Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the Government is required to set advance carbon budgets for five year periods, leading up to 2050. The first carbon budget ran to 2012 and set a reduction of 23%, which was achieved, and expectations are that the second and third budgets will also be met, culminating in a 35% reduction by 2020.
However, projections published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in November show that a shortfall is expected against the fourth carbon budget, which sets a target of a 50% reduction in emissions by 2025. The government has said that this is due in large part to changes in methodology and, to a smaller extent, on reduced fossil fuel prices. In the same report, DECC said that a new emissions reduction plan will be published by the end of 2016.
This statement was recently reiterated by energy secretary Amber Rudd, who faced questions in the House of Commons as to how DECC intends to meet legally binding emissions and renewables targets. The energy secretary confirmed that an outline of new policies to meet emissions reductions will be announced by the end of 2016. Last year, the Government announced a new direction on energy policy which shifted the focus towards new gasfired plants and nuclear generation, so it is unclear whether renewable investment will be included in these new emission reduction policies. Amber Rudd has indicated that policies on heat and spend on research and development (R&D) will be prioritised. DECC’s innovation budget doubled in the last spending review to £500 million over the next five years. Support is continuing for R&D for Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) with a £1.7 million fund being allocated to support three innovative CCS technologies through the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and a further £2.5 million through the Energy Technologies Institute.
While it is supporting R&D, the Government has faced criticism for cancelling demonstration funding for CCS projects in the last spending review. Its development is seen to be an important tool for meeting future climate commitments on a global scale. At present, global climate pledges take the least expensive route, without the use of CCS, but cannot yet meet the required target of keeping global warming to 2 degrees or below; they are viewed as the foundation for more ambitious action in the future.
DECC argues that CCS is also being supported by existing energy policies such as the requirement that a new CCGT plant can only be granted planning consent and get built if it is able to show it could be fitted with CCS within its lifetime.
In December, the Climate Change Committee (CCC) submitted its advice to the government for the UK’s fifth carbon budget to the government, which it is required to set by the end of June this year. The Committee recommends that the fifth carbon budget limits the UK’s annual emissions to an average of 57% of 1990 levels by 2030, setting the UK on a trajectory to meet the legally binding target of an 80% reduction by 2050. Once the fifth carbon budget has been set, the Government will be in a position to set out the detail of how to meet the fourth carbon budget.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee is currently gathering views on the setting of the fifth carbon budget and the challenges that face the Government in both setting and meeting it. This information will be used to inform the Government’s decision-making. Written submissions are being accepted up to 1 February and further information can be found here.
The UK has taken early action on emissions reduction targets and is expected to meet a 35% reduction by 2020, but achieving a 50% reduction by 2025 and a possible 57% beyond that will be more complex, particularly in the midst of policy change. While the UK has taken early action, other countries have more recently set their own targets with the US setting a target of a 32% reduction in emissions from the power sector by 2025, against 2005 levels. The French Energy Transition Law, adopted in July 2015, sets an overall target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases and specifically a 30% reduction in fossil fuels energy sources by 2030.
Written By – Nikki Wilson