UK to halve carbon emissions by 2025

New targets see Britain take the lead on climate change

The UK has announced new targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, which are the most ambitious of any developed country. During the period between 2023 and 2027, Britain will reduce emissions by 50% from 1990 levels.

Following advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change, the new targets were announced on 17 May 2011 as part of the fourth carbon budget. The carbon budgets each cover a 5 year period and are a requirement of the Climate Change Act 2008, which legally binds the UK to an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

The prime minister called the targets a historic step, which will make the UK a leading player in the global low-carbon economy. “This is the right approach for Britain if we are to combat climate change, secure our energy supplies for the long-term and seize the economic opportunities that green industries hold,” David Cameron said.

Energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, proposed that measures will be introduced to minimise costs of the low-carbon transition to industries exposed to international competition, and that Britain in 2027 will be a different place, transformed for the better.

“Today’s announcement will give investors the certainty they need to invest in clean energy,” he said. “By cutting emissions we’re also getting ourselves off the oil hook, making our energy supplies more secure and opening up opportunities for jobs in the new green industries of the future.

“We are reforming the electricity market, making homes and businesses more energy efficient through the Green Deal, ensuring that new homes are built to a high energy efficiency standard, encouraging the uptake of ultra-low carbon cars, and setting up a Green Investment Bank.”

Huhne said the government will aim to meet the carbon budget through emissions reductions in the UK rather than relying on international carbon trading, but will keep this option open.

Following a cabinet row over the budget before its announcement, Keith Allott, WWF-UK’s head of climate change warned that the Committee on Climate Change had made clear that the 50% target is the “absolute minimum” necessary, and that it should be achieved through actions in the UK rather than relying on emission credits from overseas. “The unwillingness of government to accept this recommendation suggests that some Whitehall departments are more committed to action than others,” he said.

However, he welcomed the report. “No other country has set legally binding targets going into the 2020s,” he confirmed. “The UK is demonstrating genuine leadership on climate change.”

Full proposals for meeting the fourth carbon budget are due to be published by the government in October.