Britain pledges to cut carbon pollution in half by 2025 (from 1990 levels)

Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, told Parliament today that the UK government will formally adopt plans to cut its carbon dioxide pollution some 50% by 2023-2027 compared to 1990 levels.

UK carbon budget chart

The AP reports, “The goal is part of longer-term legal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050.”

The NY Times notes this is one of “the world’s most ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions “” a striking example of a government committing to big environmental initiatives while also pursuing austerity measures.”  Striking, perhaps, but two years ago Nobelist Paul  Krugman said that climate action “now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump” by giving “businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities.”

Here’s some background on the decision from the BBC:

[Huhne] reportedly won a battle with Lib Dem colleague Vince Cable over the targets amid fears they will hurt the economy.But they will include an “opt-out” if EU competitors fail on similar aims.

The devil is in the details, as always.

The 2027 targets follow recommendations from the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change….

The 2027 target … forms part of reaching a longer-term aim of a 60% reduction by 2030.

The committee’s chief executive, David Kennedy, said he was “delighted” the government had accepted its recommendations and that it would “ensure that we make the right investment choices, maximising long-term growth and reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels”.

A leaked letter last week exposed a row between Mr Huhne and Business Secretary Vince Cable over the proposed targets.

Prime Minister David Cameron was reported to have intervened on the side of Mr Huhne after Mr Cable reportedly complained that the “too aggressive” targets would “burden” the UK economy….

Greenpeace has described the agreement as “rare victory for the green growth agenda” in the face of what it said was “vehement” opposition from the Treasury and the Department of Business.

The NYT reports that this goal is “far deeper than the European Union’s goal of cutting emissions 20 percent by 2020, and it would mean that Britain would make faster emissions cuts than other similar size countries, including Germany. The goal could require households to spend on new energy-saving devices for the home. It could also revive stalled government support for large projects, like those that capture power from tides and that bury carbon dioxide emissions.”

The paper adds, PM David Cameron has pledged that his government would be the “greenest ever.”

20 Responses to Britain pledges to cut carbon pollution in half by 2025 (from 1990 levels)

  1. LP says:

    I hope they follow through.

    But at least – with all the dawdling out there from people wondering if it can be done, not to mention the constant denier propaganda pushing to convince them it would be the end of civilization to even try – it’s pretty refreshing to see someone just say “OK, everybody shut up. We’re going. See you on the other side.”

    Reminds me of this quote:
    “The world is moving so fast these days that the one who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
    – Harry Emerson Fosdick

  2. Sou says:

    If cold, cloudy tiny Britain can do it, any country can do it. We just need to get going.

  3. Gregory Norminton says:

    A major achievement for Liberal Democrat Secretary of State Chris Huhne – but it seems some significant Tories backed him, including the Foreign Secretary William Hague, and indeed our Prime Minister.

    Cause for concern? The number of people in the Cabinet who baulked at the targets set by the CCC. There will be opposition to implementation, foot-dragging, and a steady drumbeat of dissent from our right-wing press.

    Cause for celebration? The developed world’s toughest climate cutting agenda is emerging from a CONSERVATIVE-DOMINATED government. Throw this fact at any American/Canadian/Australian conservative who thinks the climate crisis is only an issue for ‘the left’.

    An important development, following the greening of another centre-right European government: Germany. Let’s hope these developments bear fruit… and that they can shut down the obstructionist talking-points in the rest of the English-speaking world.

  4. greenboy says:

    Britain is without a doubt pushing hard on environmental issues, but there is still some resistance to change. For example on their Low Emission Zone project, where they’ll be banning certain vehicles from the streets. A lot of people are concerned this will only move the problem somewhere else, while some are faithful supporters. You can see more of the debate here:

  5. Will Fox says:

    Please fix the typo – “formally adopt plants to to cut its carbon dioxide pollution”

    Should read “formally adopt plans to cut its carbon dioxide pollution”

    [JR: Thanks. Darn that voice dictation software!]

  6. Heraclitus says:

    This is something we here in the UK can be genuinely proud of from our politicians. Congratulations to them for making the right choice. I’m sure there will be time to get cynical about potential loopholes, but for now I’m just going to say ‘well done’ on this forward thinking, particularly from a conservative government. I’m off to see our (Conservative) MP this weekend to lobby him on climate change and it will be great to be able to be positive about what they are saying, and maybe even doing.

  7. Steve UK says:

    Well, I’ve just had a new kitchen fitted which has cut my electricity usage by over 40%, so I’m good till about 2025 :) And the appliances will pay for themselves in savings over their lifetime. So take that Mr Jevons!

  8. Greg N says:

    The European country that’s had the biggest push for renewables in the past 5 years? Germany.

    The European that’s had the strongest recovery from the recession and is number one for GDP growth? Germany.

    Here’s hoping the UK will make genuine investments that will cut our oil imports and lead to prosperity, rather than merely set targets for future governments to break.

  9. pete best says:

    Yes Nuclear is in the mix though which is not to everyones taste I gather. However offshore wind and tidal/wave feature quite heavily too but so does CCS (remember that one) and so its yet to remain to be seen what we actually do manage whilt keeping the lights on.

