In its July annual review, the Government’s official adviser has given the UK full marks for its low-carbon goals but poor grades for delivery. Without larger cuts the UK will not reach its 2050 climate goals, it warns. However, every little helps, as the Northwest is increasingly able to show.
The chilling news – not unfortunately in a good way – is that the UK is on track to miss absolutely vital 2050 net-zero emission targets needed to keep the world cool and avoid more severe heatwaves.
In its latest unusually-long 600-page annual review, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) warns of a “shocking gap” in some essential policy areas – including missed opportunities to insulate homes, cut agricultural emissions, and make more carbon-efficient use of land.
In fairness, the CCC also acknowledges that there is continuing progress in providing more renewable electricity, expanding the offshore wind power sector, and electric vehicle (EV) sales.
In fact, the good news is that UK emissions are now 47% lower than in 1990. And despite rising by 4% in 2021 during the pandemic recovery, they are still 10% lower than 2019.
Lancashire helps to deliver national targets
The CCC’s main message is that stronger policy leadership is needed at the top. But we know individual actions create important results on the ground. Every little helps … if multiplied thousands of times across the country.
This is where the Chamber Low Carbon Programme (CLC) is now making an increasing difference with regional businesses of all sizes – and also supporting Lancashire’s growing role as a national leader that is helping the UK to reach essential net-zero emission goals.
Working closely with some 300 companies to date – and still counting – CLC’s sustainability team advises firms, organisations and individuals on switching over to renewable energy, improving energy-efficiency, and taking breakthrough green technologies to market.
Read on …
In a moment, we look at CLC’s new “Destination Net Zero” carbon-reduction business support package designed to help Lancashire companies on their individual net-zero journeys, the CCC’s worries in more detail, a new ‘drive’ for 50% of all town and city journeys to be cycled or walked by 2040 … and better ways to stay cool.
CLC’s Destination Zero
Reaching net-zero is now so important for SMEs on the ‘ground’ that CLC is launching a brand new carbon-reduction business support package for local and regional companies. It provides: –
– Half-day classroom support – What is Net Zero? Why do we need to take it seriously and what actions can be taken?
– Off-site support – Baseline Carbon Footprint calculated by the Chamber’s Sustainability Team including Scope 3 emissions.
– Outcome – Net Zero Target, pathway and carbon reduction plan, drafted by the Chamber’s Sustainability Team in line with PPN6/21 Cabinet Office Guidance.
Please contact the team directly on tel 01254 356487 for more information, or if you would like to take part.
CCC – good targets, bad delivery
As CCC Chair Lord Deben explained, “The government has willed the ends but not the means,” adding that, “… holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short.”
The CCC, as Government statutory climate change advisor, congratulated ministers on rigorous targets set out in the 2021 Net-Zero Strategy, but said there is “scant evidence of delivery against these headline goals so far”.
It adds that the strategy accounts for circa 33% of the cuts needed by the UK. Another 25% are affected by external factors. But 33% are not covered by existing policies, which Lord Deben describes as “… very, very worrying”.
CCC also accuses Defra of “magical thinking” over agriculture and thinks the Treasury is struggling to explain the costs and benefits of net-zero. It also wants an urgent review of tax strategies and planning legislation reforms which it says are necessary to accelerate and embed progress.
Five key truths
In reaching its conclusions, the CCC concentrated on five specific issues: –
– Energy-efficient homes – an easy win which is being ignored with no plans to help most homes
– Transport policy – too much focus on private cars rather than public transport
– Plans to deal with farming emissions are too slow
– Good progress towards renewables as a growing success story
– Government is not doing enough to change people’s behaviour on travel, diet and flying
However, the report does make more than 300 recommendations.
Court wants an explanation of how net-zero policies will work
The High Court has ordered the Government to show how its net-zero policies will meet UK emissions targets. Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and the Good Law Project have argued successfully that the Government has unlawfully failed to include policies needed to deliver promised cuts.
An 18 July judgment said the strategy lacks any explanation or quantification of how Government plans will reach emissions target, and does not meet obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) must now prepare a report showing how emissions will be cut and present it to Parliament by April 2023.
More cycling and walking
With transport policy and travel in mind, the Government has unveiled its CWIS2 (Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy) to make cycling and walking natural choices for shorter journeys, and part of longer ones by 2040 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-second-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy/the-second-cycling-and-walking-investment-strategy-cwis2).
The upgraded CWIS2 aim is for 50% of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030, with 55% of primary school children aged 5 to 10 walking to school safely by 2025.
To encourage ‘active travel’, the Government is working with local and combined authorities to redesign towns, cities and neighbourhoods for more active journeys, create hundreds of miles of high-quality cycle routes, improve crossings, widen pavements, and promote quieter streets.
