Clean Growth: Technologies for meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets Contents



1.The UK has a strong record on decarbonisation compared to other countries worldwide. It was the first country to legislate for legally binding greenhouse gas emissions targets,1 and the first country in the G7 to legislate for net-zero emissions.2 Since 2000, the UK has achieved greater decarbonisation than any other country in the G20.3 This domestic legislation and successful emissions reduction, combined with diplomatic efforts, have allowed the UK to establish itself as an international leader on climate change.4 The Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry MP, further highlighted to us that the UK was “one of the most generous funders of international development assistance for climate change—over £6bn has been spent”.5

2.The Climate Change Act 2008 set a legally-binding commitment for the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 80%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050.6 The Act requires the Government to set a series of five-year ‘carbon budgets’, each specifying limits on the UK’s net emissions of greenhouse gases over the corresponding period, to ensure progress towards the 2050 target.7 So far, the first five carbon budgets have been set, covering the period 2008 to 2032. The UK outperformed the first (2008–2012) and second (2013–2017) carbon budgets by around 1% and 14% respectively,8 and is on track to outperform the third carbon budget (2018–2022) by roughly 3%.9

3.The Act also established the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body responsible for advising the Government and devolved administrations on emissions targets, and reporting to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.10 In its latest annual ‘progress report to Parliament’, the Committee on Climate Change warned that “the UK is not on course to meet the legally binding fourth and fifth carbon budgets”.11 This is in keeping with the Government’s own analysis, which estimated in October 2017 that the existing policies and proposals at that point would leave the UK underachieving on its fourth and fifth carbon budgets by 6% and 7% respectively.12 We therefore decided to launch an inquiry to look at what the Government could do to support technologies that could help to put the UK on course to meeting its greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Our inquiry

4.As part of this inquiry, we launched a call for evidence on 23 July 2018, seeking written submissions regarding technologies for meeting Clean Growth emissions reduction targets. We received over 80 pieces of written evidence and took oral evidence from 27 witnesses including academics, trade associations, relevant advisory bodies, energy network operators, the Committee on Climate Change and the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Rt Hon Claire Perry MP. We also visited National Grid System Operator and SSE (an energy distribution network operator) to learn more about the challenges and opportunities of decarbonisation for transmission and distribution networks respectively, and we visited the Local Energy Oxfordshire project in Oxford to learn more about community energy projects. To assist us in our work, we appointed Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, who leads the Energy Systems and Policy Analysis Group at the University of Birmingham, as a Specialist Adviser for our inquiry.13 We are grateful to everyone who contributed to our inquiry.

Aims of this Report

5.We recognise that action is required across the economy if the UK is to meet its carbon emissions targets. We could not cover every aspect of this in an inquiry spanning four evidence sessions so we have focused on what we feel to be the most important areas for Government action. Nonetheless, we encourage the Government to deliver across the economy and support the work of the Committee on Climate Change and other organisations in working towards reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

6.In this Report, we make recommendations for what the Government should do to support the development and deployment of technologies that can reduce the UK’s emissions, in general and for specific sectors of the economy.

2 The Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 (SI 2019/1056) and ‘Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target’, Reuters, 11 June 2019

4 See, for example: ‘Ten years of the Climate Change Act’, Committee on Climate Change, accessed 15 May 2019 and European Union Committee, Twelfth Report of Session 2016–17, ‘Brexit: environment and climate change’, HL 109, paras 148–155

6 Climate Change Act 2008, section 1

7 Climate Change Act 2008, section 4

8 Department of Energy and Climate Change, ‘Final Statement for the First Carbon Budget Period’ (2014) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Final Statement for the Second Carbon Budget’ (2019)

9 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Updated Energy and Emissions Projections 2018’ (2019), p21 and ‘How the UK is progressing’, Committee on Climate Change, accessed 9 March 2019

10 Climate Change Act 2008, Part 2

11 Committee on Climate Change, ‘2018 Progress Report to Parliament’ (2018), p12

12 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘Clean Growth Strategy’, p40

13 Dr Jonathan Radcliffe declared his interests on 22 January 2019: employee of the University of Birmingham, current recipient of public research funding from UK Research and Innovation and UK government departments, and previous recipient of industry funding.

Published: 22 August 2019