Committee on Climate Change warns that UK must not reduce the level of ambition of its 4th carbon budget (2023 – 2027)
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the UK’s 4th carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. It says there is therefore no legal or economic basis for the government to change the budget or reduce its ambition. Only if there is significant change in circumstances can budgets be altered. Considering the recent IPCC report, the CCC agrees the emissions cuts to meet the 4th carbon budget are a minimum UK contribution to required global action. It reiterates that the UK is not acting alone in shouldering its responsibilities. In fact our targets are relatively unchallenging. It and says the UK has an important role in securing an ambitious international agreement. The latest IPCC report reiterates how vital continued action is and that a global temperature rise of 4 degrees C is likely if emissions continue to increase. The CCC will provide its final advice on the 4th carbon budget in December 2013.
Committee on Climate Change assessment of science and international circumstances reinforces existing fourth carbon budget
7 November 2013 (Committee on Climate Change press release)
- Executive Summary (PDF) 5 pages
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today advised that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. Therefore, in these regards, there is no legal or economic basis to change the budget at this time.
The CCC’s advice follows an agreement by the Government when setting the budget that this should be reviewed in 2014. Only if there has been significant change in the circumstances on which the budget was set, demonstrated by evidence and analysis, can the budget be changed.
In making its recommendations, the CCC considered the implications of the recent IPCC review for UK approaches to reducing emissions. It concludes that temperature increase of 4 degrees is likely if global emissions continue to rise; that significant cuts in global emissions are necessary to limit this risk; that emissions cuts to meet the fourth carbon budget are a minimum UK contribution to required global action.
The report also considers international action and concludes that the UK is not acting alone: many other countries around the world have made ambitious commitments and are putting in place approaches to reduce emissions. Global emissions cuts to achieve climate objectives remain feasible if challenging. The UK has an important role in securing an ambitious international agreement
At the European level, the fourth carbon budget is at the low end of the range of ambition currently being discussed for EU emissions reductions through the 2020s; if the UK Government is successful in achieving its objectives for EU ambition, a tightening of the budget would be needed.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the CCC said:
“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. The UK’s position in the EU negotiations is fully congruent with the budget although a success at the level hoped for by the UK Government might well require its tightening.
The latest IPCC report reiterates how vital continued action is to address climate change and the international response shows that the UK is in a global race to attract low-carbon investment and jobs. It will therefore be important for Government to make a timely announcement on the fourth carbon budget. A protracted process would exacerbate current uncertainties about its commitment to supporting investment in low-carbon technologies. It is entirely right that the Government should continue to push for agreement on ambitious EU and international emissions reductions and focus on developing policies to support low-carbon investment while ensuring affordability and competitiveness”.
The review of climate science confirmed that:
- There is increased confidence that long-term warming is as a result of human activity
- Recent assessments of the likely temperature change in response to raised greenhouse gas concentrations (“climate sensitivity”) confirm assessments in previous years.
- Temperature change of 4 degrees is likely if emissions continue to increase
- Global emissions need to peak around 2020 with rapid cuts to reduce emissions by half in 2050. Delaying peaking of global emissions to 2030 will raise the costs and risks of achieving the climate objective underpinning the Climate Change Act and probably make it unattainable.
On progress towards reducing global emissions the report finds that:
- Progress towards a global deal has been slow but broadly as expected when the fourth carbon budget was set. The UN has formally adopted an objective to limit warming to 2°C and is working towards an agreement aimed at peaking and reducing emissions consistent with this goal. The aim is to resolve that process in Paris at the end of 2015.
- The UK is not acting alone. There are many countries which have made ambitious commitments to reduce emissions, and are delivering against these commitments. There is now widespread coverage by low-carbon policies of the major emissions sources around the world. This provides a good basis for agreeing and implementing an ambitious global deal.
- The climate objective and the global emissions reduction required to achieve it remain feasible, but very challenging. These remain an appropriate basis for policy, both because of the very significant risks associated with dangerous climate change and the costs of delayed-action pathways. The fourth carbon budget is important to the global process because of the key role of the UK in securing an effective global agreement.
On EU circumstances the report finds that:
- The fourth budget is consistent with the cost-effective emissions reduction pathways identified by the European Commission.
