Thursday, November 20, 2008

MPs pass landmark climate change bill

AFP, 19 November 2008

LONDON (AFP) — MPs have given final approval to a bill committing Britain to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 -- the first country to have such a legally binding framework on climate change.
Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said on Tuesday that the bill, which must now be signed into law by the queen, "makes Britain a world leader on climate policy".
"It's the first legislation of its kind in the world. It will tie this and future governments into legally binding emission targets -- an 80 percent cut by 2050, with five-year carbon budgets along the way," he said.
"It sends a clear message before European and global climate talks that serious action is possible."
Britain originally intended to cut emissions by 60 percent on 1990 levels by 2050, but changed this to 80 percent last month on the recommendation of a government-appointed committee.
The committee said the cuts would cost about one to two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and were "challenging but feasible".
Under the bill's other measures, an independent committee on climate change will be created to advise the government on new carbon budgets, which will cap Britain's pollution over five-year periods.
The government is then obliged to report to parliament on how it plans to meet these limits, which include all industries, including international shipping and aviation to and from Britain.
The legislation also contains powers to establish emissions trading schemes, measures on biofuels, powers to reduce household waste and to require retailers to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Ministers are also obliged to report every five years on the risks climate change poses to Britain, and say how it intends to address these.
Climate change minister Joan Ruddock said she had recently spoken to officials in the US Congress and they had praised the way British lawmakers worked together on such an important issue.
The bulk of the bill was passed last month by 463 votes to three.
Ruddock said she hoped the election of Barack Obama as new president would lead to changes in the US policy on emissions.

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