UK bill on emissions

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

the uk has prepared a draft bill, to be tabled in parliament, which will make carbon emissions mandatory. The domestic targets have been pegged at 26-32 per cent by 2020 and 60 per cent by 2050, over 1990 levels, with a provision for independent audits every five years. The importance of this move cannot be exaggerated, given that it is the first time a government has proposed legally binding--not to mention unilateral--domestic emission cut roadmap.

While noting the significance of the Labour government's proposal, critics, both non-partisan commentators and political opponents, have pointed to the deficiencies of the draft bill. Among the important objections raised by experts is that there is a lack of fit between the 2020 and 2050 targets. The latter is widely seen to meet the gravity of the challenge, but the former, described by a Guardian commentator as less of a target than a "whole shooting range", does not. If the lower end of the range is taken as the default figure, it will probably not be enough to build up to the 2050 target. Among other criticisms is that the implementation of measures to cut emissions show little sign of seriousness, with the worst offender being a continued predilection towards massive road-building programmes that will encourage the increase of private vehicles and the exclusion of aviation and shipping from the ambit of the bill. The principal sticking point for the opposition is that the provision for five-yearly audits could saddle governments with the sins of previous dispensations.

That said, the point that needs the most urgent consideration is how far a unilateral commitment can go in meeting what is in the very nature of things a global problem. The uk's coordination with the eu may not prove to be too contentious given that Europe has already set in place mechanisms to meet the emissions problem, though an over-reliance on emissions trading is not the ideal way to proceed.

The big challenge, of course, is getting the biggest polluter on board. George W Bush's administration remains oblivious to the impending catastrophe, despite winds of change both in the Congress and the us. The question is, will Tony Blair try to go out in a blaze of glory, as he obviously wants to, by shifting focus away from cleaning up West Asia to knocking some sense into his closest chum?

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