some of the benefits the UK will reap as we meet our climate
change targets, said deputy prime minister John Prescott.
Launching a new consultation paper, Mr Prescott said that he
emissions targets - both the legally binding target from Kyoto and
the domestic goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per
cent by 2010.
Mr Prescott said:
'The UK has set the pace in international discussions on climate
change. Now we are demonstrating our commitment to action at home.
We believe that the UK can meet challenging emissions targets and
this consultation opens up the debate on how best to achieve our
'There has been far too much talk of the burdens associated with
meeting our targets and far too little about the opportunities.
The debate I am initiating today is about gain, not pain!
'Energy efficient companies are more competitive. Better
transport systems will only good for our economy, and our society.
And well-insulated homes will be more comfortable and cheaper to
live in,' he said.
'There could also be new jobs and new opportunites for UK firms
in the emerging environmental technology market. In future, it's
the businesses that gain the edge in producing quality lean and
clean products that will be winners in the global market place.'
The deputy prime minister said that we can, and must achieve our
climate change targets.
'But as we do so, we are determined that we will not introduce
measures that will damage our competitiveness, nor take action that
will have unacceptable social costs.
'The UK has already reduced greenhouse gas emissions since 1990.
And our targets are realistic. Since the election we have put in
place a number of major new policies aimed at reducing emissions
Mr Prescott said that the consultation document identified the
scope for action by all sectors. He invited them to work together
on how best to cut emissions.
'We all have a stake in combating climate change. We must all
do our bit' to achieve our targets.'
At Kyoto in December 1997, developed countries agreed to reduce
emissions of a basket of the six main greenhouse gases overall to
5.2% below 1990 levels over the period 2008-2012. The six gases
covered by this legally binding target are carbon dioxide, methane,
nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur
The Kyoto Protocol permits countries to undertake commitments
jointly by forming a so-called bubble'. Under this arrangement,
the European Community agreed jointly to an 8% reduction.
In June 1998, under the UK presidency, this target was shared out
between member states. The UK agreed to take on a reduction of
12.5%. In its manifesto, the UK government also set out a domestic
goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% below 1990 levels
The Kyoto Protocol will come into force after it has been ratified
by 55 countries including enough developed countries to account for
55% of Annex I emissions in 1990. It is unlikely that the Protocol
will enter into force before 2001. Key to achieving these
conditions is the position of the United States who require
meaningful participation of developing countries before congress will
ratify. The UK will be exploring in Buenos Aires how this could be
On 16 October 1998, Michael Meacher announced a set of climate
change scenarios which have been developed under the UK Climate
Impacts Programme. The scenarios demonstrate that temperatures
could rise as much as 3 C by the end of the next century - larger
than any climate change experienced since the last Ice Age.
The government has already taken action aimed at helping the UK to
reach its targets including the integrated transport policy;
increasing the fuel duty escalator to 6% per year in real terms; a
review of what would be necessary and practicable to achieve 10% of
electricity demand from renewables by 2010; discussions with the
energy industry and others about the possibility of promoting energy
efficiency through a new Standards of Performance scheme; an
increase in funds for energy efficiency; and finally, establishing
Lord Marshall's Task Force which will be reporting shortly on the
use of economic instruments to improve the use of energy by
The consultation paper launches a national debate on how the UK
can meet its climate change targets. It is the start of a process
by which ministers will take the views of key sectors and identify
the level of commitment to delivering emission reductions. It
stresses that action by government alone will not be enough - all
sectors have a part to play and action by individual firms, local
authorities and households will be critical. Government does not
have all the answers.
Developing a new climate change programme will be a complex task
- there is a large range of measures that could be used, and the
impact of these differ sharply.
The programme must be balanced and equitable, and based on
practical and cost-effective measures. The government will not
introduce measures that would damage UK competitiveness or have an
unacceptable social cost.
Discussion on climate change should not all be about costs.
Many measures will have benefits that go wider than emission
reductions - better air quality; a less car-dependent transport
system; warmer, more comfortable homes; energy savings for business
and consumers; and new jobs and market opportunities from more
The consultation paper sets out the UK's emissions baseline
and projections and breaks them down by sector. It quantifies,
where possible, the carbon savings individual measures could
deliver. It demonstrates that the legally binding target is well
within reach and that a 20% reduction in CO2 is achievable.
The paper outlines the main policy options for reducinggreenhouse
gas emissions - in the energy supply, business, transport,
domestic, agriculture and public sectors.
On current projections the UK is forecast to be about 10% below
1990 emission levels in 2010. This includes the impact of some
policies introduced since the election and the new National Road
Traffic Forecasts, which imply a reduction of up to about 3% on
previous projections. New projections are in development to reflect
other developments, including the conclusions of the Review of Fuel
Sources for Power Generation.
Emissions from most sectors are currently on a downward trend.
This is partly because of the switch to less carbon intensive fuels
in the electricity generation sector, but also due to measures in
the current climate change programme. However, after 2000 emissions
of carbon dioxide start to rise again.
The consultation period ends on 12 February 1999. After the
responses have been analysed and other related policy reviews have
been completed, the government will begin work. on developing a
new UK climate change programme. It will consult on its draft
programme in due course.
Copies of the consultation paper are available from DETR Free
Literature, PO Box No 236, Wetherby S3 7NB, tel: 0870 1226 236,
fax: 0870 1226 237. The paper is also available on the internet at
the DETR web site: http://www.detr.gov.uk