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Report: Cash-strapped councils climate plans hamstrung by inadequate government support

Report: Cash-strapped councils climate plans hamstrung by inadequate government support

A lack of funding and strategic support from central government is making it difficult for local authorities to support the drive for net zero emissions, imperiling the entire national mission, a new Green Alliance report argues

Local authorities keen to take climate action and drive progress towards net zero emissions are being hamstrung by inadequate funding and a lack of support from central government, according to a new report from think tank Green Alliance published today.

Three quarters of English local authorities have declared climate emergencies. But skills and funding shortages are preventing them from following up these declarations with effective action, Green Alliance argues, drawing on a raft of statistics and interviews with senior figures at 12 local authorities.

The research shows that years of funding cuts have forced local authorities to ruthlessly prioritise essential services - with climate initiatives frequently left out in the cold.

"Cuts in central government funding, council tax freezes and other rule changes have reduced the net spend per person by councils by 23 per cent over the past decade," the report notes. "The need to protect adult and child social care has meant services related to climate and the environment have seen much more substantial reductions. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation, putting some councils on the brink of bankruptcy."

Financial pressures were widely reported by interviewees working within local authorities, who, speaking anonymously, voiced intense frustration at their powerlessness to act on climate change.

"Around £1.5bn is what's needed, which is all of our discretionary spend between now and 2030. If we spent only on this and we did nothing else, then we'd be able to fund it," revealed a representative of a council which had fully costed the action outlined in its climate emergency plan.

"Our ambition was to be green but, in practice, it was getting more and more difficult because we were having to cut all the non-statutory services," another interviewee complained. "One of the first challenges was as simple as convincing my colleagues that we would protect our very, very, very small sustainability team of two officers and that, if we cut that team, it would be very, very difficult then to bring them back."

The report urges central government to do more to harness councils' enthusiasm for the net zero transition, warning that, without such collaboration, achieving the national 2050 net zero goal will be "extremely difficult". Local authorities have jurisdiction over key elements of housing and transport policy, it points out - two highly emitting sectors that pose some of the most intractable decarbonisation challenges.

While there are specialised funds available to support local authorities in developing sustainable transport solutions, budgets have generally been small compared to road and rail funding, the report finds. Funds are also time limited, making the amount available inappropriate for some uses, and councils have to put considerable time and effort into bidding for them with no guarantee of success, further stretching already scant resources.

Difficulties accessing funding for installing electric vehicle (EV) charging points is highlighted as a particular concern for some councils, especially those in rural areas where there is a poorer business case for new chargepoints due to lower population density and higher grid connection costs. However, these are precisely the areas where there is a strong need for EV infrastructure if zero emission vehicles are to have universal appeal, as around 73 per cent of trips in rural areas are taken by car, either as a driver or a passenger.

Furthermore, public spending to improve housing energy efficiency in England has continually decreased over the past decade, the report notes, with no flagship national policy since the end of the Green Deal in 2015. It cites statistics showing that annual public spending on energy efficiency now stands at only £8 per head in England, compared to £35 in Scotland, £23 in Northern Ireland, and £17 in Wales. "This lack of commitment has depleted supply chains and reduced the skills base just when they are most needed," the report warns.

The low levels of funding contrasts sharply with the huge potential for councils and local authorities to play a critical role in the net zero transition. The report highlights how local authorities are more trusted than central government with trust levels that are "four times higher on locally relevant decisions". As such councils could play a critical role in coordinating climate action and encouraging lifestyle changes, while also being well-positioned to tailor their approach to local circumstances, the report observes.

"They understand their local communities, environments and businesses, so they are vital partners for national government in tailoring and progressing climate policy," the report concludes.

As it stands, however, even very basic support from central government is absent, interviewees told Green Alliance researchers. They cited as examples assistance with mapping emissions within local authority areas, providing points of contact with central government, and outlining a national strategy to improve local capacity and low-carbon skills.