- It is at the low end of the range of ambition for EU emissions cuts through the 2020s currently being discussed (i.e. ambition in the budget is relatively low, emissions are relatively high).
- If the more ambitious EU targets that the UK has proposed are agreed, then the budget would need to be tightened.
- There is no justification legal or economic to loosen the budget now and then tighten it later once agreement has been reached. Such an approach would be bad for business confidence and undermine the UK’s credibility in current negotiations over EU ambition.
The CCC will provide its final advice on the fourth carbon budget in December 2013. This will include assessments of technology costs and feasible deployment rates, possible impacts of shale gas, energy affordability, competitiveness and security of supply.
UK must not waver on carbon budget, warns Committee on Climate Change
Government advisory body categorically rejects argument that UK’s climate action is ahead of other countries and disadvantaging businesses
By Will Nichols (Business Green)
7 Nov 2013
Any weakening of the UK’s carbon targets in the mid-2020s will see the country slip further behind China, the US, and many other major economies that are currently taking ambitious action to combat greenhouse gas emissions, the government’s independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) will warn today.
In the first of two much anticipated reports on the UK’s fourth carbon budget, which covers the period from 2023 to 2027, the CCC will say there is no basis for altering the current target when it is reviewed next year.
The group will argue that it has assessed both the latest climate science and issues relating to international competitiveness and has concluded that the current goal of halving emissions against a 1990 base line by 2027 should not be watered down.
Chancellor George Osborne has previously claimed that UK businesses would be economically disadvantaged if the country reduced emissions faster than its competitors. He told the 2011 Conservative party conference: “We’re not going to save the planet by putting our country out of business. So let’s, at the very least, resolve that we’re going to cut our carbon emissions no slower, but also no faster, than our fellow countries in Europe.”
The argument helped him to secure a formal review of the fourth carbon budget that could allow him to relax the target if it can be shown to be out of step with other nations.
But the CCC will today unequivocally state that not only are other major emitters keeping pace with the UK’s decarbonisation efforts, many of them are actually taking on much more ambitious commitments.
Opponents of low carbon action often cite China’s breakneck expansion in coal power stations as evidence any UK efforts will make no difference to global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the CCC report outlines how China is planning a renewable energy programme 10 times larger than the UK’s entire power system, as well as accelerating nuclear power and carbon capture and storage (CCS) development in line with commitments to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by up to 45 per cent between 2005 to 2020. It may currently be responsible for 29 per cent of global CO2 emissions, but the CCC echoes a number of recent reports in predicting China’s emissions could peak in the early 2020s.
The report also highlights how the US, the world’s second largest emitter with 16 per cent of global CO2 emissions, is on track to deliver its Copenhagen Accord commitment to reduce 2020 emissions by 17 per cent against 2005 levels, while Germany, Japan, the EU, and Mexico have all pledged long-term action on emissions.
In addition, it notes that a fifth of the world’s non-transport emissions are now covered by carbon pricing initiatives and further schemes are either being introduced or have been proposed in China, South Korea, Brazil, Chile, Ukraine, Mexico, and parts of the US and Canada.
David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said it is simply a “myth” that the UK is out in front of other countries in terms of emissions reductions and green policies. “It’s right we shouldn’t be leading the world if nobody’s following. But the evidence shows that isn’t the case,” he toldBusinessGreen. “Many major economies around the world have made ambitious commitments [to cut carbon] and are investing in low carbon technologies.”
A further assessment of the fourth carbon budget target with regards to technology costs and feasible deployment rates, the possible impacts of new shale gas developments, energy affordability, competitiveness and security of supply will follow in December. The government will then take a decision next year on whether to leave the budget as it is or try and change it, which would require a strong basis in evidence, subsequent approval from both the Commons and the Lords, and could well be subject to judicial review.
Kennedy insisted the current level of international climate action and the warnings in September’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which said global emissions must peak in the 2020s and be followed by rapid cuts to ensure average global temperature rise stays below 2C, meant the emissions cuts promised in the fourth carbon budget were a minimum contribution to the requisite global action.
“If we were to change the budget we would risk falling behind other countries in Europe and the rest of the world,” he said. “If emissions continue to rise we’re facing 4C of warming by the end of the century. That’s the difference between now and the last ice age. We have to act now to address the risk and [the fourth carbon budget] is our contribution.”
