Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Latest UK Climate Bill Developments

The UK Climate Bill will be the first legally binding national piece of legislation on carbon emissions. Initiated due to a lobbying effort by UK environmental organisation friends of the earth the Bill has since recieved strong support both by opposition parties and by a whole range of environmental and development organisations including the Stop Climate Chaos coallition.

Initially the target proposed was a 60% cut by 2050 based on 1990 levels. This target was assumed to exclude international aviation and shipping. The official reasoning behind this has always been the difficulty of allocating carbon emissions to international travel and the lack of global agreement. In reality it comes down to considerations of national economic competativeness. Whatever the reasoning, this approach has been continuously assailed by large sections of politically active society. These attacks have been strengthened by both a supportive stance from opposition parties and the govornment wish to base targets rhetorically at least on the latest climate science. Clearly having loopholes of any significant size is not compatible with policies based on the urgent neeed for emissions reductions; the potential lack of any progress on uk emissions if aviation is excluded has regularly attained prominance.

Now at last it looks like international aviation and shipping are to be included within, or considered by, the climate bill. We will have to wait for the debate to conclude this afternoon before the exact wording is known but at present it looks like good news for the UK's commitment to reducing climate change. The climate bill was also toughened up recently to achieve 80% rather than 60% cuts.

The other issue which has been hotly contested is the ability of the UK govornment to use the EU emissions trading scheme to achieve its targets. In other words does the UK really have to reduce emissions 80% or can it simply pay for other nations to take the low carbon route. From a practical point of view this is a very important decision as all the uk climate campaigns on unabated coal, aviation expansion and road building, will be a lot easier to fight if we can show flat contradiction rather than simply the added expense of emissions permits. At the moment there is a great deal of uncertainty about the degree of EU ETS credit purchasing that is going to be allowed.

Other interesting ammendments include proposals that the climate change and energy department set limits on co2/Kwh that new power generation facilities produce, provisions for companies opporating inside the uk to disclose there carbon footprint and allowances to be made for unions to have a workplace environmental spokesperson. Clauses covering the civic estate are also included. All of these ammendements can be followed on the Climate Bill page.

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