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Carbon budgets - Environmental Audit Committee Contents


3  The UK's domestic targets and budgets

Setting targets and budgets

35. International action and domestic action on climate change are linked.[84] Success depends on developed countries acting to reduce their emissions and developing countries committing to halt the growth in their emissions at some point in the future (and in some cases to reducing their emissions). The IPCC has recommended that global emissions need to be cut by 50% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. As the burden for tackling climate change falls mainly on developed nations, the 50% cut in global emissions equates to cuts of 80-95% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels for developed nations. The Committee on Climate Change has estimated that the UK's fair share of the global burden to be an 80% cut in its emissions by 2050 relative to 1990 levels.[85] Lord Turner made clear that the Committee on Climate Change believed that emissions should continue to fall after 2050, to 2100 and beyond.[86]

The 2050 target

36. Carbon dioxide poses a particular problem because on the length of time it remains in the atmosphere. It is not vital to meet any specific budget in any specific year as long as cumulative emissions are limited on the way to meeting longer-term targets. But there is a risk that the UK could meet the near-term targets and budgets and still fail to deliver on the longer-term targets or to bear down on cumulative emissions. For example, a switch to gas would allow the UK to meet near-term targets and budgets but would prevent us from meeting the 2050 target by locking us into a particular emissions pathway.[87] By combining the long-term targets with carbon budgets to describe how the targets will be reached, the Committee on Climate Change has rightly focused on cumulative emissions.[88] Ministers must ensure that policy makers in all parts of government have a good understanding of the importance of limiting cumulative emissions. It is important that the Government focuses action not only on meeting the carbon budget in any one year but also on taking action now to ensure that targets and carbon budgets can be met in the medium- to long-term. The Government must pay close attention to the milestones and indicators that the Committee on Climate Change has set out, and will use to monitor the Government's progress.

Carbon budgets

37. Collectively the EU has committed to reduce its emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2020 and it is willing to increase this to 30% by 2020 should other countries commit to a similar degree of action as part of international climate change negotiations.[89] The Committee on Climate Change concluded that the straight line trajectories to the 2020 target as proposed in the EU framework were an appropriate basis for setting the UK's carbon budgets.[90] It followed the EU framework and produced two sets of budgets: an intended budget, which should apply following a global deal on climate change, and an interim budget, to apply before a global deal is reached. The Government will tighten its carbon budgets if proposals for sharing out any new EU target are agreed. Table 1: Carbon budget levels recommended by Committee on Climate Change and adopted by the Government
Budget 1

(2008-2012)
Budget 2

(2013-2017)
Budget 3

(2018-2022)
Interim budget recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (MtCO2e)
3018
2819
2570
Intended budget recommended by the Committee on Climate Change (MtCO2e)
3018
2679
2245
Budget proposed by Govt
3018
2782
2544
Annual equivalent percentage reduction below 1990 levels (%)
22
28
34
Traded sector (MtCO2e)
1233
1078
985
Non-traded (MtCO2e)
1785
1704
1559

38. The Government set carbon budgets based on the UK's share of the EU's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and followed the Committee on Climate Change's interim budgets. The Government's budgets were slightly tighter than those recommended by the Committee on Climate Change because the EU climate package agreed in December 2009 differed in a number of respects from the European Commission's original proposals.[91] The Met Office said the carbon budgets were consistent with the 2050 target and the IPCC's 4th assessment report.[92] The EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, made a similar point but expressed concerns about delivery against the budgets (see section 4).[93] Professor Ekins told us:

    The Committee on Climate Change's budgets are the minimum that would be consistent with an 80% UK (50% global) emissions reduction target by 2050, and this is the minimum that is consistent with any chance of achieving a 2oC temperature increase target.[94]

39. Carbon budgets have not been set beyond 2022. Currently they describe an emissions pathway to 2022 and will go further once the Committee on Climate Change presents its advice on the fourth budget period (2023-2027) later this year. The Met Office felt there was a case for setting budgets further in advance to ensure that the pathway remains consistent with the longer-term aims.[95] Given the importance of limiting cumulative emissions and stability in the policy framework the Government should examine carefully the case for setting carbon budgets further in advance than currently provided for by the Climate Change Act 2008.

