Climate Bill published

Legislation which will set legally binding targets for the reduction of Britain's greenhouse gas emissions was published in Parliament this week.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn put the Climate Change Bill before Parliament on Thursday, making the UK the first country to set itself such targets as a legal requirement rather than a simple aspiration.

While the Bill does not set out annual targets, as lobbied for by many environmental groups and green-leaning politicians, it does lay down a target to cut CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050, and by a more flexible 26% to 32% by 2020.

"This Bill is a landmark in environmental legislation and will set us firmly on the path to the low-carbon economy we know is fundamental to our future," said Mr Benn.

"We need to provide the framework that will give Government, businesses and individuals a clear idea of how we're going to tackle climate change.

"We also need to show the world that we're taking decisive action within our own borders, particularly ahead of the crucial talks in Bali next month where we want to launch formal negotiations on a comprehensive future climate deal that involves every major country on earth.

"This Bill shows the world that we're serious, and that we're not asking other countries, and in particular poorer countries, to do what we're not willing to do ourselves. This is vital to our ambition to get a future deal agreed by the end of 2009."

As well as advising on carbon budgets, the Committee on Climate Change, proposed in the Bill, will be charged with investigating whether the 2050 target needs to be strengthened further, as well as reporting on the impacts of including emissions from international aviation or shipping in the UK's targets.

As well as the headline figures on carbon targets, the Bill is to include:

  • A new system of legally binding five year "carbon budgets", set at least 15 years ahead, to provide clarity on the UK's optimum pathway towards its key targets and increase the confidence and certainty for business planning and investment in technology needed to move towards a low-carbon economy.

  • A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide independent expert advice and guidance to Government on achieving its targets and staying within its carbon budgets.

  • A new system of annual reporting to Parliament. The Committee on Climate Change will provide an independent progress report to which the Government must respond. This will ensure the Government is held to account every year on its progress towards each five year carbon budget and the 2020 and 2050 targets.

  • A requirement for Government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change and on its proposals and policy for adapting to climate change.

  • Powers to introduce new trading schemes through secondary legislation, similar to the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a new cap and trade scheme for large organisations such as local authorities, supermarkets and other large retailers, and government departments. The Carbon Reduction Commitment will be introduced through the Bill.

    Sam Bond

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