Environmental Audit Committee

UK efforts to cut climate change will be 'meaningless' unless we get global climate deal - new report by MPs


Chair of the Committee available for interview / Contact: Nicholas Davies 07917488141

The UK's efforts to tackle climate change could be 'rendered meaningless', if world leaders fail to reverse the growth in global emissions by 2020, MPs on the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee warn today. Nevertheless, the Committee's new report on Carbon budgets calls on the Government to redouble its efforts to cut emissions quickly at home-to help build the international political will necessary to secure a binding climate deal out of the wreckage of Copenhagen.

The report examines the UK's current progress and finds that the Government is only on track to meet its first carbon budget because of the impact of the recession. Ministers have often been too 'optimistic' when projecting how much carbon their policies will cut - and there is now a worrying shortfall in delivery; UK emissions are currently falling by only about 1 % per year, instead of the 2-3% per year which the Committee on Climate Change say is needed.

Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said:

"The UK's efforts to tackle climate change could be rendered meaningless if global leaders fail to reach a deal to reverse the growth in emissions by 2020.

"We must send a clear signal to developing countries that we are serious about making an international deal work - by meeting our own targets more quickly.

"The slower our progress; the less credibility we will have internationally."

"At the moment, we are only on track to meet the targets in our first carbon budget period because of the impact of the recession."

The Committee said that the management of the carbon budget is as vital as that of the fiscal budget and requires the same level of political attention, civil service commitment, and parliamentary scrutiny. Although the scientific case for more stringent targets is growing, the Government should focus on making more rapid progress against its existing budgets. The Government must first deliver the carbon savings promised in its Low Carbon Transition Plan, then urgently bring forward new measures to increase the rate at which emissions are falling to 2-3 % per year and then move to tighten the budgets and increase the 2020 target for reducing emissions to a cut of 42% on 1990 levels by 2020.

The Committee is calling on the Government to:

  • Invest in establishing credible emissions reduction pathways that go well beyond what is currently regarded as politically possible.
  • Work in international climate change negotiations on getting emissions to peak as soon as possible as a failure to reverse the rise in global emissions before 2020 could render much of the UK's domestic action meaningless.
  • Be open to the possibility that as our scientific knowledge and understanding grows the case for taking action beyond the commitments we have already made will grow.
  • Ensure that policy makers in all parts of government have a good understanding of the importance of limiting cumulative emissions.
  • Move to a target of cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 42% cut by 2020 and implement the intended budget irrespective of whether or not the EU moves to a 30% target for cutting its emissions, but only once it has shown that it is on track to meet its current targets and budgets.
  • Deliver the carbon savings it has identified in the Low Carbon Transition Plan and then increase the rate at which emissions are falling to meet the 2-3% annual reduction recommended by the Committee on Climate Change.
  • Put the right regulatory framework in place to ensure that the right investment decisions are made and that we do not invest in the wrong high-carbon infrastructure.

Tim Yeo MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said:

"Setting carbon budgets involves making a series of difficult political judgments that balance what science is telling us with what is affordable, feasible and politically acceptable.

"On balance the Government has got these judgments right. Where it is falling down is on delivery."