UK signs up to cut emissions by 80 per cent

Posted: 16 October 2008

The UK Government took a major step today in the battle against climate change when it announced that it will increase its target for cutting UK greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent. The move was widely welcomed by environmental groups.

Friends of the Earth warned, however, that pollution from planes and ships needs to be dealt with in law. The environmental campaign group also welcomed today's acceptance of the need for financial incentives - through a feed-in tariff - to encourage the uptake of small scale renewable energy systems such as solar panels and water turbines - but called for more detail on what was being proposed.

Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said the Government would amend the Climate Change Bill by increasing the target for carbon dioxide reductions from 60 to 80 per cent. However he made clear that international aviation and shipping emissions will dealt with voluntarily outside the Bill.

Sixty-eight back bench Labour MPs have signed a parliamentary petition calling for the Government to accept the advice issued by the climate change committee last week. This means a majority of MPs back the introduction of a strong law which will cover all the UK's emissions. MPs are due to vote on the Climate Change Bill at the end of October.

The proposals announced by Ed Miliband today will offer a fixed reward to renewable power technologies only. The tariff proposed by the climate coalition sand the Lords, proposes to reward renewable heat and renewable gas, as well as power. Consumers will have the potential to reduce and stabilise energy bills and generat MPs'e additional revenue. A tariff is also widely seen as essential for driving renewable energy generation to the level required to meet the EU's 2020 target. The UK is currently bottom of the league while the tariff model has been highly successful in Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

More details needed

Leonie Greene, Head of External Affairs, Renewable Energy Association, commented: "Business and community support for this campaign has always been incredible and we are delighted that the new Department for Energy and Climate Change is showing it means business by picking this up. However, it is vital that the Tariff measure covers renewable heat as well. Heat is the primary use of energy in the UK, responsible for half the UK's emissions - and renewable heat is the cheapest way to help meet the renewables targets."

Dave Timms, Senior Campaigner, Parliamentary Unit, Friends of the Earth, added: "We welcome Ed Milliband's acceptance of the need for a feed-in tariff and the important role that it can play in encouraging the installation of small scale renewable electricity systems, such as solar panels, wind and water turbines. However the details of the Government's amendment are unknown. It is essential that they bring forward a comprehensive scheme, with a timetable for its introduction. It must include households, businesses, communities and local authorities, giving them all an incentive play their part in tackling climate change by generating renewable electricity and heat.

"The renewable energy potential in Britain is enormous, developing green power will cut our dependency on fossil fuels, slash UK carbon dioxide emissions, increase fuel security and create thousands of jobs" he said.

Low carbon economy

David Nussbaum Chief Executive of WWF-UK, also welcomed today's announcement as "a great step forward with recognition that cuts of at least 80 per cent are needed for a safe climate, and that we simply cannot ignore emissions from aviation and shipping. The key issue now is to ensure that we move swiftly to a low carbon economy which creates new green jobs here in the UK, and that means setting an ambitious emissions reduction target for 2020 and ensuring we prioritise action at home, rather than relying excessively on imported carbon credits."

Feed in tariffs (FITs) already operate in 17 European countries. The scheme has been especially successful in Germany, which now has 200 times more solar power and more than 10 times more wind power than the UK and employs 250,000 people in renewable energy - compared with just 15,000 in the UK.

Small scale renewable energy systems could also play an important role in helping the UK meet its EU renewable energy target which says that 15 per cent of all Britain's energy must come from renewable energy sources by 2020. However, although the UK has accepted the target it is still proposing loop holes so that Britain - and other countries - can meet their target by including green energy investments abroad or carbon-capturing technology.

The Energy Bill is currently is the House of Lords. An amendment to introduce a 'Renewable Energy Tariff' (a feed-in tariff) will be debated later this month. It is supported by a coalition of 35 organisations including: Friends of the Earth, the Renewable Energy Association, Energy Saving Trust, National Farmers Union ,TUC, British Retail Consortium, National Energy Action, RSPB and RIBA.

Note: In a related move today, the European Union stuck to its pledge to carry on with its plans for tackling climate change, despite attempts by a number of member states to water them down in the face of the economic downturn.

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