Environment Secretary Hilary Benn
Mon 29 Oct 2007 – The UK’s Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, has announced details of a tougher government response to climate change.
Following a three-month public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny by three parliamentary committees, Benn said the Government would amend its draft Climate Change Bill originally published in March 2007, which set out legally binding targets for reducing CO2 emissions in the UK by at least 60% by 2050 and 26 to 32% by 2020. This is to be based on a new system of ‘carbon budgets’ set at least 15 years ahead.
It also proposed the creation of a new independent, expert Committee on Climate Change to advise on the best way to achieve these targets. The changes to the draft Bill, set out in a Command Paper entitled ‘Taking Forward the Climate Change Bill’ published today, will ask the Committee to report on whether the 2050 target should be strengthened further and the implications of including international aviation and shipping greenhouse gases and emissions in the target. The Committee will report on whether they should be included by September 2009.
“The draft Bill we set out earlier this year, and have now refined, is a ground-breaking blueprint for moving the UK towards a low carbon economy,” said Benn. “It will bind us to legally enforceable emissions reduction targets at home, while give us greater clout at the international negotiating table.”
More details on the announcement can be found in a news release on the Defra website.
In a report published on the same day, the all-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has proposed the creation of a new body within the Cabinet Office to drive forward the UK Government’s climate change policy and to diminish inter-departmental conflict. The report recommends the creation of a cross departmental Climate Change Minister who would take part in Cabinet meetings.
The Committee also states that:
• A review of government action in the area of climate change must be conducted to provide clarity of responsibility for developing and delivering climate policies;
• Long-term mitigation and adaptation policy frameworks must be developed to ensure that policy decisions taken today do not lock in long-term emissions, and to prepare the UK for climate change impacts;
• Failure to address a skills shortage in the civil service will undermine attempts to move the UK to a low carbon economy.
EAC Chairman Tim Yeo said: “The way the Government has addressed climate change has led to a confusing framework that doesn’t promote effective action to cut emissions.
“The Government must ensure there is clear leadership and responsibility for the development and delivery of climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. This is particularly important given the large number of bodies involved.
“The Government must also ensure that all its policies are consistent with both long-term emissions reductions targets, and long-term climate change impacts. The 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.
“Our recommendations would create a more effective framework for dealing with climate change. However this framework alone will not cut emissions. That needs committed leadership by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The Government’s commitment to sustainable development and climate change will be judged by actions and achievements, not speeches and targets.”
The Committee was set up in 1997 to consider to what extent the policies and programmes of government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development. It audits their performance against such targets as may be set for them by government ministers and reports thereon to Parliament.
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