Green Alliance reviews UK net-zero progress ahead of COP26

Findings from the report show that carbon emissions in sectors such as agriculture, power, and waste are set to improve by less than 15 per cent by 2032, with Green Alliance stating that ‘COP26 will fail without the major emitters making genuine commitments in these final 50 days’.

Smoke emitted from a power plant, seen from an aerial view
Smoke emitted from a power plant, seen from an aerial view

Marcin Jozwiak

Green World

Green Alliance yesterday (14 September) released a policy tracker evaluating the UK’s progress towards net-zero since the beginning of 2020.

The report focuses mainly on six main sectors requiring improvement in their carbon emissions, including transport, power, agriculture, and waste. Using this data, it calculates the Government’s developments in climate policy over the past 21 months as a percentage of the UK’s net-zero targets.

It found that only seven per cent improvement had been made within the agricultural sector, alongside a 12 per cent improvement in power, and 15 per cent in waste – well below the Government’s target to cut emissions by 78 per cent by 2035.

With less than 50 days until COP26, Green Alliance warns that in its current state, the Government is not set to meet its climate targets. 

Caterina Brandmayr, spokesperson from Green Alliance, said: “COP26 will fail without the major emitters making genuine commitments in these final 50 days - and as president of COP, the UK has to lead the way to raise ambition globally.

“Unless the net-zero strategy and CSR meet the scale of the challenge and opportunity, the UK will be headed into Glasgow with little to show by way of progress on cutting its emissions in this crucial decade.”

Whilst ministers express concern about the ‘final bill’ of net-zero policy, the Office for Budget Responsibility found that if started early, the cost of the net zero transition before 2050 could be as little as 0.4 per cent of GDP each year.

Additionally, if the Government commits to the housing and transportation policies currently out for consultation, it could close around a third of the emissions gap in the fifth carbon budget period – between 2028 and 2032.

The report outlines five priority net zero policies for 2021, concerning five of the sectors that need most improvement in climate policy. Green Alliance estimates an additional £66.1 million in climate spending would be required to meet Government targets.

These first call for the Government to retrofit almost all 29 million homes in the UK to reduce their emissions, phasing out gas boilers alongside the Clean Heat Grant, and to require all new homes to hold an EPC rating of C or above. 

Similarly, it must decarbonise the electricity grid by 2035, in addition to its previous commitment to phase out coal generation by 2024, as unabated gas is currently the main source of emissions in the power sector.

The report also advocates for the decarbonisation of transport by way of a zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) mandate, with the gradual phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles when more affordable options become available.

It likewise backs environmental subsidies for farmers, such as the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Local Nature Recovery schemes, as well as a budget of £500-700 million for land centred around nature restoration and carbon removal.

Finally, the report requests that the Government halve resource consumption by 2050 by investing in the circular economy, as the extraction and processing of materials currently generates half of all emissions.