LONDON The government needs to step up efforts to meet the world's toughest climate targets, the government's climate change adviser urged, despite pressures posed by a record deficit and flagging economy.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reports to Parliament on the government's progress in reducing emissions through a series of 'carbon budgets'.
In its latest report, the committee said UK greenhouse gas emissions rose by around 3 percent last year, mainly due to a cold winter. Allowing for weather impacts, emissions were broadly flat.
"This is incompatible with the 3 percent annual average emissions reduction required to meet the first four carbon budgets. A significant acceleration in the pace of emissions reductions is therefore required," the CCC said in a statement.
The UK has the most ambitious climate targets in the world, with a 2050 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels.
Acting on the committee's advice last month, the UK committed to a fourth carbon budget which would push it towards halving emissions from 1990 levels every year from 2023 to 2027, provided that the EU follows suit.
The UK's climate ambitions could conflict with efforts to reduce a record 27.4 billion pound deficit and reignite a faltering economy, which grew by just 0.5 percent in the first few months of this year.
However, the UK's energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne does not see a collision between the country's climate and economic targets.
"As we come out of recession the Coalition's determined to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels which means a permanent shift to low carbon has to be locked into our economy in good times and bad," he said.
To make more progress on emissions cuts, the CCC advised the government to introduce new electricity market arrangements based on long-term contracts and to ensure a smooth transition to renewable energy support to avoid a lull in investment.
It should also commit to insulating all lofts and cavity walls by 2015 and two million solid walls by 2020, the committee said.
(Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn; editing by Jason Neely)