Monday, 19 November 2007

Tough action on climate

It is easier to sound tough than act tough when it comes to climate change. Today Gordon Brown will make his first major speech on the environment since becoming Prime Minister. It will contain some frightening figures: the International Energy Agency's prediction that on current trends energy demands will rise by 50% and global emissions by 60% and the UN's latest report suggesting that this translates into a 60cm rise in sea levels and 4oC in temperatures by 2100.

His message will be that Britain can be a world leader in a new global carbon economy and benefit economically. But many are beginning to question his assertion that it is possible to be both pro the environment and pro endless growth. In the decade since Labour came to power, Britain's total carbon emissions, including shipping and aviation, have continued to rise.

Tough targets look unconvincing alongside recent trends. A government that talks green presses on with road-building and airport expansion projects. Energy savings achieved by new technologies are squandered in bigger cars, more travel, more gadgets, increased consumption. The country with pretensions to lead the world on cutting energy consumption cannot even ban plastic bags and power-gobbling light bulbs. Meanwhile, it has been reported that Defra, the department dealing with climate change, faces £300m in cuts.

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