The report calls for a joint approach between central government and local authorities, and for a new strategy to be linked to the forthcoming Devolution White Paper. Such a climate action framework should include sufficient funding, a strategic approach to skills development, and more policy support from central government, it states. The report also argues for more flexibility for local authorities to use their powers within the planning system to accelerate decarbonisation. 

"The government is missing a trick when it comes to working with local authorities on climate-related issues," said Philippa Borrowman, policy adviser at Green Alliance. "Councils are close to the people, businesses and environments which they serve and our interviews have revealed just how passionate they are to address the climate emergency and do the best for their communities. They will be pivotal in supporting the roll-out of low carbon housing and transport policies and ensuring they work for everyone, in every community."

Local Government Association environment spokesperson David Renard echoed the report's concerns. "Councils can play a key role in tackling environmental issues, from improving air quality to ensuring local developments support the natural habitat," he said. "However, as this report highlights, there are significant pressures councils are under as a result of COVID-19, and local government need to have the right powers and resources so they can ensure local areas can be green and climate-friendly.

"We would also like to see the government establish a national framework where it works with councils and businesses to tackle the climate emergency, setting out clear roles and a commitment to co-operation from all public sector bodies."

Similarly, Cllr Andrew Western from Greater Manchester Combined Authority also reported that "the combined effects of the pandemic and long-running budgetary pressures mean councils are struggling for capacity and funds to take many of the practical, achievable steps needed to decarbonise our economy."

"We're working with government and local partners to progress our plans for clean and sustainable, transport, buildings and energy infrastructure - but we want to accelerate our activities to decarbonise housing, transport, and the wider economy. We need government to give local and regional authorities the funds and flexibility to act quickly and prioritise the measures that can make a real difference for their areas," Western said.

BusinessGreen approached the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government for comment on the report's finding.

Much of the existing effort to cut the UK's carbon emissions, which has focused on rebalancing the power sector away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, has not yet significantly intruded on people's lives. But the next stage of the UK's journey towards net zero emissions will be more challenging, requiring major changes to transport and housing which will affect everyone - and will rely on their consent. Today's report was released just hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the UK is to sharply increase its pace of decarbonisation over the next decade in pursuit of a new target to slash emissions 68 per cent by 2030.  But as Green Alliance's analysis makes clear, it is inconceivable such a target can be met without substantial local authority involvement and a sizeable improvement in relations between Westminster and the UK's increasingly embattled councils.

Deregulation drive has crippled progress towards UK's environmental goals, study argues

Deregulation drive has crippled progress towards UK's environmental goals, study argues

Water quality, air quality, nature protection, and the decarbonisation of the housing sector have all been damaged by deregulation and the erosion of enforcement capacity, according to a damning new report from Unchecked UK

Environmental deregulation has comprehensively failed to deliver the efficiency and cost-savings promised by successive governments as part of an ideological drive to cut red tape.

That is the headline conclusion of a damning new report from green campaign group Unchecked UK, which draws on a series of case studies to argue that environmental deregulation has "directly undermined the achievement of government policy goals".

"Water quality, air quality, the decarbonisation of the housing sector and the protection of nature conservation sites have all been undermined by deregulation and the erosion of enforcement capacity," the report, titled Our Better Nature: Why Strong Environmental Protections Matter, argues.

Far from delivering reported savings of £1.5bn, for example, the 2010-2015 Coalition Government's 'red-tape cutting' initiatives have increased regulatory burdens on business by at least £3.1bn, the report estimates.

The report cites several specific examples to back up its thesis that deregulation has done the opposite of what its supporters claimed. For example, the report argues that progress on improving UK water quality has been undermined by ongoing failures to adequately enforce regulations, which has resulted in a shifting of regulatory responsibility on to the private sector, the deferral of key targets, a decline in reporting frequency, and the rolling-back of monitoring programmes. The report estimates that as a result under the current rate of progress it will take over 200 years to hit the key government targets on water quality.

