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Britain eyes 50-percent carbon emissions cut target

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) May 17, 2011
Britain on Tuesday unveiled plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels by 2025, ramping up pressure on the European Union to increase its target.

The new target is a big jump forward for Britain in its carbon-cutting ambitions and puts it far head of the EU as a whole, which has committed to a 20-percent cut in carbon emissions by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

Britain is among the members of the 27-nation bloc, along with France and Germany, which have been pushing for the target to be hiked to 30 percent.

Prime Minister David Cameron had vowed to lead the "greenest government ever" when he came to power last May and Energy Minister Chris Huhne said the new target showed the coalition was determined to make good on its pledge.

Unveiling Britain's fourth "carbon budget", which governs the country's carbon emissions between 2023 and 2027, Huhne told the House of Commons: "It puts Britain at the leading edge of a new global industrial transformation as well as making good our determination that this will be the greenest government ever."

He added: "We are also sending a clear signal to the international community: that the UK is committed to the low carbon economy.

"This will help us reach agreement in Europe on moving to a 30-percent emissions reduction target -- and build momentum toward a legally binding global climate change deal."

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union which has also been pushing for the bloc to increase its target to 30 percent, praised Britain's ambitious target.

"I welcome the ambitious goal announced by the United Kingdom's government today," said EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

"This is an outstanding example of strong willingness to act despite difficult economic times."

Huhne said the proposals would be reviewed in 2014 to ensure they were in line with the rest of the EU's plans for cutting greenhouse gases, which are blamed for rising temperatures. Lawmakers still have to approve the proposals.

It is a big shift forward from Britain's third "carbon budget", which covers the period 2018 to 2022 and commits the country to making 35-percent cuts in its greenhouse gases compared to 1990 levels.

Commentators in Britain saw the announcement as a victory for Huhne over other members of the Cabinet who had opposed the proposals, arguing that it could damage the economy.

The EU committed to a 20-percent cut in carbon emissions in 2008 and offered to go to 30 percent if other industrialised powers followed suit.

But offers from other major industrialised countries are still below the 20-percent mark and critics say that further carbon curbs will hit Europe's fragile economies.

World powers are also seeking to hammer out a new global deal on cutting greenhouse gases at a series of UN talks to replace the landmark Kyoto Protocol which expires at the end of 2012.

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