Chancellor George Osborne wants the UK to
cut carbon more slowly in the 2020s. But with emissions
cuts enshrined in law, would the chancellor have a legal basis for
challenging UK carbon budgets?
Ministers have agreed a carbon budget which will
halve the UK's emissions by 2027, relative to their levels
in 1990. The government is due to
review the budget next year. Government advisor the
Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is likely to say this week that
there is no reason to change it - paving the way for a political
battle over carbon targets.
A series of carbon budgets
Under the Climate
Change Act, the UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas
emissions 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.
To achieve this, the government has set a series
five-year 'carbon budgets'. These require progressively lower
emissions, cover the whole economy, and are supposed to guide
emissions reductions down towards the overall target.
The government published the
fourth carbon budget in 2011. Taking the CCC's
advice, ministers agreed that the budget set between 2023 and
2027 would see emissions reach half their 1990 levels.
But the government also said it would
review the budget next year. According to the climate
change act, a carbon budget can be altered after it's been set
only if there have been "significant changes"
since the decision was made.
What does that mean? Well, the Act says
the government can take a number of things into account. Changes in
the scientific evidence on climate change, economic circumstances,
and the rate at which other countries are decarbonising can all be
This last one is where attention is likely to focus.
Osborne has warned that the UK acting faster than other
European countries would damage competitiveness. This may
be the argument that is used to push for a relaxation of the fourth