Abu Dhabi, UAE –The Global Adaptation Network held its 2nd Forum last March. Convened in UAE, the event brought to light various issues in adaptation and constituted the first event to contribute to the Talanoa Dialogue, an ongoing global discourse on climate change. Since then, the Forum has been feeding into climate policy on a global scale, and last month, the UNFCCC’s Bonn Climate Conference used findings from the event to enrich its own discussions and negotiations.
GAN’s Forum was held in collaboration with Zayed University and the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. Bringing together high-level Ministers and over 120 adaptation experts, the Forum presented cutting-edge solutions for building resilience. It covered a set of salient themes, including state-of-the-art adaptation technologies, procedures for measuring adaptation progress, and methods for spreading knowledge. A recurring cross-cutting theme was the role of the private sector in building resilience.
It was previously decided that GAN’s Forum, with all its outcomes and perspectives, would provide the next chapter of the Talanoa Dialogue. ‘Talanoa’ is a traditional word used across Fiji and the Pacific to signify a discourse of openness, trust and inclusivity. The purpose of the Dialogue is to advance international cooperation on climate change through the sharing of ideas, skills, and storytelling. As such, the Forum was privileged to host, as a keynote speaker, Fiji’s High-Level Climate Champion, the Honorable Minister Inia Seruiratu.
In keeping with the principle of inclusivity, one of the predominant themes of the Forum was how to reach those most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Participants sought to analyse the role of insurance in helping the poor to absorb climate shocks. More specifically, there was keen interest in the possibility of establishing an African learning platform for climate risk insurance.
The question of how to quantify different aspects of adaptation is of increasing importance, and the Forum devoted its efforts to explore these challenges. How do we measure our progress? How do we calculate climate risk? Taking a finance approach, the Global Centre of Excellence on Climate Adaptation pointed to data from the Adaptation Gap report. They urged that, under the most conservative estimates, global investment in adaptation will need to increase by at least 438% by 2050.
“This is what makes Forums such as this so important – bringing together experts… from different sectors and organisations to not only share your knowledge and progress, but to also develop linkages between your sectors.” – Fiji Minister Inia Seruiratu
Another integral topic of GAN’s Forum was adaptation learning and knowledge-exchanges. Sessions demonstrated how scientific information is communicated between countries in the interests of building resilience, drawing on experiences from Japan, Mongolia and the Philippines. In addition, there was a focus on the role of universities in solving adaptation challenges. Jessica Barlow outlined the efficacious EPIC model, which connects universities and their resources to real-word issues faced by local cities. Jessica Hitt from EcoAdapt presented her ongoing work with the Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE), currently the world’s largest and most used source of adaptation case studies.
The UNFCCC are among many who are advocating for more progress with engaging the private sector in adaptation. GAN took the opportunity to use this as a cross-cutting theme of the Forum. John Firth, CEO of the adaptation company Acclimatise, gave a persuasive talk on how to involve businesses. Firth explained that the private sector has always excelled in risk management, and adaptation specialists must configure a way to uptake this expertise.
“The climate change community has tended to see adaptation and resilience as a public sector issue… The reality is that the services we consume, and what we need to build resilience, are actually produced by the private sector.” – John Firth, CEO of Acclimatise
Pertinent to the Forum’s location in Abu Dhabi, the event also took stock of the pioneering adaptation technologies being developed in the Gulf region. Novel projects were displayed by Zayed University, including selective-breeding to produce genetically resilient coral species. The Forum concluded with a visit to Masdar City, a planned project in Abu Dhabi set to house some of the world’s major cleantech organizations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Newtok, a small Alaskan village on the shores of the Ningliq River, has been fighting erosion exacerbated by climate change for decades. Now, they have secured $15 million to begin relocating houses to higher ground.
The people of Newtok have been trying to relocate since 1994 with little to no success. In recent years, the effects of climate change have made the village’s situation increasingly urgent and dire. Currently, the river is creeping 70 feet closer every year.
