The UK government has committed itself to a programme that calls for 60 per cent cuts in CO2 emissions by 2050.

The UK government has committed itself to drastic cuts in CO2 emissions, 60 per cent by 2050, as its contribution to what is now seen as a necessary general reduction if disastrous global warming is to be averted. The announcement coincided with publication of the government’s much anticipated White Paper setting out Britain’s energy needs into the forseeable future, which contains a grim forcast for the world’s environment culled from findings by the Royal Commission on environmenatal pollution. It claims that unless drastic steps are taken the Earth’s temperature will rise by 6°C by 2100. And it warns that the UK will be a net importer of gas by by the year 2006 and of oil by 2010.

The government believes its aims are achievable by the use of existing and developing energy saving and ‘green’ technologies, and without nuclear, although nuclear is to be turned to if all else fails.. To that end it is to invest £350 million in the research and development of renewables. And energy saving is expected to contribute, with the deployment of more efficient technology such as LEDs, replacing filament lamps, and practices, such as fitting automatic cut-off switches to TVs, aimed at avoiding waste. The cost of all this is expected to be borne mainly by consumers in the form of higher electricity prices. However while there are no specific targets for raising the renewables component, energy secretary Patricia Hewitt did announce plans to produce a fifth of the country’s power through renewables, mostly windfarms at least initially, and mainly offshore.

The policy statement resulting from the White Paper was vague enough to allow positive interpretation even by the World Nuclear Association, which saw in it reason to believe that the nuclear option was being kept open, while Friends of the Earth saw it as the death-knell of nuclear poweer in the UK. The plan has been widely criticised for containing almost no information on proposals to implement its targets. But Prime minister Blair has called on the leading industrial nations to join in a ‘new covenant’ to protect the envoironment from climate change, and to those who fear economic recession as a result, he points out that the UK’s economy has grown 17 per cent since 1997 and in the same period cut emissions by 5 per cent.