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Environment

UK climate body urges "step change" on emissions

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain must cut greenhouse gas emissions six times faster than at present and consider more aggressive intervention in energy markets if it is to meet its low carbon targets, the government’s chief climate change adviser said on Monday.

In a report two months before world leaders meet in Denmark to find a new deal on global warming, the influential committee warned the government not to rely on the short-lived effects of the recession to achieve cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said annual emissions cuts must rise from an average of 0.5 percent between 2003-07 to 2-3 percent each year.

“Emissions reductions in recent years have been very modest,” the report said. “Going forward, a step change is required if carbon budgets are to be achieved.”

Although the recession depressed economic activity and emissions fell by 2 percent in 2008, this trend will not continue once economic growth resumes, its report said.

The British government followed the committee’s guidance earlier this year and passed its first set of carbon reduction targets into law. Britain aims to reduce emissions to at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

POWER SECTOR IS ‘CRUCIAL’

Cleaner electricity generation will be the “crucial priority” in cutting carbon emissions, the report said.

Britain should aim to build up to three new nuclear power stations by 2022, test four clean coal plants by 2016 and add 23 gigawatts of new wind farm capacity, the committee said.

To get wind capacity to 23 GW, Britain needs to consider loan guarantees to banks so that finance is available for wind projects over the next couple of years. Currently, up to 7 GW of new wind power projects have gained planning permission but have yet to be built.

New investments to ease bottlenecks in Britain’s electricity transmission network are needed by 2011 so wind power building work can start in 2012.

A national policy on nuclear power generation is needed by the spring of 2010 to support proposals for nuclear new-builds going through the planning process.

The global recession has dramatically cut the carbon price in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and undermined incentives for investment in low-carbon technologies.

The government must urgently look at ways of encouraging investment in low carbon power generation, it added.

To reduce uncertainty in the carbon market, ideally the EU needs to tighten its cap on emissions in the EU ETS beyond 2020 and introduce an auction reserve price, the Committee advised.

Britain can help underpin the price of CO2 by introducing a tax which adjusts according to fluctuations in the EU ETS.

“A comprehensive review of the current market arrangements should be carried out in the near term,” the report said. “This should reflect any implications of Copenhagen for EU targets, the carbon price and UK carbon budgets.”

Other ways of cutting emissions include a national campaign to make houses more energy efficient and a target of 1.7 million electric cars by 2020, compared to less than 8,000 in 2008.

Additional reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Andy Bruce

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