Minister to admit failure on key climate change emissions target

Said the headline in this mornings Grauniad. And by the evening it had become Labour fails on climate change on the Grauniad blog; though the spin was Beckett unveils new measures to cut CO2 or Climate change programme unveiled. And similar from the BBC.

How to read this? Labour clung stubbornly to its 20% target through 3 general elections; only now its become quite implausible have they retreated, a bit, to a 15-18% cut (note that this would still satisfy our Kyoto obligations). I'd be somewhat surprised if they make that, unless fuel prices keep going up. Speaking of which, one of those links above contains The minister blamed higher than anticipated levels of economic growth and the recent rises in global energy prices for increased emissions that had "made the target more challenging". Err? Recent rises in fuel prices are blamed for increased emissions? Shurely shome mishtake.

Of course, on the politics-type side, there is still a commitment from the UK govt to take this stuff seriously and to do their best (without, errm, taking any really hard decisions). This is still vastly better than the Bush line.

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I thought the bit about higher fuel prices was a clumsy way of saying natural gas prices were higher than coal prices? (when compared in terms of energy produced.)

Sorry, no good ref for this, but the BBC article does say: 'economic circumstances favouring a switch from gas to coal for generating electricity' .

[You're right - twas in the paper this morning. I should have thought of that -W]

Tony Blair made a brief visit to NZ yesterday, partly to speak at a conference on "Climate Change and Governance". I didn't go to the conference but I did hear/see him interviewed by a couple of journalists. On climate change he said Kyoto was a great achievement but now the world needs to work towards a new agreement that includes USA, China & India. (IIRC Kyoto *does* include China & India, it just doesn't constrain them significantly.) I was waiting for a journalist to ask "How is the UK getting on with its Kyoto targets anyway?", but no. The questioning over Iraq was much tougher, though nothing dented the Blair exterior.

The NZ government has put Kyoto in the too-hard basket for now. They were going to introduce a carbon tax, but flagged that away, blaming coalition partners. The original plan was to watch our forests soak up the CO2, but the bottom dropped out of the softwood market...

Over the next few years it will be amazing to see politicians (sorry, statesmen) striding forward into a brave new era of greenhouse gas restraint while furiously backpedalling over Kyoto.

[Gosh and I thought I had several names... Blair is safe from Kyoto-target questions, because we should pass those, apparently, unless something odd happens. Its only the extra self-imposed ones that aren't going to work.

Maybe a better Q would be "how much CO2 did you and your entourage emit getting here and couldn't you have video-conferenced? Though as a recent visitor I'm a bit vulnerable there myself... I hope to announce my CO2 reducing venture soon, though -W]

By Mark Hadfield (not verified) on 29 Mar 2006 #permalink

Keep an eye on that one - towards the end of the miner's strike & Thatcherism, Arthur Scargill's argument was that there was enough coal running on a seam all the way to Russia to keep us going for a thousand years - his vision of the New Millennium or 'golden age' in coal mining. Yep they were aiming to extract this coal thru new technology Son of bush would be proud of - coal in liquid form. Petrolified if you like. So I guess though Thatcher was never my favourite lady, Iron Lady or not - because of the way she paid the police double bubble to kick the sh*t out of working men (miners) at least, she can be thanked for not having gone that road. Though ironically we just switched from UK coal to cheaper imported Polish coal. So much for solidarity, after all the uk miners did for Solidarity. But I digress this is Politics not Climate Change. Can the two be separated or are they joined at the hip. Ask Son of Bush about kyoto. I guess US$7 or US$8 per gallon of petrol in the US would not get anybody elected, but we've taken pump price rises (or government fuel taxes) pretty much lying down in the uk, and in the rest of Europe it is only pennies (or should I say centimes) cheaper per litre. It hasn't caused our governments any real Political pain, nor saddly has it reduced car use.

Car ownership and car use continue to rise, engines are more efficient, emissions have been reduced, but the real beneficiary has been the Treasury where Fuel Tax Revenues have leapt to undreamt of heights. Aah life is good, every cloud has a silver lining. Now if we could just take the bold step to raise taxes on aircraft fuel across Europe (or at least the EU) and not get bogged down in false arguments, that all operators would go across the Atlantic to fuel up. No, not even to Moscow, Baghdad or Tripoli - uhmm well maybe Tripoli might just might be economically viable as a fuel depot for Alitalia.

SUSTAINABLE GROWTH - No good pussy footing around on this one. You are not going to get The US to give up its love affair with gaz guzzlers (V8s) and cheap internal flights.

The only way The US can sustain growth in car ownership and car use is if it can equally match efficiency. If you have 20% growth in use, you need to legislate 20% reduction in emissions. 20% More MPG per vehicle, per head

The same with air travel. If you want to increase numbers travelling on Internal flights by 20% you either need the planes to carry 20% more passengers for the same fuel, or increase efficiency of existing fleet to reduce emissions by 20%.

Incidentally I'm only using 20% as a ball-park figure. Legislation and the recognition of Climate Change, CO2 Targets, and the Kyoto Protocol, is the least Blair, Europe, Putin & Russia should have demanded from The US and Son of Bush.

Climate Change & Economics may not be an exact Science, but it is the Will & Direction determine the destination, or in this case the outcome: Cleaner Air & Clearer Skies

Unfortunatley I don't agree that the UK are almost certain to meet Kyoto targets. Emissions have been rising for three years in a row, and in 2005 the rise was the largest since Labour came to power. If this trend continues then the UK will not meet Kyoto targets.

For anybody active in the UK there is no mystery at all: The policies which helped to reduce emissions from different sectors have in recent years been abandoned or watered down. Such as the fuel-duty escalator, road traffic reduction targets (the road building programme was frozen for a number of years with some emphasis on reducing traffic volume and now there has been a complete u-turn), the Climate Change levy and other 'green taxes' have been frozen for years. Grants which got close to getting certain renewable sectors (eg solar) off the ground were then scrapped just before the industry got anywhere. Now ministers have refused permission for one of the largest windfarms planned, greatly undermining the confidence of the wind industry. Yes, there is the negative impact of higher gas prices, but I would also argue that a relatively successful climate change mitigation programme has been almost completely dismantled - and there is little of substance in the so-called new programme. By the way, Holland and even the car-loving Germans have almost taxed SUVs off the road - and it hasn't been a political liability. The UK are refusing to introduce building standards which have been the norm in much of Europe for decades and the 'energy efficiency programme' is absolutely tiny - I think it will marginally improve 0.5% of the housing stock over many years, whilst Germany is putting 5% of the old housing stock to the highest efficiency levels every year.

So, if the UK fail on Kyoto it will be because the beginnings of a climate change programme have been pretty much scrapped and there is no political will at all - not because it would be that difficult!

[I agree with a lot of what you say. I may have been guilty of believing the govts spin. Certainly I agree that the political will to make hard choices - as opposed to speeches - is not there -W]

By Almuth Ernsting (not verified) on 01 Apr 2006 #permalink