Blair's drive to cut global warming hit as CO2 emissions rise

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The Prime Minister's desire to put Britain at the forefront of the battle to cut global warming is expected to receive a dramatic setback today when figures will show that CO 2 emissions in the UK rose last year

The Prime Minister's desire to put Britain at the forefront of the battle to cut global warming is expected to receive a dramatic setback today when figures will show that CO 2 emissions in the UK rose last year.

Official figures to be released today are expected to show there was an increase of between 1 and 2 per cent in carbon dioxide emissions, despite a pledge to meet targets to reduce them significantly.

The figures come after Tony Blair has pledged to take fresh strides to put global warming back at the top of the international agenda. Mr Blair plans to make reducing global warming a main plank of the UK's presidency of the G8 group of leading industrialised countries next year. He is also expected to apply fresh pressure on the American President George Bush to sign up to the Kyoto protocol to tackle CO 2 emissions, the principal gas causing global warming.

The elevation of the issue up the political agenda follows a warning from Britain's chief scientist about the threat to the environment from greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK has pledged to cut CO 2 emissions by 2010 - an even more ambitious target than the Kyoto agreement, which commits the UK to a 12.5 per cent reduction.

Norman Baker MP, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, said the rise in emissions was extremely embarrassing for ministers and showed the Government was "failing catastrophically on climate change". He said the switch from coal-fired power stations to gas-fired power stations, which has helped reduce CO 2 emissions, shielded a lack of overall commitment by ministers to try to tackle the issue.

"They have to address the transport sector where carbon emissions are going out of control. Gordon Brown did nothing in the Budget to help because he failed to increase fuel duty. It's time the Prime Minister started listening to his chief scientist and stopped listening to President Bush."

In 1990, the UK produced about 605 million tons of carbon and emissions. The figure fell after coal-fired power stations went out of service but, since 2000, it has crept up and is now about 8 per cent lower than 1990 levels. In 1997, when the Government came to power, there were 152.9 million tons of carbon emitted. The figures for 2003, to be released by environment and trade and industry ministers today, are expected to show a marginal increase from the 150.4 million tons of carbon emitted in 2002.

Government sources say the figures are "going in the wrong direction" and admit that it will be a struggle to meet the ambitious targets which they have set themselves.

Last night, green groups attacked ministers for failing to adhere to their own policy. Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "The insane growth forecasts for aviation that are backed by the Government will utterly wipe out any progress made in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The Government is falling behind its own targets and must pull its finger out."

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