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CCC’s climate scientist provides evidence to the EAC – 9 June 2009

CCC member and climate scientist, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, joined CCC Chief Executive, David Kennedy in providing evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), in the opening session of their inquiry into Carbon Budgets. The EAC inquiry will look at whether the carbon budgets set by the CCC are ambitious enough in the light of recent developments in climate change. Professor Hoskins explained that the CCC had used the latest science in recommending the 80% target: “I was involved in the last IPCC report so we are keeping our eye on any new developments that occur in climate change science and will continue to do so. If any developments suggest that we should revise our targets, then we will”.

Kennedy and Hoskins said that the Government’s acceptance of the 2020 carbon budgets targets was a positive first step, but that a clear plan of action was now required. The CCC are hoping that the Government will move towards adopting the higher intended budget (a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020) within the next two years, once developments had been made in reaching a global agreement on climate change.

The CCC’s targets were designed in order that central estimates of global temperature increase should be kept as close to 2 degrees as possible and also the likelihood of witnessing a 4 degree rise in temperatures, was kept to a probability of less than 1%. “Life as we know it could not be pursued in a 4 degree world”, said Professor Hoskins. In order to keep the chances of reaching 4 degrees to such a low level, global emissions would have to peak in the run-up to 2020 and then drop by around 4% per annum. This would, by 2050, lead to global emission reductions of about 50%. “We believe that what we have suggested is likely to be consistent with avoiding dangerous climate change for most regions of the world and is going for what is pragmatically possible” said Hoskins.

Hoskins said that even if global temperature increases can be limited at around 2 degrees through mitigation policies, it can be expected that there will still be an increasing number of “major events” caused by climate change which the UK and other countries would have to adapt to. Hoskins cited the heat-wave in Europe in the Summer of 2003, which caused the deaths of around 30,000 people. To this end, an Adaptation Sub-Committee is being set up within the CCC to ensure that the UK Government has the right adaptation policies in place.

A video of this session, which also included evidence from Aubrey Meyer and Terry O’Connell of the Global Common Institute,  can be viewed online. The EAC’s enquiry will conclude by the Autumn of 2009.