In its efforts to secure funding, Newtok’s main problem was that no federal agency seemed to be responsible for the somewhat unusual predicament creating a barrier to access funding. From federal disaster relief funds to the Department of Housing and Development – no one seemed to cover the particular needs of Newtok.
Earlier this year, the Alaska Denali Commission, an independent federal agency designed to provide critical utilities, infrastructure and economic support throughout Alaska, saw its fairly tiny budget doubled to $30 million as part of the $1.3 trillion spending bill signed in late March.
Half of the allocated budget will be spent on Newtok’s relocation. However, $15 million only cover a fraction of the necessary funds. In a 2006 report, the US Army Corps of Engineers calculated Newtok would need between $80-130 million to relocate and had about 10-15 years left to do so.
Twelve years later, the allocated budget is at least a start and the Denali Commission is ready to get to work. They want to have “as many occupiable housing units as possible in place by October 1, 2019.”
A further smaller grant of $1.7 million was also announced; it is funded by both the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The grant comes as part of FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program which is reserved for “traditional” disasters but the urgency of Newtok’s situation made it necessary to provide funds.
To learn more about the history of Newtok, click here.
Four South Asian countries (India, Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan) have successfully applied a new governance framework called “Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change within Governance Systems in South Asia” that allows governments to integrate climate change adaptation into governance systems, policies and plans.
Developed, and launched by a group of national and international climate change experts between 2016-2018, the framework identifies barriers and opportunities for climate adaptation mainstreaming and has already helped 10 national and sub-national governments change their investment, planning and policy processes to account for climate change.
One of the authors of the framework explains:
“Adapting to climate change could cost up to US$ 500 billion per year by mid-century. A sizeable amount of money will necessarily come from government budgets, as investments are made in new infrastructure and other development. Governments, therefore have significant power to drive action on climate adaptation. To do this successfully they must integrate climate adaptation across their own programmes leveraging spending across departments to deliver climate resilience. The framework helps governments do just that.” With the help of this new framework, practitioners and policy makers will be able to understand how to mainstream adaptation within governance systems by focusing on three aspects:
Entry points: Opportunities for integrating climate considerations into the planning and policy process.
Enabling environment: The characteristics – people, institutions, resources etc – that help support the successful adoption of climate change adaptation policies and practices.
Political economy drivers: The factors that influence and affect the enabling environment such as the interests and incentives facing different groups as well as formal and informal social, political and cultural norms.
Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within development policy or planning involves governance at multiple levels, which is why ACT is working at the national and subnational levels across South Asia. The lessons from ACT’s work will be of interest for similar projects and programmes in the region and beyond.
The full ACT learning paper “Mainstreaming adaptation to climate change within governance systems in South Asia: An analytical framework and examples from practice” and a learning brief can be accessed here.
In September 2017, the Atlantic basin was ensnared in one of the most active hurricane seasons of all time. With wind speeds of 185 miles per hour, Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic. This one storm produced as much cyclone energy as is considered “normal” for an entire Atlantic hurricane season.
And it was not alone.
Irma ravaged the Caribbean Islands just one week after Hurricane Harvey hit the southeastern United States. Hurricanes José, Katia, and Maria followed, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake with more to come. By some estimates, the damage of Harvey and Maria alone totaled US$215 billion.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the climate disasters of 2017 were not limited to the North Atlantic. Heavy downpours in Western Africa and an abnormally strong monsoon season in India and Bangladesh killed thousands of people and destroyed infrastructure and economies. Likewise, heavy rains caused floods, landslides and deaths in Peru, Columbia, Sri Lanka, China, and elsewhere.
With the increasing regularity of climate disasters — and with related costs quadrupling in the past 30 years — governments are beginning to prioritize disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
Many countries already promote risk management measures, like using hurricane-straps to prevent roofs from flying off, and building dykes to minimise tidal flooding and coastal storm surge. But while these measures can reduce part of the risk posed by extreme weather events, superstorms like Irma show they are not enough. Not all damage can be avoided. As such, we must look to solutions to cover the risks to which we cannot adapt.
