The Government have recently committed to increase their legally-binding pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions from 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the 1990 level by 2050. This will be included in the climate change bill, which will get its third reading on October 28th. Setting such a target would be a serious mistake. It would risk compelling a government to take economically disastrous actions – such as putting in place draconian green taxes and regulations – and do little to curb global emissions, and mitigate expected climate change. To read the full report, click here.
If the UK continues to improve its emissions intensity at the rate it managed between 1990 and 2005, then a 78 per cent cut in the expected level of GDP in 2050 would be required to bring emissions down to the target. This means that GDP would be nearly 4 per cent lower in 2050 than it was in 1990.
The UK’s 1990-2005 record was based on one-time gains from the ‘dash for gas’. If we revert to the average developed country performance, then an 86 per cent cut in cut in the expected level of GDP in 2050 would be required to bring emissions down to the target. This means that GDP would be 38 per cent lower in 2050 than it was in 1990.
For the UK to meet its target without sacrificing GDP in 2050, emissions intensity cuts of around 5.8 per cent each year would be needed. This is more than twice the amount Britain managed between 1990 and 2005 and three and a half times the amount developed countries managed between 1993 and 2005. It would therefore require remarkable technological development. It is clear that politicians have not thought through how this might be achieved.
With the onset of the financial crisis, a range of other industrial countries are increasingly sceptical of aggressive action to cut emissions. In the absence of a global agreement, unilateral action to cut emissions in Britain would increase costs and lead to jobs and production moving abroad. This would export emissions, and would do little to reduce global emissions.
Matthew Sinclair, Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“Politicians are making radical promises to cut emissions but don’t appear to have thought through how these can be delivered without doing crippling damage to the UK economy. Those sacrifices would probably be in vain as it appears less and less likely that other countries will follow our example. Instead of putting in place regulations and taxes that hurt the economy we should put British creativity and innovation to work and develop the technologies that can deliver a safer, cleaner world.”