Archived press release
Climate change not fuel prices: the real energy crisis

The Government must take urgent action to reduce the nation's dependence on oil, Friends of the Earth said today. The call comes as concerns grow about world tensions and rising oil prices. Alternatives to oil and a dramatic improvement in fuel efficiency are needed to improve economic stability and help the fight against global climate change - the biggest environmental threat the planet faces.

Friends of the Earth urged action as the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is under pressure from the roads lobby and industry over rising oil prices. He has called on OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) ministers, meeting on Thursday, to increase oil production, but Friends of the Earth warned that this is not a long-term solution. Fluctuations in production and price are likely to happen again. Oil is one of the biggest contributors to the production of carbon dioxide, the main climate-changing gas.

Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said

"The Government must take urgent action to protect our environment and economy by reducing our dependence on oil. It is a major contributor to global climate change, and ties our economy too closely to an increasingly volatile supply. There are alternatives, but the Government is not doing enough to promote them."

The transport sector is responsible for 27 per cent of the UK's carbon dioxide emissions [1]. The Government must do more to reduce this sector's dependence on oil and help tackle climate change.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to adopt the following measures:

Ensure that the motor industry makes and sells more fuel-efficient vehicles

Motor vehicles could be significantly more fuel efficient than they currently are. New cars are generally more fuel-efficient than older models, but the motor industry is unlikely to meet its voluntary pledge for new cars sold in Europe to have average emissions of 140 grams per kilometre by 2008/9. Last year new cars sold in the UK emitted, on average 172.8 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. New targets should be introduced and made legally-binding.

Introduce financial and legal incentives to promote biofuels

Biofuels are renewable and, compared to petrol or diesel, offer up to a 70 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Some biofuels can be readily used by vehicles, others will require cars being adapted. Biofuels can also be added as a mix to oil-based fuel. Friends of the Earth is supporting calls for the Energy Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, to be amended to ensure that petrol suppliers source an increasing percentage of their products from renewable sources.

Greater support for public transport, walking and cycling

Despite Government promises, traffic levels continue to rise. The Government is currently reviewing its 10 year transport plan and is expected to announce new priorities and spending plans next month. This must include more investment in providing alternatives to car use rather than more road-building and motorway-widening. Friends of the Earth is part of the Way To Go coalition of 29 transport, environment and social justice organisations (www.waytogo.org.uk)

Financial incentives to encourage motorists to use their cars less.

According to the latest Government figures motoring costs have fallen by 4.8% since Labour came to office (whilst rail costs have gone up three per cent and bus travel by 8.2 per cent) Motoring is also cheaper now in real terms, than it was 30 years ago [2]. Friends of the Earth wants the Chancellor to use fuel tax to ensure that motoring costs do not fall further. This will encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient cars and discourage unnecessary car journeys. Congestion charging - which has led to a 19 per cent fall in emissions of carbon dioxide in London's congestion zone, as well as a 30 per cent reduction in congestion - should also be introduced to other areas.

Higher road taxes for gas-guzzling vehicles.

The Chancellor has cut road tax for the most fuel efficient vehicles. Friends of the Earth is calling for him to raise tax levels for the most fuel-inefficient cars.

More support for rail freight

Since 1990, emissions of climate-changing gases from the freight industry have risen by 59%. The Government must do more to get freight on rail by investing in rail freight infrastructure and .reintroducing grants to encourage businesses to switch from road to rail freight.

Introduce demand management measures for aviation

Emissions of carbon dioxide from aviation are set to rise rapidly in coming years following the Government's recent decision to allow a massive expansion in air travel. By 2020 aviation could account for 10-12% of all UK emissions of carbon dioxide. Urgent action is needed to introduce measures to manage demand for aviation including making airlines pay tax on the fuel the use, which they currently do not.

Notes

[1] www.sustainable-development.gov.uk/ ¬
sustainable/quality04/maind/04n03.htm

[2] www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/cm040317/ ¬
text/40317w05.htm#40317w05.html_sbhd7

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