UK Carbon Emission Targets ‘May Have To Be Jettisoned’

  • Date: 11/12/13
  • Ben Webster, The Times

Britain may have to abandon its climate change targets if other countries failed to cut emissions, the chairman of the ­government’s advisory body has said.

Lord Deben (formerly the Conservative Environment Secretary John Gummer) said: “There is no point in you doing your bit for climate change if no one else is doing it.”

However, the chairman of the Committee on Climate Change also insisted that Britain “was not acting alone” and dismissed concerns that countries were already backtracking on their emission targets. The committee warns ministers in a report today that Britain’s carbon targets “should not and cannot be changed under the terms of the [Climate Change] Act”.

Manufacturers last night accused the committee of trying to keep Britain on a “unilateral trajectory” and of failing to consider the impact on energy intensive businesses of the increase in costs resulting from the targets.

Steve Radley, Director of Policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “Industry will be deeply concerned that the Committee on Climate Change is advising that the UK remains on a unilateral trajectory towards a 50 per cent reduction in emissions. With other EU members showing little appetite to match our ambitions, this will continue to push electricity prices above our competitors and risks pushing investment abroad. Government must now demonstrate that it understands the competitiveness issues at stake by undertaking a hard-edged review of the committee’s evidence.”

More than 50 large companies, including Sainsbury’s, Unilever, PepsiCo, Jaguar Land Rover and Sky, signed a statement calling on the Government to follow the committee’s advice and stick to the target of halving emissions by 2025 [based] on 1990 levels.

Lord Deben defended the committee’s advice that an extra £85 should be added to energy bills by 2020 and £20 more by 2030 to pay for green subsidies to help meet the target.

“If we don’t pay the consumer will in the end be paying a great deal more. Most of us would prefer not to pay today and to put it off to tomorrow but down that route lies a really terrible cost to those of us who are going to live for 20 or more years and certainly an awful cost for the next generation.”

However, he added: “If it became clear you have other countries not doing their bit and a very low gas price then you would change it.”

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Dr Benny Peiser comments:

The Committee on Climate Change mistakenly believe that the UK’s post-2022 CO2 targets are legally binding under the Climate Change Act. This is not the case. When the fourth carbon budget was agreed in 2011, the government confirmed that these targets were conditional on the EU adopting similar targets. 

George Osborne has stated categorically that Britain will not “cut carbon emissions faster than our fellow countries in Europe.” Given the EU’s manifest reluctance to follow Britain’s lead, there is no chance that the government will adopt new unilateral targets. The decision on post-2020 CO2 targets is likely to be postponed until and unless there is a legally binding agreement at the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris.