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All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group - decarbonisation targets

This month’s All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group (APPCCG) meeting centred on the age old problem of setting decarbonisation targets; the question being, are they useful milestones, or millstones around the necks of the energy industry.

David Kennedy, CCC
Joining the discussion at the meeting were several senior figures in the field, including David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), and until recently a frontrunner for the top civil service job at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Mr. Kennedy’s appearance at this meeting comes on the heels of an open letter presented by his organisation to Ed Davey, the minister at DECC, urging swifter action on establishing carbon intensity targets. Mr. Kennedy explained his concern that lingering doubt over whether legislative targets will be set dissuades investors in renewable energy technologies, and ultimately hampers efforts to decarbonise the electricity market. 

It’s worth noting that the UK already has binding targets for reducing carbon emissions; indeed, it was the very first country to enact such legislation. However, these targets will ultimately be assessed only in 2050, which on the political timescale is several lifetimes away. Further, the 2008 Energy Act that carries this legislation allows successive governments to exceed carbon emission budgets in the short run, so long as they reduce future budgets accordingly. Without intervening milestones between now and 2050, one can certainly see an incentive for incumbent governments to neglect decarbonisation- procrastination on a national scale.
Opposing this view was David Hone, the climate change advisor for Shell. Mr. Hone explained that UK energy policy should not be viewed as a closed system- indeed, our policy is linked directly to those of our European partners though EU-ETS, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. His view was that by enacting further legislation, the government would be unfairly constricting energy producers in the UK. Further, any emissions savings made in the UK could be offset by additional emissions in Europe, as the EU-ETS would simply sell emissions rights elsewhere.

Guy Newey, Policy Exchange
Another significant contribution was made by Guy Newey, Head of Environment and Energy at the think tank Policy Exchange. While Mr. Newey agreed in principle with the idea of bringing forward decisions on decarbonisation targets to 2014, he also made the point that uncertainty on this topic was a significant disincentive to investors, and that a quick and firm resolution to this question was essential; to that end, he could live with an imperfect answer. 

This blog is written by Neeraj Oak, University of Bristol
Neeraj Oak

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