Government facing legal action by Client Earth over progress failure towards carbon targets
Lawyers from Client Earth say ministers have been in breach of legal requirements to come up with a plan to make major cuts to the UK’s fossil fuel emissions. The Government is facing legal action due to its failure to come up with a plan to adequately cut UK CO2 emissions, to meet the UK’s international commitments on climate change. Britain has agreed to cut emissions by 57% by 2032. However it is currently nowhere near meeting that goal, and it is likely to miss the target by 100 million tonnes of CO2 [out of around 1,700 MtCO2] . The UK’s Emissions Reduction Plan should have been ready at the end of 2016, but this was first put off until February and then again to the end of March. It now seems even the March date is in doubt, though it is thought the climate minister, Nick Hurd, is keen to get it done. The delay is by officials at BEIS and other departments, including Transport. Client Earth has said if the Plan is not published by end of March, they could go to court. Barry Gardiner, Shadow climate minster, believes neither the officials nor the minister know when the Plan will be produced, or how to meet the targets. One of the difficult sectors is transport emissions. [The fact the government is trying to get a Heathrow runway through, with no strategy on aviation CO2, is presumably part of their difficulties].
Government facing legal action over failure to fight climate change
By Ian Johnston (The Independent)
Lawyers say ministers have been in breach of legal requirements to come up with a plan to make major cuts to the UK’s fossil fuel emissions for years – and further delays in its publication could be the final straw
The Government is facing legal action over its failure to come up with a plan to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to meet the UK’s international commitments in the fight against climate change.
Britain has agreed to cut emissions by 57% by 2032 but is currently nowhere near meeting that goal.
The latest expert report predicted the target would be missed by 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of all the greenhouse gases currently produced by industry.
The Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan was supposed to have been ready at the end of last year but the publication date was first put off until February and then again to the end of March.
The Independent can now reveal the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), which is responsible for climate change after Theresa May abolished the dedicated department, is no longer standing by this latest deadline.
Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the Government has a legal duty to come up with ways to meet its carbon reduction targets.
Environmental legal activists at ClientEarth had already put Theresa May on notice that it was considering legal action over the Government’s lack of progress on the issue, telling the Financial Times it had been breaking the law for several years.
And climate lawyer Jonathan Church said if the March deadline was missed this could prompt them to go to court.
“We’ve made it clear that under our analysis, the UK Government is already in breach of the Climate Change Act because its plans don’t deliver the emissions reductions the Act demands,” he told The Independent.
“If that remains the case come April, after many months of delay, that may be the moment to bring a legal challenge.”
ClientEarth has already successfully sued the Government for failing to come up with a plan to cut air pollution to within legally allowed standards.
Barry Gardiner, shadow climate change minister, said he believed the Government was now breaking the law.
The 2008 Climate Change Act “demands” that the Government must produce an Emissions Reduction Plan “as soon as is reasonably practicable”, he said, adding: “They are clearly in breach of the statute.”
He criticised climate change minister Nick Hurd, who had assured him that the March deadline would be met.
Mr Gardiner confronted Mr Hurd about a potential delay to the plan in the House of Commons on 23 January when the Government’s Industrial Strategy report was published. It said the emissions plan would be published “in 2017”, rather than “early 2017” as previously stated.
But Mr Gardiner said Mr Hurd had told him: “No, no Barry, it’s still our intention to publish by the end of March. That’s just loose wording on the part of the officials.”
“I said, ‘Can I quote you on that?’ and he said, ‘Oh yes,’” Mr Gardiner said.
“What it means is neither the officials nor the minister know when this is going to come out or how they are going to meet the targets.”
He said he believed Mr Hurd, known to be a strong supporter of action to address climate change, would “like to have it out as soon as possible, but his officials simply cannot get it together”.
“In order to do this properly, you need cooperation between Transport, Communities and Local Government, the Cabinet Office, Defra as well as BEIS… at least five departments,” Mr Gardiner said.
