Net zero emissions review may prompt changes to existing carbon budgets

Claire Perry has confirmed that the already agreed carbon budgets may be amended in response to the Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) net zero emissions review.

Plan B responded by calling for an “urgent clarification” on whether the CCC would be permitted to recommend changes to the agreed carbon budgets

Plan B responded by calling for an “urgent clarification” on whether the CCC would be permitted to recommend changes to the agreed carbon budgets

The energy and clean growth minister was replying to a letter from the climate law group Plan B demanding an explanation for why the CCC was instructed not examine the third, fourth and fifth carbon budgets as part of the review.

Last month, Perry wrote to CCC chair Lord Deben to ask the climate change watchdog to prepare advice for the government on how and when the UK could reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

The request followed the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial temperatures. Perry said the carbon budgets already set in legislation were “out of scope” of the review.

Plan B responded by calling for an “urgent clarification” on whether the CCC would be permitted to recommend changes to the agreed carbon budgets.

“If our interpretation is correct, we consider such a stipulation to be potentially unlawful, both under the statutory scheme of the 2008 [Climate Change] Act and on grounds of rationality,” the letter explained, adding: “Naturally we hope to avoid legal proceedings if at all possible.”

“It seems to me quite untenable to suggest that our approach to the request for advice from the CCC has been irrational,” Perry replied. “In particular, the secretary of state’s request does not preclude any future amendments to existing targets, as you have assumed.”

The minister said the request did not constitute a direction to provide advice on carbon budgets under section 42 of the Climate Change Act, as Plan B had argued, and was therefore lawful.

She continued: “Although I have asked the CCC not to consider formally carbon budgets already set in legislation as part of this commission, the request asks for evidence from the CCC on how reductions in line with the CCC’s recommendations might be delivered in key sectors of the economy.

“If the CCC considers that the most effective way of communicating this information is through a cost-effective pathway (which could include the years 2018-2032), they may incorporate that information into their advice.”

Perry noted this was also the understanding of the CCC, citing a tweet from the committee’s chief executive, Chris Stark, that stated: “Budgets being ‘out of scope’ does not mean that we can’t advise more action in the near term. There is no barrier to over-achieving against the carbon budgets”.

She said Plan B was similarly wrong to suggest the business and energy secretary Greg Clark had “closed his mind” to altering existing carbon budgets: “There is a wide range of possible recommendations that the CCC could make and it does not make sense at this stage to ask the CCC to provide advice about the implications of all of those recommendations for carbon budgets three to five.

“The more sensible approach is for the secretary of state to consider, once received, the CCC’s advice which, together with any representations from the national authorities will inform a decision on whether an amendment to the 2050 target and/or a new long-term target(s) should be made.”

The response by welcomed by Plan B, whose director, Tim Crosland, wrote back: “That is precisely the reassurance we were looking for. As the IPCC has recently made clear, the implications beyond 1.5˚C are appalling (for humanity and, in particular, for young people).

“We cannot pretend the task ahead is anything but challenging and we are relieved to hear the government does not propose to approach it with one hand tied behind its back.”

The government confirmed the fifth carbon budget covering the years 2028 to 2032 in June 2016.

 Tom Grimwood

This article appeared first on edie's sister title, Utility Week


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