2.7 UK emissions targets

More fundamentally, research by the Tyndall Centre indicates that that the emission reduction targets recommended by the UK's CCC are too weak to meet the Government's commitment not to exceed the 2°C threshold between ‘acceptable’ and ‘dangerous’ climate change. Although a positive move towards effective national action on climate change, many of the assumptions made are overoptimistic and the report as a whole supports the UK buying over 25% of its emissions reductions from poorer parts of the world and up to half from the EU.

With the use of offsets and buy-outs to meet targets rather than genuinely reducing overall emissions tending to lock countries into carbon-intensive development, such action is likely to make it more difficult to develop a genuinely low carbon economy. Instead, domestic emission reductions need to be achieved directly. The issue of effective targets was highlighted by the author of the 2006 Stern report, who stated that developed nations needed to ensure nothing less than an 80% reduction of emissions by 2050 in order to achieve an effective global climate agreement at COP15 in Copenhagen.

This echoes Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, who highlighted the need for European countries to meet climate targets in order to encourage other regions to enter into serious climate negotiations and so make COP15 a success. With emissions high and still rising, China is one of these key regions. With media attention focusing on the rate of building of new coal-fired plants, the country is portrayed as a block to reducing global emissions; but this is an oversimplification – China also has the most installed renewable capacity in the world, vehicle emissions restrictions stronger than those in Europe and the USA, and a renewables target more ambitious than President Obama's.

Activity 9

Developing nations, particularly China and India, have often been cited as reasons why there is no point in developed nations reducing carbon emissions. However, this may simply be an excuse for delay and inaction. What evidence can you find that developing nations are both willing and able to tackle their emissions?

2.6 Contradictory carbon reduction policies: coal

3 Climate change: perceptions and behaviour