Hot Air: A critique of the UK’s Climate Change Committee
- The Climate Change Committee was established by the Climate Change Act 2008 to advise government on climate policies, in particular with respect to carbon budgets and emissions targets for the period up to 2050.
- It has successfully delivered the required advice and reports and become widely respected. Governments have generally followed its advice on emissions targets and budgets, but adaptation activity has lagged behind. The UK’s contribution to global emissions is not material, so substantive success in mitigation was always reliant on international action. This has not been forthcoming despite the UK’s claimed leadership.
- The quality of the CCC’s advice is questionable, in particular with respect to the ‘net zero’ target for 2050. It advised that this target was feasible but refused to disclose the calculations on which its costs figures were based, and it became clear that the scale of the challenge of net zero was not well understood when the target was passed into law.
- The Committee has faced several allegations of conflicts of interest and its governance arrangements with sponsoring departments are out of date. It has expanded its remit and adopted an active public profile, which undermines its independence and indicates that it has become a political actor, rather than delivering balanced advice.
- If elected leaders wish to pursue policies that will bring immense costs and disruption, even if those costs will be outweighed by benefits over time, they need to accept responsibility and accountability for them. Government departments should be capable of obtaining and evaluating evidence that pertains to their areas of responsibility and drawing on the necessary expertise without intermediation by an activist committee.