Battle for a tough Climate Change Bill (5) The final decision!

From Anthony Rae of Calderdale Friends of the Earth

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

As Parliament comes to vote next Tuesday (28th October) on the last details of the Bill before it becomes law, Anthony Rae of Calderdale Friends of the Earth answers the critical question: will the new Climate Change Act be tough enough?

In the previous four articles on Hebweb (read them here) we’ve been following the progress of  this pioneering piece of legislation, devised by Friends of the Earth in the first place, which requires the government by law to cut emissions every year in order to achieve a long-term target.  This legal approach to climate change reduction is now being copied widely around the world.

But will the detail of the draft legislation include so many loopholes as to undermine the effectiveness of the law (read the latest version of the Bill here)?  Friends of the Earth identified three demands that had to be met:

Annual reduction targets (to prevent backsliding and passing responsibility onto the next government): This was the first demand to be achieved; see Clauses 11 and 15 of the Bill.  One down, two to go!

80% reduction target for 2050: But where we left the story in July was that the end target was still only a 60% reduction, whereas developing climate change science was saying it had to be at least 80%.  And then, if we didn't secure  …

inclusion of international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions the actual effectiveness of the target itself would be undermined because these would generate a staggering 5 billion additional tonnes of CO2 by 2050.

So Friends of the Earth - together with the other campaigning NGOs, many other organisations, supportive MPs, and a great wave of public pressure - has continued lobbying relentlessly for the other two demands.  Not just in Parliament, but to influence the recommendations of the independent Committee on Climate Change - another feature of the legislation – where the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research with whom we work has been presenting the evidence.

Then on 7th October came the breakthrough, with the publication of the Committee’s interim advice to government on the two demands (press release here), followed on 16th October by the announcement by new Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy Ed Miliband that the government would be accepting all the recommendations of the Committee – which included a target of 80% reduction of (not just CO2, as previously but) all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and that the target should apply to the sum of all sectors of the UK economy, including IAS emissions.

There's a twist here - which is that the committee has also recommended that the act should not include actual measures to reduce the IAS emissions ‘at least in the short term’, on grounds of technical complexity.  But critically fast-growing aviation emissions can no longer be ignored - and thus even encouraged to grow - as the government has previously proposed, and the Committee has clearly stated that all other economic and social sectors will have to be cut even harder if IAS emissions continue to soar.  Question to a Labour government: where's the social and economic justice in that?

But taken all together, and as we come up to the final vote next Tuesday on the technical amendments to respond to the Committee's recommendations, this represents a fantastic victory for the Friends of the Earth campaign, everyone who has supported us - thank you so much! - and for the principle of determined and peaceful campaigning to secure political and environmental change.

And we haven't stopped there.  At this moment our campaigners are at work on a whole series of other bills in Parliament: on the Planning Bill - to impose a general duty on local & regional  authorities to respond to climate change issues; the Energy Bill, where we have already secured agreement for the inclusion of a 'feed in’  tariff to support small-scale renewables; and the Local Transport Bill where we’re lobbying for an amendment to require councils to ensure their transport policies tackle climate change.  Send a message to your MP here before 27th October to press for this last change.

We've taken the government to court, with Help the Aged, for not tackling fuel poverty as they said they would.  In the European Parliament, we have successfully lobbied for the reduction of the biofuels obligation, which risked further tropical deforestation.

And locally, Calderdale Friends of the Earth are about to start campaigning for Calderdale Council and other organisations to achieve their local target to reduce CO2 emissions in the district by 162,000 tonnes by 2011, and in particular to tackle fuel poverty and increase local employment by a borough-wide programme of home energy efficiency and insulation.

Friends of the Earth climate change stall in St George's Square probably cancelled Saturday 25th October because of adverse weather forecast. So instead send an email message to Chris McCafferty MP now asking her to support the Climate Change Bill amendments in Tuesday's vote.


See also

Battle for a tough Climate Change Bill (4) – (16 July 08)

Battle for a tough Climate Change Bill (3) – (29 June 08)

Battle for a tough Climate Change Bill (2) – now engaged (14 June 08)

Friends of the Earth campaign (1) for much stronger Climate Change Bill - (April 2008)


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