20 October 2008

UK pledges to step up fight against greenhouse emissions

Michael Settle, The Herald, October 17 2008

Green campaigners last night warmly welcomed the UK Government's decision to resist the temptation of using the current economic downturn to reduce its commitment to fighting climate change and in fact pledge to increase the target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from 60% to 80% by 2050.

The move makes the UK the first country in the world to commit itself to such swingeing cuts in the production of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming.

Ed Miliband, the first holder of the newly created role of Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy, told MPs in a Commons statement that the UK Government had decided to accept all of the recommendations of the Whitehall-commissioned committee on climate change, which suggested upping the emissions-reduction target from 60% to 80%.

"In tough economic times, some people ask whether we should retreat from our climate-change objectives. In our view, it would be quite wrong to row back and those who say we should misunderstand the relationship between the economic and environmental tasks we face," said the Secretary of State.

The UK Government's decision came as EU leaders resisted calls from Poland, Italy and six other member states from the east for tough environmental targets to be dropped in the light of the current economic crisis.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister, argued that the pledge for all EU governments to cut CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 would put Europe at a disadvantage compared to China and America.

However, Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, which holds the leadership of the EU, insisted Europe must stick to its commitments and, in the end, all 27 leaders agreed.

At home, WWF Scotland welcomed Mr Miliband's statement but Dr Richard Dixon, its director, noted that the UK Government had "ducked" the issue of including Britain's share of pollution from international shipping and aviation.

He also suggested Alex Salmond should hold to his promise that the Scottish Government's own Climate Change B ill would be more ambitious than the UK bill "in every respect".

In a separate development, Mr Miliband announced the UK Government was ready to legislate to force energy companies to introduce fairer pricing for customers with pre-payment meters.

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