The Climate Change Act 2008, passed by the last Government with cross party support, set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 (this is the level of reduction that scientists believe is necessary to avoid serious climate change).
The Act also requires the Government to set carbon budgets - limits on greenhouse gas emissions in the UK - for consecutive five-year periods. These budgets must be set at least three budget periods in advance, providing staging posts to the 2050 target. The first three budgets were set by the previous Government in 2009 based on advice from the independent Committee on Climate Change. The fourth budget - the limit on emissions for the five year period from 2023 to 2027 - has to be set by the end of next month.
There has been a lot of speculation that the Government would reject the independent Committee's advice that we should be aiming for a 50% reduction on 1990 levels by 2025 and set a higher limit, calling into question its ambition to be the greenest government ever. I am delighted that yesterday the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, made it clear that this was not the case - the Government has accepted the Committee's advice.
He made two concessions to those who are concerned about the potential impact on our economy, both eminently sensible. First, that there will be a review in early 2014 to make sure that we aren't going further than our European competitors, putting us at a competitive disadvantage; and second, that there will be a package of measures to help energy intensive industries to adjust.
The Government will shorlty be setting out in detail the policies required to deliver this budget but they include reforming the electricity market, making homes and businesses more energy efficient, encouraging the take-up of ultra-low carbon cars and setting up a Green Investment Bank. The Secretary of State told the House that if oil prices remain at their current very high levels, this package of measures will actually be cheaper for consumers.
All in all, a welcome announcement that underlines this coalition government's green credentials.