Britain Set to Miss its Own Greenhouse Gas Target
Author: Jeremy Lovell
Prime Minister Blair has made tackling global warming a priority for his government and had set a domestic target for cutting emissions that was much more ambitious than Britain's commitment under the international Kyoto Protocol.
"It has proved to be a more difficult task than we had hoped to reach the targets that we had originally set," Environment Minister Margaret Beckett told a news conference announcing the government's new Climate Change Review Programme.
She said her long-delayed review would produce CO2 cuts of only 15-18 percent from 1990 levels by 2010, compared with the government's target of 20 percent.
"But it is important to stress that we are not abandoning 20 percent and we do believe it is achievable and we will continue to strive to achieve it," she added.
Environmental pressure groups said Britain should have been well on the way to meeting its own goal nine years after it was set and criticised the government for failing to set the right course.
"Tough action is needed to tackle climate change," said Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth. "But once again the government has caved in to short-term political pressures and produced a totally inadequate response."
The World Wide Fund for Nature was similarly dismissive.
"Tony Blair's credibility on climate change at home and abroad is now in tatters. This proves that Blair has talked a good game on climate change but consistently failed to convert words into action," said chief executive Robert Napier.
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Britain must cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent by 2012.
The review was delayed by more than a year because of a battle between the Department of Environment -- which wanted large emission cuts -- and the Department of Trade and Industry -- which wanted smaller cuts to avoid damaging competitiveness.
The climate review also opened consultations for the crucial phase two of the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme due to come into effect in 2008 and run to 2012.
The government said it was aiming for annual carbon emission cuts by industry of 3-8 million tonnes during that period, but would not finalise this until its EU neighbours had also stepped up to the mark.
"We don't want to make the first offer," Industry Minister Alan Johnson told the news conference. "There are other EU member states who are not meeting their Kyoto commitments, and we need to see what offers they are going to make."
The government said the brunt of the burden would be borne by the electricity industry.
Beckett said the review would usher in a range of new policies to promote renewable energy sources like waves and wind, including rooftop solar panels and windmills as part of a new microgeneration policy the government also announced on Tuesday.
It would encourage greater energy efficiency in households by means such as insulation, give consumers more information on the greenest products, promote environmentally friendly energy sources for transport like biofuels and improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
(Additional reporting by Stuart Penson, Gerard Wynn and Kate Holton)