climate change politics

Britain sets 5th carbon budget

With all the attention on party leadership, it’s easy to get the impression that the British government has fallen apart and nobody’s driving the boat. Luckily, the business of running the country is carrying on behind the scenes, and there was a very positive bit of news out this morning: Britain has released it’s latest carbon target, and it’s a good one.

The UK, as you may remember, was the first country to set legally binding climate targets. As part of that process, new targets are set for five year intervals, aiming for an 80% cut by 2050 (on 1990 levels). They’re a matter of considerable debate. Some argue for targets in line with the science, others favour political targets that don’t move Britain any faster than the rest of the world. It wasn’t clear which way the latest target was going to go, but the good news is that it keeps up the pace: a 57% cut by 2032.

This is important. It maintains accountability and keeps us on course. Hopefully it will settle the muttering about whether or not the government was going to scrap the targets altogether, although it still has to be passed into law. The main thing is to work towards steady progress. Lower targets would leave us with more to do at the end, making it much harder to meet the overall goal.

If you’re wondering where we are today, we’re on a 36% reduction on 1990 levels.


Yes, you can argue that Britain has offshored its emissions rather than culled them, but within the internationally established norm of national emissions targets, progress is being made. The big drop in coal use, and the planned phase-out of coal by 2025, are all positive developments.

To see if we can keep this up, we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the Conservative leadership race. Michael Gove is now in the running, and he gained notoriety in environmental circles a couple of years ago for trying to remove climate change from the national curriculum. Ed Milliband is calling on David Cameron to ratify the Paris Agreement before he leaves office, as the next Prime Minister may push it to the backburner. So we may still face an uphill battle on climate change action in Britain. But that’s to come. For today, a step forward.


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