The Committe for Climate Change’s website suggests that it builds the framework of Government policy on greenhouse gas emission reductions. Ministers’ target of reducing them by at least 80 per cent to 1990 levels by 2050 was drawn up by the committee. So apparently were the first five carbon budgets, which set targets for emissions reductions between 2008 and 2032.
In other words, the relationship between the committee and the Government seems to be rather like that between an architect and a builder. The first designs the building. The second constructs it. The committee recommends what the policy should be – and Ministers then decide how to achieve it. The committee doesn’t quite put it that way. But the implication is that the Government has outsourced the outline of policy-making on emission reduction to it. When the committee says “jump”, Ministers ask: “how high?”
The Times reports this morning that the committee “is expected to recommend replacing a target of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 with a “net zero” target under which remaining emissions are balanced by technology to capture and store carbon from the atmosphere”.
If, therefore, Extinction Rebellion want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 – for such is their aim – their members have been targeting the wrong politicians. As a clever Minister pointed out to this site yesterday, they should really be making their views known to the committee – primarily in the form of its Chairman, Lord Deben, better known to readers of this site as John Gummer.
For all we know, members of Extinction Rebellion have already met Lord Deben. He may even have sat down with Greta Thunberg. But if so, we can’t help feeling that both are being a bit soft on him, given the pivotal policy-shaping role of the committee. Rather than asking for a meeting with Theresa May and having to settle for Michael Gove, Thunberg should be heading off to wherever Lord Deben can be found these days – accompanied by the usual blob of minders, lobbyists, TV cameras, reporters, sketchwriters.
Net zero by 2050, she should tell him, simply isn’t good enough. Since there is a climate emergency, we need it by 2025 – and it is up to his committee to deliver. Meanwhile, Extinction Rebellion protestors should be glueing themselves to his fence. Or pressing their naked buttocks against his committee’s windows. If you want to influence policy-makers, make sure you find the right ones.