Surplus from the UK’s third carbon budget will not be carried forward – proving the UK’s pragmatic approach to net zero is compatible with its climate targets.

  • UK is on track to meet 2050 net zero ambitions, as latest report shows it has again overachieved targets to cut emissions
  • 15% emissions surplus from the third carbon budget will not be carried forward and the Government is expected to over-deliver once again in the fourth carbon budget
  • UK continues to meet ambitious climate targets and show leadership towards net zero

Surplus greenhouse gas emissions cut over the last five years will not be carried forward into the next carbon budget, as the UK is set to meet ambitious targets to achieve net zero in 2050.  

This builds on the UK’s success of becoming the first major economy to halve emissions since 1990, while growing the economy by around 80 per cent.   

The UK overachieved in delivering its legally binding emissions target by 15 per cent between 2018 to 2022 as part of Carbon Budget 3. It is also set to overachieve on Carbon Budget 4 between 2023 to 2027 – proving the Government’s proportionate approach to net zero is compatible with meeting UK climate targets, without burdening families with unnecessary costs.

Under the UK’s Climate Change Act, if the country emits fewer emissions than the legal limit, the Government has the power to bank the surplus for later carbon budgets.    

The Government decision not to carry forward the surplus keeps the UK within its ambitious target with no additional headroom to emit greenhouse gases over the coming years. This is in line with advice provided by the independent Climate Change Committee.

Energy Security and Net Zero Minister Justin Tomlinson said:

By deciding not to carry forward our over-performance from the third carbon budget, we are doubling down on our commitment to reach net zero, and we’re already halfway there.   

This will keep the UK at the forefront of global efforts to cut its emissions, but we will do this while also driving down consumer bills.

Professor Piers Forster, interim Chair of the Climate Change Committee, said:

The Committee congratulates the Government on its decision not to carry forward any surplus from the Third Carbon Budget. It’s the right choice. It shows an understanding of both the climate science and the very real need to accelerate progress on emissions reduction.

We’ve cut our emissions by half since 1990. The next big challenge is to hit the UK’s 2030 target, which is to decarbonise by 68% against 1990 levels. The Government has made a sensible decision, in line with our advice, not to kick the can down the road. Now is the time for more investment in low carbon solutions across the country. We’ll be advising on that more in the Committee’s upcoming Progress Report.

Today’s announcement confirms the UK has now over-achieved against three consecutive carbon budgets. The UK is also one of very few major economies to have a legally binding emissions reduction target covering 2035 – the target of a 77 per cent cut on 1990 levels goes way beyond many other countries.  

Not only are the UK’s carbon budgets some of the most ambitious in the world, but the Government has set out more detail than any other G20 country on how they will be met.

Since 2010, the UK has seen £300 billion in public and private low carbon investment, with a further £100 billion of private investment expected by 2030, helping support up to 480,000 UK jobs in 2030. Since September alone, companies have also announced plans for around £24 billion of new investment, demonstrating their confidence in the UK’s net zero transition.

Published 21 May 2024