The 2020 target

40. The Climate Change Act 2008 gave the Government a 2020 target of reducing UK emissions by at least 26% on 1990 levels. The interim and intended carbon budgets recommended by the Committee on Climate Change imply different 2020 targets:

·  The interim budgets require an emissions reduction of 34% in 2020 relative to 1990 (21% relative to 2005).

·  The intended budgets require an emissions reduction of 42% in 2020 relative to 1990 (31% relative to 2005).

41. In setting a 2020 target Committee on Climate Change took into account three factors:

·  the level of emissions reduction in 2020 commensurate with the UK being on the path to an 80% reduction in 2050;

·  the contribution by the UK to required global emission reductions in 2020; and

·  the UK's obligation under the recent EU climate framework.[96]

It said:

    Equal percentage reductions from 2006 to 2050 would require CO2 emissions in 2020 to be 39% below the 2007 level and 43% below the 1990 level. This could be seen as an ideal benchmark: anything less in 2020 means that the challenge in subsequent years is increased.[97]

42. When the carbon budgets were announced with the Budget in 2009 the 2020 target was increased to a 34% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with respect to 1990 levels by 2020. This was broadly in line with the Committee on Climate Change's recommendation for the interim budget.[98] The 2020 target could rise to 42% under the intended budget if the EU 2020 target was increased to 30% following a global deal.[99] David Kennedy expected that the interim budget would be in place for two years.[100] Over this timescale Professor Anderson thought there would little difference in cumulative emissions between the interim and intended budgets.[101]

43. Weaker 2020 targets increase the risk of crossing tipping points.[102] They also make the task of meeting the 2050 target more difficult and costly.[103] More emissions in the near-term will result in the world being locked-in to higher temperature rises and greater costs (because mitigation becomes more challenging and greater investment is needed in adaptation). A higher target in 2020 does more to bear down on cumulative emissions and is consistent with the key messages from the IPCC and Stern that as much action as possible should be taken as early as possible. Lord Stern has said that the need to cut per capita emissions by at least 80% by 2050 in developed economies implies reductions of 20-40% are needed by 2020.[104] Many NGOs believe that even a 30% cut would be insufficient and that developed countries need to adopt an aggregate reduction target of more then 40% to play a fair part in protecting the global climate.[105] Dr Cameron Hepburn, from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, thought a 2020 target as high as 42% would be costly but not economically irrational.[106] The Association for the Conservation of Energy believed that the intended budget should be adopted irrespective of whether there was a global deal.[107] Professor Ekins considered that the UK's 2020 target was at the bottom end of what we need to do if we are to make a scientifically appropriate contribution.[108]

44. The carbon budgets and the 2020 target were based on the EU's targets but the EU's targets were based more on political feasibility than up-to-date science.[109] The EU's target to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 falls outside the range of reductions recommended by the IPCC. Professor Anderson said that a higher EU target was needed.[110] Professor Ekins told us:

    Rather than tightening the targets (which could certainly be justified scientifically) the emphasis should now be on getting the UK on a trajectory to meet those that have been set.[111]

45. A target to reduce emissions in 2020 by 42% on 1990 levels is the basis for Committee on Climate Change's intended budget. The case for moving to the higher budget and target now is compelling. We believe Professor Ekins was right to emphasise the importance of meeting the targets we have rather than strengthening them, but we also accept the points made by Dr Cameron Hepburn, from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, and Professor Kevin Anderson about leadership and credibility.[112] We believe that a move to 42% now would send a clear signal about the Government's commitment. It would appear to be scientifically justified on the basis of emerging evidence and would help to give greater policy stability. We recommend the Government should move to a target of a 42% cut by 2020 and should implement the intended budget irrespective of whether or not the EU moves to a 30% target for cutting its emissions. This should increase the long-term stability of the policy framework by removing any uncertainty about whether the higher target and budget might be imposed. But the Government should only move to increase the 2020 target once it is on track to meet its current targets and budgets.

