UK emission levels, forecasts and the Government's
Climate Change Programme
6. The Committee was pleased to see the Government
press ahead with their development of a Climate Change programme
through the publication of a consultation paper, but was concerned
that it did not specify firm dates for the adoption of a final
strategy. The Environment Minister told the Committee that the
Government had yet to take a decision on whether the consultation
paper would be followed with a draft strategy or a real one, but
he thought that they may have a final strategy at the end of 1999.
He explained it was necessary to take time over the preparation
of the programme in order to build confidence in the process and
win the participation of all concerned;
and to galvanise public opinion right across society.
We welcome the sectoral approach adopted in the climate change
consultation as the basis for involving all in the effort to reduce
emissions. And, as we said in our Fourth Report, we also consider
that a consultative approach to the preparation of this strategy
We therefore urge the Government to do all it can to achieve genuine
engagement in the strategy across society. However we are also
concerned that momentum may be lost if the process of developing
the strategy is too drawn out.
7. The Climate Change consultation paper incorporated
new forecasts of future emissions, showing the UK to be on course
with existing policy measures to achieve a ten per cent reduction
in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 compared with 1990. Thus the
programme will only be required to deliver a further 2 ½
per cent savings to reach the UK's legally binding target of 12
½ per cent. Given this strong starting point, we were pleased
to see that in addition to setting out possible measures which
could more than achieve the legally binding target, the paper
also identified further possible measures which could achieve
the domestic aim of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 per
cent by 2010.
We would urge the Government to confirm in its strategy the proposal
the Environment Minister reported to us that the Government would
make the extra effort to meet the domestic target of a 20 per
cent reduction in CO2 emissions
and to set interim targets, as the basis for demonstrating progress
by 2005 as required by the Protocol.
8. In our Fourth Report we highlighted the fact that
the Government estimates there to be uncertainty of some ±
5 per cent in projections of future greenhouse gas emissions.
We therefore welcome the Government's commitment to consider in
preparing the final programme a number of "worst case"
scenarios in which emissions are projected to be higher than expected.
The consultation paper's forecast of reduced emissions is based
mainly on a revision in forecasting methodology for emissions
from road transport (the 1997 National Road Traffic Forecasts
estimates replacing those of the 1995 Energy Paper 65). We
note that it does not yet take account of any changes to emissions
resulting from the Government's moratorium on gas fired power
But we understand that new projections of the mix of fuels that
will be used given the conditions in the energy supply market
should be available in time to inform the final programme. In
the light of inevitable uncertainties in the projections of emissions
we continue to think it will be very important to set out explicitly
in the programme, the degree of uncertainty in the projections
and the headroom allowed for in the programme.
9. In our Fourth Report we urged the Government to
adopt a fully rounded strategy addressing all Government activity
in connection with Climate Change and to take an inclusive approach
to it to secure the commitment of all parts of society.
We were therefore pleased to see that the Government intends to
bring into their strategy a comprehensive view of the impacts
of climate change in the UK and adaptation measures.
We further welcome the Government's listing of their support for
Research and Development in their response to the Committee
and urge that this contribution should also be addressed in the
final strategy. Such a rounded strategy would demonstrate the
multitude of contributions from across Whitehall to the programme
and promote greater cohesion, consistency and accountability and
would show to the wider public their role in the changes required.
10. One element of the Government's consultation
programme which, however, left us disappointed was its failure
to put forward a leading role for the Government in tackling emissions
from air traffic.
Emissions from domestic flights are counted in national emission
inventories, and are to be tackled in the programme. But international
flights are excluded from the counting under the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr Meacher told us that aviation fuel emissions generate some
two to three per cent of world emissions of greenhouse gases and
that this is likely to increase if airline travel doubles by around
2015 as expected.
Mr Meacher clearly believed that the "anomaly"
of the worldwide exemption of aviation fuel from taxation should
be tackled. In evidence to the Committee he reiterated that it
was for the International Civil Aviation Organisation to take
action on a global level and that it expected to make proposals
on fuel taxation and emissions charging by the year 2001.
The Government response to our Fourth Report also confirmed that
the European Commission was expected to publish its study of the
environmental and competitive effects of a European aviation fuel
tax later in 1998 or early 1999.
On both counts Mr Meacher said the UK were pressing for action,
but he did not draw attention to any more substantive contributions
or particular pressure for greater urgency. We acknowledge the
difficulties in tackling this issue on a national or even European
basis, with the possibility of affecting airlines' competitiveness
and introducing distortions through "tankerage" - the
purchasing of more fuel in non-taxed countries to use in taxed
countries. Nonetheless we consider it is crucial that aircraft
emissions are tackled. We urge the Government to press the EU
to take a lead on this matter, to achieve early completion of
its research and take action within the EU, with a view to encouraging
the introduction of such measures at the international level as
soon as possible.
11. The Government's national communications on the
UK Climate Change programme have provided detail on emissions
They have been produced periodically as required under the Convention
and presented to Parliament. We welcome the Government's assurance
that, in addition to this, they will be addressing climate change
in the sustainable development strategy, and therefore presumably
in reports on progress on that strategy.
We certainly agree with the Government that emissions of greenhouse
gases should be reported annually as one of the core indicators
of sustainable development, as set out in Sustainability Counts,
their consultation paper on this subject.
However it will also be important to report annually revised forecasts
and sectoral contributions and individual policy contributions
to performance so that where necessary early action can be taken
to address any emerging shortfalls.
10 QQ 60-62 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 44 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 31 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 55 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 33 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 31 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 42 Back
Government response to paragraph 42 of the Environmental Audit
Committee Fourth Report 1997-98, Appendix I, pages xii to xxi Back
Government response to paragraph 44 Back
Op. Cit. paragraph 124 Back
QQ 24- 28 Back
Government response to paragraph 39 Back
Climate Change:the UK programme Cm 2427 January 1994 and Climate
Change: the UK programme, Second Report Cm 3558, February 1997 Back
Government response to paragraph 60 Back
Sustainability counts, consultation paper on a set of headline
indicators, DETR. Back