UK faces battle to meet 2010 CO2 emissions cut
The report from Cambridge Econometrics predicts a rise in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from 2005 as a result of energy demand growth and an increase in coal-fired generation as many of Britain's ageing nuclear power stations shut.
"Our forecasts of energy demand and carbon emissions are an important reality check," said Paul Ekins, co-editor of the study "UK Energy and the Environment" in a statement.
"They show the magnitude of the task facing the government as it seeks to make significant headway towards its domestic policy goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2010."
All but one of Britain's nuclear power stations are due to shut by 2025. The newest plant, Sizewell B, built in 1995, will operate until 2035.
Britain's CO2 reduction target is voluntary but much deeper than its legally binding commitment under the Kyoto climate change protocol to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, widely blamed for causing global warming.
Cambridge Econometrics said the UK is on course to meet its Kyoto goal of a 12.5 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2008-2012.
Britain's CO2 emissions fell sharply in the 1990s as power producers switched to cleaner natural gas from coal but they have risen over the last two years as high gas prices prompted a switch back to coal generation.
Coal is expected to be much cheaper than gas after 2010 when gas prices are forecast to rise as Britain becomes more dependent on imported gas.
While emissions rose again in 2001, Cambridge Econometrics revised down the level of pollution in 2000 by 2.7 million tonnes of carbon (mtc) to 146 mtc.
As a result, it forecast emissions in 2010 at 147.7 mtc, 7.2 percent below the 1990 level, compared to 149.5 mtc Cambridge Econometrics estimated in January 2002.
The challenge for the government in its white paper on energy, due to be published in the autumn, will be to combine measures to encourage a low-carbon economy with tax measures which boost energy conservation, said the report.
"The government is clearly finding environmental taxes in general...politically challenging," said Ekins.
The government has faced opposition from companies to its recently introduced climate change levy on energy used by businesses.
It also faces a struggle to reach its target of providing 10 percent of Britain's electricity from green sources by 2010, up from around three percent at present.