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United Kingdom Climate Change Bill


The Climate Change Bill, published on 13 March 2007, is a draft law aimed at moving the United Kingdom to a low-carbon economy and society.

The key component of the legislation would be to require a mandatory 60% cut in the UK's carbon emissions by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels), with an intermediate target of between 26% and 32% by 2020.[1] These targets exclude international aviation and shipping.

If approved, the UK will become the first country to set such a long-range, significant and binding carbon reduction target into law.[2]

To maintain progress, a national "carbon budget" would be set every five years, and government ministers would be required to provide a progress report each year, instead of require year-on-year carbon emission reductions. The Bill when enacted would give ministers power to introduce the emissions reduction measured necessary to achieve the goals without the need for further legislation.

An independent Committee on Climate Change (or "Carbon Committee") would be created to provide advice. Environment Secretary Hilary Benn would ask to the Committee to see if a 80 percent carbon reduction was feasible.[3]

It promotes sustainable energy to address climate change, so excludes fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

The bill was introduced as a result of cross-party pressure, led by environmental groups.[4][5]


Carbon emissions target


The target of cutting carbon emissions by 60% has been a Government ambition for some years. The 60% figure was adopted based on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, made in their June 2000 report Energy - The Changing Environment.[6] If adopted by other countries too, a 60% cut by 2050 was thought likely to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to no more than 550 parts per million (550 CO2 ppm) which, it was generally thought at the time, would probably prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2°C (3.6°F) and so avoid the most serious consequences of global warming. The Royal Commission went on to say that there should be an 80% cut by 2100, and that the 550 ppm upper limit should be 'kept under review'.[7] They restated the importance of this in January 2006.[8]

The Royal Commission's figures were based on a June 1996 decision of the EU Council of Ministers to limit emissions to 550 ppm, contained in their Community Strategy on Climate Change.[9] This, in turn, was based on the 1995 IPCC Second Assessment Report, which first mentioned the 550 ppm - 2°C connection.

A scientific assessment at the 2005 international Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change conference, held in Exeter under the UK presidency of the G8,[10] concluded that at the level of 550 ppm it was likely that 2°C would be exceeded, based on the projections of more recent climate models. Stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm would only result in a 50% likelihood of limiting global warming to 2°C, and that it would be necessary to achieve stabilisation below 400 ppm to give a relatively high certainty of not exceeding 2°C.[11]

Based on the current rate of increase - averaging about 2 ppm per year[12] - greenhouse gas concentrations are likely to reach 400 ppm by 2016, 450 ppm by 2041, and 550 ppm by around 2091. It is because of this that environmental organisations and some political parties have criticised the 60% target as being insufficiently ambitious, and why they are demanding greater cuts (80%-100%), as mentioned below. The exclusion of emissions from aviation and shipping, combined with forecasts for growth in these areas, also means that the net effect of the bill would actually only be a 35-50% total cut on 1990 levels by 2050.[13]

Legislative progress

The procedure for enacting legislation in the United Kingdom Parliament sometimes involves numerous consultative and debating stages.

Previous Bill

The current Climate Change Bill was preceded by a Private Member's Bill of the same name[14] drafted by Friends of the Earth and brought before Parliament on 7 April 2005. Although it received widespread support[15] the Bill was unable to make progress as Parliament was dissolved ahead of the 2005 general election.

Early Day Motion

Shortly after the 2005 general election, 412 of the 646 Members of Parliament signed an early day motion calling for a Climate Change Bill to be introduced, to include a requirement for 3% annual cuts in carbon emissions.[16] Only three other early day motions had ever been signed by more than 400 MPs.[17]

Joint Committee

The Labour Government announced the introduction of a Climate Change Bill in the Speech from the Throne, on 15 November 2006.[18] The draft Bill was published on 13 March 2007, but proposed five year 'carbon budgets' rather than the annual targets many had called for. The Government believe that varying weather conditions make annual targets impractical.[19]

A Joint Select Committee comprised of 24 members from the House of Lords and the House of Commons, chaired by Lord Puttnam, was immediately established to scrutinize the Bill.[20] It received evidence from a series of interested parties between May and July and cast votes[21] on the final wording of their report.[22]

