Carbon Reduction Commitments

Carbon budget, Central Government

Carbon reduction commitments are the subject of the UK’s Climate Change Committee‘s latest report. The Committee advises the United Kingdom and devolved Governments and Parliaments on tackling and preparing for climate change. The reported says that the UK exceeded its third five-year carbon budget, which ran from 2018 to 2022, requiring reductions of 38% compared with 1990 levels. Total emissions over the period were 391 million tonnes, or 15%, less than the maximum allowed under the third carbon budget. The substantial fall was due in part to the effects of the Covid lockdowns.

Whilst this is welcome, a debate is now underway about the government watering down its carbon reduction commitments. Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, ministers are allowed to count the surplus of emissions savings, compared with the budgetary requirement, towards
the next carbon budget. That would make the next budget easier to meet, but could also slow the UK’s path towards meeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Piers Forster, interim chair of the committee, said: “We congratulate the government on meeting the latest emissions target – the Climate Change Act is working. But the path ahead is tougher and we risk losing momentum if future legal targets are loosened on a technicality. The UK is already substantially off track for 2030, and the government must resist the temptation to take their foot off the accelerator.”

Forster is also a Professor of Physical Climate Change and Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.

Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas warned the advice from the Committee was unequivocal that the UK’s climate target would be under serious threat if the Government used the surplus to justify less action and ambition in future carbon budgets.

You can read the Committee’s letter to the Government here.