Climate risk insurance offers one such solution.
Some Caribbean countries affected by Irma bought an insurance policy with CCRIF SPC (the former Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility). CCRIF announced on 7 September, the day the storm hit, that a payout of US $15.6 million would be made to the governments of Antigua & Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Kitts & Nevis to cover damages. The payouts were to be made not more than 14 days after the storm hit — as mandated by CCRIF’s guidelines.
While these payouts are not nearly enough to cover all storm reparations, the example still illustrates that tailored insurance coverage can provide much-needed funds, and quickly. The payout mechanism is triggered by objective catastrophe models (data from the National Hurricane Center in this case), which avoids delays caused by uncoordinated responses in the aftermath of many major catastrophes.
Studies show that economies with high (private) insurance coverage bounce back quicker to pre-disaster development once hit by earthquakes, storms or floods.
But before we look to climate insurance as a panacea for disaster recovery, we must understand its strengths, and its limitations. Research from the United Nations University finds that while climate insurance offers a compelling solution to increased climate disasters, three things must be considered in its implementation.
First, events like Irma help gauge our preparedness for superstorms and help us better understand who is the most affected by them. Research shows that poor people are the most exposed to — and least protected from — climate risks, and affordable risk-based insurance premiums remain a major challenge. To make insurance an affordable solution, the product can be subsidized by governments or other donors. Regional risk pools can also protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Those who still struggle to afford a premium could pay for coverage through an insurance for assets scheme, where they would be awarded a premium in exchange for taking part in risk reduction activities, like building flood defenses in their own communities. Bottom line, climate insurance schemes must be designed to meet the needs of all socio-economic classes.
Second, climate insurance schemes must be tailored to local needs and conditions, both in terms of the potential types of climatic risks, and the needs and economic abilities of potential clients. With the local context in mind, a properly designed scheme can give incentives for risk reduction by rewarding clients for taking positive action. Higher premiums can discourage people from living in areas that are at heightened risk of flooding or landslides, or encourage them to take preventive measures, reducing their levels of vulnerability over the long term.
Third, climate insurance is not a stand-alone solution. It can only reach its full potential if complemented by other risk management measures and integrated into a wider risk management framework including risk reduction and preparation. The key is to reduce and avoid as much risk as possible first, then use insurance to cover only what cannot be prevented or adapted to.
Climate change is set to intensify and drive an increase in all categories of meteorological hazards — storms, droughts and floods. The 2017 hurricane season was a strong reminder that governments, businesses and individuals must boost their preventative risk management activities, while also designing climate insurance approaches for protection when nature’s harm cannot be avoided. Together, these measures will give us the best chance to adapt to, and survive, a future of superstorms.
For most Americans, the one-two punch of last fall’s hurricanes is ancient history. But hard-hit communities in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean are still rebuilding.
I recently traveled with public health students from the University of Washington to southeast Texas, where the impacts of Hurricane Harvey last August are still felt today. With support from the Natural Hazards Center’s Quick Response Grant Program, we wanted to understand how disaster recovery strategies can create long-term opportunities to promote healthy communities.
Through interviews with local health officials, we learned how Hurricane Harvey is still affecting many residents. As we often see during natural disasters, Harvey amplified pre-existing health and social stresses and inequities.
For example, greater Houston had only a paltry pre-storm supply of affordable housing. Now buyers and renters are competing to secure undamaged units. We heard about families who were living in homes with toxic mold because they couldn’t afford to leave, and concerns that rising prices would drive people out on the street or force them to move to other cities and states. However, we also saw signs that communities were using Hurricane Harvey to springboard efforts to address persistent housing problems.
The default response after a major disaster is often to rebuild as quickly as possible. This typically means replicating what existed before the storm. But why not build back in a way that corrects long-standing problems?
Major disasters like Hurricane Harvey often bring influxes of resources and attention to communities that are struggling with health and social challenges. In a 2015 report, the Institute of Medicine found that many communities fail to fully leverage recovery resources to address pre-existing issues, such as access to health care.
