1.8 The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC)

In October 2008, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was created (led by Secretary of State Ed Miliband), bringing together energy policy (previously with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) and climate change mitigation policy (previously with Defra). With business and climate change policies previously pulling in different directions, it is hoped that DECC will be able to produce effective climate change policies via its three overall objectives:

  • ensuring our energy is secure, affordable and efficient

  • bringing about the transition to a low-carbon Britain

  • achieving an international agreement on climate change at Copenhagen in December 2009.

In January 2008, the EU had announced plans to make Europe ‘the first economy for the low-carbon age’ and gave the UK a new set of climate change targets – to cut energy consumption 16% and increase the use of renewable energy more than sevenfold by 2020 in order to meet its share of the EU's targets. In October 2008, when increasing the UK's commitment to cut GHG emissions to 80% by 2050 (from the previous 60%), Ed Miliband told MPs the Government accepted all the recommendations in the CCC's report. The target does not include aviation or shipping emissions, though Mr Miliband said they would ‘play a part’ in the overall strategy.

By April 2009 it appeared that CO2 emissions would fall by about 3% per year in 2009 and 2010 due to the economic downturn and more use of gas instead of coal to produce electricity. However, research by Cambridge Econometrics indicates that continued reliance on coal and gas-fired power stations will mean emissions fall more slowly over the long term. By 2020, CO2 emissions are predicted to be 19% below 1990 levels, meaning the Government would fail to meet the recommendation of its own CCC for a 29% cut.

The UK Energy and the Environment report also found that the Government will not meet its targets to increase electricity from renewables. Analysts stated that the ‘ambitious’ EU target for the UK to produce 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020 is likely to be missed by a ‘wide margin’. Despite short-term potential in improvements to bus, cycling and walking infrastructure, car sharing and school travel plans, a separate report from the UK Energy Research Centre shows Britain lagging behind other countries in the use of cleaner modes of travel, highlighting the need to move away from reliance on the car.

Activity 4

Consider the statements you have read and heard from the UK Government since 2008 on climate change. How do you feel they differ from statements prior to this, especially before 2006 (you could find statements via a Web search)? What do you think has led to any changes you've noticed?

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1.7 UK Climate Change Act

2 Analysing the effectiveness of large-scale mitigation