Carbon budgets: how we monitor emissions targets

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

  • reduce emissions by at least 80% of 1990 levels by 2050
  • contribute to global emission reductions, to limit global temperature rise to as little as possible above 2°C

Carbon budgets

To meet these targets, the government has set five-yearly carbon budgets which currently run until 2032. They restrict the amount of greenhouse gas the UK can legally emit in a five year period. The UK is currently in the second carbon budget period (2013 to 2017).

Budget Carbon budget level Reduction below 1990 levels
1st carbon budget (2008 to 2012) 3,018 MtCO2e 25%
2nd carbon budget (2013 to 2017) 2,782 MtCO2e 31%
3rd carbon budget (2018 to 2022) 2,544 MtCO2e 37% by 2020
4th carbon budget (2023 to 2027) 1,950 MtCO2e 51% by 2025
5th carbon budget (2028 to 2032) 1,725 MtCO2e 57% by 2030

How the CCC advises on UK emissions targets

We assess the latest emissions data to judge whether the UK is on course to meet its carbon budgets. We report this progress to Parliament and the Devolved Administrations annually.

UK emissions were 42% below 1990 levels in 2016. The first carbon budget (2008 to 2012) was met and the UK is currently on track to outperform on the second (2013 to 2017) and third (2018 to 2022). However, it is not on track to meet the fourth (2023 to 2027).

To meet future carbon budgets and the 80% target for 2050, the UK will need to reduce emissions by at least 3% a year, from now on. This will require the government to apply more challenging measures.

We monitor progress on reducing emissions

We track progress in low-carbon investments and government policies. This allows early identification of where targets could be missed.

Some of the indicators we track include the:

  • emissions in an average unit of electricity and how low this could go if we changed our energy infrastructure
  • emissions from new cars, and the rate of development and investment in electric vehicles
  • size of onshore and offshore wind farms at various stages of their project cycles
  • number of lofts and walls being insulated and boilers upgraded, including moves to low-carbon heat such as ultra-efficient heat pumps
  • progress of electricity market reform

To see more on how we created the framework to monitor progress, see our first progress report to Parliament (2008).

For a full breakdown of our current indicators, see our most recent progress report to Parliament (2017).

We advise on saving money

We advise the government on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the least cost to the economy.

We have recommended that:

  • energy efficiency improvements are cost-effective for the government and will save businesses and households money
  • encouraging innovation in technology is cost-effective in the long term and will contribute substantially to emissions reductions
  • businesses and industry are encouraged to replace high-carbon investments with low-carbon investments when they are considering new contracts