CCC report warns of future risks
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has found that whilst there was ‘good progress’ implementing some of the measures required to meet carbon budgets in 2012, there are now ‘significant risks that progress will not be sustained’.
A carbon budget places a restriction on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a five-year period. Introduced by government in 2008 as part of the Climate Change Act, carbon budgets aim to help the UK reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.
The CCC's latest annual progress report, ‘Meeting Carbon Budgets – 2013 Progress Report to Parliament’ was released to Parliament yesterday (26 June), and outlines progress over the first carbon budget period (2008 -2012).
Writing in the foreword, Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC said that though economy-wide emissions rose by 3.5 per cent in 2012, this was a ‘reflection of temporary factors’, such as the cold winter which led to increased heating demand, and the switch from use of gas to coal in power generation. In the absence of these effects, he said, emissions would have fallen by 1 – 1.5 per cent.
He added: ‘We have preliminary emissions data for 2012, the last year of the first carbon budget, and it seems clear that this budget has been met. However, a large part of the reason we are meeting the first carbon budget and look likely to achieve the second, is the economic downturn. To meet carbon budgets beyond this will require that the pace of emissions reduction increases markedly – we need annual emission reductions of three per cent to meet the third and fourth budgets.’
According to the report, progress has been made in insulating homes through energy efficiency programmes such as the Green Deal, but warns that in order to ensure continued progress, ‘incentives for uptake of insulation measures under the Green Deal should be strengthened’. It refers to the fact that previously, energy companies had targets for insulation measures, and were subject to fines for under-delivery, resulting in subsidies being paid for loft and cavity wall insulation. But under the Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO), incentives for delivery are ‘weak, relying mainly on a market-based approach to address significant non-financial barriers to uptake, and requiring that most households bear the full cost of these measures’.
The report suggested that financial/fiscal incentives for uptake should be considered.
It also found very low levels of solid wall insulation, low-carbon heat and energy efficiency improvement in non-residential and commercial sectors and says ‘new approaches’ will be required to ensure increased uptake of these measures.
The CCC found that power sector emissions rose by 8 per cent to 156 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) ‘driven by increased emissions intensity of generation’ brought on by a colder-than-average winter.
The report suggests that the power sector needs to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and ‘put in place arrangements to support ongoing investment programmes for each of the low-carbon technologies’ such as offshore wind projects. Further, the report suggests that the government needs to show more clearly that it is committed to sector decarbonisation in order to give ‘more confidence to investors’ of green energy. It suggests an appropriate aim is largely to decarbonise the UK power sector to around 50 grammes of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (CO2 /kWh) in 2030.
Commenting on the transport sector, the report outlined that emissions of new cars and vans were ‘on track to meet EU targets for 2020’ thanks to The Local Sustainable Travel Fund, but the slow take-up of electric vehicles and eco-driving training suggested that ‘more needs to be done’ in order to actively encourage this market. According to the report, a ‘stable framework of support’ must be put in place in this market in order to boost consumer and producer confidence.
Looking to waste emissions, the CCC found that levels have been falling but suggested that further consideration now needs to be given to banning specific types of biodegradable wastes, such as food waste, from landfill.
According to the report, emissions from agriculture were ‘broadly flat’ but the evidence base for the sector is ‘highly uncertain’. Thus, the CCC said it was ‘unclear what changes are occurring in farming practice and what impact these are having’. In order to understand progress and develop policies accordingly, the report suggested introducing a ‘smart emissions inventory’, and ‘systematic gathering and publication’ of information on farming practice.
Lessons from our neighbours
The CCC also pointed to efforts taken by the devolved governments to reduce carbon emissions, adding both Scotland and Wales have ‘more ambitious waste targets’ [than England], and all three devolved administrations have additional, government-funded fuel poverty reduction programmes, focusing on energy efficiency.
Government action is required
Speaking of the report, David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the CCC said: “There remains a very significant challenge delivering the three per cent annual emissions reduction required to meet the third and fourth carbon budgets, particularly as the economy returns to growth. Government action is required over the next two years to develop and implement new policies. A failure to do this would raise the costs and risks associated with moving to a low-carbon economy.”
Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said that the UK takes its obligations ‘very seriously’.
He said: “The UK takes its obligations under the Climate Change Act, to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, very seriously. That is why we are on course to overachieve against the first three carbon budgets, taking us to 2022.
“We recognise the challenges ahead in meeting the fourth carbon budget. As stated in our Carbon Plan, we will need additional policies to meet this legally binding goal. We have already published scenarios for how we might achieve the fourth carbon budget and remain committed to doing so."
Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, called on government to include a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill.