Britain on way to become a low-carbon economy

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Britain has set itself on the path to become a low-carbon economy with the Climate Change Bill, which sets out plans to tackle climate change for the next 50 years.

The Bill, published Thursday and the first of its kind in the world, sets out legally binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by Britons by at least 60% by 2050, and 26% to 32% by 2020, against 1990 levels. Just a week ago, Leaders of the eight Core Cities -- Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield -- signed a pledge with Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears and Minister for Climate Change Joan Ruddock that identifies opportunities to reduce emissions and outlines specific actions that Government and Core Cities will undertake. The minister for climate change announced on Nov. 8 a Low Carbon Cities Program, under which Bristol, Leeds and Manchester are set to develop tailored action plans to slash their CO2 emissions.

New measures and initiatives to be introduced include renewable energy and trigeneration (creating power, heat and cooling from a single source) along with energy saving measures such as insulation and promoting cycling to work. A new program has also been announced from the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy which is to assist UK cities in taking practical measures to tackle climate change. The Council will deliver a targeted regional program in key UK cities to stimulate high level support for action on sustainable energy and build networks with the energy sector, and deliver a series of events to investigate how policy can be improved to enable the growth of new low-carbon technologies. Ruddock said “Our cities were once at the forefront of the industrial revolution. Now they have the opportunity to lead the way again and be the driving force behind our push to a low carbon economy. Creating targeted action plans will help them achieve this by setting a clear path for cutting emissions.”

For Tackling climate change, the British government put emphasis on the Core Cities as they have large and dense populations, and are located in areas that are adjacent to major rivers, flood plains or the sea and these populations are especially vulnerable to climate change impacts. The Core Cities’ city regions are home to more than 16 million people. Changing the behaviors of these large populations will make a major contribution. Britain’s city region areas are responsible for around 30% of England’s carbon emissions -- some 140 million tons of carbon annually.
To help the Core Cities Group members, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has a fund of 250,000 pound sterling ready. And the Bill published Thursday also provides a pathway to achieve those reductions through a system of five-year carbon budgets set 15 years ahead, which would give investors and policymakers certainty and direction. “This Bill is a landmark in environmental legislation and will set us firmly on the path to the low-carbon economy we know is fundamental to our future. We need to provide the framework that will give Government, businesses and individuals a clear idea of how we’re going to tackle climate change,” Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said. To ensure that the CO2 emissions targets are met, the government will set up a Committee on Climate Change, a new statutory body, which will investigate whether the 2050 target needs to be strengthened further and provide independent progress reports to the government.

Besides ambitions of the government and the councils, most people claimed that being “green” is now the socially acceptable norm rather being an alternative lifestyle. The 2007 Survey of Public Attitudes and Behavior toward the Environment published recently showed that of the 3,600 people in England surveyed, the majority believe that its up to individuals to accept responsibility by making lifestyle changes. The environment minister described this as “vitally important” as 40% of climate change emissions come from individuals’ actions. (people.com.cn)

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