Environmental campaigners and development groups have welcomed the government’s announcement last week of its decision to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 rather than 60% by 2050 - but they are calling for action to match the rhetoric.
In a joint statement with the RSPB, World Development Movement and WWF, the churches' world development agency Christian Aid said that the move marks a turning point in action to tackle climate change.
But they warned that only emissions cuts at home rather than carbon trading abroad will save people and wildlife from the impacts of runaway climate change. The Climate Bill does not currently restrict carbon trading.
The announcement, made by Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, followed last fortnight’s recommendation from the Climate Change Committee that the new target for emissions cuts be at least 80%.
Eliot Whittington, Senior Climate Justice Adviser for Christian Aid, commented: "The UK has finally stepped up to the mark and accepted the scale of the climate challenge it is facing. Ed Miliband’s announcement that the Climate Bill target will be an 80% cut in UK emissions is long overdue and extremely welcome.
"Now he needs to show that he has the interests of poor people at heart and commit to making the vast bulk of these cuts through real action in the UK – not by offloading the burden onto developing countries who have less capacity to act and less responsibility for the problem."
Ruth Davis, Head of Climate Change at the RSPB, said: "This is one of the most far-sighted and far-reaching climate change initiatives any government could take and is testament to the efforts of campaigners.
"Cutting emissions at home is the only way to guarantee the UK's green economic revolution. This will not happen if Kingsnorth and other coal-fired power stations are built or if we rely on carbon trading abroad. Emissions cuts through investment in renewables and energy efficiency in the UK are the only way to ensure people and wildlife worldwide are saved from the devastating effects of climate change."
Benedict Southworth, Director of the World Development Movement, added: "This is fantastic news. Ed Miliband has already made a really positive contribution to combating climate change in his new role.
"People who are already affected by climate change will want him to ensure that loopholes don’t let them down. The 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions must actually take place in the UK. We shouldn’t pay the developing world to clean up our mess for us through the so-far ineffective EU Emissions Trading Scheme."
David Nussbaum Chief Executive of WWF-UK commented: "This announcement is a great step forward with recognition that cuts of at least 80% are needed for a safe climate, and that we simply cannot ignore emissions from aviation and shipping. The key issue now is to ensure that we move swiftly to a low carbon economy which creates new green jobs here in the UK, and that means setting an ambitious emissions reduction target for 2020 and ensuring we prioritise action at home, rather than relying excessively on imported carbon credits."