Committee on Climate Change demands a foot is kept on the gas

Say what you want about the Committee on Climate Change, they’re not backwards in coming forwards. And their recent analysis of the Clean Growth Strategy was typically direct.

The Committee highlighted a number of concerns, but fundamentally its analysis concluded that vital – and legally binding – carbon emission targets would be missed if the Government didn’t translate the aspirations of last year’s Clean Growth Strategy into a clear and measurable programme of projects, initiatives, policies and targets. They warned the goal of getting rid of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 was worth little without a clear roadmap of how to get there. And they added to the considerable body of reservations over the viability of Hinkley Point C.

Doubtless ministers in BEIS weren’t exactly thrilled to hear the Committee’s conclusions. Government is inevitably sensitive to criticism, and this administration particularly so since a General Election that was supposed to deliver a landslide Conservative victory but went (if you are of a Conservative persuasion) horribly wrong. But actually, should ministers in BEIS be looking at the Committee’s conclusions with a degree of, dare we say, thanks?

The principle criticism levelled at the Clean Growth Strategy was it was long on content but short on finite action. And in that respect, the Committee on Climate Change’s analysis is neither hugely revelatory nor fundamentally unfair. It is the case that the UK is in danger of missing emissions targets. But, by and large, response to the ambition of the Clean Growth Strategy was positive. And in including clean growth as a ‘grand challenge’ within the subsequent Industrial Strategy White Paper, ministers cemented it as a plank of domestic policy.

The Committee’s comments arguably provide a further impetus for BEIS ministers to drive this agenda. And let’s not forget the Government is very much in need of a positive narrative on the domestic front as ministers and civil servants grapple with the complexities and ructions of Brexit.

What the Committee is essentially saying is – if you’ll pardon the pun – the Government needs to keep its foot on the gas. And if ministers progress the Clean Growth Strategy with finite policies – which will influence everything from transport to addressing the housing crisis, then they could develop a domestic platform that can serve as a legacy outside of Brexit.