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UK proposes Fourth Carbon Budget for 2023-2027; emissions to be cut by 50% from 1990 levels; indicative target of 60% reduction by 2030; >1% of GDP

From the 2050 target to an indicative 2030 target and a 2023-2027 budget. Source: Fourth Carbon Budget. Click to enlarge.

The UK Government has proposed its Fourth Carbon Budget—a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases to be emitted by the UK for the five-year period spanning 2023 to 2027. The proposal, set out by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, is in line with advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change and sets a fourth carbon budget of 1950 MtCO2e for the period; this level would represent a 50% reduction from 1990 levels.

The proposal also submits an indicative 2030 target of around 310 MtCO2e from today’s level of 574 MtCO2e—a 60% reduction relative to 1990. This 46% reduction over the next twenty years will require a subsequent 62% reduction between 2030 and 2050 to meet the 2050 target of at least an 80% reduction, the budget report says. The report finds that the cost of meeting the fourth carbon budget and the 2030 indicative target would be less than 1% GDP.

We believe that this “backending” is justifiable given the feasibility of accelerated emissions reductions in the 2030s and 40s if key enabling technologies and conditions (e.g. a largely decarbonized power sector) are in place by 2030. But any less ambitious target for 2030 would endanger the feasibility of the path to 2050.

—Fourth Carbon Budget

Scenario for 2030 on path to 2050. Click to enlarge.

The Climate Change Act 2008 sets a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. The Act also requires Government to set carbon budgets, which are limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the UK for consecutive five year periods. These carbon budgets must be set at least three budget periods in advance. They are designed to put emission reductions on an appropriate and cost-effective pathway to the 2050 target.

Under the Climate Change Act, the fourth carbon budget for the five-year period from 2023 to 2027 must be set in Parliament by 30 June 2011. Once proposals have been laid before Parliament they will be debated by both houses. The first three carbon budgets were set in 2009, following advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change.

UK 5-year Carbon Budgets
 Budget 1Budget 2Budget 3Budget 4 (proposed)
Period 2008 – 2012 2013 – 2017 2018 – 2022 2023 – 2027
Budget level (MtCO2e) 3,018 2,782 2,544 1,950
% reduction from 1990 levels 23% 29% 35% 50%

In line with the required timetable, this fourth budget report comes only two years after the first report on the first three budgets. However, from now on budget advice reports will be delivered every five years (i.e. advice on the fifth carbon budget, covering the period 2028-2032, will be provided in 2015).

Transportation in the 4th Carbon Budget
Automotive emissions reductions will need to come from reducing g/km, while vehicle kilometers travelled (VKT) are likely to increase, the report says. Low-carbon vehicles need to be 60% of new sales in 2030:
  • 40% plug-in hybrids representing 20% VKT
  • 20% pure EVs representing 10% VKT
  • 40% conventional representing 70% VKT
Policy support will be required to realize opportunities for transport emissions reduction: improving efficiency; encouraging consumer uptake of low-carbon vehicles; managing additional electricity demand; hydrogen buses; reducing travel demand; encouraging sustainable biofuels.

The fourth report also recommends that Parliament legislate to adjust the first three budgets to reflect non-traded sector emissions, and proposes that the UK should also argue for a tightening of the EU ETS cap which constrains traded sector emissions.

The fourth budget package also includes measures to minimize costs of the low-carbon transition to industries exposed to international competition. In line with the Coalition Agreement, Government will continue to argue for an EU move to a 30% target for 2020, and ambitious action in the 2020s.

The UK will review progress in EU climate negotiations in early 2014. If at that point domestic commitments place the UK on a different emissions trajectory than the EU Emissions Trading System trajectory agreed by the EU, the UK will, as appropriate, revise up the budget to align it with the actual EU trajectory.

Before the end of the year the Government will announce a package of measures to reduce the impact of policy on the cost of electricity for energy intensive industries and to help them adjust to the low-carbon industrial transformation.

Under the fourth carbon budget, government will aim to reduce emissions domestically as far as practical and affordable, but also intends to keep open the option of trading in order to retain maximum flexibility and minimize costs in the medium-long term.




We could lower carbon with IGCC and synthetic fuels. Either sequester the carbon or make more fuels with extra H2/O2 allowing O2 blown gasification with more consistent outputs.

A good example is Bakersfield, California where they pump oil from older wells. Put in an IGCC plant and pipe the CO2 to the oil wells, which is exactly what they intend to do. Find a use for the carbon and businesses will take notice.


Using CTL with carbon sequestration does reduce CO2 over oil processed in conventional refineries (albeit at a very high cost), but using the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery pulls more carbon out of the ground than goes in. Good move for energy security, though.

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