Friends of the Earth campaign for much stronger Climate Change Bill

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Sometime this year, the UK will be the first country in the world to have enacted a legally binding framework requiring the government to reduce the country's climate change emissions by a fixed % every year in order to reach a long-term target by 2050. We know this because the Bill, originally proposed by Friends of the Earth, is now supported by the government and all opposition parties.

So, the real question is: will it be tough enough, or are the reduction targets too low; and have loopholes been introduced to undermine the Bill's effectiveness? Unfortunately, the answer to the last two questions is, Yes. And that's why FOE are now campaigning for three crucial amendments to the Bill:

As the Bill has progressed through Parliament, the government has given some ground on the first two demands, but they are strongly resisting the third. Why does this matter? Well, because at present the emissions from international aviation/shipping are being excluded by the government from the UK 'carbon budget' set by the Bill in order then to be steadily reduced. So these particular emissions would be 'generated, but not counted, and therefore not controlled either'. It's ridiculous.

Their first excuse is that at the moment there isn't an agreed way to count them; which is rather odd, because if you go to page 27 of the government's own 2007 Environmental Accounts you'll find them set out very precisely: 42.8 million tonnes GHGs in 2005 from aviation.

The FOE campaign is underpinned by a lot of research undertaken for us by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, one of the principal UK think tanks. In a short paper which you can read here they set out the consequences of this policy of 'emit, but hide':

Elsewhere in the paper Tyndall show that the current 60% target for 2050 is quite inadequate to keep global temperatures below 2°C warming. Therefore, the very large amount of hidden additional aviation/shipping emissions, not even counted against that target yet, is just going to make that situation even worse.

This scientific research shows absolutely clearly why aviation/shipping emissions have got to be counted and controlled by the Climate Change Bill, otherwise they will completely undermine its effectiveness.

What can ordinary members of the public do about all this?  Well, it was pressure from the public that forced the Climate Change Bill into Parliament in the first place, so we can do it again with these amendments. And if we make the UK Bill tough enough, you can be sure that it will set a precedent around the world.

The Bill is about to be considered in the House of Commons, and if necessary we will need a sufficient number of MPs, from all political parties, to vote in favour of amendments requiring an 80% 2050 target and the inclusion of aviation/shipping emissions. This coming Saturday 5th April FOE local groups up and down the country (and other campaigning groups) will be out, asking their local members of Parliament to support these amendments and sending a single message to the Prime Minister: 'Put aviation into the Bill!'

So far, our two Calderdale MPs – Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) and Linda Riordan (Halifax) – have joined nearly 250 of their colleagues in calling for a tougher Bill (EDM 736) and we are really pleased that both of them will be calling in on our events (St George's Square, Hebden Bridge around 11.30 for Chris; Halifax Precinct around the same time for Linda).

So, please come along (stalls between 10.30-lunchtime); find out more about the Climate Change Bill; send a postcard to Gordon Brown telling him to ''Put aviation into the Bill!'; and there’ll be plenty of literature about what we can do locally to cut emissions here in Calderdale as well.

Anthony Rae – Coordinator, Calderdale Friends of the Earth