One of the most important policy decisions on energy and
climate change facing the Government is the obscurely titled ‘Fourth Carbon
Budget’. This sets the amount of greenhouse gas that UK can emit during the
period 2023-2027. It’s required to be set under the 2008 Climate Change Act.
Why is it important? Because the budget determines the UK’s
level of ambition on climate change.
It’s no secret that Treasury don’t like the policy and tried
to stop it being agreed in 2011. Back then, David Cameron chose to side with
the recommendations of his climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
At the time, the concession to get Treasury to agree was a review to be carried
out in 2014. This week, as part of that review, the CCC concluded there are no
environmental, economic or legal grounds to change the budget.
The ball is now in Government’s court. Green and low carbon
policy is widely reported to have been a major issue between governing parties,
Osborne spearheading opposition to further green policy. Yesterday,
Energy Minister Michael Fallon seemed to suggest the Government has every right
to defy the CCC.
Osborne cites “not
being ahead of other countries” as a reason for cutting policy commitments. But
would the fourth carbon budget actually put us ahead of other countries? The
review of the CCC’s international
commitments (see chapter 2) found that no,
this is not currently the case, and nor is it expected to be in future.
By battling against the budget, and calling for
decarbonisation targets to be ditched (along with the clarity and certainty
they would provide), who is George Osborne helping?
have found the Government’s positioning unhelpful. The CBI
supports the fourth carbon budget, and although the manufactures trade body
is against it, a
huge range of businesses (including many manufacturers), are supporting it.
Environment groups are supporting the carbon budgets as might be expected, but so
are development groups. Public support for climate action on renewable
high, largely because most people understand the renewable energy and energy
efficiency are the only ways to stabilise household bills over time and get us
off the crippling gas treadmill.
So who is George Osborne speaking for when he fights against
these measures? Clearly, there is a climate sceptic faction within the Conservative
Party, as evidenced in Greenpeace’s undercover investigation
last year. Media outlets like the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph are also
outspoken critics of green goals. But apart from that, there is actually very
limited support for Osborne’s stance.
There will no doubt be a political fight over the carbon
budgets. But whenever one hears the siren voice saying “slow down, dilute
ambition, lower targets”, think to yourself, whose side are you on?
organisations this week called on Government to back Fourth Carbon Budget