Britain's record on reducing pollution attacked

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Indy Politics

Labour has done virtually nothing to cut the pollution that causes global warming, despite repeated claims by Tony Blair to be "leading the world" in combating the climate change, says a new report. The findingswill be deeply embarrassing to the Prime Minister, not least because they are published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), which is close to New Labour.

Its publication also comes at a particularly sensitive time. Last week the Queen opened a top-level meeting in Berlin of British and German ministers, senior officials, top scientists and captains of industry, which was based on the proposition that the two countries are in the vanguard of tackling the climate change.

Mr Blair ­ who calls global warming "the single most important long-term issue that we face as a global community" ­ recently promised to make it one of his priorities when he takes the presidency of the EU and the G8 next year. Yet 10 days ago he caved into lobbying from industry, giving it increased allowances to pump out carbon dioxide, the main "greenhouse gas", which causes global warming.

The IPPR report shows that almost all the cuts that Britain has made under the Kyoto Protocol were achieved under the Conservatives, and reveals that "carbon dioxide emissions have tended to rise in the last few years".

Britain is on course to meet its commitments under the treaty, it says, but this is largely due to the switch from coal to gas as the Tories closed mines. Since Labour took power in 1997, carbon dioxide emissions have hardly been cut. As a result, the Government will "fall far short" of a more ambitious target set in its 1997 election manifesto ­ to reduce carbon dioxide in emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2010. Present projections suggest that it will only manage an 11.8 per cent cut.

The report describes the Government's failure to live up to its promises to reduce the pollution, given off by burning fossil fuels. Targets for saving energy in homes have been reduced and a levy on polluting industries has been largely replaced by voluntary agreements.

Official targets for introducing renewable energy, such as from wind, and for installing highly efficient combined heat and power stations will not be met, the report concludes, while carbon dioxide emissions from cars and aircraft "are expected to rise".

Dr Bridget Woodman, one of the report's authors, called Mr Blair "utterly hypocritical". She added: "You can't drag the Queen around and say that this is the greatest thing since sliced bread if you have not been producing the goods since 1997."