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UK Climate Change Committee: “If you want my advice…”

Today, the UK government have been given some pretty important advice from the UK’s powerful Climate Change Committee which, if they take it, could add some much-needed momentum to the climate talks in Cancun this week.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) are calling on the UK to cut its carbon emissions by 60% by the year 2030 on 1990 levels, which would be a world-leading commitment.

“We are recommending a stretching but realistic fourth carbon budget and 2030 target, achievable at a cost of less than 1% of GDP. We therefore urge the government to legislate the budget, and to develop the policies required to cut emissions,” said Lord Turner, chairman of the CCC. “The case for action on climate change is as strong as ever: climate science remains robust and suggests that there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions. And countries acting now will gain economic benefits in an increasingly carbon-constrained world.”

To achieve this new target, the UK would have to totally revamp its electricity markets to encourage the building of a recommended 25 clean power stations during the 2020s. It would also mean an overhaul of heat-leaking homes, and a move away from petrol driven cars to electric.

If badgers could drive...New Nissan 'Leaf': Britain's first 100% electric, zero emissions car will be the future.

This bold (though necessary) new direction would actually benefit the UK with a major drive on energy efficiency and green industry.

However, at the moment this is just advice, and the UK government is under no obligation to heed or even legalise it. The government is still yet to confirm its long-promised target of 30% cuts by 2020. Though the Conservatives, when in opposition, did pledge that they would take the Committee’s advice, and become the “greenest ever government”. What better way to prove it than to accept these recommendations and set other developed countries a good example?

Though this is potentially good news, Laura Webster, Head of Policy at Tearfund, adds, “In setting ourselves long-term goals we must not switch attention away from the urgency of reducing emissions immediately. Every year of delay leads to serious consequences for poor communities being hit hardest by climate impacts. And every year of delay means that the hope of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees becomes more elusive.”

As yet the Cancun climate talks haven’t seen any great leadership from developed countries on moving to a zero carbon economy, or climate leadership of any kind, but this advice from CCC could be the push the UK government needs to make the kind of ambitious move we want it to, and lead the larger polluters like the US and China to do the same.

See the report from the CCC here, and let us know what you think!

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