Renew On Line (UK) 56
Extracts from NATTA's journal
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7. UK Policy Developments
Sustainable Development for all
The Governments new cross Departmental Sustainable Development strategy, launched in March, aims to have the UK leading by example in promoting sustainable development. Tony Blair said: “By joining up thinking and action across all levels of government, and by setting long term objectives, the Government is dedicated to securing the future for all. I want to use this new strategy as a catalyst for action.”
Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the aim was to show how people can be involved in making more sustainable choices. “Sustainable development is vital to building a decent future for everyone. The Government is leading by example but the strategy can’t be delivered by the Government alone. The Government wants to ensure everyone has the opportunity to get involved- for local or global benefit.”
The new Strategy, ‘Securing our Future,’ sets out the Government’s objectives in four priority areas: sustainable consumption & production, climate change and energy, protecting natural resources and environmental enhancement and sustainable communities. The headline points are:
* A new task force under Sir Neville Simms on sustainable public procurement will draw up a national action plan to make the UK a leader in the EU by 2009.
* A new scheme to enable Government departments to offset the carbon impacts of their air travel by April 2006. When there is no alternative to flying, Government will compensate for CO2 released from flights by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
* Community Action 2020- Together We Can- will launch in the autumn. It will give local groups support, nformation & training to influence what goes on where they live, and support to help influence local authorities’ Sustainable Community Strategies & local development plans.
* Local action will be backed up by: giving everyone access to “data-on-the-doorstep”- by 2010 the government will develop a new comprehensive set of web-based maps and statistics that will give complete information about the quality of everyone’s local environment in England.
In addition, the government will be consulting later this year on improved powers for environmental protection for the Environment Agency. The Government is also giving the independent Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Jonathan Porritt, a new role as the watchdog on the performance of government in delivering sustainable development. This it says will help drive action to ensure delivery of sustainable development goals. The new UK Strategy was launched in parallel with a new Framework for Sustainable Development across the UK, shared between the UK Government, Devolved Administrations and the Northern Ireland Office.
The new UK Strategy is available at http://www.sustainable-development.gov.uk
*Under the carbon offset scheme, investment will either replace or reduce the use of fossil fuels and the subsequent emission of carbon dioxide and compensate for the carbon dioxide released by air travel. An additional benefit is that projects can be carefully selected to provide secondary sustainable development benefits, e.g., improved air quality, access to energy and technology- each pound invested has a real and tangible impact on the ground. This commitment builds on joint work by FCO, DfID and Defra, who have been assisted by DfT in developing this approach.
* Community Action 2020 will be part of Home Office’s ‘Together We Can’ programme. The PM announced his intention last autumn (in his speech on climate change on 14 Sept.) to use the new SD strategy as a platform to reinvigorate Local Agenda 21 activity.
The new UK Strategy and UK Framework have been developed following the extensive “Taking it on” consultation launched in April 2004. Over 900 individual responses were received; responses were also received from each English region through a process of regional dialogue and a series of workshops were held. Much of it concerns government procurement policies, while in the section on sustainable production/consumption, there is an emphasis on Corporate Social Responsibility. But as can seen, the government is also looking to us all to play our part.
Climate Change - try harder
The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has called upon the Government not to 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.”
The MPs 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, they say in the committee’s ninth report on ‘Climate Change: looking forward,’ which also stresses the need to increase the uptake of “easily implemented measures at the household level,” such as installing insulation and energy-saving light bulbs. These represent ‘low-hanging fruit’, they say, and are recommended to the Government as “an excellent means of both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and raising public awareness”.
The 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. The MPs report that they recognise that “important work is being done on the industrial side and efforts are being made to encourage energy production from alternative sources”. However, they add, 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”.
They say that a reduction in stamp duty as a ‘reward’ for installing energy efficient systems within the home “fails to address the majority of the housing stock”.
They argue that 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.
The MPs press the Government to come forward with programmes to “promote the rapid mainstream development and use of new renewable energy technologies, particularly biofuels, biomass and solar, wave and tidal power”. 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.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Here is a sample of the Committees conclusions and recommendations:
Renewables and the Renewables Obligation
They say that in order to achieve its targets on renewable power generation, it is “imperative that the Government urges the development of a suite of technologies rather then relying solely on onshore windfarms,” although, they say, these have a “valuable role to play as part of a suite of renewable energy sources”. They express concern that the current rate of increase in renewable energy may not be sufficient to compensate for decline in electricity from nuclear sources, resulting in an increased dependence on fossil fuels. They argue that the Government should “publish a candid assessment of the prospects for nuclear fusion technology contributing to the generation of domestic electricity within the next twenty years”. And they say that details of the level of investment thus far made in the development of nuclear technology should also be made available.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP)
They commend the Budgets reduced VAT rate for the installation of micro-CHP, and recommend that the Government “detail the actions which it will now be pursuing to address the current deficit in CHP generation”.