The report urged communities to consider short- and long-term health impacts of their recovery decisions, known as a “health in all policies” approach to recovery. This approach recognizes that health is connected to many other issues, including transportation, social networks and housing. By thinking about the health impacts of recovery strategies, municipal leaders can rebuild in a way that promotes stronger and more resilient communities.
For example, co-locating mental health professionals at sites where people are signing up for FEMA aid can help more residents get counseling and support. In the long term, decisions about land use in badly damaged neighborhoods can create spaces where people can exercise and socialize, which helps them to lead healthier and happier lives.
Leveraging local expertise to build back better
The idea of incorporating health in all policies may sound sensible, but putting it into action after a hurricane, wildfire or tornado strike is easier said than done. As a former emergency manager in Baltimore, I know that working conditions after disasters are fast-paced and often chaotic. Communities are under political and social pressure to recover quickly, and health may not be at the top of their agendas.
Advance planning for recovery is important. And involving people who understand challenges to community health and well-being is essential. Local health departments, as well as community- and faith-based organizations, are often connected to at-risk populations. Involving these organizations in recovery planning and implementation can inform an approach that promotes community health and well-being. For example, they can identify opportunities to use recovery resources to meet pre-existing housing needs, or direct case management services to families that are already struggling.
During our trip to Texas we saw that pre-disaster recovery planning was paying off. As an example, Fort Bend Recovers was established in Fort Bend County, which covers 885 square miles in the Houston metro area, after major flooding on Memorial Day in 2016.
In Harvey’s wake, plans developed by Fort Bend Recovers created a process for organizations, including local health and social services agencies, to rapidly reconvene to respond to community needs. Together they offered case management services, staffed mental health support lines, and convened emotional support groups. Such services can help individuals affected by the floods find housing and supplies, but also connect them with solutions for longer-term problems, such as finding affordable medical care.
Hurricane season 2018 is coming
In order to truly “build back better,” states and communities need to develop a plan for recovery in advance of the next disaster. Galveston County, on Texas’ Gulf Coast, is using its Hurricane Harvey recovery experience to formalize a Long Term Recovery Group that brings together the local health department and other community- and faith-based organizations to address community health needs. But we also heard about other communities that still don’t have a plan or mechanism for organizing recovery.
With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Connections Program, my research team is now reviewing state disaster recovery plans nationwide. We plan to identify whether and how states use the disaster recovery period to build back better. We hope to highlight recovery strategies that promote equitable access to affordable and safe housing, health care, and places and spaces that encourage healthy activity and foster social connections.
As climate change amplifies storms, floods and other extreme weather events, U.S. communities can expect more frequent and severe natural disasters in the years to come. By recognizing and planning for opportunities to build back better, they can make themselves more resilient against the next disaster.
Some estimates suggest that US$ 500 billion will be needed for adaptation by 2050, and public finances will form a crucial part of that picture. To ensure this, a new framework that helps governments mainstream spending on climate adaptation into domestic budgets, has been successfully implemented in four South Asian countries. The Financing Framework for Resilient Growth (FFRG) can help countries around the world improve how they fund climate resilience building through public finance.
International climate finance mechanisms have so far fallen short of delivering the necessary resources to tackle climate change and are unlikely to deliver all that is needed in the near future as well. This is especially true of adaptation finance, which remains severely underfunded putting many people and critical infrastructure at risk. To successfully prepare for climate change, governments will have to mobilise their own fiscal resources and go beyond donor funding to reach their development goals.
The Action on Climate Today (ACT) programme has devised and tested this framework that enables governments to integrate climate change adaptation and resilience into their plans, policies, and budgets at the national and subnational level. The FFRG provides a way to estimate the economic cost of climate change damages, quantify current expenditure on adaptation, and track it through departmental budgets. For example, in Bihar, India, ACT reviewed 787 budget lines which are relevant for climate change and used the FFRG to estimate that $145 million worth of the total ‘benefits’ from this expenditure are tackling the impacts of climate change through enabling adaptation. This provides an effective baseline against which to measure an increase in funding year on year or hold the government to account should expenditure dip.
