Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ninth Report


In January 2004, Professor Sir David King, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government described climate change as "the most severe problem that we are facing today—more serious even than the threat of terrorism". The Prime Minister has since declared climate change to be one of the two priority issues for the UK's Chair of the G8 and forthcoming Presidency of the EU during 2005.

This report examines some of the key areas in the review of the UK Climate Change Programme in the light of the UK's domestic targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 baseline levels by 2010, and the legally binding target set by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 12.5% below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. It also addresses some of the key priorities for the UK's Presidencies of the EU and G8 during 2005.

The Government should not use the review of the UK Climate Change Programme to water down its challenging domestic targets, but use it as an opportunity to incorporate tougher measures across all sectors to reduce the UK's greenhouse gas—and particularly CO2—emissions to meet those targets. We recommend that a Minister for climate change or Cabinet Committee be appointed to address this issue across all Government departments. It is imperative that all departments acknowledge both the global importance and the urgency of this issue.

We recognise that important work is being done on the industrial side and efforts are being made to encourage energy production from alternative sources. However, the Government is failing to get to grips with encouraging energy efficiency at the household level and has no serious strategy to reduce emissions from transport. We acknowledge that the Government's objectives and level of commitment to mitigating climate change is clear, but the policy measures thus far implemented to achieve them are currently 'out of kilter'. The challenge is to achieve a balance between meeting the targets through energy saving measures and by adopting alternative forms of energy supply—including electricity, heating and transport fuel—which have lower greenhouse gas emissions than at present.

We underline the importance of increasing the uptake of easily implemented measures at the household level, such as installing insulation and energy-saving light-bulbs. These represent 'low-hanging fruit' which we recommend to the Government as an excellent means of both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising public awareness.

To achieve international engagement on the issue of climate change during the UK's Presidencies of the EU and G8 in 2005, the UK Government must lead by example and demonstrate that tough emissions reductions can be achieved in a thriving business environment.

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