UK Lawmakers Agree to Cut Emissions

GLOBE-Net - British Lawmakers agreed on November 18th to cut the United Kingdom’s greenhouse gas emissions by a record 80 percent over 1990 levels, by 2050.  The Climate Change Bill was passed in the House of Commons by 463 votes to three.

The legislation is scheduled for Royal Assent later this month. It provides for legally-binding targets which include interim reductions in CO2 emissions of 26 percent by 2020 against the 1990 baseline.

“Getting this Bill into law makes Britain a world leader on climate policy,” says Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “It’s the first legislation of its kind in the world. It sends a clear message before European and global climate talks that serious action is possible.”

Britain originally intended to cut emissions by 60 percent on 1990 levels by 2050, but changed this to 80 percent last month on the recommendation of a government-appointed committee, says Agence France-Presse.   The committee said the cuts would cost about one to two percent of gross domestic product and were “challenging but feasible,” according to the news agency. 

A carbon budgeting system will cap emissions over five-year periods, with three budgets set at a time. The first three carbon budgets will run from 2008-12, 2013-17 and 2018-22, and must be set by June 1, 2009. The British government must report to Parliament on its policies and proposals to meet the budgets as soon as practical after that.

The Bill also creates an independent expert Committee on Climate Change that will give its advice on the level of carbon budgets and on cost-effective savings. This Committee will submit annual reports to Parliament on progress towards the targets and budgets, to which the government must respond on an annual basis. The government will determine if international aviation and shipping emissions should be included in the Bill by the end of 2012, and the Committee will advise on the consequences of including emissions from these sources.

The legislation requires the government to “have regard to the need” for UK domestic action when considering how to meet Britain’s targets and carbon budgets. The Committee on Climate Change will advise on the appropriate balance between action at domestic, continental and international levels, for each carbon budget.

Further measures in the Bill to reduce emissions include:

  • powers to introduce domestic emissions trading schemes more quickly through secondary legislation
  • measures on biofuels
  • powers to introduce pilot financial incentive schemes for household waste, and
  • powers to require a minimum charge for single-use carrier bags

On adaptation, the government must report at least every five years on the risks to Britain of climate change, and publish a program setting out how these impacts will be addressed.

The Bill introduces powers to require public bodies and statutory undertakers to carry out their own risk assessment and make plans to address those risks, and the government is also required to issue guidance next year on the way in which companies should report their GHG emissions.

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