The recent Paris Deal that was agreed after the Paris climate change conference saw almost 200 countries agree to keep global temperatures to under 2 degrees Celsius and to aim for a warming of just 1.5 degrees. So what does this mean for the UK and how should the government be changing its policies to comply with this?
Climate Change Act
Some within the government were quick to point out after the deal that the figures agreed were much the same as those already in place due to the Climate Change Act. The 2008 Act set a long term target with regards to rising temperatures and instituted five year review periods to see how the progress was going.
As part of the Act, the UK committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 based on the levels in 1990. However, forecasts are already showing that the target for the mid-2020s period isn’t going to be met.
According to one former advisor to Gordon Brown, now an advisor to New Climate Economy, the new international deal may force the government to look at toughening their targets. Michael Jacobs thinks that the new advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) need to examine the impacts of the new agreement and the implications of a 1.5 degree scenario.
At the moment, the government says that changes aren’t needed as the UK’s carbon budgets are working well. But the recent changes in policies with regards to renewables could have a negative effect on this. Cut backs on subsidies paid for onshore wind farms is one area highlighted as well as recent changes to the payments made to homeowners who are generating power from solar panels.
Opposition figures are already calling for the Chancellor to roll back these and a number of other changes made to renewables that could have a negative impact on the industry. Others say that the major governments around the world are putting policies in place quickly to start achieving what they agreed in Paris and the UK needs to follow suit or risk falling behind.
The CBI have also said that the government needs to provide a ‘stable environment’ that will allow the development of renewable sources of energy that are more affordable and secure. It does also back plans for new gas plants that somewhat contrast with the overall approach required.
Energy Minister Lord Bourne defended the cuts to the subsidies for solar power by saying that subsidies are needed to ‘get things moving initially’ but that no-one wants to be paying them ‘forever and a day’. He added that what was required was a level playing field and this was the position that the government was creating while gaining the ‘moral authority’ to talk about cutting emissions.
Pressure is strong to turn this moral authority into clear decarbonisation policies that will allow the UK to move forward in renewables and be able to fulfill what it agreed to in Paris.