U.K. Has No Economic Case to Weaken Carbon Goals: Adviser

The U.K. has no economic or scientific cause to weaken its carbon targets, the government’s adviser on climate change said, reducing the chance ministers will alter a goal to cut emissions in half by 2027.

Britain charts its emissions cuts in five-year carbon budgets. In May 2011, it announced a target for CO2 output during the fourth budget for 2023-2027 to average half the 1990 level. At the same time, it pledged to review the goal in 2014 to make sure it’s in line with commitments by other nations and won’t damage economic competitiveness.

The goal “remains sensible in light of the latest evidence on climate science and international action,” John Gummer, chairman of the government’s adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, said today in an e-mailed statement. “There is no legal or economic case to reduce ambition.” Gummer is a member of the House of Lords.

The government would be obliged to explain if it doesn’t follow the committee’s advice when it makes a final decision on the fourth climate budget next year. The U.K. is conducting a separate review of green levies on utility bills amid a furor over rising household energy costs.

Today’s statement is the first of two installments. The committee will release final advice in December, assessing technology costs, feasible deployment rates for renewable energy, the impacts of shale gas, energy affordability and the security of supply.

‘Minimum Contribution’

The committee pointed out that a Sept. 27 study by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests “significant cuts” in global emissions are needed to limit the risk from global warming, and the limits in the fourth carbon budget are therefore the “minimum U.K. contribution to required global action.”

The committee also said that Britain isn’t acting alone, with many countries making “ambitious commitments.”

The study pointed to efforts by China to reduce emissions per dollar of GDP, lowering the so-called carbon intensity of its economy, and said the U.S. has a “good chance” of cutting carbon dioxide output by 17 percent over the 15 years through 2020. It also identified efforts “comparable” to those taken by the U.K. in Germany, the wider European Union and Japan.

The U.K. is pushing for the EU to raise its emissions-reduction target for the three decades to 2020 to 30 percent from 20 percent. It’s also calling for the 28-nation bloc to pledge a 50 percent cut by 2030 as part of a global deal to tackle climate change.

‘Low End’

“The fourth carbon budget is at the low end of the range of ambition currently being discussed for EU emissions reductions through the 2020s,” the committee said. “If the U.K. government is successful in achieving its objectives for EU ambition, a tightening of the budget would be needed.”

The fourth carbon budget is for Britain to emit a total of 1,950 million tons of carbon dioxide from 2023 through 2027. That’s 390 million tons a year, half the 780 million tons of greenhouse gas pollution the U.K. emitted in 1990, the base year for the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol treaty.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in July that the U.K. is projected to beat its targeted reductions for the carbon budgets periods 2013-2017 and 2018-2022. Preliminary data show the nation beat its first target for the five years through 2012 by more than 100 megatons.

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