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UK Climate Change Programme

With the passing of the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK became the first country in the world to have a long-term legally binding target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Act updates the UK programme on climate change that was launched in 2000, so that it now covers actions well beyond 2012. That is the deadline for achieving the cuts required by the international Kyoto Protocol.

Climate Change Act 2008

Under the Climate Change Act 2008 national emissions must be cut by at least 80% by 2050. The Act sets a framework for reaching this target in stages over the years leading up to 2050.

Governments must set carbon budgets. The budgets cap the greenhouse gas emissions allowed in each 5 year period. The first four carbon budgets have now been set by legislation. They cover 2008-2012, 2013-2017, 2018-2022 and 2023-2027.

Governments must prepare proposals and policies for meeting the carbon budgets. These are contained in the Carbon Plan of December 2011. They include:

  • reductions through mandatory schemes such as the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme (introduced in April 2010) and Climate Change Agreements
  • policies to promote low carbon energy
  • schemes such as the Green Deal for improving energy efficiency in homes and commercial properties.

The 2050 target and carbon budget system do not currently cover emissions from international aviation and shipping. The Government must decide whether to include these industries by 31 December 2012.

The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has policy responsibility for tackling climate change. Ministers receive expert and independent advice on carbon budgets and energy saving measures from the Committee on Climate Change.

The Climate Change Act 2008 also creates a framework to help the UK adapt to climate change.

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 replicates, for Scotland, the 80% emissions reduction target for 2050 in the UK Act. It builds on the framework for reaching it, by including both an interim target of 42% by 2020 and a requirement for an annual target.


Climate Change Act 2008

Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

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