UK sets new legally binding emissions target

Just two weeks after the U.K. Met Office reported that the country had experienced the warmest April and the 11th driest April on record (see Warmest April on Record, 3 April 2011), WWF International comments today (17 May 2011) on the U.K. government's newly announced emissions goals for 2025...

London, UK: The United Kingdom, the first to enshrine reductions in climate change causing emissions into law, today announced a 2025 target of a 50 per cent emissions cut from 1990 levels.

The target, enshrined in the 4th Carbon Budget for the period 2023-2027, was the minimum level recommended by the independent Committee on Climate Change. 

WWF-UK welcomed the decision, saying it represented a significant and meaningful step towards a low-carbon UK, although scrutiny of the detail will be vital.

But WWF also said the struggle the self-proclaimed "greenest Government ever" had to endure in order to agree it does leave concerns over how committed some Government departments are to tackling climate change.

"No other country has set legally binding emission reduction targets going into the 2020s and so with this decision the UK is demonstrating genuine leadership on climate change," said Keith Allott, WWF-UK’s head of climate change. "The Climate Change Act remains a groundbreaking piece of legislation that with support, will underpin the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

“However, we must remember that the Committee on Climate Change had made clear that the carbon budget agreed today is the "absolute minimum" necessary, and that it should be achieved through actions taken here in the UK rather than relying on emission credits from overseas.

"The unwillingness of Government to accept this recommendation suggests that some Whitehall departments are more committed to action than others."

WWF is keen to see more countries follow the initiative of enshrining emissions reductions targets into law.  The UK's Climate Change Act, passed in 2008, provides a framework for UK emissions to be reduced to at least 80 percent under 1990 levels by 2050 - a target consistent with the reductions advocated by the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The Act showed it had real teeth when Britain's High Court last year said the emissions implications of the proposed Heathrow Airport expansion had to be considered in the economic case for the project [see Judge knocks back Heathrow expansion on basis of climate impacts, 26 March 2010, WWF].

Online Resources:

UK proposes Fourth Carbon Budget: Emissions to be cut by 50% by 2025. Press release (17 May 2011) from UK Department of Energy and Climate Change. 

UK Department of Energy and Climate Change > What we do

> A low-carbon UK
> Tackling climate change

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs > The Environment > Climate change

Key UK Government Documents:

Committee on Climate Change:

The 80% challenge: Delivering a low-carbon UK. Oct 2007. By the Institute of Public Policy Research, WWF and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Zero Carbon Britain 2030: A New Energy Strategy. The Second Report of the Zero Carbon Britain Project. Centre for Alternative Technology, 2010.See also ZeroCarbonBritain’s web site .

Low-Emission Development Strategies (LEDs): Technical, Institutional and Policy Lessons [PDF]. By Christa Clapp, Gregory Briner and Katia Karousakis. OECD. November 2010. 

Report of the in-depth review of the fifth national communication of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  13 July 2010. Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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