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Recession continues to curb UK carbon emissions

The UK’s carbon emissions are set to fall again slightly in 2010 after the recession drove dramatic declines of around 10% last year, analysts have found.

But the country is likely to miss its targets for cutting emissions and boosting renewable energy by the end of the decade unless the new coalition Government urgently puts ambitious low-carbon policies in place.

The report from Cambridge Econometrics predicts that despite modest economic recovery this year, emissions are likely to fall by around 1.5% in 2010 due to the knock-on effects of the recession and less use of coal - which is currently fairly expensive - for energy generation.

Based on policies already in place, the analysts forecast that the UK is likely to meet its first two five-year “carbon budgets” over the coming decade, but will exceed the third, which runs from 2018 to 2022, and miss its legally-binding target to cut emissions by 34% by 2020.

The report also warns that on current policies, renewables will only account for 7% of UK electricity supply this year, short of the 10% target, and will contribute 16.5% by 2020 - a little over half the previous Government’s goal of 30%.

Cambridge Econometrics said the failure would be largely due to the fact that fossil fuels would remain an important source of electricity generation and new gas-fired power stations, rather than renewables, would help fill the gap created as older coal and nuclear plants close.

Professor Paul Ekins of University College London, who is co-editor of the UK Energy and Environment report, said: “The outgoing Government is to be applauded for setting statutory carbon targets and budgets, but the new administration will need to appreciate the difference between setting targets and having firm policies in place that help to achieve them.

“The challenge now is to ensure that the 2020 targets are met by policies that cause emissions to fall substantially in a context of economic growth.”

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