Media releases

Class of 2008 reveal inside track on UK Climate Change Act


Energy Institute ‘CCA at 10’ social history project marks tenth anniversary of ground-breaking legislation.

The views of ten leading energy influencers, each providing a unique perspective on the UK Climate Change Act 2008, have today been published as part of a social history project by the Energy Institute.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Act receiving Royal Assent in November 2008, a ‘virtual panel’ of ten figures who were in leading positions at the time of its introduction – six of them now Fellows of the EI – have reflected on how it came to pass, what it has meant for the UK and the prospects for the future.

Forming part of the EI Views series, ‘CCA at 10’ is a unique resource for those involved in continuing decarbonisation efforts in the UK and internationally, as well as anyone with an interest in, or reporting on, the Act’s tenth anniversary.

Key points raised by our ‘class of 2008’ include:

Reflections on 2008

  • The Act was ‘a leap of faith’ that ‘entered the DNA of policy makers’, ‘put the UK in the climate vanguard’ and ‘will make the school history e-books of the future’.
  • The ‘groundswell’ of a ‘broad public coalition’ was felt by a Parliament ‘overwhelmingly united’ on the need for action.
  • ‘Rare’ independent Committee on Climate Change and targets that ‘bind the hands of future governments’ lauded.

The view from 2018

  • The ‘destination was chosen without any clear road map’ but the Act has had a ‘cascading influence’.
  • Electricity has been a ‘success story’, including the ‘unique exit from coal’, but confidence was eroded by ‘chopping and changing’ of some policies.
  • Energy efficiency efforts are ‘falling behind’ other European countries and ‘major infrastructure implications’ lie ahead on heat and transport.

Lessons for 2028 and beyond

  • ‘Tightening of targets’ may be needed in light of IPCC 1.5C report - net zero could be ‘the only game in town’.
  • The Act ‘has Made in Britain’ stamped all over it’ but Brexit could threaten ‘bolder collective action’ in Europe.
  • Key lesson for other countries: ‘be honest with the public about the costs’ and ‘myriad benefits’ of the low carbon transition.

Energy Institute President Malcolm Brinded CBE FREng FEI said:

“The Climate Change Act transformed overnight the UK’s ambition on tackling climate change, with far-reaching implications for the entire British economy. It was also a world first and set the standard for international efforts to limit global average temperature increases and prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

“We are grateful to our ten contributors, all of whom continue to be leading thinkers in this space today. Their words are instructive and insightful, to readers both in the UK and in other countries working on the challenges posed by the energy transition.”

Full contributions have today been published from our ten ‘CCA at 10’ panellists. Media are encouraged to quote from the material contained in ‘CCA at 10’, taking care to attribute to the relevant contributor.

‘The environmental campaigner’ - Craig Bennett

In 2008: Director of the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change, now: Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth

‘The journalist’ - Richard Black

In 2008: BBC Environment Correspondent, now: Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU)

‘The regulator’ - Alistair Buchanan CBE

In 2008: Chief Executive of the Office for Gas & Electricity Markets (OFGEM), now: Non-Executive Director at Thames Water

‘The renewables pioneer’ - Juliet Davenport OBE HonFEI

In 2008 and now: Chief Executive of Good Energy

‘The politician’ - Charles Hendry HonFEI

In 2008: MP and Shadow Energy Minister, later: Energy Minister in Coalition Government

‘The electricity grid boss’ - Steve Holliday FEI

In 2008: Chief Executive of National Grid, now: President Elect of the Energy Institute

‘The consumer champion’ - Ed Mayo

In 2008: Chief Executive of statutory watchdog Consumer Focus, now: Secretary General of Co-operatives UK

‘The scientific adviser’ - Prof Jim Skea CBE FEI

In 2008 and now: founding member of the Committee on Climate Change, also on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

‘The oil and gas chief’ - James Smith CBE HonFEI

In 2008: Chair of Shell UK, later: Chair of the Carbon Trust

‘The civil servant’ - Simon Virley CB FEI

In 2008: Director in the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), now: Partner and UK Head of Energy at KPMG

Notes for editors

  1. All ‘CCA at 10’ materials can be found at:
  2. For media enquiries contact Nick Turton on or 07776 135296.
  3. The Energy Institute (EI) is the chartered professional membership body bringing global energy expertise together. Our ambition is that energy, and its critical role in our world, is better understood, managed and valued.

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