Blair climate change plan hit by failure to meet green targets

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The Independent Online

The Government is failing to meet more than a third of its targets for improving the environment. A campaign is to be announced today by Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, to urge everyone in Britain to join the fight to save the planet.

Releasing a five-year plan for her department, Mrs Beckett will announce a review of plans on global warming, which green groups fear will lead to targets being made easier to hit.

A progress report released on Monday showed that the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had not met nine of the 22 performance targets that have been set for it since 1998. The department conceded some "slippage" had occurred on key objectives such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

Although the Government has met its Kyoto protocol goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 12.5 per cent below the 1990 level, the report admitted that there were doubts about whether it would hit its second goal of a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

The admission is embarrassing for Mr Blair, who has promised to lead a global effort to slow climate change when Britain takes over the presidency of the G8 group of leading industrial nations next month.

The pressure group Friends of the Earth said yesterday that emissions of carbon dioxide stood at only 7.5 per cent below the 1990 level, the same as when Labour came to power in 1997. It predicted that the target would be missed by a wide margin, with cuts of only 15 per cent achieved by the end of the decade.

Tony Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth, warned that "time is running out" for the Prime Minister to prove he is serious about tackling the problem. "If the climate change programme fails to make significant cuts in UK greenhouse gas emissions, the Prime Minister's ability to persuade other countries to take the issue seriously will be totally undermined," he said.

Stephen Tindale, the executive director of Greenpeace, said that there was "a paralysis at the heart of government" on the issue. "C02 emissions have gone up since 1997," he said. "We are where we were when Labour came to power."

The report said that the Government was "broadly on course" to meet five of its seven air quality objectives, but it added: "On the basis of present policies and measures, it is questionable whether Defra will meet the objectives for nitrogen oxide and particles in all parts of the country, particularly in some urban areas, by the relevant deadlines."

A separate "quality of life" barometer showed progress on 10 out of 19 indicators but not on household waste recycling, road traffic, air quality and robbery. "There is still much more to be done," said the report.

Today's plan will emphasise the need to put "sustainable development into practice" and for everyone in Britain to "do their bit" to improve the environment and the quality of life for everyone.

It will include new measures to encourage people to recycle waste, plans to increase energy efficiency, and incentives to build affordable housing in rural areas. The Government will also publish a Bill that will make it easier to tackle problems such as litter and abandoned cars.