Britain 'miles away' from hitting targets on carbon emissions

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The Independent Online

The Government is likely to miss its latest target for cutting back greenhouse gas emissions by a wide margin, a report said yesterday.

Instead of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020, as it pledged to do earlier this year, on current policies it will succeed in cutting them back by no more than 15 per cent, according to the Cambridge Econometrics think-tank (CE).

The report also says that it is likely to miss targets for boosting electricity derived over the next decade from renewable energy sources. However, according to CE, Britain is on course to meet its internationally-binding target, under the Kyoto climate change treaty, of cutting a "basket" of six greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent by 2010.

The study is a sobering damper to the optimism since the launch of the Draft Climate Change Bill last March, which proposed to make targets for cutting CO2 legally binding.

The Government has already missed one target - cutting CO2 on 1990 levels by 20 per cent by 2010, pledged in three successive Labour election manifestos, but in effect abandoned last year when it became clear that it would be missed.

CE forecast the failure to reach the target more than two years before the Government was forced to admit it. The Climate Change Bill, likely to go before the House of Commons in the autumn, writes into law proposals that the UK should slash its CO2 by 60 per cent by 2050, and by a new intermediate target of 26 per cent to 32 per cent by 2020.

But both of these risk not being achieved under current policies, according to the report, and the original 2010 aim - of slashing CO2 by 20 per cent - will not even be met a decade later. Detailed economic modelling by CE's analysts indicates that, unless more drastic policies are adopted, cutbacks will only reach 15 per cent, instead of the 26 per cent target.

The report also indicates that renewable energy will make up just 5 per cent of the UK's total electricity production by 2010 - half of the target - and Britain will also fall short of 15 per cent by 2015.

"These forecasts are a reality check to the rhetoric on climate change that is now standard Government fare," said the report's co-editor, Professor Paul Ekins. "We consistently forecast that the Government's 20 per cent carbon reduction goal by 2010 would be missed by a wide margin. We are now forecasting the goals for 2020 will also not be achieved without stronger policies."

But a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The Energy White Paper and other ambitious measures the Government has already put in place put us on track to meet our carbon emission goals, even though the economy will have doubled in size," he said.

The Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, Mary Taylor, said: "This report shows the need for a robust legal framework in the Climate Change Bill that will oblige the government to reduce emissions by at least 3 per cent year on year."

Climate change goals

Kyoto target of cutting a basket of six greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) by 12.5 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010.

Likely to be achieved

Labour Party's own target of cutting CO2 alone by 20 per cent by 2010.

Will be missed

New government target of reducing C02 emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020.

Likely to be missed by a wide margin (cut will only reach 15 per cent)

Long term government target of cutting CO2 by 60 per cent by 2050.

In doubt

Renewables target of providing 10 per cent of UK electricity by 2010 from renewable sources such as wave power.

Will be missed by a wide margin (renewables provision likely to be only 5 per cent instead of 10)