Curbing coal generation key to CO2 target
"Our forecasts suggest the UK will comfortably meet the Kyoto target for a 12.5 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2008-2012," Paul Ekins, consultant to Cambridge Econometrics which published the study "UK Energy and the Environment" last week.
Britain's carbon dioxide emissions have fallen over the last decade thanks mainly to a switch to cleaner natural gas from coal in the power sector. Coal still accounts for about a third of generation.
The government has set a domestic target of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2010.
Last month, the government published a plan giving details of how companies will have to cut CO2 emissions to meet this target and take part in a European Union emissions trading scheme which comes into force in January.
The plan said the power sector, among the top polluters, would have to shoulder most of the burden as it faced little international competition and could recoup extra costs through higher tariffs.
Cambridge Econometrics said the UK's carbon emissions in 2010 could range between eight percent and 21 percent below 1990 levels, although their latest forecast was for a reduction of 12.7 percent.
"Clearly there is still everything to play for in respect of the (government's) 2010 goal," Ekins said.
"Policy makers should be under no illusions about the sheer scale of the challenge the domestic objective of carbon reduction still presents."
The main obstacles to meeting the government's goal are expected big rises in emissions from households and road transport, the report said.
It said a reduction in emissions from the power sector would depend on prices for permits giving the right to pollute under the European Union scheme rising sufficiently to curb coal generation.
It added that using gas for generation to fill the gap left by the closure of aging nuclear power stations would also help reduce emissions.
The study forecast carbon emissions from the power industry were likely to fall to 36.1 million tonnes by 2010, up from its estimate of 33.5 million tonnes last year.
The electricity sector produced 55.3 million tonnes of emissions in 1990.
Total carbon emissions are expected to drop to 139.2 million tonnes in 2010 from 159 million tonnes in 1990.