Greenhouse gases to be cut by 5%

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR yesterday explained how the Government intends to fulfil its commitments to reduce the risk of man-made climate change made in Rio.

The Prime Minister said Britain was one of the first of the 160 countries involved to do so and dismissed criticism that yesterday's documents contained little of substance.

He also said Britain was the first country to show how it would cut each of the three main pollutant 'greenhouse gases' - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide - all known to cause global warming. The plans aim for a total reduction in the UK's greenhouse gas emissions of 5 per cent by 2000 compared to their 1990 level.

Under the climate change convention, which comes into force on 21 March, the UK has pledged to control rising emissions of carbon dioxide, the most important global warming pollutant, so these return to their 1990 levels by 2000. Environmental groups were disappointed yesterday's document makes no firm commitments beyond the turn of the century.

Where the document does look ahead, it talks only vaguely of 'new and difficult choices' on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This would include decisions over the mix of energy supply. Both Mr Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, and Mr Major pointed to possible growth in the nuclear programme. Mr Major defended the Government's road policies, and put the onus on the public to change their transport habits. 'People may not always be able to make journeys as easily or as cheaply as before . . . Individuals will have to reconcile their desire to travel with their desire to protect the environment.'

Mr Major proposes to cut the equivalent of 10 million tons of carbon against projected emission figures for the turn of the century. Four million tons of this is to result from taxing fuel and power in the home - for example, by imposing VAT. Transport must shoulder a further 2.5 million ton cut, through increases on road fuel duties, rising by 5 per cent in real terms with each budget.

The largest contribution to carbon dioxide saving comes from pit closures and the electricity generators' switch from coal-fired generation to cleaner gas.

Business is expected to cut its carbon output by 2.5 million tons, and the public sector is expected to cut 1 million tons.

The plan also describes moves to cut methane emissions by 10 per cent and nitrous oxide by 75 per cent by 2000 - mainly through reducing pollution from nylon manufacture.

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