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The UK Climate Change Act

Date
02 December 2008

The UK set a historic first this November, as Parliament gave the Royal Assent to the world's first national greenhouse gas reduction legislation. The Energy and Planning Bills also passed successfully. These three pieces of legislation together - as well as the recent creation of a new government Department of Energy and Climate Change - demonstrate the UK's confidence that the government can tackle climate change and energy issues without hindering economic growth.

The Climate Change Act

The UK Climate Change Act sets the government binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Getting this Bill into law makes Britain a world leader on climate change." said Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. "It will tie this and future governments into legally binding emission targets - an 80% cut by 2050, with five-year carbon budgets along the way. It sends a clear message before European and global climate talks that serious action is possible."

The Act establishes a new independent expert body, the Committee on Climate Change. The Committee's role is to advise government on its "carbon budget" and on opportunities for reduction in different sectors. The Committee will submit to Parliament annual reports tracking the UK's progress to which government must respond, thereby ensuring transparency and accountability.

On 1st December, the Committee on Climate Change submitted its inaugural recommendations to the government. This first report urges the UK to commit to a 34% reduction of GHG emissions on 1990 levels by 2020, and a 42% reduction if a global deal is achieved. It shows how existing technologies, included cleaner power generation and reduced transport emissions, complemented by a range of policies, could achieve these reduction. The cost, according to the report: less than 1% of the UK GDP in 2020.

The Climate Change Act also mandates:

. A legally binding target of at least an 80% reduction in all greenhouse gases by 2050 against a 1990 baseline; a 26% reduction by 2020

. The inclusion of shipping and aviation within the bill by 2012

. The development of a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme that will capture non energy-intensive business and public sector organisations.

Parliament at the same time also passed into law the Energy Bill andPlanning Bill Bills; these two Acts grant the UK government powers that should greatly faciliate these reduction targets set out by the Climate Change Act.

The Energy Act 2008 supports the development of renewable energy projects. It includes feed-in tariffs to support low carbon electricity generation for projects up to 5MW, as well as a framework to support new technologies, including carbon capture and storage.

The Planning Act 2008 introduces a new system for nationally significant infrastructure planning. While there are some concerns that this may make it easier to give the go-ahead to projects such as airport and road developments, it will allow many low-carbon power sources to get faster approval.

What Next

It is now up to EU leaders to agree together to the Climate and Energy Package without weakening its core provisions. The combined force of an undiluted EU package, along with the UK's legislation along, will provide great momentum to the ongoing negotiations on a new global deal which must be decided at Copenhagen next year.

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