Climate Change Bill announced

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The government has this morning released its draft Climate Change Bill, which will make a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 60 per cent by 2050 - and a 26 to 32 per cent reduction by 2020 - legally binding targets.

The targets will be met through a series of five year “carbon budgets”, set fifteen years in advance. A new organisation, the Committee on Climate Change, will offer the government advice and guidance towards meeting the targets.

David Miliband, the Secretary of State for the Environment, said that time was against us: ‘With climate change we can’t just close our eyes and cross our fingers. We need to step up our action to tackle it, building on our considerable progress so far.’

But environmentalists will be disappointed by the government’s decision to set five-year “carbon budget” targets, instead of the binding annual targets which have been repeatedly called for. Campaigners fear that because the proposed targets could exceed a government’s term of office, the political incentive for decisive action will be reduced.

Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth, said that the Bill could make the UK a world leader in tackling climate change, but only if annual targets were included: ‘If we are to set a global example we need a Bill which is strong enough to ensure successive Governments deliver the cuts in carbon dioxide emissions which are needed,’ he said.

Over two thirds of MPs have now signed up to the ‘Big Ask’ campaign, which calls for annual targets.

There is also concern that since the Bill was conceived, the 60 per cent reduction target is no longer adequate. The development charity Christian Aid, amongst others, is calling for a cut in carbon dioxide emissions of 80 per cent by 2050. Christian Aid’s senior climate policy officer, Andrew Pendleton, warned that if significant amendments were not made to the Bill, it could be a ‘massive lost opportunity’. He added that the legislation was ‘the first step on a long journey rather than the destination itself.’

Public consultation on the Bill will now be held for three months, during which time lobby groups will table amendments in the hope of strengthening the cuts and timescales believed necessary.


This article first appeared in the Ecologist March 2007