Ten years on from the Climate Change Act – has there been any improvement?

A decade ago, the UK pledged to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but has it changed anything? Credit: PA

A decade ago, the UK took a bold step adopting the Climate Change Act, pledging to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The dangers of climate change have become more apparent in the last decade.

2018 has witnessed extreme weather across the world – not least in the United Kingdom.

It has been a contributing factor to extremes this year like Spring's ‘Beast from the East’ and a two-month summer heatwave.

  • Has the Climate Change Act worked?

The Climate Change Act committed the UK government by law to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.

This includes reducing emissions from the devolved administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), which currently account for about 20% of the UK’s emissions.

A decade on, the Act has achieved a lot with a 43% fall in emissions since 1990 levels.

Much of this progress has come from new ways to generate electricity.Coal-fired power plants are being closed as more electricity is produced without burning fossil fuels.

Last year, for the first time, the majority of the UK’s electricity came from renewable or low-carbon sources.

And over the last decade, the UK’s economy has continued to grow proving that a move to renewable sources would not harm economic growth.

  • So what dangers exist?

People sunbathing in London this summer - temperatures are predicted to get even higher in decades to come. Credit: PA

The Met Office issued a stark warning on Monday that summer temperatures could soar to 5.4C higher than current levels by 2070, while winters could be up to 4.2C warmer if fossil fuel pollution continues.

Rainfall could fall by almost half (47%) in summer by 2070, while rain could be up by more than a third (35%) in winter.

Sea levels affecting London, where the Thames Barrier is expected to be in use to protect the city until 2070, could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100 if climate-warming emissions continue to climb.

Cardiff is expected to have similar sea level rises as London, while in Edinburgh seas could rise by as much 49cm with low emissions and up to 90cm with high emissions.

In Belfast, seas could be as much as 52cm higher with low emissions and up to 94cm by the end of the century with high levels of climate pollution.

Climate change has also been a contributing factor to losing, on average, 60% of wildlife populations since 1970.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) believes “if we carry on as we are now, then one in six species is at risk of extinction around the world as a result of climate change.

A protester in Parliament Square in November. Credit: PA
  • What needs to be done?

The Committee on Climate Change, a body set up as part of the Act, has said emissions from the UK’s transport system, buildings and industry are not falling fast enough.

In addition, emissions from the waste we produce need to be limited and action taken on protecting homes from extreme heat and flooding.