Miliband: Act now on rising carbon emissions

Rising carbon emissions underscore the need for the UK to take “swift and decisive action” on climate change, the environment minister David Miliband has claimed.

The government has attempted to downplay provisional figures showing carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.25 per cent last year and instead argued the rise should motivate government, business and individuals to take action on reducing emissions.

Mr Miliband also pointed out the figure does not take into account the EU emissions trading scheme, which covers nearly half of UK emissions.

Despite efforts to reduce emissions, unusually high gas prices in 2006 meant more electricity was generated by coal, the environment secretary explained.

Mr Miliband said: “Any increase in carbon dioxide emissions is worrying, even though these figures do not include the effect of emissions trading. While these figures are provisional, they underline why concerted effort to tackle climate change, both from government and wider society, is absolutely critical.”

Last year’s ‘blip’ in carbon emissions justifies the UK’s decision not to commit itself to annually binding targets in the climate change bill, he argued. Five-year targets are better able to absorb annual fluctuations caused by changing fuel prices, freak weather and so forth while still committing the UK to a long-term downwards trend.

The environment secretary maintained the UK is still on track to double its Kyoto commitment.

Despite the rise in carbon dioxide emissions, the main ‘basket’ of greenhouse gases are down overall, with the ‘big six’ 15 per cent below the base year. Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for 84 per cent of all emissions.

More importantly attitudes are changing, Mr Miliband argued. Household emissions have fallen as individuals make changes to their everyday lives and more companies are looking to reduce their emissions.

A report commissioned by the Worldwide Wildlife Fund warned yesterday emissions from power stations have soared and risk undermining small-scale changes. Emissions have increased by nearly a third in the past eight years, the report noted.

The Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Chris Huhne, commented: “Ministers got lucky when the ‘dash for gas’ cut the carbon emissions from power generation, but now their luck has turned.

“The government must urgently set out a comprehensive energy efficiency and renewables strategy for moving to a low-carbon economy.”