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Reducing carbon budgets would be ‘incredibly short-sighted’



A committee of MPs has told the government there is no justification to lower the UK’s long-term climate change targets, while warning that carbon reduction targets for 2022 and beyond may be missed because of a lack of progress.

The environmental audit select committee told the government not to water down the fourth carbon budget, which will cover the years 2023-2027, when it is reviewed next year.

The fourth carbon budget currently rules that the UK economy should have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% on levels from 1990, or 1,950 MtCO2e, by 2025.

Chair of the committee Joan Walley said, “Some commentators are intent on spinning recent developments in climate science to suggest we can relax our efforts to cut carbon, in the mistaken belief that this would be better for our economy.

“Given that emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilisation of the global climate in the coming decades it would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now.”

On Thursday, Lord Deben, chair of the committee on climate change, wrote to energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey, insisting that the budget should not be changed and urging for the review to be completed as soon as possible in the new year.

To delay, Deben argued, would increase doubt over investment in low carbon technologies in the UK.

The committee on climate change has begun consulting on the review, and will report to the government later this year.

The environmental audit committee also looked at progress towards meeting existing and future carbon budgets. They concluded that the current (2008-2012) and second (2013-2017) carbon budgets will be easily met because of the recession. 

However, they warned that the UK is not on track to meet the third (2018-22) and fourth budgets (2023-2027), because not enough progress is being made in decarbonising transport, buildings and heat production.

However, Davey responded by saying that Britain was on track to meet the third budget, adding, “The UK takes its obligations under the Climate Change Act, to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, extremely seriously.  As the world’s most prominent climate scientists have said, we must not rest on our laurels if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.” 

Commenting on the committee’s report, Nick Molho, head of climate policy at WWF UK, said, All the evidence suggests that delaying action on reducing emissions is a false economy – it will cost more, and could result in the UK missing out on the significant growth opportunities of the low carbon economy.

“The battle lines are being drawn in Whitehall, but this will come down to David Cameron’s leadership. […] At the review, he should say unequivocally that the UK will stick to the course it has set.”

Further reading:

Don’t delay carbon budget decision, climate watchdog tells Ed Davey

Plan to use financial markets to prevent climate change ‘a dangerous distraction’

IPCC climate report: global temperatures likely to exceed 2C this century

Lord Stern: delaying climate action is ‘dangerous’

UK ‘not doing enough’ to meet carbon reduction targets