‘E’ rating on climate policies shows UK must do better to decarbonise by 2050

November 25th, 2010 by WWF

The United Kingdom may have world-leading climate legislation, but it is still lagging behind other European Union Member States on many of its climate change policies, according to a new tracking tool launched by WWF and Ecofys which ranks countries on a scale from A (excellent) to G (poor).

The Climate Policy Tracker for the European Union provides an up-to-date snapshot of greenhouse gas emission controls across the EU and contains stark reading ahead of global climate change talks in Cancun. It reveals that overall only a third of the necessary action needed to put EU countries on a path towards a low carbon economy by 2050 (reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95%), is currently being undertaken by Member States.

The UK is compared against other Member States on all policy areas that influence greenhouse gas emissions. Currently implemented policies, past progress, and long term strategies are all considered and broken down by sector. The UK scores a ‘best in class’ B-rating for the long-term, legally binding framework set out in the Climate Change Act. However, we trail behind countries including France, Sweden and Ireland on transport and Denmark on buildings, ending up with an average E rating.

Keith Allott, WWF-UK’s head of climate change, said “the UK like all Member States needs to scan its full policy portfolios to address the weaknesses that show up in this report, especially in transport and energy efficiency. It is however, encouraging to see the UK leading Europe with its climate change Act which, if implemented properly, should guide the transition to a clean, carbon-free economy. The Act puts the UK government in a strong position to encourage other developed nations to implement zero carbon action plans in the forthcoming UN climate change negotiations. Time is very short and prompt action has to start immediately.”

The Climate Policy Tracker reveals large differences in levels of ambition and best practices across EU countries when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However the report shows that overall the results are weak and many countries focus on a few particular sectors while neglecting others.

Niklas Höhne, Director of Energy & Climate Policy at Ecofys, said “there are success stories in each country and policy makers should learn from best practices across Europe. Overall, however, the ratings are low. Support for renewable energy is most widely implemented across Europe and shows the most progress, whilst energy efficiency, transport and industry are lagging behind.”

  • The report notes that the UK’s zero carbon standards for new residential buildings are unique in Europe, but are not yet supplemented by support for existing buildings. The UK is planning to introduce a Green Deal for homes in the forthcoming Energy Bill – but it will need to make sure that this is well-designed and resourced if it is to increase its E rating in this sector.
  • On electricity supply, grid access and planning barriers have put the UK behind Germany and Denmark in rolling out renewable electricity, and the government’s latest focus on new nuclear could seriously undermine investment certainty in the UK’s renewable energy industry, making the forthcoming Electricity Market Reform all the more important.
  • The UK’s agriculture policies score better than most other EU countries, with the beef and dairy roadmaps developed by UK producer organisations a good example of the UK taking the lead. Nevertheless there is still a lot more that needs to be done to reduce emissions even in this sector.

If Member States were to follow the example of the highest scoring country in each policy area and sector, they would achieve two-thirds of the required effort – double the current average. This means that policy options are available, but not implemented across the board.

Keith Allott adds “WWF is encouraging the EU to break through the silos and work together across countries and policies, ensuring that a target to reduce emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2020 is put in place. Many countries, including the UK, must also remove counterproductive policies, such as support for fossil fuels and tax exemptions for energy-intensive activities like oil and gas and air transport.”

The Climate Policy Tracker for the European Union is compiled from publicly available information. It is a working document and will be updated periodically.

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