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UK carbon budget – reduce emissions 60% by 2030

The UK Committee on Climate Change’s 4th carbon budget recommends a 60% cut in emissions relative to 1990 by 2030, and another 62% from then to 2050 to meet targets in the Climate Change Act.

The Committee estimates that the recommended target can be achieved at a cost of less than 1% of GDP.

To meet these targets, it says carbon budgets should be tightened to a 37% reduction in greenhouse gasses in 2020 relative to 1990 (current legislation says 34%), which could be raised again to 42% once the EU has moved to more ambitious targets.

The Committee suggests the following measures:

  • Radical decarbonisation and reform of the electricity market – including investment in low-carbon technologies such as wind, nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS). The equivalent of 25 new large-scale low-carbon power stations would be needed (up to 40 GW);
  • Widespread development and deployment of low-carbon vehicles – a 45% reduction in emissions from surface transport could be achieved by 2030, mainly through the use of electric vehicles. By 2030, 60% of vehicles should be electric;
  • National transformation of homes and non-residential buildings – this includes energy efficiency measures, 30% of homes using heat pumps, and a wider role of district heating;
  • Halving of emissions from industry by 2030 – through energy efficiency, CCS, and use of biomass and biogas; and
  • Widespread use of more carbon-efficient practices on farms.

Chair of the Committee, Lord Adair Turner, says: “We are recommending a stretching but realistic fourth carbon budget and 2030 target, achievable at a cost of less than 1% of GDP. Any less ambition would not be compatible with the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act.

“We therefore urge the Government to legislate the budget that we have recommended, and to develop the policies required to cut emissions over the next two decades.

“The case for action on climate change is as strong as ever: climate science remains robust and suggests that there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions. And countries acting now will gain economic benefits in an increasingly carbon constrained world.”

CBI positive

UK business organisation CBI, welcomes the proposed budget, but cautions that the policy framework must be there for business to invest.

Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Director of Business Environment, says: “We support the UK’s existing climate change targets for 2020 and 2050 and businesses are already taking steps to measure and reduce their emissions.

“The Committee’s proposal for an extra staging post at 2030 could provide additional clarity for investors, but the feasibility of the proposed target would need to be examined in detail.

“Investors will only commit to low-carbon projects if they are confident about the policy framework in the long-term. The Government’s forthcoming announcements on reform of the electricity market and work to simplify the Carbon Reduction Commitment will be crucial tests.”

What about renewable energy?

Gordon Edge, Director of Policy at RenewableUK, says: “We very much welcome the Committee’s carbon reduction announcement, but we must warn against tendering of long-term contracts for low-carbon capacity. Given our unsuccessful experience of tenders during the 1990s under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation we would strongly urge the Government not to go down this route.

“The 2020s will be a key decade in our journey towards decarbonisation of our electricity supply and we need clarity on the contributions of the various technologies so we can plan ahead and get the maximum benefit for the UK economy.

“Renewables have a key role to play in achieving these targets but investment will be needed to bring down the cost of these technologies. For examples, significant investment will be needed in offshore technology over the next decade in order for it to deliver what is expected.”

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