The framework also allows governments to calculate the gap between current levels of funding and those required to prevent climate-related loss and damage. The framework is a useful tool for governments to identify priority areas of spending and plan effectiveness strategies to finance climate adaptation.
Listen to the 60-second abstract about the report:
The full ACT learning paper “Mainstreaming, accessing and institutionalising finance for climate change adaptation” and an insight note based on the Framework for Resilient Growth methodology can be can be accessed here.
ACT (Action on Climate Today) is an initiative funded with UK aid from the UK government and managed by Oxford Policy Management.
Cover photo by Diganta Talukdar/Flickr (CC BY 2.0): Woman plucking tea leaves in Amluckee Tea Estate in Amoni in Nagaon district.
It was with great fanfare that last month, the Trump administration announced its ambitious infrastructure plan. The strategy commits US$ 1.5 trillion for improving the country’s roads, airports, railways and bridges. However, the 55-page document fails to mention the words “climate change”, “resilience” or “adaptation” even once. Failing to consider the impact of climate change on infrastructure, much of which will be expected to last many decades, undermines the country’s preparedness for both extreme weather events and climate change.
Weather disasters were estimated to have cost the US economy over US$ 306 billion last year as the country was hit by 16 extreme weather events with losses exceeding $1 billion. A sizeable portion of these losses are attributed to direct damage to infrastructure and the associated disruption that this causes.
“The Trump administration’s misguided infrastructure plan ignores the threats facing our country from stronger storms, higher temperatures, and bigger floods,” said Stephanie Gidigbi, a policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “smart investments in our future would help make our communities more resilient to withstand the effects of climate change, and would recognize the opportunities in cleaner energy.”
Designing infrastructure to cope only with the most extreme weather events of the past will leave it poorly prepared for the potentially more severe weather events of the future. However, extreme events are only part of the picture where climate change is concerned. Gradual changes in temperatures and climatic conditions will also affect infrastructure’s ability to perform effectively.
For example, hotter average temperatures can affect the efficiency of power plants, the stability of asphalt roads, and increase the amount of energy needed to cool buildings. One study published in Nature Climate Change, estimated that warming temperatures will add up to US$35.8 billion to road paving costs by the 2070s. The authors note that “failing to update engineering standards of practice in light of climate change therefore significantly threatens pavement infrastructure in the United States.”
The new infrastructure investment plan also shifts a lot of the financial risk from the federal to local government. Under the new plan, local governments would be responsible for funding over 80% of the investment. Should the infrastructure then be damaged or destroyed as a result of climate change-related weather events, local government budgets could be left with large deficits.
The new plan is consistent with the Trump administration’s commitment to remove legislation related to climate change and contains no consideration of the overall systemic resilience of the countries power, transportation, or water systems. Trump’s plan may succeed in mobilising funding to build new infrastructure, but the likelihood is that the US will be no better prepared for today’s reality of a changing climate.
The document was officially approved by Cabinet decision in November 2017 after two years of development and involves key aspects of Grenada’s national strategic development target, Grenada’s draft National Sustainable Development Plan 2030, priority sectoral corporate plans, and the Public-Sector Investment Programme (PSIP).
Introduced by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), NAPs help countries reduce their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change through comprehensive medium and long-term climate adaptation planning.
Merina Jessamy, Permanent Secretary for Environment said, “In developing the NAP, consultations were held with over 160 representatives from government and private actors across numerous sectors including water, food security, coastal zone management, resilient infrastructure, disaster risk reduction and disease prevention.”
In the case of Grenada, the NAP includes a number of actions and projects to be implemented in order to reduce Grenada vulnerability to climate change. This involves giving potential donors and funding agencies ideas about funding opportunities in an effort to give Grenada a leading edge in accessing finance to implement the various projects.