It also gives numerous examples of the damaging side-effects of the push to deregulate planning. Numerous changes to environmental impact assessment requirements have had troubling consequences for wildlife and habitats, it claims, citing the controversial £106bn HS2 project, where "requirements have been side-stepped" despite the fact it will damage 108 ancient woodlands and other natural areas, according to expert analysis.

Other planning changes have undermined the quality of housing, it argues, with deregulation of permitted development rights leading to what the report calls "some appalling cases" of office to residential conversions leaving families in substandard homes without access to facilities or open space.

Combined with the scrapping of the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Zero Carbon Homes initiative, weak planning rules have also undermined progress towards the government's low-carbon housing goals, the report alleges. "Heavy job losses and a legacy of drafty newbuilds with high heating bills" threaten to hamstring the "UK's progress towards meeting legally binding carbon budgets", it adds.

"The cancellation of the Zero Carbon Homes policy has cost more than £2bn in wasted energy, driving up household energy bills by £200 a year," it calculates.

The report also addresses the impact of cutting regulator budgets, with the Environment Agency having seen its budget and staffing numbers drop by 63 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, since 2009. Natural England's budget has fallen by 72 per cent and its staff by 20 per cent, it adds. As a result of such cuts "enforcement activity has plummeted", the report shows.

"Our rivers are dirtier, protected areas are in poor shape, air quality is still failing in major cities and our underfunded planning system is under attack from vested interests," said Paul Hatchwell, a lead author on the report.

In response, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said the government is working to "build back better and greener after the pandemic - progressing our 25-year Environment Plan and our commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, while supporting our rural economy and protected landscapes".

"Our landmark Environment Bill will set legally-binding environmental targets, and establish the Office for Environmental Protection - which will have the power to scrutinise and take enforcement action against environmental wrongdoing," she added.

Unchecked's report is published as the UK nears the end of the Brexit transition period, at which point a new legislative framework will come into force alongside a newly created watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection. Green groups have welcomed moves to place into law a series of environmental targets on air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction. The government has also promised that the bill will embed measures to protect and enhance the environment through Biodiversity Net Gain and Local Nature Recovery strategies.

However, concerns remain over the precise details of the new legislation with green campaigners continuing to ask questions about the powers of the new watchdog, its level of independence, and its funding settlement.

'Reach outside of Whitehall': Spending watchdog calls for holistic net zero strategy

'Reach outside of Whitehall': Spending watchdog calls for holistic net zero strategy

National Audit Office calls for greater clarity for how responsibility and roles of net zero will be divided across government and different public bodies

The National Audit Office (NAO) has urged the government to beef-up its strategic prepartions for net zero, today warning that "a concerted national effort" is required to achieve the 2050 decarbonisation goal.

Among a raft of recommended net zero actions published today, Whitehall's spending watchdog said the government should clearly set out the different roles and responsibilities of different public bodies and local government, while also ensuring that progress and spending related to net zero is carefully measured and tracked.

The report also recommends Ministers take steps to accelerate acceptance of the net zero mission among citizens, industry and the public sector.

NAO head Gareth Davies said slashing the UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 was an "enormously challenging long-term project" that would require "well thought-out cross-government coordination".

"Government needs to step up to the challenge, ensuring it has a clear strategy to achieve its goal and accurately monitoring progress," he advised. "It will have to reach outside of Whitehall and bring together the public sector, industry and all of us as citizens in a coordinated national effort spanning decades."

Over the coming year, the NAO said the government should take steps to establish and communicate the roles and responsibilities of different government bodies, including arm's length-bodies, regulators and local authorities, arguing this would help identify skills shortages and ensure the project is made a top priority.

It should also carefully track progress by gathering clear, relevant and consistent data related to net zero spending and the impact of decarbonisation policies, NAO said.

Meanwhile, the government has promised to publish a Net Zero Strategy before the crucial COP26 UN climate change summit in Glasgow next November, NAO said the document should include a clear timetable for key decisions to be made, and set out which sectors have less clear-cut pathways to decarbonisation, alongside plans to overcome these hurdles, it added.

