June 16, 2011 / 12:36 PM / 8 years ago

UK government wants to keep CO2 offset use option: Point Carbon

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Point Carbon) - The UK government will later this month urge MPs to support retaining an option to use 55 million international offsets to help the country meet non-ETS emissions goals for the period 2013-2017.

Buildings in the financial district are obscured in a haze, as seen from Crystal Palace in south London June 26, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

But the UK’s climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, told the Environmental Audit Committee on Wednesday that the government would need the flexibility to use offsets for future carbon budgets even though the government is keen to meet its targets through domestic measures.

In response to a claim by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas that offsets were a “get out of jail free card”, Huhne said the use of international credits should be retained.

“If we can meet targets domestically, we should. But (economic) forecasts are enormously uncertain. We think it makes sense to keep that flexibility (in using offsets),” said Huhne, who is Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

Earlier this month, Greg Barker, a junior minister in Decc, said in a letter to the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) that his department wants leeway to use 55 million international offsets to cover emissions between 2013-2017 from sectors not covered by the EU emissions trading scheme.

This would only be as contingency in the event that domestic emissions reductions are not fully realized, the letter added.

During this five-year timeframe, the UK government wants to cap national emissions at 2.78 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which would equate to an annual average of 556.4 million tonnes over the period.

In 2009, UK emissions from a basket of six greenhouse gases (GHGs) covered by the Kyoto protocol were 582.4 million tonnes, while the CCC has recommended this fall to around 500 million tonnes by 2022, the final year of the country’s third carbon budget, which starts in 2018.

In the UK’s second carbon budget, emissions from EU ETS sectors, which cover power plants, large factories, and steel mills, will be capped at 1.078 billion tonnes, while those from non-traded sectors would be limited to 1.704 billion.

The government’s willingness to keep the option of using offsets is at odds with a recommendation earlier this year from the CCC that the UK should rule out the use of international carbon credits.

The UK did not buy any offsets, such as those issued through the clean development mechanism, to cover non-ETS emissions, as it is expected to comfortably meet its targets under the current Kyoto protocol compliance period (2008-2012).

Meanwhile, a report released Wednesday by the Carbon Trust highlighted that 40 per cent of FTSE 100 companies do not have clear, robust targets for cutting carbon emissions, despite moves to sign national carbon budgets in law.

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