Government policy on climate 'is incoherent'

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The Independent Online

Much tougher action by the Government to tackle the threat of global warming has been demanded by a cross-party group of MPs, who claim that Britain's climate change targets are not nearly ambitious enough.

In a report to be released today, the MPs are highly critical of ministers' performance on the issue, claiming that government policy for combating climate change is becoming "incoherent".

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee is demanding that new targets are set for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases in Britain. The draft Climate Change Bill published four months ago sets out legally binding plans for a cut in emissions of 60 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990, and an interim target of between 26 per cent and 32 per cent by 2020.

But the committee warned that the latest research suggested this was "very unlikely" to be enough to deliver the Government's overall aim of stabilising the rise in global temperature at 2C, and called for the target to be "significantly strengthened".

The Government's policy towards the UK's 2050 target is "clearly incoherent", the committee said. It also criticised ministers for failing to include emissions from international aircraft and shipping, which it pointed out had grown by 123 per cent between 1990 and 2005, in the targets set out in the draft Bill. The omission should be immediately corrected, the MPs said.

But they welcomed the Government's decision to set a series of five-year "carbon budgets" which they said would help deliver cuts in the short, medium and long term, and the promise that ministers would report on the issue to MPs every year.

Tim Yeo, the committee chairman, said the report had uncovered several weaknesses in climate change policy.

"Carbon-saving measures have not delivered as much as predicted, and forecasts of future emissions have consistently drifted upwards," he said.

"To make things worse, these forecasts have not been updated often enough, which means that by the time ministers knew the UK's 2010 CO2 target was significantly off-track, it was too late to do much about it."

He suggested that Britain should focus on its total carbon emissions as well as annual targets.

Mr Yeo also warned against widespread use of "carbon credits" to help countries meet their promises under the Kyoto agreement. He said their use should be "strictly limited and transparently reported - and not be used as an excuse for inaction at home".

Consultation on the draft Bill finished last month and the full version is due to be published in the autumn.

It follows criticism of the Government's failure to make more progress towards its Kyoto promise of cutting emissions by 20 per cent between 1990 and 2010.

Emissions have increased in five of the past 10 years, and Britain is only a quarter of the way to achieving its Kyoto target.