Broad welcome for UK Climate Bill

Posted: 15 November 2007

The UK Government's blueprint for tackling climate change, in a draft Climate Change Bill, has been broadly welcomed by environmental pressure groups as a promising start. The bill will legally require UK carbon emissions to be cut by 60 per cent by 2050.

Key points of the draft bill - the first such national legislation anywhere in the world - include:

  • A series of legally binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions - leading to a 60 per cent reduction by 2050 and a 26 to 32 per cent reduction by 2020.
  • These will be backed up by a new system of legally binding five year "carbon budgets", set at least 15 years ahead.
  • A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide advice and guidance to Government on achieving its targets and staying within its carbon budgets.
  • This Committee will provide an annual progress report, to which the Government must respond. The aim is to ensure the Government is held to account every year on its progress towards each five year carbon budget and the 2020 and 2050 targets.

  • The Government will be required to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change and on its proposals and policy for adapting to climate change. The draft bill will be subject to a full public consultation alongside pre-legislative scrutiny in Parliament.

Announcing the draft bill, Environment Secretary David Miliband said: "With climate change we can't just close our eyes and cross our fingers. We need to step up our action to tackle it, building on our considerable progress so far. And time isn't on our side."

He said the bill demonstrated "leadership through action at home, while also continuing to work towards a strong international agreement post-2012."

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the bill would put Britain in a strong position in future negotiations on the follow up to the Kyoto Protocal: a clear reference to the crucial UN Climate Change Conference which takes place next month in Bali.

More needed

The campaign for a UK climate change law has been led by Friends of the Earth through its Big Ask climate campaign (www.foe.co.uk). FOE welcomed the Government's decision to introduce legislation - which could become law within six months - but says that the proposed new law must be strengthened.

The organisation's director, Tony Juniper said: "Climate legislation is desperately needed to ensure that Britain plays its part in cutting global carbon dioxide emissions. But the Government must strengthen its proposals to make it truly effective. This means a cut of at least 80 per cent in emissions by 2050, including pollution from Britain's share of international aviation and shipping, and setting annual milestones to ensure that we stay on track. We're delighted that the Government is taking action, but it must go further."

FOE called for three key changes in the bill:

  • The bill should aim to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 per cent. The 60 per cent target included in the Bill is based on a report that is seven years old, since when emissions have continued to rise rather than fall, and scientists have made it clear greater cuts will be required. Although the Government is reassessing this target it is not expected fix a new figure for two years and will continue to use the inadequate 60 per cent target figure in the interim period. This is particularly important as the Climate Change Committee will calculate the UK's carbon budget through to 2022 based on this out of date figure.
  • The UK's share of international aviation and shipping emissions should also be included from the outset.

  • The bill should require annual milestones, in addition to the five year budgets that the Government is planning, so that progress is properly scrutinised every year. This would ensure that the UK is kept on course for meeting an 80 per cent cut.