MPs have slammed the government’s plans to reduce carbon emissions as unambitious, and proposed moving from a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions written into law and move to more courageous 42% reduction compared to 1990 levels.
In its report published today, the Environmental Audit Committee suggested significantly ramping-up the carbon reduction strategy, and setting a 42% reduction in emissions, as proposed by the government’s climate change advisory body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
“We recommend the Government should move to a target of a 42% cut by 2020 and should implement the intended budget irrespective of whether or not the EU moves to a 30% target for cutting its emissions. Setting a target of 42% now and moving to the intended budget should increase the long-term stability of the policy framework byremoving any uncertainty about whether the higher target and budget might be imposed. But the Government should only move to increase the 2020 target once it is on track to meet its current targets and budgets,” read the report.
While the Committee of MPs praised the government’s plan to limit global temperature rise due to climate change at 2 degrees centrigrade or below, they said: “The Government’s position in international climate change negotiations must be predicated on getting emissions to peak as soon as possible. This will be very challenging but a failure to reverse the rise in global emissions before 2020 could render much of the UK’s domestic action meaningless.”
Government plans are based on the influential Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) fifth report, which the committee says is based on old data and may need to be updated.
“Both the CCC and the Government must be open to the possibility that as our scientific knowledge and understanding grows the case for taking action beyond the commitments we have already made will grow. There is a case for taking a more precautionary approach and adopting targets at the upper end or in excess of what is currently recommended by the IPCC,” reads the committee’s report.
In 2008, a CO2 reduction target of 26% was set in the 2008 Climate Change Act. This was later revised to a reduction of 34% in the 2009 Budget.
However, to meet projections made by the CCC, the government target must increase further to a 42% reduction.
The Committee warned that the price of carbon alone was not enough to make the reductions needed, as it was: “too low and too volatile” to be an effective measure to reduce carbon emissions.
“The Government must deliver the carbon savings it has identified in the Low Carbon Transition Plan and then increase the rate at which emissions are falling to meet the 2-3% annual reduction recommended by the CCC. In doing so it must take account of the milestones that the Committee is using to monitor progress. In responding to the call by the CCC for a ‘step change’, the Government must strengthen existing policies and bring forward new measures, which must be rigorously monitored.
“Strengthening the policy framework and bringing forward new measures to get the UK to meet its existing targets and budgets are higher priorities than setting more stretching targets, even if new targets would be justified on the basis of science. Unless we are on track to meet current targets, increasing targets will only widen the shortfall in delivery,” reads the report.
Responding to the report, Energy and Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock, said: “There will be no let up in the UK’s efforts in tackling climate change and maximising the low carbon opportunities for Britain – because of the clear benefits that will flow in terms of green jobs and a healthier, cleaner environment.
“We’ve already cut the UK’s emissions by nearly double the Kyoto target and are on track to meet the first three carbon budgets. It’s right that we strengthen and sustain these efforts and we’ve a detailed plan to make that happen which includes a world leading policy on clean coal, plans for new nuclear, a massive increase in offshore wind plus a wide range of help for people to save energy in their homes.
“But we also need a global move to low carbon, which is why we must complete the unfinished business of Copenhagen and get a comprehensive international deal which includes tough emissions reduction targets.”