UK Draft Climate Change Bill Consultation Summary of Responses published today

October 29, 2007 at 7:13 am | Posted in Annual targets, Bills, Carbon reductions, Chartered Engineers, Climate change, Consultation, Draft Climate Change Bill, Engineering, Engineering profession, Engineers, Final report, Government, IET, Include aviation emissions, Include shipping emissions, Increase targets above 80%, Summary of responses, UK | Leave a comment

Start here if you need the background: Draft Climate Change Bill

The consultation period for the UK Government’s proposals for a climate change bill closed in June, and the summary of responses and final report were published on 29 October 2007, and are available here:

These documents are worth spending time on. They are both covered by this statement:

© Crown copyright 2007
Copyright in the typographical arrangement and design rests with the Crown.

This publication (excluding the royal arms and departmental logos) may be reused free of charge in any format or medium provided that it is re-used accurately and not used in a misleading context. The material must be acknowledged as crown copyright and the title of the publication specified.

From ‘Summary of responses to the consultation on the draft Climate Change Bill from 13 March – 12 June 2007’, page 24, with my emphasis on the strongest messages:

Key messages

Based on an overall assessment of all of the findings, it was felt that the strongest messages coming through from the respondents were as follows:

1. Carbon reduction targets should be increased to 80% or more.

2. Emissions from aviation and shipping should be included in carbon reduction targets.

3. Carbon reduction management should be based on annual budgets / targets / milestones.

Overall respondents were generally in support of the proposals put forward in the draft Bill, although many qualified their agreement by stating they only agreed under certain circumstances.

Responses to Questions 2, 7 and 9 indicated the highest level of disagreement with the proposals put forward.

In terms of Question 2 the key explanations for disagreement with the proposals were that respondents felt the focus should be on all greenhouse gases (accounting for 65% of the explanations); or they wanted all CO2 emissions be included from all sectors including aviation and shipping (26%). In terms of including emissions from aviation and shipping, this was also raised by respondents agreeing with the proposal, as well as by respondents in the ‘other comments’ section, underlining the strength of feeling for including emissions from aviation and shipping in carbon budgets. This view was most strongly held by individuals, non-Governmental organisations and academic / research groups. With regard to focusing on all greenhouse gases, there was a stronger representation of views from industrial / business groups, trade associations and the energy supply industry.

With regard to Question 7 the most significant reason given for not agreeing was that the Government should focus on its own domestic action rather than buying credits from overseas. In general, there was a representative balance of all of the main sectors sharing this view, however, the energy supply industry and academic / research groups were a little under-represented.

The primary explanations for objecting to the proposals in Question 9 was that the ability to borrow from future budgets would lead to unaffordable delays in tackling climate change; borrowing should not be needed if the budget is planned appropriately; and concern about the burden such borrowing would place on future budgets (and the fact that it may not prove possible to ‘pay back’ borrowed emissions). In terms of the concern that borrowing from future budgets may lead to unaffordable delays in tackling climate change, there was a representative balance of all of the main sectors featured in this group. However, the energy supply industry did not express this view at all and individuals were slightly under-represented.

The questions are included in the comprehensive document, ‘Final report to the consultation on the draft Climate Change Bill from 13 March – 12 June 2007’ in ‘Appendix B – Consultation Questions’ and I reproduce them here, so you can see what was asked of consultation respondents, as well as what the particulars of Questions 2, 7 and 9 are:

Appendix B

Consultation Questions

Question 1 – Is the Government right to set unilaterally a long-term legal target for reducing CO2 emissions through domestic and international action by 60% by 2050 and a further interim legal target for 2020 of 26-32%?

Question 2 – Is the Government right to keep under review the question of moving to a broader system of greenhouse gas targets and budgets, and to maintain the focus at this stage on CO2?

Question 3 – Should the UK move to a system of carbon management based upon statutory five-year carbon budgets set in secondary legislation?

Question 4 – Do you agree there should be at least three budget periods in statute at any one time?

Question 5 – Do you agree there should be a power to review targets through secondary legislation, to ensure there is sufficient flexibility in the system?

Question 6 – Are there any factors in addition to, or instead of, those already set out that should enable a review of targets and budgets?

