UK recommends 42% emissions cut in 12 years

The UK needs to unilaterally slash greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 34% to 1990 levels by 2020, according to an independent panel set up to advise government.

Dec 3rd, 2008

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Dec. 3 -- The UK needs to unilaterally slash greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 34% to 1990 levels by 2020, according to an independent panel set up to advise government.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), chaired by Adam Turner, published its recommendations in the report, "Building a low-carbon economy," which evaluated methods the country could employ to stave off climate change. UK emissions should be cut by 42% to 1990 levels if a global deal is reached on the issue in Copenhagen next December, CCC said. The targets, described as the toughest in the world, will be launched next year as carbon budgets underpinning UK policy decisions.

These goals to usher in a low-carbon age would be realized by employing energy efficiency and increasing the usage of renewables, sustainable biofuels, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and electric vehicles. CCC also recommended purchasing offset credits to meet the 42% target, but not the 34% because renewables, energy, and fuel efficiency should drive that.

"These significant reductions can be achieved without harming the UK's economy and at a cost of less than 1% of [gross domestic product] in 2020. In other words, an economy that might grow by 30% in the period to 2020, would instead grow by 29%," the CCC said, adding that this was worth the cost as inaction on climate change was more dangerous.

However, for domestic energy customers, bills would soar in the future with 1.7 million households possibly falling into fuel poverty. The government must prepare for this, the committee warned.

CCC and carbon budgets were established under the Climate Change Act, which was given the Royal Assent on Nov. 26. According to this law, the government has committed to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 regardless of which political party comes into power. The UK is the first country in the world to introduce legally binding targets, and the CCC will regularly report on government's progress on meeting them.

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said, "Carbon budgets will require a culture change where all important decisions will have to be made on the basis of whether they fit the budget, whether emissions savings can be made elsewhere, or whether they simply can't be done."

Energy legislation
The Energy Act of 2008 and the Planning Act of 2008, which will help to speed up major infrastructure projects, were also given the Royal Assent Nov. 26. Companies proposing low carbon power sources can expect to receive quick approval with savings to the UK of £300 million/year under the Planning Act. The package is intended to encourage companies to invest in important new energy facilities and boost energy efficiency. The Energy Act will push new nuclear power, boost renewables, and pave the way for CCS and smart meters.

However, pressure group Friends of the Earth criticized the planning legislation for not going far enough as climate change would not be factored in for airports, roads, and power station projects.

Chancellor Alistair Darling also granted an extension of the Renewables Obligation, which provides incentives for firms investing in renewable energy projects to 2037.

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