UK should consider tougher climate targets, advisors say

Committee on Climate Change cites ‘clear economic benefits’ of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and investing in low carbon growth

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By Ed King

The UK government should consider setting tougher climate targets for the country to hit in the 2020s, according to an influential advisory body.

The Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) latest advice comes ahead of a planned 2014 review of the UK’s 2023-2027 ‘carbon budget’.

Lord Deben, chair of the committee, called on the government to confirm the budget, which requires emissions cuts of 50% on 1990 levels, “as a matter of urgency”.

“This would remove the current uncertainly and poor investment climate. It would provide a boost to the wide range of investors who stand ready to invest in low-carbon technologies,” he said.

The CCC adds that scrapping the current budget and investing heavily in fossil fuels could land the country with a £200 billion bill if gas prices continue to rise.

“In the long run (e.g. after 2030) the budget offers benefits in terms of lower electricity and energy prices than would ensue without early decarbonisation,” it says.

Carbon budget set restrictions on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a 5-year period. Currently the country has agreed four budgets up to 2027, aimed at reducing emissions 80% by 2050.

Prime Minister David Cameron signed off the latest carbon budget in 2011, on the condition it would be reviewed against the EU’s climate strategy in 2014.

European leaders are set to discuss new climate targets for 2030 in January; these are likely to form the basis of the bloc’s contribution to a UN global warming treaty in 2015.

The UK is pushing for an EU-wide emissions reduction target of 50%.

Speaking at a Parliamentary meeting yesterday UK energy chief Ed Davey indicated ministerial discussions had not started yet.

“I will certainly insist that any conclusions are evidence led, based on the facts and based on the analysis. Climate change and Britain’s commitments to tackling climate change is too serious to play politics with,” he said.

Leading utilities and heavy industries say the UK’s legally binding carbon targets are placing them under too much pressure, and driving up energy prices.

The government recently agreed to release some energy suppliers from commitments to fund home efficiency schemes, in the hope this will cut costs to consumers.

But the CCC says there are “clear economic benefits” of acting to cut emissions through the 2020s.

“This provides insurance against the increased costs and risks of climate-related damage and rising energy bills that would result from an alternative approach to reduce and delay action,” Lord Deben added.

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