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Reducing carbon emissions

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Roger HarrabinRoger Harrabin, Environment Correspondent
Roger Harrabin's report on Thursday the 2nd of February

LISTEN
Roger Harrabin explains the interdepartmental row over carbon emissions, and comments from Jeremy Nicholson of the Energy Intensive Users Group, and Stephen Tindale of Greenpeace (Thursday 2nd February).
LISTEN
Interview with the Conservative's environment spokesman, Peter Ainsworth (Thursday 2nd February).
LISTEN
Roger Harrabin explains a new scheme the government is considering to reduce carbon emissions (Wednesday 1st February).
LISTEN
Listen to the deputy director general of the CBI, John Cridland, and Tom Burke, visiting professor of environmental policy at Imperial College and University College London, discuss the DTI scheme (Wednesday 1st February).
carbon emissions from industry

Industrial emissions contribute to climate change
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The government has abandoned hope of settling an inter-departmental row over how much big business should be forced to cut emissions of carbon dioxide to tackle climate change. 
 
The gulf between the negotiating positions of the environment department Defra and industry department dti is so wide that ministers are poised to publish both departments' figures in their forthcoming climate strategy review.

The spotlight is on the big business because by targeting them Defra can be assured of the most effective CO2 cuts. 
 
Policies to curb emissions from motorists or householders are more unpredictable and more politically risky.

But the DTI fears possible harm to competitiveness if the UK cuts CO2 too much more than its European competitors. 

The government has settled on a compromise. Shortly it will publish a range of cuts for big business within its climate change strategy review.

The possible reduction at the top of the range is 8 million tonnes of carbon - that is being pushed by Defra. But the dti is holding the bottom end of the range down at 3 million tonnes.

The move has the theoretical benefit of allowing the government to see how far its EU neighbours are prepared to cut before the UK commits to a final figure (although this may not help much if EU partners adopt a similar cat-and-mouse approach).

The disadvantage is the uncertainty it casts over the government's pledge to show world leadership by cutting CO2 20% by 2010. 
 
The energy intensive users group of business said uncertainty over the final CO2 cut to big business was preferable to too strict a limit on CO2

But the Conservative environment spokesman Peter Ainsworth said: "Industry are constantly telling us that they need clarity over emissions cuts so they can plan their investments. This is a classic dithering. It looks particularly bad in a week when the PM has added a foreword to a report saying climate change is even worse than we thought, and in which government figures showing CO2 is still rising not falling."

He and the Liberal Democrats called on the government to join their cross-party coalition on climate change. 

In a statement the government said it was committed to a 20% CO2 cut and was approaching agreement on how it might be delivered.

The row matters enormously because although the UK produces only 2% of the world's CO2 is has a disproportionate profile in the global climate debate.

Other nations are looking to see if the Prime Minister can shift the UK's economy to the 20% cut without harming business. If he succeeds, others will follow.

Competitiveness is the key. The Chancellor Gordon Brown has asked a leading economist Nick Stern to investigate if CO2 cuts will damage an economy or stimulate it.

His verdict due in the autumn will help shape the course of policy in the UK and perhaps worldwide.

It is already clear he is not convinced by the case that by leading the way on CO2 cuts the UK risks damaging the overall economy.


Roger Harrabin report on Wednesday the 1st of February.

Small and medium sized firms may be face pollution limits in the UK's drive to cut CO2 emissions.

The Department of Trade and Industry is considering a scheme for the firms to be allocated a ration of permits to emit CO2. 

If they overshoot their ration they'd have to buy extra permits.

It follows a report by the Carbon Trust showing that many firms - particularly in retail and commerce - squander energy because it's such a small part of their overall costs.

The authors note that many shops blow hot air through open doorways, or leave computers and lights on all night when employees have left.

Emissions from heavy industry and the power sector are already rationed under the EU emissions trading scheme to help the EU hits its Kyoto targets on pollution.

The plan for smaller firms would operate only within the UK. Officials want to be sure that they can devise a scheme that won't add to the burden of red tape. The very smallest traders would be exempted. 

Ministers hope that the plan will find favour with the CBI because it shares the burden of CO2 more evenly among businesses. Many of the firms involved like, say supermarkets, do not face international competition so there is no problem of risking competitiveness. 

On current government forecasts the UK will only manage to cut emissions by 10%. The environment department Defra want large cuts from the the biggest polluters. 

They see the EU trading scheme as the most certain way of delivering the huge cuts that will be needed if the government is to keep its manifesto commitment on CO2.

There are still massive problems with emissions from roads and households. 

The government's climate strategy review should be published in the next few weeks. It is so fraught that it has been delayed since last May. 

The scheme being considered by the government was proposed by the Carbon Trust. The CBI say they're talking to the Trust about the idea but won't comment on government plans until they see them. The CBI oppose the 20% target as unrealistic. 

Listen to Roger Harrabin explains a new scheme the government is considering to reduce carbon emissions. 

Listen to the deputy director general of the CBI, John Cridland, and Tom Burke, visiting professor of environmental policy at Imperial College and University College London, discuss the DTI scheme.


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