Waste sector emissions remained stable from 2020 to 2021


Climate action

The Climate Change Committee’s annual report says its confidence in the UK meeting its net zero goals from 2030 onwards is now “markedly less” than last year but waste sector emissions remained stable from 2020 to 2021.

Following last year’s High Court ruling, the UK government has published the Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP), providing much greater transparency on its net zero plans. However, the Climate Change Committee says despite the new detail it’s lost confidence as a “key opportunity” to push for faster progress has been missed.

At COP26, governments committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 68% by 2030. To achieve this goal in seven years, the recent rate of annual emissions reduction outside the electricity supply sector must quadruple. The Committee says that time is now running out to achieve this goal.

The Committee says there are “glimmers” of the net zero transition with the increased sale of electric cars and continued deployment of renewable capacity. However, it said the scale-up of action overall is “worryingly slow”.

There is a worrying hesitancy by Ministers to lead the country to the next stage of net zero commitments.

The Committee criticises the government’s “reliance” on technological solutions that have not been deployed at scale instead of encouraging people to reduce high-carbon activities. It also flagged, what the Committee called, “risks” of policy that is too slow to plant trees and roll out heat pumps.

Reacting to the report, a UK government spokesperson, said: “We can be proud of the UK’s record as a world leader on net zero. We are going far beyond other countries and delivering tangible progress whilst bringing down energy bills with hundreds of pounds coming off bills from next month.

“The UK is cutting emissions faster than any other G7 country and attracted billions of investment into renewables, which now account for 40% of our electricity. In the last year alone, we have confirmed the first state backing of a nuclear project in over 30 years and invested billions to kickstart new industries like carbon capture and floating offshore wind.

“With a new department dedicated to delivering net zero and energy security, we are driving economic growth, creating jobs, bringing down energy bills, and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.”

I urge the government to regroup on net zero and commit to bolder delivery.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, commented: “The lesson of my ten years at the Climate Change Committee is that early action benefits the people of this country and helps us to meet the challenges of the coming decades more cheaply and more easily.

“Yet, even in these times of extraordinary fossil fuel prices, government has been too slow to embrace cleaner, cheaper alternatives and too keen to support new production of coal, oil and gas. There is a worrying hesitancy by Ministers to lead the country to the next stage of net zero commitments.

“I urge the government to regroup on net zero and commit to bolder delivery. This is a period when pace must be prioritised over perfection.”

What the report said about waste

Energy from waste

The Climate Change Committee’s report’s key takeaways on waste include the continued growth in the use of Energy from Waste (EfW) plants is “undermining efforts” to reduce emissions within the waste sector.

The report also states that incoming reforms to recycling collections and packaging should improve recycling rates and divert waste from EfW and landfill, but stronger policies to limit further EfW growth, divert biodegradable waste from landfill and prioritise waste prevention are needed.

This is “largely unchanged” from the Committee’s 2022 assessment as it says it’s waiting for key waste policies to be implemented.

The report calls for an urgent “comprehensive systems approach” to control and reduce EfW emissions, including a moratorium on additional EfW capacity until a review of capacity needs has been completed. It concludes that improving England and Scotland’s “stalled recycling rates” is key to reducing dependence on EfW and landfill and implementation of planned reforms to recycling and packaging must not be delayed.

The report also says clarity on policies to prevent biodegradable waste from going to landfill is “urgently needed”.

CIWM’s reaction

Net zero

Head of Policy and Technical at CIWM, Ray Parmenter, said: “CIWM welcomes the publication of the CCC’s latest progress report and its call for the government to do more to reduce the emissions from the resources and waste sector.

“We echo the Committee’s key message that the government needs to urgently implement the reforms to English waste collections, which we believe will unlock investment in the sector and kick start a drive to increase recycling beyond the currently stalled UK average of 44%.

“CIWM also believes that a systemic approach is needed, one which not only focuses on policies to improve recycling and reduce emissions, both from landfills and EfW plants but includes policies that put a greater emphasis on reducing waste generation per capita and increasing reuse, in order to create a truly circular economy and move the world beyond waste.”

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