The UK faces a challenging emissions target for 2030 according to the Government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), despite topping the G20 in terms of low carbon growth in 2014.
Making its initial recommendations for the UK’s fifth carbon budget, which will cover the period 2028-32, the CCC has announced that the UK may be required to slash its emissions by more than half by 2030 to meet international commitments.
The carbon budgets are a series of legally-enshrined emissions targets, each lasting five years, designed to guide the UK towards its ultimate goal of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2050.
The UK is currently on track to meet its second and third carbon budgets, covering the period 2013-22, but the CCC has previously voiced concerns that current progress will not be sustained through the 2020s without a raft of new policies being put in place before the end of this Parliament.
The CCC’s draft recommendation to cut emissions by 54 per cent by 2030 is based on current “scientific and international circumstances”. In particular, it concludes that the UK is likely to have to cut emissions by 51-57 per cent as part of its contribution to the EU commitment to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent across the bloc by 2030.
The 54 per cent figure is also based on the assumption that the upcoming UN climate change conference in Paris in December will agree a legally-binding target to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.
In response to the CCC’s concerns over a ‘policy gap’ in the 2020s, a joint statement released on 15 October by climate and energy secretary, Amber Rudd, and environment secretary, Liz Truss announced that the Government will put a new emissions reduction plan in place by the end of 2016.
“Despite strong progress, we know that reducing emissions and preparing for the inevitable impacts of climate change will be challenging”, it said. “It won’t be an overnight transformation but instead will require a long-term transition which will impact every part of the economy.”
Leading the pack
Meanwhile, PwC’s latest Low Carbon Economy Index shows that in 2014 the UK saw a 10.9 per cent year-on-year decline in carbon intensity, measured as the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions per million dollars of GDP. This is the biggest reduction in the G20 and the largest recorded by any country in the last six years.
Although much of the drop can be attributed to circumstance rather than policy (2014 was the warmest year on record in the UK), Jonathan Grant, sustainability and climate change director at PwC, pointed out that it was the UK’s “consistent performance” that was particularly notable.
On average, the UK has cut its carbon intensity by an average of 3.3 per cent a year, “more than twice the level achieved globally”.
“While businesses should expect and plan for more regulation on carbon emissions, this shows the UK has a head start on other countries”, Grant added.