The government signalled yesterday that it is planning legislation to tackle climate change, with a bill possibly to appear in next month’s Queen’s Speech, as it acknowledges the formidable political consensus emerging over the need for action.
The new law, likely to introduce controls on carbon dioxide emissions and an independent system to gauge progress in reducing greenhouse gases, was welcomed by opposition parties and environmental groups, though it is not expected to include binding annual targets. The environment secretary, David Miliband, told the Commons yesterday that the issue for the government “is not whether to legislate, but what form legislation should take and how it could be organised”.
He said: “We are looking carefully at the merits of introducing a carbon budget as a means of helping to deliver our goals. The only issue for the government is whether the legislation would help in the battle against climate change, support the efforts to join individual activity with business and government leadership, and link domestic and international action.
“Legislating for targets is not the same as legislating the means to achieve them, and it is the means to achieve them on which we will all be judged.”
Mr Miliband said that the facts on climate change were “more alarming … than previously thought”.
Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said it was delighted by the news. “Tony Blair must build on the political consensus that now exists for tackling this crisis, and ensure that the UK’s contribution to climate change falls every year.”
According to FoE, 397 MPs have backed their “Big Ask” campaign, which calls for the government to commit itself to cutting the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 3% year on year.
Nasa scientists said last month that the world was the warmest it had been in the last 12,000 years, due to rapid changes in the past three decades. Their report warned that pollution caused by humans was pushing the world towards dangerous levels of climate change.
Peter Ainsworth, the shadow environment secretary, welcomed the news, adding: “We need rolling annual carbon reduction targets … an independent body to assess the science and make recommendations as that science evolves; and an annual report to Parliament to ensure that ministers and civil servants are accountable.”