LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's recovery from an economic slump will make it harder to meet its legally-binding goals to cut emissions from 2018, meaning the cost of moving to low-carbon energy sources will rise next decade, a government adviser said on Wednesday.
Britain has set four so-called carbon budgets which restrict the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted over a five-year period. They are intended to help Britain reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.
Britain has met the first budget (2008-2012) and is likely to meet the second (2013-2017), the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent body which advises the government on climate goals, said in a report to Parliament.
But it is unlikely to meet the third (2018-2022) and fourth (2023-2027) budgets, which require a 3 percent decline in emissions each year, the committee added.
"There remains a very significant challenge delivering the 3 percent annual emissions reduction required to meet the third and fourth carbon budgets, particularly as the economy returns to growth," said David Kennedy, CCC's chief executive.
"The challenge is more pronounced given that there was very limited GDP growth in 2012 and real increases in energy and fuel prices," the committee report said.
In the past, the government has mostly heeded the CCC's advice, approving all the carbon budgets that the committee has proposed so far and legislating a tougher 2050 emissions target than originally planned.
Britain's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey, said the UK is on course to over-achieve on its first three carbon budgets but recognises the challenges in meeting the fourth.
Britain's greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.5 percent last year, mainly due to a cold winter and a switch from gas to carbon-intensive coal in power generation.
Even if these factors were excluded, the drop in emissions would not be enough to meet the carbon budgets from 2018, the committee said.
It said progress was made last year thanks to a record level of new wind power capacity, more efficient new cars and low-carbon waste systems. There were also increased efforts to better insulate lofts and replace old boilers.
At the same time, however, there were low levels of solid wall insulation and few improvements in low-carbon heat and energy efficiency in non-residential sectors, it said.
Challenges also remain in reducing emissions from the power sector. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is not yet proven at commercial scale and new nuclear investment is uncertain.
The committee recommended a number of measures to improve Britain's chances of meeting its carbon budgets.
Those included ensuring that two CCS demonstration projects are chosen in a 1 billion pound competition for funding and contracts signed by early 2015 so plants can be operational by 2018-2019.
The government should also legislate a carbon reduction target for the power sector for 2030, the committee said.
Earlier this month, British lawmakers rejected an amendment to the government's energy bill which would have locked the power sector into a tough carbon-reduction target for 2030 from 2014, two years earlier than planned.
The committee's report is available at: here (Editing by Jeff Coelho)