The Act is very wide-ranging. It sets legally-binding targets, creates new powers, changes the institutional framework, establishes systems to ensure accountability and addresses resilience to climate change.
The key provision is the creation of a legally binding commitment to cut emissions of greenhouse gasses by at least 34% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.
The main characteristics of climate change are increases in average global temperature (global warming); changes in cloud cover and precipitation particularly over land; melting of ice caps and glaciers and reduced snow cover; and increases in ocean temperatures and ocean acidity – due to seawater absorbing heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
The measures can be separated into two approaches
Mitigation: Design schemes to reduce climate change.
Avoid significant human interference with the climate system, and stabilize greenhouse gas levels in a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change
Reduces the flow of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Reducing sources of gases (burning of fossil fuels for electricity, heat or transport).
Ensure that food production is not threatened Enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner
Adaptation: Adapt to life in a changing climate Reduce vulnerability to the harmful effects of climate change (like sea-level encroachment, more intense extreme weather events or food insecurity). Make the most of any potential beneficial opportunities associated with climate change e.g. longer growing seasons or increased yields in some regions.
Other specific measures include:
Powers relating to charges for single use carrier bags.
Policies in relation to corporate reporting of emissions
A requirement to carry out a Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) every 5 years.