Advice on reducing the UK’s emissions

How the CCC advises on UK emissions targets

We assess the latest greenhouse gas emissions data to judge whether the UK is on course to meet its carbon budgets. We report progress to the UK Parliament and Parliaments in Scotland and Wales annually, and to Northern Ireland on request.

  • UK emissions were 44% below 1990 levels in 2018. The first carbon budget (2008 to 2012) was met, as was the second (2013 to 2017) and the UK is on track to outperform the third (2018 to 2022). However, it is not on track to meet the fourth (2023 to 2027) or the fifth (2028-2032). To meet future carbon budgets and the Net Zero target for 2050 will require governments to introduce more challenging measures.

Through the Climate Change Act, the UK government has committed to:

  • reduce emissions by at least 100% of 1990 levels (Net Zero) by 2050
  • contribute to global emission reductions, to limit global temperature rise to well below 2*C and to pursue efforts towards 1.5*C above pre-industrial levels.

Carbon budgets

The Climate Change Act requires the UK government to set legally-binding ‘carbon budgets’ which act as stepping stones towards the 2050 target. A carbon budget is a cap on the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the UK over a five-year period. Budgets must be set at least 12 years in advance to allow policy-makers, businesses and individuals enough time to prepare. The CCC advises on the appropriate level of each carbon budget. Once accepted by Government, the respective budgets are legislated by Parliament. The budgets describe the cost-effective pathway to achieving the UK’s long-term climate change objectives. They also take into account a range of other factors including scientific knowledge, technology, economic and social circumstances, amongst others.

The first five carbon budgets have been put into law and run up to 2032. The UK is currently in the third carbon budget period (2018 to 2022). The Committee will advise on the Sixth Carbon Budget in December 2020.

BudgetCarbon budget levelReduction below 1990 levelsMet?
1st carbon budget (2008 to 2012)3,018 MtCO2e25%Yes
2nd carbon budget (2013 to 2017)2,782 MtCO2e31%Yes
3rd carbon budget (2018 to 2022)2,544 MtCO2e37% by 2020On track
4th carbon budget (2023 to 2027)1,950 MtCO2e51% by 2025Off track
5th carbon budget (2028 to 2032)1,725 MtCO2e57% by 2030Off track
6th carbon budget (2033 to 2037)To be published in December 2020 
Net Zero Target100% by 2050