Local authorities urged to act as emissions data published
Local authorities are being urged to develop emissions reductions strategies as new figures have revealed the levels of emissions produced in each area across the UK.Defra has, for the first time, estimated the level of local household, traffic and industrial carbon dioxide emissions, reallocating emissions from power stations to where the electricity is actually used in people's homes and businesses.
The figures show that in nearly half of all local authorities the domestic sector generates more emissions than industry, commerce and the public sector.
However, the rate of emissions from this sector can vary substantially between areas due to a range of factors such as availability of different fuels, climate, relative wealth and housing type, as well as energy efficiency.
"We need to be cautious about the accuracy of these figures," said Elliot Morley, Minister for the Environment. "They should be read on the basis of giving us broad indication and they will need to be refined over time. However, we know the average household can save up to £250 a year by being more energy efficient, the equivalent of two tonnes a year of carbon dioxide; but it's not just about saving money, it's also about saving the environment."
He added that many local authorities were already doing good work on energy efficiency and climate change but that the new figures would help them do more.
The new data has led many to call on the government to set fixed targets for local authorities to reduce emissions. Norman Baker MP, Lib-Dem Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "Action at local level can only successfully deliver emissions cuts with leadership from national Government. As a country we are going backwards not forwards in meeting our carbon and greenhouse gas targets. The government cannot expect local authorities to cut their emissions levels without leadership from the centre."
Think-tank the IPPR proposed a package of measures to cut emissions including council tax rebates to encourage households to take up energy savings measures like insulation, and Friends of the Earth said that the UK should set a legal framework to cut emissions by three percent year-on-year.
Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, Martyn Williams said:
"The UK Government's climate strategy is failing, and carbon dioxide emissions are rising instead of falling. The Government must get its strategy back on track and introduce a legal framework to ensure that UK carbon dioxide emissions are cut by three per cent every year.
"But the Chancellor can start cutting emissions immediately if he introduces incentives in his pre-budget statement which make it easier and cheaper for people to take action, including measures to encourage energy saving in the home and promote more fuel-efficient motoring.
"Regional Assemblies and local authorities must wake up to threat of global warming. They should set targets for cutting emissions and ensure that their strategies help them achieve it. This must include ensuring that all new housing developments are carbon neutral."
By David Hopkins