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CO2 rise forces energy rethink
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
Friday April 1, 2005
Carbon dioxide emissions are rising rapidly in the UK, forcing the
government to consider a range of new measures to keep its pledge to
combat climate change.
Figures from the Department of Trade and Industry yesterday show that
rather than falling as planned, carbon dioxide emissions have risen
rapidly - by 2.2% in 2003 and 1.5% in 2004.
With the last Labour manifesto pledging to cut emissions on 1990
levels by 20% by 2010, the government has realised that drastic action
is required to tackle the problem.
Downing Street said yesterday a review of climate policy being
undertaken by the Department of the Environment would be "ramped up"
to tackle the problem. "Obviously there will have to be new measures,"
a spokesman said.
Among the actions being considered are:
� A review of wind power and other renewables to see if they can
deliver more carbon dioxide savings;
� Large scale investment in the next generation of tidal, wave and
� Consideration of whether a new generation of nuclear power stations
� Tax breaks and subsidies for energy efficient household appliances;
� New building regulations to make houses and businesses more energy
� Carbon taxes,<-> including rises in fuel duties;
� A reduction in prices of alternative fuels and subsidies for
bio-diesel made from oil seed rape.
Although some of the measures have already been trailed as under
consideration, others are controversial, particularly the
reconsideration of the nuclear question.
Apart from its 2001 manifesto pledge of a 20% reduction, which the
government has admitted it might not meet, the UK is committed to a
legally binding 12.5% cut in greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto
protocol, which came into force last month.
Until the latest figures were released yesterday the government was
confident that it would be well within the Kyoto target, but unless
the trend is reversed it will miss that too.
Carbon dioxide levels have risen because government measures to
introduce 10% of electricity from renewables are behind schedule,
power stations are burning more coal and gas, traffic and congestion
have increased and the government backed off from increasing petrol
and diesel prices, which was originally a key part of its policy.
The figures released yesterday are a particularly embarrassment to the
prime minister, because he has made tackling climate change the
flagship policy for Britain's presidency of the G8 and the EU this
year. The increases were seized on by opposition parties and
environment groups as evidence of the government's failure.
Tony Blair has made himself vulnerable because he has made repeated
claims to be a world leader on climate change. Ten days ago the UK
hosted a G8 meeting of environment and development ministers to
prepare for the G8 summit on the issue at Gleneagles in Scotland in July.
In a speech on climate change to launch his presidency of the G8, Mr
Blair said: "To acquire global leadership, on this issue Britain must
demonstrate it first at home _ We have led the world in setting a bold
plan and targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
Tim Yeo, shadow environment secretary, said: "This is further
indication that the government's climate strategy is failing.
Currently carbon dioxide levels are only 4% below 1990 levels, and
emissions have increased since Labour came to power by 3%.
Mike Childs, at Friends of the Earth, said the increase in carbon
dioxide emissions was "shocking".
"Climate change is happening and has the potential to cause untold
human suffering and catastrophic environmental damage."