And the NAP is already paving the way for some influential projects in Grenada. A water sector resilience project valued at approximately $42 million USD has been submitted and approved by the Green Climate Fund.
Implementing climate change-related migration and human rights in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as mandated by the Paris Agreement, is challenging, partly because of legal complexities, says a new research paper released in November by the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).
Communities in the Pacific largely make their decisions on migration based on their traditional beliefs and values which are embedded in the local customary law that often contradicts national laws. Furthermore, migration is not properly regulated at the domestic level or at the regional level — though this is a growing necessity for the world’s most climate-vulnerable states.
“Even at two degrees, the coastal areas will be flooded and most of the islands will probably disappear under water”
Cosmin Corendea, UN-EHS
According to the study, in 2005—2015, over 90 per cent of households in Kiribati and Tuvalu, and three-quarters of households in Nauru, were affected by climate-related hazards like flooding, saltwater intrusion and storms. In that period, environmental stress was cited as a key factor in migration. In Kiribati, 14 per cent of all recorded movements were environment-related, while in Tuvalu the figure was nine per cent. Without any option to move internationally, migrating populations are concentrating in urban centres like South Tarawa in Kiribati and Funafuti in Tuvalu.
The SIDS are implementing several adaptation measures, including building sea walls and planting flood-tolerant crops. But, about 30 per cent of people decide to migrate as soon as the first climate stress appears, according to Cosmin Corendea, senior legal expert at UNU-EHS and an author of the report.
If the key goal of the Paris Agreement — limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius — is not met, the SIDS will be among the first to be hit, Corendea says. “Even at two degrees, the coastal areas will be flooded and most of the islands will probably disappear under water — the problem will become even more tragic if you’re going to have people who do not belong to a state,” Corendea tells SciDev.Net.
Most governments in the Pacific are making “huge efforts” to harmonise the state and customary law from a human rights perspective, Corendea says. For example, the US$9.2 million Fiji Access to Justice project, funded by the EU and implemented by the UN Development Programme since last year, aims to strengthen Fiji’s Legal Aid Commission, the judicial department, and NGOs’ access to justice.
A special initiative launched at COP23 in Bonn is designed to protect people living in the SIDS from the health impacts of climate change. “This is crucially important because climate change is exacerbating existing health-related challenges in Pacific island countries,” Wesley Morgan, senior international relations expert at the University of the South Pacific, tells SciDev.Net. “Changes in climate can lead to changes in the distribution of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria and affect health-related infrastructure.”
Corendea says that important recommendations in the study include the acknowledgement that human rights, migration and climate change are becoming one big interlinked topic and that the governments of the Pacific islands should consider regional approaches with regards to migration. “Having migration regulated at the regional level will eventually, hopefully, avoid some humanitarian crisis,” he adds.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk. This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.
Cover photo by U.S. Air Force/Osakabe Yasuo: Louis Mangtau, Chief of Fais Island, sorts through supplies that were dropped during Operation Christmas Drop 2015, Dec. 8, 2015, at Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia. Operation Christmas Drop is a humanitarian/disaster relief training event where C-130 crews provide critical supplies to 56 islands throughout the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of Palau.
The UK will miss its legally binding climate goals without more ambitious policies, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The UK’s official climate watchdog says the government’s Clean Growth Strategy falls short, even when taking a “generous” view of the plans and policies it sets out. The strategy was published in October 2017 and is supposed to meet the UK’s fourth and fifth carbon budgets for 2023-2032.
There are gaps in policy for cutting emissions across the economy, from the power sector to industry, transport and farming. Even the policies in place risk not delivering, the CCC says.
In a statement, CCC chair Lord Deben praises the tone of the government’s plans, but adds: “Ambitions alone are not enough. As it stands, the strategy does not deliver.”
This verdict leaves the government at risk of legal challenge under the Climate Change Act 2008, which says ministers must plan to meet UK carbon budgets.
