Decisive action needed on climate change

The secretary of state David Miliband unveiled the draft climate change bill in March 2007 and invited responses and suggestions through consultation. Here, he introduces the bill.

There is no longer any real debate over the fact that climate change is happening and that man-made emissions are the main cause. The evidence is stark as to the serious and urgent nature of climate change and the consequences we face from our every-day actions. The decisions we make today will change the way we live in the future. We can, however, avert the worst global scenarios by acting decisively and collectively, without delay. As last year’s Stern Review emphasised the longer we put off action, the more dramatic and costly the changes we will have to make.

The UK has already taken a strong lead at home and abroad on climate change. The measures set out in the Climate Change Programme Review and Energy Review show our progress domestically and our intentions for the future. Internationally, we are on track to exceed our Kyoto target and are actively engaged in developing the European Emissions Trading Scheme. But there is still a way to go to raise the ambition and urgency of collective action.

The climate change bill will create a strong new legal framework to underpin the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change. It will put in place a clear and credible pathway to a statutory goal of a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through domestic and international action by 2050, with real progress by 2020. This will be based on a new system of ‘carbon budgets’ set at least fifteen years ahead, and with progress reported annually to parliament. This will provide real clarity on how emissions will be reduced, as well as the flexibility necessary to respond to factors outside our control (such as the weather and global fuel and energy prices).

The bill will also create a new expert committee on climate change to advise the government on the best pathway to 2050 – one that achieves our environmental ambitions whilst maintaining a strong competitive economy, secure energy supplies and affordable fuel prices. Alongside this, there will be new powers to set up schemes to reduce emissions.

The climate change bill will put the UK at the very front of global efforts to tackle climate change. We will be the first country in the world to establish such a legal framework. We look to others to follow suit.

Creating such a framework is an enormous challenge for government and we would like you to join the debate and contribute your views, whatever your interest. The comments that you make will help to determine the final shape of our proposals to tackle climate change.