The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has advised the government to take steps to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

The recommendations were submitted to Ed Miliband, the new secretary of state for the department of energy and climate change, ahead of the full report’s publication later this year.

The CCC also said that the targets should apply to all sectors, including the previously-discounted aviation and shipping sectors.

Chair of the CCC, Lord Adair Turner, said: “Climate change poses a huge potential threat to human welfare…But we have the potential to reduce our emissions by 80% or more by using energy far more efficiently, by investing in developing new energy sources and by making relatively minor lifestyle changes.

“Using energy more efficiently makes economic as well as environmental sense: many of the changes needed will not cost but save money. And overall, the cost to the UK of meeting our proposed targets will be affordable, and very small compared with the potential consequences and costs of inaction”.

The Committee’s inaugural report, Tackling global climate change – Building a low-carbon economy in the UK, the 2008-2022 budgets and 2050 target, is to be published in December.

Among the recommendations:

  • Energy efficiency improvement in buildings and industry (e.g. loft and cavity wall insulation, use of more efficient appliances, turning appliances off and using less air conditioning), which will be particularly important for reducing emissions in the period to 2020.
  • Decarbonisation of the power sector, starting now and continuing through the 2020s, based on replacing existing conventional fossil fuel fired plant with renewable technologies (e.g. wind, tidal), nuclear new build and CCS.
  • Transport sector decarbonisation, first through improving fuel efficiency of conventional engines and increased use of sustainable first generation biofuels, with progressive introduction of new technologies such as electric cars, plug in hybrids and hydrogen vehicles, and second generation biofuels.
  • Heat sector decarbonisation through increased use of biomass in boilers and CHP, air exchange and ground source heat pumps, and modern electric storage heating.
  • Decarbonisation of industry through the introduction of new technologies such as CCS in cement, iron and steel.