Industry beating emissions targets

British industry slashed carbon dioxide emissions last year by 14.4 million tonnes, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says today.

This is more than double the target set by the government under the ten-year climate change agreements (CCAs), which offer firms an 80 per cent off climate change levies if they keep their emissions down.

Environment minister Elliot Morley welcomed today's figures showing 98 per cent of industry sites now qualify for this discount, saying firms would reap the rewards of cost-effective, low-carbon measures.

"The contribution needed from industry to help us meet total emissions cut targets and energy efficiency goals is considerable," Mr Morley said.

"But already companies are reaping the rewards of cost-effective, low-carbon measures and they have proved they are prepared to play a big part in combating climate change."

The government has already said it will miss its own self-imposed target of cutting CO2 emissions by 20 per cent on 1990 levels by 2010, but it says it will meet the 12.5 per cent targets set under the Kyoto protocol.

Today the environmental audit committee (EAC), set up to monitor government and its agencies on environmental protection and sustainability, is set to announce an inquiry into renewable energies, in particular a possible future nuclear programme.

"Climate change is quite rightly at the top of the international agenda for many governments now, not least our own, and we want to push forward the debate about how to strengthen both policy and action to combat its potentially catastrophic impacts," said chairman Peter Ainsworth.

"This, together with the need to recognise that all human activity must respect environmental limits, will form the backdrop to much of EAC's future programme of inquiries."

The committee also intends to look into the issue of environmentally friendly housing in the autumn and will be setting up a sub-committee on sustainable timber.