09 January 2018
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Through Government authority, policies can ensure that reducing carbon emissions is a matter of law and all within the UK must comply. Some of the objectives set out by the Government include reducing the production of greenhouse gases through carbon budgets and carbon limits, utilisation of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and using carbon values to ensure that project and policy appraisals account for their climate change impacts.

What is the Government currently doing to reduce carbon emissions?

Kyoto Protocol

The UK is committed to the Kyoto Protocol – an international treaty which considers climate change. The protocol commits countries to adopt an urgent approach to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

The aim of the Kyoto Protocol was to provide countries upholding the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) the option to execute methods of setting targets to control and measure the production of greenhouse gases within the country. Most member states in the UN agreed to the terms, although the United States, while supporting the notion, have not ratified the protocol, believing that implementing it would lead to a loss in their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Consequently, the USA is not bound to the protocol and as such not accountable if they do not meet emissions targets.

EU Emissions Trading Scheme

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is part of the policy to combat climate change. It enables the cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gases. The scheme provides a set cap on the amount of particular greenhouse gases that can be produced. Organisations can purchase emission allowances within the cap and these allowances can be traded between companies, depending upon the demand.

Climate Change Act 2008

The Climate Change Act 2008 was introduced to legally assure the reduction of carbon emissions. An outline of the Climate Change Act requires the Government to execute methods that will reduce the production of both carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. Additionally, the act holds that the Government has a responsibility to prepare for climate change. This is implemented through UK climate change risk assessments which should be revised every 5 years.

It has been reported that the current ambition concerning climate change is that greenhouse gas emissions should reduce by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. In order to achieve this goal the Government introduced carbon budgets – a legally-blinding method of restricting on the total amount of greenhouse gases the UK can emit over a 5-year period. The Government must ensure that they develop policies to meet carbon budgets.

The Act stands in association with the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The CCC provides independent advice to the Government on a reasonable target to set. The CCC must also report on the progress made with regards to the production of carbon.

The Carbon Plan

In December 2011 the Government developed the Carbon Plan with proposals for achieving reductions and meeting the 2050 target. This plan is in accordance with the Climate Change Act 2008 and determines the ways in which the emission reduction targets will be achieved.

In the home

It is difficult to reduce the amount of carbon emissions, given that the demand for carbon based products is so high. The Government is working to reduce this demand through sustainable additions to the home, e.g. the introduction of smart meters (enabling consumers to monitor usage more easily) and implementation of the ‘Green Deal’ – a Government initiative with the aim to provide assistance to businesses and homeowners in the employment of green technologies. There are also incentives for public and private sector organisations to adopt energy efficient technologies through the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. This scheme applies to large energy users in both the public and private sector, with organisations and individuals able purchase carbon allowances for each tonne of carbon that they emit. This will be in effect until July 2019, when the scheme will be replaced by an increase in the Climate Change Levy, a business tax with the main rates applying to those in the industrial, commercial, agricultural and public service sectors.

An effective way of reducing the emissions in the UK is to transfer energy efficiency into our buildings. Incorporation of new green technologies into homes ensures that the UK is reducing its carbon footprint without a significant change in their daily life. The Government also wants to move towards a ‘zero waste economy’, where we reduce, reuse and recycle, with waste disposed of only as a last resort.

In industry

The Carbon Trust provides assistance to worldwide organisations, promoting the reduction of carbon and providing them with the means of a sustainable future. The Government also utilises the Green Investment Group (formerly the Green Investment Bank). The Green Investment Group gathers private funds for the financing of investments regarding environmental preservation within the private sector.

Transport

The Government is attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced through transport, which contributes to a quarter of the overall carbon emissions in the UK. In an attempt to mitigate this, the Government is encouraging the modern innovation of green technologies such as making buses greener and reinforcing the use of public transport. Additionally, the Government-endorsed Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) promotes the production of biofuelsin order to reduce environmental damage. The obligation requires that transport suppliers must be able to show that a percentage of fuel that they supply comes from renewable sources.

Agriculture

The agricultural industry is accountable for one third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, where carbon is often produced through the burning of fossil fuels required in order to power farm machinery. This is also the case in the production of chemicals, the emissions from transportation of produce and the clearing of forests to grow crops. As a result of this, the farming industry introduced the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan. The plan looks at the way that farmers can increase their self-efficiency while continuing to make cost savings. This can be achieved through working individually to contribute to the larger agricultural industry, and through the generation of renewable energy and storing of carbon within soils.

There is also the option to invest in low carbon technologies through the creation of an industry for carbon capture and storage. This has been encouraged through the Government, with authorities having provided £200 million of funding for innovation in low-carbon technologies from 2011 to 2015. Additionally, the Government is promoting the public reporting of carbon emissions from businesses and the public sector, with energy efficiency used as an assessment of progress. All actions will have their environmental impacts measured and the local authorities should measure and report the emissions in their jurisdiction.