In the excitement of the planning reform debate I forgot to profile a significant new report on the UK Govenment's climate change commitments - Climate Check.  This is one half of our assessment of whether the government is living up to the Prime Minister's ambition, stated on 14 May 2010, to be the "greenest government ever".  The second assessment - Nature Check - will be published shortly.

Climate Check was launched a couple of weeks ago. But, as it is the topic of fringe meetings at each of the party conferences, I feel justified in talking about it now. 

The report was published by think tank Green Alliance in conjunction with WWF, Christian Aid, Greenpeace and RSPB. It is the product of five months’ research and extensive discussions with over 40 officials and ministers across Whitehall.  It assessed the progress that the UK Government has made against the climate change commitments that it has made.

The conclusion was that the government has made either moderate or no progress on 22 of its 29 low-carbon commitments.  The study suggested there are low levels of support for the government’s low carbon agenda in the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and concluded that major opportunities to generate green jobs and increase investor confidence in the low carbon sector are being missed.

The 48-page report examined progress across 11 departments and concludes:

  • So far, the government has made some good, high-profile decisions on important policies such as the 4th Carbon Budget, but its overall record is weakened by delayed or poorly-designed policies on many other coalition commitments.
  • Seven commitments have been delivered successfully or achieving good progress – for instance, there has been a nearly 14 per cent reduction in emissions across central government.
  • On a further 6 policies, the Coalition is failing – for instance, the Treasury has made no progress towards creating green financial products.
  • On the remaining 16 policies there is only moderate progress, due to delay (10), poor policy design (9), or both. The Green Deal, for example, is at risk of failing because of a lack of urgency and support across government departments.
  • There are clear indications that the Treasury and to a lesser extent BIS have curbed, or attempted to curb, the government’s ambition on the low carbon agenda.
  • However, contrary to what observers might expect, there is little evidence of division along party lines. Both Conservative and Liberal Democrat champions of low carbon policies have been held back by others within their own party.

As well as assessing the government’s low-carbon record so far, Climate Check identifies three big opportunities which would help the government fulfil its stated goal to ‘decarbonise the economy and support the creation of new green jobs and technologies’.

These involve increasing cross-government accountability for the transition towards a low-carbon economy and boosting the Prime Minister’s engagement on both the international and domestic agendas.  

Commenting at the time, Mike Clarke, the RSPB's Chief Executive said:

“There is a common thread running between the Government’s underwhelming performance on climate change, and its current, flawed approach to planning reform. We are seeing a clear conflict at the heart of the Coalition between green growth and economic growth at any cost.”

In short, the verdict is - could do a lot better.

And on nature?  Well, you'll have to wait a few more days...