emissions to net zero by 2050 requires real action by government now.”
Responding to the report, parliament's Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee chair Rachel Reeves said the government's commitment to net-zero emissions was "meaningless" if was is not matched with concrete action, and that the government has "failed dismally" to back up its rhetoric with amibitious policies.
"Getting to net-zero requires will require action across all parts of government and our economy," she said.
"Yet, in areas such as electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage, and renewable energy, we have seen the government has been too lacking in the ambition and political will to deliver the concrete policies necessary to make an impact."
Greenpeace's chief scientist Doug Parr also said the report was a "brutal reality check" on the government's progress.
A government spokesperson said: “As the CCC recognises, we are the first major economy to legislate for net zero emissions, have cleaned up our power sector, cut emissions faster than any G7 country while growing the economy, championed adaptation and set a strong example for other countries to follow.
“We know there is more to do and legislating for net zero will help to drive further action.
"We’ll set out plans in the coming months to tackle emissions from aviation, heat, energy, agriculture and transport as well further measures to protect the environment from extreme weather including flood protection and nature restoration.”