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The UK government has announced a fourth carbon budget, aimed at halving carbon
dioxide emissions by 2027 compared with 1990 levels. Ultimately, the country has
set its sights on slashing emissions by 80% by 2050.
The UK's Climate Change
Act of 2008 sets the ambitious 2050 target. It requires the government to set
legally-binding carbon budgets, which limit the country's emissions for
consecutive five-year periods. The budgets are designed to put emission
reductions on an appropriate and cost-effective path to meeting the 2050 target.
The first three budgets were set in May 2009, following advice from the
independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The first (for the period 2008 to
2012), set maximum net emissions at 3018 million tonnes of carbon dioxide
equivalent (tCO2e), a 22% reduction on 1990 levels. The second budget
(2013-2017) limits emission to 2782 million tCO2e (a 28% reduction), while the
third budget (2018-2022) restricts emissions to 34 million tCO2e (a 34% cut).
UK secretary for energy and climate change Chris Huhne has now announced that
the government's acceptance of CCC recommendations on a fourth carbon budget for
the period 2023 to 2027. This must be set in law by the end of June and would
limit greenhouse gas emissions during this period to 1950 million tCO2e, a 50%
reduction on 1990 levels.
Speaking to Parliament, Huhne said the "ambitious but achievable" targets would
provide "long-term clarity for investors" and "place the UK at the leading edge
of the global low-carbon industrial transformation." Huhne said that the CCC
advised that the budget should be met through emissions reductions in the UK
rather than via carbon trading, such as under the European Union (EU) Emissions
Trading System or the purchase of international credits from overseas projects.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the UK government
will continue to argue for an EU move to a target of a 30% reduction in CO2
emissions by 2020, instead of the current 20% target. It will publish by the end
of the year "a package of measures to reduce the impact of government policy on
the cost of electricity for energy intensive industries and to help them adjust
to the low-carbon industrial transformation."
British prime minister David Cameron said: "The transition to a low-carbon
economy is necessary, real, and global. By stepping up, showing leadership and
competing with the world, the UK can prove that there need not be a tension
between green and growth."
David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, welcomed the government's acceptance
of the committee's recommendations on the fourth carbon budget. He said, "This
is a world first: no other country has made such an ambitious, legally-binding
commitment to achieving deep emission cuts in the mid-2020s. Setting and meeting
the carbon budget will place the UK in a strong position, both in terms of
meeting the 2050 target, and building an economy very well placed to prosper in
a low-carbon world."
In its recommendations for the fourth carbon budget submitted to government in
December 2010, the CCC saw nuclear power playing an important role in cutting
emissions in the electricity generation sector.
According to the committee, "Nuclear new build is highly likely to be a
cost-effective form of low-carbon power generation." However, it said,
"Cost-effectiveness will depend on how nuclear is operated, with lower costs
when operating as baseload plant, although operation at lower load factors may
be viable." It added, "Nuclear could in principle make a cost-effective
contribution to baseload and mid-merit generation, assuming an effective
strategy for waste and decommissioning, and with the specific role depending on
the extent to which it can be deployed in a timely manner."
"Given current projects under development, the first new nuclear plant in the UK
could come on the system in 2018, with deployment of more than one plant a year
potentially possible from the early 2020," the committee noted.
The CCC concluded, "As a supplier of reliable baseload power, nuclear can make a
crucial contribution to a technically secure and diverse low-carbon power