Government would be 'very unwise' to bank emissions savings to meet future targets

Clean growth strategy comes under fire as critics say it needs clearer targets

Parliament’s climate change watchdog has warned the government that it would be “very unwise” to ‘bank’ recent carbon emissions reductions to meet long-term targets.

Baroness Brown of Cambridge, chair of the adaptation sub-committee of the parliamentary Committee on Climate Change (CCC), told the BEIS (business, energy and industrial strategy) select committee yesterday that there were a “number of areas” where the government’s recently unveiled clean growth strategy needed to be firmed up with more concrete policies.

Giving evidence to the committee, she said that the CCC was “particularly concerned” about the government’s reliance on flexibilities to meet the UK’s emissions reductions targets in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which cover the decade from 2028 onwards.

The UK’s success at cutting emissions faster than expected means that it is set to exceed its second and third carbon budget targets over the upcoming decade. 

However the rate of emission reduction is set to slow down after this date. In its clean growth strategy, published last month, the government said it planned to ‘bank’ savings made in previous carbon budgets in order to meet later targets.

Baroness Brown said this move would be “very unwise”, particularly in the light of the increased emission reduction targets set out in the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. 

She said: “There should be no banking in the second and third budgets.

“If we start banking and borrowing we won’t be on track to meet those [Paris] goals.”

Also giving evidence, Nick Molho, executive director of the Aldersgate Group, said that the mooted flexibility in the UK’s carbon budgets plans would “dampen” signals to investors in low carbon technologies.

Molho added that the lack of support for onshore wind and solar power represented a “big gap” in the strategy.

“In the context of where we are trying to achieve climate change targets cost effectively, it would be sensible to look at how we can provide a route to market for these technologies, which would allow projects to be developed where communities want them.”

He also said that the strategy needed clearer targets, tied to dates, for boosting the energy efficiency of the UK’s buildings stock.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of Energy UK, told the committee that the industry umbrella body had been “disappointed” at the ambitions outlined in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

“It’s still odd that we don’t have a route to market for onshore wind and solar given they are the cheapest low carbon generation. We should be encouraging a greater mix of generation on the system.”

He also said that it was “shocking” that the government had delayed moves to improve energy efficiency in social housing. 

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