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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
EU 'behind' on climate change
Margaret Beckett
The foreign secretary said Europe had to "pick up the pace"
Emissions charges should be imposed on flights as soon as possible as part of efforts to avert "climate chaos", says Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

In a speech in Berlin, she said the EU had to "pick up the pace" on climate change, or risk it undermining policies including international security.

She said Germany had a pivotal role to play, with its forthcoming presidencies of the EU and G8.

Airlines should be paying CO2 charges as early as 2008, she said.

We are dangerously behind the curve
Margaret Beckett
Foreign Secretary

Europe also needs to increase investment in renewable sources, make more moves towards "zero-emission" fossil fuel plants, and speed up the use of carbon capture - capturing and storing CO2 from power stations.

If not, climate change could undermine efforts to deal with international conflict, terrorism, energy security and poverty, she said.

"We are dangerously behind the curve. We are on a direct path to climate chaos," she told foreign policy experts.

"When it comes to our inaction on climate change, our generation is in danger of global irresponsibility on a massive and irreversible scale."

Pressing problem

The UK set out a desire to see airlines paying for carbon dioxide emissions during its EU presidency last year.

It is expected to be enforced during the next phase of the emissions trading scheme, between 2008 and 2013.

In a direct message to Germany, the next country to hold the EU presidency, Mrs Beckett said: "It will be up to you whether Europe delivers... it will be up to you whether the G8 can galvanise broader global action.

"We will support you".

Last week European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said climate change was the most pressing problem for political leaders.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a joint letter with Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende, urged EU action on climate change.

But Mr Blair's stance was described as "hypocritical" by Greenpeace's John Sauven, who criticised the government's record on climate change.

"He says he wants to strengthen the European emissions trading scheme, but last year he was suing Brussels to weaken it. He's done nothing to combat aviation or the trend for gas-guzzling cars," he said.

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