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UK outlines legislation to cut carbon dioxide emissions - extended

UK Environment Secretary David Miliband will outline legislation today to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming, by 60% by 2050.

A draft of the climate change bill was published by Miliband's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today. It includes binding five-yearly targets for cutting emissions, with an annual progress report to Parliament. „This is an environmental contract for future generations: it binds this government and future governments to honor that contract,” Miliband told reporters in London. Climate change „is now a threshold issue in politics, in the same way that inflation and national security are.” The UK government aims to be at the forefront of efforts to combat global warming, according to Miliband.

Scientists blame man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases for rising temperatures that are causing glaciers to melt, storms to intensify, and sea-levels to rise. „There are carrots here as well as sticks,” Miliband told BBC Radio 4's „Today” program. „If you give British people the information, if you give them incentives, they will do the right thing.” Miliband, at a London press conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, said the government expects the bill to pass into law early next year. Emission-cutting targets through 2022 will be set by the end of 2008 to help businesses plan, he said. Blair hailed the bill as „a revolutionary step that shows this country taking real leadership.”

Miliband said he wants the UK to become the first country to set a timetable to becoming a low-carbon economy. Targets will be monitored by an independent panel and assistance given to insulate 8 million homes over the next decade that will reduce carbon emissions by 2 million tons each year, Brown said yesterday. The UK is already a party to the Kyoto Protocol under which 35 countries and the European Union agreed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases by a combined 5% from 1990 levels by 2012 period. Under the European Union's burden-sharing agreement, the UK commitment is for a cut of 12.5%.

EU leaders last week agreed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020, and by 30% if other rich nations such as the US sign up. The US never ratified Kyoto, and the treaty doesn't set targets for developing nations such as India and China. The environment has moved to the forefront of the political debate in the UK, with Brown and Conservative leader David Cameron both laying out plans to tackle climate change yesterday. Brown promised incentives to encourage households to cut their energy use. The Conservatives proposed higher taxes on frequent flyers and are urging the government to set annual emissions targets.

Environmental and development charities welcomed the climate change bill, though they said Britain needs to do more. Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth both said in e-mailed statements the government should aim for an 80% cut in emissions by 2050. „The cuts in carbon dioxide emissions proposed by the bill need to ensure the UK plays its part in keeping global temperatures from rising two degrees (Celsius) above pre-industrial levels - the temperature rise recognized by the EU as a „'danger level' we should not breach,” Friends of the Earth said. That would require an annual cut of about 3%, adding up to about 80% by 2050, it said.

Global temperatures have already risen by 0.76 degrees Celsius (1.37 Fahrenheit) since the nineteenth century, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said on February 2. The panel forecast temperatures will rise by an additional 1.1 to 6.4 degrees by the end of the century. „If the final legislation is not significantly stronger, the process would represent a massive lost opportunity,” Andrew Pendleton, climate policy officer at Christian Aid, said. The draft bill „is the first step on a long journey rather than the destination itself.” The legislation is among 29 bills that Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised to introduce in his final months in office. Blair plans to stand down this year after a decade in power, and Brown is the favorite with bookmakers to succeed him. (Bloomberg)