Has the ‘greenest government ever’ given up on carbon budgets?

climate change, energy, UK politics

Author(s):  Reg Platt
Published date:  23 May 2012
Source:  Left Foot Forward

In May 2011, Chris Huhne announced the government would sign up to the target for the fourth climate change budget period from 2023-2027, as laid out by the Committee on Climate Change.


The target specifies that UK emissions during this period should not exceed 1,950 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a 50% reduction from 1990 levels. A potential caveat included in Huhne’s announcement was that this target would be reviewed in 2014 to ensure it was in line with EU carbon targets.

As Joss Garman from Greenpeace spotted yesterday it looks like the government has already decided to back out of these targets.

In Chapter 6 of the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCCadvice to government on the fourth climate change budget it states (p. 293, pdf):

“The carbon intensity of power will need to fall from around 500g/kWh today to 50g/kWh in 2030.”

In the Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) impact assessment published today with the Energy Bill, the government states (p. 13, pdf):

“100gCO2/kWh [is the] average emissions intensity ambition in 2030.”

100gCO2/kWh was the original target put forward for 2030 by the Committee on Climate Change – not the revised target as included in the fourth climate budget. There is a 50gCO2/kWh gap in the government’s ambitions that must be explained if we are to believe it is committed to meeting the carbon budgets.

As it stands the emissions performance standard could blow the carbon budgets out of the water.

The EPS impact assessment (pdf) states that gas generators will be permitted to continue to pollute at 450g/C02kWh up until 2045 – 400g/CO2kWh above the average level specified for the power sector in the carbon budgets for 2030. Nowhere has the government explained how this is commensurate with achieving 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 as specified in the Climate Change Act.

According to the BBC’s Roger Harrabin, the CCC last night called the government’s treatment of carbon targets in the draft Energy Bill:

“Unhelpful and creating more uncertainty.”

The Energy Bill is the most important piece of legislation this government will introduce on climate change policy. It is now up to Parliament to make sure the government sticks by its commitments and reduces emissions in line with the carbon budgets.



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Reg Platt, Senior Research Fellow