Has there been domestic success
on climate change?
8. In addition to its international commitments under
the Kyoto Protocol to reduce a range of greenhouse gases by 12.5%
by 2008-12, the Government has introduced two additional domestic
goals specifically to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2).
The first domestic goal is to reduce CO2 emissions
by 20% below 1990 baseline levels by 2010 and the second to reduce
CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050. Although the Government
is, commendably, on track both to meet and to exceed its international
Kyoto commitments, recent estimates indicate that the domestic
2010 target is likely to be missed by some 4%.
Failure to meet the 2010 target has been anticipated for some
time; the full and successful implementation of policies and programmes
detailed in the Government's 2000 UK Climate Change Programme
to meet the domestic target was only ever likely to reduce CO2
emissions by 19%. At that time the Government expressed the hope
that the programme would stimulate wider action from all parts
of society, and that therefore the domestic target would be reached.
Our predecessor Committee warned the Government that it was likely
to miss its 20% carbon reduction target as early as March 2003,
and an even earlier Report in 2002 pointed out that increasing
coal-fired generation was leading to an increase in emissions
rather than a fall as predicted by the then DTI.
Further analysis of the Government's record on climate change
can be found in our Report Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change
Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill.
9. Some witnesses expressed concern to us that the
Government had failed effectively to rise to the challenge posed
by the need to reduce CO2. Professor Dieter Helm argued
that there is a "quite enormous gap between the aspirations
over the last decade
and the outcome".
He argued that those emissions reductions that have taken place
have largely been a by-product of changes to the economy, rather
than as a result of engagement by the Government:
The emission reductions that have taken place
have largely been the result of other policies and changes in
the structure of the economysuch as the closure of
most of the coal industry in the 1990s and the de-industrialisation
which has taken place since the very sharp recession of the early
1980s. Without energy-intensive industries, without coal mining
and with the dash-for-gas in electricity generation, emissions
inevitably fell of their own accord. Indeed, some of these emissions
are now imported back from overseas energy-intensive producers,
and in the meantime here in Britain aviation and road transport
havein part, explicitly driven by policyincreased.
10. Nick Mabey, Chief Executive of E3G, told us that
the Government has failed to identify synergies in policymaking,
to join-up policymaking, and has often "politically failed
to understand the implication of our decisions". Further
to this, Dr Duncan Russel argued that policies and programmes
relating to climate change have suffered due to a "lack of
clarity as to how the different mechanisms, processes and tools
are meant to feed into each other and pull together". He
went on that, although the UK is considered an international leader
in the pursuit of sustainable policy making, the actual
integration of climate change and other issues has been on the
whole "inconsistent and weak".
11. Elliot Morley MP, Special Representative to the
Gleneagles Dialogue on Climate Change, President of GLOBE International,
and ex-DEFRA Minister for Climate Change, described to us the
challenges that the Government has faced in trying to reach its
ambitious domestic target. Referring specifically to the increasing
use of coal in electricity generation, he pointed out that the
Government has to work with the vagaries of the economy and that
sometimes this can lead to an increase in emissions despite the
efforts of the Government. He went on to say that "the power
that the Government has over the economy in terms of emissions
is comparatively limited".
He also argued that it takes time for certain policies to mature
before they can lead to a reduction of emissions. In terms of
the Government's domestic record on CO2 he pointed
to the fact that CO2 emissions had been reduced since
1990, over a period of time that has seen economic growth, "which
is not a bad achievement actually".
He did accept that "there is a great deal more that we need
to do, particularly in terms of our domestic agenda".
He also accepted the point made by other witnesses that the delivery
of climate change policies had initially been left to DEFRA alone
(and its predecessor, the Department for Environment, Transport
and the Regions), and that this had had an impact on the success
of the programme. This approach, he argued, had changed in later
years when it "became obvious that we were becoming adrift,
particularly in terms of meeting our targets on the 20 per cent
I think there has been some improvement on that
12. One of our earlier reports highlighted the key
importance of meeting domestic targets in maintaining the UK's
diplomatic influence in international negotiations. We concluded
that "the UK must succeed domestically on the same issues
that we wish to succeed internationally, to provide the political
leadership required to encourage more sustainable action by other
Although the UK will meet its international commitments
under Kyoto, we argue that this only represents a step in the
right direction and does not necessarily reflect the scale of
effort required to meet the challenge of climate change. We are
therefore concerned that the UK might fail to reach its more demanding
domestic target, and that this failure also will result in the
loss of political leadership demonstrated by the UK through the
adoption of the target".
13. Over the past decade the Government has failed
fully to rise to the domestic challenge of climate change, particularly
if its record is considered in the light of its self-imposed 2010
CO2 reduction target of 20%. Although some of this
failure is in part likely to be due to wider economic trends over
which the Government has had only partial control, it is clear
that the Government has not displayed the same level of ambition
in willing the means as it did when first it willed the end of
the 2010 target. The likely failure of the Government to reach
its domestic target on CO2 is of concern not only with
regard to the actual release of greenhouse gases, but also to
the impact that this will have on the UK's international leadership
role in reaching a post-Kyoto agreement.