Looking Ahead to 2017: The Emissions Reduction Plan

Alex Chisholm, the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS), indicated earlier this year that the UK Government will publish its ‘Emissions Reduction Plan’ by the end of February 2017. The Emissions Reduction Plan will set out how the Government intends to meet post-2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, including the Fifth Carbon Budget, which was agreed by Government in June this year. The Fifth Carbon Budget commits the Government to achieving emissions 57% below 1990 levels by the five years between 2028 – 2032. This summer, the Committee on Climate Change’s annual progress report on emissions reductions identified that there is currently a gap of 47% between the reductions required in the Fifth Carbon Budget period and the UK’s current trajectory. The Emissions Reduction Plan must set out how this deficit will be addressed.

Commenting in a guest blog post for the Energy Saving Trust, the Aldersgate Group outlined their requirements for the Emissions Reduction Plan. A good plan, they comment, “will provide businesses and investors with greater confidence to deliver the UK’s emissions reductions.” This is key, they argue, to “supporting the UK’s long-term prosperity, managing the costs of tackling climate change in the future and to ensure the UK can take advantage of the opportunities from the growing international low-carbon economy.” They call for the Emissions Reduction Plan to include policies encouraging low-carbon energy generation, including provision for mature renewable technologies. This echoes calls from the Committee on Climate Change which has recommended that the Government does more to enable mature low-carbon energy sources such as onshore wind. Both the Aldersgate Group and the Committee on Climate Change have also called for action on low-carbon heat. The Committee on Climate Change has urged Government to introduce policies to overcome behavioural barriers, whilst the Aldersgate Group ask for a stimulus from Government to enable alternative technologies to compete with natural gas.

At the recent RGS-IBG/ UKERC Policy Forum on ‘Rescaling the UK’s Energy System‘, delegates were asked to put forward their own recommendations for the content of the Emissions Reduction Plan. Further action on decarbonising housing in the UK was seen as a priority, with calls for a mass retrofit programme of domestic buildings. This echoes calls from the Aldersgate Group for a ‘robust plan for increasing energy efficiency to replace the Green Deal and Zero-Carbon Homes’ policies. Scale emerged strongly as an issue in delegates’ responses with the suggestion that local government should play a strong role in decarbonisation. There should be a national change in policy which facilitates action on housing at a sub-national/ regional level through land-use planning and housing design. Once the Emissions Reduction Plan is set nationally, local authorities must be involved in the detailed planning, design and delivery of schemes for housing retrofits, local energy distribution and generation.

The role of Carbon Capture and Storage technology in the future decarbonisation of the UK must be clarified, as must the role of (re-purposed) gas networks and gas storage. Energy reduction, alongside efficiency, must also be considered. Energy reduction is currently ignored by policy-makers, but is extremely important, commented one delegate. A new comprehensive strategy to address energy demand is necessary.

The future direction for energy generation from biomass must also be clarified within the Emissions Reduction Plan. Biomass energy makes up a large percentage of renewable energy generation for power and heat in this country and is an important replacement for coal. However it is not carbon neutral and may not help the UK to meet its short to medium-term carbon targets. Chatham House, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB are amongst those organisations examining this issue.

A comprehensive vision is required with respect to the future of transport. How public transport and car clubs are priced should be examined. The need for Government policies to increase the uptake of electric vehicles has been identified by both the Aldersgate Group and the Committee on Climate Change as a significant priority for future action.

Overall, the Emissions Reduction Plan must include credible commitments, clear outcomes and objectives and be detailed in setting out how emissions reductions will be delivered, including approaches to necessary change management. There was agreement that policy must be bold and progressive; that Government must show leadership and set up demonstration projects. There was a call too for organisations to work together, with a suggestion that there is currently a poor coalition of organisations in the debate around the future of energy in the UK, particularly with respect to energy efficiency and buildings. With the release of the Emissions Reduction Plan and the Industrial Strategy also anticipated, the indications are that 2017 could be a significant year for UK energy policy.

Listen to the audio recording of ‘Rescaling the UK’s Energy System’, watch video interviews with the speakers or find or more about the discussion on the 21st Century Challenges blog.

Image credit: Electric Car Charging System. Flickr. 

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