running a green office

5 year carbon budgets

Businesses have mainly welcomed the draft version of the UK’s climate change bill, in particular the extra stability five year carbon reduction targets will bring. Britain plans to become the first country in the world to set legally binding carbon reduction targets in a bid to reduce carbon by 60% by 2050. The government proposes a “carbon budget” set every five years.

An independent committee on climate change will be set up with experts from science, business, technology and economics. It will provide an annual progress report and advise the government of the five year “carbon budgets” which will be set at least 15 years in advance. Failure to meet the targets could lead to future governments being taken to court.

Environmental Secretary David Miliband says the plan would be “the first of its kind in any country”. The proposals will be subject to a consultation period which ends on June 12th (click here for more details on the consultation period), as part of the draft Climate Change Bill, which will become law next year.

But despite the novelty there has been much criticism of the measures, which have been seen as vague and unambitious. There are no real short-term targets, (which the government argues would be impractical) merely long-term goals making it difficult for businesses looking for guidance on exactly how the new goals will be met.

Opposition parties want annual targets and green campaigners say the 2050 target should be raised to 80% and annual targets set at a 3% year reduction. Opponents fear failures to meet targets will merely be passed from one government to another. In addition, potentially unpopular carbon reduction policies, such as higher taxes, could be delayed by the government of the day for electoral rather than environmental purposes.

The UK plans to reduce carbon emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2050, and between 26% and 32% by 2020. Plans for greener homes with better energy efficiency, investment in low carbon fuels and technologies such as carbon capture and storage, wind, wave and solar power are also in the pipeline. The government will be able to fast track new policies to tackle climate change, including new trading schemes for sectors not covered by the European trading scheme. Fast track policies will mean businesses should adopt best practice policies quickly as the gap between proposed legislation and implementation will shorten considerably.

But there are no policies on airport expansion, car emissions or carbon allowances for separate households. The full bill will be published in the autumn.

The government has also published a strategy document (click here to see the document), which highlights the areas most likely to see investment and legislation such as solar wind and wave power, carbon capture, on site renewables and energy efficiency.

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