Cut emissions further, says climate committee

The government's Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has warned that the UK should adopt more ambitious emissions targets if it is to effectively tackle global warming.

In a letter to the new secretary of state for Energy and Climate change, Ed Milliband, the CCC said that the government should adopt the ambitious target of reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

It said that the target should apply on average across all sectors of the UK economy, including agriculture, shipping and international aviation.

The CCC said that an 80% reduction is necessary if the UK is to make a reasonable contribution to the global strategy of cutting global emissions by half by 2050. A reduction of this scale would limit the expected global temperature increase to 2% and reduce the risk of temperature rises above 4 degrees, which would be "catastrophic".

"The dangers of significant climate change are greater than previously assessed which argues for larger global, and thus UK, reductions," said Adair Turner, CCC chair.

"Adverse human welfare consequences are likely to increase significantly if global temperature rises more than 2°C relative to pre-industrial temperatures, and that if a 4°C rise were reached, extreme consequences potentially beyond our ability to adapt would arise."

Describing an 80% target as "challenging but feasible", the CCC made several recommendations for reducing emissions including improved energy efficiency in buildings, decarbonisation of the transport sector and increased use of Combined Heat Power (CHP) and biomass in boilers.

It said that the Climate Change Bill should be extended to include non-CO2 gases, a move that would have a considerable impact on the farming sector due to its high methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

In response to the recommendations, the industry-wide Climate Change Task Force - with the NFU, CLA and AIC - expressed concern that the CCC did not seem to recognise farming emissions as being "fundamentally different" from energy and industry.

In a joint statement, the Task Force said that with scientific advances, good management and continued assistance, the sector "may be able to deliver modest cuts in methane and nitrous oxide for the same level of agricultural output," but pointed out that "scientific evidence suggests that the same level of cuts in all greenhouse gases is simply not possible."

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