UK to bust carbon budgets, warns CCC

26th June 2013

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The UK will not meet its third or fourth carbon budgets based on current emissions reductions trends, according to the committee on climate change

In its fifth progress report on the UK meeting its long-term, legally-binding CO2 targets, the independent body concludes that, while the country remains on track to meet the second carbon budget (2013–17), it is not achieving the 3% annual emissions reductions needed to meet either the third or fourth budgets (2018–22 and 2023–27).

“Without a significant increase in the pace of emissions reduction, starting very soon, the costs and risks of moving to a low-carbon economy in the 2020s and beyond will be increased,” states the report. “To meet it statutory commitment, it will be necessary for the government to develop and implement further policy measures over the next two years.”

The committee on climate change (CCC) acknowledges that some progress during 2012, such as improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock, generating record levels of energy from wind turbines, and continuing reductions in emissions generated by waste. However, it warns that there were many areas where carbon reductions were not seen.

In particular, the CCC warns that there has been low-uptake of energy efficiency measures – such as insulation and low-carbon heat – in commercial properties and limited evidence of energy-saving activities to reduce emissions from industrial processes.

“Energy intensity [of industry] has not fallen in recent years [and] national accounts data shows low levels of investment in new plant and equipment required to unlock potential for energy-efficiency improvement,” confirms the report. “There is a risk that significant energy-efficiency potential is not addressed for large and small energy users.”

The CCC argues that government policies aimed at supporting organisations to be more energy efficient, such as the green deal and climate change agreements, need to be “rationalised” and incentives “strengthened” to ensure carbon reductions are achieved at the necessary level in future. It argues in favour of the creation of “ambitious minimum standards” for energy efficiency in non-residential buildings, for example.

The report advocates setting targets for different sectors to help drive down emissions, citing the example of the public sector achieving a 12% reduction in emissions in 2011/12, which is nearly half its 2014/15 target to cut emissions by 25%.

The CCC criticises the government’s decision to scrap the performance league table element of the carbon reduction commitment (CRC) energy efficiency scheme, saying the move has weakened the incentives offered by the initiative. “[The CRC] is now little more than a (small) carbon tax and no longer tackles the non-price barriers it was originally set to address,” states the report.

The committee also reiterates its calls for a 2030 decarbonisation target for the electricity sector, arguing that it is needed to galvanise investment, and for the government to do more to back the development and deployment of commercial-scale carbon capture and storage.

Responding to the CCC’s findings, energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, maintained that the UK was on course to “overachieve against the first three carbon budgets”, but acknowledged that there were challenges in meeting the fourth budget.

“We will need additional policies to meet this legally-binding goal,” he conceded. “We have already published scenarios for how we might achieve the fourth carbon budget and remain committed to doing so. We will consider the recommendations put forward by the CCC.”

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