The UK’s progress towards its carbon budgets - Analytical Note GA1

Topics: Mitigation
Type: Institute reports and analytical notes
Publication date: 2011



Authors:  Ajay Gambhir and Lola Vallejo
Published: November 2011


publication cover This analytical note summarises the UK’s current and projected performance against its carbon budgets, using a range of published sources. The focus is on the first three carbon budgets to the end of 2022. Further proposals covering the fourth carbon budget period (to the end of 2027) are due to be published at the end of 2011.

Key messages:

  • In 2009 the UK emitted 575 MtCO2e of greenhouse gases, compared to 783 MtCO2e in 1990, which represents an average annual fall of 1.4%. The UK’s 2050 legislated target is 80% below 1990 levels (about 160 MtCO2e);
  • Power generation is currently the single largest emitting sector, followed by transport and then industry. Together these three sectors account for over two-thirds of total UK GHG emissions;
  • According to the Government’s latest emissions projection central estimates (published in October 2011) the UK is on track to keep within its first three carbon budgets; 
  • The fourth budget was entered into UK legislation at the end of June 2011. However, the Government specified in its May 2011 announcement that in 2014 it will review the fourth budget in light of EU progress towards strengthening its 2020 target from a 20% to a 30% reduction on 1990 levels;
  • The fourth carbon budget is rather more challenging compared to a linear emissions trajectory between the mid-point of the third carbon budget (in 2020) and 2050, and also more challenging than an equal annual percentage reduction trajectory (about 4% per annum) over this period;
  • There will be an intense period of new policy activity across many sectors between now and 2014, by which time the third phase of the EU ETS, several of the initiatives in the Electricity Market Reform, the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Deal will all be in place.