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UK Aims to Cut Carbon Emissions in Half
Photo by freefotouk.

The U.K.'s transport sector was responsible for 21 percent of carbon emissions in 2009. Photo by freefotouk.

The British government pledged to cut carbon emissions in half by 2025, the Associated Press reports. The British government Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne announced yesterday to Parliament that Britain would aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent from 1990 levels, an “absolute minimum” target proposed by the Committee on Climate Change.

In 1990, Britain’s carbon emissions alone neared 800 million tons of greenhouse gases. In 2009, the U.K.’s collective GHG emissions were down to 566.3 million tons. A statistical release by the Department of Energy and Climate Change explains that the 2009 levels measured the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon dioxide makes up the largest portion of greenhouse gas emissions, with a share of 84 percent of the U.K.’s total emission levels in 2009. From the 2009 levels, the transport sector was responsible for 21 percent of carbon emissions, according to LowCarbonEconomy.com.

The overall decrease in emissions is said to be a result of two key factors: 1) a significant fall in energy consumption across all sectors and, 2) an increase in the use of nuclear power rather than coal and natural gas for electricity generation.

At the city level, London’s transit agency, Transport for London, has also been making efforts to cut carbon emission with low emission zones, which requires vehicles to meet Euro IV standards for emissions in the Greater London area. Introduced in 2008, the initiative encourages commercial and private diesel vehicles to become cleaner by enforcing daily charges.

Most recently, the U.K. was running a citizen-led campaign, 10:10, to cut carbon emissions by 10 percent in 2010. The campaign encouraged citizens to cut carbon pollution by reducing journeys they did not have to make, replacing old light bulbs with energy saving ones, using a delivery service instead of driving to shops, and fitting solar tiles to their roofs. The campaign is still active in 2011 and has expanded to 40 countries with the goal of cutting 10 percent of emissions in one year.

The U.K. has not been alone in trying to curb carbon emissions. We recently wrote about European efforts to cut carbon emission with our review of “Transport 2050,” a comprehensive strategy that aspires to eliminate all conventionally fueled cars in cities and encourages a shift to electric, hydrogen and hybrid cars by 2030.

In fact, the European Union’s climate change chief, Connie Hedegaard, praised the U.K.’s new carbon reduction targets. The Guardian reports that Hedegaard “hailed the outcome as ‘very encouraging’ and ‘an example’ to other countries, which she said showed that countries could pursue economic growth while cutting emissions.

‘This is a recognition that to be very ambitious on public spending [cuts] does not mean you can’t be ambitious on climate change targets,’” she told The Guardian.

But not every sector is enthusiastic about the new carbon emissions target. According to The Guardian, some British businesses were arguing that going further than other countries in cutting carbon emissions would damage the competitiveness of the British industry. The article also mentions that despite the enthusiasm of environmentalist groups, some British ministers are also tentative about the ambitious target as it might limit economic growth. The British government, however, is working to address these concerns by producing plans to compensate businesses that fall at a competitive disadvantage to meet the targets, the Guardian adds.

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  • As mentionned in the article, local authorities also implement various strategies to cut carbone emissions in order to reach the 10 :10 objectives.

    For instance in London, the solution of electro vehicles is also experienced : More precisely Westminster is part of the EVUE- Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe- project within URBACT (http://urbact.eu/), a European exchange and learning programme promoting sustainable urban development.

    EVUE (http://urbact.eu/en/projects/low-carbon-urban-environments/evue/our-project/) project gathers 9 cities (Beja, Lisbon, Oslo, Katowice, London, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Madrid and Suceva) to develop integrated and sustainable strategies as well as dynamic leadership techniques for cities to promote the use of electric vehicles.

    EVUE will exchange and disseminate solutions to key barriers such as public resistance, lack of infrastructure, rapid technology change and obsolete economic modelling.The partner cities plan to act on infrastructure (for instance in favour of setting up on street and off street charging points), on policy framework (to implement incentives for a modal shift), finally on marketing and communication (which imply education and awareness raising).

    About EVUE, read the article of Sally Kneeshaw, URBACT Lead Expert from Westminster ! Also watch her interview in Euronews’reportage on Lisbon – other EVUE partner city- on sustainable mobility !

    More information :

    – Sally Kneewshaw (Westminster Expert) article on the EVUE project : http://www.blog.urbact.eu/?p=509

    – Sally Kneeswhaw’s interview in Euronews reportage : http://www.commentvisions.com/video-share/?dr_v_id=4290

    – EVUE website : http://urbact.eu/en/projects/low-carbon-urban-environments/evue/our-project/

    – 2010 URBACT conference : http://urbact.eu/en/header-main/news-and-events/view-one/urbact-events/?entryId=4858