Government's watchdog attacks failure on climate change targets

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair, John Prescott and Gordon Brown will be condemned today over the Government's failure to meet its targets on climate change in a report by its own watchdog on global warming.

The Prime Minister's "green guru", Sir Jonathon Porritt, who heads the Commission for Sustainable Development, will deliver a humiliating blow to Mr Blair over his claims to lead the world on climate change, one day after ministers celebrated a deal in Montreal to curb global warming.

The first CSD report, which will be circulated to ministers today, will award colour-coded ratings, like traffic signals, to the Government's performance on climate change. The three main targets, reducing waste, lowering water consumption, and sustainable development are set at red.

All the other tests are given amber warning lights. The Government has failed to achieve a single green light on any of its targets.

The most embarrassing red light is for the Government's target on reducing CO 2 emissions by 12.5 per cent by 2012. Instead of cutting the harmful emissions that contribute to global warming, Britain has increased the emissions by 9 per cent since 1999.

The Government's own Whitehall departments come in for criticism in the report for wasting energy and water. The Cabinet Office in Whitehall uses the equivalent of 72 kettles of water per person per day, says the report.

The report is a blow for Mr Blair, who made climate change a top priority, along with Africa, for Britain's leadership this year of the G8, and its presidency of the EU. It will also annoy Mr Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, who committed the Government to the more ambitious target of reducing emissions by 20 per cent.

It will dampen the jubilation of Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, who led the Montreal talks, and helped to force the US into returning to the negotiations after staging a walk-out. It is believed the U-turn was brought about after Mr Blair intervened in a telephone call to President George Bush.

Mrs Beckett confirmed that Mr Blair was reluctant to adopt climate change as one of his priorities for the year. "He was quite hard to convince," she said. "Because until you get into it, it doesn't sound like a big deal."

The CSD report is intended as a stark warning to the Government that more radical action is needed to persuade the public to change their lifestyles - including breaking the love affair with the car. Sir Jonathon told MPs on the Commons Environmental Audit Committee that higher petrol prices were needed, including recent hikes in world oil prices, to force changes in the way oil was used. But the Chancellor announced in his pre-Budget report last week that he will freeze petrol duty in April to stop the price rising higher.

Sir Jonathon also warned Mr Blair that opting for nuclear power is not a panacea. Mr Blair has ordered a second review of energy to prepare the ground for a new generation of nuclear generating stations, but Sir Jonathon said the CSD is carrying out its own report which will be delivered in the new year.

He warned that the chances of the emission trading scheme delivering the cuts in emissions needed to meet Britain's targets were zero. "The instruments being used by Government, particularly the climate-change levy, are business-focused, and do not involve the vast majority of citizens in their own households, their transport, and so on. That is a politically complicated thing to do, but that is the only way in which we are going to get anywhere near those long-term targets that the Government has set," he said .

Sir Jonathon also revealed that the CSD has already had clashes with the Department of Trade and Industry over the methodology used in its reports, but had been proved right. The latest report has been audited by a respected accounting company, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Downing Street said Mr Blair would keep up the momentum for an extension of the carbon emissions trading scheme within the EU beyond 2012. A No 10 source said: "We need to give businesses the confidence to make long-term investment decisions which will help reduce harmful carbon emissions."

Progress report

* CO2 EMISSIONS: The UK has a legally binding target under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below base-year levels by 2008-12 and a further domestic goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010. Britain's emissions have increased by 9 per cent since 1999.

* WATER: Reducing water use has been agreed as a priority across Whitehall and government offices but the report criticises the Government for lack of progress. The Watermark project claimed that every £1 invested in water-saving measures could yield up to £10 in savings. But the Cabinet Office is still using the equivalent of 70 kettles of water per person per day.

* WASTE: England produces 375 million tons of waste each year, with 90 per cent from commercial and industrial activities. At the moment much waste goes to landfill sites, space is running out and waste tonnage continues to rise. The current position is not sustainable and urgent action is needed to reduce waste growth and recycle more.

* ENERGY: The energy White Paper committed the Government to ensuring that every home is adequately and affordably heated. But households are using even more energy; up by 2 per cent since 2000. Energy efficiency is improving, but still far behind some EU countries on new homes. Resistance in Whitehall and among house builders to tough targets being imposed on heating efficiency for new homes.

Making a difference in the home

Some of the things we will have to do to reduce global warming:

* Switch from ovens to steamers.

* Leave the car at home - a government survey showed traffic levels on Britain's roads rose by 79 per cent between 1980 and 2003; road transport produced 22 per cent of British emissions of carbon dioxide in 2002.

* Take the train, not the plane: aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Serious health risks also come from toxic nitrogen oxide emissions. Government departments to pay into a carbon offset fund invested in green technology in developing countries for all ministerial trips by plane from April next year. But the Government has just agreed to a second runway at Stansted airport.

* Switch off electricity, and gadgets such as the television; don't leave gadgets on standby.

* Reduce central heating to below 20 degrees centrigrade.