Meeting carbon budgets
The 2008 Climate Change Act (pdf) sets a legally binding framework for UK climate policy. Under the act, the government must set five-yearly carbon budgets towards a long-term goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by “at least” 80% below 1990 levels in 2050.
Most recently, parliament legislated for a 57% cut in emissions across the fifth carbon budget, covering 2028-2032. The act also obliges ministers to set out how the UK will meet its goals.
Section 13, below, says the government: “Must prepare such proposals and policies as [it] considers will enable the carbon budgets…to be met.”
Under section 14, ministers must set out their plans “as soon as is reasonably practicable” after each carbon budget is set. This is why the government published its Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017, after repeated delays.
Today, the CCC issues its verdict – saying the strategy falls short of meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets – with a press release that quotes section 13 of the Act.
At a briefing for journalists, Carbon Brief asked Lord Deben if, in the committee’s view, the strategy was in breach of this provision. He said:
“These requirements have got to be met…[ministers are] going to have to fill [the strategy] out and they’re going to have to fill it out in time for us to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budget.”
The CCC’s verdict is also at odds with recent statements to parliament, in which climate minister Claire Perry said the policies in the strategy “keep us on track to meet our carbon budgets”.
Banking on flexibility
One point of particular contention is the use of flexibility rules. Under section 17 of the act, below, ministers can “bank” overachievement in one carbon budget to help meet subsequent goals.
These powers are relatively unrestricted, save for a requirement to obtain advice from the CCC and to take account of that advice (see paragraph 4, below).
In its Clean Growth Strategy (pdf), the government highlighted this flexibility, noting: “There is currently sufficient projected surplus available [from the first three carbon budgets] to carry forward to meet the fourth carbon budget and some of the fifth carbon budget.”
However, the CCC pushes back strongly against any plan that relies on this banked surplus to meet a shortfall in future carbon budgets.
It says that the current UK surplus stems largely from changes to the UK’s share of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and the 2008 financial crisis, not from early climate action. If the UK relies on this surplus to meet targets in the short term, it would delay the low-carbon transition and store up greater costs later on.
The CCC report says:
“These [flexibilities] should only be employed in the case of unexpected conditions that, despite strong policy action, would otherwise cause the carbon budgets to be missed. They should not be used to enable ambition to be weakened…Use of these mechanisms would risk failing to develop leading low-carbon industries in the UK and storing up larger costs for future generations. Their use would also undermine the UK’s position of leadership and be counter to the commitments made under the Paris Agreement.”
Adrian Gault, acting CCC chief executive, tells Carbon Brief: “We shouldn’t be planning now to be using the flexibilities.” He gives the example of a series of very cold winters as a possible reason to use them. It ought to be something “really exceptional, late in the day”, he says.
In the briefing with journalists, Deben said:
“There is no question of using the banking, let’s be absolutely clear…We neither expect [government] to do it, nor would we accept that [government] should do it, because the budgets are not written on that basis. The budgets are written on the basis that there isn’t a carry-forward of that kind. If we were thinking of carry-forward we would have written the budgets differently and parliament would have voted on them differently.”
It is worth repeating that while the government must take the CCC’s advice into account on this matter, it is not obliged to follow that advice. However, the government did follow similar advice in agreeing (pdf) not to carry forward a surplus from the first carbon budget.
It is also worth noting that the first three UK carbon budgets were set on an “interim” basis, with the intention that the third budget for 2018-2022 be raised to a tighter “intended” level if a global climate deal were to be reached. This tightening never happened. It would have cut, though not eliminated the surplus savings, David Joffe, acting head of carbon budgets tells Carbon Brief.
The CCC report says that the UK will need to tighten its targets to align with the 1.5C ambition of the Paris Agreement. It suggests that any extra carbon budget savings should be put towards this. It also says the government should seek its advice on the UK’s long-term targets, once the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its report on 1.5C in September.
The CCC starts its assessment of the Clean Growth Strategy with praise for the tone of the document. At the briefing for journalists, Deben said: “What the Clean Growth Strategy says, fundamentally, is this a central part of government’s economic policy. In that sense, it’s very welcome…There has been a very fundamental change in stance.”
