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Last Updated: Friday, 27 October 2006, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Climate Change Bill - a personal view...
Alan Whitehead MP

Car exhaust pipes
We all play a part in meeting the targets

It would be a good idea to have a Climate change bill in this years Queen's Speech.

But if we did have one, should it simply be about targets, as the Friends of the Earth model Bill suggests?

Targets, of course are important - but we already have a number of them.

There is the now widely agreed target that we must reduce our CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 - and there are a number of other targets...

For the proportion of renewable energy we should have in our generating mix... for the amount of waste that should go to landfill... to what degree we should improve energy efficiency and by what date, to name a few.

But targets are useful only to the extent that they ensure that mechanisms in place really do what we think they will do.

Mechanisms imperative

The mechanisms have to be there for the target to be real.

Smoking chimney
Effective carbon trading is an industrial imperative

We know that, within the outline of the 2050 target, we have to reduce CO2 rapidly and consistently to achieve a low carbon economy which sustains itself at a low level after 2050.

To do that, it is now being increasingly widely acknowledged we will have to have the mechanisms in place which can lock in this sustainable reduction, whilst keeping the lights on and our society functioning within perhaps 10 years.

So the imperative now must be on mechanisms such as effective carbon trading, reducing caps on emissions, planning that locks low carbon into our landscapes, and how renewable and distributed energy progressively replaces centralised mineral based power sources.

Those mechanisms, some of which are in place already, will not instantly produce emission reductions smoothly each year - the important point is that together they will guarantee the trajectory.

These are, or should be, our priorities this year for legislation on climate change.

Targets

And while we're at it - legislating to ensure that the mechanisms of one government department are not cancelled out by the actions of another.

Targets follow from that, and do not precede it, or worse still substitute for it, and thereby give us cause to think that we really have tackled the daunting challenge of moving towards a sustainable low carbon economy, without, in reality, actually moving forward at all.

This is a personal view of Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton Test.



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