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Legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions

15 November 2007

Hilary Benn,  Environment Secretary

Landmark legislation that sets out plans to tackle climate change for the next 50 years has been published in Parliament .

The Climate Change Bill, the first of its kind in the world, sets out a framework that will put Britain on the path to become a low-carbon economy, with clear, legally binding targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050, and 26 to 32 per cent by 2020, against 1990 levels.

As well as setting clear targets, the Bill provides a pathway to achieve those reductions through a system of five-year carbon budgets set fifteen years ahead, which would give investors and policymakers certainty and direction.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "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. We also need to show the world that we're taking decisive action within our own borders, particularly ahead of the crucial talks in Bali next month where we want to launch formal negotiations on a comprehensive future climate deal that involves every major country on earth. This Bill shows the world that we're serious, and that we're not asking other countries, and in particular poorer countries, to do what we're not willing to do ourselves. This is vital to our ambition to get a future deal agreed by the end of 2009."

As well as advising on carbon budgets, the Committee on Climate Change, proposed in the Bill, will be charged with investigating whether the 2050 target needs to be strengthened further, as well as reporting on the impacts of including emissions from international aviation or shipping in the UK's targets.

Key points in the Climate Change Bill include:

* Legally-binding targets to cut CO2 emissions by at least 60 per cent by 2050 and 26 to 32 per cent by 2020.
* A new system of legally binding five year "carbon budgets", set at least 15 years ahead, to provide clarity on the UK's optimum pathway towards its key targets and increase the confidence and certainty for business planning and investment in technology needed to move towards a low-carbon economy.
* A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide independent expert advice and guidance to Government on achieving its targets and staying within its carbon budgets.
* A new system of annual open and transparent reporting to Parliament. The Committee on Climate Change will provide an independent progress report to which the Government must respond. This will ensure the Government is held to account every year on its progress towards each five year carbon budget and the 2020 and 2050 targets.
* A requirement for Government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change and on its proposals and policy for adapting to climate change.
* Enabling powers to introduce new trading schemes through secondary legislation, similar to the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a new cap and trade scheme for large organisations such as local authorities, supermarkets and other large retailers, and government departments. The Carbon Reduction Commitment will be introduced through the Bill.


1. The Climate Change Bill, published today, will be available at

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