Move back to manufacturing could jeopardise UK carbon targets

As government unveils latest emissions data, analyst warns shift away from service economy could make it harder to hit longer term targets

A return to heavy industry and manufacturing might sound attractive in light of the UK's exposure to the financial crisis, but analysts this week warned that such a move would jeopordise the UK's progress on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

The government released its latest figures on greenhouse gas emissions this week confirming the UK remains on track to hit its interim emissions targets. Published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Energy and Emissions Projections provide an estimate of the UK's future energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the DECC figures, the UK will meet its carbon budgets for next three periods: 2008-2012, 2013-2017 and 2018-2022. Based on figures from the June 2010 carbon budget, net UK greenhouse gas emissions will be 36 per cent below 1990 emissions by 2020, the report stated. "This central projection indicates that the UK will be well within the UK Kyoto GHG emissions reductions target of 12.5 per cent between 2008-2012," it added.

But while the news that the UK is on track to meet its carbon targets was broadly welcomed, analysts and green groups warned that there are still significant barriers to the targets actually being achieved.

In particular, Chris Stubbs, director at global environmental consultancy WSP Environment & Energy, warned rising GDP could threaten progress made curbing emissions during the recession.

"While it is obviously a positive sign that we are on course to meet our emissions reductions targets, it remains to be seen if this progress can be sustained in line with rising GDP," he said. "The real challenge lies in ensuring that we reduce emissions per unit of GDP to safeguard the environment against future economic growth."

Stubbs added that the impact of the coalition government's policies impact on the nature of the emerging economic recovery will have a large effect on future emissions levels.


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