Blair plans 60% cut in greenhouse gas output
Tony Blair will pledge a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions today in an attempt to lessen the effects of global warming on the environment.
Mr Blair will announce plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions in Britain by 60 per cent by 2050. The announcement has been timed to coincide with the publication of a White Paper on Britain's energy needs.
The document will pledge the investment of more than £350 million in the research and development of renewable forms of energy, including wind, wave, solar and tidal power. Mr Blair will also call on the leading industrialised nations to forge a "new covenant" to protect the environment from climate change.
The move comes after calls from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 60 per cent by 2050 or face devastating climate change. A team commissioned by Downing Street told Mr Blair that the target could be achieved with the use of existing and developing "green technologies".
Fears that it could damage the economy were allayed after ministers were told that since 1997 the British economy had grown by 17 per cent and emissions had fallen 5 per cent.
The Energy White Paper, to be published by Patricia Hewitt, the Trade and Industry Secretary, will give the grimmest forecast yet for the world's environment. It will claim that unless drastic steps are taken, the Earth's temperature will rise by up to 6C by the end of the century, driven by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-based energy sources.
Ms Hewitt will announce plans to produce a fifth of the country's power through renewable energies. The decision will see hundreds more wind farms, some the size of oil rigs, being built offshore.
Ministers believe that the renewable energy sector will see an extra £1 billion a year in business. They will encourage companies to develop new ways to save energy. A government source said they would be encouraged to make "sleep" or "stand-by" switches on televisions that turn off automatically. A big rise in electricity prices could be used to force consumers to avoid waste.
The White Paper will contain no plans for new nuclear power stations because Mr Blair feels that sources of renewable energy such as wind farms are far less susceptible to terrorist attacks. The paper will give warning that Britain will be a net importer of gas within three years,
and of oil by 2010, leaving the country exposed to price increases caused by political instability.
Bryony Worthington, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "The White Paper will hopefully sound the death knell for nuclear power in Britain. We also welcome what we expect to be a clear pledge to make cutting greenhouse gas emissions a central objective of energy policy."
The Liberal Democrats said that ministers had ducked decisions about the future of the nuclear power industry, putting them back until after the next election. Vincent Cable, the trade spokesman, said: "This is more than just a missed opportunity, it is an embarrassment for Labour."
White Paper key points
* Investment of more than £350 million in the research and development of renewable energy.
* No specific targets on raising the amount of power generated by renewable sources.
* No new plans for the nuclear industry.
* Warning that Britain will be a net importer of gas within three years, and of oil by 2010.
* Call for the leading industrialised nations to forge a "new covenant" to protect the environment from climate change.
UK unveils greener energy plans
BBCNews.com,Feb. 24, 2003
The UK Government has unveiled plans for a switch towards cleaner forms of energy, and away from fossil fuels and nuclear power.
The long-awaited Energy White Paper, published on Monday, spells out plans for radically cutting the pollution blamed for global warming.
It proposes reducing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere to 60% of 1990 levels by about 2050. It also announces the running-down of nuclear power stations, which currently supply about 25% of UK electricity.
Instead, the White Paper encourages renewable power, such as wind and wave energy, and energy efficiency. These, it says, "will have to achieve far more in the next 20 years than previously. We believe such ambitious progress is achievable, but uncertain."
It says the government will aim to go far beyond its stated goal that 10% of electricity should come from renewables by 2010 - up from 3% now. "We now set the ambition of doubling renewables' share of electricity generation in the decade after that", it says.
Measures to cut down on the amount of energy actually used, or wasted, are also proposed. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is using a rare speech on the environment to commit the UK to the ambitious energy goals.
The Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, told the BBC the White Paper signalled "a good day" for the environment, although the UK would have to strive to meet its targets.
He said: "We have a firm existing target for renewables to make up 10% of electricity in the UK by 2010 and we say we should be aiming to double that by 2020. "Ten per cent by 2010 is a challenging target."
But some analysts doubt whether targets, particularly those on CO2, can be achieved without nuclear energy.
Britain's 16 nuclear power stations will all reach the end of their working lives in about 30 years, and the White Paper does not back the building of any more at present. But it keeps its options open. It says: "We do not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary if we are to meet our carbon targets."
The Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme a major new nuclear programme would have undermined the drive for efficiency and renewables.
But she added: "We are not absolutely ruling out new nuclear build forever."
'No actual targets'
Environmental groups have welcomed the move away from nuclear power. Friends of the Earth said: "The White Paper will hopefully sound the final death knell for nuclear power in Britain". Some householders as well as the nuclear industry may be disgruntled by the proposals, which will add to electricity prices.
The paper says the new policies will add between five and 15% to household electricity prices, up to 25% to industrial electricity prices and up to 30% to industrial gas prices by 2020.
It has already been derided as "incompetent, irrelevant and frankly dangerous" by Sir Bernard Ingham, secretary of the Supporters of Nuclear Energy group. "At a time when greenhouse emissions are rising in Britain, it proposes to continue to allow the nuclear industry, which emits no greenhouse gases, to run down," he said.
By 2010 the UK is on course to be a net fuel importer, for the first time since the industrial revolution.
By 2020, the White Paper says, imported energy could be supplying three-quarters of the UK's needs. It says coal is still important for generating power.
There will be more research into ways of storing CO2 where it cannot affect the climate, probably deep underground.
But it does not tackle aircraft carbon emissions, which are a rapidly rising proportion of total emissions. Nor does it say much about land transport, which in the UK will soon emit more CO2 than electricity generation.