The UK is failing to act fast enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and might have to purchase carbon offsets to meet its 2025 goals, according to the Committee on Climate Change’s 3rd Annual Report.
This news is given more urgency this week when it was reported that carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere increased by 2.60 parts per million in 2010, more than the average annual increase seen from 1980-2010.
"The indicators show unequivocally the world continues to warm," said Thomas Karl, director of the US National Climatic Data Centre (NCDC), releasing the 2010 State of the Climate report, backed by the American Meteorological Society, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Met Office.
It says the world's climate is not only continuing to warm, it's adding heat-trapping greenhouse gases faster than in the past.
The CCC said that schedules to reduce emissions slipped in several areas in 2010. For example:
- the number of cavity wall and loft insulation installations dropped by 30%
- implementation of carbon capture and storage demonstration projects have been delayed
- “eco-driving" courses trained only 10,000 drivers compared with 350,000 required per year by 2020.
Without the cold weather last winter, emissions would have been broadly flat but needed to reduce by 3%. However, emissions in 2010 were still within the limits of the first carbon budget period of 2008-2012 because the impact of the recession caused a 9% fall from 2008-09.
The CCC’s chief executive, David Kennedy, acknowledged that massive emission cuts were never expected early in the first period. “The focus was always going to be on getting the policies in place, such as electricity market reform and the Green Deal (household energy efficiency programme),” he explained.
But he said that it was vital to insulate all lofts and cavity walls by 2015. Only 13,000 walls were insulated in 2010 and 20 million solid walls remain to be insulated by 2020. More effort needed to be done to decarbonise transport and shorten planning times for renewable energy projects too.
If it failed to take sufficient action, the UK would have to use carbon offsets purchased abroad to meet its 2025 CO2 reduction goal, he said.
In response, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne insisted the Coalition is on course, citing its “once-in-a-generation reforms of the electricity market, the Green Deal and the Green Investment Bank", which "show we’re serious about making the long-term structural changes that are vital to cut emissions and keep the lights on”.
David Kennedy cautioned that the electricity market reforms to be announced next month should include long-term contracts, such as so-called contracts-for-difference and prevent the existence of an “investment hiatus".
The CBI employers group supported the committee's criticism and called on the government to clarify a number of “grey policy areas", such as the Green Deal, electricity market reform and the Green Investment Bank.