What should the UK do?

The UK Government should put the country on track to deliver 2030 and net zero targets before COP26 opens

  • The UK should provide a clear timeline and regulatory guidance for supporting businesses and financial institutions on what a ‘good transition’ looks like.
  • The public finance contained in the Heat and Buildings Strategy falls £4.35 bn short of the Government’s own pledges and around £9.75bn short of what is needed to get on track to net-zero.Additionally the UK needs to close a funding gap on energy efficiency, needed to signifcantly cut emissions from houing.
  • While pending legislation on land use and farming will not be published before COP26, govt should set out principles showing how tree-planting and peat restoration targets will be achieved, including a funding mechanism
  • Demonstrate govt has absorbed IPCC AR6 WG1 by setting a zero leakage requirement for all new onshore and offshore oil and gas developments, and requiring existing facilities to upgrade to that within 5 years.
  • Whatever the outcome of the planning inquiry into the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria, declare a ban on all future coal mining proposals
  • Announce that it will reverse the ODA cut after one year, and raise climate finance to a ‘fair shares’ level

What you need to know about the UK?

  • The upcoming UK Green Financing Strategy should include an analysis of financial flows to identify critical net zero investment gaps and investment opportunities and set up the functionality to do this on an ongoing basis. These gaps should be supported by both public and private financing plan to get on track to 2050 net zero and resilience targets.
  • The public finance contained in the Heat and Buildings Strategy falls £4.35 bn short of the Government’s own pledges and around £9.75bn short of what is needed to get on track to net-zero. Additionally the UK needs to close a funding gap on energy efficiency, needed to significantly cut emissions from housing.
  • The UK should provide a clear timeline and regulatory guidance for supporting businesses and financial institutions on what a ‘good transition’ looks like.
  • The UK should use its COP presidency to leverage international leadership and cooperation on net zero finance and climate-risk disclosure.

Recent developments, threats and levers for action

Recent developments

  • The government’s hydrogen and buildings strategies were released in the second half of 2021, but have been met with concerns over the adequacy of key measures in each. A strong reliance on hydrogen produced using natural gas and carbon capture and storage and a limited increase in funding for replacing fossil fuel boilers with heat pumps are two such commitments.
  • Transition Plans Taskforce: launched after COP26 to develop sectoral transition templates to decarbonise financial actors as well as the real economy.
  • Renewable energy: The UK increased its commitment to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2035.
  • COP26 and G7 2021 Presidency: The UK can demonstrate a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ narrative and use its twin Presidencies to accelerate the green transition. Any actions that contradict this (eg, opening up a new coal mine) or reduce ecological integrity will mean the UK loses credibility
  • Climate commitment: The UK’s Citizens Climate Assembly showed that UK society is concerned by climate change and citizens want to act in the recovery
  • Transport: The UK recent commitment to phase out ICE vehicles by 2030 (and hybrids by 2035) should be leveraged to encourage other countries (including those in the ZEV COP26 dialogues) to follow suit.
  • Nature-based solutions: Commitments to 30% biodiversity protection by 2030 are positive but must be met with clear follow-up actions (not vague tree statements or the use of questionable carbon credits). The UK committed to the Dasgupta Review in June 2021, outlining that all new infrastructure projects must provide a net-positive natural gain.
  • Trade Deals: post-Brexit trade deals should reinforce environmental standards and accelerate the shift to a net zero carbon economy
  • Sustainable Finance:  The UK has laid out foundational policies to green its financial sector, including the announcement of science-based green taxonomy that will come into legislation at the end of 2022, mandatory net zero transition plans for financial institutions and companies from 2023, and the new UK Infrastructure Bank with a dual mandate of net zero and levelling up

Strengths

  • Strong support for climate action across the UK’s active and largely open civil society, as well as from the public. Media coverage and support for climate action has increased significantly.
  • The CCC is a well-respected independent institution that can effectively assess climate risk and recommend adaptation measures
  • Britain’s Climate Change Act contains the world’s first legally binding national commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The UK is committed to greening its financial sector and has laid out the regulatory groundwork to achieve this. Including the introduction of a green taxonomy framework and being the first country in the world to legislate climate risk disclosure by 2025 from major financial institutions in line with the TCFD.
  • In June 2021, the UK launched the UK Infrastructure Bank to channel £22bn public funds towards infrastructure development to tackle climate change and support regional and local economic growth across the United Kingdom.

Opportunities

  • As COP president, the UK can show ‘Global Britain’ lead on climate action.
  • Achieving a net zero transition can generate numerous co-benefits for the UK including decrease in energy bills, healthier communities, and open new markets in the UK.

Weaknesses

  • The Net Zero Strategy is an ambitious cross-cutting strategy but there are policy, funding and incentive gaps for some sectors, including heavy industry and heat and energy efficiency
  • The UK does not have credible plans for ensuring a just transition or the reskilling and training necessary for reaching net zero.

Threats

  • Tensions within the Tory party may weaken climate action and depends on the results of the May election.
  • The ongoing developments of Russia’s attack on Ukraine risks putting the UK’s climate developments on hold, delaying action on net zero.
  • Trade deal desperation could weaken environmental/climate standards
  • Tech optimism (hydrogen/CCS/small modular reactors/etc) could ‘cloud’ judgments and make bets of technologies that might not deliver

About Climate Diplomacy Snapshots

The data is clear. Accelerated and enhanced action is needed now to build resilience and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. As they seek to address the ongoing health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, governments should seize opportunities to invest in a recovery that will build social, economic and climate resilience on the long-term.The Climate Diplomacy Snapshots aim to provide the climate community with a clear overview of what each country should do, on climate and recovery, to pursue these joint objectives and keep the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C. Each has been prepared with the help of national experts, and will be regularly updated. The snapshots aim to support climate advocacy in the lead up to COP26.

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