Thursday, 19 May 2011

DECC Announces Fourth Carbon Budget

The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released the Government's fourth Carbon Budget on Tuesday.  Britain was the first country to enact legally binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions that extend beyond the 2012 expiry of the Kyoto Protocol.

The 2008 Climate Change Act requires the Government to publish a series of five-year budgets that put the country on a path to achieving an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  The first Carbon Budget (2008-2012) limits greenhouse gas emissions to 3,018 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) - 23% below 1990 levels.  The second Carbon Budget (2013-2017) is geared to achieve a 29% emissions reduction, and the third Carbon Budget (2018-2022) put the Government on track to achieve 35% reduction below 1990 levels.

Under the Fourth Carbon Budget, which covers the period 2023-2027, total UK emissions will be only 1,950 MtCO2 - half of 1990 levels. The Government is now pushing the rest of the EU to adopt a more ambitious 30% emissions reduction target by the year 2020 - up from the current 20%.

Given the difficulty of replacing fossil fuels in the transportation sector (a topic to which we'll return in subsequent blog posts), other sectors will see disproportionate emission reductions.  In particular, GHG emissions from the power sector will have to drop  almost to zero.  All fossil fuel-fired power plants will have to have carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology - or cease operation.  Already, the 750 MW Tilbury power station is in the process of switching to 100% renewable biomass instead of coal.  Their fuel pellets will come from a purpose-built plant in the southeastern United States.  Imports of biomass for heat and power in the UK will likely skyrocket in this low-carbon future.

Similarly, few if any residences will be able to0 use natural gas to provide heat and hot water - renewable energy and efficiency will have to pick up the slack.

Achieving these ambitious reductions will require major structural changes in how we live, work and play.  The UK Government is providing an array of carrots and sticks in the form of the EU-ETS, Carbon Reduction Commitment, feed-in-tariffs and other policies to provide incentives for organisations and individuals to reduce emissions.  At Carbon Clear, we're committed to helping companies identify opportunities that arise from these shifts.  Keep watching this space for more ideas and analysis.

(to the Carbon Clear Homepage)