Earlier this month the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC)published a report that showed how the UK’s 2050 emissions reduction target could be achieved. The analysis reinforced other studies that indicate that, rather than the crippling cost that is often suggested, the 2050 target can be achieved at a cost of just 1-2% of GDP. The report also pointed out that this cost was accepted by Parliament when the Climate Change Act was first legislated, given the much higher costs of doing nothing.
The CCC is an independent statutory body set up by the Climate Change Act to advise the UK Government on setting carbon budgets and to report back to Parliament on progress.
The comments on the cost of meeting emissions targets were made in a report by the CCC considering whether international aviation and shipping emissions should be included in carbon budgets. These emissions were not included in national budgets and targets when the Climate Change Act became Law in 2008, but the Government is required to make a proposal to Parliament by the end of this year on whether or not to include them or not.
The CCC recommended that they should now be formally included. For aviation emissions, the Committee recommends that emissions in 2050 should be no higher than 2005 levels, which would allow for some demand growth, given the increased fuel and carbon efficiency of flying.
It seemed inevitable that international aviation and shipping would eventually be included in national targets, otherwise they would be left out from any calculations. But the CCC suggests that it should be achieved through EU and global policies rather than a unilateral UK approach, in order to avoid competitiveness impacts, so it remains to be seen if or how it will be actually implemented.
But the fact that overall 2050 emissions reduction targets can be achieved at a cost of just 1-2% of GDP adds strength to the pressure to act. We’re not going to significantly damage the UK economy by implementing the emissions reduction plan – that’s much more likely to happen if we do nothing.