“Because the key areas we are failing on are not actually energy, power production and renewables. It’s actually energy efficiency and the transport sector. Housing and transport are key elements of this strategy.
“My view is nobody in those departments is prepared to play ball with them. Nick Hurd is the minister in charge of the brief. He should be damn well making sure that it happens – it’s his job to drive it.”
He said he did not want to call for Mr Hurd’s resignation “at this stage” because the Government had not actually said it would miss the March deadline.
And he added if Mr Hurd did quit it “would probably mean you ended up with somebody worse who didn’t even want to reach the March deadline”.
The ongoing delay is potentially serious because it means industry and investors will have less time to plan for the changes that would be required, increasing the cost of making them.
Environmentalists and the car industry, a key source of carbon emissions, found themselves united in calling for the Government to get a move on.
Tamzen Isacsson, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan promises to build on its commitment to accelerating take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles, so we welcome its publication as soon as possible.
“Plug-in electric, hybrid and hydrogen cars will deliver even greater improvements in emissions, but this market is still small – meaningful growth will require continued support through infrastructure development, incentives and a tax regime that will stimulate consumer demand.”
And Gareth Redmond-King, of conservation charity WWF-UK, said: “We need a plan that gives certainty to the renewables industry, to house-builders, to electric car manufacturers – to all the companies that will invest in the technologies and infrastructure that will not only tackle climate change, but will bring jobs and growth the UK as a result.
“The longer the Government leaves to publish that plan, the harder it becomes to cut emissions in time; any slippage beyond expected publication in March should give us serious cause for concern.”
When The Independent asked a BEIS spokesperson to confirm the March deadline would still be met, she refused to answer and insisted a question be emailed so it could receive a formal response.
Asked if the Emissions Reduction Plan was still on course to be published by the end of March, BEIS said: “Our emissions reduction plan will set out how we will reduce emissions through the 2020s and send an important signal to the markets, businesses and investors.
“We are investing the time now to undertake critical preparatory work to ensure we get this right. This includes engaging across businesses, industry and other stakeholders on the shared challenge of moving to a low-carbon economy.”
It is understood the Government is working to get the report published “as soon as possible”.
But Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and Environment, echoed remarks made by Mr Hurd at a BEIS committee hearing earlier this month that it was important to get the plan right, rather than rushing publication.
And he said one “major factor” was likely to be the amount of time civil servants are having to devote to the prospect of leaving the European Union.
“If it doesn’t come out in March, it will be unfortunate,” he said.
“But most important of all, it’s got to be credible.
“I suspect the delay is a combination of: it’s going to be a challenge to come up with the right policies and there’s a drag effect from having to worry about Brexit.”
The Committee on Climate Change recommended and advises that the carbon emissions from UK aviation should not be higher than 37.5 Million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2050. That was their level in 2005. The government is unwilling to agree to this. They want to push through a 3rd Heathrow runway, and that (unless the growth at most other UK airports was constrained) would mean this cap would be breached.
Next step towards low-carbon economy requires 57% emissions reduction by 2030
The Government should continue on the lowest-cost path towards the legal requirement to reduce UK emissions by at least 80% in 2050 on 1990 levels. It should commit to an emissions reduction of 57% by 2028-2032, the Committee on Climate Change says today.
The fifth carbon budget marks the half-way point from the first carbon budget period (2008-2012) to 2050. The scientific evidence confirms that without action to limit warming to the globally agreed level of 2°C, climate change will pose serious risks to the UK and around the world. The UK’s contribution – as set by the 2050 target – is in keeping with, and helps to promote, wider international climate action.
The UK has made good progress to date. Emissions have reduced by 36% on 1990 levels and if current policies are effective will be down by 43-46% in 2020. In order to meet the legislated fourth carbon budget (2023-2027) emissions must fall by 52%. The proposed fifth carbon budget continues along that trajectory, and would continue to cut emissions at lowest-cost to UK businesses and households. These are steady emissions reductions equivalent to 2% per year from 1990-2014, 3% per year from 2014-2030 and 4% per year from 2030-2050.
