UK to ratify Kyoto Protocol

The UK will ratify the Kyoto Protocol “as soon as possible”, with the Protocol before Parliament for the 21 sitting day, according to an announcement to the House of Commons on 7th March.

Under the new legislation, the UK will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012, although the Government has already set the country a far tougher target – to cut emissions by 20% by 2010.

The Foreign Secretary is expected to be in position to sign the UK’s instrument of ratification on or after 19 April. Following this, the new instrument will be deposited with the UN at the same time as the European Community and other member states, by June at the latest, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, announced to the House of Commons.

“I firmly believe that the UK, as well as the rest of world, has much to gain from meeting the challenge of climate change head-on,” said Beckett.

She expressed the hope that other countries that have not yet ratified Kyoto would follow Europe’s lead, following the EC’s decision to ratify, announced two weeks ago (see related story). Beckett also noted that although she welcome’s US President George W Bush’s acceptance that climate change is a serious problem, his new programme of measures designed to tackle the phenomenon would actually result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 25% on 1990 levels by 2010, rather than the 7% cut required for the US under Kyoto (see related story).

The Minister outlined the key policies in the UK’s climate change programme, including: the establishment of the world’s first economy-wide emissions trading scheme (see related story); a target to provide 10% of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010; to double combined heat and power (CHP) capacity by 2010 – for which the Government will soon be publishing a draft CHP strategy; the Climate Change Levy (see related feature); and the establishment of the Carbon Trust (see related story). There are also schemes to promote better energy efficiency in the domestic sector (see related story), and at a Europe level, agreements have been reached with car manufacturers for a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency.

“We have today underlined the UK’s position as a world leader in the fight against climate change,” said Beckett, following her statement to the House. “The UK’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is a clear public statement of our commitment to the Protocol. We continue to believe that it presents the only workable option for the international community to take serious action and we urge other countries to ratify as soon as possible, including the US who we would like back on board in the future.”

Tackling climate change also presents new opportunities for businesses to improve energy efficiency, to cut costs and to get ahead of their international competitors by developing cleaner technologies and moving into new markets, added Beckett. “It also presents new job opportunities for people living and working in the UK,” she added.

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