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Next step towards low-carbon economy requires 57% emissions reduction by 2030

The Government should continue on the lowest-cost path towards the legal requirement to reduce UK emissions by at least 80% in 2050 on 1990 levels. It should commit to an emissions reduction of 57% by 2028-2032, the Committee on Climate Change says today.

The fifth carbon budget marks the half-way point from the first carbon budget period (2008-2012) to 2050. The scientific evidence confirms that without action to limit warming to the globally agreed level of 2°C, climate change will pose serious risks to the UK and around the world. The UK’s contribution – as set by the 2050 target – is in keeping with, and helps to promote, wider international climate action.

The UK has made good progress to date. Emissions have reduced by 36% on 1990 levels and if current policies are effective will be down by 43-46% in 2020. In order to meet the legislated fourth carbon budget (2023-2027) emissions must fall by 52%. The proposed fifth carbon budget continues along that trajectory, and would continue to cut emissions at lowest-cost to UK businesses and households. These are steady emissions reductions equivalent to 2% per year from 1990-2014, 3% per year from 2014-2030 and 4% per year from 2030-2050.

However, to keep within the emissions limits set by the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and to stay on track to 2050, a number of new policies and clear long-term signals to investors are urgently required. By 2030, the Committee’s scenarios to meet the fifth carbon budget involve:

  • By the 2030s around 1 in 7 UK homes are heated using low-carbon sources of energy, helping to reduce emissions significantly and drive further innovation in delivering sources of low-carbon heat.
  • By the 2030s, the majority of new cars and vans bought in the UK are fully or partially electric, removing a significant proportion of emissions from transport, improving UK air quality and potentially boosting UK manufacturing.
  • By the 2030s, the UK is largely powered by low-carbon sources of electricity, delivering power with emissions of below 100 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (compared to 450g today). Low-carbon options in the power sector are important to support emissions reduction in other sectors, such as transport and heating, as well as to reduce emissions from the power sector itself.
  • By the 2030s, insulation is installed in nearly all UK homes where it is cost-effective, reducing the cost of energy to households.

The Committee’s advice balances a range of statutory duties required by the Climate Change Act. This includes ensuring that carbon budgets are affordable, do not adversely affect the UK’s competitiveness, are consistent with energy policy, particularly security of supply, and ensure that potential impacts on fuel poverty are manageable. The advice also considers the implications of particular circumstances in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fifth carbon budget delivers on all counts.

The advice is based on a thorough, independent assessment of the evidence. This includes an open call for evidence, roundtable discussions with industry and other stakeholders, and considerable new analysis. As well as representing the lowest-cost path to meeting the UK’s 2050 legal commitment to reduce emissions, action required to meet the budget would also deliver a range of benefits in the areas of health and innovation, the Committee says.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “The UK has been at the forefront of global action on climate change. As a nation, we have begun the transition towards a low-carbon economy. By legislating the fifth carbon budget at the recommended level, the Government will take the next important step. That will build on its commitment to the UK’s existing climate targets and send a clear signal to businesses and consumers that UK climate ambition remains on track through the 2020s and into the 2030s. This medium-term vision, balancing a range of considerations, helps to ensure the UK can continue to play its part at lowest cost to business and consumers while properly positioning our country for the environmental and economic realities that lie ahead.”