Report warns on UK emission targets

The UK needs a step change in its pace of emissions reduction to meet CO2 budgets, the Committee on Climate Change has said in its first annual report to parliament.

The UK needs a step change in its pace of emissions reduction to meet CO2 budgets, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said in its first annual report to parliament.

The CCC claims that, in some areas, new policy approaches will be required to deliver the government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan.

The Climate Change Act requires the CCC to report each year on emissions reductions relative to the UK’s carbon budgets.

In its first monitoring report, the CCC has analysed progress between 2003 and 2007. Complete sets of emissions data are not yet available for 2008, the initial year of the first budget.

The committee found that emissions reductions averaged 0.5 per cent per annum. The group estimates that, going forward, reductions of two per cent to three per cent per annum will be required to meet the carbon budgets.

The CCC report indicates a direct connection between the recession and emissions. It is estimated that the decline in economic activity is likely to have produced an emissions cut of around two per cent in 2008 and the recession could reduce emissions in the first budget period by a total of 40-70 million tonnes.

However, the committee warns that recession-induced reductions do not indicate progress.

The report points out that many power generators and industrial companies are taking advantage of the European Union’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), which allots companies a number of credits to emit a certain amount of carbon. Any unused credit can be sold to larger emitters.

The price of credits under the second phase of the ETS dropped to less than £10 per tonne earlier this year, compared with highs of more than €30 (£28) in July 2008.

In order to compete with this, the CCC has recommended that the government increase the price of carbon, provide more certainty on the price paid for low-carbon generation and ensure low-carbon investment through policies such as emission performance standards.

The report claims that this will help the government rapidly decarbonise electricity generation from 540g CO2/kWh per week to less than 300g CO2/kWh per week in 2020.

Outside industry, the CCC has also called for increased energy efficiency in homes by 35 per cent by 2020 with a new programme promoting improved insulation, the installation of 12 million energy-efficient condensing boilers and major improvements in electrical appliance efficiency.

The report states that these sort of measures could begin taking as early as April 2010 through the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a policy initiative for commercial and public buildings.

The CCC also outlines recommendations for the transport sector. The report indicated that fuel efficiency improvements and constrained growth in traffic volumes could cut emissions by 30 per cent by 2020.

Lord Turner, chair of the CCC, said that the committee has submitted its recommendations to parliament and that now it is the government’s turn to act. ‘The government needs to build on its Low Carbon Transition Plan and put in place a comprehensive delivery framework,’ he said. ‘What we have proposed is achievable and affordable, but action needs to be taken now if we are to make our contribution to combating climate change.’

The Energy Institute, a membership body for energy professionals, supported the CCC’s call for an urgent step change in the pace of carbon emissions reductions.

James Smith, president of the Energy Institute, said: ‘This report sets the right priorities and tells us how Britain can get the energy we need for the lower carbon emissions we can afford.

‘There is a cost but the cost of doing nothing will be higher,’ he added. ‘Retooling Britain’s energy supplies will need investment, new technology and new skills. On the bright side, it means new jobs and new opportunities for British business at home and abroad.’