UK Climate Change Committee in urgent need of reform, says new research
- The Climate Change Committee (CCC) was established as an ‘independent’ advisory body. It has morphed into a pressure group with an active media profile, but without proper political accountability.
- The CCC’s projections are widely relied on by the government and private sector, yet their economic analysis and calculations of the cost of Net Zero lack rigour and transparency.
- There have been several allegations of conflicts of interest, with members often having private involvement in consulting practices or industries whose work overlaps the CCC’s.
- The CCC has failed to allocate adequate resources to climate change adaptation, choosing instead to focus on mitigation.
- There is a concerning lack of scrutiny of the CCC, despite its advice impacting vast swathes of social, economic and industrial policy.
A new paper, published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), puts the UK’s Climate Change Committee – and its activities – under the spotlight. Its author, IEA Head of Regulatory Affairs Victoria Hewson, concludes that the CCC has expanded well beyond its statutory obligations and acts in an overtly political way. It has failed to communicate and, at times, purposefully suppressed, the full cost of its proposed climate policies.
The paper finds that the economic analysis carried out by the CCC lacks rigour and transparency, which undermines the Committee’s legitimacy. For example, it refused to publish the underlying calculations for the claim that the cost of net zero would be 1-2 per cent of GDP contained in its 2019 Net Zero Report. When finally disclosed, it was found that there had been no independent scrutiny or interrogation of the spreadsheets. Yet government departments and others who use the CCC figures for their reporting and analysis lean heavily on its findings.
The deference to the CCC undermines the need for departments such as BEIS, DEFRA and HM Treasury to take full responsibility and accountability for policies that will bring immense costs and disruptions, even if they consider that those costs will be outweighed by benefits over time.
The paper also calls into question the independence of the CCC, given that the Committee is funded, and its members appointed, by government. And it documents allegations of conflicts of interest among committee members, including claims that clients of Committee chair Lord Deben’s family firm, Sancroft International, stood to benefit directly from the recommendations of the CCC on topics such as electric vehicles.
While this is not to suggest that members of the Committee are corrupt or self-serving, it underscores that they are subject to competing incentives, which should be taken into account when evaluating the CCC’s output.
In order to ensure that the Climate Change Committee is fit for purpose, the author makes recommendations including:
- The CCC should revert to its core task of advising ministers and Parliament, instead of engaging in politics under the guise of countering misinformation.
- It should improve the way its reports are communicated to politicians, to ensure the government’s legal targets and political commitments are grounded in an honest cost-benefit analysis.
- The conflict-of-interest policy and Framework Document that sets out its operating procedures should be addressed as a matter of urgency.
- Whatever the outcome of COP26, the government should institute a strategic review of its climate policy priorities.
Victoria Hewson, IEA Head of Regulatory Affairs and author of ‘Hot Air: A critique of the UK’s Climate Change Committee’, said:
“As we can see from the Treasury Net Zero Review published last week, the scale and impact of the areas covered by the advice of the Climate Change Committee is vast – including everything from your electricity bill, to the food you can eat, to international aid.
“Far from being treated as an irreproachable source of truth, the CCC should be challenged and scrutinised more than any other regulator or advisory body. But the reverse seems to be true, and this should be urgently addressed as it influences policymaking that will affect lives and livelihoods for generations.”
Notes to editors
Contact: Emily Carver, Head of Media, 07715 942 731
Victoria Hewson is available for interview and further comment.
A copy of the paper can be found here: https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/IEA-_Regulatory-Affairs_Hot-Air.pdf
The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems and seeks to provide analysis in order to improve the public understanding of economics.
The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.