Interestingly, the CCC notes the government is currently negotiating to raise the EU emissions target for 2020 from a 20 per cent reduction relative to 1990 levels to a 30 per cent cut or higher. While the UK’s fourth carbon budget is in line with the current EU goal, this Treasury-sanctioned push for a higher target would actually require a tightening of the budget, running counter to George Osborne’s agenda.
Green groups welcomed the report’s findings and called on the government to take its commitments under the Climate Change Act seriously.
“Recent reports from the IPCC and major institutions like the World Bank have highlighted the risk we face from dangerous climate change. In the face of this significant risk to both our environment and the world economy, to be considering cutting back on action to tackle climate change looks like madness,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. “Other countries are playing their part, with some going further and faster than the UK and reaping the benefits of the global race. So there’s also an urgent need for the UK to maintain the leadership we’ve shown in the past.”
The report comes ahead of a speech by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in which he is expected to promise that the government will “stay the course” with its environmental commitments and “do everything we can to strengthen the role of the low carbon sector in the new economy.”
Andy Atkins, Friends of the Earth’s executive director, said Clegg and other ministers must resist any attempts by George Osborne and the Treasury to undermine the UK’s climate targets.
“The advice is crystal clear. There are no grounds for weakening the fourth carbon budget – in fact it should be made stronger,” he said. “With crucial international talks on climate change kicking off in Poland next week, Ministers could give them a welcome boost by making it clear that the UK is determined to meet its targets for cutting carbon pollution.”
However, Gareth Stace, head of climate and environment policy at manufacturers association EEF, indicated that some companies remain concerned the UK’s carbon targets could result in them facing higher energy costs than their competitors.
“The Committee on Climate Change is right to say that the scientific evidence hasn’t changed but that’s far from the whole story,” he said in a statement. “Climate change policies are pushing UK electricity prices ahead of the rest of Europe and they are set to rise further. It’s vital that government undertakes a full review of all the evidence before deciding on the 4th Carbon Budget and ensures that British industry isn’t saddled with further unilateral cost increases.”
Fourth Carbon Budget Review – part 1 – Assessment of climate risk and the international response
From the website of the Committee on Climate Change
Our latest report advises that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. Therefore, in these regards, there is no legal or economic basis to change the budget at this time.
- Full report (single spread) (PDF)
- Full report (double spreads to save on printing) (PDF)
- Executive Summary (PDF)
Supporting data and research
- Chapter 1 – exhibits (Excel)
- Chapter 2 – exhibits (Excel)
- Chapter 3 – exhibits (Excel)
- Chapter 4 – exhibits (Excel)
- University College London (2013) Modelling of global_energy scenarios under CO2 emissions pathways with TIAM-UCL (PDF)
4th carbon budget should be made stronger
The Committee on Climate Change’s advice to the Government today (Thursday 7 November 2013) that there is “no legal or economic basis” for changing the fourth carbon budget (which sets a UK emissions quota for the period 2023-2027), has been welcomed by Friends of the Earth.
The advice from the Committee on Climate Change coincides – later today (Thursday) – with a speech on the environment by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Commenting on the Committee on Climate Change’s advice, Friends of the Earth’s Executive Director Andy Atkins said:
“The advice is crystal clear. There are no grounds for weakening the fourth carbon budget – in fact it should be made stronger.
“Nick Clegg must use his green speech today to state clearly the Liberal Democrats’ resolve to support strong climate targets, and reject any attempts by George Osborne to undermine them.
“With crucial international talks on climate change kicking off in Poland next week, Ministers could give them a welcome boost by making it clear that the UK is determined to meet its targets for cutting carbon pollution.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Committee on Climate Change’s report makes it clear that since the fourth carbon budget was set:
• The climate science is stronger and clearer than ever. If anything, the fourth carbon budget should be tighter to reflect this.
• The UN climate negotiations are progressing very slowly, but this was known at the time the fourth carbon budget was set.
• The UK is not acting alone – countries like the USA and China are meeting their targets, which are in line with the trajectory assumed in the fourth carbon budget. Other countries like Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the EU27 have set 2050 targets or legally binding plans. Even nations with well documented reverses on climate change, such as Australia and Canada, are making strong progress in other areas, such as renewables and car fuel efficiency.
