Last edited 18 Mar 2016

Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act was introduced in 2008. It was the first time a country had introduced a legally binding framework for tackling climate change.

The Act is very wide-ranging. It sets legally-binding targets, creates new powers, changes the institutional framework, establishes systems to ensure accountability and addresses resilience to climate change.

The key provision is the creation of a legally binding commitment to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses by at least 34% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. The Act also requires the Government to publish carbon budgets setting five-yearly caps on greenhouse gas emissions.

Other specific measures include:

There are concerns about the cost of achieving the targets set out by the Act, and whether, if the targets become unachievable, the Act will simply be scrapped. There have already been some calls to repeal the Act, but after a review of all legislation with a view to cutting red tape, the Government appears to have confirmed its commitment to the Climate Change Act.

There is some suggestion that at present, carbon emissions are not falling fast enough and that this will be exacerbated by continuing population growth in the UK. In 2012, the CCC suggested that the pace of measures to reduce emissions needs to increase fourfold if the Climate Change Act commitments are to be met (see Meeting the Carbon Budgets - 2012 Progress Report to Parliament).

NB The Act requires a decision by 31 December 2012 as to whether aviation and shipping emissions should be included in the overall commitment to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses. If they are included, this may result in the need for greater reductions in emissions from other sectors.

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