Vow to cut greenhouse gas divides ministers

Two of the Government's senior ministers are locked in a struggle over Labour's most ambitious environmental pledge - the manifesto commitment to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal gas causing global warming, by 20 per cent by 2010.

Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, wants thetarget to be the key component of the forthcoming EU greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme, one of the main vehicles through which emission cuts are to be made. But Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is under pressure from heavy manufacturing industry, wants the target reduced to 15 per cent.

Britain's green movement will see an abandonment of the 20 per cent figure as the betrayal of a promise long regarded as a principal indicator of Labour's good environmental intentions. Although the Government might claim the 20 per cent target for the economy as a whole remained, the public would be likely to see it as welshing on a pledge.

The stand-off between the ministers is such that Tony Blair might have to decide the matter, senior government sources suggested last night.

Tony Juniper, the director of Friends of the Earth, said neither the EU or UK were on track to meet emission targets, and giving in to big industry would set a bad example for other European countries. "We have to make sure the emissions trading scheme delivers," he said.

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