Ambitious UK climate programme launched

Government bids to achieve nearly twice its committed greenhouse gas emissions cut

The UK government today launched a draft climate protection programme, predicting that the national committed greenhouse gas emissions cut will be exceeded by nearly a factor of two. Deputy prime minister John Prescott claimed the UK was the first European country to aim beyond its legal commitments. If it succeeds, it could have credits for 17.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide available to sell under EU or international emission trading schemes, potentially worth euros 580m.

The package of measures covers existing policies such as the climate change levy (ENDS Daily 9 March 1999), negotiated settlements with energy intensive industries (ENDS Daily 9 November 1999), an integrated transport white paper (ENDS Daily 21 July 1998), an obligation for power companies to generate 5% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2003 and 10% by 2010 (ENDS Daily 2 February), funding for energy programmes and a target to double cogeneration capacity by 2010 (ENDS Daily 10 May 1998).

New elements include obligations on energy suppliers to help low income households save energy, more clarity for business on emissions trading and carbon offset projects and an eventual phase-out for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the CFC replacement gases. HFCs were "not a sustainable technology in the longer term," said environment minister Michael Meacher, adding that even their short-term use could only be justified where there was "no...acceptable alternative".

According to the government, all the quantifiable elements of the package should achieve a 21.5% cut in the basket of all six greenhouses by 2010, nearly twice the UK's commitment under the Kyoto protocol of 12% by 2008-2012. Carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by slightly less at 17.5% by 2010. Ministers stressed, however, that the government's unilateral target of cutting CO2 by 20% by 2010 should still be achieved since the package also included several further elements, the effects of which have not yet been quantified.

Follow Up:
DETR, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, press release, and full text of the Draft UK Climate Change Programme.

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