‘Fraction’ of CO2 cuts driven by govt

By Alex Stevenson

The government’s climate change policies have been responsible for just 15 per cent of emissions reductions between 1990 and 2006, it has emerged.

Coming in the week the government uses a major white paper to outline how it plans to meet its commitments to cutting CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, the admission has raised eyebrows among campaigners.

Climate change minister Joan Ruddock revealed the figures in an answer to a question tabled by Labour backbencher Colin Challen, chairman of the all-party group on climate change.

Improvements in energy efficiency, structural changes in the economy and lower carbon fuels were together responsible for 20 per cent, 30 per cent and 25 per cent of the reductions.

Ms Ruddock wrote: “The direct effect of government policies overlaps with the estimates given above and is likely to have accounted for about 15 per cent.”

The remaining 25 per cent of cuts were attributed to lower emissions of greenhouse gases other than CO2. The emissions trading scheme, not included in the estimates, would have increased the reduction by about ten per cent.

Mr Challen said the government should be “commended for being very honest” about the figures.

He told politics.co.uk that ministers had achieved “quite a lot with a little effort” and called on them to make good their rhetoric with action in today’s proposals.

“If we doubled our effort or trebled it then we could really take off and demonstrate the practicability and the affordability of these new technologies. I’ll be looking for a sign of that level of effort in. [today’s] white paper,” Mr Challen added.

He was critical of the international community’s efforts to make progress as the crucial summit in Copenhagen this December draws nearer, saying a “hell of a push” was needed in the coming months.

“The kind of half-measures which governments in the developed world generally have been making really need to be thrown out and replaced with some full-blooded enthusiasm for renewable energy, energy efficiency and so on,” he said

Recent analysis by HSBC has shown that across the EU countries are making about 14 per cent of their economic stimulus packages specifically green.

“I don’t think that’s enough and I don’t think that will convince people in the developing world we’re serious about tackling climate change,” he warned.

“In Germany, renewable energy has created around 300,000 jobs. That is just the kind of thing we need a sign of. [in today’s white paper], and if that’s not there we need to ask why not.”

Today’s low carbon strategy sees the government unveil its plans on cutting carbon emissions by a third by 2020.

The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan will be published after climate change secretary Ed Miliband reveals its details to the Commons after prime minister’s questions at 12:30 BST.