Among the critics giving evidence was Lord Lawson who argued that the entire concept was counter-productive because humans would easily be able to adapt to the worst predictions of a 4 degree rise in temperature by the end of the century because, with an average world economic growth of 2%, they would be "seven times as well off as we are today", therefore it was not reasonable to impose a sacrifice on the "much poorer present generation".[23]

The Government response to the report was printed in October 2007.[24]

Lords Debates

The Bill was introduced to the House of Lords by the Government on 14 November 2007.[25] The first debate on the floor of the House was held on 27 November 2007 and lasted 6 hours.[26]

It is currently scheduled to be seen by the House of Commons on 11 December 2007.[25]

Political parties

The United Kingdom Independence Party believe that the Bill is only necessary because of a failure to devise a viable plan for other sources of energy to replace fossil fuels. They consider that the Bill is 'deeply misguided', likely to cripple the economy and that it will destroy investment in alternative technologies. Instead they believe that the Government and Opposition 'need to be looking into proper alternatives like nuclear power', and that plans to invest in renewable alternative energies as wind power and solar power, as well as cutting carbon emissions by 60%, were 'unachievable and unnecessary'.[27]

The opposition Conservative Party support the concept of a bill, and proposed their own variation ahead of the Government's.[28] One of the key differences is that they are demanding annual carbon targets,[29] and that the Committee on Climate Change should have an enhanced role, setting targets as well as advising governments.[30]

The Liberal Democrats take a similar stance to the Conservatives, and are also of the opinion that setting targets every five years is an abdication of responsibility, because a government typically remains in power for only four years.[31] They have also stated that the proposed 60% cut by 2050 may not be sufficient, and that "we may well need to aim more towards about 80%".[32]

A stronger response was provided by the Green Party of England and Wales. They consider that legislation provides a 'massive opportunity', but that the draft Bill is 'dangerously unambitious'. Among their demands are annual targets and an overall emission cut of 90% by 2050.[33]

Among the nationalist political parties whose views are known, the concept of a Climate Change Bill is supported in principle by the Scottish National Party[34] and the Democratic Unionist Party.[35] Respect - The Unity Coalition are in favour of a 90% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, but have not expressed a view on a bill.[36] Welshist Plaid Cymru have proposed 3% year-on-year carbon cuts for Wales in their latest policy statements.[37]

Environmental groups

Friends of the Earth's Big Ask Campaign was one of the major factors that forced the government to include the Climate Change Bill in their legislative programme.[38] The organisation is demanding that the Bill should include legally binding targets for a reduction of at least 3% a year, amounting a total cut of around 80% by 2050. They consider that a 60% cut in carbon emissions by 2050 is no longer a sufficient contribution from developed countries to the international action on climate change.[39]

The UK arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature supports the draft Bill, but has called for carbon budgets to be made every three years, and that the 2050 target for carbon emissions reduction should be raised to 75%.[40]

The other 50 or so environmental, international development and other organisations belonging to the Stop Climate Chaos coalition backed the Big Ask Campaign and share similar views. The coalition itself criticised the Government for failing to acknowledge the 'global warming danger threshold' of 2º Celsius. Taking this into account, they believe that the 2020 target should be a minimum of 30%, with an 80% target for 2050. They also consider that the Bill should include annual 3% reduction targets, cover aviation and shipping within its scope, and ban the purchase of carbon credits from overseas, a practice which they believe exports the emissions problem elsewhere.[41]


The Confederation of British Industry, which has created its own climate change task force, welcomed the proposed Bill, stating that it combined two vital elements, long-term clarity on policy direction and flexibility in its delivery.[42]

Support for the Bill was also given by the Trades Union Congress.[43]

See also

Energy Portal
  • Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006

In the media

  • August 3 2007, BBC: MPs & peers urge tougher carbon law
  • March 14 2007, Independent Online: A Bill which makes reducing carbon emissions a legal duty
  • February 23 2007, Times Online: Miliband mocked by his critics as climate Bill is downgraded
  • November 15 2006, Guardian Unlimited: Miliband denies cabinet split over climate bill
  • October 13 2006, Ministers 'looking carefully' at possible climate change bill
  • February 1 2006, Euractive: chief scientific adviser: Keeping CO2 concentration below 450ppm is 'unfeasible'