Benefits include better air quality to make travelling, living and working environments more pleasant, improved general health, fewer premature deaths linked to physical inactivity – and billions of pounds saved for the NHS.
Better ways to survive heatwaves
Closing curtains, shutting windows, keeping hydrated and exercising carefully are tactics to tackle heatwaves. However, a lot of thought is going into other low-energy ways of keeping cool.
– Domestic air conditioning system sales in 2020 were 20% higher than 2019. They are electrical, release hot air into urban spaces, and use potent greenhouse gas refrigerants, plus Rare Earth metals where mining and processing cause environmental and ecological damage.
– Good loft insulation as an alternative keeps heat out as well as in. Other passive options include external shading – a return of window shutters – external walls and roofs painted white to deflect the sun’s energy, and deciduous trees planted to protect south-facing windows in summer.
– Future new-build homes and deep retrofits along passive principles will treat north, east, south or west-facing facades differently, add overhangs, and use layouts to encourage cross-flow ventilation.
– Heat pumps connected to fifth-generation heat networks that exchange energy between different buildings will also let users both import and export heat, improve efficiency and share resources. Some heat pumps can also be set up when first installed with a reverse cycle mode to circulate cool rather than warm water through radiators.
In the longer-term future, far-reaching changes may be needed in how towns and cities are designed and function if climate change takes a deeper grip.
Heatwaves already cause Europe’s deadliest weather-related disasters, with 140,000 deaths and 83 heatwaves recorded since 2020. In 2020, circa 2,500 people died of heat-related illnesses in the UK.
The Met Office predicts that by 2100, in a worst case scenario temperatures on some days in the UK could reach 40C every three to four years. A parallel study identifies Europe as a heatwave hotspot with extremes increasing three to four times faster than other mid-latitude regions.
But cities are becoming increasingly popular too. Some 4.75 billion people now live in non-rural settings and almost 70% of the world’s population are expected to be urban dwellers by 2050.
Back to the drawing board
Historic architecture could be a drawback too. Where affordable, medieval European towns tended to install large south-facing windows to gather maximum sunlight and heat. But poorly insulated homes become heat-traps in summer and many contemporary housing blocks were erected quickly.
Old towns often stand on riverbanks; as the heat rises, so does humidity. Large areas of modern concrete and asphalt also absorb heat by day but radiate it out at night into sleeping communities.
In contrast, buildings in hotter regions traditionally have smaller windows that look out onto narrow shaded alleys and thoroughfares to minimise exposure to the sun and limit heat retention.
It is obviously impractical to rebuild established towns to suit a warming world. But new buildings can be constructed differently and existing ones retrofitted for conditions they were not originally designed for.
This will probably lead to new approaches in the design of individual buildings, the small spaces between clusters of buildings, the large spaces in whole cityscapes, and the wider relationship between hot urban and cooler rural environments.
What will a hot future be like?
Future summers are likely to be hotter, drier, and longer – boxing in shorter springs and autumns, and turning winters into a couple of dreary months punctuated by destructive storms and floods.
Blistering heat will be the default for July and August, with higher temperatures and humidity making sunbathing and work in the open unpleasant and potentially deadly.
At the same time, summer downpours fed by convective storms will be heavy. Little rain will drain into the ground. Most will flow over the surface to feed damaging flash floods.
Many people, it is predicted, will vote with their feet, leading to a general migration northwards and to higher ground. Meanwhile, cooler conditions could become a big property selling point!
UK’s largest renewables auction accelerates away from fossil fuels
The Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme is the Government’s main mechanism for supporting low-carbon electricity generation and ensures generators get a fixed, pre-agreed price known as the ‘strike price’ for selling their electricity into the energy market.
The fourth and to date largest CfD auction of 15-year private law contracts on 7 July 2022 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contracts-for-difference/contract-for-difference) secured a record 11GW of clean ‘home-grown’ energy independent of international markets to power some 12 million homes and reduce exposure to volatile global prices
Circa 7GW of capacity will come from new offshore wind projects and increase the UK’s overall capacity built and under construction by 35%; around 2.2GW will come from solar, 1GW from onshore wind, and 0.6GW from inland wind. For the first time, floating offshore wind (FLOW) and tidal stream generation are included and will account for 32MW and 41MW respectively.
Of midges, mice and men …
Global warming is driving Antarctica’s only native insect – a tiny midge – to extinction. Good news on summer nights? Sadly not. But it could change the continent’s delicate food web, a new study finds.
However, mice are increasing. U.S. and Canadian researchers say warming temperatures have boosted populations of the white-footed mouse in homes, outhouses and garages.
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