Only action will clear the air

Posted by bex — 8 December 2004 at 9:00am - Comments

Tony Blair says he is personally passionate about solving the problem of climate change, but his passion for business has dominated the agenda for too long. There is only one way Tony Blair is going to regain our trust - take urgent action on climate change.

Blair has given strong speeches on the importance and urgency of tackling climate change. The government can boast a reasonably good record on promoting renewable energy, but this action has not been enough to make up for the numerous retreats, and the net result.

Today the Prime Minister admitted that the UK is not on track to meet their pledge to cut carbon dioxide levels 20% below 1990 levels by 2010. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions have risen since New Labour took office. He is, however, confident the UK will meet its Kyoto commitment.

It is time Blair turned rhetoric into reality with tough environmental standards for all new buildings, an end to all subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear power, and an increase in funding for renewable energy.

Climate change is killing tens of thousands of people every year and the government's failure to act decisively is a result of irresponsible political decisions taken in Downing Street. The Prime Minister's friend George Bush might describe Mr Blair's record as 'all hat and no cattle'.

These are the ten steps Blair must take if he's serious about leading on climate change. This list is a roadmap that, if followed, will get the government back on track.

Tony's new "to do" list:

1. Ensure the rapid expansion of renewable energy. The government should fund power connections for offshore energy. This will support the development of wind, wave and tidal power.

2. Support massive expansion of combined heat and power generation. All new housing developments, public and commercial buildings should be required to include combined heat and power generation plants for heating, hot water and electricity. Government should fund changes to local electricity networks to make uptake of combined heat and power and domestic renewable energy generation possible.

3. Set tough environmental standards for all new buildings. Regulations should ensure that all new buildings are built to zero emission standards. Buildings should incorporate renewable power such as solar PV and solar water heating and state-of-the-art energy efficiency.

4. End fuel poverty and encourage energy efficiency. Set high energy efficiency standards for social housing and provide financial incentives and grants to encourage energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings. Energy efficient buildings should be eligible for reductions in Council Tax and Stamp Duty. In addition, there should be zero VAT on energy efficient products.

5. End all government subsidies for dirty fuel industries immediately. The government must stop all subsidies for oil, coal and nuclear power - including export credit guarantees - and invest this money instead in renewable energy schemes.

6. Reverse the recent decision to allow UK industry to emit substantially more CO2 under the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.

7. Make a clear commitment to increase the cost of petrol and diesel. The government needs to send a clear message to car manufacturers and the public that current levels of CO2 emissions and pollution from transport is unacceptable if we are to combat climate change. Revenue raised should be used to improve public transport.

8. Make Vehicle Excise Duty progressive. Better known as car tax, Vehicle Excise Duty should be dramatically increased for inefficient vehicles such as SUVs. Incentives should be provided for state-of-the-art fuel efficient vehicles.

9. Withdraw the Airports White Paper. The government should include aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. There should also be a tax on aviation fuel and an increase in air passenger duty to reflect the true environmental impact of flying. These measures would help reduce air travel and make new runways unnecessary.

10. Fund hydrogen pilot projects. The government should fund local authorities to pilot the infrastructure needed to move to a hydrogen economy.

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