The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has released its annual energy and emissions projections for the UK. The publication represents the government’s assessment of the medium-to-long-term future of the UK’s energy and carbon, with projections until 2035. Importantly, however, it also forms the government’s assessment of the UK’s performance against its energy targets and carbon budgets. The Climate Change Act of 2008 sets out the UK’s first formal legally binding legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions. It comprises a reduction of emissions levels by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and a system of carbon budgets that limits the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted in five-year periods.
Emissions projections till 2035 are lower than their previous assessment in 2018, largely because 2035 energy demand is expected to be lower. However, new policy introductions or announcements in 2018 have also contributed to lower expectations for emissions. Among those are the PRS Energy Efficiency Regulations (imposing a minimum standard on energy efficiency for rented property), Boiler Plus (a technical standard for domestic boilers), Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting, Industrial Heat Recovery Support (increasing investment in heat recovery technologies), and an updated Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (which increases the biofuel blend-in mandate for petrol and diesel in the UK to 9.75% by 2020 and 12.4% in 2032). Without these policies, emissions reduction projections are 4.2% beyond those in 2018 for the fifth carbon budget (2028-2032). With the policies included, emissions reductions go a further 2% beyond the 2018 projection.
The projections from BEIS allow the contributions of macroeconomics and policy in emissions reductions to be estimated. While decarbonisation policy is essential, macroeconomic factors (i.e. lower energy demand) dominate recent changes to emissions projections. Acknowledging the influence of macroeconomics and policy is a challenge in policy evaluation for decarbonisation. Policy instruments can serve as red herrings for the source of emissions reductions, particularly when the effects of the last decade’s global recession are still being felt.
Nick Fedson MEng MSc
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