Environmental Audit Committee

Environmental Audit Committee

House of Commons

30 July 2007


Draft Bill would strengthen climate change policy - but tough decisions still required

The draft Climate Change Bill shows the Government is learning some lessons from the failure to meet its 2010 carbon dioxide reduction targets, the Environmental Audit Select Committee concludes in a report out today.

However, in its report Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, the Committee warns that very significant issues remain:

₠The UK's targets for 2020 and 2050 must be significantly toughened;

₠The proposed Committee on Climate Change must be given a stronger role, including a duty to audit the Government's emissions figures;

₠International aviation and shipping emissions must be included within the UK's targets;

₠Use of international carbon credits should be strictly limited and transparently reported; and

₠Government must focus more on the total amount of carbon emissions the UK can ₓsafelyâ‚? emit over the next forty years, rather than on simply hitting annual emissions targets in individual target years.

The Chairman of EAC, Tim Yeo MP, said: ₓThis report reveals a number of weaknesses in the Government's climate change policy. Carbon-saving measures have not delivered as much as predicted, and forecasts of future emissions have consistently drifted upwards. To make things worse, these forecasts have not been updated often enough, which means that by the time Ministers knew the UK's 2010 CO2 target was significantly off-track it was too late to do much about it.

ₓThe draft Climate Change Bill shows the Government has been learning from its mistakes. Enshrining carbon targets for 2020 and 2050 in law, with a series of five-year carbon budgets beginning in 2008, should help to focus on delivering emissions cuts in the short, medium, and long term. Rigorous annual reports to Parliament should ensure that the Government is quicker to respond when progress starts to slip. Most importantly, the creation of an independent Committee on Climate Change should provide expert scrutiny, and help to depoliticise the consideration of potentially controversial measures.

ₓBut four enormously significant issues remain. The 2020 and 2050 targets need to be significantly strengthened, in accordance with the latest science of where we need to be to limit global warming to 2oC. Our share of international aviation and shipping emissions can and should be included in the UK's targets immediately. And the use of international carbon credits must be limited and transparently reported - and not be used as an excuse for inaction at home. Finally, alongside the proper continuing focus on cutting annual emissions, far more attention must be paid to the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.â‚?

In more detail

This report draws on two specially commissioned studies by the National Audit Office. It looks at the lessons to be learned from efforts to meet the UK's domestic target of reducing CO2 by 20% by 2010 (which looks set to be missed by a significant margin), and asks whether the recent draft Climate Change Bill will help to put things right for the future. It finds that:

Emissions forecasting

₠In 2000 the Government projected that UK CO2 would be down by 19% by 2010 - but by July 2006 this had been revised to just an 8.7% reduction. With the addition of new measures, including Phase II of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (which will include the purchase of foreign credits), this forecast was increased again, but only to a 16.2% reduction.

₠The Government should perform much more frequent revisions to emissions forecasts. It should also consider a wider range of assumptions and scenarios and make its forecasting models publicly available.

Use of cost-effectiveness analysis to choose between climate change policies

₠The 2004-06 Climate Change Programme Review used cost-effectiveness analysis to help to decide which carbon reduction policies to implement. As the NAO found, many of the technical aspects of this process were done well. But because the Review was focused on meeting the short term target of 2010, it did not consider policies which would have a bigger but longer term impact.

₠In the future, there should also be more public scrutiny of the assumptions which lie behind cost-effectiveness figures, and which result in intangibles such as ₓThe benefit society received from increased use of in-car appliances such as air conditioningâ‚? being given the monetary value of ‚£170 million.

Need for joined-up government

₠The 2006 Climate Change Programme Review successfully involved the joined-up work of officials from several different departments and external bodies. But one major failure was the exclusion of fiscal policy, which remained the preserve of the Treasury. In the future, there must be an integrated approach to climate change policy-making, which considers the use of taxes and incentives alongside other measures.

Draft Climate Change Bill


₠The Government's policy towards the UK's 2050 target is clearly incoherent. The Government remains committed to limiting global warming to a rise of 2oC; but it also acknowledges that, according to recent scientific research, a cut in UK emissions of 60% by 2050 is now very unlikely to be consistent with delivering this goal. This target should be strengthened to reflect current scientific understanding of the emission cuts required for a strong probability at stabilising warming at 2oC.

₠The 2020 target should be amended to read ₓat least 32%â‚?, rather than ₓ26-32%â‚?.

International aviation and shipping

₠CO2 from international flights from the UK have grown from 15.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (MtCO2) in 1990 to 35MtCO2 in 2005, an increase of 123%.

₠Emissions from international aviation and shipping are excluded from the UK's targets in the draft Climate Change Bill. They should be included immediately. If not, the Government should publish forecasts which clearly indicate what the progress towards meeting national carbon targets would be, once international aviation and shipping were included.

Emissions trading

₠The Government must ensure that carbon credits are not used to forestall the early transition in the UK to low carbon infrastructure. The Government ought to adopt a code of practice for reporting UK emissions, ensuring this clearly distinguish between reductions achieved within the UK and reductions funded by the UK but taking place abroad.

Committee on Climate Change

₠As well as making detailed policy recommendations, the Committee should be given a duty to audit the Government's publication of emissions statistics to ensure these are transparent. It should also have a duty to comment on the modelling used to forecast future emissions and estimate the impact of individual policies.

₠New appointees to the Committee should be required to appear before the Environmental Audit Committee, to provide assurance to Parliament as to their suitability, and to highlight their thinking on tackling climate change.

Copies of the report will be available in hard copy from 11am on 19 March; and can be obtained from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons No 1718. The text of the Report will also be available from approximately 3.30pm onwards on its publication date, on the Committee's Internet homepage:


Notes for Editors

For further information on the report, or to bid to interview the Chairman, journalists may phone the Committee's press officer, Laura Kibby, on 020 7219 0718.

In connection with this inquiry, the Committee asked the National Audit Office to carry out two studies: Emissions Projections in the 2006 Climate Change Programme Review and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in the 2006 Climate Change Programme Review. Both are available from the NAO's website:



The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill, HC 460. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm