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The UK Government looks set to breach its target under the Kyoto Protocol as new government figures reveal that carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise in the first six months of this year. Analysis of the data by Friends of the Earth shows that carbon dioxide emissions rose by 2.5 per cent in the first half of this year [1].

The new figures should embarrass Tony Blair who is in Beijing for EU bilateral summits with India and China where climate change is due to be discussed [2]. The Prime Minister and others in Government have previously claimed that the UK has already met its Kyoto targets and Labour claimed in its 2005 manifesto that its Kyoto obligations were "already met" [3]. The figures show that the Government has failed to get carbon dioxide emissions under control.

Friends of the Earth said the rising trend showed that the Government urgently needed to act to reduce emission levels. Friends of the Earth, a founder member of Stop Climate Chaos, is calling on the Government to introduce a legal framework for annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions given the urgent need to control climate change [4]. This November the Government plans to publish its long delayed review of its Climate Change Programme, the most important environment strategy since the Government came to power in 1997.

Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper said:

"The great failing at the heart of this Government's policy on climate change is now very clear. While Tony Blair has rightly recognised the scale of the problem he and his ministers have not taken the steps necessary to ensure that transport, energy and economic policies actually cut carbon emissions.

"Britain's credibility as a leader on climate change is now in serious danger and urgent steps must be taken. The Government must deliver year-on-year cuts in carbon dioxide emissions to meet its domestic and international obligations. If it doesn't then the very positive influence that the UK has had at the global level will be lost."

The Kyoto Protocol requires the Government to reduce emissions of a "basket" of six greenhouse gases by 12.5 per cent below the 1990 bench levels during the 2008 - 2012 period. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas, and is the one the Government has struggled to control. According to these latest figures, published by the Department of Trade and Industry, emissions of CO2 have risen 5.5% since 1997 when Labour came to power.

If emissions for the second half of this year continue to be as high as in the first six months of the year, carbon dioxide emissions for 2005 would increase to 162.4 mega tonnes of carbon (MtC).

Breaching the Kyoto target should be a major embarrassment for Ministers. When Labour came to power, meeting Kyoto was considered to be straightforward for the UK. Carbon dioxide emissions had been cut in the early 1990s by a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector, while emissions of other greenhouse gases were falling due to changes in industrial practices. As a result, the Labour Party promised to meet a much tougher and unilateral domestic target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 (on a 1990 level). This target was included in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 election manifestos.

Ministers have since accepted the 20% domestic target cannot be met with current policies [5] and are reviewing policy. But they have continued to claim success on the Kyoto targets. These new figures make such claims premature, and leave Ministers with little to point to by way of progress in tackling climate change.


[1] Figures for primary fuel inputs for inland energy consumption were taken from Digest of UK Energy Statistics, published 25/8/05. (See Friends of the Earth converted volumes of primary energy consumed in millions of tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe) to millions tonnes of carbon emissions (MtC) using conversion values published in the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories.

These emissions would lead to a breach of the Kyoto target if emissions of the remaining greenhouse gases exceeded 20.31 MtC equivalent. The latest available figures for the other gases were 24.9 MtC in 2004 (UK Sustainable Development Indicators) and emissions in 2010 are predicted by the Government to be 23.7 MtC (Climate Change Programme Review). These figures suggest we are currently above the Kyoto target, and will continue to be in 2010 unless CO2 emissions are cut.

[2] EU bilaterals with India and China, Beijing - 5 - 8 September.

[3] For example:

Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister:" The Kyoto targets are our international obligation, and we will meet them—indeed, we have met them already. We are one of the very few countries in the world that will meet those targets, and we can be proud of that." (Hansard - 8 Dec 2004 : Column 1161)

Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, speaking at the launch of the UK Climate Change Programme Review consultation, 8 December 2004, said:

"We are of course ahead, I probably don't need to tell you, ahead of our Kyoto target although it's amazing how much in some circles there is confusion between our Kyoto target and or domestically set CO2 target." ¬

Margaret Beckett MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Speech to the Defra East Midlands Climate Change Conference, Buxton, Derbyshire, Monday 29 November 2004

"Our economy grew by thirty six percent in the years up to 2002, in the same period, our emissions of carbon dioxide, our emissions of greenhouse gases, fell, fell by some fifteen percent, we've already met and exceeded our Kyoto target".

Labour Party Manifesto 2005 - Britain: forward not back, page 89 - "The UK has already met its obligations under the Kyoto protocol."

[4] Stop Climate Chaos is a new coalition of member organisations calling on the Government to cut the UK's emissions of global warming gases and make fighting climate change a key part of its plans to deal with global poverty. As part of the campaign, Friends of the Earth is calling for a new law to commit the Government to reduce the UK's carbon dioxide emissions by three per cent every year to make it meet its target of a 60 per cent reduction by 2050. For more information see


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Published by Friends of the Earth Trust