The UK signed up to the Kyoto Protocol in 1995. Since then, the Government has made numerous moves to help place limits on the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the UK (now and going forward) by means of legally binding targets.
The Climate Change Act
Passed in 2008, The Climate Change Act was created with the purpose of laying down an established framework to develop emissions reductions plans which are economically credible. In addition, it served to strengthen the UK’s international leadership role by highlighting its contributions to urgent and collective actions taken to combat climate change under the Kyoto Protocol.
Under The Climate Change Act:
- 2050 Target: The UK is committed to decreasing emissions by at least 80% by 2050 from its levels in 1990. This 80% target includes GHG emissions from the devolved administrations; currently, that makes up about one-fifth of the total emissions generated by the UK.
- Carbon Budgets: The Government is legally bound to carbon restrictions (called “carbon budgets”). Carbon budgets are limits on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the UK over a five-year period. The Committee advises on appropriate carbon budget levels, which are reflective of the cost effective path toward the achievement of long-term goals. The first 4 carbon budgets have been put into legislation, and go until 2027.
- The Committee on Climate Change: Set up to advise the Government on emissions targets, this Committee reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Included in this committee are the Adaptation Sub-Committee (ASC), which studies and advises the Government on its climate change adaptation program.
- National Adaptation Plan: This plan requires that the Government assess climate change’s risks posed to the the UK; to devise strategies to address those risks; and to encourage other organizations to follow suite.
Climate Change and the UK Government
The prevention of climate change and preparation for adaptation to its impacts has an effect on the entire economy. Therefore, many departments of the government have a place in developing policies centering on climate change. There are two main department tasked with setting this policies:
- Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC): This department leads the efforts to reduce the UK’s emissions. Responsibilities include delivering secure energy and putting forth action on climate change domestically and internationally. For more details along with updates on their latest developments, visit the DECC website.
- Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA): This department heads up the UK’s domestic adaptation policy. Its role is to create a National Adaptation Program to address whatever risks were highlighted in the first Climate Change Risk Assessment. The government works with businesses, local governments, civil society and public sector organizations to develop this program. For more details, visit the Defra website.
Governments in the devolved administrations (DAs) also have a hand in developing climate change policies in devolved policy areas. They also help implement UK-level policies. The Devolved Administration are moving ahead on the following climate change policies:
- The Climate Change (Scotland) Act: Passed in 2009, this act commits Scotland to a 42% decrease in emissions by 2020, as well as yearly reductions between the years 2010 and 2050.
- Northern Ireland Climate Change Act: This Act, still yet to be developed by Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, is being devised as per the advice from the Committee
- Welsh Climate Change Legislation: Options were recently presented to the Welsh Government by the Committee regarding their options for climate change legislation.