Emissions rise threatens UK carbon budget

30th June 2011

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The UK will not be able to meet its first four carbon budgets if emissions continue to rise as they did in 2010, warns the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in its third progress report.

Published today, the CCC’s report confirms that during 2010 carbon dioxide emissions from the UK rose by 3%, mainly as a result of the cold winter weather. Even after adjusting for weather impacts, emissions were stable, well below the 3% annual reduction necessary to meet carbon budgets up to 2027.

CCC chair Adair Turner called on the government to significantly accelerate the pace of emission reductions. “It is crucial that the government sets out detailed policies to support power sector decarbonisation and energy efficiency in homes and businesses. The successful implementation of these policies will determine our ability to meet carbon budgets,” he said.

The committee highlights two policy areas where urgent government action could help drive down emissions. It wants the forthcoming White Paper on electricity market reform, due in July, to include a commitment to long-term energy supply contracts – so-called “contracts for differences” – to help avoid an investment hiatus in renewables. The CCC also says the planned Green Deal should include support for ambitious targets to insulate all lofts and cavity walls by 2015, and 2 million solid walls by 2020.

Energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne responded to the report by saying the government was determined to reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels and cut emissions. “The coalition’s once in a generation reforms of the electricity market, the Green Deal and the Green Investment Bank show we’re serious about making the long term structural changes that are vital to cut emissions and keep the lights on,” he said.

The CBI, however, reacted to the CCC report by arguing that policy aimed at reducing emissions remains inconsistent. “Our Climate Change Tracker shows too many gaps in reducing emissions from key sectors including energy, buildings, transport and industry. Recent policy shifts have also dented investor confidence, such as the sudden removal of the incentive behind the Carbon Reduction Commitment [Energy Efficiency scheme],” said Rhian Kelly, CBI’s director for business environment.

“To get back on track, the government must clarify a number of grey policy areas, including the Green Deal, electricity market reform and the Green Investment Bank.”

The CCC report is available here.


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