August 4, 2007

Judges should enforce climate bill targets, say MPs; Overuse of carbon credits 'puts credibility at risk'

Judges should have the power to compel the prime minister to set out the remedial measures his government will take if it fails to hit targets to reduce carbon emissions, a cross-party committee of MPs and peers has recommended.

A bill due to be introduced in the next parliament places a legal duty on the environment secretary to reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. The bill sets out a series of milestones, including five yearly “carbon budgets” setting out the projected carbon emissions.

But the joint committee of peers and MPs examining the draft climate change bill concluded that the enforcement mechanisms in the bill were unclear. The committee, chaired by Lord Puttnam, recommends that “failure by the government to meet a carbon budget or an annual milestone should trigger a duty to prepare a report explaining the reasons for the non-compliance and an action plan for remedying the situation”.

Mike Childs, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, said: “The climate change bill must be strengthened. This is the clear conclusion from this joint report … Gordon Brown now has a golden opportunity to demonstrate his green credentials. The government must listen; it must include international aviation in the emissions reductions targets and it must set a higher target to cut emissions based on the latest scientific evidence.”

The committee’s report proposes that if the country exceeds its carbon emission budgets for a reporting period, the government should be required to make up the excess in the next reporting period. It also raises doubts about the extent to which the government can meet its target, not by reducing UK domestic emissions but by purchasing carbon credits from developing countries, using both the EU emissions trading scheme and the carbon development mechanism.

It points out that the government only changed the way it measures the achievement of its targets – by including the purchase of credits overseas – in 2006 in its revised climate change programme. The joint committee says such methods could undermine the credibility of the government’s programme if used excessively.

The bill proposes that a new committee on climate change be given a duty to advise the government on the extent to which it can use carbon credits to meet its targets. The committee also recommends that the government be required to include aviation and shipping emissions in its carbon budgets as soon as possible.

Its report points out that: “The Department of Transport is predicting a growth in carbon dioxide emissions from UK aviation from 8.8mtc (million tonnes of carbon) in 2000 to 17.4mtc by 2050. These figures need to be considered in the light of the 2050 target which will require the UK to reduce its net carbon budget from 150 mtc in 2000 to around 64mtc by 2050.”

The report says the failure to include international aviation emissions in the emissions reduction targets is a “serious weakness which, in view of the significant likely growth of such emissions, has the effect of reducing the credibility of the 60% carbon reduction target”.

It says it is “deeply disappointing that the Department of Transport has not carried out any work on the impact of including international aviation within the scope of the bill”.

By Patrick Wintour
Political editor

The Guardian

3 August 2007

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