Committee calls for 42% GHG cut by 2020
Government has been urged to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases in the UK by at least 34% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels - and raise this target to 42% once a global deal to reduce emissions has been struck.
Building a low-carbon economy, the committee's first report, also proposes the levels of the first three carbon budgets covering the periods 2008-12, 2013-17 and 2018-22.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the UK fell by 16% between 1990 and 2006, and continued to fall in 2007, meaning the UK is already about halfway to the 34% target.
The report said the targets could be achieved through using cleaner energy such as renewable, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, greater energy efficiency and reducing transport emissions.
It also recommended purchasing offset credits, but only to meet the more stretching 42% target.
Committee chair Lord Adair Turner said: "The budgets we have proposed are achievable given available and developing technologies, and provided the policies in place are implemented and where necessary reinforced.
"The reductions required can be achieved at a very low cost to our economy. The cost of not achieving the reductions, at national and global level, will be far greater."
Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: "We will give the report the in-depth consideration it deserves before responding in full but I am pleased to say that from 2009, carbon budgets will take their place alongside financial budgets, and become pivotal to policy decisions within the UK."
Responding to the report, the Environmental Industries Commission called on Government to accept the recommendations in full.
Danny Stevens, deputy director of the EIC, said: "[Government] must then come forward with a range of ambitious policies for reducing emissions right across the economy. At the heart of this must be an urgent priority to improve energy efficiency."
But the Renewable Energy Association questioned the decision to set such a rigid path to a low-carbon UK, and said the report duplicated a lot of work being done for the Renewable Energy Strategy.
Philip Wolfe, director general of the REA, said: "Beyond its core remit of setting the carbon budgets, we would prefer the Climate Change Committee simply to state whether these can be met by the government's existing policies, or failing that to highlight new initiatives which could."
Government has already accepted the committee's recommendation earlier this year to set an 80% target for 2050 (see related story).