Thursday, November 16, 2006

Queen's Speech introduces Climate Change Bill

"My government will publish a bill on climate change as part of its policy to protect the environment, consistent with the need to secure long-term energy supplies."

So said the Queen at the state opening of parliament on 15th November 2006. The event marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session, and the time when the government sets out its legislative agenda for the coming months.

The Queen's speech confirmed the detail, which includes a long-term goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 and the creation of a new independent carbon committee to help the government achieve this. It proposes new enabling ministers to put in place emissions reductions measures, and provides for better reporting of progress in that goal to parliament.

Yes, the very fact that the Climate Change Bill has arrived is a huge step forward in the right direction. However, it fails to introduce binding annual targets of cutting emissions – something the Conservatives yesterday committed themselves to if they win the next election. Tony Blair is not keen to be bound by annual targets for reducing UK carbon dioxide emissions despite strong public demand - as demonstrated at the Climate Change March a few weekends ago. Nevertheless, this counts as a huge success for Friend's of the Earth's Big Ask campaign and rising public desire for governmental leadership on climate issues will make it increasingly difficult for the government to shy away from setting binding annual targets.

[Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Richard Stone, 1992]

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