But in addition to policymaking, NAO said it was imperative the government steps up its outward engagement efforts with the public on the UK's net zero goal, particularly given costs of decarbonisation are likely to be lower if businesses and the public are on board with the transition.

The report notes that, for its part, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) established a central behaviour change and public engagement team in April 2020 tasked with designing a public engagement strategy and sharing best practice across government.

Responding to the NAO's report today, the government agreed delivering on the UK's net zero ambitions would require a "concerted national effort", and highlighted its decision announced late last night to raise the UK's 2030 climate goal - to a 68 per cent cut in emissions on 1990 levels - as evidence of the its commitment to tackling climate change. 

"We agree that a concerted national effort to eliminate our contribution to climate change is needed," the BEIS spokesperson said. "That's why in addition to the Prime Minister last month setting out a Ten Point Plan for a green industrial revolution, today we announced the UK's Nationally Determined Contribution which commits us to reducing our emissions by 68 per cent on 1990 levels by 2030. This is the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date and raises the bar for global climate ambition in the run up to COP26 next year."

The UK's short and long term climate plans must invest in nature

The UK's short and long term climate plans must invest in nature

A higher 2030 NDC target is to be welcomed, but it must be underpinned by plans to protect and restore nature, argues WWF's Gareth Redmond-King

Anyone who remembers the start of 2020 will recall a time when there was to be a climate COP in the UK in November. So long ago was that pre-Covid time, that the COP would have finished by now. Of course, that parallel universe doesn't exist and instead, due to the impacts of the pandemic, we're now a year out from COP26. While it is perfectly reasonable for climate negotiations to be delayed for the world to tackle a global health crisis, the climate and nature crisis itself is not so amenable to delay. Meaning we don't have the luxury of tackling one crisis at a time - we need to maintain focus on climate action. As countries emerge, at varying speeds, from the impacts of covid restrictions, our economies need help to get back on their feet. Helpfully, climate action is also very good for aiding our recovery - bringing both jobs and wider economic benefits. Work earlier this year demonstrated that "the net zero transition could yield over £90bn of annual benefits to the UK" in avoided healthcare costs, business opportunities unlocked, and avoided costs of inaction on climate. It also showed that investing in green sectors returns between £3 and £8 for every £1 committed. The UK has a legal commitment to decarbonise to reach net zero by 2050. The government has received headline advice from the Climate Change Committee on what level carbon reductions must look like by 2030 to achieve this. And next week, the Prime Minister will co-host an ambition summit on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. Parties to the Agreement are invited to submit their enhanced nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) - their increased ambition to enable the world collectively to get closer to Paris' aim of keeping warming to 1.5 degrees. The UK, having just left the EU, is now a party to the Paris Agreement solely in its own right; and will therefore be submitting an NDC for the first time for COP26. As hosts of the COP - charged with driving the world's collective ambition upwards before next November - we need the UK's NDC to match the ambition that we should expect of a leader. I won't dissect here what that detail of the NDC should look like beneath the headline number; ECIU's Richard Black has recently done so very eloquently and clearly. However, once again, new WWF modelling, carried out by Imperial Consultants, sets the threshold for what we know to be possible. It makes the case that the UK's NDC should be at least a 72 per cent reduction in 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and should include (for the first time) international aviation and shipping. However, as our analysis shows, the UK has a duty to go further and faster than many, based on our historical emissions. As the birthplace of the industrial revolution, we have been emitting for longer than anyone else, and benefitting economically as a result. So, ideally we should see the UK go beyond that 72 per cent on the basis of domestic emissions reductions. And, of course, we need it not just to be a number on a piece of paper; the announcements which the PM made in his 10 point plan need to be underpinned with the rest of the net zero picture, and the investment to deliver it. But there is one other vital and complex ingredient in this recipe: nature. Healthy ecosystems have the capacity to capture greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, helping us to fight climate change. Poorly maintained or degraded landscapes, however, end up releasing these emissions back into the atmosphere, making the problem worse. The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world; two-fifths of species have seen declines, and one in seven is at risk of disappearing. Woodland in the UK accounts for just 13 per cent of total land area - compared to 31 per cent globally, and more than 40 per cent in Europe as a whole. Despite this, our landscapes store over 16,000 Mt CO2e - equivalent to approximately 36 years of UK emissions. 6-7 per cent of the overall emissions reduction between now and 2050 rely on natural systems, many of which we are still damaging. For example: burning, extracting and degrading peat has turned an important carbon sink into a source; protecting and restoring peatlands can turn them back into allies, removing and locking away some of our greenhouse gas emissions. Without expanding and protecting natural systems in the UK - most of which also serve as important habitats for wildlife - we cannot achieve net zero. This is why the UK's NDC, adaptation communication and long-term strategy must signal serious investment in nature. That includes protecting, restoring and expanding native woodlands, peatlands and permanent grasslands, and urgently exploring the potential of coastal and marine systems. These nature-based solutions to climate change protect existing carbon stocks and enhance carbon removals, but they also help address the biodiversity crisis, support climate adaptation and deliver a range of other socio-economic co-benefits. As Barack Obama once observed, it is "part of the President's job to be able to deal with more than one thing at once". Right now, this is true for every world leader, each required to act on multiple crises. During a worldwide public health emergency, nature is in crisis. As we race to a vaccine for covid, we already know the solutions to avert disaster in the natural world - as well as how important that is to preventing future pandemics. But we also know that, in addressing the nature crisis, we recruit a powerful ally against the climate emergency too. Gareth Redmond-King is head of climate change at WWF

