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Climate Change Act

The inside of an empty Commons chamber

Britain has been urged to cut greenhouse gases by a fifth of current levels by 2020 — the toughest target so far.

The independent Committee on Climate Change, which made the recommendation to the Government, said the cut of 21% on 2005 levels was needed for the UK to play its fair share in combating dangerous climate change.

The committee was set up to advise the Government on the levels of carbon budgets to be set, the balance between domestic emissions reductions and the use of carbon credits, and whether the 2050 target should be increased.

The committee’s recommendations

  • Cut greenhouse gases by 21% of 2005 levels by 2020
  • By 2020 it should be made almost impossible to burn coal for electricity without technology to capture and store the carbon emissions
  • UK should not be able to buy its way out of its obligations by paying poor countries to cut carbon on our behalf.

The Met Office’s role

We have worked closely with all parties throughout the process of the Climate Change Bill and now the Climate Change Act.

As part of our role we have:

  • provided climate modelling for 10 emission scenarios to help gain a better understanding on the steps that need to be taken to avoid dangerous climate change
  • provided climate advice on a number of issues including climate sensitivity; carbon cycle climate feedbacks, and climate impacts and its thresholds
  • co-authored the technical annex to the underpinning climate scenarios and reviewed parts of the main report.

Dr Jason Lowe, Met Office climate expert to the Committee explains: "Extensive climate simulations from the Met Office Hadley Centre have been used to help the committee gain a better understanding on the steps that are needed to be taken to avoid dangerous climate change.

"To give an idea of the scale, 729 different models were run 350 years into the future for 10 different emission scenarios. This gives over 2.5 million simulated years of data."

Background to the Climate Change Act

The Climate Change Act became law on 26 November 2008, following years of consideration, as the Climate Change Bill, by Parliament.

It contains provisions that will set a legally binding target for reducing UK carbon dioxide emission by at least 26% by 2020 and at least 60% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels.

Key areas of the Climate Change Act

  • Creation of the independent Committee on Climate Change
  • Required Government to publish five-yearly carbon budgets, starting in 2008
  • Placed a duty on the Government to assess the risk to the UK from the impacts of climate change
  • Provided powers to establish trading schemes for the purpose of limiting greenhouse gas
  • Conferred powers to create waste reduction pilot schemes
  • Amended the provisions of the Energy Act 2004 on renewable transport fuel obligations.

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