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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
UK 'needs yearly climate updates'
By Richard Black
Environment Correspondent, BBC News website

Mark Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
An annual report is a good way of focussing attention on the problem
Mark Lazarowicz MP
Draft legislation just published in the UK would require the prime minister to make annual reports to Parliament on measures to curb climate change.

It would also establish national targets for small-scale renewable energy projects.

Britain's greenhouse gas emissions have risen for the last two years.

The private member's bill, which has cross-party support, is being introduced by Labour's Mark Lazarowicz, and will be debated in November.

"It's important to monitor how effective we are in meeting targets on greenhouse gas emissions," Mr Lazarowicz told the BBC News website, "and clearly an annual report is a good way of focussing attention on the problem."

Support for scrutiny

Mr Lazarowicz, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, came fourth in the annual ballot to introduce a private member's bill.

EDM178 - annual cuts of 3% in CO2 emissions - 242 signatures
EMD214 - stamp duty rebates for energy-efficient homes - 237 signatures
EDM391 - annual progress reports and microgeneration - 184 signatures
EDM338 - greater use of biofuels - 155 signatures
EDM133 - government support for micro-generation - 138 signatures
An Early Day Motion (EDM391) expressing support for his Climate Change and Sustainable Energy bill, and for another on the Management of Energy in Buildings to be introduced by the Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead, has been signed by 184 MPs - one of several motions on climate issues to win widespread support within parliament.

There has been no formal endorsement from the Labour leadership, but the shadow environment secretary Oliver Letwin described the bill's aims as "clearly right".

"We are currently going backwards on efforts to reduce carbon emissions in Britain, and we need new structures to deal with that," he said.

Mr Letwin proposes the establishment of an independent body to monitor Britain's progress towards a low-carbon economy; it would play a role somewhat analogous to that of the Bank of England's function regarding economic policy.

Emissions growing

Labour came to power in 1997 on a manifesto that promised to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by the year 2010.

Shadow environment secretary Oliver Letwin MP
We are currently going backwards on efforts to reduce carbon emissions
Oliver Letwin MP
But emissions of carbon dioxide, and of greenhouse gases overall, are rising.

Last year, the government admitted that the 20% figure for CO2 would not be met. The latest figures also suggest that the UK is veering off the course required to meet its much more modest Kyoto Protocol target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% from 1990 levels.

The environmental group Friends of the Earth, which consulted with Mark Lazarowicz on his bill, has been pressing for the adoption of annual targets.

Under their plan, the government would commit to lowering Britain's emissions by 3% each year.

Small is beautiful

Early Day Motions show that there is substantial support within Parliament for micro-generation using renewables. This involves individual homes or small communities generating electricity or heat through technologies such as solar, wind or biomass burning.

Last week, a report from academics at Sussex and Southampton universities and Imperial College London said that micro-renewables hold great promise, but were fighting on an uneven playing field.

Solar panels on house.  Image: Eyewire Inc
Small-scale solar power is "fighting on an uneven playing field"
"Our research shows that some basic changes in regulations could make a significant difference," said study leader Dr Jim Watson from Sussex University.

"This is a classic 'chicken and egg' problem that needs some government intervention and up-front investment to achieve a breakthrough."

The government is currently developing a micro-generation strategy. Also on the horizon is publication of its Climate Change Review, its own assessment of progress, policies and priorities.

Mark Lazarowicz's bill would require the government to set annual targets for the take-up of micro-generation, to give financial support, and to allow people to sell electricity that they generate through the national grid.

"I've got cross-party backing, soundings of ministers have been positive; so I hope it will get government support," he said.

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