Getting to the truth: What Astongate can teach us about lifecycle assessments

Getting to the truth: What Astongate can teach us about lifecycle assessments

Ramon Arratia of Ball Corporation explains why carbon emissions analysis should compare today's products with those of the future, rather than those of the past

This week a host of media outlets reported on a study that made heavily-disputed claims about the environmental credentials of electric cars. The analysis found an electric car would have to travel as far as 50,000 miles before it recorded a carbon footprint saving over a petrol model. The report was commissioned by major automotive manufacturers including Aston Martin, McLaren, and Honda, and follows the government's announcement that new petrol cars and vans will not be sold in the UK from 2030.  

The implication of the report is clear - electric vehicles are so beset by problems they're not worth bothering with. Earlier this week its analysis was shot down by a wealth of experts including Dutch electric vehicles researcher Auke Hoekstra. Hoekstra pointed out carbon parity is achieved at 16,000 miles - more than 30,000 fewer than reported by the automotive companies.  

So how did this 'study' get the figures so badly wrong? For a start, various assumptions were made that significantly skewed the results. Assumptions in life cycle assessments (LCAs) are like ingredients in recipes - if you adjust them one way or the other, even by a small amount, then they can have a significant impact on the flavour and outcome of your end result.  

In this case, combustion emissions were underestimated because the production of the car's fuel was excluded - and the production of petrol involves a significant carbon footprint. The analysis also assumed that the use of biofuels in non-electric cars is emissions free, which it is not. There were other questionable assumptions, too, but suffice to say that in this case the wrong ingredients delivered a recipe that may have been to the liking of those who commissioned the analysis but which really did not tell us anything valuable in the long run. 

Just as we should beware of strangers offering gifts, so we should beware 'experts' offering LCAs. More specifically we ought to be wary of their assumptions. Change the allocation rules or scope of a study, and suddenly one product can be made to look better than another. The most important assumption comes in defining the system within which a product operates. In order to make sound decisions about future policy we need to look not just at the situation as it is today, which is what most LCAs do, but at the situation in the future.

If we're studying the impacts of electric cars, for example, comparisons with vehicles running on petrol or diesel will largely depend on the carbon intensity of the electricity network. In the 1990s (and still in some parts of the world that have lots of coal-based electricity) any LCA might well have shown that an electric car fared worse than a diesel one in terms of carbon emissions. Yet that situation would be markedly different now. What's more, if you take into account recent exponential improvements in renewables, then you can safely assume that it will be even more in favour of electric cars over the next few decades, when electricity generation will produce much less carbon than today.   

