Climate change at Westminster

The Labour government has announced a new climate change bill for the coming parliament. Is this a positive development or a false dawn? By Oscar Reyes

December 1, 2006 · 2 min read

Friends of the Earth, which has led demands for new UK legislation on climate change, welcomed the proposed climate change bill as ‘a crucial first step’, while arguing that it should legislate for a 3 per cent annual cut in CO2 emissions. With UK carbon emissions still rising, according to the most recent government figures, this issue of legally binding targets is likely to be central to the debate on the bill.

The environment minister, David Miliband, has already dismissed such targets as a ‘silly’ idea, but he is rowing against the tide. The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives support them, while Stop Climate Chaos, the largest UK-based coalition of climate change campaigners, is calling for an annual ‘carbon budget’ to ensure that such targets are reached. The Green Party, which calls for a 6 per cent annual reduction in CO2 emissions, dismissed the new bill as ‘toothless and inadequate’.

With climate change priorities increasingly being set at an EU and global level, however, the focus on domestic targets should not blind us to Britain’s role in the international system. The UK is a leading promoter of emissions trading – introducing a UK-wide emissions trading scheme in 2002, before playing a leading role in the EU emissions trading scheme from 2005, and using the G8 to promote marketbased ‘solutions’ to climate change.

‘As a financial services base, Britain dominates the carbon market globally,’ David Miliband told the UN climate change conference in Nairobi. Mark these words: there is money to be made from these poorly regulated markets that legitimise continued pollution, as Derek Wall points out, and a warm green Westminster consensus belies the UK government’s continued role in helping large corporations to make it.


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