UK should not weaken fourth carbon budget, advisers say

Nina Chestney
November 7, 2013
Smoke billows from cooling towers at the Radcliffe Power Station near Nottingham in central England.
Smoke billows from cooling towers at the Radcliffe Power Station near Nottingham in central England, May 25, 2005. NTRES REUTERS/Mike Finn-Kelcey

By Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should not weaken an ambitious carbon emissions cut goal for 2023 to 2027 when it is reviewed next year because efforts to fight climate change need to be deepened, not scaled back, the government's climate advisers said on Thursday.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said there have been no significant changes in climate science or international efforts to cut emissions since the goal in the government's fourth carbon budget was set two years ago.

"The fourth carbon budget remains sensible in light of the latest evidence on climate science and international action. In these respects there is no legal or economic case to reduce ambition in the budget," Lord Deben, chairman of the committee, said in a statement.

Britain has set legally binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions over four five-year periods to 2027, known as carbon budgets, which aim to put it on track towards cutting emissions by 80 percent by the middle of the century.

In 2011, the government set its fourth carbon budget to cover the period 2023 to 2027, which would require an emissions cut of 50 percent from 1990 levels.

However, it said it would decide in 2014 whether the budget should be revised to reflect progress in cutting emissions in the European Union.

"The government will review the level of the fourth carbon budget in early 2014 and will consider the advice of the CCC in more detail ahead of the secretary of state's decision," a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said.

Some politicians say there should be a weaker emissions cut target to prevent damage to the economy, but a parliamentary committee urged the government last month to abandon the budget review or at least make sure the budget is not watered down.

Some utilities argue they cannot afford to finance the costs of targets to lower carbon emissions, in many cases passing the costs onto consumers.

This in turn has heaped pressure on politicians to cap energy prices as consumer bills escalate.

However, scientists have warned that the global average temperature could rise by up to 4 degrees Celsius if emissions continue to increase, which would lead to more extreme weather events and catastrophic damage.

On Wednesday, the World Meteorological Organisation said volumes of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a record high last year.

European policymakers are considering targeting a cut of around 40 percent in emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels but environmental groups have said a 60 percent reduction is needed.

Britain has said the EU needs to promise a 50 percent cut in emissions by 2030.

If that proposal is accepted, the government might have to make its carbon budget stricter, the committee said.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Stephen Nisbet and Dale Hudson)