Revisions to the draft Climate Change Bill, originally produced by the Government in March of this year (see earlier ecofreak news item "Climate Change - UK Leads The Way"), were set out yesterday by Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn.
The original draft Bill set out clear legally binding targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the UK by at least 60 per cent by 2050, and from 26 to 32 per cent by 2020. This is to be based on a new system of “carbon budgets” set at least 15 years ahead. It also proposed the creation of a new independent, expert Committee on Climate Change to advise on the best way to achieve these targets.
The changes to the draft Bill, set out in a Command Paper entitled ‘Taking Forward the UK Climate Change Bill’ published today, include:
- Asking the Committee on Climate Change to report on whether the Government’s target to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050 should be strengthened further
- Asking the Committee to look at the implications of including other greenhouse gases and emissions from international aviation and shipping in the UK’s targets as part of this review
- Strengthening the role of the Committee on Climate Change, requiring the Government to seek the Committee’s advice before amending the 2020 or 2050 targets in the Bill
- Strengthening the Committee’s independence from Government, by confirming that it will appoint its own chief executive and staff, and increasing its analytical resources
- Increased transparency. By requiring the Committee to publish its analysis and advice to Government on setting five-yearly carbon budgets, which are designed to provide clarity on the UK’s route towards its reduction targets
- Strengthening Parliament’s ability to hold Government to account, by requiring the Government to explain its reasons if it does not accept the Committee’s advice on the level of the carbon budget, or if it does not meet a budget or target
- Providing better information and streamled reporting, including requiring the Government to report annually to Parliament on emissions from international aviation and shipping, in line with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Strengthening the country’s preparedness for climate change by requiring the Government to regularly assess the risks of climate change to the UK, and to report to Parliament on its proposals and policies for sustainable adaptation to climate change.
Mr Benn said:
“We need to step up the fight against climate change and we need to do it fast.
“The draft bill we set out earlier this year, and have now refined, is a ground breaking blueprint for moving the UK towards a low carbon economy. It will bind us to legally enforceable emissions reduction targets at home, while giving us greater clout at the international negotiating table.
“I am extremely grateful for the invaluable input from the three Parliamentary committees, and from industry and the wider public that has brought us to this point. Thanks to their efforts we will now have a Bill that is stronger, more effective and more transparent.
“In short, they have helped make a good Bill better.”
The Government now plans to introduce a revised Bill to Parliament at the earliest possible legislative opportunity.
I welcomed the orginal draft Bill and can see little to criticise in the revisions outlined by Mr Benn yesterday. Indeed, the amendments appear genuinly to strengthen the Climate Change Committee's hand and maybe this will help this and successive Governments from wriggling out of commitments made now to reduce emissions in the future.
Targets have been set, but now the targets must be met! Not an easy task in my opinion. It is difficult getting people and businesses to change and we have a got a very long way to go.
Further information :
The Climate Change Bill can be found at the DEFRA website : http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climatechange/uk/legislation/index.htm .