With the growing concern over climate change there’s been pressure for the government to respond with targets aimed at combating the issue. Indeed, it’s become almost fashionable for political parties to add a green flavour to policies in order to show how socially responsible they are. There’s no doubt that there needs to be direction from a higher political level to point people in the right direction towards living more efficient, greener lives and making this process as easy as possible.
So what targets have been set, are we on the right course and how will we achieve wins in the fight against climate change in the long term? It’s hoped that legislation, guidelines and recommendations enshrined into our national psyche now will set a green example as governments come and go.
Climate Change Programme
The government introduced the Climate Change Programme in 2006 in order to set out the UK’s stance on climate change. It’s important to point out that these commitments are now bound by law but are rather overall indications of what the government is set to do on the issue of climate change. In the programme, the following undertakings were confirmed:
- A domestic target to reduce UK CO2 emissions by 20% compared with 1990 levels by 2010 – currently estimated that 15 -18% will be achieved.
- That by 2010, the UK will have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 23-25% below 1990 levels.
- Introduction of a renewable transport fuel obligation by 2008 to promote alternative, more sustainable methods of transport.
- A commitment to raise the standard of energy efficient home building, and introduce a code for sustainable homes.
- Subsidies for 250,000 home insulations over two years.
- Continued support for consumer awareness campaigns such as those launched by the Energy Saving Trust.
- A loan fund of £20m to help finance investment in energy efficiency at a local government level.
The UK is also currently committed to cutting carbon emissions by 12.5% from 1990 levels by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, a legally binding international agreement. So far, early indications suggest that the UK, along with Sweden, are on track to meet this reduction in CO2 levels. And internally, the UK’s target is to lower CO2 levels by a more ambitious 20%.
Climate Change Bill
Importantly, in November 2006’s state opening of parliament, it was read that a Climate change bill would be introduced by the government, setting their commitments to reducing carbon emissions by a set amount into a legally binding document. The bill, to be debated in parliament, will include making the reduction in CO2 levels by 60% a UK legal requirement by 2050, and will create new government powers to ensure the target is achieved. The bill also includes the setting up of a designated Carbon Committee to provide expert advice on how to deliver the target.
So far, support for the bill’s aims and targets has been unanimous. However, environmentalists have criticised the lack of more interim or annual targets to ensure the 60% reduction is met and believe a more robust piece of legislation is necessary.