Defra launches review of climate change programme after admitting missing targets

The Government has launched a consultation on the review of its Climate Change Programme after admitting it will fail to meet its own goals for reducing carbon dioxide emissions using current policies.

Originally launched in 2000, the programme introduced a series of measures to meet the UK target of cutting CO2 levels to 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. However, UK emissions are only 7.5% below 1990 levels - exactly the same level as they were when Labour came to power in 1997.

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment said it was clear that the UK will meet its obligations under the Kyoto Treaty, but admitted that, "we will not, on the basis of current policies alone, achieve our ambitious 2010 domestic goal of a 20% cut in CO2 emissions."

"We want to do more, and the consultation indicates the key areas where we believe more can be achieved. This review also shows our commitment to the existing programme of climate change measures, and we will be publishing a revised programme in the first half of 2005," she said.

The consultation highlights five key areas for further reductions in carbon emissions:

  • EU Emissions Trading Scheme
    The Government is looking beyond 2007 to consider the second phase of the scheme that runs from 2008 - 2012. The first phase covers 46% of UK CO2 emissions.
  • Energy Efficiency
    A range of measures to stimulate take-up of energy efficiency measures in households has recently been announced, including regulatory and incentive based policies, grants and economic incentives. The pre-budget report also announced a £20 million package of measures to accelerate the development of energy efficient technology.
  • Biomass
    The government has said it would like to see a rise in the production of biomass to boost farming, forestry and the rural economy as well as renewable energy targets. A biomass taskforce was set up earlier this year and will report on its findings in 2005 (see related story).
  • Transport
    Transport is the fastest area of emission growth. The government is seeking the inclusion of intra-EU aviation in the EU ETS and is considering the feasibility of road-pricing. However, while the cost of driving remains far lower than that of public transport, these measures are unlikely to curb the emissions growth.
  • Biofuels
    Cleaner fuels like biofuels and cleaner vehicle technologies are being encouraged by the government (see related story).

    "It is vitally important that we engage during the review period with all stakeholders, representing business and industry from all economic sectors, including transport, as well as the public sector, so that we can work together towards achieving our long term goals," Mrs Beckett said.

    The mention of business and industry caused the CBI to immediately go on the defensive and issue a statement saying business should not be blamed for climate change. John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director General, said the environmental lobby was wrong to try and put business in the dock over the environment.

    "The fact is that British business has done more than anybody else to tackle climate change. The government has done little to place any of the burden on consumers," he said.

    Quite how consumers could take on this burden when, by definition, they can only consume the products that business and industry create in the first place was unclear in his statement.

    Friends of the Earth called for the consultation to include measures to incentivise the power sector and industry to make deep cuts in emissions through investment in new technologies by, for example, tightening caps in the emissions trading scheme and providing incentives for combined heat and power.

    The consultation will last for 12 weeks. Full details can be obtained from the Defra website.

    By David Hopkins

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