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UK Climate Change Act 2008 Coursework

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Updated: Sep 16th, 2022


Climate change is one of the most persistent issues affecting the globe in modern society. Every nation and its constituents must be at the forefront of creating ideas that can solve the issue of climate change, and business institutions should make efforts to reduce their carbon emissions. Though some companies have mapped out strategies to handle the issue, there is still a necessity for other stakeholders like politicians and business advisors to offer better guidelines. The United Kingdom, as one of the G8 countries, has been a key player role in the mitigation of disastrous climate change. The aim of the UK is to balance the levels of greenhouse gases (GHG) to circumvent the perilous issue of climate change, as well as make it probable for people to acclimatize to an inevitable climate change. This goal has pushed the UK to the vanguard in establishing a low carbon economy coupled with promoting a green and steady economy. One of the outcomes of this effort was the enactment of the Climate Change Act (2008) that founded the first legitimate national framework of minimizing GHG emissions by not less than 80 percent by 2050. This paper focuses on the Climate Change Act 2008 coupled with how it has attempted to balance economic growth and protection of the environment in the UK.

Background of Climate Change Act 2008 of the UK

Before the UK embarked on ratifying laws targeting climate change, the structure for climate change alleviation was incorporated in a national climate change plan that was initially approved in 2000 and later modified in 2006. The climate change plan was supported by the energy white papers of 2003 and 2007 that reaffirmed the importance of minimizing the production of carbon dioxide. Moreover, the white papers asserted the significance of using clean as well as cheap energy supplies.1 The drive to make the target set by the UK to be legally obligatory begun in 2005 and the ideology of formulating a climate law composed of aims and financial plans evolved as the main highlight of the public as well as political crusades. The promoter of this campaign was an environmental organization referred to as Friends of the Earth.2

In April 2005, an epitomized climate bill was brought in the House of Common with three parliamentarians under the leadership of John Gummer. The bill went through scrutiny in the parliament and within a month, it earned the endorsement of 412 parliamentarians out of the possible 646. In May 2005, a campaign under the name Big Ask started under the watch of Friends of the Earth to compel the UK government to establish a climate law. In the summits, the exponents of climate law emphasized the need for ratifying a law, which structures carbon budgets. In November 2006, the government, through the secretary of state for environment, declared that it would present the Climate Change Bill in parliament, and the aftermath of this declaration witnessed a series of legislative processes.5

The department in charge of environment, food, as well as rural issues (DEFRA), publicized the bill for citizen deliberation and pre-legislative parliamentary examination at the onset of 2007. Throughout the period that citizens were called upon to deliberate, there were intense debates with over 17,500 people publicly sharing their thoughts about the bill. In June 2007, the public discussions ended. Three parliamentary committees then scrutinized the drafted Bill and issued a report containing their proposed amendments. Later in October, the government, in a rejoinder to the citizens’ deliberations as well as pre-legislative assessment, published the “Taking Forward the UK Climate Change Bill” document. After this publication, the Bill was presented in parliament in November 2007. As the deliberations progressed on parliament, the issue of the level of 2050 target became a major impediment. To rectify the turmoil, the parliament consulted the “shadow” committee on climate change to determine the feasibility of placing the target at higher than 60 percent as recommended by the bill. The committee proposed that the minimum aim that the UK should espouse must surpass 80 percent by 2050.

A distinctive feature of the parliamentary debates was intense cross-party backing for the need to have climate change with conflicting thoughts on the contents of the bill. On the other hand, the central concern for environmental organizations was the 2050 target, the integration of global discharge from aviation and shipping industries, as well as the assurance to have a national-level plan to minimize greenhouse gases emanation. These concerns were tackled in the ultimate legislation. The Big Ask campaign progressed concurrently with the legislative stages of the law. The campaigners requested the residents to seek their representatives and plead with them to back and stabilize the proposed Act. The campaigners’ efforts were fruitful because, by the time the Act assented in 2008, over 50,000 constituents had sent pleas to the government asking it to pass the law. Though the Friends of the Earth were the principal proponents of the campaign, the organization received immense support from other non-governmental organizations like Stop Climate Chaos.3

