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UK faces “deep cuts” to meet global emission budget

Ed Davey says country will have to face historical responsibility if global carbon budget is divided among nations

By Sophie Yeo

The UK will face some of the largest cuts when the time comes to allocate a carbon budget, said the Secretary of State for Climate Change.

Ed Davey, speaking at the Royal Society yesterday, said that the UK would have to face up to its historical responsibility for climate change when considering the sticky problem of how much carbon dioxide each country should be allowed to emit in the future.

“Clearly we have to take, as a developed country and one of the historic emitters of lots of carbon, we have to take the cuts and the deepest cuts, he said, adding: “That is part of our policy.”

Davey was speaking alongside Thomas Stocker, who co-chaired Working Group 1 of the fifth IPCC report, launched on Friday in Stockholm.

In the report, scientists agree for the first time on a “carbon budget”—the amount of carbon that humans can emit before temperatures tip over the 2C threshold, which is acknowledged to be the level at which the climate change impacts would become catastrophic.

According to the report (PDF – P.20), the climate can absorb approximately 1000GT of greenhouse gases—of which humans have already used up about two thirds.

The carbon budget is a controversial addition to the report, which scientists and governments stayed up debating into the early hours of Friday morning.

While the report stops short of recommending policy, it implies that countries must allocate this carbon budget in a way that is fair and equitable.

While Davey said he didn’t know exactly how much the UK ought to be entitled to, he said that, as a concept, it fitted well with existing UK policy, which sets new emissions reductions targets to be met every five years.

The UK Climate Change Act established a target for the UK to reduce its emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

“I think one of the attractive things about the carbon budget is it fits very well into the carbon budget we have in the UK,” he said.

“We’re committed to reducing our emissions, and that really is the plain answer. Our carbon budgets are all about reducing our emissions.

“We know that some countries are still going to have to increase them [emissions] over the next few years, and hopefully it will peak soon and start coming down.”

He also added that the UN climate meeting in Paris was a “huge opportunity” in terms of reaching a worldwide agreement, particularly when driven by “new leadership” from China on climate change, and warned against becoming disillusioned with the state of international negotiations.

He said: “I’m worried there are people who have been campaigning a long time in this area who are disillusioned themselves—I think there is a view out there that internationally we can never come to an agreement. I think that’s wrong. We can do it.”

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