Today marks the launch of the Committee on Climate Change call for evidence on the forthcoming review of the fourth Carbon Budget. This fires the starting pistol of what I expect to be a long running and difficult debate on whether the UK should be adopting out of step targets, or recognising our ability to reduced UK GHG emissions at an affordable cost. At a cost that will encourage others, globally to follow suit and deliver a long lasting downward trend in global emissions.
When the government adopted the fourth carbon budget in 20x11, it was a midst a row on the competitiveness risk of unilateral action on Climate Change and the strong rhetoric from some parts of government that it was essential that the UK goes no faster or slower than the rest of Europe. In the end it was agreed, in what was seen by many as a compromise that the fourth carbon budget would be reviewed in 2014. However, what is becoming less clear now as the review approaches, are its terms.
At the time, Business Secretary, Vince Cable that warned against agreeing to aggressive level of cuts that could undermine the UK's “attractiveness as a place to do business”. Now Lord Deben, Chair of the Committee on Climate Change has written to Ed Davey to “warn” him that the evidence underpinning the fourth budget had not changed and to some extent pre-empting the review suggesting that very little will change. In response DECC said it would review the CCC advise on the fourth carbon budget early next year.
So a review and a review of the review, the decision in 2014 will be a tough one for various departments within government
But is this another sign that the CCC and Lord Deben are increasingly out of touch on this issue and are setting themselves up for an almighty battle with the government. Only last week, Lord Deben suggested that solicitors' offices had done more to improve their energy efficiency than “terrible polluters” (Energy Intensive Sectors). The evidence in fact, shows that emissions from the industrial sector have almost halved in the last 15 years. What is true is that energy saving potential in the industrial sector is getting harder to find, and over the next 15 years it may well be easier for these solicitors' offices to find energy saving potential, than sectors that have been improving efficiency for decades. However, if we are going to meet our long term emissions targets we need a coordinated approach.
An approach with government, industry and CCC working together to find solutions, not one that pits government, NGOs, industry and the CCC against each other.Whatever the terms of the review of the fourth carbon budget, it is clear that the UK should take a close look at the cumulative impact of all its climate change policy, both unilateral and multilateral, and assess the risk of competitiveness.
The argument for tough emissions targets is that the UK has to set an example. However I can't think of any country or region in the world that will follow the lead of climate change policies that risk their industrial competitiveness. What the UK needs to do is show real leadership and prove that we can still meet our challenging targets while growing, rebalancing our economy and being competitive on a global stage.