Benn announces ’stronger’ climate change bill

Benn announces ‘stronger’ climate change bill

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/green/story/0,,2201343,00.html
Rosalind Ryan, Elizabeth Stewart and agencies
Monday October 29, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The government today announced a “stronger, more effective and more
transparent” climate change bill, following a period of public
consultation and scrutiny.

The environment secretary, Hilary Benn, said in a speech at Kew
Gardens that the amended bill was a “ground-breaking blueprint” to
help lower Britain’s carbon emissions and would strengthen the
country’s position in response to climate change.

Mr Benn said: “We need to step up the fight against climate change and
we need to do it fast. The draft bill we set out earlier this year and
have now refined is a ground-breaking blueprint for moving the UK
towards ea low carbon economy.”

By taking a strong domestic stance on climate change, the environment
secretary said it would help Britain make its case for change
overseas.

The suggested amendments go further than the draft bill on climate
change published in March. Key among these is the possible inclusion,
for the first time, of emissions from the aviation and shipping
industry in the UK’s targets, something for which environmental
campaigners have been clamouring.

The revised bill also raises the possibility of raising the emissions
reductions further. Environmental groups have called for an 80%
target, which they say needs to be set before the proposed five-year
carbon budgets are decided on, and annual targets to ensure
year-on-year cuts are being made.

The new proposed climate change committee will also be given more
teeth, with greater independence from the government and its own chief
executive. In future, the government will have to seek advice from the
committee before amending any emissions targets in the bill.

The bill will make the UK the first country to put reducing carbon
emissions into law. The bill, to be published next month, will put a
legal duty on the government to cut emissions by at least 60% by 2050.

As Mr Benn told the Guardian today in his first major interview on
global warming since taking over at the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs, he believes that improving home energy
efficiency is crucial to meeting targets for reducing carbon
emissions. He said the bill would lay plans for “one-stop-shops” for
homeowners to make their houses more environmentally friendly, by
offering advice on greener living, installation services and loans for
equipment such as solar panels.

While the planned legislation has been welcomed by environmental
groups, concerns have been raised that the targets do not go far
enough and the bill should include sectors such as aviation and
shipping to be fully effective.

The original draft of the bill left out industries including aviation,
and set a target of 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, which
campaigners claim is too low.

In his speech to the Labour party conference last month Gordon Brown
announced he would be asking the new climate change committee,
proposed under the bill, to review whether that target was strong
enough.

But environmental campaigners are sceptical that the government will
be able to meet a more robust long-term target when it is currently
failing to achieve its own short-term domestic target of a 20%
reduction in emissions.

MPs also called today for the creation of a new Whitehall body to
drive climate change policy. The environmental audit committee (EAC)
said the government’s current framework for dealing with climate
change was “confused” and did not promote effective action on reducing
emissions.

The committee suggested there should be a new climate change
secretary, based in the cabinet, who would be in charge of the
government’s climate policy.

The MPs also recommended the creation of a new cross-departmental
climate change minister who could attend cabinet meetings.

The EAC’s chairman, Tim Yeo, said: “Th UK must be equipped to meet
both the challenge of a carbon constrained world and the likely
climate change impacts that will occur. It would be disastrous if bad
planning policy meant that today’s new developments become tomorrow’s
climate slums.”