Govt told to meet 80% emissions reduction
New Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has been told in his first week on the job that the UK must increase its 2050 greehouse gas reduction targets from 60% to at least 80%.
The recommendation followed a review by the committee into the target of reducing emissions by "at least 60%" not including aviation and shipping which was set by Government's Climate Change Bill.
A reduction of 80% - based on 1990 emissions levels - would be an "appropriate" contribution to global aims to cut emissions by 50% and would reduce the chance of temperature increases exceeding 2 degrees Celsius, the letter said.
Committee chair Lord Adair Turner said: "Climate change poses a huge potential threat to human welfare.
"If we do not act soon, in developed and developing countries, it will become too late to avoid serious and potentially catastrophic consequences."
He called for energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry, the decarbonisation of the energy and transport sectors, and the use of new technology to cut industry's emissions to meet the 80% target.
Merlin Hyman, director of the Environmental Industries Commission, welcomed the recommendations. But he added: "If Government is serious about tackling climate change, it must adopt the Committee's recommendations in full. Simply setting the targets is not enough."
He called for greater auctioning of allowances in the UK for the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, a more ambitious Carbon Reduction Commitment, and solid policies to support zero-carbon building targets.
The Renewable Energy Association warned that time was running out for Government to act on the committee's recommendations.
Director Philip Wolfe said: "We therefore look to the new Department for Energy and Climate Change to back the Renewable Energy Tariff measure in the Energy Bill over the next few weeks."
But the Airport Operators Association (AOA) said tackling aviation emissions should only take place at an international level.
"It is counterproductive to set a UK-only emissions reduction target for aviation, which will simply result in emissions being shifted elsewhere in Europe whilst costing passengers more," the AOA's executive chairman Ed Anderson said.
"The AOA fully supports the inclusion of aviation within the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, which offers an international solution to what is an international issue," he added.
The committee's full report on the 2050 target and the level of the UK's first three carbon budgets is set to be published on December 1.