UK’s fifth carbon budget proposals: At a glance

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has today (26 November) published its recommendations for the UK's fifth carbon budget, suggesting an emissions reduction target of 57% by 2028-2032. But is that ambitious enough?

The CCC, established under the Climate Change Act to advise the UK Government on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, believes a 57% cut represents the “lowest-cost path” to the UK’s legally-binding targets.

The Climate Change Act, which has previously established an overarching target for the UK to reduce its emissions by at least 80% by 2050, has also called for five-yearly carbon budgets en route to that final target.

The level of these budgets is recommended by the CCC and then voted on in Parliament.

‘Not fair’

Environmental campaigners and green lobby groups have called for more ambition from the CCC in its recommendations, claiming that Britain needs to set an example to the world ahead of the crucial COP21 talks in Paris.

Friends of the Earth senior energy campaigner Simon Bullock said: “This is not a fair or just response to the climate change crisis. 

“The CCC’s recommendation is at the very lowest end of what they were considering. This means developing countries will have to do far more to help tackle climate change, while the UK can carry on polluting for longer. 

“Ahead of crucial climate talks in Paris, the Government should be setting far higher targets, rather than drilling for more oil and gas and weakening policies on energy efficiency and renewable power.”

Feeling the heat

Within its recommendations, the CCC points out that “new policies and clear long-term signals to investors are urgently required” if the UK is to meet that 57% target.

For example, by 2030, the CCC says the UK needs to be largely powered by renewable electricity; the majority of new cars and vans being bought should be electric, and one in seven UK homes should be heated by renewable energy.

The renewable heat target in particular is in doubt, after George Osborne announced a £690m cut to the Renewable Heat Incentive in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement. A leaked letter from Amber Rudd recently revealed that the Government actually expects the UK to miss its 2020 target for 12% of heat to come from renewable sources.

Energy costs

The CCC projects the cost of its suggested target to be slightly less than 1% of GDP a year by 2030. It suggested that up to half of these costs would be offset by reduced air pollution and other health and environmental benefits.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), said: “Intriguingly, the Committee suggests that meeting the fifth carbon budget could be very cheap or perhaps even free, once you take the real costs of energy into account.

“For example, adapting the national grid for clean electricity generators does incur a cost, but that could be offset by reductions to the public health bill due to less pollution.

“The Committee also makes the point that continuing power sector transformation from fossil fuels to clean generation is essential for an economy-wide low-carbon transition, because that unlocks carbon-cutting in transport and buildings – sectors where progress is currently languishing in the slow lane.”

Government backing?

A spokesperson from the manufacturers organisation also questioned whether the UK Government would actually be trying to hit the carbon targets in the wake of Wednesdays spending decisions.

Claire Jakobsson, head of climate and environment policy at tha manufacturers’ organisation EEF, said: “The dust is yet to settle on yesterday’s bombshell regarding the withdrawal of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) funding

“But unexpected decisions like this and a slackening off on domestic energy efficiency policy do not fill one with confidence that the UK’s increasingly ambitious climate change targets are entirely backed up with the will and means to succeed.”

Brad Allen

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