Government failing on energy policy as CO2 emissions rise again

Carbon dioxide emissions rose again last year and have risen for five of the past seven years, despite Tony Blair's promises to put climate change at the heart of policy decisions and the setting of ambitious reduction targets.

The latest figures from the DTI show that rather than falling as planned, emissions rose by 2.2% in 2003 and 1.5% in 2004 – an increase of 2.3 million tonnes over the past two years. Currently, emissions levels are only 4% below 1990 levels and have increased by 3% since 1997 when Labour came to office.

Emissions levels in 1997 were 153.9 million tonnes C and have risen to 158.4 million tonnes in 2004, compared to a 1990 level of 165.4 million tonnes.

The rise is attributed to growing emissions from industry, transport and the domestic sector which increased their energy consumption by 4%, 2.5% and 2% respectively. It casts doubt on the Government’s target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2010.

It is believed that this rise in emissions was anticipated by the Government last year when it amended its National Allocation Plan (NAP) submission to the European Commission to allow for far greater levels of carbon dioxide to be emitted (see related story).

The UK is legally bound as a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of all six greenhouse gases to 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12. It managed this in 1999 but these latest projections show that emissions for 2004 are dangerously close to the limit, coming only 12.6% below 1990 levels.

Mike Childs, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth said: “These further increases in carbon dioxide emissions are shocking. The Government clearly has no control over our emissions and cannot claim to be effectively tackling climate change. Tony Blair needs to get a grip on this issue and oversee a radical reform of the Government’s climate change programme that will deliver year on year reductions in carbon dioxide.”

The Government is currently conducting a review of its own climate change policies, but this is not enough, according to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA). The panel of MPs has called for the creation of a post of Minister for Climate Change to put global warming issues at the heart of Government.

Michael Jack MP, Chairman of the Committee said that Government departments are not working together effectively enough to achieve overall targets and policy aims.

“What is needed is someone with sufficient ministerial clout to be able to knock heads together and ensure that all Departments are travelling the same road when it comes to dealing with the consequences of climate change,” he said.

Knocking the Blair administration’s obsession with appointing so-called ‘Tsars’ to tackle social problems, Mr Jack said: “On this occasion a climate Tsar won’t do, it must be a Minister.”

The Committee says Government should focus on policies which give a quick and easy gain such as installing insulation and energy-saving devices as a first measure toward lowering emissions and raising public awareness.

“It is essential the Government strikes the right balance between controlling the use of power generation and encouraging energy saving practices. At the moment we don’t think that balance has been struck. The Government is failing to get to grips with encouraging energy efficiency at the household level. It’s a case of too many sticks and not enough carrots,” concluded Mr Jack.

By David Hopkins

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