UK will be ‘pretty close’ to reaching fifth carbon budget, says Climate Change Minister

Climate Change Minister Claire Perry today confirmed the Government will look to provide support for onshore wind, as she faced a grilling from MPs over the UK's ability to achieve its mid-term decarbonisation goals.

Speaking in front of a BEIS select committee this morning (28 November), Perry said the UK would likely be “pretty close” to hitting the fifth carbon budget, which aims to limit the annual emissions to 57% below 1990 levels by the year 2032.

The UK is on course to outperform on the second and third budgets. However, it is not on track to meet the fourth, and Perry confirmed that policy measures set out in the recently launched Clean Growth Strategy only account for 93-94% of the reductions required for the fifth budget.

Perry said: “Does that mean that I can sit here 15 years out and predict if we’re going to get to that number? It looks like we’re going to get pretty close to it.”

Budget flexibilities

The design of carbon budgets allows for accounting “flexibilities” should targets be missed. This enables governments to effectively “borrow” emissions within the budget period to avoid incurring penalties.

Using flexibilities in place of domestic action has been questioned as a viable option by the Committee on Climate Change, which has warned that mechanisms such as international carbon credits would increase the long-term cost of decarbonisation.

Perry said she would be “personally disappointed” if flexibilities were to be used, but refused to rule out their application to meet the fifth carbon budget.

“Given the progress we’ve made and given the level of ambition, I would be personally disappointed if we had to use them,” Perry said. “But I would feel if the cost of using them was to reduce energy bills for consumers, particularly vulnerable consumers, I would judge that was the right call to make.”

Onshore support

Perry expressed her confidence that technological advances, alongside the rapidly diminishing cost of low-carbon solutions as seen in recent years by offshore wind, would help the UK decarbonise at the required speed over the next 15 years. 

The Clean Growth Strategy set aside more than £2.5bn for R&D on low-carbon innovation, while £557m will be made available for less established technologies for future Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions. 

Asked whether this funding would be used to advance technologies such as wave and geothermal energy, Perry insisted that the Government hadn’t yet committed how the money will be used.

Perry dismissed a return for the zero-carbon homes standard, which she said would have made “housebuilding too expensive”. She did, however, reveal that the Government is examining ways to support onshore wind in parts of the UK where the technology is popular, such as Scotland and Wales. 

She said: “The problem is this: under the current CfD rules it is impossible to bring forwards geographically, specific wind farms. As much as we would like to, because I agree, onshore wind is absolutely part of our future.

“I am working on ways with the team to see how we might bring forward onshore wind, particularly for areas of the UK that want to deploy it because I agree it’s an important part of the mix.”

George Ogleby

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