Posts Tagged ‘Committee on Climate Change’

Though not officially announced, the news on the grapevine is that after days of disagreements the coalition government will agree to implement the recommendations set out by the Committee on Climate Change to meet a target of a reduction of 80% of carbon emissions in 2050 compared with 1990 levels (590Mt), with an intermediary target of 60% by 2030 [1, 2].  The UK CO2 emissions for 2010 have been provisionally estimated at 492 Mt (a reduction of 17% from 1990 levels) [3].

Reaching these targets will involve substantial changes to the UK electricity source and coincides with the EU Renewable Energy Directive, which states that the UK must generate 15% of energy through renewable sources by 2020 [2, 3].

Other ways to reduce emissions will include reducing carbon intensity in the transport sector, which is also covered by the EU’s Transport Policy which aims to reduce conventionally (petrol and diesel) fuelled cars  by 50% by 2030 and eliminate them altogether by 2050 [4] and increasing energy efficiency in homes and work places.

This target is great news and, as it was first proposed by the Labour government [5] and will now be accepted by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, is unlikely to be overturned in the near future by a change in government.

Things to look out for:

1)      The incentives the government must put in place to ensure that the UK achieves its carbon targets. As the UK is not a command and control economy, government cannot simply dictate that emissions be dropped. Instead, incentives and disincentives must be put in place in order that industry will move themselves towards these targets. Examples include subsidies (including tax breaks) and taxes.

2)      Will carbon trading be part of the agreement? Will the government allow targets to be achieved through buying carbon offsets (paying for carbon reductions) in other countries? Whether this is allowed or not will affect how this deal changes the UK economy and infrastructure. Insisting that all carbon reductions be made within the UK will have a considerable impact on the UK economy and infrastructure and could pave the way for the UK to lead the way in green technology. Allowing for emissions to be offset in other countries will mean that only immediately cost-efficient changes to the UK economy and infrastructure will be carried out.

3)      Unaccounted exported emissions. A frequent argument against the claim that the UK has reduced carbon emissions since 1990 is that we have outsourced our emissions by importing products produced in developing countries such as China – production emits greenhouse gases and often times the production process is more carbon intensive than it would be in the UK.  It is unlikely that this will be included in the UK official carbon count, but we should all keep this in mind [6].

Read more:

[1] Coalition commits Britain to legally binding emission cuts – Toby Helm and Robin McKie, The Guardian

[2] Committee on Climate Change – Renewable Energy Review

[3] DECC – UK Emissions Statistics – 2010 UK Provisional Figures


[5] Heat and energy saving strategy consultation – DECC

[6] UK’s total emissions set to rise: new data obtained by PIRC – Guy Shrubsole, ClimateSafety

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It’s been an interesting day for us and that’s not even counting the rumours of a new scientific study proving that temperature affects cows and their milk production…they could have just asked me…but of course scientific evidence is important.

No, what has been interesting are the Greenpeace people on the roof of the Parliament. Brave people first of all, I could never have made it up there. Clever people too: amongst their 12 point manifesto [1] there are ‘new pollution taxes’ and ‘new financing mechanisms for green investment’. Greenpeace manifesto refers to the work by Green Alliance [2] and the fact that both NGOs make use of economics is exciting. When I first started burping, it was unthinkable for a campaigning NGO to recommend economic measures. I hope they will be taken up and be as useful for the environment as they are intended to be.

Greenpeace’s timing is superb, with this being the first day of the Parliament and the publication date for the first annual progress report of the Committee on Climate Change[3]. The report reiterates that the Government needs to do more to encourage renewable energy and new energy efficient technologies of transport, energy generation and carbon efficient buildings. The report also looks at the effect of recession on reducing the price of carbon – bad news as the lower the price of carbon the cheaper it will be to just pay the price than to reduce the emissions. There is good news about the recessions too: reduction in economic activity will lead to reduction in emissions. The trick is not to be fooled by that though. We still need to invest in better technologies and processes and control demand for when the economy recovers and activity increases.

I hope the MPs returning to the Parliament today are paying more attention to Greenpeace’s manifesto and CCC’s annual report than whether they have expense recall letters in their inbox.

[1] Greenpeace, 2009. 12 Policies to save the climate and our planet
[2] Green Alliance, 2009. From Crisis to Recovery
[3] Committee on Climate Change, 2009. Progress report to Parliament – 12 October 2009

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