Changing UK climate targets ‘strategic mistake’ say business leaders

Supermarkets, insurers and multinationals call on government to accept advice of official climate advisors

(Pic: DECC/Flickr)

(Pic: DECC/Flickr)

By Ed King

Business leaders and investors worth €7.5 trillion say the British government should not weaken its climate change targets in 2014.

Sky, Nestle, PepsiCo, Mars and Aviva insurers are among 100 organisations to demand the country maintains its current strategy to decarbonise the energy sector and cut emissions 50% by the mid-2020s.

“As insurers and investors, we are quite accustomed to dealing with financial arguments that point towards the benefits of taking preventative and mitigating action before a much more expensive disaster unfolds,” said Aviva’s Chief Investment Officer Steve Waygood.

Alstom’s UK President Terence Watson added: “Stop-Go’ politics threatens that investment and raises costs for everyone. That is why changing the 4th Carbon Budget now would be a strategic mistake – with consequences.”

The intervention comes as the government prepares to review UK climate targets from 2023-2027; with some ministers suggesting these are too harsh and will slow economic growth.

Today an independent advisory body set up to guide national climate policy dismissed these concerns, arguing investment in clean energy would be cost-effective, reducing UK dependence on importing foreign gas.

But Lord Turner, head of the Financial Services Authority from 2008-2013 says threats the targets could change is deterring investors in wind, solar and other renewable technologies.

“A stable policy environment is critical to attracting investment in the low-carbon sector, reducing the costs of new technologies like offshore wind and creating significant growth opportunities for the UK economy in areas where we currently lead the clean energy race,” he said.

Stephanie Pfeifer from the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, representing 85 of Europe’s largest investors echoed Adair.

“The government can reassure investors and signal its commitment to a low-carbon future by sticking to the emissions reduction objectives outlined in the fourth carbon budget,” she said.

The UK is unusual in that since 2008 it has rolled out a series of 5-year legally binding carbon budgets, limiting the level of emissions that can be pumped into the atmosphere over a given period.

Future budgets are likely to be closely linked to decisions over climate change taken by European leaders. The EU is set to publish its decarbonisation strategy up to 2030 at the end of January.

This is likely to set the tone for UN negotiations on a 2015 global emissions reduction deal, which countries agree needs to ensure the world does not warm beyond 2C above pre-industrial levels.

The UN’s recent climate science study indicates this means the world has a finite level of greenhouse gases it can pump into the atmosphere before irreversible temperature rises are locked into the system.

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