Government committee says renewable power and energy efficiency can keep costs below 1% of GDP

The UK must cut carbon emissions by more than one-third by 2020, the committee that advises the government on global warming has urged.

The Committee on Climate Change, chaired by Adair Turner, said that greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced by at least 34% in the next 11 years, in a report out yesterday.

This figure should increase to 42%, if UN negotiations now under way lead to a new deal on climate change next December.

Wind turbine
Renewable technology such as wind power can help keep costs down

It will cost less than 1% of GDP in 2020 to make the cuts by generating power from renewable sources such as wind and making existing buildings more energy efficient, the committee said.

Nuclear power could also be part of the energy mix in a low-carbon society, while coal-fired power stations should be built only with the “certainty” they are retrofitted with carbon capture and storage by the early 2020s, it said.

The committee, which was set up under the Climate Change Act, has recommended an 80% reduction in emissions on 1990 levels by 2050 – now the official government target. Today’s report set out the first three five-year "carbon budgets" needed to meet the long-term goals.

The recommendations were widely welcomed by green campaigners, but the report came under fire from the Renewable Energy Association for confusing the market.

The body’s director general Philip Wolfe said: “This report includes a lot of analysis that duplicates the work already being done for the Renewable Energy Strategy.

“It will be counterproductive for the government and for the UK’s renewable energy producers if too many departments start publishing their own visions for the renewable energy future.

“Beyond its core remit of setting the carbon budgets, we would prefer the Climate Change Committee simply to state whether these can be met by the government’s existing policies, or failing that to highlight new initiatives which could.”