The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change and has been for quite some time, having legislated for a clear plan to reduce the country’s carbon emission levels by a minimum of 100% of what they were in 1990. The UK is the first major economy to enact this, growing its economy significantly whilst also reducing emissions by a whopping 42% from 1990 to 2017. Important to note is that the UK only contributes around 2% of global emissions and whilst this may still be of interest, when taking into account that China produce 66% of their electricity from coal, whilst coal consumption in India doubled between 2004 – 2014.
However, when it comes to about these larger contributors to carbon emissions, global warming and climate change, we hear next to nothing from almost every single climate change group, lobbyist or campaigner speaks up on this. Rather, the UK is continuously singled out and commanded to declare a ‘climate emergency’ as one of the ongoing conditions of these campaigners and groups, who ironically take it upon themselves to hold up traffic, causing traffic jams, idling vehicles and increased emissions through remaining stationary due to the protests in Westminster and beyond as well as the unnecessary obstructions (and red paint).
The UK Climate Change Act
The UK’s climate change plans were established through the Climate Change Act 2008, which implemented the Committee on Climate Change (the CCC). The CCC helps to both advise on how to stick to a carbon budget, whilst also monitoring the progress of the UK’s budget. Sticking to the UK’s carbon budget is vital in helping to reduce the UK’s emissions, and furthermore the world’s. In sticking to this carbon budget, the UK could help in reducing global warming from going above 2°C as much as possible, and continuing to outperform both the EU and much of the rest of the world who seem to lecture the UK on this issue.
The UK’s Carbon Budget
In order to meet the targets set out in the UK’s carbon budget, the government has broken the budget down into 5-year periods that currently go up to 2030. Within these five year periods has been set a legal limit to the amount of greenhouse gasses that the country can emit. The current planned budgets for the UK’s carbon budget up until 2030 are as follows:
|Budget||Carbon budget level||Reduction below 1990 levels|
|1st carbon budget (2008 to 2012)||3,018 MtCO2e||25%|
|2nd carbon budget (2013 to 2017)||2,782 MtCO2e
|3rd carbon budget (2018 to 2022)||2,544 MtCO2e||37% by 2020|
|4th carbon budget (2023 to 2027)||1,950 MtCO2e
|51% by 2025|
|5th carbon budget (2028 to 2032)||1,725 MtCO2e
|57% by 2030|
The UK is currently on its third carbon budget (2018 to 2022) and is set to outperform its set budget, contrary to what the likes of Extinction Rebellion may have many believe; both the first and the second carbon budgets were met. Interestingly, the CCC claim that the UK is not currently set to meet the next carbon budget (2023 to 2027), and that more “challenging measures” will have to be applied in order to meet the minimum 100% target. However, that said, taking into account the previous carbon budgets, the UK remains a world leader in this space.
Sticking To The UK’s Carbon Budget
The CCC monitor the UK’s carbon budget in order to ensure its being followed and help to suggest improvements on where the country can reduce its emissions in order to make this budget and continually perform better. The Committee have listed the following areas of focus that have proved effective:
- Agriculture – the Committee (CCC) assessed areas in the agriculture industry that would be effective for reducing carbon emissions. This helped to develop an Action Plan within the sector which aims to reduce its carbon footprint
- Bioenergy – by 2050, 10% of the country’s energy is planned to be met with bioenergy. As per the committees suggestions, the UK should see an increase in bioenergy usage, which will in turn help the country in sticking to its carbon budget, and thereby help reduce global warming
- Buildings – by 2035 the government is striving to have as many homes in the UK as possible holding a band C EPC. The CCC suggested that in order to help promote energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, the gas grid should not be connected to any new homes from 2025 onwards. The Government now plan to implement this recommendation, and announced plans to do so earlier this year
- Devolved Administrations – the CCC’s push to both reduce and monitor carbon emissions has also affected both Scotland and Wales. The Scottish and Welsh Governments have both received and accepted the advice from the CCC in helping to reduce their carbon emissions, and now Scotland is the “leading UK nation in reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009”
- Industry – the Government has set up the research programme the Industrial decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency Roadmaps to 2050. This programme is worth £1 million and sets out potential ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for some of the most “heat-intensive industrial sectors” of the country; these being Iron and Steel, Chemicals, Oil Refining, Food and Drink, Pulp and Paper, Cement, Glass and Ceramics
- Power – in the same year that the Climate Change Act 2008 was established, the CCC urged for a focus on the power sector in helping to reduce carbon emissions. The electricity market has seen some major reforms since this, all helping to reduce the costs of renewable energy, increasing its overall usage compared to less sustainable forms for energy
- Transport – the CCC has been pushing for the increase of sales, and therefore usage, of electric cars over conventional ones (ones that use gasoline or diesel). The Government have already claimed a phasing out of sales for new conventional cars, this being established by 2040. In addition to this, efforts are being made to reduce the cost of electric cars, thereby increasing their sales and usage over conventional models
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Through the enactment of the Climate Change Act 2008, and the carbon budget it sets out, the UK is attempting to make yet further significant advancements in the fight against climate change, although undoubtedly, we will hear the usual voices talking of ’emergencies’ and ‘a crisis’ no matter what. The carbon budget set out, if stuck to, will undoubtedly help to restrict the amount of greenhouse emissions the UK contributes to the planet, and further could help to stop the temperatures rising too far over 2°C, which is the constantly used figure of climate protesters and campaigners the world over.