The UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has welcomed the British government’s Climate Change Bill but says it fears that a vital opportunity has been missed. It says that tougher CO2 emission targets are essential.
The Environment Secretary’s failure to commit to a higher target for binding emissions cuts by 2050 risks undermining international efforts to find a solution to this growing global threat, the agency claims.
Speaking in Kew Gardens in London yesterday, government minister Hilary Benn said that the climate change advisory committee would re-consider raising the 60% target for cuts by 2050, but stopped short of identifying a precise target.
But Christian Aid’s climate policy analyst, Andrew Pendleton, warned: "Mr Benn has missed a perfect opportunity to send a strong message to the international community ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Bali in December ."
He continued: "The Bali summit needs the UK to arrive with clear, adequate domestic targets to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050. The government has been brave enough to climb three-quarters of the way up the mountain, but it has taken a look at the summit and has balked at going any further."
"As the first country in the world to establish long-term targets on emissions, it is vital the UK set the right ones," said Mr Pendleton.
He added: "The world’s poorest people are already suffering the catastrophic effects of climate change, ranging from deadly mudslides, to hurricanes and droughts. Cutting emissions is literally a matter of life and death for those in the developing world."
Mr Benn was unveiling the government’s command paper on the Climate Change Bill to be published next month. In its current form, it will impose a legal duty on the government to cut emission by at least 60% by 2050.
Both the Prime Minister and Mr Benn have signalled that this target could be revised upwards, but have refused to be drawn on whether rapidly rising aviation and shipping emissions would be included.
The bill will establish a climate change committee, which will investigate whether the 60% target needs to be raised and report back on their findings in 2009.
Mr Pendleton added: "It makes no sense to start revising carbon budgets that exclude the two significant sectors of aviation and shipping. Without these sectors taken into account, the targets will simply need to be revised at a later stage."
"The UK is not helping itself by suggesting it is an international leader on climate change and tackling poverty, on the one hand, and backing away from past promises on the other," he said.
Concluded the Christian Aid analyst: "The government has pulled back from a 20% renewables target for energy generation, and is now saying 10 to 15%, for example."