UK First to Enact Carbon Emissions Reduction Commitments
United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent before 2050 with passage of the UK's Climate Change Bill. As a result, the UK is the first country to put carbon emissions reduction targets into law. Including legally binding targets is an important element to help ensure compliance and enforcement with the Bill.
The Bill will create a new approach to managing and responding to climate change in the UK through setting ambitious targets and taking powers to help achieve them. Additionally, efforts will focus on strengthening institutional framework, enhancing the UK's ability to adapt to the impact of climate change, and establishing clear and regular accountability.
"With climate change we can't just close our eyes and cross our fingers. We need to step up our action to tackle it, building on our considerable progress so far. And time isn't on our side," said David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary. "Crucially the Climate Change Bill, the first of its kind in any country, demonstrates our determination that this leadership role will continue."
An independent committee on climate change will be set up to advise on "five-year carbon budgets" - part of a new commitment to carbon reduction. The new system of legally binding five year "carbon budgets," set at least 15 years ahead, aim to provide clarity on the UK's pathway towards its key targets and increase the certainty that businesses and individuals need to invest in low-carbon technologies
The Climate Change Bill also includes a series of clear targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions - including making the UK's targets for a 60 percent reduction by 2050 and a 26 to 32 percent reduction by 2020 legally binding.
Emission reductions purchased overseas may be counted towards the UK's targets, consistent with the UK's international obligations. This ensures emission reductions can be achieved in the most cost effective way, recognizing the potential for investing in low carbon technologies abroad as well as action within the UK to reduce the UK's overall carbon footprint.
Being the first country to introduce national legislation to cut its contribution to climate change is a monumental accomplishment linking the rule of law to sustainable development. However, some environmentalists feel that compliance with the new targets would be stronger with yearly targets. Additionally, international aviation and shipping are currently not covered by the Bill.