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Friends of the Earth accused Ministers of lacking the political will to tackle climate change, following today's publication of the Government's review of its climate change programme. The environmental campaign group described the review as "pathetic" and called for a new law to make the Government legally responsible for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions, a move backed by the majority of MPs.
The Government has repeatedly promised to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2010, including in all three of the general election manifestos that have put New Labour in Government. But emissions have risen by three per cent since Tony Blaircame to power in 1997. The latest figures show that they are currently only around five per cent below 1990 levels. The revised strategy was supposed to get the UK back on track - but it is clear that it has failed to do this.
Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper said:
"Tough action is needed to tackle climate change. But once again the Government has caved in to short-term political pressures and produced a totally inadequate response. This pathetic strategy will not deliver the Government's promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, and will further undermine the Prime Minister's reputation on this issue.The ship is heading for the rocks, but rather than changing direction, Captain Blair has simply reduced speed while his crew continues to squabble."
"Most MPs now back Friends of the Earth's call for a new law requiring the Government to make annual cuts in carbon dioxide. It's time that Ministers acceptedhow their present programme is failing andembrace theneed for a stronger and more structuredapproach. The solutions exist, but the Government clearly lacks the political will to use them."
Friends of the Earth's climate campaign, The Big Ask, is calling on the Government to introduce a climate law that would set a legally binding target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 3 per cent every year, monitored through an annual carbon budget. For more information see www.thebigask.com
The programme published today has a number of significant failings:
It will not deliver the Government target of a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010;
It lacks an overall framework for tackling climate change, relying instead on a piecemeal approach which past experience strongly suggests is doomed to fail;
The Government's promise of a "stricter emissions cut for industry" may not be true. As part of today's announcement, the Government published a consultation on the National Allocation Plan for the second phase of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. This sets the total limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that industry can emit in each of the five years from 2008 to 2012. The Government has said it will "achieve carbon savings of between 3 and 8 MtC" but this is measured from a baseline of the emissions predicted if no action were taken to save energy.
Astonishingly the lower end of the range of saving proposed by Government would actually lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions from industry.
Under the current ETS industrial emissions (2005-2007) are capped at 245.43 MtCO2 per year. But the consultation on Phase II of the ETS (which will run from 2008-2012) says "the total allocation will not exceed 1260 MtCO2" over the whole five year period - or 252 MtCO2 per year. This means that ETS II could allow industry to emit more co2 than it does at the moment. (para 1.10, "Consultation on the Phase II UK Draft National Allocation Plan. (PDF) ")
It doesn't commit to a reduction in traffic and does not do enough to ensure that more efficient vehicles are used. Road transport accounts for 25 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions.
There is no review of the Government's disastrous aviation strategy, which heavily subsidies cheap flights and is allowing a massive expansion in capacity through the building of new runways and airport terminals. Aviation is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide emissions in the UK.
It does not go far enough in realising the massive potential for energy saving, renewable power and combined heat & power schemes, leaving Britain largely dependent on the inefficient use of fossil fuels for electricity and heating.