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UK to uphold climate goals despite outperforming targets

Highlights

UK PM watered down some climate polices last year

Government must quadruple non-power emission cuts to meet 2030 targets

UK carbon prices at four-month highs

  • Author
  • Eklavya Gupte
  • Editor
  • Jonathan Loades-Carter
  • Commodity
  • Energy Transition Natural Gas Upstream

The UK government said May 21 that it will hold firm on its climate goals despite outperforming on its recent emission targets.

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The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero said it will not carry forward the surplus from its third carbon budget after it overachieved in delivering its legally binding emissions target by 15% between 2018 to 2022.

"By deciding not to carry forward our over-performance from the third carbon budget, we are doubling down on our commitment to reach net zero, and we're already halfway there," said Minister of State of Energy Security and Net Zero Justin Tomlinson

This decision comes a few months after the UK's influential Climate Change Committee warned Whitehall that it must not water down its emissions targets, and in fact must double down to reach its climate goals.

Reacting to this decision, Piers Forster, interim Chair of the Climate Change Committee, said it was the "right choice."

"We've cut our emissions by half since 1990. The next big challenge is to hit the UK's 2030 target, which is to decarbonize by 68% against 1990 levels. The government has made a sensible decision, in line with our advice, not to kick the can down the road," he said. "Now is the time for more investment in low carbon solutions across the country. "

In March, the committee had said the government needs to nearly quadruple the rate of non-power sector emissions reductions if it is to meet its 2030 goal of at least a 68% fall in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels.

Climate commitments

Prime minister Rishi Sunak's government has come under pressure in the past year after it was accused of watering down its climate commitments.

In September, the government scrapped proposals to ban the installation of gas boilers in new homes from 2025 and dropped plans to force landlords to carry out energy efficiency refits on properties.

The policy U-turn, including a five-year delay to the country's 2030 ban on new conventional car sales, was starting to undermine the UK's reputation as a leader on climate policy, according to policymakers and critics.

Sunak's government has been criticized for not doing enough to spur clean-energy investment, reflected in a steep price slump observed in the country's carbon price since last May.

But prices have seen a steady rise in recent week on improving demand for UK Allowances.

Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed UK Allowances at a four-month high of GBP41.61/mtCO2e ($47.22/mtCO2e) on May 20. Prices were trading at GBP43.10/mtCO2e on May 21 at 1326 GMT, ICE data showed.

Emissions decline

The UK has set a target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels, before reaching net zero by 2050.

UK greenhouse gas emissions fell 5.4% last year as gas demand for power generation fell sharply amid elevated energy prices.

Emissions in 2023 were recorded at 384.2 million mtCO2e on higher energy prices reducing demand for heating, official data showed.

When compared to levels in 1990 -- used as a key reference year by many countries -- emissions were down 52.7%.

The drop was due to reduced demand for gas used in electricity generation and households, though falls were seen across most sectors. Tepid household demand remained at levels not seen since the 1970s, reflecting high gas prices and warm temperatures.