United Kingdom: The 2021 Climate Year in Review

United Kingdom: The 2021 Climate Year in Review


  • Introduction of Updated Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill
  • Hosting COP 26 and the Passing of the Glasgow Climate Pact
  • World’s First Transport Decarbonization Plan
  • Introduction of the Net Zero Strategy
  • A Pledge to Reduce Emissions by 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035


Introduction of the CEE Bill Into Parliament

The UK has had a big year in terms of doing their part to help combat climate change, from hosting COP26 in Glasgow to creating new bills, plans and strategies to help meet their climate pledges. The introduction of the updated Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE) into parliament in June 2021 was a major event as it is the only legislation before the UK parliament that is set to tackle the climate and ecological emergency based on the current scientific evidence. The bill was formed by the campaign group ‘Zero Hour’ which involved members of the ‘Big Ask’ campaign which is a Friends of the Earth initiative that led to the Climate Change Act in 2008. The bill was first launched in August 2020 by Caroline Lucas MP and currently has the backing of over 140 MPs from all major parties.

The CEE Bill seeks to ensure that the UK government:

  • fulfils its Paris Agreement obligations to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C
  • Conserves the natural world by protecting and restoring ecosystems
  • Establishes a citizen’s assembly to recommend measures for inclusion in a climate-nature strategy

This piece of legislation is extremely crucial in helping the UK meet its climate targets as it addresses the gaps of all the other past environmental bills including the 2008 Climate Change Act and the 2018 Environment Bill. It includes public participation in the form of a citizen’s assembly which has never been addressed in legislation before, this is essential as it is known to create awareness of the climate issue and creates behavioral change. The bill also mentions tackling both the climate and nature emergency as it aims to restore and conserve biodiverse ecosystems as well as to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.

The Zero Hour campaign is the driving force behind the CEE Bill and has great potential in helping the bill being passed into law as proved by the passing of the Climate Change Act. If this bill is passed it will ensure the country meets its climate pledges and will set an example for all the other top greenhouse gas emitting countries around the world.

UK Hosting COP26

As we all know COP26 which was the biggest environmental event of 2021 took place in Glasgow in November. This COP was the largest to date as a record-breaking number of people showed up, including 120 world leaders representing 194 countries. After 13 days of intense negotiations, COP26 concluded with every party agreeing to the ‘Glasgow Climate Pact’ on November 13 which aims to limit the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C.

The UK made many commitments during COP26 focusing on the areas of mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration. This included the signing of the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use pledge which aims to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The UK also signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30% by 2030. They made commitments to provide climate finance to poorer countries by pledging £290 million to help them deal with the impact of climate change. The UK summited an Adaptation Communication Plan to help increase their preparedness to climate risks. The UK also endorsed the ‘Breakthrough Agenda’, committing to work together with other countries to make clean and sustainable solutions the most affordable and accessible option in each of the emitting sectors before the end of 2030. These commitments have the potential for the UK to meet their goals, they just have to act fast and find efficient ways to monitor progress.

One of the things the UK got right during COP26 was that it was all-inclusive as there were many events which included the representation of young people and civil society in the climate discussion. There were themed days on both Gender and Youth & Public Empowerment to make sure all voices were heard. History was made in the UK as there was a protest which was the biggest so far during the COP26 summit where 100,000 took to the streets to demand more action on the climate crisis. There was also a ‘Global Day of Action for Climate Justice’ march and 100 climate change demonstrations taking place all over the country. The involvement of the public made this COP extremely memorable and made world leaders see that public participation and collaboration is the key to environmental change.


World’s First ‘Transport Decarbonization Plan’

On 14 July 2021 the UK’s Department of Transport introduced the world’s first ‘Transport Decarbonization Plan’. The plan sets out to deliver net-zero emissions across all forms of transport. The commitments of the plan include: a net zero rail network by 2050, net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040 and the end of sale of all new, non-zero emission road vehicles by 2040. Other key commitments include a £2 billion cycling and walking investment, the delivery of 4,000 new zero emission buses and ensuring the UK’s charging infrastructure network meets the demand of its users.

In November 2020, the government announced a commitment to end the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, and that all new cars and vans will be required to be fully zero emission by 2035. To help reach this goal, a ‘2035 delivery plan’ was introduced on the same day as the decarbonization plan. This plan sets out investment and policy initiatives to help meet the phase out dates. The government has also published the ‘Electric vehicle smart charging: government response’. It commits to ensuring that all electric vehicle charge points meet the smart charging standards. The ‘Jet Zero Consultation’ was published which commits the aviation sector to a net zero emissions target by 2050 and sets out how it will approach this.

These plans are ambitious and world-leading, they have the potential to be successful as they set out clear goals to help the UK’s transport sector to become net-zero and include all types of transport, along with ways to review and monitor progress which is the key to meeting targets. It will also have the added benefit of creating economic growth, new industries and jobs.


UK’s current climate pledge

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has published a report following COP26 stating that the UK is not on course to meeting its emissions targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The UK’s climate body warns that at current rates, the UK will be contributing to a massive temperature rise of 2.7°C by 2100 which is well below the 2°C and 1.5°C limit.  However, despite this the UK is continuing to be over ambitious by making further promises that is widening the gap between targets and delivery.

The UK was the first major industrialized nation to set Net Zero into law and now it has a plan to help get there. In October 2021, Boris Johnson MP introduced the ‘Net Zero Strategy’ in which the UK pledges to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The government has also gone a step further to try and reduce emissions by 78% by 2035, calculating to around 68% by 2030. The strategy includes ending the sales of gas and diesel cars by 2030, lowering reliance on fossil fuels, strengthening energy security and transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035.

However, there are some gaps in the strategy on how certain policies will be funded and there is little detail on how much carbon each policy will save. Also, the strategy does not mention actions on behavior change such as getting people to fly less and shifting diets away from meat and dairy and there are no specific actions on public engagement. Most importantly, the strategy does not include emissions from all the sectors such as the agricultural sector and there is a lack of emphasis on how these targets will be monitored.

The CCC says the strategy sets out to be promising as it represents the most thorough climate action strategy the UK has ever produced and so it has the potential in helping the UK reach its targets. However, this can only be done if the UK increases its pace to meet the deadline, addresses the gaps in their strategy and has a clear system in place to monitor progress to see how far they are in reaching their climate goals and what they should be doing more of in order to get there.

This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard UK Country Manager Manpreet Aulakh



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