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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2006, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
UK to miss CO2 emissions target
Margaret Beckett.  Image: PA
The 20% target is still alive, says Margaret Beckett
The UK is unlikely to meet its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010, a government report says.

The Climate Change Programme review projects that new and existing policies will deliver a cut of 15-18% by the end of the decade.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the government was not giving up on meeting the 20% goal, but said more had to be done to reach it.

The review encourages people to cut their personal emissions.

The government set the goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2010 when it came to power in 1997.

This target went beyond the 12.5% reduction outlined in the Kyoto Protocol - which the UK is expected to meet.

Mrs Beckett rejected claims that the government had not done enough to tackle global warning.

"When we assessed what we were putting forward in our original proposals in 2000, people found that they had not delivered as much as hoped.

"So we are putting forward fresh proposals and I think people will find that these are quite tough proposals, and there is more to come later in the year," she told the BBC.

'Out of time'

Environmental think-tank Green Alliance said the government's admission came as no surprise.

Director Guy Thompson said: "The government is off course to meet its own climate change target and fast running out of time.

"The measures on household energy efficiency are welcome and a sign that the government is waking up to the need to change behaviour at an individual level," he told the BBC News website.

British carbon dioxide emissions by source for 2004
Total amounts to 153.0m tonnes (carbon equivalent)
Figures do not include emissions/removals from land use changes and forestry

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said people had a moral responsibility to change lifestyles in order to curb global warming.

"I think if we look at the language of the Bible we very often come across situations where people are judged for not responding to warnings," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The consequences if they did not, the Archbishop warned, would be the deaths of billions of people worldwide from the effects of extreme climate change.

A range of measures to encourage people to cut their emissions are outlined in the review.

The government will push for a greater take-up of energy efficiency schemes provided by energy suppliers and local authorities.

It also hopes a new Climate Change Communications Initiative will change public attitudes towards the impact of global warming.

Other measures announced in the review include:

  • a stricter emissions cap for industry
  • encouragement for the uptake of biofuels in petrol
  • 80m over next three years for new microgeneration projects
  • tighter building regulations

Setting limits

Ministers' main policy tool for reducing emissions is the EU's Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), which caps greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive industries and allows companies to buy and sell emissions permits with each other.

Incineration plant (Getty Images)

The scheme was launched at the beginning of 2005, and European governments are now consulting on national caps for the second phase, to run from 2008-2012.

Reports had suggested there had been disagreement within Whitehall over what the UK's cap should be.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was understood to back a reduction of eight million tonnes of carbon, while the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) called for a lower three-million-tonne cut.

This disagreement appears to be reflected in the report, which says the government "will consult... to achieve carbon savings between three million to eight million tonnes of carbon".

British Gas backed the plans to promote greater energy efficiency in homes across the UK, and managing director Mark Clare urged ministers to be brave when it came to setting the cap on carbon emissions.

"It should be bold and target savings towards the top end of the three to eight million tonne range. We believe this is both achievable, and the only way to hasten the transition away from high polluting forms of power generation."

Environmental groups rejected the review as a damp squib. Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper said the new measures reflected badly on Tony Blair, who had said climate change was a top priority.

"This pathetic strategy will not deliver the government's promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010, and will further undermine the prime minister's reputation on this issue."

Graph showing UK emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (BBC)
The UK is currently on track to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce emissions of six different greenhouse gases by an average of 12.5% compared with 1990 levels over the years 2008 to 2012
The fall in emissions through the 1990s and early part of the 2000s was achieved at a time of strong growth in the UK economy
Carbon dioxide emissions have risen recently, largely due to increased burning of coal in power stations. This was prompted by a rise in the price of gas (gas is 'cleaner' than coal)
The Labour administration has stated in three election manifestos that it would like to see a 20% cut in CO2 emissions by 2010

Why the greenhouse gas targets have not been met

Britain misses the climate bus
28 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Opinion: UK climate change policy
28 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Archbishop urges emissions cuts
28 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
UK seeks climate policy clarity
24 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Climate change 'harms world poor'
24 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Consensus grows on climate change
01 Mar 06 |  Science/Nature
Whitehall in greenhouse gases row
02 Feb 06 |  Science/Nature

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