The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) appears to have pushed back the release date for a key document outlining its climate plans. Again.
BEIS initially promised the Emissions Reduction Plan would be delivered by the ‘end of 2016’. The BEIS minister for climate change, Nick Hurd, later revised that to the end of the first quarter of 2017.
Now, buried on page 94 of 132 in a document released today on the government’s industrial strategy, is the suggestion this could be further delayed.
In a section titled “Delivering affordable energy and clean growth”, the government says “We will publish our Emissions Reduction Plan during 2017, providing long-term certainty for investors”. That’s considerably vaguer than BEIS‘ previous statements, and other commitments within the strategy.
The plan is meant to outline how the government plans to catch up with its emission reductions to meet the fourth carbon budget, as well as outlining how it will hit the fifth carbon budget goals.
Labour’s shadow minister for international trade and climate change, Barry Gardiner, was quick to condemn any further delay to the plan’s release, tweeting that it was a “disgrace” the government hadn’t realease the plan yet as it is legally required to do so “as soon as reasonably practicable”:
The Legislation stipulates the plan should be published “as soon as reasonably practicable” after the Carbon budget was set in 2011 https://t.co/yHnN0owlE4
— Barry Gardiner (@BarryGardiner) January 23, 2017
There remain many questions about the content of the report, as well as its release date.
For instance, it’s unclear if a commitment to reduce the UK’s emissions to zero will be included. Ed MIliband originally called for the goal to be enshrined in UK law, with former energy minister Andrea Leadsom responding that “the question is not whether but how we [the government] do it.”
Legal NGO ClientEarth has also called for a mechanism to ensure regular reviews of the plan. The government initially published quarterly updates on the emission reduction plan’s predecessor, the carbon reduction plan.
But climate minister Nick Hurd seemed to imply this would no longer be the case. In a response to a parliamentary question from Gardiner, he said BEIS had fulfilled its “statutory requirements” with its current reports, suggeting it wouldn’t release reports beyond this.
If the government isn’t going to provide regular updates allowing for scrutiny of its climate plans, ClientEarth has called on BEIS to outline “a robust mechanism that will”. Otherwise, scrutiny of the plans would become difficult, with policies quickly going out of date.
But first, there has to be plan.
Responding to the news that BEIS may miss its own deadline again, Gardiner told DeSmog UK:
“I am outraged that we are already five and half years late. What the government is doing is saying it accepts the climate science and the recommendations of the committee on climate change, it’s then setting a budget in accordance with those recommendations, but it’s doing absolutely nothing to ensure those targets can be met and that strategy can be implemented and followed.”
“If they produce a good plan, I will be the first to cheer.”
“But I don’t have any real hope that they are going to come up with a credible carbon plan.”
Client Earth lawyer Jonathan Church told DeSmog UK that he agreed that today’s suggestion that there could be further delays is “deeply concerning”. He said that while he accepted that it was better for the government to take slightly more time to get the plan right, “there comes a point at which we can’t wait any longer”.
BEIS has not responded to DeSmog UK‘s request for comment. We will update the story if it does.
Updated 23/01/2017: A quote from Barry Gardiner was addded, and the text around Jonathan Church’s quote was adjusted.