The publication last week of the IPPC’s latest view on the science of climate change could not have come at a more crucial time in the climate policy debate. Its findings, that warming of the climate system is definitely happening: it is 90 per cent certain that humans are causing climate change and that a doubling of CO2 concentrations (to 550ppm) will result in a 3oC rise in temperature, have significant implications for the UK, EU and internationally.
In the next few weeks EU heads of government will meet for their Spring Council when they will aim to agree and sign-off the climate and energy package recently published by the Commission. The IPPC findings make it clear that the 20 per cent by 2020 unilateral target will not be enough if the countries of the EU are to stick to their commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2oC. If they are serious about sticking to this target then they must agree to a minimum 30 per cent by 2020 reduction target. Not only is this essential in itself but it will act as a catalyst for other countries to take similar action.
And in the UK the government will shortly publish its climate bill, announced in the Queen’s speech last year. Amongst other things the government intends to use the bill to legislatively commit to a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. The IPPC report makes clear that this is unlikely to be enough. In addition, early analysis shows that the UK’s contribution to the EU’s proposed 20 per cent reduction by 2020 may need to be as much as 40 per cent by 2020, much more than is currently proposed.
The UK is going to have to do much more and much sooner if its action is to match its rhetoric on climate change. Tough decisions are going to have to be made about the focus of climate change policy in the next few years. Green Alliance believes that action is needed in three areas if the government is to stand any chance of meeting the challenge outlined in the IPPC report:
Carbon trading The EU Emissions Trading Scheme will continue to be a central part of the future policy mix, but it needs to be strengthened and targets for the third and subsequent phases need to reflect the need to go further and faster.
Transport The fastest growing source of emissions in the UK. The government will have to get serious about tackling emissions from both road and air transport. At the very least aviation (and shipping) emissions need to be included in the emission reduction targets to be outlined in the forthcoming climate bill.
Heat The missing element in our energy policy, which has so far focused almost exclusively on electricity. But with space and water heating alone responsible for 18 per cent of the UK’s emissions, more than double that of aviation, it can’t be ignored. The forthcoming Energy White Paper will need to signal that the government is going to get serious and develop a coherent strategy for heat.
Green Alliance is currently developing a work programme focused on all three of these areas.
Russell Marsh, head of policy