Government set to miss carbon cut target

The UK will most likely miss its 2010 target of cutting carbon emissions by 20%, after the Government failed to include measures needed to achieve this in its Climate Change Programme review published on Tuesday.

In three consecutive election pledges, the Government promised to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels – a much more ambitious goal than the UK’s Kyoto target of 12.5% by 2012. But the reviewed climate programme will now only produce 15-18% cuts, environment secretary Margaret Beckett told a news conference at the review launch.

The review, which the Government launched in 2004 faced with rising greenhouse emissions, was delayed due to a reported wrangle between the departments of the environment and industry over how much CO2 business would be allowed to emit.

The final result was an annual cut in industrial carbon emissions of 3-8 million tonnes, with no indication as to which side of the bracket the value will fall.

“I regret the fact that we have not included in this programme the measures to get us down to 20%,” Margaret Beckett told the press conference.

“It has proved to be a more difficult task than we had hoped to reach the targets that we had originally set,” she said.

But she stressed several times that the review is “far from the last word,” insisting that the Government has not abandoned its 20% target.

She blamed the lack of recent progress on high economic growth and increased oil and gas prices, making coal a financially viable option.

The review drew scorn from environmentalists, with Friends of the Earth calling it “pathetic” and urging the Government to make annual cuts in carbon emissions a legal requirement.

FOE director Tony Juniper commented: “Tough action is needed to tackle climate change. But once again the Government has caved in to short-term political pressures and produced a totally inadequate response.”

“It’s time that Ministers accepted how their present programme is failing and embrace the need for a stronger and more structured approach,” he said.

Rival political parties criticised the reviewed climate programme for lack of ambition and vagueness.

Conservative shadow environment minister Peter Ainsworth said the review “fails to chart a course which will get us back on track.”

“This is an issue which, above all others, demands joined up Government. Instead, we see Government Departments squabbling as emissions continue to rise,” he said.

Lib Dem shadow environment spokesman, Chris Huhne MP, commented:

“The Government has failed to meet the goals it set itself, and is also failing by comparison with more enlightened foreign governments.

“Even the modest progress made on the Kyoto basket of greenhouse gases is largely an accidental result of the switch from coal to gas powered electricity generation, and has nothing to do with Government policy.”

British industry welcomed the “sensible measures” included in the review that aim to involve consumers in drive to curb emissions, such as informing the public on the environmental impact of everyday products and services. CBI Deputy Director-General John Cridland said:

“To meet the new stretched national targets will require action across all parts of society. … It is a step in the right direction.

“And business knows that tackling climate change cannot be ducked and intends to do its part – but it cannot keep shouldering most of the burden.”

By Goska Romanowicz

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