However, to keep within the emissions limits set by the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and to stay on track to 2050, a number of new policies and clear long-term signals to investors are urgently required. By 2030, the Committee’s scenarios to meet the fifth carbon budget involve:
- By the 2030s around 1 in 7 UK homes are heated using low-carbon sources of energy, helping to reduce emissions significantly and drive further innovation in delivering sources of low-carbon heat.
- By the 2030s, the majority of new cars and vans bought in the UK are fully or partially electric, removing a significant proportion of emissions from transport, improving UK air quality and potentially boosting UK manufacturing.
- By the 2030s, the UK is largely powered by low-carbon sources of electricity, delivering power with emissions of below 100 grammes of CO2 per kilowatt-hour (compared to 450g today). Low-carbon options in the power sector are important to support emissions reduction in other sectors, such as transport and heating, as well as to reduce emissions from the power sector itself.
- By the 2030s, insulation is installed in nearly all UK homes where it is cost-effective, reducing the cost of energy to households.
The Committee’s advice balances a range of statutory duties required by the Climate Change Act. This includes ensuring that carbon budgets are affordable, do not adversely affect the UK’s competitiveness, are consistent with energy policy, particularly security of supply, and ensure that potential impacts on fuel poverty are manageable. The advice also considers the implications of particular circumstances in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The fifth carbon budget delivers on all counts.
The advice is based on a thorough, independent assessment of the evidence. This includes an open call for evidence, roundtable discussions with industry and other stakeholders, and considerable new analysis. As well as representing the lowest-cost path to meeting the UK’s 2050 legal commitment to reduce emissions, action required to meet the budget would also deliver a range of benefits in the areas of health and innovation, the Committee says.
Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change,said: “The UK has been at the forefront of global action on climate change. As a nation, we have begun the transition towards a low-carbon economy. By legislating the fifth carbon budget at the recommended level, the Government will take the next important step. That will build on its commitment to the UK’s existing climate targets and send a clear signal to businesses and consumers that UK climate ambition remains on track through the 2020s and into the 2030s. This medium-term vision, balancing a range of considerations, helps to ensure the UK can continue to play its part at lowest cost to business and consumers while properly positioning our country for the environmental and economic realities that lie ahead.”
UK sets limits on CO2 emissions for 2032
5 July 2016 (Nuclear Engineering International)
The UK government on 30 June set a fifth carbon budget aimed at cutting carbon dioxide emissions by almost 57% by 2032 compared with 1990 levels. The UK ultimately aims to cut the emissions by 80% by 2050, according to the 2008 Climate Change Act. This requires the government to set legally-binding carbon budgets, which limit emissions for consecutive five-year periods. The budgets are designed to put emission reductions on an appropriate and cost-effective path to meeting the 2050 target.
The first three budgets were set in May 2009, following advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The first (2008 to 2012), set maximum net emissions at 3,018m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e), a 25% reduction on 1990 levels. The second (2013-2017) limits emission to 2,782m tCO2e (a 30% reduction), and the third (2018-2022) restricts emissions to 2,544m tCO2e (a 36% reduction). The fourth budget (2022-2027) was set in May 2011 and limits emissions to 1,950m tCO2e (a 51% reduction).
The Department of Energy and Climate Change has now announced that the fifth carbon budget (2028 to 2032) has now been set based on advice from CCC, which recommended emissions should be limited to 1,765m tCO2e, taking into account for the first time emissions from international shipping.
However, the government concluded “it is not appropriate to include international shipping emissions given [that] negotiations through the International Maritime Organization have not yet been completed”. It has therefore set the fifth budget at 1,725m tCO2e, which is 56.9% below 1990 levels.