Britain is an international leader on climate change but is failing to translate this rhetoric into action at home, a new report warns today.
Research for the all-party parliamentary group on the environment says that while the government is encouraging other countries to take climate change seriously, it is "lagging behind its own aspirations" on cutting emissions at home.
The UK is one of the few industrialised countries that is set to meet its target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5 per cent by 2010 outlined under the Kyoto protocol, and today's report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy welcomes this.
But it notes the admission by the government in its climate change programme (CCP) published in March that Britain would fail to meet its self-imposed target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent by 2010.
The report says this acceptance is a "step backwards", and "gives the impression that the target has not been treated as seriously as it might", warning it also risks undermining the commitment to the long-term target of cutting emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
"Although it was intended to do so, the review conspicuously fails to give a longer term perspective.It also fails to offer the long term policy framework that progressive industry leaders have called for," the report says.
The study also notes that while Britain is a leader in using the car tax system to penalise the most polluting cars, emissions from transport continue to increase, while it says measures outlined in the CCP to change people's everyday behaviour "lack teeth".
It warns in particular that the UK is lagging behind most of its EU partners in developing renewable technologies, "in terms of both action and aspiration" - although it praises the implementation of the EU emissions trading scheme.
However, today energy minister Malcolm Wicks reaffirmed the government's commitment to renewable energy by announcing details of £1.2 million investment in 16 solar energy projects across the country.
"The government's target is that ten per cent of the UK's electricity will come from renewable sources by 2010 and this will provide a solid foundation that can be built on in order that they can make an even greater contribution to the mix as we look to bridge any future energy gap," he said.
Mr Wicks also published the results of a new NOP survey showing that "despite the hot air and scepticism from certain quarters", 85 per cent of the public support renewable energy and just over three fifths would be happy to live near wind turbines.
But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, chairman of the all-party environment group, warned that today's report showed the government had some way to go in tackling climate change.
"The analysis shows that while the government has been innovative in some areas, it has time and again fallen down on delivery. Clearly, much more needs to be done to turn rhetoric into reality," he said.
- Today wildlife presenter David Attenborough broke his silence about climate change and announced in the Independent: "I am no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major challenge facing the world."