Progress on Carbon Budgets - Environmental Audit Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. The Government is required to set a series of five-year carbon budgets to restrict emissions so that the UK's statutory targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, to cut carbon emissions by at least 34% by 2020 and by at least 80% by 2050 (against a 1990 baseline), are met. Under the Act, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is charged with advising the Government on setting the level of these carbon budgets. The first three carbon budgets were set in May 2009 and the fourth set in June 2011 (Figure 1). Each carbon budget is split into a 'traded sector', which is based on the UK's share of the EU Emissions Trading System emissions limit and covers power and heavy industry, and a 'non-traded' sector of road transport, agriculture, buildings, etc. The Act requires the Government to set out a plan to meet the carbon budgets and report progress against that plan.[1] The Act also requires the Committee on Climate Change to report annually on progress in reducing emissions to meet the carbon budgets. Figure 1: The carbon budgets

Budget 1 (2008-12) Budget 2 (2013-17) Budget 3 (2018-22) Budget 4 (2023-27)
Carbon Budgets (MtCO2e)[2] 30182782 2544 1950
Reduction below 1990 levels 22%28% 34% 50%

2. We published a report on the Carbon Budgets in October 2011.[3] That report looked ahead to the December 2011 publication of the Government's Carbon Plan that replaced the 2009 Low Carbon Transition Plan.[4] We recommended that the Carbon Plan be improved by:

  • including a quantification of the emissions reductions expected from the policies listed in the Plan;
  • introducing accountability arrangements for government departments to replace the Departmental Carbon Budgeting regime; and
  • setting out a role for local authorities in delivering emissions reductions.

To ensure that the UK was on the correct emissions reduction trajectory, we also recommended that the Government tighten the second and third carbon budgets to reflect a projected recession-driven out-performance and commit to not 'banking' out-performance against the first carbon budget to help meet subsequent budgets. We published the Government's response to our report in December 2011.[5]

Our latest inquiry

3. Since we published our previous report there have been a number of developments. International agreement was reached in 2012 to draw up a binding UN global climate change deal by 2015 and to extend the Kyoto protocol until that deal comes into effect.[6] The CCC has produced several reports with a bearing on the carbon budgets,[7] including its latest annual progress report in June 2013.[8] The science of climate change has continued to develop. The carbon price in the EU Emissions Trading System has plummeted from €10/tCO2 in October 2011 to €4.5/tCO2 in March 2013, reducing the incentive to decarbonise energy. The European Commission has launched reviews to reform the scheme and to examine Europe's energy and climate change policies for 2030.[9] The Government announced in 2011 that it will undertake a review in 2014 on whether the fourth carbon budget should be amended to reflect the EU's emissions reduction trajectory,[10] and in July 2013 the CCC launched a consultation on that review.[11]

4. This inquiry explores the Government's response to our previous report and takes stock of progress against the carbon budgets. Our aim is to consider how the Government should respond in October to the CCC's most recent (fifth) progress report.[12] In Part 2 we look at whether the carbon budgets should be adjusted, and in Part 3 we look at how the Government manages delivery of emissions reductions against the carbon budgets.

5. We received 20 written submissions and took oral evidence from the Global Commons Institute, scientists (Professor James Hansen, Professor Mark Jaccard, Professor Andrew Shepherd and Professor Myles Allen), the Committee on Climate Change, the Met Office, and Rt Hon Greg Barker MP, Minister for Climate Change, and officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We are also grateful to the National Audit Office who provided us with a detailed briefing on the Government's carbon budget management regime.[13]

1   The Carbon Plan and the Annual Statement of Emissions meet this requirement. The Government also produces Updated Energy and Emissions Projections which update projected carbon emissions savings for each of the policies in the Carbon PlanBack

2   Million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. Back

3   Environmental Audit Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, Carbon Budgets, HC 1080, []. Back

4   HM Government, The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan-National strategy for climate and energy, July 2009, []. Back

5   Environmental Audit Committee, Fourth Special Report of Session 2010-12, Carbon Budgets: Government Response to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2010-12, HC 1720, []. Back

6   At the Durban Conference in 2011 consensus was reached on drawing up an agreement by 2015, that would include all developed and developing countries making some kind of commitment to reduce emissions, which would come into force from 2020. At the Doha conference in 2012 the Kyoto protocol was extended to 2020. Back

7   Internal Aviation and Shipping Review (April 2012), How local authorities can reduce emissions and manage climate risks (May 2012), Fourth progress report (June 2012), Energy prices and bills- the impacts of meeting carbon budgets (December 2012), Reducing the UK's carbon footprint and managing competitiveness risk (April 2013), and Next steps on Electricity Market Reform -securing the benefits of low-carbon investment (May 2013). Available from the Committee on Climate Change's website: Back

8   Committee on Climate Change, Meeting Carbon Budgets - 2013 Progress Report to Parliament, June 2013, []. Back

9;  Back

10   HM Government, Implementing the Climate Change Act 2008: The Government's proposal for setting the fourth carbon budget, May 2011, paragraph 17, []. Back

11  Back

12   The Government is required to respond to the Committee on Climate Change's progress reports by 15 October each year. Back

13   National Audit Office, Carbon budget management, July 2013, []. Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 8 October 2013