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The UK will miss its legally-binding carbon budgets in
future without new policies, according to the government’s
Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

The UK’s first ever carbon budget running from 2008 to
2012 was met, the CCC says in its latest
Progress Report
, and there has been good progress on car fuel
efficiency, installing more efficient boilers and building wind
turbines. But that’s about where the good news for government

The first budget was met largely because of the 2008
economic crisis slashing industrial output and ripping a hole in
consumers’ pockets, the CCC says. Lower output and lower demand
reduced the need to burn fossil fuels in power stations, cars and

Without the impact of the crash and a particularly
cold winter in 2010, emissions would have fallen by around 1 per
cent per year between 2007 and 2012. To meet the fourth carbon
budget in 2027 that rate will need to triple.

Policy gap

The problem is that there is a large gap between
legislated policy and the ambition needed to push annual emissions
cuts towards that 3 per cent level. The CCC says this policy gap is
bigger than the government thinks because some policies won’t
deliver expected savings.

The CCC has called for greater ambition on climate



. But this report is different because it takes a much
more detailed and comprehensive look at government policies and
whether they will deliver as expected.

Adrian Gault, acting head of the government’s
Committee on Climate Change tells Carbon Brief:

“In previous reports
where we’ve identified a need for faster progress, that’s been
largely based around an assessment of how fast are we moving now
and comparing that to the rate of progress that’s required to meet
the budgets. This time around we’re actually going about it in much
more detail, assessing the policy measures that the government has
and assessing the extent to which we think those will deliver
carbon savings.

“For each of these policy measures that government has got
within its programme, we’ve tried to assess what savings in
emissions we expect that policy programme to deliver and what’s at
risk in delivery of that amount… Our view is that policies will not
deliver as much as government is expecting.”

This leaves a gap in the UK’s climate ambition
that will need to be filled if we are to meet future carbon
budgets. Gault says “government plans to fill that gap are
currently very vague”.

Emissions in 2025 need to be cut by 31 per cent (175
million tonnes) compared to the 564 million tonnes emitted in 2013,
the CCC says. But current policies will only take emissions down by
a maximum of 23 per cent, it says.

The parts of the economy that are part of the EU
emissions trading scheme will be expected to save 92 million tonnes
(41 per cent). The non-traded sector – the rest of the economy –
will be expected to save 83 million tonnes (24 per cent).

The policy gap for the non-traded sector is
particularly large, as the chart below shows. Of that 83 million
tonne saving requirement just 24 (green bars) is locked in. A
further 14 million tonnes of savings (orange bars) are at risk and
may never materialise, the CCC says.

CCC Progress Report 2014

The CCC has rated climate policy progress across
the board using a traffic light system. Green means things have
gone better than it expected. Amber shows slight under-performance
and red a significant shortfall.

The scorecard isn’t too positive with 18 red or
amber ratings and five greens.

Green ratings include: uptake of more efficient
boilers; car fuel efficiency; and progress on wind energy. The 11
amber ratings include: loft and cavity wall insulation; new nuclear
capacity; uptake of
more efficient appliances
; and

Red ratings include:
solid wall insulation
; low carbon heat in
buildings; the Green
energy efficiency scheme; electric vehicles
(there are less than 10,000 on the road); and
carbon capture and storage

Uptake of home heat pumps, home energy
efficiency and electric cars have been highlighted by some of
coverage of the CCC’s
But what are the biggest risks to
meeting future carbon budgets? When Carbon Brief asks, acting CCC
boss Gault isn’t keen on saying.

That’s because progress is needed across the
board, he says. If you look at the graph below it’s pretty obvious
why. Cutting out all emissions from any single sector of the
economy would be insufficient to reach the UK’s 2050 target, shown
on the right hand side.

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CCC Progress Report 2014

It’s always worth being reminded of the
massive level of ambition set out by the UK’s pioneering climate
change legislation. Even though the CCC has identified a big policy
gap on the road to that 2050 target, at least we are going in the
right direction.