COP26: Key outcomes and next steps for the UK

Paul Richardson ,
3 Dec 2021

In his latest blog, our Policy Adviser Paul Richardson has produced a summary of the Climate Change Committee’s briefing note ‘COP26: Key outcomes and next steps for the UK’.

Yesterday, 2nd of December, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published their COP26: Key outcomes and next steps for the UK briefing note. Their briefing note is a summary of global progress after COP26 and identifies key actions for the UK in response.

The news headlines have focused on calls for the Treasury to review the role of the tax system in helping the UK to achieve net-zero, particularly on aviation fuel and gas for heating and cooking, and what this means for the cost of living. However, the briefing note also has recommendations for reducing methane emissions linked to meat and dairy consumption.

The CCC indicate that expected warming of just under 2C might be achieved if all national 2030 and net-zero targets are delivered. Their assessment is that the UK has one of the most ambitious 2030 targets for reducing emissions in the world, but the policies to deliver them are lacking in detail. The Net Zero Strategy must proceed at pace, leading to emissions reductions in all sectors, with clearer plans on agricultural policy specifically.

On methane, the CCC welcomed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce 2030 methane emissions by 30% on 2020 levels, but as SLE has previously highlighted, some of the world’s largest methane emitters did not sign up to the initiative. The Committee has called for the UK to explicitly set out the trajectories for different gases in the Government’s Net Zero Strategy so that there can be a greater focus on methane emissions from agriculture, including action through diet change.

The briefing note further addressed diet change globally, calling for a move towards sustainable diets which “offers opportunities to reduce emissions at source, release agricultural land for carbon sequestration, reduce pressure on land for deforestation and offer wider co-benefits including for public health, biodiversity and air quality”.

For deforestation, the CCC focused on the UK’s role as an importer of commodities such as cocoa, soya, and palm oil which risk deforestation in the countries where they are produced. The recent Environment Act introduced legislation that makes use of key commodities illegal if not produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.

The CCC also suggested that the UK could “do more through supply chains and raising consumer awareness, while reducing consumption of meat and dairy products”, and that “imports of biomass feedstocks must meet high sustainability thresholds in line with best practice and be considered within the context of the deforestation pledge”.

Finally, the CCC has been clear that the UK should not use international carbon credits to meet our own climate change targets, but they could provide a means to improve emissions reductions worldwide by encouraging firms to purchase only credits which can be shown to be genuinely additional.

The full briefing note can be found here, which contains further detail on The Glasgow Climate Pact. Other topics covered by the CCC include phasing out coal and fossil fuels, zero emissions vehicles, construction materials, international aviation, trade measures, and financial support.