UK struts its stuff on Kyoto protocol target

Government claims world leadership on climate, warns of eventual need for much larger emission cuts

The UK government has claimed world leadership on reducing greenhouse gas emissions as ministers prepare to participate in the UN climate change summit in the Hague. Under a national climate change programme unveiled today, the UK is now projecting a 23% cut in emissions of the six Kyoto gases by 2010. The country's commitment under the EU's "bubble" is just over half this at 12.5%.

The 23% projected emissions cut is 1.5 percentage points deeper than forecast in March, when a draft of the programme was released for consultation (ENDS Daily 9 March). The government is also now predicting a 19% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, compared with 17.6% in the March draft. This is still below the UK's unilateral 20% target, but ministers claim that the target remains achievable.

Despite the public relations fanfare accompanying it, the climate programme contains no new proposals compared with the previous published draft. The larger projected emissions cuts are due, instead, to altered forecasts. These include lower offshore oil and gas production than previously expected and the effects of recently proposed stricter building regulations and an industrial carbon dioxide emissions trading scheme to be launched next year. Though the overall emissions forecast is down, Mr Meacher acknowledged that transport emissions would likely be higher than predicted in March.

Mr Meacher said that he took pride in the UK's likely large exceedance of its Kyoto target but warned against complacency. The government acknowledged, he said, that industrialised countries might well have to make much larger emission reductions of in the region of 60-70% after the period 2008-12, rising as far as 90% if developing countries were to develop their economies.

Sounding a new note of caution compared with the draft programme's launch in March, Mr Meacher played down the likelihood that the UK would become a major seller of carbon emission credits under the Kyoto protocol flexible mechanisms. No decision would be taken immediately on what to do with surplus credits, he said. Banking them to help in achieving longer-term, deeper emission cuts might be the more prudent option.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, and the national climate change programme.

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