The UK Raises the Bar

Developed country leadership on moving to a zero carbon economy is in short supply. The positions adopted by many Annex I parties give the impression that they are dragging their heels rather than picking up their pace and embracing a greener future.
So the call by the UK’s powerful Committee on Climate Change for the UK to cut its emissions by 60% by 2030 on 1990 levels – and with the use of offsets “only at the margin” – is indeed a ray of sunshine.
The Committee is a statutory body under the UK’s groundbreaking Climate Change Act to advise on targets and monitor progress towards them. The Act sets a legally binding target to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, spanned by binding five-year carbon budgets.
A reduction of 60% by 2030 (and at least 50% by 2025), the Committee says, is achievable and affordable, with costs to the UK economy of less than 1% of GDP. In fact, the UK stands to benefit from a major drive on energy efficiency and developing new green industries based firmly on renewable energy sources.
There are also some strong pointers on EU ambition for 2020 and beyond. The Committee wants the EU to move to its long-promised 30% target as soon as possible. But in the meantime, the UK should move ahead unilaterally, at least for those sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading scheme.
The EU is also considering targets for 2030 as part of a ‘road map’ exercise due to report in the spring of 2011. The Committee also sets the bar here, calling for the EU to set a goal of around 55% below 1990 levels by 2030.
Here in Cancun, Parties are considering text which would require developed countries to implement Zero Carbon Action Plans – clear long-term frameworks to guide the transition to a green economy and avoid lock-in to high-carbon infrastructure.
Another key benefit will be to build trust that at least some Annex I Parties are taking concrete steps to deliver on their short and long-term targets. On this showing, the UK Climate Change Act is proving to be a pretty good model to follow.
Of course, the UK government now needs to act on the Committee’s advice. When he came to power in May, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that his government will be the ‘greenest ever’.
What better way to prove it than by deciding a strong, early acceptance of the Committee’s recommendations? After all, in the runup to the election he committed to implementing them.  
With new, strong policies to meet these targets, the UK would fully embark on the path to a green economy and reduce reliance on fossil fuel imports. This will also give a clear and powerful signal to other developed nations that a zero carbon economy is nothing to be afraid of, and every bit an enormous 
opportunity for the future.

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