Seemingly, the Big Ask and cooperation from the citizens and local parliamentarians who supported the program played an essential role in the legislation’s success. This initiative embraced crucial organizational assets and aptitude from NGOs that required the stabilization of advanced quantity of activism as well as crusade funds. Another concept incorporated by the Big Ask campaign was domestic education and capacity development as individuals acquired vital information about the environment and climate change. The government has always linked the endorsement of the Act to the dynamic participation of citizens in public consultations and pre-legislative examinations. After going through a rigorous legislative process, the Act got royal assent in November 2008.4

Content of the Climate Change Act 2008

The intention of the Act is to form a structure that can help the UK to attain prolonged targets of minimizing GHG production and monitor techniques that are in place to align with the consequences of climate change. The Act’s outline entails five major parts. The first part of the law deals with carbon targets as well as budgeting. This section provides guidelines on the main features of the Act, viz. the 2050 goal and the financial planning framework. It creates a formal role for the government to lessen the GHG released in the UK by a minimum percentage of 80 by 2050. It also includes a temporary target of 2020. In addition, it mandates the government to form a succession of carbon budgets at an interval of five years. These financial plans must be accompanied by credible policies and recommendations that will regulate the transparent implementation of the budget. Also included in this initial section is the need to formulate a structure of carbon accounting.5

The second section of the Act focuses on the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The CCC is a committee created by the Act to assist the government on issues relating to goals, financial planning, and anything that relates to climate change such as alleviation and adaptation. The committee should prepare a yearly report that describes challenges and achievements in an effort to attain the climate change goals and budgets. These reports, according to the act, will guarantee public intelligibility and accountability during the implementation process.6

The third part of the law highlights trading schemes. Under this section, the government has the authority to form new trading proposals through the enactment of minor policies. The activities of the trading schemes should aim at creating constraints for given types of firms on the amount of GHG they can release to the environment. The trading schemes also seek to encourage operations that are environment friendly or discharge minimal GHG.

The fourth section deals with the effect and acclimatization to change. The law calls for the government to issue frequent annual reports on alterations that climate change is causing to the UK and the utilizable plan to acclimatize to such effects and dangers.7 The last section covers various stipulations that also assist in regulating GHG emissions in the diverse sectors of the UK. Among the mandates is a provision that sanctions the government to form waste reduction programs, formulate penalties for using carrier bags, as well as direct firms to prepare reports on the amount of their GHG emissions.8

Application of the Act

The law is to be executed throughout the UK jurisdiction. Main mandates such as the 2050 target and the carbon financial plan apply to the entire UK including the secretary of state. Nonetheless, the use of the national authorities represents the secretary of state and devolved authorities of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. For instance, when the Act states that national authorities have the right to ask help from the CCC, it includes the secretary of state as well as the devolved administration. The secretary of state assumes the mandate to conduct a series of meetings with the national authorities and integrate their ideas in any implementation. The concern for climate change has been improving over the years since the inception of the Act in 2008 and areas such as Scotland have endorsed a climate change law. Moreover, Scotland ratified the Climate Change Act of 2009 to monitor carbon emissions within its jurisdiction.9

Implementation of the Act

After the law received royal support, the process of implementation formally kicked off in November 2008. Since then, the Act has led to several developments, criticisms, and modifications. The implementation commenced with the formation of the CCC and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which have grown over years and give reports about the experiences of applying the law in reality.10 The CCC was officially launched in December 2008. The government assembled professionals from various disciplines including economists as well as environmentalists under the leadership of David Kennedy and Lord Adair Turner to form a strong institution. Turner assumed the job of chairing the body to promote intelligibility and responsibility.11

In October 2008, a new DECC that integrated the energy policies and the climate change control policies was established. The key purpose for creating a department that incorporated these two disparate ideas hinged on the fact that the government realized that issues surrounding energy production and climate change have a close relation. It asserted that it was unrealistic to make decisions in one sector whilst the same decisions would affect another field. As a result, DECC was granted the core responsibility of executing the first and the second section of the 2008 Act.

