All 15 EU countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol and together they are responsible for about 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has committed to observing the Kyoto Protocol and set about establishing a framework in which it could set targets. A draft version of this Climate Change Bill was originally published in March 2007. It underwent numerous changes during its passage through Parliament before finally receiving Royal Assent on 26 November 2008.
The Climate Change Act set a legally binding target for the United Kingdom to reduce greenhouse gas, emissions by 80% compared to 1990 levels by 2050, with an interim target of 26% by 2020 (which has subsequently been increased to 34%). It also established a system of ‘carbon budgets’, and created the independent Committee on Climate Change to advise the Government and report on progress.
As well as changing the scale of the target, it was also altered to extend the range of gases that it covers. The original target was limited to reductions in carbon dioxide
emissions. However in the final version of the Act it covers a variety of greenhouse gases, like the Kyoto Protocol.
The Act itself does not identify annual targets. Instead it sets up a system of five-year carbon budgets. These specify the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted over each budgetary period. The first runs from 2008-2012 to coincide with Kyoto; the second covers 2013-2017; the third 2018-2022.
It is expected that the first target should be met as greenhouse gas emissions were already 21.7% below the 1990 baseline in 2007 and figures suggest that emissions will also fall in 2008. The subsequent targets however may prove to be more difficult to achieve.