All Party Parliamentary Environment Group Discuss the Climate Change Act

The BES Policy Team recently attended an All Party Parliamentary Environment Group meeting at the House of Commons to discuss the Climate Change Act and the potential implications of its key provisions on economy and society in the UK.

Guest speaker Joan Ruddock (Labour MP) started off the session by describing the Climate Change Act as ‘ground breaking legislation’ that would contribute to the search for a global agreement on reducing emissions. She reviewed the key provisions of the Act and acknowledged that the Cap and Trade system, due to be enforced next year, is likely to be the most effective strategy for reducing C02 emissions in the UK. It is hoped that more schemes will be included in the system and that Cap and Trade strategies alone will save the UK 4 million tonnes of carbon each year by the year 2020.

Gathered from the discussion, participants were calling for the following:
• The need for the Government to begin to take action at the ground level to increase the energy efficiency of existing building stock, for example, provide a framework and budget for the installation of double glazing and insulation in existing buildings;
• A recognition that a global agreement on emission trading is essential; there are fears that European countries may be placed at a competitive disadvantage if they are the only ones required to have a cap and trade on emissions;
• The need for the public to have a more realistic understanding about the size and impact of their carbon footprint and how they can minimise it;
• The need to make public transport more attractive to the community and reduce dependency on private cars.

Participants also voiced concerns about whether it was sensible to press ahead with plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, considering the Government’s commitment to include emissions arising from the aviation industry in reduction targets. Ruddock empathised but argued that it was crucial for the economy to maintain a hub at Heathrow to prevent the UK from being out-competed by other EU members. It was stressed that this was not a decision that had been taken lightly and would be subject to constant scrutiny.

Ruddock concluded her lecture by stating that she intended the December international agreement in Copenhagen to be a ‘negotiation of substance’. The Climate Change Act should ensure that the mechanisms to create a low carbon economy will be in place in the UK by the time these talks commence. It is hoped that this will enable the UK play a big part in the discussions and that UK legislation will provide a ‘blue print for other countries to emulate’ when tacking the difficulties of climate change.