The Climate Change Bill

Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, has announced that the Government will amend its draft Climate Change Bill.The Bill originally set out legally binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by at least 60 per cent by 2050 and 26 to 32 per cent by 2020 based on a new system of “carbon budgets” set at least fifteen years ahead. It also proposed the creation of a new independent, expert Committee on Climate Change to advise on the best way to achieve these targets.  The latest draft requires this Committee to look at the “implications” of including other greenhouse gases and emissions from international aviation and shipping in the UK’s targets as part of this review. The bill envisages that the Government must seek the Committee’s advice but not, of course, be bound by it. The Government will, however, have to explain its reasons to parliament for not following the Committee’s advice to parliament and report every five years.

O dear! Legally binding targets! A five year reporting cycle. Another quangos. More money on administration and nothing on measures. If we don’t meet these targets in thirteen years’ time and thirty three years’ time so what? There are no sanctions if the Government fail to meet legally binding targets. They won’t round up the Environment Secretary and throw him in jail. I suppose that someone will apologise, blaming past governments for the mess that we will be in, as the weather becomes more extreme, energy more expensive and economies decline, pretty much as predicted by Sir Nicholas Stern. We already have a legally binding target to abolish fuel poverty in vulnerable households by 2010 and in all households by 2016. We have no chance of meeting these targets, so how can we meet our carbon dioxide emission targets?Mr Benn thinks that targets will give the UK “greater clout at the international negotiating table”. He misleads himself. While we in the United Kingdom play around with statutory targets, trade and cap schemes, carbon casinos where you lay down bets in emissions and could win big prizes, much of the rest of the world realises that it is measures, not words, that reduces carbon emissions.  There are plans and statutory schemes in many countries that provide real measures, particularly for the generation of green energy through thermal solar and other renewable technologies. In these cases, conditions are created to incentivise these technologies. Here in the United Kingdom less is spent on thermal solar incentives than 650 members of parliament run up on their expenses in eleven days, yes eleven days! When Mr Benn sits at the international negotiating table he won’t, on the basis of this draft bill, have clout. He will have something, but it won’t be clout or respect for the UK’s climate change policy.

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