In 2000, the UK Government adopted a recommendation from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that the UK should cut its carbon emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050. The Government now proposes to make this goal legally binding, by writing it into the draft Climate Change Bill.
However, climate science has moved on substantially since 2000, and now suggests that countries like the UK should be aiming to make carbon dioxide emissions reductions of at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, if we are to avoid a 2?C global warming above pre-industrial levels - a threshold beyond which there is a sharp increase in the expected impacts of climate change.
As a result, a number of voices are now calling for the Government to go beyond the 60 per cent target, to adopt a long-term carbon emissions reduction goal of 80 per cent in the Climate Change Bill. In a speech in September 2007, Prime Minister Gordon Brown opened the door to a review of long-term emissions reductions objectives, saying that one of the first tasks of the proposed Climate Change Committee would be to revisit the targets in the Bill.
But is an 80 per cent reduction in UK emissions even remotely possible? How would we generate electricity? How would industry manage? Would we need nuclear power? Would we all have to stop flying and give up our game consoles and gadgets? How would we heat our homes? What would fuel our cars and lorries? And above all, what would it all cost and can we afford it?
You can also download the report by Professor Dennis Anderson of Imperial College, London that ippr commissioned, with WWF and RSPB, to inform the analysis in 2050 Vision: Policies for a Low Carbon UK Energy System.
2050 Vision was published simultaneously with 80% Challenge: Delivering a low carbon Britain.
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