Davey forces Osborne to back down over fourth carbon budget

The Chancellor has been forced to abandon his calls for the fourth carbon budget to be diluted after the Government announced today that, having listened to the business sector, the UK will retain the fourth carbon budget in its current form.

This morning’s confirmation ends months of political uncertainty over the level of targets for the period 2023-2027. Opposition to the current targets has been led by the Chancellor, who has argued that adhering to the budget, set in 2011, could destabilise the UK’s economic growth.

In a written ministerial statement released this morning, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey said: “Today I can announce that, having concluded a detailed review, the Government will not be amending the fourth carbon budget. The budget, which covers the period 2023 to 2027, will therefore stay at its existing level of 1950MtCO2 equivalent.

“The decision I have taken is consistent with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). It also reflects the views of the vast majority of businesses, investors and environmental groups.”

In its review at the end of last year, the CCC found that there had been no changes to global science and policy that would justify a loosening of the UK’s fourth carbon budget.

Davey continued: “As business groups have made clear, retaining the budget at its existing level provides certainty for businesses and investors by demonstrating the Government’s commitment to our long term decarbonisation goals… And, although I am clearly mindful of the risk that a misalignment between the EU and the UK’s trajectories in the traded sector might result in a disproportionate strain being placed on sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System, the evidence does not indicate that action is required at this present time.

“Above all, maintaining the fourth carbon budget at its current level demonstrates the UK’s commitment to its climate change target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.” Scroll down for full statement.

Business groups and environmental campaigners have been quick to welcome the news. Head of climate and environment policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, Gareth Stace said: “It was vital that HM Treasury took the opportunity to carry out its own review of the evidence before making a decision based on the UK’s ability to meet the 2025 target at least cost and consistent with the objective of rebalancing the economy towards manufacturing.

“This was the correct approach to take in opposition to voices who wanted the Chancellor to simply accept the target without even examining the evidence and carry on regardless. We support the Government’s decision today, but would urge that future targets must emanate from clearer strategies for how each sector of the economy will contribute to meeting our shared goals. Concern remains about calls for an increased EU 2030 target whilst the Committee on Climate Change is already warning of a major policy gap in achieving our targets as they stand.”

Greenpeace UK political director Ruth Davis added: “This welcome announcement is a victory for responsible policy making over political point-scoring.

“George Osborne has done everything in his power to water down the UK’s keystone climate change policy, putting at risk vital investment in our energy system and our credibility in global climate negotiations. Ed Davey deserves praise for standing up to the Treasury’s wrecking efforts, and the Prime Minister credit for holding firm on this crucial commitment.

“But setting a carbon target is only half the job. If ministers are serious about hitting it, they should back Europe-wide energy efficiency measures, cut the UK’s growing reliance on dirty coal, and ditch fracking in favour of clean energy.”

Friends of the Earth Climate Change Campaigner Simon Bullock agreed: “After a year of horrendous flooding and storms both here and abroad, the Government’s decision to reject calls to weaken UK climate targets is welcome news.

“This move will help reduce the uncertainty over the Coalition’s commitment to cutting carbon, which has driven away business investment and undermined confidence in the green economy.

“David Cameron must now ensure tough policies are in place to meet these targets, such as helping people to insulate their homes, and developing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential.”

Ministerial Statement: review of the fourth carbon budget

edie staff

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