Ministers Contemplate Simplifying UK’s Carbon Reduction Goals

Ministers Contemplate Simplifying UK's Carbon Reduction Goals
credit: laotiantimes

London (Parliament News) – Ministers are considering easing UK carbon targets by transferring unused portions of previous budgets to future periods, despite Climate Change Committee advice. Concerns arise over the potential impact of emission reduction efforts.

Ministers are weighing plans to weaken the UK’s carbon-cutting plans by permitting the unused portion of the last carbon budget to be moved over to the next period. This would go against the strong advice of the government’s statutory climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee. It would make the next targets more comfortable to meet. The UK has ejected less carbon dioxide in recent years than was anticipated, owing to factors including the COVID-19 pandemic and lagging economic growth. This should be ignored, permitting for the next set of five-yearly emission targets to be more severe, the better to reach net zero by 2050, the CCC has said.

Why Consider Adjusting the UK’s Carbon Reduction Goals Now?

Ministers have until the end of this month to determine, and have only publicly said that such a determination would be made “in due course”. Campaigners stress they are likely to take advantage of the loophole.

Dustin Benton, policy director at Green Alliance, cautioned: “The government will make a grave error of judgment if it weakens plans to cut emissions, ‘carrying forward’ a right to burn carbon that only exists because the UK economy has grown less quickly than we thought when we set the third carbon budget in 2008.”

The UK would still have to fulfil its target of cutting emissions by 68% by 2030, set at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

“Cashing in phantom credits wouldn’t change our international commitments – it just means we’d need to double the rate at which we cut emissions late this decade, making the job much harder,” Benton stated. “It would contradict advice from the UK’s climate watchdog, which is never a good look. By shifting the goalposts, it sends yet another signal that this government isn’t serious about supporting the green industries of the future.”

He suggested Green Alliance research that has shown only half of the carbon reductions required by 2032 are covered by the confirmed policy. “We must action to close the gap – not excuses for inaction,” he said.

The UK overachieved in fulfilling its third five-year carbon budget, which ran from 2018 to 2022, requiring reductions of 38% compared with 1990 levels. The emissions cap for the budget was 2,544 megatons of CO2 equivalent, but the real emissions were 391 MtCO2e fewer or 15% below the budget.

Are Surplus Carbon Credits Affecting UK’s Climate Plans?

Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, ministers are permitted to count the surplus of emissions savings, corresponded with the budgetary requirement, towards the next carbon budget. That would make the next budget more comfortable to meet, but could also slow the UK’s approach towards meeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In February, the CCC requested the government not to carry over the surplus savings. The government has yet to make a determination, according to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.

A spokesperson informed the Guardian: “We are the first major economy to split emissions and have the most ambitious legally binding emissions targets in the world. We have over-delivered on every carbon budget to date and will persist to meet our emissions targets. A decision on whether the UK’s overachievement on the third carbon budget is carried over will be made in due course.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party called on the administration not to carry over the surplus but stopped short of commuting to reverse any such determination if elected. “The government must meet their climate targets – that is the way to cut bills for good, create jobs, and make the UK energy independent,” they stated. “After the high court has again found their plans to deliver these benefits unlawfully inadequate, the government should be doing what is necessary to get back on track, not fiddling their numbers.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.