Category Archives: Policy/Economy

Benn announces ’stronger’ climate change bill

Benn announces ‘stronger’ climate change bill,,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

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

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

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.”

Letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Cambridge Zero Carbon Society

1, Parker Street,



27th October 2007


Dear Prime Minister,



We are a group of concerned scientists, economists and students from the University of Cambridge and are writing to you regarding Britain’s CO2 reduction targets as set out under the draft climate bill. We believe the climate bill is a crucial element of strategy aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a safe level and supports our international efforts to tackle climate change. We see the best approach as being a positive one and that Britain should lead by example, reducing its emissions to a sustainable level in a timescale that avoids dangerous climate change. Economic evidence suggests that conversion to a net zero carbon economy, when promoted by efficient economic instruments can be achieved at low cost or even with net benefit to the UK.


We feel it is important that the targets are chosen based on clear thinking and the most reliable up-to-date scientific evidence. We also understand the importance of a comprehensive or holistic approach taking into account pressures from the different parts of government and society.


Today we have been educating the public in London regarding these issues. It is important to simplify as much as possible this complex issue and demonstrate the choices we now face. We would like to draw your attention to the enclosed information sheet summarizing the fact that to prevent a 2°C increase in average global temperatures a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is needed in the UK.

For further information on some suggested policies or to hear more from us please feel free to visit our website and contact us, We warmly welcome a response to this letter.


Yours sincerely,



Stephen Stretton


Economist, Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research


Stephen Rowley


Physicist, Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge


Carbon offsets: adding is not enough

Following a recent Cambridge Energy Forum meeting on carbon offsetting and a subsequent email dialogue between myself and Philip Sargent, I would like to clarify some terms and describe a critical problem with carbon offsetting.

The Gold Standard and other sets of rules for carbon offset projects rely on a test of “additionality”. This test basically states that, for a carbon offset project to meet the standard, it must be demonstrable that the reductions in carbon emissions would not have happened anyway. Examples of projects that would pass the additionality test are a wind farm in China that would not otherwise have been funded; energy saving light-bulbs in South America that would not otherwise have been provided; and projects to filter HFC23 from factory emissions that would not have happened otherwise. Critically, the test of additionality is only made within the scope of the carbon offset project.

The are various problems with the concept of additionality – such as the virtual certainty of moral hazard coming into play (e.g. wind farms might not be funded another way simply because China knows carbon offset money is available) – but I believe the most significant flaw is that the test is incomplete. The problem is that we are dealing with an open system – global energy production and consumption – and not a series of closed systems. The easyJet flight you offset, VAT free, for £1.77, and the Chinese windfarm are not the end of the story.

We need another test, which I term “subtractability”. That is, there needs to be an onus on the carbon offset provider to prove that the carbon emissions saved really are subtracted from total global carbon emissions. Several types of carbon offset project fail this test and must be consigned to the fig-leaf category.

Of the 3 examples I gave earlier, the first two both fail the “subtractability” test. They run into what I have previously termed “the displacement fallacy“. For example, China is using energy as fast as it can produce it. The wind-farm may simply mean they produce and use more energy than they would have done otherwise. Similarly, people given energy-saving lightbulbs may simply be able to afford more electricity for something else, or power cuts may become a little less frequent in their country. [Note that I am not arguing that such projects themselves are not worthwhile – I’m merely pointing out that they most likely will not successfully offset your carbon emissions].

Projects that directly remove or destroy GHGs, such as those to capture HFC23 from factory flues, pass the subtractability test, but may run into other problems, as we heard at last week’s Cambridge Energy Forum. In fact, since the types of project that pass the subtractability test – such as tree-planting – tend to fail in other ways, it’s difficult to see how carbon offsetting can do more than salve peoples’ consciences.

An upstream solution to global warming

An upstream solution to global warming

By Ray Galvin

The only way we can save the planet from catastrophic climate change is to drastically reduce the amount of oil, coal and natural gas we are taking out of the ground. Any strategy for mitigating global warming that does not have this as its lynch-pin is bound to fail. Yet strangely, this is the one approach that no-one is talking about.

Full Article: An_Upstream_Solution by Ray Galvin

UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

Stephen Stretton, Cambridge

1st August 2007

The current UK greenhouse gas targets are not enough to avoid a world
extinction on a scale last seen with the end of the dinosaurs.

Even if we hit the government’s target of reducing Carbon Dioxide
pollution, and most other countries adopt a similar approach – the
world could be committed to up to six degrees of climate change.

The impacts would include collapse of the Amazon rainforest and most
of the world’s fertile farmland turning to desert. Rising seas would
flood major cities such as London, New York, Shanghai and Calcutta. It
would lead to the extinction of most life on earth.

If the UK is to lead, it must lead much more strongly. Current targets
are simply not enough. We to avoid 2C of climate change based on
convergence to safe and fair equal per-capita emissions. This may mean
a 90% reduction in all greenhouse gases by 2030 in the UK.

Summary of Climate Bill Response: Not Enough

Full response to climate bill (pdf)

Continue reading UK Targets “Not Enough To Prevent World Extinction”

Carbon Tax: a net benefit to the UK economy

By Adrian Wrigley

Full Document on a Carbon Tax: Submission to the Treasury committee on the Stern Review (pdf)

It is claimed here that the benefits to the general economy of an aggressive Carbon Tax regime (over £200/tonne CO2) outweigh the costs by a substantial margin. This is because the revenue generated for The Treasury can completely displace the least efficient taxes and welfare benefits, cutting deadweight costs enormously. The economic benefit of this tax reform will exceed the net mitigation costs incurred, even at very high levels of carbon tax. This argument is an extension of the “double dividend” hypothesis, which seems to be rejected by the Review without detailed consideration.

There is no need for international cooperation to put into effect a substantial carbon tax for revenue raising purposes. The policy would enhance overall economic efficiency compared with the status quo, and would be sensible even without the consequent carbon reductions. Leadership by example in this way would produce much earlier cuts in carbon emissions and motivate other nations to follow suit. This would produce multinational action without needing international action.