A damning new report by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) finds “warm words” but “little progress” from the government on delivering the UK’s climate goals.

Last year, the government set ambitious climate targets and launched a new Net Zero Strategy, alongside policies for most sectors of the economy. However, the CCC’s landmark 600-page assessment finds scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far. The CCC says there are some “bright spots of progress”, but in most areas “the likelihood of under-delivery is high”.

In a statement, the CCC said: “The current strategy will not deliver net zero. Credible government plans exist for over a third of the UK’s required emissions reductions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget in the mid-2030s; with a fair wind we will manage another quarter; and over a third cannot be relied on to deliver the necessary emissions reductions.”

CCC Chairman, Lord Deben, said: “In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels. I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

The report outlines detailed recommendations to government across all sectors and sources of emissions. We’ve summarised the CCC’s high-level policy recommendations for driving business action on net zero.

  • Standardising offsetting claims: Building on the Voluntary Carbon Markets Initiative (VCMI) consultation in summer 2022, the CCC says the government should develop concrete proposals for standardising and regulating the claims corporates can make relating to offsets. This would “ensure the quality and additionality of offsets on the market, and direct carbon offsets to the highest quality and impact projects”.
  • Mandatory net zero transition plans: The CCC urges the government to not delay in taking steps to legislate for listed UK companies and financial institutions to publish transition plans from 2023. It asks the government to publish plans for a clear transition plan standard, based on a transparent consultative process with experts, practitioners and private sector actors, and building on lessons learnt from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The metrics and requirements should be “sufficiently ambitious, and where possible allow businesses to communicate their holistic contribution to the net zero transition, beyond direct emissions reduction”.
  • “Net zero tests” for investments: In the first plan of the UK Investment Bank, due in summer 2022, the CCC wants the government to give consideration for how to navigate the dual goals of the organisation (to tackle climate change and support economic growth), introduce a net zero test on all investments, and outline how to capture wider social and resilience benefits of investments beyond financial returns.
  • Accelerating green finance: In the updated Green Finance Strategy expected later this year, the CCC wants to see plans for how financial flows can be meaningfully monitored in advance of 2023, setting out key incentives for investors to shift practices, and an overall strategy for how total capital costs of net zero will be met by public and private funding sources.
  • Support for SMEs: The CCC wants to see a strategy for engaging with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMES) on decarbonisation, particularly high-emission, low-engagement businesses. Introduce a package of measures within this, including a one-stop-shop for SMEs to get decarbonisation advice with a carbon foot-printing tool. It wants the government to develop a strengthened low-carbon advisor / auditor role for SMEs and develop an effective financing strategy to support SME decarbonisation.