Last edited 03 May 2019

Climate Change Act


[edit] Introduction

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.

[edit] Progress

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).

In October 2018, the government wrote to the CCC asking for advice about a roadmap to a net zero economy, including how emissions might be reduced and the expected costs and benefits of doing so. Ref

[edit] Net zero target

On 2 May 2019, 10 years after the Climate Change Act became law, the CCC published a report suggesting the UK can end its contribution to global warming by setting a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming was requested by the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments in light of the Paris Agreement and the IPCC’s Special Report in 2018.

The target is referred to as ‘net zero’ as it would be met by some sources of emissions being offset by removal of CO2 from the atmosphere – by growing trees, for example.

The report suggest that:

  • The foundations are in place to implement the policy throughout the UK.
  • Policies will have to ramp up significantly for a ‘net-zero’ emissions target to be credible.
  • The overall costs of the transition to a net-zero economy are manageable.

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said: “We can all see that the climate is changing and it needs a serious response. The great news is that it is not only possible for the UK to play its full part – we explain how in our new report – but it can be done within the cost envelope that Parliament has already accepted. The Government should accept the recommendations and set about making the changes needed to deliver them without delay.”

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UKGBC said: "Today's report marks a watershed moment in our efforts to tackle climate change. The UK must take responsibility as a global leader to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and the building sector has a crucial role to play in this transition. According to WorldGBC, achieving this will require all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 and all existing ones by 2050 – which will require outstanding levels of energy efficiency alongside zero carbon electricity and heat supplies."


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