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Influencing the Sixth Carbon Budget: a how to guide

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How to influence the Sixth Carbon Budget – our how to guide will help you through the process in time for the closing date of 5 February.

This note derives from a webinar facilitated by CREDS on behalf of the Energy Demand Research Network held on 9 January 2020. Adrian Gault and David Joffe from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) presented on How to Influence the Sixth Carbon Budget and took questions. Twenty seven people participated in the webinar and part of the note covers their questions. This note was prepared by Sarah Higginson, Research knowledge exchange manager at CREDS,

The Sixth Carbon Budget, required by the Climate Change Act, will provide ministers with advice on the volume of greenhouse gases the UK can emit during the period 2033-2037. It will set the path to the UK’s new net-zero emissions target in 2050, as the first carbon budget to be set into law following that commitment.

The call for evidence closes on 5 February 2020.


The advice will be published in September 2020, three months before it is required by the Climate Change Act, to ensure that it precedes the pivotal international climate change conference (COP26) due to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. However, the whole period 2020-2022 constitutes a critical phase of activity, as demonstrated in the figure below and covering, as it does the setting of Welsh carbon budgets, an assessment by the Treasury of how to allocate the costs of achieving Net Zero and the third UK climate change risk assessment. The focus of this period is to move from target setting to delivery.

Sixth Carbon budget timeline


The Committee has four key objectives for its advice on the sixth carbon budget:

  1. To deliver an analytically robust, evidence-based and innovative assessment of the pathway (or actions) the UK will need to take in the 2020s and 2030s to hit Net Zero by 2050, and to set the level of the Sixth Carbon Budget
  2. For the Committee’s advice to be widely viewed as ‘gold standard’ by key stakeholder groups (specifically, the primary delivery agents in Government and their key influencers)
  3. For the CCC’s advice to be accepted by Government pre-COP26
  4. To signal a shift in focus from target setting to delivery.

Scenario-based approach

CCC is committed to taking account of the evidence they get from stakeholders and see their role as not only analytical but inclusive of stakeholders’ viewpoints. It is crucial that their advice is accepted by government.Reliance on a single scenario to achieve a budget ignores uncertainties in what may be delivered and risks under-playing the need to plan for different circumstances.  The CCC is therefore likely to develop more scenarios, including more action on the demand side and speculative options, such as what would happen if costs reduced dramatically in particular technologies. With this scenario approach they hope to:

  • Explore a wider range of ways of reaching Net Zero, with accompanying narratives
  • Understand what we’d have to believe in order for an earlier Net Zero date to be feasible
  • Identify actions over the next 10-15 years required to be on track to a range of ways to achieve Net Zero
  • Develop a ‘Central’ 6th carbon budget pathway

CCC recommends a number for the level of the carbon budget and it is a number that the Government has to put into the legislation. By itself, therefore, the level of the sixth carbon budget doesn’t allow for any nuance, but the intention is that this comes out through the analysis and narrative. As above, they are committed to a focus on delivery and what is needed by government and other stakeholders to reach the targets. In previous analyses there has been the option to leave certain sectors out – or with significant emissions – but this is no longer an option with net zero.

There is a debate about the date at which net zero should be achieved and CCC will be asking if it is possible to reach net zero earlier than 2050. We are not on track now, however, for the existing fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and the CCC feels it is now essential to get on with delivery, in order to get on track to achieve net zero by 2050 and leave open the possibilities to go faster in future. They will lay out the evidence and bring a strong focus to the actions needed in the years leading up to 2033-2037, as earlier action is the only thing that will make an earlier net zero date possible.

One scenario will have a particular emphasis on behaviour change. CREDS is working on this and will feed in during late January/ February 2020, though their involvement will continue beyond this date.

Engagement and analysis that informs net-zero advice

The committee will form its own view but they do want to see high quality evidence. They will make it clear how they came to their recommendations.CCC evidence requirements

The figure outlines an example of the sort of evidence taken into account. As an example, for the CCCs net-zero advice, in 2019:

  • Call for Evidence: Over 130 responses from businesses, NGOs, individuals, academia, & others.
  • New evidence and analysis: Emerging literature such as the Royal Society report on GHG Removals (2018), Energy Transitions Commission report on decarbonising hard-to-abate sectors (2018), IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C (2018).
  • CCC analysis: New scenarios for deep emissions reduction by 2050. Plus previous CCC reports, including: 2050 target (2012), Fifth Carbon Budget (2015), Paris Agreement and heat policy (2016), Hydrogen, biomass and land use (2018).
  • Expert advisory groups: Three expert groups to advise on: international context for net-zero advice, reaching net-zero emissions in the UK, and costs & benefits of net-zero emissions in the UK.
  • New research: 10 new research projects on opportunities for deep emissions cuts in the UK and internationally, international context for net-zero advice, TIAM modelling of global emissions pathways, GHG removal, behaviour change, power, industry, buildings, agriculture and transport.
  • Stakeholder discussions: CCC has hosted and attended roundtable meetings with businesses, government, NGOs, financial sector and trade unions, plus many bilateral meetings covering all the topics and sectors considered in their report.

For the sixth carbon budget, there is a live call for evidence closing on 5th February 2020. The committee will engage at various levels with academics. They will be also commissioning some work and some is already in progress. There is an advisory group including UK academics on ancillary benefits, and others may be formed.

Engagement: when and how?

