MPs have warned government not to water down climate change targets in next year's review of the fourth carbon budget, and to address significant barriers to Green Deal take-up.
A report carried out by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) suggests that government’s Carbon Plan is out of date and it needs to step up to ensure a ‘green’ future for the UK.
Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Edward Davey responded to the report by assuring the public that the UK takes its obligations under the Climate Change Act, to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, extremely seriously.
“As the world’s most prominent climate scientists have said, we must not rest on our laurels if we want to avoid dangerous climate change,” he said.
“That’s why we are working hard both at home and abroad to cut emissions and help tackle the dangerous effects of climate change in an affordable way. We are reforming our electricity market to secure investment in low carbon energy and insulating our homes and businesses from the cost of fossil fuels. We are also working towards a binding global deal that will see all nations pledge to cut levels of carbon emissions.”
The EAC examined whether the emissions restrictions in the carbon budgets are still valid as an appropriate UK contribution to tackling climate change.
It found that the UK's existing carbon budgets represent the minimum level of emissions reduction required to avoid a global 2 degrees temperature rise - regarded as a dangerous threshold - and that the UK's leading climate scientists did not believe loosening the budgets was warranted.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee Joan Walley MP said: "Some commentators are intent on spinning recent developments in climate science to suggest we can relax our efforts to cut carbon, in the mistaken belief that this would be better for our economy.
"Given that emissions are currently not falling fast enough to prevent a dangerous destabilisation of the global climate in the coming decades, it would be incredibly short-sighted to slacken our carbon budgets now.
"The UK's leading climate scientists are saying loud and clear that there is no scientific case for watering down our long term emissions reduction targets. And the recent IPCC report echoes that message. Policy-makers must listen."
"The government should be introducing innovative policies now to ensure that Britain is well on the way to going green by the middle of the 2020s,” added Walley. “Ministers need to show much more vision on how we can cut waste, improve our public transport and insulate more homes and businesses from rising fossil fuel costs. If we leave these changes for another 10 years it will become much more expensive to meet our climate change targets and we will be left behind by successful green countries like Germany."
The Green Deal is the government’s key energy-efficiency policy to help meet our carbon budgets, but low take-up rates so far shows that there may be significant barriers holding homeowners back from signing up.
The most recent statistics show that only 12 Green Deals have gone 'live' so far, with a further 293 households signed up to the scheme. Back in March, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change Greg Barker predicted 10,000 households would be signed up to the scheme by the end of the year.
The report recommends government urgently review these barriers in time to introduce new financial incentives in the Autumn Statement 2013 to bolster take up rates.
Davey added that the Department for Energy & Climate Change would consider the recommendations put forward by the EAC, and respond formally to the report in due course.