The target had featured in three successive Labour election manifestos and is still extant, but chances of hitting it were lost years ago, once CO2 emissions stopped falling around 1997. Under the Climate Change Act, the committee was tasked with commenting on the consistency of its recommended 2008-2012 carbon budget with the ‘20% by 2010’ target.
"Our budget… has 2010 emissions at 14% below 1990," it says. "The government could in principle purchase [overseas carbon offset] credits to close the gap.
"In our view government’s focus would better be on designing policies to deliver the sustainable and deep emissions cuts required through the first three budget periods [out to 2022]."
Ministers are unlikely to disagree. Latest figures show that 2007 UK CO2 emissions were 8.2% down from their 1990-level. Carbon trading under the EU’s emissions trading scheme may bring this percentage down a little more, but nowhere near 20%. Only the most savage of slumps could enable the 2010 target to be hit.