Blair Takes Heat on UK Climate Change Bill

LONDON, UK, October 25, 2006 (ENS) British Prime Minister Tony Blair turned the thermostat down at his official residence, 10 Downing Street, on Tuesday as part of UK Energy Saving Week. But today the British leader was feeling the heat again as critics attacked his government for not doing enough about climate change.

The public are unimpressed with Blair's record of achievement on the issue, according to a new survey published today by the UK-based Stop Climate Chaos coalition.

Only four percent of the population thinks Blair has made effective progress on the issue while in office, while nearly 90 percent claim to take small steps themselves to reduce their own carbon emissions.

The survey revealed two-thirds of the population is concerned about climate change, and over 40 percent claim climate change policies would influence their vote.

Blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is taking criticism for his handling of climate change. (Photo credit unknown)
The poll, taken by TNS Omnimas throughout Britain, found that although Blair's record of achievement was considered disappointing, nearly a third of those polled identified tackling the issue as the most important lasting legacy he could leave before he stands down next year.

More than half those questioned thought that avoiding climate chaos was achievable.

"This survey should be guaranteed reading for all politicians wanting to connect with their electorate and demonstrates that climate change has significantly risen up the political agenda," said Ashok Sinha, director of Stop Climate Chaos.

"Public concern about climate change is enormous, and I'm encouraged that nine out of ten take small steps to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions."

Stop Climate Chaos is encouraging people to attend a rally at London's Trafalgar Square on November 4 to call for global temperatures to climb no higher than 2 degrees Celsius and for the government to introduce a Climate Change Bill to control the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.

UK Environment Secretary David Miliband is expected to table proposals for such a bill this week to be presented in the next Queen's Speech on November 15.

More than 400 MPs in Britain's House of Commons have now signed a a parliamentary petition known as an Early Day Motion calling for a new law requiring annual cuts in UK emissions.

The bill is expected to set new long-term targets to cut carbon emissions in Britain. But the government has resisted calls for a law requiring annual cuts in carbon emissions, arguing that unforeseen factors, such as extreme weather or unexpectedly strong economic growth, can mean targets can be missed from one year to the next.

Adding to the pressure on the UK government is growing evidence that emissions of the primary greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, have risen under Blair.

Earlier this week, another UK-based advocacy group, Friends of the Earth, claimed that based on its analysis of government figures, the UK's carbon dioxide emissions rose in the first half of 2006, and are now at their highest level since the current Labour government came to power in 1997.

power plant

The Ferrybridge C Power Station runs four 500MW coal fired generating units and two additional gas turbines for extra capacity when required. When operating at full capacity it consumes 800 metric tons of coal per hour. Burning coal emits the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. (Photo courtesy FreeFoto)
Energy consumption figures for the first six months of 2006 are 2.1 percent higher than the same period last year and, if this trend is reflected in the second half of the year, carbon dioxide levels will be about 4.4 percent higher than in 1997, said the group.

Friends of the Earth has been calling for a new climate change law through The Big Ask climate campaign.

"It's astonishing that despite all the government's promises, UK carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, and are higher than when Labour came to power in 1997," said Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper.

"There is now a huge cross-party consensus on the need for urgent action," Juniper said. "Ministers must get a grip on the problem by introducing a new law requiring annual cuts in UK carbon dioxide emissions, as called for by over 400 MPs."

The Government has made a huge investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency and will continue to do so, Blair told the House of Commons earlier this week, but all future measures must be "entirely compatible with the interests of business and consumers."

Responding to a question on climate change, he said the UK had made "dramatic reductions" in its emissions of harmful greenhouse gases and is due to meet and exceed its greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

It is essential though, he went on, that all future measures are "practical and workable."

Last week the Prime Minister said a window of just 10 to 15 years remains to take action on global warming before we pass a "catastrophic tipping point."