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UK government unveils fifth carbon budget

The UK government has set its fifth carbon budget in order to tackle climate change.

The fifth carbon budget will cut carbon emissions by 57% by 2032, based on 1990 levels. This emissions reduction should leave the UK on track to meet its Climate Change Act target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

The UK's Climate Change Act of 2008 sets the 2050 target. It requires the government to set legally-binding carbon budgets, which limit the country's emissions for consecutive five-year periods. The budgets are designed to put emission reductions on an appropriate and cost-effective path to meeting the 2050 target.

First three budgets

The first three budgets were set in 2009, following advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The first (for the period 2008 to 2012), set maximum net emissions at 3018 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), a 25% reduction on 1990 levels. The second budget (2013-2017) limits emission to 2782 million tCO2e (a 30% reduction), while the third budget (2018-2022) restricts emissions to 2544 million tCO2e (a 36% cut). The fourth budget (2022-2027) was set in May 2011 and limits emissions to 1950 million tCO2e (a 51% reduction).

The Committee on Climate Change advised on the level of the fifth budget last year.  Trade body Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) welcomed the news.

‘Clarity’

In a statement, the trade body said the announcement shows “much needed clarity” after the fallout from Brexit – the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Martin Baxter, IEMA’s chief policy advisor, said:  “This decision comes at a critical time for the UK and provides much needed clarity on the long-term direction of travel towards a low-carbon economy. 

“Post Brexit, our future prosperity is increasingly dependent on us seizing the opportunity to make the necessary changes to address long-term sustainability challenges.  Climate change is a defining issue of our time and significant opportunities exist to create jobs, boost productivity and enhance competitiveness by reducing our carbon emissions,” he continued.

“Achieving the 2030 target will require concerted action and investment.  The recent referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU makes the job harder but not impossible.  The true test of climate leadership is about sustaining the implementation of policies to achieve long-term climate goals.  This decision on the fifth carbon budget provides the basis for giving confidence for investment, innovation, progressive transformation and effective action over the long-term.  It must also be reinforced with a clear, post-Brexit, confirmation of the UK’s international commitments and UK ratification of the Paris climate agreement.”

Low-carbon economy

Rhian Kelly, CBI Business environment director, said: "Now more than ever, business needs long-term certainty from the Government. Its acceptance of the Committee on Climate Change’s advice on the Fifth Carbon Budget contributes to that.

"The commitment to reduce emissions by 57% by 2030 is ambitious, but achievable if we have the right plans in place, and can provide a real opportunity for businesses looking to invest in the low-carbon economy.

“As the Committee on Climate Change points out in its report today, the UK has made good progress in reducing its emissions to date, but this has almost entirely come from a focus on decarbonising the power sector. Attention now needs to turn to areas such as transport and heat, where there is significant potential to cut emissions further."

‘Urgent’

Juliet Davenport, climate change expert and CEO of renewable energy company, Good Energy, added: "We welcome today's commitment to deal with the threat of climate change, which has never been more urgent.

"Things have to change and we need a clear policy framework to ensure that more people and businesses are able to choose renewable energy. The move to a 100% renewable future is happening. This carbon budget should give a clear signal that renewables are back, and are still an attractive investment."