For LCA comparisons that try to help us make decisions in the long run, we should therefore be looking at using assumptions based on what will happen in the future, rather than what's occurring now. That means using estimated carbon emissions factors per kwh of electricity that will be relevant to 2030 or 2040. That way we can design the systems and policies that deliver the most efficient and sustainable products for the future.   

Another example closer to my home is packaging recycling. There are many comparative LCAs that only focus on past recycling rates - because the official data in that area is always two or three years old. Yet we know, for example, that in Europe by 2030 in all probability we will see 90 per cent collection of PET bottles and cans. So why should comparative LCAs focus on the past instead of comparing the performance of the system we are in the process of creating?

If we are setting up a high-performance collection and recycling system, surely we need to make decisions about packaging that are based on that best-optimised recycling system, rather than what we have now. Just as you would not want to dismiss Tesla's future performance based on the coal-based electricity generation that we are already phasing out, you would not want to make judgments on the kind of packaging we create based on the creaky infrastructure and rules that we currently have.

'Astongate' has brought into stark focus what happens when LCAs go wrong. Now more than ever before to get to the truth we must look to the future.  


Ramon Arratia is global director of Public Affairs at Ball Corporation

'We are taking the lead': Boris Johnson significantly strengthens UK's 2030 carbon target

'We are taking the lead': Boris Johnson significantly strengthens UK's 2030 carbon target

Prime Minister announces new target to cut emissions 68 per cent against 1990 levels by 2030, confirming a major tightening of carbon goals as part of UK's pre-COP26 submission to the Paris Agreement

Boris Johnson has today confirmed a new carbon target for 2030 that he said would put the ensure the UK reduces emissions "faster than any other major economy" over the coming decade.

In a move that heralds a step change in the government's decarbonisation efforts, the Prime Minister announced a new climate target to be submitted to the UN this month that would see the UK cut greenhouse gas emissions by "at least" 68 per cent by the end of the decade compared to 1990 levels, a move that raises Britain's contribution to achieving the global warming goals set out in the Paris Agreement.

The new goal marks a significant increase on the UK's existing target to cut emissions by 61 per cent by 2030 and would for the first time put the country on a short-term decarbonisation pathway broadly aligned with the overarching statutory target to deliver a net zero economy by 2050.

Johnson said he recognised the urgency to accelerate efforts to tackle climate change, and argued that while the new near-term goal was among the highest in the world, the UK was more than capable of delivering on the target given its progress to date in slashing emissions while growing the economy.

"We have proven we can reduce our emissions and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process - uniting businesses, academics, NGOs, and local communities in a common goal to go further and faster to tackle climate change," said Johnson. "Today, we are taking the lead with an ambitious new target to reduce our emissions by 2030, faster than any major economy, with our Ten Point Plan helping us on our path to reach it."

The new target forms a major pillar of the UK's national climate action plan under the Paris Agreement - or nationally-determined contribution (NDC) in the UN jargon - details of which are expected to be unveiled in full in the coming days, ahead of a major Climate Ambition Summit being hosted alongside the UN and France next Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

The new 2030 target will be at the heart of the UK's first formal NDC, with its contribution to the Paris Agreement goals having until now been included as part of the EU's plan. EU member states are currently in the process of negotiating stronger medium term emissions targets for inclusion in an upgraded version of the bloc's NDC.

As such, delivering an ambitious NDC is seen as key to the UK's global climate leadership aspirations ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow next year, as the government looks to both bolster its post-Brexit "global Britain" strategy and encourage other nations to ramp up their own climate ambitions to bring them into line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  

The announcement also means the UK has stuck to the timetable set out under the Paris Agreement for governments to submit new climate plans before the end of 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic which forced COP26 to be delayed by a year.

Johnson stressed that the new target had to be part of "a global effort, which is why the UK is urging world leaders as part of next week's Climate Ambition Summit to bring forward their own ambitious plans to cut emissions and set net zero targets".