Sixth carbon budget process

The figure outlines the process until the budget is launched, which is as follows:

  1. Approach and input
    • Call for Evidence
    • Targeted responses
    • Roundtables at CCC
    • Regular meetings
    • Speaking/panel opportunities
  1. Developing and testing narratives
    • Working-level meetings across sector teams
    • Advisory groups
    • Newsletter updates
    • High-level meetings with key secondary influencers
  1. Pre-briefing
    • Roundtables
    • Pre-briefings for Govt staff and key secondary stakeholders
    • Sharing materials
  1. Launch and post-launch
    • Launch event
    • Speaking engagements and panel events
    • Meetings with policy teams to explain advice

Call for evidence

The call for evidence closes on 5th February 2020. This is the biggest ever call in terms of number of questions reflecting the importance of the topic and also the fact they need to speak to the devolved administrations.The questions in the call are divided into five themed sections, with a total of 38 questions. You do not need to answer all questions. The questions relate to:

  1. Climate science and international circumstances
  1. The path to the 2050 target and the mechanisms for influencing behaviour
    • e.g. How big a role can consumer, individual or household behaviour play in delivering emissions reductions?
    • How can this be credibly assessed and incentivised?
  1. Delivering carbon budgets and a just transition
    • e.g. We set out a range of delivery challenges/priorities for the 2050 net-zero target in our net-zero advice. What else is important for the period out to 2030/2035?
    • How can a just transition to net zero be delivered ….?
    • The treasury is conducting a review on the cost of net zero and will report in the autumn. This report will feed into that review.
  1. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – Wales needs to aim for a 95% reduction by 2050 and Scotland needs to be net zero by 2045.
  1. Sector-specific questions and gaps – transport, industry and agriculture are places where CCC is really interested in the evidence

What to do next?

People interested in responding to the call for evidence or influencing the process can engage through CREDS if they are already part of CREDS, can get in touch directly with CCC or can respond to consultation. There is no need to respond to the whole thing. Depending on your area of interest, you may have your own contacts at the CCC, but David and Adrian are available to point you in the right direction.

Questions & answers

Can non-UK experts respond to the consultation?

The call for evidence could come from anywhere though mostly relevant to the UK

Will the climate assembly UK work feed in?

Yes, they are listening to the citizen’s assembly.

Will CCC revisit earlier carbon budgets?

More ambitious long-term targets mean a steeper reduction overall and earlier periods will be revisited. Not straightforward – for example, there will be forthcoming changes to the inventory methodology for estimating emissions; revisions to peatland emissions to consider;  and UK’s participation in emissions trading may change.

Is it possible to share examples of past contributions that have been helpful?

On the website there are summaries of calls for evidence, advisory groups and their chairs’ reports, issues raised there about committee approach both endorsements  and suggesting improvements.

You mentioned there will be advisory groups, have you got more details on those please?

There is only one so far is on health and co-benefits across range of impacts (diet, exercise, air quality, building quality, etc.).

Can you please explain how does the process of translating the science/evidence into legislation happen?

Consideration of what is technically possible and of related costs and benefits is the job of the committee; and then the government has to go through its own process consider that advice and to legislate a budget (by mid-2021). The hope is that an early publication date (Sept 2020) will allow and encourage early decisions from government; it is important in the run up to COP26 for the UK to take a lead. There is a gap at the moment between targets and actions which they are hoping will be closed.

Are you expecting any key new advice from IPCC or EU – e.g. in relation to the non-CO2 effects of aviation?

Important issue; not aware of immediate new evidences (this was handled offline by email): non Kyoto GHGs not captured in budgets.

Will the UK prepare its own NDC?

The 5th carbon budget sets level of ambition for 2030. Could expect that to form basis for UK.

How up to date are you with UKCP18 projections and how will these feed in?

The CCC has fed into the development of the latest UK climate projections from its outset through its Governance Board.  We are in the process of using UKCP18 as part of our analysis for the next UK climate change risk assessment (CCRA), due out in 2021.  UKCP18 has less direct relevance for the work underpinning the 6th carbon budget, but the team are considering how they might feed in.

The 2018 report to parliament made some very specific recommendations for government to implement by the end of 2019.  As far as I can see those have not been done.  How does the CCC intend to deal with these difficult political issues?

They recognise the political situation, but the climate doesn’t wait. We continue to press for actions and will revisit progress in 2020 progress report.

It seems it is easier to include nascent / emerging technologies (e.g. CCS / H2) in modelling than social / organisational change which could reduce energy / carbon. Is this inevitable?

There are significant considerations around the availability, take-up and costs of technologies as well. There are issues around  behaviour that the drivers may not be well understood, may seem risky to rely on, and hard to assess how far the changes will go and so they can seem more difficult. They do acknowledge that actions will be needed. A lot of measures in net-zero advice relied on this. Want to take further in new scenario work.

Do you have a preference for quantitative over qualitative data?

No. They mostly have quant data already but recognise the story and policy aspects and the need to get this right. Whatever you have that you think is useful would be welcome.

The forthcoming aviation strategy is likely to be in favour of a level of growth that is inconsistent with CCC recommendations. It is likely to be published before your work – will your engagement strategy have the opportunity to influence Government decisions that are coming up soon?

They have been in touch with DFT about this and will continue to engage. It remains to be seen what impact this has but they are trying to influence government. Advice in published letter to DFT secretary of state is available online. International aviation and shipping are not in the current budgets or targets, but must be allowed for in coming to that advice.

What is your view on the emissions footprint of imports (the consumption approach?

They do look at this and get lots of questions about it so it is recognised as important. Some reductions here (like reduced meat consumption) can influence both our own and international emissions. However, it is a very complicated area to set targets.

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