    The source of energy is one target area but it is its uses such a transport by road (hybrids, efficient diesel and electric), heating (in the UK electricity, oil and gas mainly) as well as flight (which will not be touched)

    Tough times to go for.

  10. scatter says:

    Sadly I have to concur, Greg. The UK is very good at developing policy and setting targets but very bad at following through with meaningful action. If this doesn’t change, it’s going to catch up with us at some point.

  11. Ziyu says:

    Wow. In the US, you are ridiculed as a far left tree hugger “nazi” (yes I’ve heard this for real many times) if you even mention AGW or CC. Now it has grown more extreme with that kind of insult coming if you want government support for renewables. And now it’s gotten so extreme that they say that if you don’t support the oil companies.

  12. MarkF says:

    a lot of good things happening since fukushima.

  13. MikeB says:

    Although this looks like a victory (and is of sorts), its actual effect will be to hold to a target, but not actually do anything about it. Remember that this target needs to be reached by 2027. Thats 16 years away, which is a political age well beyond that of the current prime minister or Environment Sect. (whose messy private life and other factors might mean he doesn’t last the year).

    The Coalition says they will stick to the target, but this is essentially about politics, not action. Funds for feed-in subsidies, etc have been hugely cut, and there is no real plan other than business as usual. Nuclear is being subsidised, despite promises to the contary, and the recent report from Johnathan Porritt, which acted as a replacement report from the quango of his (which has also been axed) makes clear the reality.

    The government is not ‘the greenest ever’ – its actually one of the dirtiest. It has no real intention of doing anything about climate change, and we should see this for what it is – an empty promise. Its true that the government could have dumped the target, but it was much cleverer to say yes to something, but then send clear signals that this is just window dressing. If it keeps the lights on and the minister hsi job, then thats what will happen.

    Remember that David Cameroon said that the NHS would be safe? Actually he wants to privatise it. This is a classic case of following Molly Irvins advice. Look at the record, look at the record and look at the record.

  14. Stephen watson says:

    It certainly is a big step in the right direction, but as Caroline Lucas (The first Green ever elected to national government under a First Past The Posts system anywhere in the world said in response today:

    “”After weeks of dramatic politicking and bitter Cabinet clashes, I welcome this deal on the fourth carbon budget, setting the UK’s long term climate targets in line with the recommendations of the independent Committee on Climate Change.

    “But the fact that this budget, which ironically will cost the Government nothing during this Parliamentary term, was ever in danger hints at the ferocity of anti-green resistance within the Coalition – especially in the Treasury, making a mockery of George Osborne’s pre-general election claim that it would, under his Chancellorship, be “a green ally, not a foe”.

    “Furthermore, this deal is seriously flawed thanks to the Government’s failure to heed CCC advice on three crucial points. First, it has refused to toughen up the existing targets for 2013-2023, making the fourth budget harder and more costly to achieve.

    “Second, officials have slipped in a concessionary review clause which will allow the Government to backtrack on the fourth carbon budget in 2014 – reducing long term certainty on emissions reductions and potentially harming investor confidence in green technologies.

    “And finally, on the crucial issue of how we now meet the targets, the Government has shunned the CCC’s recommendation that the budget should be met through domestic action alone. Allowing the use of trading mechanisms such as offsetting essentially means outsourcing our emission reduction responsibilities to other countries – thereby weakening the drive to achieve more green technologies and industries, with all the jobs those can bring, here in the UK.”

    We will be watching…

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Greenpeace, not a shadow of its former self since it ‘accommodated’ itself to business, lets the cat out of the bag with the oxymoronic ‘green growth agenda’. One thing we know from Cameron’s career so far is that his words, like several other Western leaders, are worthless. For example his ‘pledge’ to ‘maintain’ the National Health System, which, in practise is being privatised. Cameron’s health adviser was ‘caught’ out telling private investors representing the magnificent US health system, that the NHS would be ‘shown no mercy’ and that huge opportunities for private profit were about to open up. ‘Green growth’ is like ‘sustainable development’, a mealy-mouthed humbug. The ‘green’ bit will be quietly dropped, but never the ‘growth’ in profits. The double-cross will simply be denied, even after it is self-evident. The Right can not, in any circumstances, be trusted to put anything, even human existence, before profits.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I hope the Australian govt notices this development, ME

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Lots of gremlins, prawns and other associated wildlife flying around at the moment. Sorry my name disappeared, ME

  18. Tyler says:

    It’s great for the U.K., but let’s not forget about the opt-out if the EU doesn’t match the effort. I mean, it’s like Canada saying we’ll go all aggressive on emission reductions if the U.S. does as well. Or the U.S. saying we’ll do it if China does it as well. Now, the EU is progressive but given the economic issues and implosion of the EURO does anybody believe the existing U.K. commitment will stand? I’m cautiously optimistic it will, but have also been repeatedly disappointed in the past.

  19. Byron Smith says:

    Worth saying that Cameron’s pledge to be the greenest government ever was made a year ago and until this announcement was widely regarded as a joke. Indeed, just days before this announcement, 15 NGOs wrote him an open letter warning that the pledge was vastly different from the reality and that only a dramatic turnaround could make it remotely true. Whether this represents such a step remains to be seen. I am sceptical, given the record of this government so far, but am pleased that they have not watered down their commitments (so far).