Despite UK emissions falling to nearly 50% of 1990 levels during the 2020 lockdown, the journey to net zero is far from half completed, and delayed plans on hydrogen must be delivered.

That’s according to two new reports released by the Climate Change Committee, which states that whilst the government has made historic climate promises in the past year, for which is deserves credit for, it has been too slow with delivery.

Expanding on this, the Committee states that whilst the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point-Plan, which proposed to boost hydrogen production and generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, was an important statement, it has not yet been backed with firm policies.

Read more: UK PM backs CCS and hydrogen in 10-point plan

Further to that, the reports states that this defining year for the UK’s climate credentials has been marred by uncertainty and delay to a host of new climate strategies, and those that have emerged have often missed the mark.

With focus on hydrogen, and the role it can play in the UK achieving its net-zero goals, the Committee notes the delayed release of the highly anticipated hydrogen strategy, as well as delayed plans for biomass, surface transport and aviation.

On the hydrogen strategy the report asked for a strategy to be delivered that sets out a vision of the role of hydrogen on the path to net zero and the steps needed to realise it. Further to that, the report states that the strategy should focus on hydrogen use in sectors that cannot decarbonise without it and low-carbon hydrogen production routes.

Additionally, the report states that to phase out unabated gas-fired electricity generation, a comprehensive long-term strategy, including ensuring new gas plants are properly CCS- and/or hydrogen-ready as soon as possible and by 2025 at the latest, need to be published.

On the reports, and what is discussed within them, Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said, “We are in the decisive decade for tackling climate change. The Government must get real on delivery. Global Britain has to prove that it can lead a global change in how we treat our planet.

“Get it right and UK action will echo widely. Continue to be slow and timid and the opportunity will slip from our hands. Between now and COP 26 the world will look for delivery, not promises.”

In the new publications, the Climate Change Committee, says that is it developing a new indicator framework over the coming year, consistent with the path to net zero and the sixth carbon budget.

Alongside this, the Committee said it will continue to monitor key areas including heat pump sales and insulation installations alongside biomethane injection. It will also put in place a set of policy milestones which factor in Government ambition in the forthcoming heat and building strategy, net zero strategy, hydrogen strategy, buildings regulations and heat networks policy developments.

Further down in the report, in a section headlined “getting on with it”, the Committee says that there is an urgent need to formalise a governance framework to drive decisions on heat infrastructure and zoning from the mid-2020s, including a role for area-based energy plans.

On the above, the Committee says that this should be underpinned by a programme of research initiated in 2021 to identify areas unlikely to be suitable for hydrogen (a key enabler to efficiently targeting early electrification and network development) alongside priority candidate areas for hydrogen.

Adding comments on the report, Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee, said, “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation.

“We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

The full report can be accessed here.

Additional commentary

Responding the Committee on Climate Change report, Jacob Young MP, Chair of the Hydrogen APPG, said, “It is fantastic to see the Government driving forward policies that support the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan. We have made great strides in our efforts to tackle climate change so far, and as the first major economy to commit to Net Zero 2050 we can lead the way in delivering a hydrogen economy too.

“In the upcoming hydrogen strategy, I hope the Government continues to expand its ambition beyond 5GW production for hydrogen to level up and support the creation of green jobs whilst delivering for the UK economy and our long-term environmental aims.”