The UK does not need to change its climate targets following the Paris Agreement, despite a tightening of global ambition.
That was the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice to government, revealed in a report on Thursday.
Existing targets are “stretching” and the focus should be on meeting them, the independent body recommended.
“The most important contribution the Government can make now to the Paris Agreement is publishing a robust plan to meet the UK carbon budgets and delivering policies in line with the plan,” it said.
“If all measures deliver fully and emissions are reduced further, this would help support the aim in the Paris Agreement of pursuing efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C.”
The country’s target of an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050 is aligned with a 2C limit on global warming.
In Paris, nearly 200 nations agreed a tougher goal: to hold temperature rise “well below 2C” above pre-industrial levels and “pursue efforts” to keep within 1.5C. To achieve that, the deal said emissions should reduce to net zero in the second half of the century.
Following the diplomatic breakthrough, former energy minister Andrea Leadsom promised the UK government would enshrine a net zero emissions goal in law.
The CCC advised it was “too early to do so”, however, saying: “We currently have no scenarios for how the UK can achieve net zero domestic emissions.”
It urged the government to set out a strategy for removing greenhouse gases from the air. Technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage should be ready for deployment at scale by 2050, the CCC said.
The report was one of a trio, with others addressing the implications of Brexit and steps for decarbonising heat.
The UK is set to trigger negotiations on leaving the EU in March. That does not alter the UK’s climate commitments, the CCC stressed, but could affect certain policies. Product efficiency standards should be transposed into British law, it said, while there was an opportunity to drive further emissions cuts in farming, for example.
On heating, which accounts for around 20% of UK emissions, there were calls for policies to support home insulation, heat pumps and low carbon heat networks.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “Action is needed now to ensure the UK can deliver its climate obligations at least cost.
“For too long, Government policy has neglected the UK’s ageing homes and heating systems. It is time to remedy that failure with policies that are simple, stable, and designed to work for the ordinary household.”
Most climate policies to date have focused on the power sector, with a slump in coal generation delivering big carbon cuts.
At best, existing measures will only go halfway to meeting the carbon budgets set out to 2032, according to the CCC.
The next emission reduction plan from government, due out by spring 2017, is expected to turn to heat and transport.
“There are disturbing gaps in energy efficiency and heat policy,” said Emma Pinchbeck, head of energy and climate at WWF UK. “Rather than setting new targets, ministers first need to focus on delivering on existing ones.”