Aviation and shipping

46. Emissions from aviation and shipping are set to continue growing making their future inclusion in carbon budgets increasingly difficult.[113] The Aviation Environment Federation told us that the carbon budgets to 2022 do not include aviation and as such were inconsistent with the 2050 target for reducing emissions, which does include aviation and shipping.[114] They pointed to evidence that not all departments had understood that the emissions from shipping and aviation are included in the long-term targets but not the medium-term budgets.[115] The Tyndall Centre has also been critical of the Committee on Climate Change's treatment of aviation and shipping emissions.[116] The Association for the Conservation of Energy believed that aviation and shipping should be included in the carbon budgets.[117]

47. In January 2009 the Government said UK aviation emissions of carbon dioxide in 2050 not to exceed 2005 levels.[118] The Committee on Climate Change was asked to advise on options for meeting this objective and on the implications it had for aviation expansion. It concluded recently that aviation growth of around 60% would be compatible with keeping carbon dioxide emissions in 2050 no higher than in 2005, taking into account developments in fuel efficiency and other measures to reduce emissions.[119]

48. Under the Climate Change Act 2008 the Committee on Climate Change was required to consider whether international aviation should be included in the first three carbon budgets. Its position in 2008 was that international aviation would ideally be included in carbon budgets but complexities arising from allocation methodologies in the EU ETS allowances led it to conclude that for the time being aviation emissions should not be included.[120] The final methodologies in the EU ETS Directive (published in January 2009) reduce these complexities and the Committee on Climate Change has announced they will reconsider the case for inclusion of international aviation emissions in carbon budgets.[121]

49. The Government must make clear the impact of emissions from aviation and shipping on progress towards meeting the UK's targets for reducing emissions and its carbon budgets. The Government should ensure that any growth in aviation is within the bounds set by the Committee on Climate Change and does not impact adversely on the UK's targets for reducing emissions or its carbon budgets.


84   Q 155 [King] Back

85   Ev 102 Back

86   Qq 228-229 Back

87   Q 213 Back

88   Q 6, Q 11, Q 73, Q 76, Q 119 and Q 161 Back

89   Committee on Climate Change, First Report of the Committee, Building a low carbon economy- the UK's contribution to tackling climate change, December 2008, p94  Back

90   Committee on Climate Change, First Report of the Committee, Building a low-carbon economy-The UK's contribution to tackling climate change, December 2008, p94  Back

91   DECC, Explanatory memorandum to The Carbon Budgets Order 2009, April 2009 Back

92   Q 127, Q 146 [Lowe] and Ev 53 Back

93   Ev 129 Back

94   Ev 75 Back

95   Ev 53 and Q 119 Back

96   Committee on Climate Change, First Report of the Committee, Building a low carbon economy- the UK's contribution to tackling climate change, December 2008 Back

97   Committee on Climate Change, First Report of the Committee, Building a low-carbon economy-The UK's contribution to tackling climate change, December 2008, p106 Back

98   HMT, Budget 2009: Building Britain's future, April 2009, para 7.10 Back

99   Ev 101 Back

100   Q 11 [Kennedy] Back

101   Q 79 Back

102   University of Copenhagen, Key messages from Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions, held in Copenhagen March 2009, http://climatecongress.ku.dk/newsroom/congress_key_messages/ Back

103   University of Copenhagen, Synthesis Report from Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions, held in Copenhagen March 2009, http://climatecongress.ku.dk/pdf/synthesisreport Back

104   Stern, Key elements of a global deal on climate change, LSE, 2008 Back

105   Climate Action Network International, Position on am Annex I aggregate target, April 2009 Back

106   Q 159 Back

107   Ev 127 Back

108   Q 187 Back

109   Q 12, Q 13 and Ev 126 Back

110   Q 80 Back

111   Ev 75 Back

112   Q 78, Q 158 [Hepburn] Back

113   Ev 125 Back

114   Ev 124 Back

115   DfT Reforming the framework for economic regulation of UK airports, March 2009, Annex 5, section 1.8 Back

116   Tyndall Centre, Making a climate commitment: analysis of the first report (2008) of the UK Committee on Climate Change, March 2009 Back

117   Ev 127 Back

118   HC Deb, 15 January 2009, col 360 Back

119   Committee on Climate Change, Meeting the UK Aviation target-options for reducing emissions to 2050, December 2009 Back

120   Committee on Climate Change, First Report of the Committee, Building a low carbon economy- the UK's contribution to tackling climate change, December 2008 Back

121   Committee on Climate Change, Meeting the UK Aviation target-options for reducing emissions to 2050, December 2009 Back


 
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