The success of the COP26 climate conference will only be assessed by the actions that follow over the coming year and beyond, says the Climate Change Committee.
Following the Glasgow event, there is now a path to expected global warming of under 2°C, but only if all the ambition in new mid-century net zero targets is delivered, alongside national 2030 emissions targets. And, current climate policies around the world do not come close to achieving these aims.
The new ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ focuses on the 2020s as the critical period for accelerating climate action. Only concrete steps by 2030 will close the growing gap between ambition for 1.5°C and real-world delivery, so there is a crucial 12 months ahead.
These are the conclusions of a new independent assessment of COP26 and the critical next steps for the UK, published today (2.12.21) by the Climate Change Committee (CCC). Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “The UK must not walk away after COP26. Glasgow was a step forward in global efforts to address climate change, including a genuine increase in ambition to reduce emissions worldwide. We also saw important technical advances, with new rules agreed for reporting emissions and on international carbon trading, and multiple initiatives and sector deals. This is real and welcome progress, but success depends on what happens now.
“The next year is critical for climate action in the UK and internationally. At home, we need to walk the talk and urgently deliver actions in the Net Zero Strategy. Globally, the UK must continue to encourage stronger action on climate and insist on rapid emissions reductions and stronger adaptation through all diplomatic channels. The ultimate success of the Glasgow Climate Pact will be measured by climate risks averted, not words on a page.”
The CCC has made a series of new recommendations to government, for action at home and internationally.
Implications for the UK
- UK efforts should focus on strengthening delivery of the Net Zero Strategy, rather than inflating the gap between ambition and implementation. Key steps to complete the strategy need to be brought forward swiftly, including a robust plan to tackle emissions from agriculture and land.
- The Glasgow Climate Pact makes notable reference to “phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. The UK has a duty to act on this in common with other countries. The CCC recommends that the Treasury initiates a review of the role of the tax system in delivering net zero, including the role of tax in achieving a higher and more consistent carbon price across the economy. Low carbon prices are effectively a subsidy. No fossil fuel subsidies should be classed as ‘efficient’.
- The UK’s commitment to the Glasgow Climate Pact can be further demonstrated with stronger actions to tackle the UK’s wider carbon footprint. These could include stronger product standards applied equally at home and to imported goods, carbon border adjustment mechanisms and trade levers, and encouragement of stronger corporate actions to decarbonise supply chains.
- A strengthened UK NDC prior to COP27 could include stronger plans on climate change adaptation, informed by a clear vision for a well-adapted UK and backed by quantitative targets. Other options for strengthening the UK’s NDC include making it legally-binding, clarifying that emissions targets will be met without use of offsets, confirming a limited role only for CO2 removal, and including sector targets from the new Net Zero Strategy.
The UK’s international role
- The UK must maintain its strong COP team with high-level leadership throughout the duration of the presidency, recognising that decisions over the coming year are critical to the chances of limiting global temperature increase close to 1.5°C.
- The UK has an important role in putting the completed Paris rules into action, including consideration of whether the new rules on international carbon trading might offer a new route for countries, including the UK, to support accelerated global ambition.
- Key climate finance commitments made at Glasgow must also be delivered transparently, including a doubling of funding for adaptation, and establishing a constructive dialogue on loss and damage. The UK can also revisit its climate finance contributions, directing around half the finance to adaptation, and restore its commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid as soon as possible.
The CCC will continue to support the UK’s efforts through independent scrutiny of UK climate action. Over the coming months, the CCC will deepen its monitoring of progress, aiming to identify real-world indicators, and broaden its outlook to include key enablers such as public attitudes, business action, workers and skills, governance and costs and benefits of the net zero transition.
The CCC will publish a comprehensive assessment of UK progress to net zero in summer 2022.