In a foreword to the CCC report, Deben says these “very positive signals” are not matched in the details of the strategy: “Whilst some new policies are announced in the strategy, the detailed policies and measures to meet the targets are not, in general, set out.”
The report breaks down its assessment into three levels of certainty and detail.
First, it looks at firm policies that are likely to deliver lower emissions. These include £557m in funding to support low-carbon sources of electricity through more auctions, starting in spring 2019.
Second, the CCC lists policies which are already in place, but which risk failing to deliver as expected, potentially leaving gaps in the government’s climate plans. These include the Hinkley C and subsequent new nuclear plants.
The UK’s reliance on EU policies, from product energy efficiency to the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), are also at risk as they may change or cease to apply after the UK leaves the EU.
Third, the CCC looks at broad proposals or intentions in the strategy, where detailed policy is lacking. Examples include a 2040 phaseout of combustion-engine vehicle sales and the aspiration for “as many homes as possible” to reach band C efficiency by 2035.
The CCC adds all of these policies together and assumes each of them delivers in full. It uses a “generous” interpretation of the looser aspirations. Yet it still finds that the UK will miss its climate goals. You can see this “policy gap” between current policies and legal targets in the chart, below.
Updated government emissions projections, published earlier this year, cut the policy gap slightly for reasons unrelated to changes in government policy, the CCC notes. More importantly, “there remains a gap”, even with these lower projections. It adds:
“We would not expect a reduction in policy ambition in response…given the risk that this is reversed in later years and given the commitment in the Paris Agreement to increase effort and deliver beyond existing targets.”
On the contrary, the committee says the government should aim to outperform the carbon budgets as currently legislated. This would offer wiggle room in case some policies fail to deliver or allow for higher ambition, in line with Paris.
The CCC says the government should raise its ambition according to a strict timetable. This should eliminate the policy gap for the fourth carbon budget by the end of 2018 and firm up existing plans, so as to largely remove delivery risks, by the end of 2020. Similar assurance is needed on the fifth carbon budget, by the end of 2025.
It says: “If policies are not in place on this timeline, the carbon budgets are liable to be missed.”
The report sets out the key outcomes needed in each sector, to fill in the policy gaps it identifies. In the power sector, for example, the CCC says the government needs to contract an additional 50-70 terawatt hours of low-carbon supplies for delivery during 2025-2030.
For transport, emissions should fall to 44% below 2016 levels by 2030. The government should go beyond its aspirational 2040 goal on combustion engine vehicles, with policies to ensure around 60% of vehicle sales by 2030 are “ultra low emissions”, including electric vehicles.
Emissions from buildings and industry need to fall to 20% below 2016 levels by 2030, with incentives – or potentially regulations – to drive progress. You can see the outcomes needed from each sector in the table, below.
The CCC’s official verdict is that the UK will miss its carbon targets for 2023-2032, without new policies. In the context of the legally binding provisions of the Climate Change Act, this verdict further opens the government to the risk of legal action.
The CCC says the government’s Clean Growth Strategy will fall short, even taking a “generous” interpretation of the plans and policies it contains, many of which remain undeveloped.
The committee also pushes back firmly against any idea that this policy gap could be bridged using flexibilities in the act. Instead, it lists the areas where more detail or ambition will be needed and sets a timetable for government to deliver.
Speaking to Carbon Brief, acting committee chief executive Gault says: “There is still time to put in place necessary policies and measures…we’re not saying the carbon budgets can’t be met.”
When the Clean Growth Strategy was published, legal NGO ClientEarth said: “[This] fails to put us on track to meet legally binding emissions targets. We are considering our legal options.”
This week, in a statement to Carbon Brief, the NGO says:
“Though the Clean Growth Strategy moved things in the right direction, we agree with the CCC that further policy development is urgently needed…The ball remains very firmly in the government’s court to go much further than it has done so far.”