20 may 2010

UK 'will push EU on CO2 targets'

By Richard Black, Environment correspondent, BBC News, May 20, 2010

The UK government will push the EU to move to a higher target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

It will urge the EU to cut emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, rather than the current 20% target, partly through more support for renewables.

A higher proportion of tax revenues will come from environmental taxes.

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition also confirmed there would be a free vote on fox-hunting and a "science-based" policy for tackling bovine TB.

The pledges are contained in the Programme for Government, unveiled on Thursday.

This fleshes out the much shorter agreement released by party leaders David Cameron and Nick Clegg immediately after the confirmation of their coalition.

In 2009, EU leaders endorsed two targets for greenhouse gas emissions - 20%, rising to 30% in the event of a global deal on climate change.

That failed to materialise at December's Copenhagen summit.

But the recession has lowered emissions across the continent, making the higher target more easily achievable.

'Badly needed'

Environment groups have been lobbying governments to move to 30% immediately, to re-stake the EU's claim for global leadership on climate change - a call that the coalition has now endorsed.

"It's good news," said Bryony Worthington, founder and director of the campaign group Sandbag, who developed the policy of carbon budgets adopted by the Labour government.

"We needed the UK to be strong on this, and there was some doubt about whether the government would push for 30%, which is badly needed.

"If we stay at 20%. there doesn't appear to be any extra effort needed, and that doesn't sit well for the EU," she told BBC News.

The UK would seek to meet its share of the 30% target partly through the scaling up of renewable energy.

This would come partly through the introduction of feed-in tariffs, encouraging early adoption of technologies that at present cost more than fossil-fuel generation.

The government would also seek to set a "floor price" for carbon, and permit no new runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick airports.

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