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'WORLD MUST ACT NOW ON CLIMATE CHANGE'

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Britain will use its influence as head of two major international ...
Britain will use its influence as head of two major international

bodies to boost efforts to combat climate change and pollution,

environment minister Lord Whitty said today.

Lord Whitty said the UK would use its position as chair of the G8

group of nations next year and its forthcoming European Union

presidency to push the climate change agenda at the highest level 'in

every way we can'.

Speaking at the World Clean Air and Environmental Protection Congress

in London, Lord Whitty said: 'Internationally our first priority is

climate change, in the long-term probably the most important issue we

face as a global community.

'It is important that we present a clear case for concerted action on

climate change to the G8 next year, and the same will apply to our

presidency of the EU. It's important that the case is made and action

taken.

'Climate change is already happening due to the release of greenhouse

gases, mainly carbon dioxide. The UK is one of the strongest

supporters of the Kyoto Protocol to cut emissions worldwide. Enormous

challenges remain, however.

'We are thinking long-term. The government's Energy White Paper sets

a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 60% by 2050.

Other developed countries must follow suit. We need a global shift in

the way we produce energy. We need a low-carbon economy.'

Britain is showing what can be done to meet Kyoto targets. Latest

estimates suggest that UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2003 were about

14 per cent below 1990 levels, with carbon dioxide emissions for 2003

estimated about 7% lower than in 1990.

Lord Whitty added: 'London was choked by smog 50 years ago, and in

one week at least 4,000 Londoners died because of that smog. Levels

of pollution are now much lower. We can be proud of our achievements

but major challenges remain which will need a combination of local,

national and international responses.

'All of us - industry, the public sector and individuals as well as

government - here in the UK and elsewhere need to do more if we are

to achieve our future goals for even cleaner air.'

Air quality generally in the UK has improved steadily in recent

years. Latest figures show that:

* the average number of days of poor urban air quality in 2003 was

about 18% lower than in 1993

* urban pollution from fine particles fell from 43 days in 1993 to 17

in 2003

* sulphur dioxide pollution dropped from an average 20 days in 1993

to less than a day in 2003

For information on government action to tackle climate change and to

improve air quality, go to www.defra.gov.uk

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