Page last updated at 21:57 GMT, Monday, 19 November 2007

PM outlines climate action plan

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown said there were hard choices ahead

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said there will be a "green hotline" to advise people on what they can do to cut their impact on the environment.

Mr Brown, who said the UK's emission target of a 60% cut by 2050 could be increased to 80%, said he would also seek the end of one-use plastic bags.

He committed Britain to meeting EU targets on boosting renewable energy.

There would be "hard choices and tough decisions" but he said a new low carbon economy could bring thousands of jobs.

The new Green Homes Service - a telephone line, website and advice centres - aims to provide a single point of contact for people who want a "home energy audit".

Home energy

It will also give advice on saving water, reducing waste and other ways to be more environmentally friendly.

Mr Brown said that in 50 of Britain's poorest areas homes would be offered energy efficiency deals, and for those selling or buying energy wasting homes it would offer discounted help.

While the richest countries have caused climate change it is the poorest who are already suffering its effects
Gordon Brown

He said it represented "the biggest improvement in home energy efficiency in our history", with a third of households offered help over the next three years to reduce their emissions.

In his wide-ranging speech, the prime minister said climate change had been the product of many generations, but "overcoming it must be the great project of this generation".

Emissions cap

Mr Brown said: "I believe it will require no less than a fourth technological revolution. In the past the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the microprocessor transformed not just technology but the way our society has been organised and the way people live.

"Now we're about to embark on a comparable technological transformation to low carbon energy and energy efficiency and this represents an immense challenge to Britain, but it is also an opportunity."

Chimneys billowing smoke
High targets have been set for Britain's cut in emissions

Mr Brown said he wanted Britain to become a "world leader" in building a low carbon economy, which could lead to thousands of new British businesses, hundreds of thousands of new jobs and a "vast export market".

And the prime minister also said he wanted to work with countries like the US and Japan to establish a new "funding framework", to help developing countries adjust to low carbon growth, adapt to climate change and tackle deforestation.

"While the richest countries have caused climate change it is the poorest who are already suffering its effects," Mr Brown said.

Renewable targets

Britain was "absolutely committed to meeting our share" of the EU's 2020 renewable energy target, he said.

It could mean the UK will have to produce between 40 and 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 - the current figure is about 5%.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said this would be "staggering", but he said that the government was seeking to negotiate down the EU target.

Until Gordon Brown learns that tough action is needed to back up his warm words, he cannot be the change the country needs
Peter Ainsworth
Conservative Party

Mr Brown said the Climate Change Bill put a "statutory cap" on Britain's carbon emissions - with five year "carbon budgets" to give certainty for businesses and investors.

And he said he wanted the post-2012 agreement, to be discussed at a climate change summit in Bali in December, to include "binding emissions caps" for all developed countries.

The Climate Change Bill would ensure Britain met its target of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050.

Plastic bags

But he said new evidence suggested developed countries may have to reduce emissions by up to 80% - and he would ask the committee on climate change "to advise us, as it begins to consider the first three five-year budgets, on whether our own domestic target should be tightened up to 80%".

Mr Brown also said the government would convene a forum of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium and others to look at how to reduce plastic bags to cut landfill waste.

"I am convinced that we can eliminate single-use disposable bags altogether, in favour of long-lasting and more sustainable alternatives," he said.

The government blithely talks of the opportunities created by green industries yet refuses to promote fledgling initiatives properly
Chris Huhne
Liberal Democrats

Shadow environment secretary Peter Ainsworth said Mr Brown's record on the environment consisted of "missing targets, then scrapping them, then cutting the budgets that deal with them".

"Just this weekend, we learnt of a further 300m of crippling cuts to key environmental services.

"Until Gordon Brown learns that tough action is needed to back up his warm words, he cannot be the change the country needs," he said.

Global deal

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said he wanted to see whether Mr Brown was prepared to meet promises on renewable energy without counting nuclear power.

And he added: "The government blithely talks of the opportunities created by green industries yet refuses to promote fledgling initiatives properly.

"Boasts of a new green home service seem shallow when recent cuts to the New Millennium Grants will dissuade many homeowners from installing energy saving measures in their homes."

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has challenged governments to act on the findings of a major new report on climate change, saying real and affordable ways to deal with the problem existed.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says climate change is "unequivocal" and may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Climate change will be discussed at a forthcoming summit of Commonwealth leaders, just ahead of a UN meeting in Indonesia where a new global deal on emissions will be considered.


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