Energy and Carbon Emissions
Since the turn of the century there has been a widespread global agenda to reduce carbon emissions. In the UK, successive Governments have introduced legislation designed to drive the transition from a carbon intensive energy regime towards a low carbon economy. Such legislation includes the Climate Change Act 2008, the Energy Act 2011, and the recent Energy Bill 2012. In parallel, policies have been introduced to incentivise low carbon energy generation and reduce energy consumption from fossil fuels, e.g. environmental taxes linked with carbon emissions such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) and Climate Change Levy (CCL).
In the White Paper for Secure, Affordable and LowCarbon Electricity (2011), Government set out a pathway to decarbonise electricity generation. It recognised that action needs to be taken if the UK is to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy and meet the legally-binding fifteen percent renewable energy target by 2020 and eighty percent carbon reduction target by 2050. If these targets are to be achieved, emissions from the power sector will need to be largely decarbonised by 2030.
Electricity Market Reform is intended to put in place the institutional and market arrangements to deliver the scale of change needed in the power sector, but local action will also be needed to meet the UK’s carbon budgets and renewable energy targets. It is at the sub-regional and local level that the County Council could work to support renewable energy uptake and decarbonisation.
Relevance to Hampshire County Council
In 2011, energy consumption for the County Council (including the schools estate) resulted in the County Council purchasing £915,000 of CRC allowances. As the national drive to decarbonise energy gathers pace, the County Council will need to take into account the additional cost of carbon taxes alongside increasing energy prices when budgeting for future energy consumption.
Higher rates for existing carbon taxes and additional taxes could be introduced in the future to further disincentivise the use of high carbon energy and support the carbon reduction agenda.
Relevance to Hampshire County Council as a community leader
The County Council is seen as “community” leader and can therefore come under scrutiny from pressure groups who support the shift towards a low carbon economy. At a national level, league tables have been used to encourage local authorities to take action on reducing carbon (e.g. National Indicator 186). Similar measures which rank performance could impact on the County Council’s reputation both locally and with central Government.
Increasing pressure from the public for the County Council to take action to reduce its carbon emissions could become a significant political issue in the future.
Role as implementers of national policy
National Government are increasingly requiring local authorities to support the transition to a low carbon economy through new legislation and policy . Examples of this include through the Localism Act 2011 and recent changes to the Local Government Act 1976 which have enabled local authorities to generate and sell electricity from renewable sources.
There are currently no legally binding obligations on local authorities to meet national carbon reduction targets, however this could change in the future.