UK cuts reduction targets in revised NAPS plan

The Government has backtracked on its initial targets for reducing industrial carbon dioxide emissions in its revised National Allocation Plan (NAP), submitted to the EU last week, and published for consultation this week.

In January the Government announced it would cut CO2 emissions by 16.3% of 1990 levels by 2010 and proposed industry caps in line with that figure. It has now predicted that the UK will achieve only a 15.2% cut by 2010.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Margaret Beckett said: "This will move us beyond our Kyoto target and put us on a path to our domestic goal of a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010."

However, the new target was immediately condemned by environmental groups, who called it a "wasted opportunity" and a "disappointment".

Bryony Worthington, Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, said: "Plans to limit industrial emissions of carbon dioxide have been watered down and Government promises to cut emissions by 20% now appear to be nothing more than a distant dream. Ministers must now say where carbon dioxide savings can be made to get us back on track. Will they get tough on transport and the domestic sector, or bottle out yet again from taking effective action to tackle the single most important issue that we face as a global community?"

The change in reduction targets should be an embarrassment for Tony Blair, who last week said climate change was, "the most important environmental issue facing the world today." (see related story)

Andrew Lee, WWF's Director of Campaigns said: "If Tony Blair actually took climate change seriously then the obvious thing to do would have been to adopt more stringent targets via the EU emissions trading scheme, the cheapest option for the UK economy. Instead he has caved into business and allowed other EU countries' weak commitments to undermine the Government's resolve."

"We see no alternative now than for the Government to make up the lost ground through radical intervention in the transport sector," he added.

This reduction in CO2 emissions will be consistent with the overall number of allowances to be allocated in the first phase of the EU emissions trading scheme.

James Cameron, a founder of Climate Change Capital, a merchant bank specialising in emissions trading, told edie that this move would drive down the price of carbon.

"Prices have fallen every time a country publishes a weak NAP and they will continue to do so after this one. I think the Government has seriously misjudged the way the market will react," he said.

He told edie that the Government was proposing to cut emissions from 245.9 million tonnes in 1998-2002, to 245.4 million tonnes in the period 2005 - 2007. This is a cut of around 0.2% of the total, in real terms.

Last week Mr Cameron warned the Government that carbon prices had already been driven from €13 per tonne to a record low of around €6 per tonne.

He stressed that the trading scheme would still go ahead, as there would still be businesses needing to trade, but it would not initially be anywhere near as effective as it could be. "As there is a lowered incentive to reduce emissions, there is a far lower impetus to trade," he said.

"The Government is handing back the leadership it showed when it published its initial NAP. We've allowed the poor performance of other countries to bring us down too," he said.

The CBI was one of the few groups to be pleased at the NAP publication. CBI Chief Digby Jones said the Government deserves credit for listening to business concerns about cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, he still moaned that British companies still faced "tough targets".

By David Hopkins



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