Government should accept recommendation on fifth carbon budget

27 April 2016

The Government should accept the recommendation of its climate change advisers in setting the level of the fifth carbon budget (covering the period 2028-32) and also set a power sector carbon intensity target of 100 gCO2/kWh for 2030 to provide certainty for investors, says Energy and Climate Change Committee report.

Committee's recommendations

The MPs recommend that: 

  • The fifth carbon budget should include emissions from international shipping now that the accounting methods appear to be settled
  • The Government should work with international partners to secure an agreed mechanism for controlling aviation emissions
  • In light of Paris commitments to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the CCC should analyse what further level of emissions reduction is now required

The level of four carbon budgets have so far been set in law, covering the period up to 2027. The UK is currently on track to meet the first three carbon budgets but there are questions about whether adequate policies are in place to meet the emissions reductions needed in the late 2020s under the fourth carbon budget period. As required by the Act, the Secretary of State must set the level of the fifth carbon budget (for the period from 2028 to 2032) by 30 June 2016.

Chair's comments

Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP:

"We can see no basis for downgrading the UK’s ambition to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Indeed, to meet targets agreed at the Paris climate talks to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees, we may in the future need to cut emissions deeper and faster.
Meeting our Climate Change Act targets and commitments made in Paris will require action across the board. But decarbonising our power sector is – along with energy efficiency – the most cost-effective way of reducing our emissions. It will also be vital in reducing emissions from the heat sector and from transport, as we electrify our rail network and road vehicles.
The UK can’t afford any further delays when it comes to replacing dirty power stations with cleaner forms of generation. Investors need certainty and setting a decarbonisation target for the electricity sector would signal the Government’s commitment to phasing out fossil fuels.

Should the Government deviate from the Committee on Climate Change’s advice for the fifth carbon budget, we will be looking carefully for a robust evidence-base on any alternative level proposed."

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its advice on the level for the fifth carbon budget on 26 November 2015. It recommended that the budget should be set at 1,765 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), including 40 MtCO2e emissions from international shipping, which the CCC recommended including in the budget for the first time.


The Climate Change Act commits the UK to reducing carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. To meet this target, the UK Government sets carbon budgets, or caps in emissions, for each five-year period between 2008 and 2050. The budgets are important stepping stones on the path to 2050 and provide the certainty needed for policy decisions and investment to take place.

The level at which a carbon budget is set must be fixed in legislation "not later than 30th June in the 12th year before the beginning of the period in question". The Secretary of State must therefore set the level of the fifth carbon budget (covering the period from 2028 to 2032) by 30 June 2016. The Secretary of State must now set the carbon budget by laying a draft statutory instrument before Parliament.

If the Government chooses to set the budget at a different level from that recommended by the CCC, the Act requires the Secretary of State to "also publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision".

Further information

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