Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Climate change: Ambition in the UK

While New Zealand is shirking and trying to avoid doing our bit on climate change, the UK has stolen a march, committing to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2025. Its an ambitious target, all the more so because it must be met without the fudge of buying credits on the international market. At the same time, its achievable; the UK's emissions are already ~20% below 1990 levels, and they've only just begun to exploit their offshore renewable energy potential.

The target is part of a long-term plan to make 80% reductions (on 1990 levels) by 2050. New Zealand also has a 2050 target, but we haven't bothered to set any goals in between. That might mean accountability - the last thing our politicians want. So instead we have the usual cycle of meaningless targets backed by no or ineffective policy leading to failure. By contrast, the UK's is legally binding, and feeds directly into the settings of climate change policy. Which means there will automatically be a credible effort to meet it. Beyond that, there is a recognition across the UK's political spectrum that this is something they have to do. The contrast with New Zealand - where our Prime Minister and half our governing party are unrepentant climate change deniers half-heartedly going through the motions - couldn't be greater.