- London Telegraph -
Gordon Brown is backing a deal that could lead to the UK trying to almost halve its production of greenhouse gases by 2020, something British officials say would have “real costs” for households. Environmentalists say such a high target for carbon cuts could only be reached if households are forced to drive, fly and consume significantly less by greater use of “green” taxes and much higher domestic energy prices
The prospect of Britain making the biggest cuts in carbon emissions come on top of a commitment by Mr Brown to made the Britain the largest financial contributor to an EU fund set up to help developing countries adapt their economies to emit less carbon.
The European Union has promised to cutting its overall carbon emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020.
The EU has said it could be prepared to extend that offer to 30 per cent in order to secure a deal in Copenhagen this week, and Mr Brown is pushing for such an offer.
Speaking in Copenhagen, Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, again called for the higher EU offer, saying it will force European countries to lead the way in developing low-carbon technologies and energy production.
Mr Miliband said: “Europe needs a deal where we go to 30 per cent, not just for our environment, but for our economy.
Because of their differing sizes and emissions levels, EU countries have agreed a formula for the cuts each member-state would have to make the meet the European targets.
UK government figures show that the 20 per cent EU target would mean a 34 per cent reduction in British emissions from 1990 levels.
And if the EU moves to the higher level of cuts, Britain would have to make total reductions of 42 per cent.
That is significantly higher than the cuts offered by many other rich nations. Norway is the only developed country to commit itself to cuts above 40 per cent, although Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested that Germany too might be willing to adopt a 42 per cent target.
The US offer on carbon amounts to cutting American emissions to 4 per cent less than they were in 1990.
Japan has proposed a 25 per cent cut, and Australia has offered cuts between 11 and 33 per cent.
Mr Brown last night insisted that Britain will not be alone in making big cuts, claiming that others are privately preparing similarly large moves.
He said: "Having talked to a number of countries and different groups, I think there is more willingness to get an agreement and more agreement than is suggested by some of the statements being made."
A senior British official accepted that major carbon cuts in Britain might mean unpopular policies have to be adopted.
He said: “Politicians are in a process of trying to persuade their publics of some extra costs. The costs are real. All politicians are struggling with this.”Mr Brown will today tell the Copenhagen summit that the potential risks of unchecked global warming are so great that emissions must be cut, even if it means some sacrifices.
Brown last night insisted that Britain will not be alone in making big cuts, claiming that others are privately preparing similarly large moves.
He will say: “Hurricanes, flood, typhoon and droughts we have from time immemorial thought of as the invisible acts of God we can see clearly now as the visible acts of man.”
He will add: “The task of politics is to overcome obstacles even when people say they cannot be surmounted. The task of statesmanship is to make the desirable possible, and make ideals real even when critics tell you they are inevitable dreams.