The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advised that there has been no change in the circumstances upon which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was originally set in 2011 that would justify a lowering of ambition. Therefore the budget should not and cannot be changed under the terms of the Climate Change Act. If anything, changed circumstances point towards a tightening of the budget. However, the Committee advises that it would be premature to do so until uncertainties at the EU level have been resolved.
The CCC’s advice comes as part of an agreement with the Government that the budget would be reviewed in 2014. The Climate Change Act (2008) sets out the basis for the review: it must be based on advice from the CCC and only if there has been significant change in circumstances, demonstrated by evidence and analysis, can the budget be changed.
The report compares a strategy of reducing emissions through the 2020s with one where action is delayed until the 2030s. It shows that there are significant savings associated with early action (e.g. over £100 billion in present value terms under assumptions that the gas price remains at the current level, with much higher savings in a world with a high gas price). The only situation where early action would be more costly is if there were to be a combination of a low carbon price and low fossil fuel prices. This would be counter to UN ambition and to expectations for the oil and gas markets.
The report considers impacts from meeting the budget, concluding that these are small and manageable.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC said: “This report shows the clear economic benefits of acting to cut emissions through the 2020s…While it is essential to understand affordability and competitiveness impacts associated with the budget, the evidence suggests that these are relatively small and manageable. The Government should confirm the budget as a matter of urgency. This would remove the current uncertainly and poor investment climate.”