24 February 2017
The government’s new Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) – or is it now the “Clean Growth Plan”? – is overdue, and getting more overdue by the month. Today’s news suggests we could be waiting until June.
Until it is published, UK progress in cutting carbon emissions will continue to suffer.
The Climate Change Act is best known for its carbon budgets; emissions targets that chart a course to an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (compared with 1990 levels).
But the Act also requires that government plan in advance how those targets will be met. Long-term planning is necessary for a smooth energy transition that provides certainty to investors. An emissions-cutting plan that is clear, transparent and up-to-date allows government to be held accountable for progress so any problems can be addressed early. We are worried that the government may cut corners in this plan, storing up problems for the future.
But there is now increasing concern over something else: Delay.
According to the Climate Change Act, new plans must be produced “as soon as is reasonably practicable” after each carbon budget is set, to show in detail how that new carbon budget (and those already set) will be met.
The fifth carbon budget (requiring a reduction in emissions of 57% by 2030) was agreed in June 2016. But as for the new plan – the ERP – we’re still waiting.
Only a court could say for sure whether a nine-month wait – or longer, as now seems inevitable – really is a breach of the government’s duty to produce its emissions-cutting plan “as soon as is reasonably practicable”.
But concern is growing. And what we can say is this:
The delays we are seeing now may be due partly to such past neglect. It is to be applauded if the government wishes to “get this right” and put things on a firm footing for the long term. But the legal duty to produce the new plan as soon as possible remains. And the clock is ticking.