Britain proposes legislation to limit carbon emissions
LONDON -- The British government proposed bold new environmental legislation yesterday that would set legally binding, long-term limits on carbon emissions -- a move it hopes will prompt the United States, China, and India to follow suit.
The climate change bill would be the first legislation in an industrialized country to spell out such long-range goals, including a carbon budget set every five years that would cap carbon dioxide levels and create an independent body to report on progress. The legislation also calls for binding targets as far ahead as 2050 for reducing carbon emissions.
"This is a revolutionary step in confronting the threat of climate change," Prime Minister Tony Blair said. "It sets an example to the rest of the world.
Britain's political parties have jostled in recent weeks for the "green" vote, seeking to display their environmental credentials in hopes of securing a key battleground in the next national election. Both Blair's Labor Party and the opposition Conservatives have seized on the issue -- devoting more media time to the ozone layer than to British troops in Iraq.
Stung by bad news from Iraq, Blair's camp has worked to draw attention to issues in which he can seize the initiative, such as the environment. With Blair planning to step down by September, success in brokering a global carbon pact would be seen as a significant achievement.
Blair hopes Germany -- which holds the European Union and the Group of Eight presidencies -- and Britain can lead work on a new global pact to curb emissions. The next step is getting the United States, China, and India to make similar commitments, he said.
The bill must be approved by both houses of Parliament to become law. The government hopes it will be enacted next year.
EU leaders agreed last week that the bloc will produce 20 percent of its power through renewable energy, as opposed to its current average of 6 percent.
Under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Britain is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, as part of an EU target of an 8 percent reduction. Some 10,000 power plants and other facilities across the EU have been assigned quotas for maximum emissions.
The draft legislation was welcomed by environmentalists and opposition groups but some said the targets could be more ambitious.
The bill called for emissions to be reduced by 60 percent by 2050 . Targets were based on 1990 levels.
The Green Party said emissions should be reduced by 90 percent by 2050. "Their insistence on mediocre, and dangerous, targets means all their efforts do not go nearly far enough," said Green Party spokeswoman Sian Berry.