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Briefing: Fifth Carbon Budget and 2016 Progress Report

Briefing: Fifth Carbon Budget and 2016 Progress Report

1st July 2016

Government Backs New Carbon Target

The Government has announced that it has agreed to set a new legally binding target to cut emissions 57 per cent against 1990 levels by 2032.The Climate Change Act 2008 introduced a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% below the 1990 baseline by 2050, with an interim target to reduce emissions by at least 34% by 2020. The Act also introduced “carbon budgets”, which set the trajectory to ensure the targets in the Act are met.

These budgets represent legally-binding limits on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in the UK for a given five year period.The first budgetary period is from 2008 to 2012 (3,018 MtCO2e), and the next two budgets cover the periods 2013-2017 (2,782 MtCO2e) and 2018-2022 (2,544 MtCO2e). The levels of these budgets, which took account of the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change, were announced in April 2009 and subsequently approved by Parliament and entered into force in May 2009.

The level of the fourth carbon budget was set in law, following approval by Parliament, at the end of June 2011 as required under the Act. The level was set at 1,950 MtCO2e, in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation.Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) set out in a statement released online that: “The Government has agreed with the Committee on Climate Change and proposes that the fifth budgetary period covering 2028 to 2032 should be set at 1,725 MtCO2e.”


“This Government is a global leader in tackling climate change. Today’s announcement is especially welcome given the uncertainty caused by last week’s referendum." Hugh McNeal, Chief Executive, RenewableUK

"This unequivocal move provides much needed investor certainty and is the first step to ensuring the UK continues to benefit from the jobs and growth offered through the low carbon economy." Sepi Golzari-Munro, Head of the UK Programme, E3G

 “I warmly welcome the Government’s acceptance of the CCC’s advice on the fifth carbon budget. Amidst many competing demands it is to their credit that they continue to prioritise efforts to tackle climate change in the UK and internationally. The Government’s commitment to reduce UK emissions by 57% by 2030 will open up opportunities for UK businesses both at home and abroad. It also demonstrates the continued broad political consensus to tackle the serious risks posed by climate change.” Lord Deben, Chairman, the Committee on Climate Change 

The Committee on Climate Change Publishes Progress Report to Parliament

This is the Committee’s eighth annual report detailing the UK’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting carbon budgets. The 266-page report also outlines the criteria required of the Government’s ’emissions reduction plan’, due to be published later in 2016.Key points:Emissions have fallen by 13% in the last three years to 38% below 1990 levels in 2015.

However, almost all the fall in emissions has been in the power sector, as a result of reduced use of coal and increased generation of electricity from renewables. Emissions reduction in the power sector alone, or any single sector, will not be enough to meet the fourth or fifth carbon budget, or the 2050 target.The Committee judge that current policies are not sufficient to continue the good progress to date or broaden it to other sectors.

The recent vote to leave the European Union does not change the UK’s requirement to reduce emissions nor the required levels of reduction, which were legislated by the UK Parliament.

The Committee identified the following areas as being in particular need of policy attention:

  • Heat in buildings - progress improving the energy efficiency of buildings has stalled since 2012 and the take-up of heat pumps and low-carbon district heating remains minimal.
  • Transport policy beyond 2020 - policy will need to be extended through the 2020s to extend standards for vehicle CO2 emissions and increase the share of electric vehicles. 
  • Carbon capture and storage (CCS) - CCS is of critical importance to meet the UK's climate targets at least cost, and requires a strategic approach to its development.
  • Mature low-carbon generation - Effective policy has been developed to support mature renewable electricity generation through contracts for difference allocated by competitive auctions.

However, no further auctions have taken place and none are planned. The Government should provide a route to market for the cheapest low-carbon generation technologies.


“We have already made great strides towards our target of an 80% reduction by 2050 but there remains work to do. We are investing in innovation to secure cheap and clean energy that our families and businesses can rely on in the long term.” Spokesperson, the Department of Energy and Climate Change

“Yesterday, Amber Rudd was unequivocal that a tough stance on climate change will be an essential quality in the next Conservative leader. The CCC’s report today makes clear that a robust emissions reduction plan will be the first test of that leadership.” Sue Armstrong Brown, Green Alliance

“Today’s report sends a red alert that the Tories’ energy policies are dangerously inadequate and are sending the UK woefully off track to meet our climate targets. The Conservatives’ repeated attacks on clean energy over the past year have opened up a 50% shortfall to meet our carbon budgets beyond 2030.” Barry Gardiner MP, Labour’s shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary