The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has urged ministers to “seize the opportunity” and ensure COVID-19 becomes a defining moment in tackling the climate crisis.
On 25 June, it published its latest annual progress report to Parliament, outlining how overall UK emissions dropped 3-4% in 2018-19, meaning they have now fallen by 30% since 2008. This progress has been driven by strong progress in the electricity sector, with the CCC calling on government to replicate that success story in all sectors of the economy. It highlighted examples of where progress is lagging, such as buildings and heating policy, where almost 2mn homes likely to be in need of expensive zero carbon retrofits have been built since the Climate Change Act was passed.
While COVID-19 will see global emissions fall a record 5-10% in 2020, and potentially by even more in the UK, the effect will be temporary. This makes the months ahead hugely significant, with the CCC identifying five clear investment priorities for government: low carbon retrofits and buildings fit for the future, tree planting, peatland restoration and green infrastructure; strengthening energy networks; infrastructure to make it easy for people to walk, cycle and work remotely; and moving towards a circular economy.
CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together; it’s there for the taking. The steps that the UK takes to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic can accelerate the transition to a successful and low-carbon economy and improve our climate resilience. Choices that lock in emissions or climate risks are unacceptable.”