Britain lags behind in action on global warming

THE GOVERNMENT appears to be putting off action to reduce Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide gas and combat the threat of global warming.

Michael Howard, Secretary of State for the Environment, yesterday published a 'discussion document' on climate change. It sets out merely a series of options on how carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced rather than plans for specific action. The document was a genuine attempt to stimulate national debate, he said, adding: 'We have not made any decisions.'

In sharp contrast, the United States produced a detailed National Action Plan for Global Climate Change earlier this month. It has already ratified the Framework Convention on Climate Change, which President Bush and John Major signed at the Rio Earth Summit in June, whereas Britain's ratification may not take place until the deadline at the end of 1993.

The 129-page American document sets out what the US is doing to combat man-made global warming and how the nation could adapt to rising sea levels, higher temperatures and less rainfall. It claims that more than half the research on the problem is being done in the United States. But America is the world's largest energy producer and consumer. It is therefore also the largest emitter of the various greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide produced when coal, gas and oil are burnt.

Under the convention, Britain is committed to ensuring that carbon dioxide emissions in 2000 are no greater than they were in 1990. Current projections suggest that savings of about 10 million tons of carbon (MtC) will have to be found, as emission would otherwise rise from 160 MtC in 1990 to 170 MtC by the end of the century.

Domestic consumers could be paying an extra pounds 300m a year through their energy bills to promote energy conservation, according to those few indications of the Government's thinking which do emerge from the discussion document. Central to any strategy will be the Energy Saving Trust, a new body set up on the initiative of British Gas and the regional electricity companies to promote energy efficiency.

Chaired by Lord Moore, the former Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the organisation came into operation on 17 November with a first- year budget of about pounds 6m. This would have to expand to pounds 300m a year under the Government's options, adding 2 to 3 per cent to domestic energy bills. The Government expects that by expanding the work of the Energy Saving Trust, 2 to 3.5 MtC might be saved by 2000.

Increasing demand for fuel for road transport is the main reason for the projected increase in emissions by 2000. In response, it looks likely that petrol prices may rise consistently faster than inflation. The document notes that, 'for example', a 10 per cent increase in real fuel prices by 2000 could lead to a saving of up to 1 MtC. In addition, the department explicitly considers road pricing in towns and cities - originally proposed as a way of reducing congestion - as a measure which might encourage conservation and persuade people away from their cars and on to public transport. Although the Government is not opposed to the principle of a carbon tax, according to Mr Howard, 'we have yet to form a judgement'.

Andrew Warren, director of the Association for Energy Conservation, welcomed the initiative but warned that 'it is vital that completion of this consultation exercise is followed by the swift introduction of new programmes designed to cut energy waste'. He said the document could probably have been written three years ago.

Mr Warren also said that at present it would be possible to meet the target for reduced emissions, adding that 'it would be good for the economy and would create some 50,000 jobs over 10 years, but it will need pump priming and investment'.

Climate Change: Our National Programme for Carbon Dioxide Emissions. A Discussion Document, from the Department of the Environment, PO Box 1150, London N4 1UB.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?