2. The fourth carbon budget was set in part based on assumptions on future EU targets. If anything, EU progress since then implies a tighter target than set in the 4CB, and the UK’s own negotiating position would mean a much tighter budget. Even a complete failure in EU negotiations would only imply a marginal loosening of the 4CB, and this is very unlikely.
3. The Committee on Climate Change’s fourth carbon budget is in Friends of the Earth’s view already far too loose – it is based on a 50:50 chance of exceeding a two degree rise in global temperature, a very high level of risk for something you want to avoid, and it appropriates an unreasonably large share of the global carbon budget to the UK.
4. UNEP’s emissions gap report makes it clear that fast global action to tackle climate change is the least-cost path, avoiding expensive lock-in to high-carbon infrastructure, and suggests an earlier peak in global emissions than suggested by the CCC.
5. Nick Clegg is due to make a speech at the Green Alliance’s First Leadership Lecture on Thursday 7 November 2013. The Deputy Prime minister is expected to make significant statements on his party’s approach to the natural environment, energy bills and the low carbon economy.
Friends of the Earth:
4th Carbon Budget
Two and a half years ago, the Coalition Government signed into law climate targets to slash Britain’s carbon emissions in half by 2025. In policy-speak, this is known as the UK’s fourth carbon budget. It was a solid achievement – but it was only won with a bruising fight pitting the Energy Department and the Foreign Office against George Osborne’s Treasury.
The Chancellor was defeated, but insisted as compensation on an early review of the fourth carbon budget, to take place in early 2014. At the time, Mr Osborne justified the review on grounds that he didn’t want the UK doing more to tackle climate change than our European partners, for fear of damaging our economic competitiveness.
Since then, his Treasury has been doing everything it can to undermine tough action on climate change – from publishing plans for a dash for gas that would breach the fourth carbon budget, to introducing generous tax breaks for shale gas.
Today, the Committee on Climate Change has published the first of two reports setting out its recommendations on the fourth carbon budget – reviewing EU progress on climate change, and any other international developments that might warrant a change to the carbon budget. Their conclusion: “There is no economic or legal basis to change the budget.” As unequivocal as it gets.
In fact, the report contains four stand-out points that would suggest the targets should actually be strengthened:
- The current EU emissions trajectory has barely changed since the fourth carbon budget was set. If anything, it implies a slight tightening of the budget.
- The UK’s own negotiating position for an EU 2030 target – which the Treasury approved – would imply a substantial tightening of the fourth carbon budget.
- Other countries are making substantial progress – it’s just plain wrong to say that the UK is way out in front. The USA and China are meeting their targets: they’re at the high-end of progress assumed when the fourth carbon budget was set. Many other countries, such as Mexico, Japan and South Korea have either 2050 targets or other legally binding carbon targets. Many EU countries are far ahead of the UK on issues such as renewables and energy efficiency.
- The climate science has become even clearer. The non-inclusion of chemical feedbacks in the original analysis implies that the budget should in fact be tighter.
In addition, Friends of the Earth argues that there are two other major grounds why the original fourth carbon budget was too lax:
- It was based on a greater than 50 per cent chance of exceeding two degrees warming. These are very bad odds for something governments the world over have said we must avoid.
- It assumes an unfairly large share of the world’s global carbon budget for developed countries.
The CCC also assumes that global emissions will peak in 2020. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) reported this week that peaking emissions sooner would be the least-cost approach to tackling climate change – preventing further expensive lock-in to what will become stranded high-carbon infrastructure.
Overall, there is no case for back-tracking on the fourth carbon budget. Business agrees it should be kept – the CBI stated today that the budget should be kept as it is.
Indeed, carrying out the Chancellor’s review at all reduces British businesses’ confidence that there will be a stable policy environment for low-carbon investment, and pushes up costs. Globally, it sends a very poor signal to struggling international climate negotiations – that the UK, as a self-styled leader on climate change, is about to back-track.
Mr Osborne made his arguments against the fourth carbon budget on cost. The Committee on Climate Change will be examining these cost arguments in more detail when they publish their second report on December 11th.
But in fact, it is the delay and uncertainty which George Osborne is causing which will damage the economy, not action on climate change. He should announce that he will leave the fourth carbon budget well alone, and stop blocking the policies needed to deliver it.
