Carbon emissions rise for second year, putting green targets in doubt

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Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have risen for the second successive year, prompting concern that the Government may not meet its targets for tackling climate change.

Emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have risen for the second successive year, prompting concern that the Government may not meet its targets for tackling climate change.

Brian Wilson, the Energy minister, warned against complacency yesterday in the fight against global warming. The new statistics showed that CO2 emissions had gone up by at least 2m tons in each of the past two years.

The rise in 2000 and 2001, which followed a sharp fall during the 1990s, was due to the increased use of coal by power stations. The Government said more coal was being used because of a rise in the price of gas, which is now falling, as well as "colder weather in the winter months".

But Friends of the Earth called on ministers to act urgently to tackle emissions and said their policies on preventing global warming were in disarray. "This shows that the Government has not got carbon dioxide emissions under control," said Roger Higman, the group's climate campaigner.

"The Government has been touting itself as a world leader on climate change action – if Tony Blair wants to maintain this position at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Government must act to tackle these rising emissions now."

The Government has already met the target set at the Rio summit to keep greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2000.

But it has set itself a more ambitious goal of cutting carbon emissions by 20 per cent compared to 1990 levels.

Yesterday's figures showed that there had been a 6 per cent fall overall in carbon emissions since 1990, but an increase for the years 2000 and 2001 of 0.5 per cent and 0.4 per cent. In 1999, 150.8m tons of CO2 were produced in Britain. Emissions rose to 152.1m tons in 2000 and to 154.4m tons in 2001.

Mr Wilson admitted that Britain faced "a real and tough challenge" to meet its environmental targets. "For anyone who might have grown complacent, these figures demand that we must do more to address our environmental obligations," he said. "We need greater energy efficiency and more renewable energy. Energy companies should continue to help customers become more fuel efficient."

The Liberal Democrats warned that the Government's failure to take more action to encourage renewable energy could lead to further rises in CO2 in the long term. "The rising trend is indicative of how reductions created by the dash for gas may have masked a wider failure to invest in green technologies and renewable energy," said Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrat's shadow Environment Secretary.

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