UK outlines climate priorities by sector

Consultation paper shows all economic sectors must take further action, led by business

All major UK economic sectors will have to take new measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if national climate targets for 2010 are to be met, the UK government said today as it launched a "national debate" on climate change.

According to a consultation paper unveiled by environment minister John Prescott, UK emissions of the six gases covered by the Kyoto protocol are projected to fall by 10% from 1990 to 2010 under policies and actions already planned. This is 2.5 percentage points short of the UK's legal commitment under the protocol to reduce weighted emissions by 12.5%.

More worrying for the government, its current policies will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by only 3% by 2010, compared with the UK's voluntary commitment to a 20% emissions cut. A full range of new policies affecting all major sectors - energy supply, business, transport, domestic, agriculture and forestry, and the public sector - will need to be introduced to achieve the carbon dioxide target, the consultation paper suggests.

Considerable investment will be required, according to the paper. Costs to industry alone will be "hundreds of millions of pounds per year," it estimates. The government stresses, however, that it will not take measures that would damage UK competitiveness or have "unacceptable" social costs.

Based on planned policies and actions, the energy supply industry is projected to make the largest single contribution to achieving expected emissions cuts by 2010, followed by commercial and industrial businesses (see table below). Domestic and agricultural emissions are both projected to fall slightly, while transport emissions are expected to rise marginally.

Business is seen as having the greatest potential to deliver further emissions cuts through new policy measures, especially through implementation of new energy efficiency requirements under the EU directive on integrated pollution prevention and control. The role that economic instruments, such as new energy taxes, could play, is left unquantified ahead of a forthcoming advisory commission's report on the issue.

The domestic sector could deliver the second largest contribution to further reductions in greenhouse gases, the consultation paper suggests, mainly through more energy efficiency measures. Transport comes next in the hierarchy, though more measures would still not bring emissions back below 1990 levels.

The consultation paper does not quantify the possible role that cheaper Kyoto "flexible mechanisms" might play in meeting UK greenhouse gas reduction targets. Policy options outlined in the consultation paper could therefore be seen as a worst case estimate of what will be necessary to meet the Kyoto and voluntary emissions reductions targets.

 Emissions (m tonnes carbon equivalent)
               1990          2010           2010
                            planned         extra
Sector:                     measures       measures

Energy*         72             59            54
Business        87             75            65
Transport       39             42            36
Domestic        47             41            34
Agriculture     26             22            21.1
Public sector    9.7            9.4           8.3
TOTAL          216            194           165
Cut, all gases               -10%           -24%
Cut, CO2                      -3%           -20%

* Energy sector figures show carbon dioxide also included 
under energy end-user sector emissions.
Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000. References: "UK Climate Change Programme: Consultation Paper," (posted on the environment ministry's web site under "Consultation Papers").

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