Climate check – It’s report time for the Coalition
The RSPB has been working on a Green Alliance-led project with fellow NGOs WWF, Christian Aid and Greenpeace to carry out a rigorous assessment of the Coalition Government’s performance on climate change, 16 months on from when it all started, back in the rose garden.
The Coalition Agreement contains some pretty impressive commitments on climate change. They said they would create a green investment bank to channel investment into things like renewable energy, and establish an emissions performance standard to prevent the growth of dirty coal. They promised to be leaders in delivering a global deal to replace the soon to expire Kyoto Protocol.
But have they lived up to their promises?
We found that the government has made either moderate or no progress on 22 of its 29 low-carbon commitments. We’ve had some really positive decisions – most importantly the Coalition stood by and legislated for the future carbon budgets recommended to them by the independent Climate Committee, in spite of opposition from the Treasury and BIS (the Department for Business). They were also quick to move on cancelling a third runway at Heathrow.
These are important successes for the Government, but they have been undermined to a certain extent by a lack of commitment from the top echelon in the Coalition, and by a growing feeling that Government’s real commitment is to growth – at any cost. Witness the current planning reform debacle for further evidence of this.
So, for now, the Coalition have scraped by with a pass, but climate will need to move up the priority list significantly if they’re going to improve on this - let alone pass - next time round.
Here’s some more details about the report:
Climate Check is published by think tank Green Alliance in conjunction with WWF, Christian Aid, Greenpeace and RSPB. It is the product of five months’ research and extensive discussions with over 40 officials and ministers across Whitehall.
The 48-page report examines progress across 11 departments and concludes:
The White Paper gives agriculture good coverage, but is weak on delivery. Goverment intends to consult with the industry over the next 12 months, but you intimate, it is highly likely the industry will argue very strongly for a continuation of voluntarism. Be interesting to see whether their review of voluntary approaches (2.48) concludes. Also, (2.46), there is an intention to bring together gov, indusstyr and environmental partners to reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing food production - the conclusion will take 12 months. I hope this is innovative rather than the same list of actions that essentially the Curry report listed.
Hi Jeremy - thanks for the comment. The report didn't cover emissions from agriculture as it wasn't in the coalition agreement, but agree its a very important area that is suffering from slow progress and opposition from industry to anything other than voluntary action. Its the only major sector I can think of that only has voluntary initiatives to reduce emissions, but its fair to say that emissions and mitigation options are considerably less certain for farming. The white paper has some good 'adaptation' stuff in it, and a particularly useful nugget on peat - effectively banning further extractions in England. But there is a lot more we could do. 2 of the best win-wins that are available are anaerobic digestion and large-scale peat restoration, which the RSPB is calling for more action on. We'll also be publishing 'nature check' later on this year with wildlife and countryside link that will go into more detail on some of this stuff, particularly the nature white paper.
From your report, can you recap progress with respect to farming and agriculture - where are we with respect to agricultural sector targets on emissions, on environmental stewardship and on its reform. I guess the White Paper on the Environment is an impressive start (whatever you may think of the lack of ideas as to how agriculture is actually going to reduce greenhouse gases without cutting back on production).