LONDON, UK, July 21, 2005 (ENS) - British industry last year cut by 14.4 million metric tons the amount of carbon dioxide it releases into the atmosphere, more than double the target set by government, according to figures released Thursday by the Department for the Environment, Food And Rural Affairs. Still, opposition MPs and campaign groups are calling for a stricter climate law that requires a three percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Minister for Climate Change and Environment Elliot Morley said, 'The contribution needed from industry to help us meet total emissions cut targets and energy efficiency goals is considerable, but already companies are reaping the rewards of cost-effective, low-carbon measures, and they have proved they are prepared to play a big part in combatting climate change.'
Major manufacturers and companies who are big users of energy reduced their 2004 emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas responsible for climate change, by 8.9 million metric tons more than the minimum signed up to under Climate Change Agreements (CCAs).
CCAs are 10 year energy efficiency agreements which give firms an 80 percent discount on their climate change levy if they meet targets.
CCAs are a major part of UK efforts to cut carbon emissions and were forecast to cut CO2 emissions by 8.5 million metric tons by 2010.
Morley said, 'Climate Change Agreements encourage industry to improve energy efficiency and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in a big way.'
'Being part of this transformation offers business huge opportunities to cut costs and improve competitiveness while benefitting the environment,' he said.
Results published today show continued improvement across all sectors, the department said. Thirty-eight out of 42 sectors had all facilities recertified to continue to claim the climate change levy discount.
The agency said that 98 percent of sites - 10,100 - met targets and have had climate change levy discounts renewed.
The biggest absolute cuts were achieved by the steel sector, which continues to beat targets despite increased output, as well as the aluminium, cement and chemicals sectors.
These together with the paper and food and drink sectors also made the biggest improvements in energy efficiency.
The European Commission Wednesday authorized the United Kingdom to grant the agriculture sector a tax rebate of €687 million over a period of 10 years for the pig and poultry, food and drink industries.
The rebate on the climate change levy of 50 percent for horticulture and 80 percent for agriculture sectors is designed to let UK agriculture live with higher energy prices caused by the levy while helping to meet the CO2 reduction targets for the UK and for Europe required by the Kyoto Protocol.
In 2001, the UK introduced a climate change levy on the non-domestic use of energy in order to meet the Kyoto targets. The rebates are offered to offset the loss of international competitiveness resulting from the introduction of the climate change levy.
Energy intensive industries were offered a rebate of 80 percent for a period of 10 years in order to adapt to the new environment, improve energy efficiency and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
The agricultural and horticultural industries have committed themselves to emission reduction targets and energy efficiency targets. The UK ensures strict monitoring of the commitments, the Commission said, and the agreements are reviewed on a regular basis.
Despite the progress shown by the industry emissions figures released today, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations and MPs is calling for a new law to ensure that the UK reduces its emissions of greenhouse gases. They point out that UK emissions are continuing to rise, and are now higher than they were in 1997 when Labour came to power.
The Climate Change Bill would set a legally binding target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by three percent every year.
The measure would compel the Prime Minister to report annually to Parliament on progress towards meeting the target.
If the three percent figures is not met, the measure would impose requirements on ministers to introduce new policies; greater powers for Select Committees; and ultimately symbolic pay cuts for the ministers failing to cut emissions.
The Climate Change Bill is supported by former Labour Environment Minister Michael Meacher, MP, former Conservative Environment Minister John Gummer, MP, and the current LibDem environment spokesman Norman Baker, MP.
Two hundred other MPs have declared their support for the Bill.
Ten NGOs have formed a coalition to work for a new climate law, including Friends of the Earth, Help the Aged, the Association for the Conservation of Energy, Christian Aid and WWF-UK.
Friends of the Earth Executive Director, Tony Juniper, said, 'Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity. We have a window of opportunity to prevent catastrophic climate change but that gap is narrowing. It is critical that we set ourselves on a pathway to achieve the necessary carbon dioxide reductions. This bill will set us on a sensible and achievable glide path towards the necessary long-term targets.'
Matthew Davis, WWF-UK's Climate Change Campaign Director said, 'Targets that can be missed with impunity take us backwards on climate change. They provide an illusion of progress, while covering up the lack of real action to reduce emissions.'
Davis said climate change will have a devastating impact on people, and could mean that 'up to one third of land-based species facing extinction by the middle of this century while many marine species could also be lost.'