UK must accept advice on fifth carbon budget, MPs say

The cross-party parliamentary Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) has today (26 April) called upon the Government to accept the recommendations of its independent advisory body in setting the fifth carbon budget, warning that "the UK can't afford any further delays".

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its advice for the UK’s fifth carbon budget last November, recommending it be set at 1,765MtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) – including emissions from international shipping – over the period 2028-2032. The Commission suggested that would limit annual emissions to an average 57% below 1990 levels.

Today, MPs from the ECC have urged the Government not to deviate from that earlier advice, also suggesting setting a specific power sector carbon intensity target of 100 gCO2/kWh for 2030, to provide more certainty for investors.

ECC chair Angus MacNeil said: “We can see no basis for downgrading the UK’s ambition to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Indeed, to meet targets agreed at the Paris climate talks to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, we may in the future need to cut emissions deeper and faster.

“Meeting our Climate Change Act targets and commitments made in Paris will require action across the board. But decarbonising our power sector is – along with energy efficiency – the most cost-effective way of reducing our emissions. It will also be vital in reducing emissions from the heat sector and from transport, as we electrify our rail network and road vehicles.”

‘Things we need to do’

The 28-page report claims that Britain’s carbon plan must provide certainty across the heat and transport sectors, following the ECC’s enquiry into the Government’s apparent lack of progress on its self-imposed targets for meeting demands from renewable energy sources in these industries.

The extensive evidence ECC received from industry experts identified heat as a key priority and challenging area. Energy supplier RWE npower specifically called for a shift towards measures necessary to decarbonise other sectors, “in particular, heating and transport if 2050 goals are to be met efficiently and cost effectively”.

Undersecretary of State for Energy Lord Bourne acknowledged this challenge, saying “In terms of heat […] there are things that we need to do.”

In addition, the Committee pledged support for the development of emerging renewable options such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) and specifically sought clarity over the technology’s future in light of the cancellation late last year of the £1bn CCS competition.

MacNeil continued: “The UK can’t afford any further delays when it comes to replacing dirty power stations with cleaner forms of generation. Investors need certainty and setting a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector would signal the Government’s commitment to phasing out fossil fuels.”

“Should the Government deviate from the CCC’s advice for the fifth carbon budget, we will be looking carefully for a robust evidence-base on any alternative level proposed.”

International stage

The publication of this report has received widespread support from green business leaders, politicians and civil society alike. The Aldersgate Group stressed that an unequivocal adoption of the CCC’s recommendations is essential to cut emissions cost-effectively and support the continued growth of the UK’s low-carbon economy.

Aldersgate Group executive director Nick Molho said: “Last December, the UK played a commendable role in the success of the Paris climate change agreement, which was signed by over 170 countries just a few days ago. Now is the time to translate international commitments into a new set of national policies to guide cost-effective investment in energy efficient, low carbon transport and clean energy technologies over the next 15 years. 

“Adopting the CCC’s fifth carbon budget recommendations, which are based on the minimum levels of emission cuts the UK needs to deliver out to 2032 if it is to meet its long-term targets affordably, is an important part of this.”

‘Big gap’

Whilst also welcoming these recommendations, environmental organisation Friends of the Earth believes the carbon budget must be tightened later in the year, to better reflect the aims of the recently signed Paris climate agreement.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Simon Bullock said: “The Government should not only accept the fifth carbon budget, it must strengthen it so the UK makes a fair contribution to preventing global temperature rising by more than 1.5 degrees – as agreed at last year’s Paris climate summit.

“A major overhaul of government climate strategy is urgently required. There is a big gap between ministers’ aims for cutting carbon emissions, and the policies they are carrying out, and this was true even before the Paris Agreement.

“If we want to decarbonise the UK economy, the Government must stop championing the interests of dirty gas and oil, and end its attacks on clean solutions like wind and solar power.”

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie