Committee on Climate Change urge new UK climate policies

30.6.2010 (BBC)

Major changes in policy are still needed to meet climate targets despite emission
cuts brought about by the recession, say government advisors.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) calls for a “step change” in power generation,
insulation and transport.

Continuing to rely on “light touch” approaches will not work, it says.

The government says it is committed to being “the greenest ever”, and is expected
to bring in new energy legislation within its first year.

The is the committee’s second annual report to parliament, and follows a year
in which UK greenhouse gas emissions plummeted by 8.6%, mainly due to the recession
but also because of increased fossil fuel prices.

“The recession has created the illusion that progress is being made to reduce
said CCC chairman Lord Adair Turner.

“Our analysis shows that this is almost wholly due to a reduction in economic
activity, and not from new measures being introduced to tackle climate change.

“So we are repeating our call for new policy approaches to drive the required
step change, in order that the UK can ensure a low-carbon recovery.”

Price cuts

The committee selects four areas where it says the step change needs to occur:

  • Electricity generation, where the market needs to be reformed to take account
    of strategic priorities, with new “carrots and sticks” persuading generators to
    adopt low-carbon technologies, including early demonstration of “clean gas” technology
    and perhaps a minimum price on carbon
  • A greater push towards home insulation
  • Setting more ambitious targets for the number of electric cars on the road, and
    protecting funds aimed at speeding their introduction
  • Encouraging farmers to use fertilisers more efficiently, reducing emissions and

“We had less than 1 Gigawatt (GW) of renewable capacity added to the system in
2009,” said CCC chief executive David Kennedy.

“We need in the order of 2-2.5GW added each year over the next 10 years in order
to meet our carbon budget and European targets for renewables.

“Is it going to happen in its own? No; we’ve had a light touch approach for years
in the UK, we’ve talked a good game, but we’ve seen that emissions haven’t reduced
enough as a result of policies.”

UK emissions are currently 26% below the 1990 level – the baseline year most
commonly used national, European and global policy.

Until 2008, most of this fall was down to the “dash for gas” in the early 1990s
and a halving of methane emissions.

But the significance of the recession is shown in the government’s recent admission
that the 8.6% fall from 2008 to 2009 was the largest single-year decline in the
entire record.

The fall, said Mr Kennedy, makes it feasible for the UK to increase its 2020
target from the current 34% emission cut to 42% – the UK’s projected share should
the EU move from its current 20% target to 30%, as the government is urging.

But the committee stops short of recommending a unilateral move at this stage.

Green dealing

Responding to the committee’s report, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris
Huhne said: “As the Climate Change Committee makes clear, we mustn’t rely on economic
recession to cut emissions.

“There has to be an enduring shift to low carbon, driving growth in new technologies,
and it must be locked into the fabric of our economy in good times and bad.”

He noted that the coalition government was planning to overhaul domestic energy
efficiency through its “Green Deal” scheme, and was working to to create a Green
Investment Bank to help low carbon investment.

But Mr Kennedy said there was a lack of clarity about government plans in some
key areas, including electric transport, reforming the electricity industry, and
how fast home insulation would proceed and how it would be funded,.

“It is realistic to think we could double the pace of loft and cavity wall insulation
in two or three years if we get the policies in place now,” he said.

“The coalition agreement has good stuff in it, but it’s very top-level – and
the test of the government will be the policies they put in place over the next
one to two years.”

On the transport side, he noted that the UK has a substantial engine-manufacturing
business, and said that the future for those companies must lie in low-carbon
engines, notably those powered by electricity.

Environment groups used the report to call on the government for faster action
on emissions.

“It is clear that the UK’s current climate and energy policies are not delivering,
and the Committee on Climate Change is right to call for a step change,” said
Keith Allott, head of climate change with WWF UK.

“The new government should act quickly to adopt the 42% target – this would lay
the foundations for a green economic recovery, and also allow the UK to show true
leadership in Europe and internationally.”

Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Council, said: “The committee is right
to highlight the importance of our built environment.

“We need a massive programme of refurbishment for our homes, businesses and public
buildings, which will not only put us on a cost-effective fast-track to cutting
carbon, it will provide much needed employment in the construction and property



The figures and targets only include carbon emitted from the UK. They do not
include international aviation or shipping, and the do not include the carbon
“embodied” in the goods we buy from abroad.

See Monbiot on this at   (see below)



Committee on Climate Change

2nd Progress Report:

As part of its statutory role, the Committee provides annual reports to Parliament
on the progress that Government is making in meeting carbon budgets and in reducing
emissions of greenhouse gases.

Meeting Carbon Budgets – ensuring a low-carbon recovery is the Committee’s 2nd progress report. Within this report we assess the latest
emissions data and determine whether emissions reductions have occurred as a result
of the recession, or, as a result of other external factors. We assess Government’s
progress towards achieving emissions reductions in 4 key areas of: Power, Buildings
and Industry, Transport and Agriculture.

Meeting Carbon Budgets – ensuring a low-carbon recovery – 30 June 2010

Aviation is on Pages 19 and 20 of Chapter 1 at


Future work of the Committee on Climate Change:

… extract relating to aviation …


• Review of international shipping emissions.

The Committee has already provided a high-level

assessment of international shipping emissions in the

context of giving advice on the 2050 target. Further

more detailed work is required to underpin advice

on inclusion of shipping and aviation in carbon

budgets (see below).

• Review of sustainable bioenergy. Various forms

of bioenergy – biomass, biogas, biofuels – are

potentially key to reducing emissions (e.g. in power,

heat, surface transport, aviation, shipping, etc.).

However, there is uncertainty as regards the level

of sustainable biofuels given rising food demand

and therefore constraints on available land for

growth of feedstock. The Committee has provided

a preliminary analysis of bioenergy in the context

of the review of UK aviation emissions, and will set

out scenarios in the context of the advice on the

fourth budget. Further detailed work is required

to underpin this high-level analysis, both to inform

advice on inclusion of international aviation and

shipping in carbon budgets (see below), and to

provide more confidence on options for meeting

the fourth budget.



• Advice on inclusion of international aviation

and shipping in carbon budgets. This advice

is required under the Climate Change Act. The

Committee previously recommended that

international aviation and shipping should be in the

2050 target, and that international aviation should

be reflected in decisions on carbon budgets. The

Government implicitly accepted this advice, both

in adopting the 2050 aviation target, and in its

modelling of pathways to 2050. However, a formal

decision on whether the net carbon account should

be defined to include international aviation and

shipping is required in 2012 under the Climate

Change Act, following advice from the Committee.

This will build on high-level advice on inclusion of

aviation and shipping as part of the broad work on

the fourth carbon budget.

• Fourth annual report to Parliament. This will

consider emission trends, progress reducing

emissions and evidence of the step change


Carbon Graveyard

By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 5th May 2010

Almost half the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions have gone missing. Here they are,
and here are the amazing implications.


It’s not surprising that neither Labour nor the Tories wanted to run the Guardian’s National Carbon Calculator. Had they done so, they would have had to acknowledge that the figures on which
they base their climate change policies are a work of science fiction. The
government claims that our total emissions amount to 627 million tonnes of CO2
(MtCO2e). The Tories have never disputed this figure. It’s convenient for both
sides to accept this falsehood, and to pretend that the challenge is far smaller
than it is.

As the figures pulled together by the calculator team show, the real total (using
2007 figures) should be 950Mt. The government artificially excludes the greenhouse
gas emissions caused by the goods we import and the international travel we commission.
It’s not hard to see why ministers choose to overlook these figures. If just the
outsourced emissions (gases released in producing goods we import) are counted,
all the cuts the UK claims to have made since 1990 would be cancelled out – and
then some.

According to the government’s provisional figures for 2009, the UK has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 198MtCO2e since 1990. But the
Carnegie Institution for Science
estimates that we have outsourced 253Mt. The sad and shocking truth is that the apparent success of the UK’s carbon-cutting
programme, on which the government bases its boast that we’re a world leader in
reducing pollution, results from the collapse of our manufacturing base and its
re-establishment overseas.

So throw in 253Mt for outsourced emissions, 7Mt for the international shipping
we use, 67Mt for international aviation plus the 2Mt the government has failed to include for extra greenhouse warming
(not CO2) caused by domestic flights, and you discover that the UK has left 329Mt of carbon off its national accounts,
or very nearly 50% of the 2007 total (636Mt). The figure would have been even
higher had the team included the net 40Mt of emissions which
Professor Dieter Helm calculates is caused by UK citizens holidaying abroad (net means that the emissions from
foreign tourists holidaying here have been subtracted).

Even if the calculator achieves nothing else, highlighting this massive discrepancy
should shake up the debate and change our view of what the UK has achieved.

Just as striking are the figures for manufacturing and consumption. When I started
playing with the calculator, at first I skipped over the top category. This is
because, like many environmentalists, most of my work has been focused on efforts
to tackle our direct consumption of energy: the heat and electricity we use at
home and in offices, and the fuel we use for transport. I immediately ran into
trouble. However many wind turbines and nuclear power plants I commissioned, however
many drivers I shoved on to the railways and businessmen I dragged kicking and
screaming out of aeroplanes, I couldn’t get the totals down by anything like the
required amount. Only then did I notice how great a proportion of our emissions
come from manufacturing and consumption.

Consulting my book Heat, first published in 2006, I now realise that I used to
be half-aware of the scale of this issue, but somehow, in the midst of all the
excited debates about how our electricity should be generated, our homes improved
and our transport networks run, I had managed to forget it. So it was a shock
to discover that manufacturing and consumption (if you include the construction
industry) accounts for 541Mt of our emissions, or 57% of the true total. This
is a good bit higher than I thought in 2006, because the sector’s impact is massively
boosted by the outsourced emissions the official figures don’t count. The great
majority of the UK’s offshore total results from our consumption of foreign goods.
The exclusion of these figures from official accounts is one of the reasons why
we have neglected this sector.

Of the 541Mt caused by manufacturing and consumption, 223Mt is embodied in the
imported goods (minus food) we consume; 141Mt arises from the energy used by UK
industries; 87Mt from all food production and consumption (onshore and offshore);
19Mt from industrial process emissions (the CO2 released by chemical processes
like cement manufacture); 23Mt from the waste we create and 48Mt from the freight
vehicles (some of them excluded from official figures) required to move our stuff

Like most people in the environment movement, I spend my time talking vaguely
about the need to reduce the consumption of goods, but specifically – with figures
attached – about the need to reduce the direct consumption of energy. But however
well we insulate our homes, change our travel habits, alter the electricity supply
and switch to more efficient appliances, however much the public sector cleans
up its act and the efficiency of commercial buildings is improved, we’ll still
be only scratching the surface of the problem. The real issue is not our direct
consumption of energy but the greenhouse gases embodied in the goods we buy. It
strikes me that in focusing on direct consumption I’ve helped to give both the
government and business an unduly easy ride.

So here we bump into the second probable reason why Labour and the Conservatives
have chosen not to try out the calculator (
Simon Hughes of the Lib Dems did run the calculator and shared the result). It highlights the glaring contradiction in the manifestos of all three main
parties: they all seek to boost economic growth by raising consumption, but consumption
has already pushed greenhouse gas levels way beyond the point that they consider
sustainable. You can pursue a policy of economic growth and reduced carbon emissions
only by engineering a fudge of the kind the calculator exposes: offshoring one
third of our emissions, most of which arise from the goods we consume. The impacts
of rising consumption are hidden by excluding them from national accounts.

Only the Green party has approached this issue honestly, by accepting upfront
that economic growth is the problem and that current levels of consumption cannot
be sustained. It’s time we called out the other parties on their failure to acknowledge,
let alone tackle, this contradiction. And it’s time we all recognised that consumption
is the big issue.