  1. ^ New Bill and strategy lay foundations for tackling climate change. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  2. ^ Britain proposes climate change bill. Baltimore Sun (2007-03-14). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Ministers bow to pressure for climate bill. Guardian Unlimited (2006-10-25). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  5. ^ Climate Change Bill off to a flying start. Friends of the Earth. Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  6. ^ Royal Commission calls for transformation in the UK's use of energy. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2000-06-16). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  7. ^ Royal Commission report: 'Energy - The Changing Environment' chapters 10 & 4. Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (2000-06-16). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  8. ^ Government needs to keep carbon dioxide target under review to avoid dangerous climate change. The Royal Society (2006-01-30). Retrieved on 2007-03-16.
  9. ^ Community Strategy on Climate Change - Council Conclusions. Council of the European Union (1996-06-22?). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  10. ^ Climate Stabilisation Conference - Exeter 2005. Government News Network (2004-11-04). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  11. ^ International Symposium on the Stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations - Report of the International Scientific Steering Committee. Met Office (2005-05-10). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  12. ^ Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved on 2007-03-17.
  13. ^ Select Committee on Environmental Audit Third Report. House of Commons. Retrieved on 2007-4-20.
  14. ^ 2005 Climate Change Bill. United Kingdom Parliament. Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  15. ^ Failed 2005 Climate Change Bill. (2007-03-14). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  16. ^ Early day motion 178 - Climate Change. Michael Meacher, MP (2005-05-24). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  17. ^ October update on the Climate Change Bill. South Hams Friends of the Earth (2006-06-12). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  18. ^ Climate change bill to balance environmental and energy concerns. Guardian Unlimited (2006-11-15). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  19. ^ Climate change bill is revolutionary, says Blair. Guardian Unlimited (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  20. ^ Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill - official website. Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  21. ^ Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill First Report - FORMAL MINUTES (24 July 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  22. ^ Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill - First Report (24 July 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  23. ^ Examination of Witnesses (Questions 32-39) (16 May 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  24. ^ Taking Forward the UK Climate Change Bill: The Government Response to Pre-Legislative Scrutiny and Public Consultation - Command Paper 7225 (October 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  25. ^ a b Climate Change [HL Bill - 2007-08]. Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  26. ^ Climate Change Bill [HL - Second Reading Debate] (27 November 2007). Retrieved on 2007-11-29.
  27. ^ Cut Carbon? Go Nuclear. United Kingdom Independence Party (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  28. ^ Can I have the Bill please?. Conservative Party. Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  29. ^ Ministers to unveil climate change bill. Independent Online Edition (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  30. ^ Key elements missing from draft Climate Change Bill. Conservative Party (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  31. ^ Chris Huhne: We must monitor carbon targets annually. Independent Online Edition (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  32. ^ 'Binding' carbon targets proposed. BBC (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  33. ^ Climate Change Bill 'dangerously unambitious'. Green Party of England and Wales (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  34. ^ SNP joins cross-party force on Climate Change. Scottish National Party (2006-01-26). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  35. ^ DUP Manifesto 2007, page 57. Democratic Unionist Party (2007-02-21). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  36. ^ Respect Environment Policy – March 2005. Respect - The Unity Coalition (March 2005). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  37. ^ 7 for ’07 – Saving Wales: the Energy Plan. Plaid Cymru (2007-03-05). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  38. ^ UK planning law on climate change. BBC (2006-10-12). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  39. ^ Draft climate bill published. Friends of the Earth (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  40. ^ Where there's a Bill there's a way. WWF-UK (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-13.
  41. ^ I Count Campaign know Government can do better. Stop Climate Chaos (2007-03-13?). Retrieved on 2007-03-15.
  42. ^ Climate Change Bill strikes right balance. Confederation of British Industry (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
  43. ^ TUC comment on climate change bill. Trades Union Congress (2007-03-13). Retrieved on 2007-03-14.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "United_Kingdom_Climate_Change_Bill". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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