Monday, 30 May 2011

Britain leaves Australia in its wake as it commits to 50% emissions cut

Canberra Times
19 May 2011, Page: 4

The British Government has vowed to slash Britain's greenhouse gas emissions by half within 15 years, dwarfing Australia's target of a mere 5% by 2020. Britain's Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huline outlined the ambitious goal to the British Parliament yesterday, saying carbon emissions between 2023 and 2027 would be cut by 50% of 1990 levels. The proposal would put Britain on course for an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, but would only be pursued if other European countries took similar action.

Mr Huhne said the decision would give investors the certainty they needed to invest in clean energy options and would place Britain at the leading edge of a new global industrial transformation. "Under this carbon budget, Britain in 2027 will be a different place and transformed for the better with warmer homes powered by green energy, many more cars powered by electricity and far less reliance on fossil fuels to drive our economy", he said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the move would keep the promise his coalition of Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats had made to be the greenest government ever". "The transition to a low carbon economy is necessary, real and global", Mr Cameron said. "By stepping up, showing leadership and competing with the world, the UK can prove that there need not be a tension between green and growth". The news has delighted the Australian Greens, who are growing increasingly frustrated that in Australia both Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott are happy with a target to cut emissions only 5% of 1990 levels by 2020.

Greens deputy leader Christine Milne said Britain had set an example Australia should follow. "The United Kingdom has left the rest of the world far behind overnight, making the science based and achievable commitment to cut its carbon pollution to 50% below 1990 levels as soon as 2025", Senator Milne said. "What is remarkable is that the plans, which would put the UK at the forefront of the global transformation to a cleaner, healthier economy, are being criticised as too weak. "Tony Abbott would do well to reflect on the efforts of British Conservatives instead of looking to the American extreme right for guidance".

Environment groups have also seized on the announcement, describing the British targets as embarrassing for Australia. Climate Active Australia spokesman David Spratt said the British target put Australia's aspirations in a "very poor light". "The question for Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott is why they are allowing Australia to fall so far behind", he said. Climate Change Minister Greg Combet did not comment on Australia's target, but he welcomed the British proposal as evidence that countries around the world were taking climate change seriously.

"The UK experience demonstrates that market mechanisms drive reductions in carbon pollution at least cost while creating new economic opportunities and jobs", he said. Shadow climate minister Greg Hunt said the Opposition would carefully review the British announcement. "I understand there is bipartisan support for Australia's targets to cut emissions". he said.