Carbon Plan aims for accountability

The government's draft Carbon Plan for moving the UK to a low-carbon economy has set out its key policies along with timelines for delivery

The government has published a wide-ranging draft Carbon Plan, outlining its strategies for the UK’s shift to a low-carbon economy. It will be the main point of reference for policies developed in response to the obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008, but does not propose any new measures.

The cross-departmental plan outlines both existing and planned energy and climate policy, alongside a timetable for delivery and a breakdown of responsibility by department, providing a strong emphasis on accountability. It will eventually supersede Labour’s Low Carbon Transition Plan of 2009 (ENDS Report, July 2009) and the detailed departmental action plans for mitigation (ENDS Report, April 2010), taking account of the fourth carbon budget to 2027. But for now the transition plan remains the detailed reference work for the first three carbon budgets out to 2022. 

The new plan consolidates the various strands of energy and climate policy into a roadmap to be frequently updated, rather than advancing new policies. The government will report publicly on the plan’s progress, on a quarterly basis. The draft plan will be finalised in October 2011, but it is envisaged that it will be refreshed annually.

The Carbon Plan highlights three key areas of change for the UK economy: a dramatic shift towards low-carbon generation in the power sector, including renewable energy, new nuclear power and fossil fuel plant with carbon capture and storage, a step change in heating and energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and a reduction in transport systems’ emissions. It also reaffirms the UK’s desire for a 30% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for the EU by 2020 relative to 1990, and its intention to push for a new global climate agreement in Durban in December 2011.

There is little detail on specific policy mechanisms and an almost total absence of quantitative data in the draft plan. But there is considerable detail on policy implementation timescales by department, in line with the government’s structural reform plans. Key delivery departments with major carbon budget obligations include energy and climate (DECC), environment (DEFRA), business (BIS), communities (DCLG), transport (DfT) and the Treasury.

More detail will be added later in the year, once the implications of policy recommendations from the advisory Committee on Climate Change on the fourth five-year carbon budget have been considered and once key consultations, notably on electricity market reform, have been accounted for (ENDS Report, December 2010). It adds that there will also be indepth sectoral updates in response to advice from the Committee on Climate Change each October.

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