Cutting carbon: Keeping on track after the referendum

The UK Government has announced that the new national carbon budget will be set in line with expert advice from the Climate Change Committee. It has committed to an emissions reduction of 57% on 1990 levels by 2030.

The budget is part of a plan to incrementally reduce UK emissions, leading to an overall 80% drop by 2050.

A clear legal pathway to reduce national carbon emissions is crucial to national and international climate ambitions. This is particularly so after the Paris Agreement, and in light of the announcement earlier this year that the UK will legally commit to net zero emissions.

Does the EU referendum affect the carbon budget?

The carbon budget must be passed in law immediately. The current political turmoil may excuse a delay of one or two days, but the Act is a domestic law and it gives an unambiguous deadline for setting the budget, which must be adhered to. Nor does the EU referendum result affect the level at which the budget is set.

Climate and Energy lawyer Jonathan Church said: “In a time of great uncertainty, this is an important move from the government. It indicates a commitment to upholding strong laws to protect the environment, no matter the political context.

“It means that we stay – though only just – on the path to meeting our 2050 emissions reduction target.

“Significant challenges remain. The government must now draw up policies to match declared ambition. The annual progress report released on the same day by the Committee on Climate Change underlines how pressing that need is. But this new carbon budget gives government and campaigners the boost they need to start working in earnest towards that goal.”

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Thomas Nugent