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Friday, July 29, 2005

Campaigners call for a Climate Change Bill
A coalition of British NGOs and MPs have called for a new law to ensure that the UK reduces its emissions of greenhouse gases. Despite Tony Blair’s concerns about climate change, UK emissions are continuing to rise, and are now higher than they were in 1997 when Labour came to power.

MPs and NGOs launched the details of the proposed new law in Parliament on Wednesday 13 July 2005. They argued that without a legal framework, the UK would fail to make the essential year-on-year cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases.

The importance of tackling climate change was highlighted at the recent G8 summit in Edinburgh, where US opposition blocked any tangible agreement for an international plan of action to tackle the problem.

The Climate Change Bill is supported by:

Former Environment Ministers from both Labour (Michael Meacher MP) and the Conservatives (John Gummer MP) and the current LibDem environment spokesman (Norman Baker MP).

200 MPs who have declared their support for the bill.

Ten NGOs who have formed a coalition to work for a new climate law. The coalition includes Transport 2000, Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, Christian Aid and WWF-UK.

The new law would:

• Set a legally binding target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3% every year.

• Compel the Prime Minister to report annually to Parliament on progress towards meeting the target.

• Introduce a series of measures to get emission cuts back on track if they do not meet the 3% target report. This would include: requirements on ministers to introduce new policies; greater powers for Select Committees; and ultimately symbolic pay cuts for the Ministers failing to cut emissions.

At the recent general election, all three major parties supported long-term cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, all promising a 60% cut by 2050. Yet emissions have risen in recent years, making it ever harder to meet such a target. As carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for many years, the real limit is not simply the level of emissions in 2050, but cumulative emissions between now and then. Without this law, high emissions for the next ten years will mean far bigger annual cuts would be needed by 2050.

Transport 2000 Executive Director Stephen Joseph said: “The UK certainly leads the world in rhetoric on climate change but if our words are to be taken seriously then we must get our own house in order and this means making the connection between climate change and transport choices. We must tackle our increasing car use and the rapid growth in aviation.”

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director, Tony Juniper, said: “Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. We have a window of opportunity to prevent catastrophic climate change but that gap is narrowing. It is critical that we set ourselves on a pathway to achieve the necessary carbon dioxide reductions. This bill will set us on a sensible and achievable glide path towards the necessary long-term targets.”

Mervyn Kohler of Help the Aged, said: ”Older people are a vulnerable group. For both environmental and behavioural reasons, they are at risk in hot weather and in cold weather. Air pollution is a further health hazard. To manage these risks better, as well as passing on a decent world to future generations, Help the Aged strongly supports this initiative.”

Association for the Conservation of Energy's Director Andrew Warren, said: “The energy efficiency industry needs the reassurance this bill gives that the Government is serious about its long term carbon dioxide reduction targets. We can then ensure the long-term investment necessary to produce new, cutting-edge carbon-saving technologies.”

World Development Movement’s Head of Campaigns and Communications, Benedict Southworth, said: “The impact of climate change will hit the world's poorest harder. Justice for the world's poor requires developed countries to take responsibility for the problems they have caused. By setting out clear emission reduction target the Climate Change Bill will ensure that the UK doesn’t pass the buck to the world’s poorest countries.”

Christian Aid’s senior policy officer, Andrew Pendleton, said: ”Poor people in the developing world are on the frontline of climate change, where increasingly severe weather is making lives and livelihoods more difficult year on year. And yet they have done little themselves to trigger climate change, which is why rich countries must make firm, legally-binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

ACT’s Ron Bailey said: ”Climate change is the greatest threat facing us. Citizens want government to act. The targets in this bill and the mechanisms to hold government and MPs to account are crucial for sustainability and democracy.”

Matthew Davis, WWF-UK`s Climate Change Campaign Director, said: “Targets that can be missed with impunity take us backwards on climate change. They provide an illusion of progress, while covering up the lack of real action to reduce emissions. This bill will make targets meaningful, ensuring that Ministers are individually responsible for staying on track, and spelling out the consequences should they fail. As well as the devastating impact on people, this could mean up to one-third of land-based species facing extinction by the middle of this century while many marine species could also be lost."

For further reading see the following documents:

The Energy Review (UK) - Feb 2002 - Cabinent Office, Policy + Innovation Unit

UK Energy White Paper - Our Energy future - Creating a Low Carbon Economy - Feb 2003

UK Carbon Abatement Technology Strategy document 2005

UK Energy Projections May 2004

G8 Gleneagles Communique

US inspired Asia Pacific Climate Control Pact... BBC analysis