House of Commons Library

UK Fifth Carbon Budget

Published Monday, March 19, 2018

A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on the UK Fifth Carbon Budget, including information on the Climate Change Act 2008, the Committee on Climate Change's proposals and the Government's Clean Growth Strategy. Information on progress against carbon budgets is also provided.

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The Climate Change Act 2008

Under the Climate Change Act 2008 (the 2008 Act), the Government must set five-yearly carbon budgets, twelve years in advance, from 2008 to 2050.  The Government is required to consider – but not follow - the advice of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC, also created under the 2008 Act) when setting these budgets.  The aim is to meet the 2008 Act’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels.

The fifth carbon budget

The CCC’s proposals for the Fifth Carbon Budget were published in November 2015, recommending a budget on a cost-effective path to the 2050 target.  The CCC proposed the budget should be set at 1,765 MtCO2e for 2028-2032 (or 1,725 MtCO2e if international shipping emissions were excluded), which would equate to a 57% reduction in emissions compared to 1990 levels.  The UK Government agreed the fifth Carbon Budget at 1,725 MtCO2e, passing the Carbon Budget Order 2016 in July 2016.

In its June 2017 progress report to Parliament, the CCC observed that effective new strategies and policies were urgently needed to ensure emissions continue to fall in line with the commitments agreed by Parliament.

The Government published its Clean Growth Strategy in October 2017, setting out a “possible pathway” for meeting the fifth carbon budget. The CCC’s independent assessment of the Strategy (January 2018) praises the Government’s strong commitment to achieving the UK’s climate targets, but calls on the Government to close the gaps it identified in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.

Progress in meeting carbon budgets

The first carbon budget (2008-2012) was outperformed by one per cent and current projections expect the UK to outperform against the second and third carbon budgets.

However, the Government's energy and emissions projections (2017) predict a projected shortfall of 3.3% and 6.7% against the fourth and fifth budgets respectively.

In the Clean Growth Strategy, the Government confirmed that it may consider using flexibilities available to it on when and how to reduce UK emissions on route to 2050, but that it would obtain the advice of CCC and consult the devolved Administrations before making a decision. The CCC does not support the use of outperformance being carried over to help meet later budgets.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-7555

Authors: Sara Priestley; Cassie Barton; Gabrielle Garton Grimwood

Topic: Climate change

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