This was the verdict of Julia King, member of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent body set up under the Climate Change Act to advise government on carbon budgets, when she spoke at Sustainable Business – the Event last week.

She explained the thinking behind the Climate Change Act, saying the targets are based on everyone in the world emitting the same level of carbon by 2050.

“We’re looking at around 2.5 tonnes per person per annum – that’s probably what we emit from our cars today,” she said.

Prof King said these targets had support from all three major political parties, which meant that business could plan with confidence rather than always looking round the corner to the next election.

But she warned that we had to move faster if we are to meet the targets.

“Yes, some good things have been started but progress on emissions reduction is not fast enough,” she said.

We need to cut emissions by 2-3% per year to be on track to meet our targets, she said, but between 2003 ands 2007 we managed an average of just 0.5% per year.

Provisional figures for 2008 – an 8% reduction – look much more promising on paper, she conceded, but said there was no room for complacency.

“The recession is very flattering,” she said.

“The mix of that, and increases in fuel prices probably account for all of that.”

She said it was still possible to meet our targets, but would require development in nuclear, renewables and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

She was also quick to point out that there were opportunities here, with the UK already establishing itself as a global leader in several areas including CCS, offshore wind, marine renewables and low carbon vehicles.

“There’s a need for a step change in this country,” she said.

“[And] we need to respect the developing countries’ need to catch up and we need them to implement low carbon from the start.”

Sam Bond

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