MPs call for ‘braver’ climate change plans

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MPs call for ‘braver’ climate change plans

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 30/07/2007

Emissions from air travel and shipping must be included in the
Government’s proposals for dealing with climate change which are at risk
of becoming “incoherent,” a committee of MPs says in a report today.

A Commons select committee identified the omission of international
aviation and shipping among a number of “weaknesses” in the Government’s
proposed Climate Change Bill, expected to enter Parliament this autumn.

“We are unimpressed by the Government’s arguments for excluding
international aviation and shipping emissions from the UK’s carbon
reduction regime,” says the Environmental Audit select committee, which
calls for them to be included “immediately”.

It says there is already an internationally-agreed way of attributing
and recording these emissions and the Government should simply use this
to track and reduce emissions from aviation and shipping within
Britain’s overall carbon budget.

The draft climate change Bill says these emissions “may only” be
included if there has been an international agreement on reducing them.

MPs says this “seems potentially to tie the hands of future governments
to no good purpose and should be removed.”

On the Government’s current failure to meet its three-times-repeated
manifesto commitment to cut carbon emissions, MPs say it was
“unacceptable” that it took so long for the reporting of greenhouse gas
emissions to catch up with present reality.

This “severely retarded and impaired” attempts to react to the rise in
emissions over the past few years.

The Government thought for six years after 2000 that it was on course to
meet its manifesto commitment of cutting carbon dioxide emissions 20 per
cent by 2010, but only last year realised it had fallen far behind it,
say MPs.

MPs say the Government should remove “optimism bias” from its
predictions and that “business as usual” projections have consistently
proved too low.

The committee calls for the Government to be “braver about the extent of
action on climate change that is politically possible.”

MPs criticise the fact that the draft climate change Bill currently
includes a legally binding target for Britain to cut carbon emissions by
60 per cent by 2050.

However, the select committee says the latest scientific research
suggests that this was now “very unlikely” to be sufficient to meet the
Government’s overall aim of stabilising the rise in global average
temperatures at 2C. It says cutting emissions by 60 per cent around the
world would leave a chance of between 63 and 99 per cent that the 2
degree warming would be exceeded.

It points out that the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research made a
strong case for carbon dioxide reductions of 90 per cent by 2050.

“The Government’s policy towards the UK’s 2050 target is clearly
incoherent,” says the committee. “This target should be strengthened to
reflect current scientific understanding of the emission cuts required
for a strong probability at stabilising warming at 2C.”

Tim Yeo, the committee’s chairman said: “Carbon-saving measures have not
delivered as much as predicted, and forecasts of future emissions have
consistently drifted upwards.

“To make things worse, these forecasts have not been updated often
enough, which means that by the time ministers knew the UK’s 2010 CO2
target was significantly off-track it was too late to do much about

On the controversial question of whether the Government should set
annual carbon budgets, with legally binding targets, the committee says
that it makes sense for each carbon budget to run for longer than a year
to allow for unforeseen variations, as the Government has argued.

But it urges the Government still to set out an indicative target for
carbon reductions every year, so as to apply continued pressure to
reduce emissions.

The committee members also call for more prominence be given to climate
scientists on the proposed independent committee on climate change which
will make annual progress reports to Parliament.