UK Can’t Roll Over CO2 Budget Surplus, Climate Watchdog Warns - Hindustan Times
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UK Can’t Roll Over CO2 Budget Surplus, Climate Watchdog Warns

Bloomberg |
Feb 28, 2024 07:51 AM IST

The UK can’t use its past success at curbing emissions as a reason to slow down its current climate plans, or its net zero goal risks being out of reach, according to an independent advisory panel to the government.

(Bloomberg) -- The UK can’t use its past success at curbing emissions as a reason to slow down its current climate plans, or its net zero goal risks being out of reach, according to an independent advisory panel to the government. 

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Britain cut more emissions than required from 2018 to 2022 because of the economy-shrinking effects of the pandemic. The government asked the Climate Change Committee if that surplus could be applied to the next review period, effectively allowing the UK to produce more emissions without technically going over the limit.

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The clear answer from the oversight body is “no.”

“We need to build on our success to date by accelerating, not slowing down, emissions reductions in all sectors outside electricity supply,” Piers Forster, interim chair of the CCC, wrote in a letter to Energy Minister Graham Stuart, published Wednesday.

Britain has a legally binding target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. It uses so-called carbon budgets to measure the amount of pollution the country releases into the atmosphere over a five-year period. During the most recent budget, the UK had a surplus — meaning it cut emissions more than required. 

“The Committee’s unequivocal advice is that surplus emissions from the Third Carbon Budget should not be carried forward,” Forster said in his letter. “It is essential that an ambitious path of emissions reduction is maintained towards Net Zero.”

Much of Britain’s success at cutting emissions has come from the electricity sector, which has basically eliminated coal plants and replaced them with wind power and lesser-emitting gas-fired stations. Emissions from industry have also dropped because of lower production. 

In most other sectors, including home heating and transportation, Britain isn’t on track to meet its goals, Forster wrote. Recent analysis by consultancy DNV showed that without significant policy changes, about 60% of British homes would still burn natural gas to heat their homes in 2050.

Carrying forward the previous carbon budget surplus would also weaken the message that the country is sending to investors about the certainty of the UK’s trajectory toward net zero, Forster wrote. That could ultimately make achieving the country’s climate goals harder and more expensive.

--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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