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Climate Change

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2008

The Humble Petition of residents of Bristol,


That they bear witness to the threats of climate change, and believe that firm action is needed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House appeals to Her Majesty's Government to bring forward an amendment to the Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill, to introduce a target for the reduction of Carbon Dioxide emissions by at least 80% of the 1990 levels by 2050, to include in this target emissions from aviation and shipping, and to require intermediate annual targets for the reduction of emissions.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Stephen Williams, Official Report, 19 March 2008; Vol. 473, c. 1049 .] [P000154]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:

Thank you for your petition in which you ask the House of Commons to consider a number of points in relation to the Climate Change Bill. I have been asked to reply as DEFRA has policy responsibility for Climate Change.

With regards to the 2050 target, the government recognises the significant recent advances in scientific understanding since the 60% goal was included in the 2003 Energy White Paper, and set out as at least 60% CO2 reduction in the Bill. However, the Prime Minister stated, last November, that the independent Committee on Climate Change will be asked to review the 2050 target, and advise on whether it should be tightened up to 80%. There has been no comparable cross-cutting research and analysis since the Royal Commission report which recommended the 60% figure in 2000. The Government tabled an amendment to strengthen the Bill, that will make the 2050 target review a statutory duty. The Committee on Climate Change will report its findings by 1 December.

Domestic shipping, which accounts for over 40% of UK maritime bunker sales, is included already in the Climate Change Bill, as is domestic aviation. The Bill also allows for the inclusion of international shipping and aviation once there is a change in European or international law or practice. There is currently no international agreement on how to allocate emissions from international shipping or international aviation to individual countries: it is for this reason that emissions from international aviation and shipping are currently excluded from the national targets of all countries who currently have emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

We are continuing to investigate all options for reducing emissions from international and domestic shipping, including improved technology and better operator practices. However, shipping is a global industry and so it is important that regulations are developed in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on a global scale, as they must be enforced by flag States i.e. the countries under whose flags ships operate. Therefore, in the international arena we are working actively within the IMO to address greenhouse gas emissions and other atmospheric emissions from ships.

We are also taking action to tackle the climate change impacts of aviation. The UK has led the debate on the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). You may be aware that significant progress towards this objective was achieved in December last year when EU Ministers reached agreement at Environment Council to include the carbon emissions from flights arriving at and departing from the EU in 2012.

On the issue of annual targets in the Bill, there is already strong annual accountability through the requirement of annual reporting to Parliament on progress towards budgets and targets by the independent Committee on Climate Change—to which the Government must respond. The Government has rejected annual targets in favour of five-year carbon budgets for very good reasons: annual targets are simply too inflexible to take account of real life. Five-year periods offer the right balance between certainty and flexibility and are also consistent with international practice (e.g. under the Kyoto Protocol). For example, it would be impractical to manage annual targets for those businesses covered by EU ETS, which represent around half of the UK's CO2 emissions, as that system operates on five-year periods where trading freely within the period and across the EU is allowed to ensure operators meet their obligations. Nevertheless, in order to provide greater transparency over the Government's expectations, as part of the Government package of amendments tabled at Lords Report stage, a new requirement has been added to the Bill that following the setting of each carbon budget, the Secretary of State will also be obliged to set out in a report to Parliament annual indicative ranges for the net UK carbon account for each year within the budget period.