This would be a welcome boost to the international climate negotiations starting in Warsaw on Monday, restore flagging trust in the UK’s international standing on climate change, and begin to repair confidence in Britain’s hugely promising green economy.
by Simon Bullock, Senior Campaigner, Climate and Energy Team
‘No case’ to water down CO2 targets, chancellor told
By Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment analyst
The government will break the law if it waters down its plans to reduce greenhouse gases, its advisers say.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says there is no legal, environmental or economic case for lowering the fourth UK “carbon budget”, set in 2011.
It says the budget (running from 2023-2027) should be tightened if the EU agrees strict targets on emissions.
This is likely to displease Chancellor George Osborne, who believes the targets would threaten competitiveness.
Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is allowed to relax its targets for reducing emissions if the CCC advises that circumstances have materially changed since the budget was set.
The government asked the committee to review the budget to ensure it was still appropriate.
Last month the committee said there had been no change in the science, or in international policy to cut CO2. Its latest paper says there is no substantial domestic change either.
It repeats its calculation that low carbon policies will put £100 on the average household bill by 2020.
It assesses that fuel poverty will not be materially affected by the policies, and that risks to industrial competitiveness can be mitigated by government exemptions for energy-intensive firms.
The CCC believes low-carbon investments will actually save more than £100bn with gas at its current price, with much higher savings in a world with a high gas price.
The committee’s calculations have been challenged by some who believe they have underestimated the costs of providing new power lines and back-up for wind power.
The report bases its projections on the questionable assumption that the price of emitting carbon will rise as nations move to tackle climate change.
It says this is reasonable as all major nations have stated their determination to reduce emissions, but critics fear that the UK economy could be damaged if Britain presses ahead with progressive policies and the rest of the world fails to follow suit.
The CCC, an expert committee mainly comprising academics, says the fourth carbon budget will bring other benefits including less reliance on fuel imports, improved air quality and reduced noise pollution.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, said: “This report shows the clear economic benefits of acting to cut emissions through the 2020s. This provides insurance against the increased costs and risks of climate-related damage and rising energy bills that would result from an alternative approach to reduce and delay action.
“While it is essential to understand affordability and competitiveness impacts associated with the budget, the evidence suggests that these are relatively small and manageable.”
The CCC says the Chancellor George Osborne has no legal basis for challenging the budget now, and green groups have indicated that they would take a judicial review if he attempted to do so.
There will be a particularly close focus on the effect of the advice on the Chancellor’s gas strategy unveiled last year.
The CCC says the core scenarios in the strategy are in line with the fourth budget, moving toward average emissions of no more than 50-100g per kilowatt/hour in 2030. But one scenario aims for 200g – in excess of the budget.
The CCC says if the government accepts its advice, that would narrow the range of scenarios and increase confidence for investors who are being asked to find more than £100bn to renew the UK’s electricity system.
The report is predictably being backed by green groups but it has also found support from a coalition of charities campaigning on air quality, including the British Heart Foundation, Asthma UK and Clean Air in London.
A spokesman for the charities said: “We strongly support the CCC recommendations to halve UK emissions by 2027 – measures to cut carbon will also have significant benefits for air quality. Many of the root causes are the same, so efforts to tackle both issues go hand in hand.”
There are severe worries about the future cost of energy from large manufacturers, but the CCC has so far managed to keep the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) on board.
Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment, told BBC News: “It seems sensible to maintain the fourth carbon budget at this point in time.
“It would of course be prudent for the government to look again at the UK’s emissions reduction pathway once EU discussions have concluded, to make sure we remain aligned.”
This is a key issue. Benny Peiser from the climate sceptic group GWPF told BBC News: “Given the EU’s manifest reluctance to follow Britain’s lead, there is no chance that the government will adopt new unilateral targets until and unless there is a legally binding agreement at the 2015 UN climate summit in Paris.”
Lit Ping Low, climate economist for the consultancy PwC, said: “The committee’s endorsement of no change to the budget is important because it sets the tone for the direction of the policies investors and businesses need.
“But it’s important to remember it’s an endorsement of a target that is the minimum we should achieve, when what the IPCC report would tell us is that we need more ambition from all countries.”