UK – Government tightens emission abatement targets

UK – Government tightens emission abatement targets
Published: 20 January 2004

The UK government has come under fire from industry after proposing a 16.3 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2008 when compared with 1990 levels. A Department of Trade Regulatory News Service statement said the proposal would require industry to further reduce their emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. Moreover, the country aims to cut carbon emissions into the atmosphere by 60 per cent by 2050.

The new target goes far beyond the Kyoto protocol, which aims for a 12.5 per cent reduction by 2012, and is bound to raise pollution control costs for a range of industries, including the cement and power sectors. In addition, some 2000 factories and power plants would be required to buy emission rights if they are unsuccessful in reducing their emissions. The emission permits are expected to trade at around £10 per tonne while penalties for exceeding limits will start at £28 per tonne in the run-up to 2008 and increasing to £69 per tonne thereafter.

Industry and business organisations have criticised the move as tantamount to “suicide”, pushing up electricity prices and forcing the industry’s production offshore to countries that are not committed under Kyoto. Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group said:” These proposals are counter-productive – they will simply drive industry offshore and raise global emissions. The UK is not in the lead – we are isolated.” Industry also fears that it would inhibit the UK’s competitive strengths, particularly if other EU countries did not undertake similar steps and the US and Russia are not even part of the Kyoto agreement.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Margaret Beckett said the targets were “challenging but achievable”. Green pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth have also welcomed the new targets, saying it would curb the UK’s reliance on “carbon dinosaurs”, the coal-fired power stations, which produce about 35 per cent of total electricity output.

During the last decade of the 20th century emissions have been steadily falling as numerous gas-fired power stations were commissioned. However, emissions are now creeping up again as generators switched back to coal as natural gas and oil prices surged. Preliminary figures for the first three quarters of 2003 show a 5.5 per cent rise in carbon emissions with carbon dioxide emissions increasing from 134.2Mta in 2002 to 141.5Mta in 2003, according to Keith Tovey from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.