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Climate challenge

Posted 16/12/2013 by sevans

In its latest report on the 4th Carbon Budget published this week, the Committee on Climate Change says that there has been no significant change in the climate science, international and EU circumstances on which the fourth carbon budget (2023 – 2027) was set in 2011. Therefore, in these regards, the committee says there is no legal or economic basis to change the budget at this time.

The 4th Carbon Budget was designed to reflect the cost-effective path to the 2050 target in the UK Climate Change Act, which is to reduce carbon emissions by at least 89% relative to 1990. As part of the agreement to set the budget, the UK government said the budget would be reviewed in 2014. If there is to be such a review, however, then the Climate Change Act states that it must be based on advice from the Committee on Climate Change, and must consider whether there has been any significant change in the circumstances upon which the budget was set.

While the committee’s advice seems to be that there hasn’t been a change, clearly there has been a major change - the introduction of shale gas into the US energy mix. Shale gas has altered global energy markets and had a severe impact on energy-intensive industries like UK chemicals which have seen a major negative impact on competitiveness.

In response, Steve Radley, director of policy at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, emphasised that impact: ‘Industry will be deeply concerned that the Committee on Climate Change is advising that the UK remains on a unilateral trajectory towards a 50% reduction in emissions.  With other EU members showing little appetite to match our ambitions, this will continue to push electricity prices above our competitors and risks pushing investment abroad.

 ‘This move will this do nothing to reduce EU or global emissions or strengthen our claims to global leadership. By signing up to cost increases that are out of line with our competition, the committee risks weakening our manufacturing base and undermining its policy of “leading by example”. Government must now demonstrate it understands the competitiveness issues at stake by undertaking a hard-edged review of the Committee’s evidence,’ he added. 

The UK has a reputation for ‘going it alone’ but in this case, such a strategy flies in the face of the evidence that the Chemical Growth Partnership has presented to the UK government regarding the huge impact the sector is having to contend with regarding energy pricing. A review of the Carbon Budget could bring some welcome relief and show that the UK government is listening to its best-performing manufacturing sector.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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