In December 2008, the CCC presented the first report on climate change as needed by the Act. The report advised the government on certain issues. It advised on the level of GHG emission and the set target. It also included the status of the lawfully obligatory trio-budgets beginning from 2008 to 2022. Furthermore, the report informed the government on the necessity of having a financial plan that only covered carbon dioxide or if it were more effective to have a budget that catered for all the GHG. Irrespective of the type of financial plan chosen, the report asserted the importance of setting a policy that would guide how the emissions from the global aircraft and shipping industries would be incorporated into the budgets and goals. Notably, the report advised on the scope that the carbon budgets must cover through the UK national efforts to minimize GHG emissions or via the acquisition of global credits.12

The committee presented a comprehensive report to exemplify its proposals and the effect of its proposed carbon financial plan on economic development, energy preservation, the performance of some industries, poverty upsurge, and certain areas and national authorities. The CCC underscored that the set target must not be less than 80 percent by 2050 considering the scientific reports and global accord on climate change. The report also suggested that the UK should make an effort to drop the amount of GHG by 34 percent compared to the 1990 levels and the carbon financial plan to be equivalent to the temporary target of 2020. It also proposed that the temporary target of 2020 should rise to 31 percent comparative to 2005 soon after the international society approved an accord to regulate carbon emissions.13

Adoption of the First Carbon Budgets

In April 2009, the UK declared that it conceded the proposals of the CCC on building an economy with reduced carbon emission and included a carbon financial plan in the 2009 fiscal year under the signature name “Carbon Budgets Order 2009”. Furthermore, the government issued a guarantee that it would achieve the temporary budgets through the country’s regional action, but within the limit that the European Union has set on global credits. The government also promised to seek more guidance from the CCC soon after the completion of a novel global accord on climate change and the EU issued a sharing framework for the target.14

Carbon Accounting Regulations 2009

The involved authorities also formulated regulations to monitor how the government fulfilled the targets and budgets. One of those regulations was the Carbon Accounting Regulations 2009. It contained guidelines for the UK’s composition of carbon accounting. The regulation was backed with guidance that illustrated how the composition functioned. Carbon accounting was among the issues that came up when citizens deliberated the bill before becoming an Act. The DECC recommends that subsequent carbon accounting guidelines should be formulated to correspond with carbon accounting guidelines of the EU as well as the international community. Moreover, it recommended the presentation of comprehensive policies in secondary legislation for adjustment to portray additional alterations in accounting composition in subsequent years.

In July 2009, publications that contained a series of policies and programs on the UK low-carbon shift were publicized by the government. The policies and strategies intended to guide the citizens and government on how the temporary 2020 goal could be achieved as stipulated by section 14 of the Law.15 The expected carbon discharges for the UK as published in the documents revealed that if the country were to cooperate with all the policies as stipulated it should anticipate the prospects of achieving its carbon financial plan with a considerable extra of 147 million tonnes of GHG distributed equally in the three eons. The policies also recommended a structure to ensure that all branches of the government play a role in the management of carbon budgets.16

DECC and CCC opinions on implementation in the First Year

The report from the DECC and the CCC showed that a year after the Act was endorsed, there was some progress that had been witnessed soon after the endorsement of the 2008 Act. The two bodies stated that the Act had inspired how the government formulated policies on certain areas. For instance, the CCC had proposed certain changes on coal power and carbon capture, which the government later implemented in successive years. The government established a system of regulations to oversee the growth of clean coal. Furthermore, new rules governing agriculture were enacted to promote non-CO2 gases and the government encouraged small and medium-sized businesses to minimize the discharge of CO2.17

The Climate Change Act was having an impact on the power sector. The CCC had recommended that the UK should adopt a thorough decarbonization policy for the energy sector by 2030. To meet the target of shifting the country to a low-carbon economy, the government published a plan that would run from 2010 to 2050. The plan aimed to tackle issues such as the symptomatic period that it would take to decarbonize the energy sector.18 However, the effort by the government on decarbonising the power sector was not ample enough to achieve the proposals of the committee. In contrast, applying the law in the first year was coupled with alterations in government institutions mandating all departments to contribute to the regulation of carbon emission. The DECC has made efforts to ensure that every government department has a carbon financial plan.19

Progress Reports of 2010, 2011, and 2012

In 2009, the CCC linked the reduction of carbon emissions to the economic slump. However, in 2010, the committee reported that there was a rise in GHG emanation because of the cold weather, which presumably in its absence, the levels of carbon emission would have remained constant.20 This occurrence was far below the yearly reduction target of 3 percent. Due to this failure, the CCC advised the government that it was essential to adopt a step of adjustment in the rate of application of ways to accomplish the carbon financial plans. It proposed that this move would be possible if the UK acquired new policies via the initial carbon budget (2008-2012).21 Nevertheless, the committee applauded the government for its success in introducing and implementing policies such as the Electricity Market Reform and the Green Deal.22

