The target, restated in this year's election manifesto, is much tougher than its obligation under the Kyoto protocol, which requires only a 12.5% cut by 2012.
The cuts in both targets are measured against 1990 levels. The long-delayed review on how to achieve this is now not expected until next year, but a draft copy obtained by the Guardian shows that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which prepared the review, does not underestimate the scale of the challenge.
The restricted document, which has taken more than a year to prepare, says: "Evaluation of existing policies has shown that the policies included in the 2000 programme will not deliver the carbon savings anticipated at the time."
It says that the "significant carbon gap" will be filled only by "increasing emission reductions from policies included in the existing climate change programme by 70%-80% by 2010, ie we need to do about 75% more in around half the time, on top of what we are already doing."
Defra projects that current policies will reduce annual emissions by between 18.3m and 21.3m tonnes of carbon by 2010, to about 11%-13% below 1990 levels. To meet the 20% target, it needs to save another 11m-14m tonnes. "The government needs to strengthen its domestic credibility on climate change, particularly during our presidencies of the EU and the G8," the document says.
"The revised programme must, therefore, set out a comprehensive and ambitious package of policies to deliver the manifesto commitment and achieve our domestic goals. We must not underestimate the scale of the challenge we face. We will need to make a significant effort to meet our 2010 carbon dioxide goal, particularly as carbon dioxide emissions have risen by 4.5m tonnes since 1997."
Last week, Sir Robert May, president of the Royal Society, said British politicians risked losing their international authority on climate change if they were unable to reduce domestic emissions. The UK was previously on track to meet its Kyoto obligation, but this is threatened by a rise in emissions in the past two years, partly due to electricity generators switching to coal in the face of rising gas prices.
"To fill the carbon gap, a number of difficult decisions will need to be taken," the review warns. The review suggests 58 measures grouped into "frontrunner", "emerging" and "difficult" options to save carbon emissions. They include tighter pollution controls on British industry under domestic and European carbon trading schemes, stricter enforcement of the 70mph speed limit and mechanisms to increase the amount of electricity generated by offshore wind turbines. Many of the measures are deemed "politically difficult" and will face opposition within the government, from the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry among others.
The review acknowledges that the bulk of its measures penalises industry but that other sectors must chip in: "Emission reductions should be made on a fair and equitable basis across all sectors." The Treasury is carrying out a separate analysis of options that could make households and businesses reduce carbon emissions. One likely source of controversy is the document's proposal that the government be allowed to count carbon credits from Kyoto and other emissions trading schemes (ETS) towards the 2010 target.
Countries and companies which do not release as much pollution as they are allowed to under such schemes can sell their spare capacity as credits to those who emit too much. "Surrender by EU ETS operators of overseas allowances and Kyoto project credits should count towards the achievement of the 2010 goal. In practice this will be done by subtracting those allowances and credits from total UK carbon dioxide emissions during 2010," it says. By 2010, such trading schemes will include greenhouse gases such as methane.
Posted on 16th November 2005
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