UK scientists call for tougher carbon curbs

Posted: 21 January 2008

Four of Britain's leading environmental scientists have called on the Government to commit to tougher carbon emission cuts in the Climate Change Bill. The detaied Bill is expected to be published next month and could become law by next Easter.

The current and two former Chairs of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) have signed an open letter to the leadersof the main political parties - published in today's Times, Guardian, FT, Telegraph and Independent - stating that the government'semissions reduction target for CO2 is based on out-of-date science. The government's current target of a 60 per cent reduction in the UK'sCO2 emissions by 2050 is based on a report by the RCEP published in 2000.

Current RCEP Chair, Sir John Lawton, and his predecessors, Sir Tom Blundell, chair at the time of the 2000 report and Sir John Houghton,together with Foreign Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, Professor Norman Myers, argue that the latest science - including theScientific Assessment Report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC) of February 2007, points to the need to cut theUK's CO2 emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.

Sir John Houghton, the first Chair of Scientific Assessment for the IPCC, said: "The UK has always been proud of its leadership in theissue of climate change. To keep in the lead, the government needs to keep in step with the science that is now strongly pointing towards cuts in emissions of at least 80 per cent by 2050 if we are to mitigate against dangerous climate change. Furthermore there is convincingmodelling to show that these cuts are achievable and affordable.

A recent report, published jointly by WWF-UK, ippr and the RSPB,80 pe cent Challenge: Delivering a low carbon Britain2, found that it is technically feasible and affordable for the UK to cut its CO2 emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050 - including Britin's share of emissions from international aviation and without using new nuclear power. Alternative solutions could lie in energy efficiency and a rapid roll out of renewable and decentralised energy, potentially combined with fossil fuel power stations equipped with working carbon capture and storage.

Business certainty

David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF, said:"Today some of Britain's most eminent climate and environmental scientists have added their voices to the growing calls for emissioncuts based on the latest science - that means cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050. All the science points to the need to put the 80 per centtarget on the face of the Bill, which will also give business the long-term certainty they have called for to plan for a low carbon future."

Recent statements by Sir Nicholas Stern, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the UN Human Development Report 2007/2008 also make clear that developed countries must make emissions reductions of at least 80 per cent by 2050.

WWF is also calling on the UK Government to include emissions from international aviation and shipping in the Climate Change Bill.

Coal power

In another effort to pressure the Government, the World Development Movement issued a report, based on new rew research, showing that the proposed Kingsnorth coal-fired power station in Kent will release more carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere than Ghana's total carbon emissions each year.

Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement said: "It is impossible for the government to claim that they are pro-coal but anti-climate change. The fact that the government is backing a new coal-fired power station that would release more harmful carbon into the air than Ghana, which has a population of 22 million people, is deeply alarming and completely incompatible with the need to cut the UK's carbon emissions by more than 80 per cent to avoid disastrous climate change.

"The government is relying on carbon capture and storage technology to try to make a dirty industry clean, but they are pinning our hopes on technology that isn't available yet. This seems like a risky strategy at best."

Friends of the Earth has joined in to demand that the EU strengthens its proposals for cutting European carbon dioxide emissions, and abandon plans for a massive expansion in biofuels. Otherwise "its ambitions to lead globally on climate change will not be credible" it warns. The EU Energy Directive, which is due to be published this week, will allocate targets to each member state for cutting emissions and generating energy from renewables.

Note: The UK Energy Bill,now before parliament, outlines plans for a threefold increase in UK renewable electricity - but this is expected to be less than half the amount needed to meet the target that the EU is set to allocate to Britain on Wednesday. Friends of the Earth is calling for strong measures to be added to the Bill to boost renewable energy generation.