In their 2012 report, the CCC disclosed several setbacks in the implementation of the Climate Change Act of 2008. The emission of GHG dropped by 7 percent in 2011 with only 0.8 percent of the drop hinging on the application of policies aimed at minimizing emissions. Three percent of the fall was due to the weather, which was mild during the winter.23 The remaining percentage was because of inflation of fuel prices, declining real income, and momentary transformation in energy production. Only a quarter of this rate achieved the annual target of 3 percent. In the energy sector, the CCC noted that though there was a healthy pipeline program, there were certain problems that had to be solved so that the pipeline can successfully be transformed into a real investment.24 Furthermore, only about 30 percent of the rate anticipated yearly onshore, as well as an offshore venture, was achieved in 2011. Though there are efforts to venture into novel nuclear energy, the Electricity Market Reform will play a central role in checking any technology introduced in the power sector.25


Climate change is a plague that the international community is persistently trying to contain. It is vividly clear that the UK has been at the forefront in tackling this issue despite the numerous challenges that it has encountered in the process. Since the inception of the Climate Change Act of 2008, there are remarkable achievements in building a low-carbon economy. Through the guidance of the Act, the UK has embarked on programs that will fuel rapid involvement in low-carbon technologies and the establishment of infrastructure to sustain the anticipated economy.26 Furthermore, the Act has inspired the development of several policies and regulations including the Electricity Market Reform, which promotes safe, clean, and cheap energy and protects the residents of the UK from being exposed to capricious fossil fuel markets around the globe. 26The Renewable Heat Incentive is also expected to stir increased private investments in external markets with low-carbon production by 2020.27

The success of this Act goes to the NGOs that conducted a series of campaigns across the UK to educate the public about climate change.28 The Big Ask successfully lobbied residents and leaders to back the bill, which was in parliament by then. The CCC has always been consistent in advising and presenting reports to the government on the progress and setbacks witnessed in the implementation of the Act on an annual basis. However, there have been ongoing complaints that the government has been reluctant in executing the stipulated recommendations. The government has politicized and distorted some of the committee’s proposals. In the previous month, the government did not consider the CCC’s advice that a plan to safeguard a carbon-free energy sector must be urgently included in the Energy Bill.29 Fortunately, despite the many challenges experienced along the way, the Act has achieved some milestones.

Report on How the Coursework was conducted

The paper aimed to discuss the Climate Change Act by assessing how the law has tried to strike a balance between the competing interests of securing the environment and sustaining a steady growth of the economy. The assessment also involved checking the success of the Act and its relevance in tackling the contemporary issues that affect the emission of greenhouse gases in the UK. Moreover, the weaknesses and strengths of the 2008 Act were to be exemplified in the paper to see how effective the law is in tackling climate change.

The initial stages of the paper begin by describing the background of the law and the factors that inspired its endorsement. In a bid to give comprehensive information about the background of the law, a variety of books and website sources were used. I obtained ample information from Makuch’s Book- Environmental and Energy Law. The book contains several policies and laws that govern the UK’s energy sector and environment including the Climate Change Act- 2008. Furthermore, I retrieved some information about the Big Ask campaign that was sponsored by the Friends of the Earth organization. The campaign educated the UK residents on the necessity of acquiring a climate change law and encouraged citizens to write letters petitioning the government to adopt a climate change act. This information was retrieved from Climate Change and the Media- a book that explores the mitigating role of the media in climate change. According to miscellaneous sources of information, one common fact is that the public had a critical role in the sanctioning of this Act.

The subsequent section of the paper gives a summary of the contents of the Act and its application. In a bid to attain brief, but sufficient information about its contents, I obtained some information from the Legislation.gov.uk website that gives detailed information about the Act. A discreet examination of the Act reveals that it was entirely meant to provide a legally binding framework that would ensure that the UK has a low-carbon economy. The law provides a carbon emission and financial plan that should be achieved by 2050 and an interim target to be accomplished by 2020. Divided into five parts, the law gives comprehensive guidelines on how the Act would be implemented to ensure that the economy is almost carbon-free. Among the provisions is the establishment of the Committee on Climate Change, which was meant to advise the government on the progress made in alleviating GHG.

