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Climate Change Bill: Friends of the Earth comment
29 October 2007
Responding to Hilary Benn's announcement on the Climate Change Bill today (29 Oct) Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper said:
"The Government is getting ever closer to introducing a truly groundbreaking piece of legislation. However the Bill needs to be beefed up if it is going to deliver the cuts which science tells us is needed. This is something hundreds of thousands of people across the UK have been calling for through The Big Ask, Friends of the Earths climate campaign.
"We are pleased the Government is looking again at the overall target for cutting emissions, which it agrees is inadequate, and at whether emissions from shipping and aviation should be included in the Bill. However it's disappointing that we will have to wait two years for these obvious wrongs to be put right.
"It is ludicrous that the Government intends to set the UK's carbon budget for the next 15 years based on targets that it knows are out of date and under review. We need to agree what cuts we are aiming to achieve before we start mapping out how we are going to get there."
Friends of the Earth has led the campaign for the introduction of a strong climate change law through The Big Ask (www.thebigask.com). The campaign, which was launched in May 2005 by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, is calling for the introduction of a law that commits the UK to cutting its emissions by at least 3 percent a year - equivalent to at least 80 percent by 2050 - and which covers emissions from all sectors, including international shipping and aviation. A huge coalition of organisations and MPs has now joined the call for a strong law. A brief history of the campaign for a Climate Change Bill is available .
Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the following measures:
*The target for cutting emissions remains unchanged at 60 percent by 2050. The Government will ask the newly formed Climate Change Committee to report on whether this target should be strengthened by September 2009.
*The Bill will not cover the UK's share of emissions from international shipping and aviation. The Committee will report on whether these emissions should be included by September 2009.
*The Committee is expected to calculate the UK's carbon budget for the first three budget periods by September 2008 - before it looks at the UK's overall target for cutting emissions or assesses whether emissions from international shipping and aviation should be included in the Bill.
Friends of the Earth's View
Friends of the Earth welcomes the Government's commitment to producing a legal framework for tackling carbon dioxide emissions. This is the central demand of The Big Ask Campaign (www.thebigask.com).
However Friends of the Earth believes that if the UK is to play its part in tackling climate change the Government needs to strengthen the proposed Bill.
A stronger target for cutting emissions
If the Climate Change Bill is to ensure the UK plays its part in keeping global temperatures from rising two degrees above pre industrial levels - the temperature rise recognised by the EU as a `danger level' - it needs to commit the UK to cutting its emissions by at least three percent each year through to 2050 (equivalent to around 80 percent by 2050).
The Government itself has accepted that the 60 percent target is based on out of date science and will ask the new Climate Change Committee to look into whether it should be strengthened. While Friends of the Earth is pleased the Government is willing to reassess the target do not believe the Government should continue to use the inadequate 60 percent target figure in the interim period. This is particularly important as the Climate Change Committee will calculate the UKs carbon budget for the first three budget periods on this figure.
In addition it does not make sense for the Government to ask the Climate Change Committee to calculate the UKs carbon budget through to 2022 before they agree a new overall target for cutting emissions. It is important to know what cuts we are aiming to achieve before we map out how we will get there, not least because it is the total cumulative amount of emissions by 2050 (i.e. every years emissions added together) that will affect how serious climate change is at that time. If the early budgets are based on an inadequate target and are too generous, we will have cut even more drastically by 2050.
Inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions
Up to 10 percent of UK emissions currently come from aviation and shipping and aviation emissions are growing rapidly.
The new Climate Change Committee will be asked to report on whether the UK's share of emissions from international shipping and aviation should be included in the Bill. They are not expected to reach a conclusion until September 2009.
Friends of the Earth is calling for emissions from all sectors - including international shipping and aviation should be included in the Bill from the outset. All three Parliamentary Committees who examined the Governments draft Bill said that failure to include emissions from international aviation from the start was a serious weakness.
The Government has said it cannot include the UKs share of emissions from shipping and aviation because there is no international agreement on how emissions will be allocated between countries. However these emissions are already reported to the UN under the requirements of the Kyoto protocol and are available on the DEFRA website.
The Bill must allow Governments to be held accountable for their role in keeping the UK on track to meet its emission reduction targets.
The Governments Climate Change Bill proposes a five year budget period. As a result responsibility for reducing emissions will span more then one Governments term in office. This means a Government may avoid taking action to cut emissions, knowing that its successor will get the blame for missing targets.
Friends of the Earth has proposed that the 5-year budget should also include annual milestones so that it can be shown every year whether or not the Government is on track meet the budget. This recommendation was backed by all three Parliamentary select committees who were examined the draft Bill.
 A more detailed history of the Campaign for a Climate Change Bill is available at: www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefing_notes/history_of_the_big_ask.pdf (PDF† )
If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.
Published by Friends of the Earth Trust
Last modified: Jul 2008