IEMA members call for swift adoption of fifth carbon budget

10th May 2016


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Matilda Shaw

The first result from a members' survey on green issues around the EU referendum adds to pressure on the government to adopt the Committee on Climate Change's proposed budget.

The government must adopt an ambitious fifth carbon budget next month, according to members of the Institute of Environment Management and Assessment (IEMA).

The budget, for the years 2028–32, should be in line with that recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and limit emissions to an average 57% below 1990 levels.

The finding is the first from IEMA’s recent member survey on the potential environmental and sustainability impacts of the EU referendum. The government is required to adopt a budget by the end of June, but there is growing concern it may be delayed to avoid annoying pro-Brexit backbenchers in the run-up to the vote on 23 June.

Some 1,569 people responded to the invitation-only survey, equivalent to about 10% of IEMA’s membership, with 87.3% saying the government must follow the CCC’s advice. ‘The government urgently needs to adopt the CCC’s recommendation to provide long-term certainty to business and investors,’ said Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor. ‘The true test of climate leadership is about sustaining the implementation of policies to achieve long-term climate goals. The government must remain resolute in its support for the UK achieving an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.’

'I’m not surprised everyone’s backed it,' said Jae Mather, director of sustainability at consultancy the Carbon Free Group and a member of IEMA’s advisory council. 'The budgets are one of the few things that keeps the country on track on climate change – no matter who is in charge – and they stop people like George Osborne from steering the economy backwards for the benefit of a few vested interests.

'We’ve seen over and over again evidence that acting on climate change now is cheaper, and pulling apart legislation like this would only make the UK less competitive in the marketplace. For me it's integral.'

The IEMA survey adds weight to recent calls to adopt the budget. At the end of April, the House of Commons’ Energy and Climate Change Committee issued a report saying there was no reason for the government to deviate from the CCC’s advice. Should it do so, ‘we will be looking carefully for a robust evidence base,’ the report added. Last week, a group of 20 ‘green’ Tory MPs wrote to the prime minister urging the budget’s early and full acceptance.

There are reasons to fear delay aside from the referendum. In 2014, the Treasury forced a review of the fourth carbon budget, hoping to weaken it to allow more room for the development of gas-fired power plants and for cuts to spending on green policies. The move failed mainly due to the opposition of Liberal Democrat MPs in the then coalition.

A string of recent energy policy announcements have also knocked belief in the government’s support for decarbonisation. Last November, for example, it cancelled its £1bn carbon capture and storage (CCS) competition just months before a winner was due to be announced – and the day before the CCC issued its recommended fifth carbon budget.

The CCC says that by 2030 7GW of power plant needs to be operating with CCS and that the technology must also be capturing 3 million tonnes of CO2 a year from heavy industry. In January, it wrote to Amber Rudd, the energy and climate secretary, saying a replacement CCS policy was urgently needed.

The UK is currently not on track to meet its fourth carbon budget for 2023–27, which requires emissions to fall to an average 52% below 1990 levels, according to the government’s own statistics. The data shows the UK is due to exceed the allowed emissions by almost 10%. In 2015, emissions were around 38% below 1990 levels.

Further results of the member survey will be released as the referendum approaches.

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