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  • Writer's pictureKaren Fletcher

CCC Report to Parliament: Could do better

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Not fast enough, and not far enough, is the verdict of the Climate Change Committee on the UK’s progress towards Net Zero.

The CCC’s 2023 Progress Report to Parliament, published on 28th June, made for some painful reading for the government. Perhaps because the CCC chairman Lord Deben is retiring later this year, this report pulled no punches in highlighting where the government has fallen short.

The report covers the UK’s pathway to Net Zero across the whole economy, but if we focus on the built environment, there are evident shortfalls in achievement. For example, we are nowhere near the installation of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 – we have not even installed that many in total, according to CCC figures.

The CCC believes the root cause of this, and other shortcomings, is uncertainty in several critical areas of government policy. The CCC says the government has not set a clear direction on the future technology mix for low-carbon heat. The result is that manufacturers, installers and homeowners can’t make informed decisions.

And in commercial buildings, the problem is similar. The CCC highlights a “large and increasingly concerning” policy gap for non-residential buildings. The government has no “convincing plans” to decarbonise commercial buildings.

The construction and property sector has responded to the CCC report. The UK Green Building Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Simon McWhirter, said: “This is a deeply troubling assessment.” He added that the government can still get back on track to Net Zero, “But the time window is closing rapidly, and the UK needs a step-change in direct investment and policies that will enable home insulation and the switch to electric heating at pace and scale.”

Graham Stuart Min of State for Energy Security and Net Zero
Graham Stuart: Confident of meeting targets

However, the Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart, told the BBC that the government had met all its carbon targets to date and that he is confident of doing so in the future.

One of the reasons for Stuart’s confidence may be that the government expects to introduce the new Energy Bill shortly. At the end of June 2023, the Bill was in the last stages of committee scrutiny, with every hope that it would be passed before the Summer Recess.

The Bill addresses some gaps in policy and strategy highlighted by the CCC. These include new rules for technologies such as carbon capture and storage and the effective nationalisation of National Grid’s electricity system operator. It is a significant piece of legislation which sets out to put in place some vital infrastructure and operational requirements for the UK to achieve Net Zero.

But there are already controversies around the Bill, particularly regarding taxation and a hydrogen levy amendment. When the Bill returns to Parliament, several MPs will put forward proposed amendments to the Bill. For example, the former Net Zero minister Chris Skidmore wants to stop electricity production from coal outright in 2025; ban new coal mines and put the target for decarbonising UK electricity supply by 2035 into law. Four amendments could be selected for a vote.

This substantial Bill still leaves many gaps and questions unanswered. Achieving Net Zero by 2050 means quickly getting many moving pieces to fall into place. The next Chair of the CCC will have to continue cracking the whip to get us there.

CCC Report to Parliament: What the government needs to do to take the built environment close to Net Zero

* Finalise and implement plans to require privately rented homes in England and Wales to reach EPC C by 2028 (which the government committed to in 2021).

* Finalise and ensure timely implementation of plans to prohibit fossil fuel boiler replacement in off-gas grid buildings from 2026 (2024 for large non-residential buildings).

* Confirm the proposed regulatory mechanism for phasing out fossil fuel boilers.

* Publicly affirm that electrical heat is the default option in all new buildings and existing properties off the gas grid.

* Prohibit connections to the gas grid for new buildings from 2025.

* Set out clear routes for other properties or areas where electrification or heat networks are low-regret options.

* Clarify government thinking on the government’s position on use cases for hydrogen across the economy. The CCC highlights its potential to help manage peak demands for heat and electricity and its role in hybrid heating systems.

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