The new target would increase the planned pace of decarbonisation in the UK by around 50 per cent over the coming decade compared to the previous target. Meeting the goal will therefore require significant policy intervention, governance changes and investment to accelerate decarbonisation across the economy, with gas boilers, heavy industry, and fossil fuelled transport in particular likely to require significant changes if the target is to be met.

The move comes just hours after the government's independent climate advisors on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) had recommended the Prime Minister set a 68 per cent target, arguing that if backed by ambitious policy measures the goal was "eminently achievable" and would deliver "significant benefits for the UK's economic recovery" from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Green business groups warmly welcomed the move to accelerate the pace of UK decarbonisation over the coming decade.

Eliot Whittington, director of The Prince of Wales's Corporate Leaders Group, described it as "an important step forward and a positive signal for nations looking for leadership towards COP26".

"Other countries are also developing plans and actions to secure their space in growing industries like renewables, as the race to the green economy gets going," he said. "This serious commitment from the UK government must now be translated into action by developing the 10 Point Plan into a net zero strategy that puts the UK in pole position for the green economy and on track for delivering our world leading targets." 

Unveiled last month, the Prime Minister's 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is backed by £12bn of public investment in growing the green economy in areas such as offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture technologies and electric vehicles.

However, the government has itself acknowledged the policies and funding in the Plan still leave the UK far off meeting its climate targets for the late 2020s and beyond, even before they were today strengthened, and as such a raft of further policies are therefore expected in the coming weeks and months in a bid to deliver additional emissions reductions.

New measures are anticipated to strengthen green building standards, mobilise investment in green hydrogen infrastructure, and expand the low carbon public transport fleet. In addition, the long-awaited Energy White Paper is due to be published imminently, with Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng today signalling he was "confident" it would be published before the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the CCC is set to publish its hotly-anticipated advisory report to the government on Wednesday on how the UK can meet its statutory climate targets in the mid-2030s through the Sixth Carbon Budget, which is likely to include a host of additional policy recommendations alongside evidence the projected cost of delivering on the UK's long term net zero goal has fallen sharply.

Shaun Spiers, executive director of think tank Green Alliance, argued that while the UK's enhanced NDC commitment was a "valuable signal of ambition" ahead of COP26, further action was needed if the UK "is to fulfil its fair share of global mitigation efforts".

"Every department of government now needs to get on board and implement clear policies to promote rapid decarbonisation," he said. "And the Treasury must provide the support necessary to enable them to deliver."

Moreover, with full details of the new NDC having yet to be published, a number of key issues remain.

For example, the CCC has said reducing emissions by 68 per cent by 2030 should be achieved without the use of international carbon credits, or offsetting. BusinessGreen understands the government intends to meet the new 2030 target through domestic action alone, although it has not ruled out using international credits for meeting its future commitments if necessary.

Moreover, all the UK's climate targets between now and 2050 do not include international aviation and shipping, and pressure is therefore mounting on the government to set out its plan for tackling emissions from these high carbon transport sectors.

As such, some green figures questioned the level of ambition in the UK's new 2030 target, with several NGOs and faith groups earlier arguing a target closer to a 75 per cent cut was required.

Labour's Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband said the 68 per cent goal for 2030 was "the minimum we should aim for".

"Our goal should be to go further and faster, cutting the significant majority of emissions in this decisive decade, which is the right way to lead in creating the climate jobs of the future and keeping global warming below 1.5C," he said. "As we move to this higher target, it is clear there is now a yawning gap between the government's aspirations and its policies to deliver them. The government didn't have the policies to meet their previous target and the chasm will be even greater now."

In related news, ahead of the Prime Minister's announcement the government today launched a new carbon calculator allowing users to explore different potential pathways to achieving net zero emissions over the next 30 years. Developed by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with input from a host of independent experts, the MacKay Carbon Calculator, is designed to "help everyone engage in the debate" and allow the government "to explore how its plans support the path to net zero", the government said.

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