The Committee on Climate Change was also to issue an annual report as a part of advising the government and propose ideas that could be executed to rectify the shortfalls. Using these reports, the paper explains the developments that have been witnessed since the inception of the law. Assessment of these reports reveals that the act has been beneficial in restraining the emanation of GHG. More fundamentally, the act inspired the creation of several policies that have been of great use in regulating various sectors of the government and how they emit GHG. Using the initial report of the Committee titled “Building a Low-Carbon Economy: The UK’s Contribution to Tackling Change” the course work explains the first recommendations that the CCC presented to parliament that formed the basis of the law’s application.

Furthermore, the Meeting the Carbon Budgets-2012 Progress Reports to Parliament acts as a good source that informs one of the challenges that the mitigation of climate change has been receiving of late. Despite the achievements, numerous obstacles must be rectified.30 However, currently, the government has been reluctant in applying most of the CCC’s proposals, thus raising doubt on whether the interim target of 2020 will be realizable. I also acquired more information from an array of articles including “The Climate Change Act 2008 – Will It Do the Trick”, which questions the ability of the act to satisfy the public anticipations. Though the act has equivalent amounts of appraisals and criticisms, it has created awareness of the importance of maintaining a clean environment and human health.


Boyce, T 2009, Climate Change and the Media, Peter Lang, New York.

Bush, S & MacDonald, D 2011, ‘Squaring the circle’, TCE: The Chemical Engineer, no. 844, pp. 30-33.




Makuch, K & Pereira, R 2012, Environmental and Energy Law, Wiley, London.

Marletto, G 2012, Creating a Sustainable Economy: An Institutional and Evolutionary Approach to Environmental Policy, Routledge, New York.

OECD: OECD Economic Surveys United Kingdom 2011. Web.

Skea, J, Ekins, P & Winskel, M 2012, Energy 2050: Making the Transition to a Secure Low-Carbon Energy System, Routledge, New York.

Townsend, H 2009, ‘The Climate Change Act 2008 Will It Do The Trick’, Environmental Law Review, vol. 11 no. 2, pp. 116-122.


  1. G. Marletto (2012), Creating a Sustainable Economy: An Institutional and Evolutionary Approach to Environmental Policy, Routledge, New York, p.203.
  2. H. Townsend (2009), ‘The Climate Change Act 2008 Will It Do The Trick’, Environmental Law Review, vol. 11 no. 2, pp. 116-122.
  3. T. Boyce (2009), Climate Change and the Media, Peter Lang, New York, pp.92-101.
  4. K. Makuch & R. Pereira (2012), Environmental and Energy Law, Wiley, London, p.64.
  5. Web.
  6. ibid, Part 2 The Committee on Climate Change
  7. ibid, Part 3 Trading Schemes
  8. ibid, Part 4 Impact of, and Adaptation to Climate Change.
  9. H. Townsend, op. cit., pp.116-122.
  10. K. Makuch & R. Pereira, op. cit., pp. 86-98.
  11. Committee on Climate Change: Building a low-carbon economy-the UK’s contribution to tackling change 2008. Web.
  12. G. Marletto op. cit., p.242.
  13. OECD, 2011.
  14. S. Bush & D. MacDonald (2011), ‘Squaring the circle’, TCE: The Chemical Engineer, no. 844, pp.30-33.
  15. T. Boyce, op. cit., p.64.
  16. K. Makuch & R. Pereira, op. cit., pp. 111-117.
  17. J. Skea, P. Ekins & M. Winskel (2012), Energy 2050: Making the Transition to a Secure Low-Carbon Energy System, Routledge, New York, pp. 98-121.
  18. OECD, 2011.
  19. Committee on Climate Change, 2008.
  20. H. Townsend, op. cit., pp.116-122.
  21. T. Boyce, op. cit., p.238.
  22. J. Skea et al. op. cit., pp.148-154.
  23. S. Bush & D. MacDonald, op. cit., pp.30-33.
  24. G. Marletto, op. cit., p.340.
  25. K. Makuch & R. Pereira, op. cit., p.78.
  26. Climate Change Act 2008, Part 2 The Committee on Climate Change.
  27. Climate Change Act 2008, Part 1Carbon Target and Budgeting
  28. J. Skea et al. op. cit., pp. 138-142.
  29. OECD, 2011.
  30. Committee on Climate Change: Meeting the Carbon Budgets-2012 Progress Reports to Parliament 2012. Web.
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