Government accused of “fiddling” climate change commitments

11 June 2019

The Government has confirmed it will use “surplus” carbon emission credits to meet future greenhouse gas emissions targets.

The Government will roll over some of its surplus carbon emissions reductions, achieved during an earlier carbon budget period, to avoid non-compliance.

In a letter to the Government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), Science Minister Chris Skidmore said the Government had overachieved current targets and wanted to use surplus carbon credit to avoid noncompliance in meeting future Carbon Budget 2 commitments.

“… the Government will carry over a small proportion of the surplus (88 megatonnes of CO2 — out of the surplus of 384 megatonnes — which is around 3%o of Carbon Budget 2) whilst this work is completed,” Skidmore wrote.

Earlier this year, CCC Chair Lord Deben wrote to BEIS minister Claire Perry urging the Government not to use the credits, arguing that carrying forward surplus emissions, is not consistent with the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, and would make future budget targets of 80% target by 2050, even more difficult to achieve.

Plans to use surplus credits to ease the pressure on future legally-binding carbon budgets has been widely criticised by politicians and campaigners, who have accused the Government of "accounting tricks" that would shift the UK off the lowest cost pathway.

Carbon Brief’s Simon Evans said the rollover would allow UK emissions to increase during its next carbon budget — 2018–2022. Green Party MP Caroline Lucas responded to the news by calling it a “shocking ruse” by the Government. “We will never reach net zero by 2050 like this,” she added.

Mike Childs, Head of Science Policy at Friends of the Earth, told the FT: “It is basically saying, ‘let’s slow down on this transition’. And that will make it more difficult for us to make our end goal, the net-zero goal… It is not illegal, but it is definitely fiddling with the carbon budget.”

An earlier letter from Chancellor Philip Hammond to the PM and seen by the FT, warned against policies that would commit the UK to a net zero emissions target by 2050, saying: “On the basis of these estimates, the total cost of transitioning to a zero-carbon economy is likely to be well in excess of £1tn.”

The CCC, which is the independent advisor to government on climate change, have estimated the cost at £50 billion a year.