Committee on Climate Change Reports on Government Carbon Policy

The first annual report to Parliament by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), published today, concludes that a step change is required in the pace of UK emissions reduction to meet carbon budgets, and that in some areas, new policy approaches will be required to deliver the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan.

The Climate Change Act requires the Committee to report each year on emissions reductions relative to the UK’s carbon budgets. The report found that from 2003-2007, emissions reductions averaged 0.5% per annum. Given that in the future, reductions of 2-3% pa will be required to meet the carbon budgets, the Committee argues that a step change in the pace of reduction is needed.

In particular, it says that three policy areas need to be revised or strengthened in order to achieve this step change:

1. Residential and commercial buildings

The heaviest criticism was directed at the government’s policy to reduce carbon emissions from homes. The carbon emissions reductions target (Cert) came into effect last year and places an obligation on energy suppliers to help homeowners reduce household emissions through specific measures such as by supplying energy-saving light bulbs. The results are too piecemeal according to the CCC, and a ‘whole house’ approach (simultaneously implementing the full range of measures) and ‘street-by-street’ approach is likely to be required.

2. Electricity Generation

Dramatic improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings must be coupled with a 50% cut in the carbon emitted by the energy sector by 2020. The Committee backs the government’s plan for coal stations with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, but says three new nuclear plants should be operational between 2018 and 2022. The CCC has also recommended that 23GW of wind power be added to the current installed capacity of 4GW. This would mean the equivalent of 8,000 3MW turbines by 2020.

3. Road transport

The Committee reiterated its belief that the carbon-efficiency of new cars can and should be reduced from above 160g/km today to 95g/km by 2020. This reduction could be achieved by improvements to fuel efficiency on conventional cars, but further reductions beyond 2020 will require a significant role for electric cars. To ensure rapid progress, two new mutually reinforcing government policies are required: Support for new car purchase to drive initial volumes and help manufacturers achieve economies of scale; and support for battery charging infrastructure.

For further information please see the CCC website, or visit the Guardian.