The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan: Where are we going? (Oct 2009)

Presentation by Dr Tim Foxon, Sustainability Research Institute, Leeds University, at the SGR conference, 24 October 2009

Abstract: The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, published in July 2009, sets out the UK Government’s plan to deliver carbon emission cuts of 18% on 2008 levels by 2020 (equivalent to a 34% reduction on 1990 levels). This includes steps to achieve a target of 40% of UK electricity from low carbon sources by 2020, including around 30% of electricity from renewables, up to four demonstration carbon capture and storage plants, and facilitating the building of new nuclear power stations. Though this represents a step-change in government thinking and activity, it falls short of the full target recommended by the independent advisory Climate Change Committee. It sees the Government’s strategic role as ensuring that the right long-term regulatory and financial framework is in place, whilst relying on ‘the market’ to deliver the increase in renewable and other low carbon energy sources. We ask whether achieving these and higher carbon targets is likely to require more direct government intervention and a larger role for civil society, and whether more needs to be done to ensure that this is seen as an opportunity to bring industrial and employment benefits to the UK.

Tim Foxon is a Research Councils UK Academic Fellow at the Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds, and a member of new ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. His research focuses on exploring the conditions for the innovation and up-take of new energy technologies, and analysis of the changes in technologies, institutions and business strategies needed for a transition to a low carbon economy. He previously held research positions at the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, and has published a number of academic journal papers and reports for policy-makers on low-carbon innovation. He is currently co-investigator on a research project on ‘Transition pathways to a low carbon economy’, which is examining the roles of government, private firms and civil society organisations in potential transition pathways for the UK energy system to a low carbon future.

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