The British government should stick with its goals for limiting greenhouse gas emissions even though the Treasury has criticized the ambition of the limits, a Parliament panel said.
The Environmental Audit Committee, which includes lawmakers from the three main political parties, said Prime Minister David Cameron should avoid any effort to “water down” the long-term targets now in place.
The comments are aimed at pressing Cameron to reject the advice of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who for more than a year has said the U.K. shouldn’t lead the world in reducing pollution from fossil fuels. Osborne is concerned caps on carbon dioxide emissions may harm the economy. The panel said Britain needs to do its part to prevent harm to the atmosphere.
“Given that emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilization of the global climate in the coming decades, it would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now,” said Joan Walley, a member of Parliament for the Labour opposition who leads the committee.
The U.K. limits greenhouse gas emissions through so-called carbon budgets. The government next year is due to review the budget covering the five-year period from 2023.
Walley cited evidence in a report by the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last month said humans are mainly to blame for global warming. It warned that emissions will cause heat waves and rising sea-levels before 2100.
The government introduced carbon budgets in the 2008 Climate Change Act to ensure Britain meets a legally binding pledge to cut greenhouse gases 34 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels.
Business lobby groups such as the British Chambers of Commerce have urged the government to revisit carbon limits, which they say drive up costs and energy bills.
Lawmakers on the panel said the U.K. risks missing those targets if the limits in the period from 2023 to 2027 are loosened. Britain may also miss the preceding budget covering 2018 to 2022 because not enough progress is being made cutting emissions from transport, buildings and heat, the report said.
The Committee on Climate Change, the government’s global warming adviser, wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Ed Davey Oct. 3 saying there’s “no legal or economic justification” for changing the fourth budget.
“The U.K. takes its obligations under the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 extremely seriously,” Davey said today in a statement responding to the report. “As the world’s most prominent climate scientists have said, we must not rest on our laurels if we want to avoid dangerous climate change.”
The government is on track to meet its first three carbon budgets, he said. Government accepted the fourth budget, restricting greenhouse gases at 1,950 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, in 2011 and set it in law, committing to review it in 2014.