Will The UK Meet Its Carbon Emissions Targets By 2020?
Author: David Thomas
Published: Thursday, 06 March 2014
Will the UK meet its carbon emissions targets by 2020?
THE SHORT answer to this question is: apparently so. When the UK parliament adopted the Climate Change Act in 2008 they set a legally-binding long-term emission target for 2050 obliging the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels. As part of this measure the UK committed to five-year carbon budgets and to enable this established the independent body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The CCC published its first full report in 2008 recommending that UK carbon emissions should come down by at least 34% on 1990 levels by the year 2020. According to a policy report by the Department on Energy and Climate (DECC), government projections show that the UK is on track to reach emissions targets for the third carbon budget period 2018-2022. It is worth noting that these targets are based on territorial emissions, which are those that occur within the UK’s borders and excludes overseas residents and business.
According to the same DECC report, published in June 2013, projections for the fourth budget period (2023-2027) suggest a shortfall of 205 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. As these targets are legally-binding the government could theoretically be pursued through the courts if they are not met. It remains to be seen how this would work in practice.
So perhaps the big news is rather what happens after 2020. On 22nd January 2014 the EU presented a target package for 2030, committing Europe to cutting emissions by 40% by this date with 27% of energy being produced by renewable sources. The levels have been criticized as too steep by some member states and commissioners, yet are seen as not nearly enough by green groups.<?p>
Mahi Sideridou, managing director of Greenpeace, responded:
"The January sales are on and it looks like Europe's dirty energy companies have bagged a bargain. The commission's plan for 2030 is a sell-out that would knock the wind out of a booming renewables industry.”
The 2030 targets have been released at a time when the UK is being ravished by storms. It is a pressing time to debate the impact of carbon emissions and climate change. Lord Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, has said that the current spate of storms demonstrates an urgent need to cut carbon emissions. He said on 13th February: “If we do not cut emissions, we face even more devastating consequences, as unchecked they could raise global average temperature to 4C or more above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.”
Stern authored a report in 2006 on climate change and the economy, but said this week that the risks are greater than he previously anticipated. This is because “annual greenhouse gas emissions have increased steeply and some of the impacts, such as the decline of Arctic sea ice, have started to happen much more quickly.”