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expert reaction to the Committee on Climate Change’s latest report to Parliament

The Committee on Climate Change has produced its first report to the new parliament, regarding reducing emissions and preparing for climate change.


Prof. Nigel Arnell, Director of the Walker Institute for Climate Systems Research at the University of Reading, said:

“This report crucially tackles mitigation and adaptation together for the first time. That sends out the critical message that we need to both cut emissions and prepare for the impacts already coming our way to effectively address the challenges of a changing climate. The report also demonstrates that whilst we have made great progress in the UK, we need to accelerate our efforts if we want to avoid – through both mitigation and adaptation – the worst impacts of climate extremes in the not-too-distant future.

“The science has moved on from asking if climate change is happening, to how and where it is having the greatest impact. We know that climate change is already making heatwaves and flooding more likely in the UK, and these two threats are highlighted in the CCC’s report. Even if we manage to keep warming within the 2 degree global target – and even that is looking quite ambitious at this stage – a changing climate will lead to serious impacts for the UK and the rest of the world, within current lifetimes. Strong UK and international policy therefore needs to address both mitigation and adaptation together.”


Prof. David Lee, Director of the Centre for Aviation, Transport, and the Environment at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“In terms of the aviation component of the UK carbon budget, it will be very challenging to get aviation CO2 emissions down to 2005 levels by 2050. Whilst UK aviation CO2 emissions appear to have levelled or slightly fallen in recent years, globally they increased between 2005 and 2013 by ~8%.  As UK economic recovery progresses, aviation demand and therefore emissions are expected to increase, and are expected to rise significantly into the future.

“We have calculated that UK international emissions will slightly more than double from 2010 levels of 28 million tonnes of CO2 to 61 million tonnes by 2035 (under the most optimistic technology scenario). The Airports Commission will publish on 30 June 2015 how it proposes such demand will be supplied.

“So, in order to bring UK aviation CO2 emissions down to 2005 levels by 2050, it will require additional reductions through low–carbon alternative (bio) fuels or market-based measures. According to the CCC, biofuels are expected to play a role of around 10%.

“Thus, the only other option to substantially reduce aviation CO2 emissions is the use of market-based measures. The efforts of UK Government at ICAO on developing a successful global market-based measure for international aviation are very important. However, this will only address those emissions ABOVE 2020 levels as a ‘baseline’, and to what degree is not yet known. This addresses international emissions only – whilst domestic aviation emissions are a very small component of the UK’s (6%), they represent 35% at the global level.”


Prof. Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change and Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, said:

“The CCC’s progress report is a fair reflection of the Government’s record in delivering on the UK’s domestic carbon budgets. However the budgets themselves fall far short of the Government’s repeated and longstanding commitment for the UK to make its fair contribution ‘to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, and take action to meet this objective consistent with science and on the basis of equity’.

“As the CCC note, the UK’s national budgets are calculated from a global carbon budget with a high (63%) chance of exceeding 2°C. Even then, the budgets are premised on the successful and large-scale uptake of high speculative geo-engineering technologies sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere later in the century. Moreover, the division of the global budget between poorer and less industrialised nations and the wealthy industrialised countries is far from equitable.

“Consequently, whilst the CCC’s report is, as always, premised on thorough and careful analysis, the budgets are not ‘consistent with science’ nor are they apportioned to the UK ‘on the basis of equity’. Until we are prepared to be candid and transparent about the scale of mitigation necessary to avoid the 2°C characterisation of ‘dangerous climate change’ we will continue to delude ourselves as to the efficacy of our action.”


Prof. John Shepherd FRS, University of Southampton National Oceanography Centre, said:

“The Committee’s report is founded on the best available scientific assessments of likely future climate change. It shows that we face a major global challenge in the next few decades to keep the impacts at a tolerable level, and the UK can play a leading role. The problems will get harder if we delay effective action any further, so industry needs clear political and financial signals so that it can respond effectively. Creating strong incentives for developing low-carbon technologies will be a crucial factor.”


Prof. Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said:

“With the crucial climate conference in Paris looming ever larger this is a timely nudge to the ribs of the UK Government. Uncertainty over future funding for renewables and energy efficiency risks our falling behind on emission reduction targets and so undermining our stance as a global leader in tackling climate change.

“The emphasis on adaptation is also important here, highlighting the real risks that climate change poses to human health and food security, not just overseas, but right here in the UK too.”


Prof. Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London, said:

“It’s truly encouraging that in 2014 the UK’s carbon emissions decreased by 8% whilst the economy grew 2.8%. This sets the lie to the often posed false choice between the economy and the environment. The truth is that with savvy action, the path to a cleaner and more ethical world can also be a highly profitable one. The recommendations of the CCC point the way”


Prof. Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London, said:

“The UK Climate Change Act is a unique piece of national legislation. With all-party support* this mandates the Government to make a 80% cut in UK Greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Climate Change Committee provides guidance and sets intermediate targets to ensure the Government achieves this overall target.

Many of the progressive policies put in place by the coalition Government will soon be coming to an end. This latest report by the Climate Change Committee urges the new government to put in place policies that enhance the decarbonisation of the UK as well as protecting the population from the effects of climate change.  These new policies will provide security and reassurance for industry and business. It will also confirm the government’s green credentials and their strong support for the momentous international negotiations occurring in Paris this autumn.

“The most important recommendation is the need for support for low-carbon electricity generation to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen the UKs energy security, as by 2030 we should be able to power the UK economy without reliance on any outside fossil fuels.”

* Only 5 MPs out of the whole of parliament opposed the Climate Change Act




Declared interests

Prof. Lee is in receipt of grants from the European Commission and UK Government Departments to research aviation emissions and impacts and declares no conflict of interests.

Prof Reay: None declared

Others: None received

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