In November 2015, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised Government to set the fifth carbon budget to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 by 57% relative to 1990 levels. Today, the Government has accepted that advice.
The Committee welcomes the clear signal this sends about UK ambition to continue reducing emissions into the 2030s across the economy, including from power, transport and buildings. This is particularly important given the uncertainty following the recent vote to leave the EU. The announcement shows that the UK remains committed to its climate targets and is open for low-carbon business.
The CCC’s advice aimed to identify the best course for the UK, following a full assessment of the domestic impacts of meeting the proposed carbon budget. This included analysis of the benefits and the costs to households and businesses of the action required, and an assessment of international action to reduce emissions.
Global commitment to tackling climate change has never been greater, nor has the speed of innovation in low-carbon technologies, which is resulting in reduced costs and new opportunities. The Government’s acceptance of the fifth carbon budget places the UK in a position to take full advantage of an emerging world where low-carbon power, vehicles, buildings, industry and agriculture are in demand.
The Committee notes that, in accepting the advice, the Government has rejected formal inclusion of emissions from international shipping within the fifth carbon budget. The Committee reiterates that the evidence it considered suggested that conditions for including emissions from international shipping in the fifth carbon budget have now been met. We will examine the Government’s reasoning in detail.
The UK continues to reduce its emissions. Provisional figures for 2015 show that UK emissions are 38% below 1990 levels. Acceptance of the fifth carbon budget demonstrates the Government’s commitment to continuing along the cost-effective path towards the legal requirement to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.
The Committee has also laid its annual progress report before Parliament today. That report emphasised the need to now bring forward policies and proposals that will achieve the levels of reduction set out in the fifth carbon budget. The Government has recognised that new policies are required and has committed to set out how it will strengthen efforts to meet the carbon budgets by the end of the year.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “I warmly welcome the Government’s acceptance of the CCC’s advice on the fifth carbon budget. Amidst many competing demands it is to their credit that they continue to prioritise efforts to tackle climate change in the UK and internationally. The Government’s commitment to reduce UK emissions by 57% by 2030 will open up opportunities for UK businesses both at home and abroad. It also demonstrates the continued broad political consensus to tackle the serious risks posed by climate change.”
- The Committee on Climate Change is the independent statutory body established under the Climate Change Act (2008) to advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets, and to report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.
- The CCC’s fifth carbon budget advice was delivered to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and published on the CCC website on 26 November 2015.
- The fifth carbon budget advice takes into account criteria set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. This includes ensuring that carbon budgets are in keeping with climate science and international circumstances, that budgets are affordable, do not adversely affect the UK’s competitiveness, are consistent with energy policy, particularly security of supply, and that potential impacts on fuel poverty are manageable. The Climate Change Act (2008) commits the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (on 1990 levels) with international aviation and shipping emissions “taken into account”. For this reason, carbon budgets are set to ensure the UK is on track to meet its 2050 obligation including emissions from international aviation and shipping.
- The fifth carbon budget advice recommends an emissions limit of 1,765 MtCO2e over the period 2028-2032 including emissions from international shipping. This is an emissions reduction of 57% on 1990 levels. The Committee recommended that international shipping emissions were included in the fifth carbon budget, as there are no longer any strong practical reasons which prevent their inclusion. These emissions should be included on the basis of international policy agreed at the International Maritime Organisation, and does not therefore imply a unilateral UK approach. The Committee also said that if international shipping emissions were excluded then an emission limit of 1,725 MtCO2e would be appropriate over the period 2028-2032. The Government is legislating this latter number and excluding international shipping from the formal total for the budget.
- The Government has also chosen to set a limit of 55 MtCO2e on the number of carbon units, outside the EU ETS, that may be used to meet the third carbon budget (2018-2022). The Committee had recommended a zero limit. UK emissions are already below the level of the third budget. What is important is that the Government should plan to meet the third and subsequent carbon budgets without the use of credits. This seems to be in line with the Government’s rationale for setting a positive MtCO2e limit, as it has for previous budgets, only to reflect uncertainty about projected emissions.
- The Committee’s advice on the fifth carbon budget applies to emissions for the whole of the UK. It takes into account the differences in circumstances between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and follows widespread consultation and discussion with stakeholders, and detailed discussion with governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the UK Government.
- Any future changes to the fifth carbon budget, including the use of international credits (“offsets”) or borrowing from other budget periods, would require the Government to request the advice of the Committee to assess whether conditions allowing a change to the fifth carbon budget have been met.
- The Committee published its 2016 Progress Report to Parliament on 30 June 2016, assessing UK-wide progress on reducing emissions and meeting carbon budgets. The UK Government has committed to set out how it will meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets by the end of 2016.