What should the UK do?

1

Enhance its NDC to be 1.5 degree aligned by COP26:

  • Domestic near-term policies should be aligned with the net zero goal well before COP26
  • Delivery on the UK’s net zero by 2050 target should happen as quickly as possible, including a short-term focus on decarbonising areas of the economy that remain challenging (including industry, transport, and buildings), despite progress on low carbon power.
  • Future carbon budgets (including carbon budget 5 for 2028-2032 and carbon budget 6 for 2033-2037) should continue to be in line with the advice of the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change.
  • A new LTS in line with net zero goal
2

Build a just and resilient recovery plan:

  • Invest in green infrastructure and jobs that accelerate action towards the net zero target
  • Avoid domestic and international fossil investments (including bailouts)
3

COP26 Presidency Leadership Responsibility:

  • COP26 diplomacy should be a priority for all embassies and consulates
  • Lead on ‘real economy’ campaigns – including on: transport, finance, nature, energy, and adaptation and resilience, delivering a meaningful result on each

What you need to know about the UK?

  • The UK officially submitted its updated NDC to the UNFCCC on 20 Dec 2020 committing them to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
  • Domestic policies are currently not yet net zero aligned including for carbon budget 5 (the time period covering the 2030 goal) which should be on track by COP26 (budget 5 is 57% reduction by 2032).
  • The UK has significantly reduced power sector emissions through renewables investments (especially offshore wind) and a phase out of coal (end date is 2024) ,but the main sources of remaining emissions are from transport and energy (mostly heating) and in buildings. The UK’s international aviation emissions have also grown significantly since 1990 – IAS should be in the UK’s NDC.
Recovery Measures to Highlight

  • Positive investments: energy efficiency, CCS, cycling/public transport/EV charging, and offshore wind
  • Negative investments: airline bailouts, unsustainable agriculture

Recent developments, threats and levers for action

Recent developments

  • 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)
  • Trade Deals: post-Brexit trade deals should reinforce environmental standards and accelerate the shift to a net zero carbon economy
  • Finance: The UK has reduced ODA from 0.7% GNI down to 0.5% (although protecting climate spend). The UK needs to show leadership on climate finance, building on the commitment to phase out fossil finance from ODA and export finance.

Strengths

  • Climate Change Act with legal targets and a 2050 net zero goal
  • Rapid decarbonisation of power sector over last few years (wants to be the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’ and to wind power all homes by 2030)
  • Large climate community – and access to global English media
  • Opportunity to lead on ICE phase out (including through COP26 campaign ZEV dialogues/transition council)

Opportunities

  • COP26 and G7 (2021) Presidency – can show ‘Global Britain’ in action
  • Country that ‘started’ the industrial revolution – can be a template for a green society/COVID recovery

Weaknesses

  • Not much progress decarbonising beyond the power sector
  • Government attention is focussed on COVID and Brexit – not on climate.
  • Post-Brexit, the UK’s ‘relevance’ in the world is dwindling – it is often too inwardly focused and does not show international leadership
  • Tricky relationship with China and of course with the EU.

Threats

  • 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.

Learn More