Advice from climate change experts under threat from UK Government, researchers warn

The ability of the expert Committee on Climate Change to advise on the UK’s efforts to meet its domestic and international commitments could be threatened by a lack of support from the Government, according to a new report published today (1 October 2018) by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The report by Alina Averchenkova, Sam Fankhauser and Jared Finnegan analyses the work of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which was created by the Climate Change Act in 2008 and published its first progress report to Parliament in October 2009. The authors conclude that the CCC has “made a material difference to the way climate policy is conducted”, such as influencing Parliamentary debates about new legislation on issues such as energy, infrastructure, housing and water.

But they warn that the CCC’s future work could be undermined by a lack of funding and delays in recruiting experts.

The report states: “The basis of the CCC’s success is a careful combination of rigorous analysis and extensive stakeholder engagement, including with Parliament. However, recent budget cuts and delays in the ministerial approval of new members could put at risk the CCC’s ability to deliver its ambitious work programme over the coming years.”

The CCC’s annual budget was reduced by 14.7 per cent between 2014-15 and 2016-17, forcing it to reduce the size of its rented offices. Some members have postponed their retirement from the CCC because the Government has held up approval of their replacements for several months.

The CCC is expected to receive a formal request from the Government this month for advice on whether the UK’s domestic legislation needs to be updated to make it consistent with the Paris Agreement, including the addition of a target date for achieving net zero emissions of greenhouse gases.

The authors also found that the UK is in danger of missing its current targets for reducing emissions because the Government had failed to act on key recommendations by the CCC. This means the Government could be taken to court.

The report states: “The Government runs the risk of a judicial review if it does not follow the policy advice of the CCC more carefully. Important policy recommendations have been overlooked, and a gap has opened between climate targets and the policies to deliver them.”

The authors cited examples of the Government having “largely ignored” some of the CCC’s recommendations on carbon capture and storage, low-carbon heating, policies for agricultural emissions and the risks of overheating buildings.

The report states: “As a result the CCC’s progress assessments have become increasingly explicit and assertive. This is an important evolution in the way the CCC reports, making it easier to monitor and judge the Government’s response.”

The report also draws attention to the fact that “the CCC’s analysis is used and trusted by stakeholders on all sides of the debate”. It states: “In Parliament, CCC analysis is used particularly often by Opposition politicians and to make the case for greater ambition”.

The report’s authors noted that the number of independent advisory committees on climate change has been growing around the world. They state: “An independent expert body can strengthen climate governance by introducing a long-term perspective, enhancing the credibility of climate targets and ensuring more evidence-based policymaking”.

For more information about this media release or to obtain an embargoed copy of ‘The role of independent bodies in climate governance: the UK’s Committee on Climate Change’, please contact Bob Ward on +44 (0) 7811 320346 or r.e.ward@lse.ac.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (http://www.lse.ac.uk/grantham) was launched at the London School of Economics and Political Science in October 2008. It is funded by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment (http://www.granthamfoundation.org/).
  2. The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (http://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.

-ENDS-