Carbon emission targets delayed by government row
The govornment are comming close to failing on there current targets for greenhouse gas emmisions cuts, but the political situation in the UK, with broad cross-party support for cuts is making this a high pressure situation. The lib-dems and tories are both starting to smell blood, whilst labour mp's are increasingly determined not to let such a failure occur.
This from the Gaurdian:
The government's strategy to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the battle against climate change has been paralysed for seven months by a dispute between two Whitehall departments.
Labour has pledged in three successive manifestos that by 2010 it will cut the UK's CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 levels. The promise has reached almost totemic status in the party.
But publication of a programme to meet the targets has been held up, with the Department of Trade and Industry arguing that emissions have risen at such a rate over the past two years that it is unlikely Britain can meet the target. The DTI's latest projections show that, on current measures, CO2 will have been reduced to "only around 10% below 1990 levels by 2010".
But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, armed with less statistical and economic modelling firepower than the DTI, is contesting the figures, and insists the target can still be met by vigorous action.
Ministers are frustrated by the delay since the postponements reduce the government's chance of meeting its 2010 target. They fear that the UK's claim to international leadership on climate change is being undermined.
In an attempt to step up pressure on No 10, ministers warn that David Cameron, the Tory leader, is putting the environment at the heart of his repositioning of his party. Mr Blair has taken a strong position on climate change, but privately believes Mr Cameron's promise to cut carbon emissions year on year is unrealisable.
The inability of two key Whitehall departments to agree on the way ahead in such a crucial area of policy comes amid renewed warnings that the dangers posed by climate change are more serious than previously thought. The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, yesterday published the findings of a study initially prepared by international scientists for a conference convened by the government as president of the G8 last February. It includes evidence from the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the west Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate. Scientists believe that would raise sea levels around the world by 16ft (5 metres), with disastrous consequences around the world.
The government announced its review into its UK domestic climate change programme in September 2004, admitting it was not on course to meet the commitment to cut CO2 by 20% by 2010. A consultation document was published in December 2004 and most of the consultancy work completed last spring. The review, originally to be published last summer, is now due "early this year". But Mrs Beckett, under pressure from an all-party alliance on climate change, was unable yesterday to say precisely when it would be published.
The government is still likely to fulfil a separate but less ambitious pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2008-12, which would meet its commitment under the Kyoto protocol.
It is understood there have been technical disputes in Whitehall about measuring carbon emissions, including the true base level of emissions in 1990. The review is also being held up by uncertainties over the contribution Britain can make to the second round of the EU carbon trading emissions scheme, due to start in 2008 and end in 2012.
Each EU country is to send the EU commission details of how it intends to meet a national allocation plan by this summer. The plan fixes the total amount of CO2 that can be emitted by all the installations in each country covered by the scheme, as well as the number of emission allowances allocated to each individual installation.
In the domestic climate change programme, ministers have been looking at a range of options including tougher building regulations, higher vehicle excise duty on polluting cars and cuts in council tax to give incentives for domestic energy efficiency. The options are limited as businesses have already cut emissions, but carbon emissions from transport are projected to have gone up by 16% between 1990 and 2010, even though average fuel efficiency has also risen. More nuclear power, the subject of a separate government review, could not contribute to the 2010 target since no new stations could come on stream so quickly.
The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Norman Baker, said last night:
"There is a genuine problem about measuring carbon emissions in a credible way
but I fear there are some in government, especially in the DTI and in No 10,
that are quite happy to postpone decisions on climate change. The longer the
delay the more difficult it is to meet the target. They are quite happy to talk
about the importance of climate change, but not to take any action if it means
they are going to lose votes."
For the Tories, Peter Ainsworth, the shadow environment secretary, said: "Every day the news on climate change gets worse, but the UK's contribution to the problem keeps going up. How many more warnings does the government need before it takes effective action to cut emissions? The science is clear, now we've actually got to do something about it. I urge the government to restate its absolute commitment to cutting emissions by 20% by 2010 and 60% by 2050, and to give us a firm date for the delayed climate change programme review.
"Britain is capable of playing a major role in helping to achieve a more
stable and secure planet but we must put our own house in order first."