Friday, October 27, 2006

Should the climate change bill call for annual targets?

Most people will welcome the climate change bill's attempt to remove setting long term targtets relating to carbon emissions from short term political interference. But how peculiar to see many people both from other political parties and NGOs insisting that the Government should set binding annual targets as opposed to five or ten-year targets. Given that the demand for energy is uncertain because of the weather and people cannot change their behaviour in the short run, having an annual target might occasion large swings in energy prices. In any case, ratified information on the UK's annual carbon emissions does not become available until well into the following year so what these people appear to be asking for is not even technically possible.

The government will today agree plans for a climate change bill setting new long-term targets to cut carbon emissions in Britain in response to intense pressure from environmental campaigners.

An independent body to advise on whether government policies will meet the green targets will be created under proposals to be tabled by the environment secretary, David Miliband, when he makes a presentation to the environment and energy cabinet committee today. The bill will be in the next Queen's Speech on November 15.

But the government is resisting the idea of a law requiring a cut in carbon emissions year on year, arguing that unforeseen factors, such as extreme weather or unexpectedly strong economic growth, can mean targets can be missed from one year to the next. Mr Miliband is more likely to back specific targets for each decade, probably in concert with European Union targets.

He will also discuss how the government can pursue international climate talks, in view of a warning yesterday by the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, that "the world is on the path to climate chaos".

Mr Miliband's move follows growing cross-party pressure, led by environmental groups, for a climate change bill amid evidence that Britain's C02 emissions have grown under the Blair government.

More than 400 MPs, including the Conservative and Liberal Democrat frontbenches, have backed the calls which they say should include a commitment to year on year C02 reductions.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, welcomed the decision to legislate but said the bill must include year-on-year targets.

Tony Juniper, head of Friends of the Earth, also called for legally binding targets for reductions of about 3% a year.

"We very much welcome the fact that the government has responded to the broad-based campaign that called for a new climate change law," said Mr Juniper. "But if the UK is serious about tackling the problem and about being a world leader, then there has to be something in law that places a commitment on the government to do something in the short term."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rather than relying on proclamations about annual targets from people who are trying to avoid them (David Miliband and Tony Blair) You should read the Bill drafted by Michael Meacher to see that a legal framework of annual targets this is perfectly possible and rational.

What the Meacher Bill requires is a target to be set in law for each year (hence legally binding) and then explains what happens if it is missed.

In the event of a breach, Meacher's Bill requires explanation to Parliament as to why the Bill was missed, and a statement on what new policies the Government will implement to get back on track. It therefore allows Parliament to recognise a bad winter was the result of a breach, but that policies to improve the efficiency of our economy are all on track if that is the case.

The Bill introduces more serious powers for Select Committees if the breach is larger - ultimately allowing the censuring Ministers through a nominal pay cut in the case of very large breaches.

There are plenty of Government targets in the economic realm that are similarly affected by weather, or the uncontrollable effect of foreign economies or whatever. These do not prevent us having a budget every year to adjust policies and steer the economy back on track. We need the same regular attention to CO2 policies.

There is also a lot of hype in this weather effect. It is generally accepted we should be cutting emissions by around about 3% a year or more - if the policies were genuinely in place, bad weather is highly unlikely to ever make emissions rise - though the fall would be smaller some years than others.