World's first climate law is a victory for people power

29 October 2008

UK law ups pressure on EU and other European governments

Brussels/London, 29 October 2008 - The UK Parliament voted yesterday evening for the world's first Climate Change Law upping the pressure on other European governments to legally commit to cut emissions and on the European Union to agree a strong climate and energy package.
The UK Climate Change Law has been hailed as a major victory for people power following a three and a half year Big Ask campaign by Friends of the Earth. Since the campaign was launched more than 200,000 people in the UK have emailed, written to or visited their MP to ask them to support a strong law.
The Big Ask campaign continues in 16 other European countries and at EU level. Friends of the Earth is demanding legally binding annual emission cuts across Europe to reach 40 per cent domestic cuts by 2020 and 100 per cent by 2050.
The UK Bill - which will be made law in November - will make the UK the first country in the world to commit to legally binding cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions. The bill commits the UK government to:
- reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050;
- set 5 year 'carbon budgets' which will put a limit on the quantity of emissions allowed by the UK within that period. In setting the carbon budgets the UK has to take the advice of a newly established Committee on Climate Change which includes scientific, environmental and economic expertise;
- set annual targets in the form of annual ranges (i.e. x plus or minus) in meeting the 5 year carbon budgets;
- to produce an action plan, to be reviewed by the Committee on Climate Change, and report annually to Parliament.
The longest running debate in the campaign for a Climate Change Law was on the inclusion of emissions from international aviation and shipping. The Government resisted the inclusion until a last minute change of heart following intense pressure from tens of thousands members of the public. The Law now includes emissions from international aviation and shipping.
But unfortunately the bill does not limit the amount the UK can 'off-set' by purchasing credits from outside Europe.
The European Big Ask campaign, which was launched in Brussels in February by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, has already registered notable successes. The pressure is growing for similar laws in many EU countries, for example in Finland where the parliament is discussing a draft climate law to reduce emissions by 5 per cent every year. At the
European level MEPs supported strong measures, including financial penalties for member states which do not reduce their emissions year by year, in its vote on 'effort sharing'.
Friends of the Earth Europe climate campaigner Sonja Meister said: "This Climate Change Act in the UK is a world first and shows that people want their governments to take meaningful action on climate change. This sets a challenge to the EU. Ministers must not be allowed to water down the energy package. The UK should follow the ambitious lead it has taken at home at the European Council, and push others to follow."
Thom Yorke, Radiohead front man and supporter of The Big Ask, said: "When I helped launch the Friends of the Earth campaign for a climate change law just over 3 years ago we were still arguing with climate change sceptics."
"Now the UK will have the world's first climate change law. And it came about simply because hundreds of thousands of people on the ground hassled their MP who in turn hassled the government. Amazing."

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