Learning from recent UK climate change policy development and implementation

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An interview with the UK Committee on Climate Change’s Adrian Gault, Chief Economist, and Alex Kazaglis, Senior Policy Analyst.  

Adrian Gault (left) joined the secretariat of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in May 2009, where he is responsible for analytical work looking at UK greenhouse gas emission reduction potential and costs. Prior to joining the CCC secretariat, Adrian has substantial experience of energy and environmental issues – as an economist in Department for Transport, the Energy Group at DTI(now part of DECC) and in the Treasury tax team.

Alex Kazaglis joined the CCC in October 2009, where he leads the analytical work program covering the industry and buildings sectors. Current projects include an assessment of the impact of low-carbon policies on the competitiveness of energy intensive industries. Before joining the CCC secretariat, Alex worked as an analyst on water economics and policy at the Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney, and as a technical consultant on EU water and sanitation projects in India.

In this interview Gault and Kazaglis describe the important role of the Committee on Climate Change, which was established by the UK Government’s 2008 Climate Change Act. As Gault explains, the CCC provides advice, which has so far been followed, on where the UK’s carbon budgets should be set and monitors progress towards delivery of those budgets.

In producing our work, we also develop scenarios about where we think we need to be headed nationally and sector by sector in terms of carbon reduction and lay out some of the measures or the opportunities for carbon reduction.

At a high level, there’s a lot of consistency … but there may be some differences between us and the Government’s view in its Carbon Plan. I think it’s important to explain that background.  We’re not government.  We’re advisory to government so we’re not here to defend or justify the UK Government’s Carbon Plan.  Our role is very much to comment and advise on that.

We discuss some of the key lessons they have learnt from the work of the UK CCC so far, including the benefit of having legislated targets that are protected from short-term political pressures.

They also describe the success they have had so far in injecting evidence into the public debate around climate policy. As Kazaglis explains, similar to the situation in Australia, the UK media has presented many stories around the cost of energy to households:

…the media [has been] seeking to link [rising energy bills] to the low carbon agenda and, if we get rid of the low carbon agenda, then our bills will go back down to nice levels and so forth.  I think one of the things that worked here reasonably well is the Committee stepping into that debate and providing an evidence-based response to the question of what is driving up bills.

…the Committee produced a report and put some numbers around it and in the time since then – we’ve seen our numbers used in the press.  You know, the bills are going up but only this much is due to low carbon and the rest of it is due to the wholesale gas price and so forth.  That provides some evidence to the argument and deflates some of the more hysterical narratives.

Download the full transcript here.

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