Climate change bill not enough for world’s poorest says aid agency

By staff writers
13 Mar 2007

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, David Miliband’s draft Climate Change Bill, published on 12 March, which aims to enforce a 60 per cent cut in UK CO2 emissions by 2050, is a significant step in the right direction – but will require many amendments as it goes through consultation and Parliament, Christian Aid said today.

Christian Aid’s senior climate policy officer, Andrew Pendleton, acknowledged that the very act of publishing the bill makes the UK the first country to bring forward a legal framework for a transition to a low-carbon economy. "Mr Miliband is to be congratulated for publishing the bill and he is right to be proud of it – he and the government are an example to the rest of the G8," Mr Pendleton said.

"But if the final legislation is not significantly stronger, the process would represent a massive lost opportunity. It is the first step on a long journey rather than the destination itself."

Christian Aid is campaigning for a climate change bill that includes cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050 with annual carbon budgeting ‘milestones’ rather than five year budgets – there is too much flexibility and wriggle room in a five-year cycle.

It also wants mandatory reporting of CO2 emissions by companies trading in the UK according to DEFRA’s own, currently voluntary standards.

Campaigners say that the world’s poorest people are already suffering the impact of climate change and stand to lose livelihoods and lives if the situation deteriorates. Even a two degree rise is likely to have massive, negative consequences; anything exceeding this would be an unmitigated disaster.

The Bill has four main pillars: it will set a UK carbon budget every five years; it will set up a committee of experts on climate change to advise the government on the economic impact of carbon; it will set up a system of annual reporting to Parliament on government progress towards each budget and will include enabling powers to set up carbon trading schemes through secondary legislation – which may even eventually mean individuals will have their own carbon budgets.

Mr Pendleton said: "A UK cut of 60 per cent of CO2 emissions is not enough. The ambition at the heart of this bill must be to cut CO2 emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, with as steep a decline as possible as soon as possible, which means 40 per cent cuts by 2020. With the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both developing proposals of their own there’ll be everything to play for as this bill passes through Parliament.

"What’s worrying is that the Bill seems to show that there’s tension in Whitehall about cutting emissions, particularly the fact that there is a total absence of any mention of aviation and shipping emissions.

"Christian Aid suspects that aviation has been left out for fear of curtailing air traffic and thereby losing vital revenue raised by taxing the air industry. If this is correct, then it is time the Treasury woke up and took this issue seriously.

"Mr Miliband says aviation can be bolted onto the legislation at a later date, but we don’t have time to leave this vital issue until we reach some dim and distant point on the horizon."

On 19 February Christian Aid launched its climate change campaign and published a report which argued that the UK has a far greater impact on global carbon emissions than the two per cent the government declares and that therefore the UK should bear a far greater responsibility for reducing the world’s CO2 emissions than its rhetoric suggests.

Read the report: http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/climatechange

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