Carbon capture and storage
They acknowledge that carbon capture and storage could be “an extremely valuable technology,” but say they are aware of the “concerns regarding its economic viability and the potential long-term environmental and potential safety impacts”. They say they look forward to the findings of the Carbon Abatement Technology Strategy due to be made public later this year, but “irrespective of these findings” recommend that the Government should “not spend too much time and resources on what is ultimately a useful tool for ‘buying time’.”
They say that the Government needs to work with energy providers to “overcome the apparent inertia” in adoption of straight-forward energy efficiency measures. They also recommend an urgent expansion of programmes leading to domestic energy efficiency in existing housing stock, including energy generating measures, and also “urge a review of energy market rules in order to promote this”.
They assert that the recent announcement in the Budget of a £5 increase in Vehicle Excise Duty for the two most polluting bands is “no more than a token gesture”. They welcome the Government’s decision to focus its new vehicle technology programmes more on climate change, but add they “do not believe, however, that it was helpful to cancel existing programmes rather than add to them, and urge that the Government publish details of any successor schemes urgently”.
They regret that, in spite of a 20p per litre duty derogation first announced in the 2002 Budget, “there has been very little UK biodiesel produced and no home-based bioethanol plant established.” And ascerbically they “note the apparent difference between Defra’s enthusiasm for biofuel crops and the Treasury’s reluctance to fully engage in this issue, and call upon the Government to re-examine its approach to its use of fiscal incentives in this area in order properly to kick-start the development of a UK biofuels industry”. They also recommend that the Government “investigate using CAP reform and the redirection of agricultural subsidies to encourage biofuel/biomass production, and to encourage agricultural best practice with regard to climate change during its Presidency of the EU”.
-They “applaud” the proposal to include aviation within the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), but express concern over the length of time seemingly required to achieve implementation. They thus recommend the Government use “whatever means necessary to ensure inclusion within the scheme by the start of the second phase of the ETS in 2008”. They additionally recommend that the Government work with the EU and other partners to encourage the uptake of new technologies and ‘fast-tracking’ their development, in addition to adopting fiscal measures to reduce demand. They further recommend that the Government evaluate the effects of an aviation fuel tax and a system of capping the overall carbon emissions associated with aviation and airport-related activity.
Planning and building regulations
-They warn that while they support the Government’s desire to increase the volume of affordable new housing, such a policy should “not be pursued without incorporating best practice with regard to energy efficiency”.
Communication and education
They welcome the recent commitment by Defra to provide £12m over three years to support a climate change communications initiative, but express concern that the “current ‘head of steam’ resulting from the recent flurry of media coverage of the G8 climate conference in Exeter may be dissipated”. They also recommend that some of the resource set aside for climate change communications should be used to identify what the barriers to the public changing their attitudes and consequently behaviour are, “thus ensuring that future policy is aimed at removing these barriers”.
Based on a summary by Dave Lowry. For the full report see:
In its submission to the governments Climate change policy review Friends of the Earth (FoE) called on the Government to set annual budget for carbon emissions with year on year cuts- or risk missing its targets for tacking climate change. It noted that the Government had admitted that its current climate strategy would fail to deliver the manifesto commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 % by 2010 from 1990 and it pointed out that carbon dioxide levels were currently still the same as they were when Labour came to power in 1997.
Friends of the Earth proposed an eight point policy to put the Government’s climate strategy back on course:
* Set a budget for UK carbon dioxide emissions and report on progress each year, including identifying additional measures it will take if it is not on track to meet year on year reductions.
* Set targets for all sectors of the economy. Sector targets should cover surface transport, industry, power generation, aviation, commerce and the domestic sector.
* Introduce a package of measures to reduce emissions from the power sector including using the second phase of the EU Emissions Trading Regime and tough regulatory limits on pollutants.
* Introduce a ‘renewable heat obligation’ to ensure that a growing percentage of energy for heat is provided from sustainable sources rather than fossil fuels.
* Generate revenue for carbon reduction projects throughout the UK by reinventing the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, bringing in new sectors such as transport and commerce, and using carbon credit taxes.
* Cut emissions from transport through mandatory vehicle efficiency standards, higher taxes on gas guzzlers, support for renewable fuels and a levy on aviation.
* Introduce an obligation on energy providers to deliver low cost ways of reducing overall energy demand from households.
* Give the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English Regions governments a duty to contribute to the target to reduce CO2 emission by 20% by 2010.
FoE’s full response is at:www.foe.co.uk/resource/consultation_responses/ccpr_foe>_submission.pdf
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