Question 7 – Do you agree that, in line with the analysis in the Stern Review and with the operation of the Kyoto Protocol and EU ETS, effort purchased by the UK from other countries should be eligible in contributing towards UK emissions reductions within the limits set under international law?

Question 8 – Do you agree it should be permissible to carry over any surplus in the budget? Are there any specific circumstances where you consider this provision should be withdrawn?

Question 9 – Do you agree that limited borrowing between budget periods should be allowed?

Question 10 – Is it right that the Government should have a legal duty to stay within the limits of its carbon budgets?

Question 11 – Do you agree that establishing an independent body will improve the institutional framework for managing carbon in the economy?

Question 12 – Do you agree that the Committee on Climate Change should have an advisory function regarding the pathway to 2050?

Question 13 – Do you agree with the proposal that the Committee on Climate Change should have a strongly analytical role?

Question 14 – Are these the right factors for the Committee on Climate Change to take into account in assessing the emissions reduction pathway? Do you consider there are further factors that the Committee should take into account?

Question 15 – Do you agree the Committee on Climate Change should be comprised of technical experts rather than representatives of stakeholder groups?

Question 16 – Are these the appropriate areas of expertise which should be considered? Do you consider there are further areas that should be considered or any areas that are less important?

Question 17 – Do you agree with the principle of taking enabling powers to introduce new trading schemes?

Question 18 – Do you consider that these powers are sufficient to introduce effective new policies via secondary legislation? If not, what changes would you make?

Question 19 – Do you agree that the Committee on Climate Change should be responsible for an independent annual report on the UK’s progress towards its targets which would incorporate reporting on a completed budget period every five years?

Question 20 – Is statutory reporting the best way to drive forward progress on adaptation while at the same time ensuring Government is able to develop flexible and appropriate measures reflecting developments in key policy areas?

I must admit, from my limited experience of climate change, but having been employed as a design and systems engineer on defence and commercial projects in the UK as well as having held corporate roles in Silicon Valley, I tend to agree with the opinions expressed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in a letter highlighting “some key concerns of the engineering profession which extend beyond the scope of the formal consultation”. Climate change solutions depend on real timely and workable deliverables, not just policies and promises that are easily allowed to slip. The following excerpts are taken from the letter (find it on this IET Public Affairs Submissions page) that the IET’s Chief Executive and Secretary, Robin Gill, wrote to the Secretary of State, Defra during the consultation period:

“The IET believes strongly in the need for urgent action to achieve the UK’s emissions reduction targets. We are therefore in agreement with the spirit of the Climate Change Bill. However, we believe that the real challenge lies elsewhere – in ensuring that the policies put in place deliver real emissions reductions.

2. … In addition to the types of expertise listed in the consultation, we believe that the Committee should include competency in the area of technology deployment. This will be essential in order to be able to assess pragmatically the “deliverability” of proposed targets and timeframes.

3. The detail of the legislation will have to be put in place with great care. One area which will need attention is the provision for offsetting emissions through the purchase of overseas credits. There is potential for creating a perverse incentive to comply with the letter of the law, which unless carefully handled could end up merely displacing emissions, or even creating a market for unsustainable practices in other parts of the world. …

4. … more could be achieved in terms of demonstrating leadership and achieving material emissions reductions if the Government were to embark on a strong and sustained drive to improve the performance of existing Climate Change policies.

5. Government should lead by example. Reports of rising emissions from the Government Estate seriously undermine public confidence in Government’s commitment to combating climate change and compromise the effectiveness of climate change policies even further.

Climate change represents one of the world’s major challenges. With over 150,000 members worldwide, representing all sectors of engineering we have a profound understanding of the technologies that are required to implement complex policies and to conquer this and other global challenges.”

I think it is time that the public heard more professional engineers’ voices in this regard.

P.S. There is another key report released today, by a group of MPs in the Commons environmental audit committee, timed to coincide with the publications I post on above. The report itself is online in HTML and PDF format, titled and accessible here: The structure of Government and the challenge of climate change. More of today’s news on this:
MPs call for ‘super department’ on climate change
By Nigel Morris, Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 29 October 2007

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