Friday, March 16, 2007

UK Climate Change Bill, Green Politics and You Tube

Meanwhile, back in the UK, environmental politics have been riding high on the political agenda this week. Sunday brought green flight proposals from the Tories, Monday evening saw Labour's Gordon Brown announce his environmental proposals to the Green Alliance, Tuesday 13th brought the laying of the all party endorsed draft Climate Change Bill.

The Conservatives have launched their Greener Skies consultation on how to use environmental taxes to reduce the rapid growth in carbon emissions from aviation. Shadow chancellor George Osborne unveiled his environmentally responsible 'frequent flyer' package consisting of fuel duty, VAT on domestic flights, and scrapping of air passenger duty in favour of a tax per flight based more closely on carbon emissions. Aimed at frequent fliers rather than those enjoying an annual holiday abroad, the approach is based on a "pay as you burn, not pay as you earn" approach.

As things stand at the moment, carbon emissions from aircraft are taxed less than virtually any other form of carbon, yet because they are released high into the atmosphere, they can do most damage. The current Air Passenger Duty is not directly linked to carbon emissions and does not provide incentives for airlines to use more fuel-efficient aircraft.

To watch David Cameron speaking about the Greener Skies initiative, see: webcameron.

Gordon Brown outlined Labour's policy framework on Monday evening, focusing on energy. Low-energy light bulbs are to become a requirement by 2011 and standby lights on appliances should be phased out. He is offering subsidies on insulation, advice on helping households reduce their carbon footprints, and incentives for a high-efficiency forms of decentralized generation, including micro-generation and combined heat and power.
Planning applications are to be improved to speed up the process for major infrastructure projects, such as wind farms and waste disposal facilities; recycling targets are to be cranked up and landfill emissions to be squeezed down. Investment in transport innovation was also promised, but no specifics were given, and mention was made of a personal ‘carbon calculator’ scheme in the pipeline.

To watch/listen/read Gordon Brown's speech "Meeting The Challenge", go to: Green Alliance

13th March brought the publication of the draft Climate Change Bill, the first of its kind in any country, and accompanying strategy setting out a framework for moving the UK to a low-carbon economy.

Key Points of Climate Change Bill
Official targets: Establish five-year "carbon budgets," beginning in 2008, to reduce emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
Independent oversight: Create an independent body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), to advise government on reducing emissions.
Legislative power: Increase government's power to introduce and implement new trading schemes for domestic emissions.
Accountability: Have the CCC produce an annual progress report for Parliament; require government to report to Parliament after every five-year carbon budget.

All great news, but - and these are big buts:
- Is this commensurate with the scale of the problem? Recent evidence suggests higher targets are needed.
- International aviation and shipping are not included, thus failing to recognise the full extent CO2 emissions
- This Bill still fights shy of setting the necessary annual targets - it merely proposes targets set for 5 year periods, which would present reporting after the government's term of office. Annual targets are vital if we are to stay on track. There is a danger that the five year approach will enable responsibility for failure to be shunted on from one government to another.

To watch David Miliband speaking about the Climate Change Bill, see his short video Greener Living on You Tube.

  • How do the parties stack up? See The Independent's article Which Political Party is the Greenest?

  • For a critical analysis of the problems lying ahead see George Monbiot's recent article The Target Wreckers
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