Lib Dems set out plans for carbon neutral Britain

The Liberal Democrats want to charge drivers to use motorways as part of a commitment to making Britain carbon neutral by 2050.

Tolls on motorways and charges for lorry drivers would be used to fund a major upgrade of the rail network, including high speed train lines such as a London-Edinburgh link, under plans set out by the party today.

The blueprint, Zero Carbon Britain – Taking a Global Lead also calls for green taxes to encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour, offset by reductions in income tax.

It also calls for more ‘green mortgages’ to provide homeowners with the funds necessary to make their houses more energy efficient.

Announcing the proposals, Menzies Campbell said they marked the only realistic route map for change.

Sir Menzies said: “Pollution doesn’t respect national boundaries. Climate change is a global problem that requires an international solution.

“Britain should not be a bit player in finding that solution; we should be leading the pack.

“Under our proposals, the United Kingdom would set the green standard for others to reach.”

The policies will be debated at the Liberal Democrat conference next month, but senior party figures say they are essential if the UK is to take a global lead on climate change.

The Liberal Democrats argue the UK must aim to be carbon neutral by 2050, with an emphasis on non-nuclear electricity.

Environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the measures outlined in the document are the only realistic approach to averting climate change, and are designed to target emissions across all areas of the economy.

Mr Huhne said implementing the measures would put Britain into a league alongside Sweden, Norway and New Zealand.

He said: “The Labour government is going backwards with Gordon Brown’s demotion of the Cabinet committee on the environment, cuts in green taxes and rising carbon emissions.

“The Tories have so far only proposed airport expansion and road building that would make the problem worse.”

Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomed the blueprint and called on the Lib Dems to increase the pressure on the other main political parties to follow their example.

FoE director Tony Juniper said: “New policies are urgently needed to cut UK emissions, which have risen under Labour despite promises of substantial cuts. This must include strengthening government proposals for a new climate change law.

“Politicians from all parties must insist that it includes international aviation and leads to a cut in UK carbon dioxide emissions of at least three per cent every year.”

The blueprint comes as the UN begins its conference on climate change.

As talks began yesterday, China and India were urged to do more to tackle climate change.

The rapidly industrialising nations were accused of failing to reduce emissions while using the excusing that this would set back their economic development.