UK risks missing climate goals with recovery: adviser
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is at risk of missing its future climate goals, because the economic slump, rather than proactive policy, has been the main reason for a decline in the country's greenhouse gas emissions, a government adviser warned on Thursday.
The Conservative-led coalition government must move from policy planning to delivering change in key areas, such as low-carbon technology, energy efficiency and transport, the independent advisory Committee on Climate Change said in a report to parliament.
Despite the United Kingdom's greenhouse gas emissions falling 7 percent in 2011, only 0.8 percent can be linked directly to the implementation of carbon-cutting measures, the independent advisory body said in a statement.
It attributed the bulk of last year's fall in emissions to a combination of mild weather, rising fuel prices, falling incomes and temporary factors in power generation.
"But as the economy recovers it will be difficult to keep the country on track to meet carbon budgets," David Kennedy, chief executive of the Committee said.
The country's national emission budgets are set over five-year periods towards a 2050 goal of cutting emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels - an ambitious legislation that has been a catalyst for several other countries to act.
"Around the world more and more countries, including Mexico, Denmark and Australia, are following the UK's lead and passing climate change laws. Yet at precisely the same time, the UK government risks allowing this landmark legislation to wither by neglect," Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said.
He added: "Without urgent attention - and a much clearer commitment from the Prime Minister down - the claim to be the greenest government ever is looking like an increasingly empty boast."
In its latest report, the Committee on Climate Change said one priority area was a lack of investment in renewable energy, notably onshore and offshore wind, and low-carbon power technologies, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The Committee urged the government not to neglect its funding programme for CCS demonstration and to select projects by the end of this year and contracts signed by the end of 2013.
While some progress towards new nuclear build has been made, investment prospects still remain uncertain, it said. And investment in residential renewable heat remains very low.
In transport, emissions from new cars have been falling but there has been limited improvement in new van emissions, it said, recommending the government toughen its policy to help curb emissions from larger vehicles.
"Investing in low carbon assets remains a priority - this will put us on the economically sensible path, and allow us to avoid higher costs and risks due to delayed action," Kennedy added.
(Reporting by Jeff Coelho; editing by Keiron Henderson)
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