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The UK will miss its targets for carbon dioxide emissions reduction, unless it pulls its socks up, The Department of the Environment said today. The Government wants to cut CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 20 per cent by 2010. but this goal, will not be reached, as things stand.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett is consulting "all stakeholders" to review how the UK can reach long-term goals. Armed with this new information the government will publish a revised programme for CO2 reduction in the first half of 2005.

On a brighter note, "the UK is on track to go significantly beyond its Kyoto [Agreement] target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Emissions of the six main greenhouse gases have fallen by 14 per cent since 1990, and as a result of the policies currently in place, are projected to be 21 per cent below 1990 levels in 2010."

The main reason for the fall is that the UK has much fewer coal-fired power stations these days. Many were mothballed, scrapped or converted to gas in the 1990s, more for reasons of cost, rather than for saving the environment. The next round of cuts will be more difficult, as the biggest gains will come from being nasty to car owners and being nice to public transport. The first is deeply unpopular, the second hugely expensive.

The Government today identified the following opportunities to reduce carbon dioxide emissions:

  • Greater energy efficiency. A number of measures, regulatory and incentive-based, have been introduced to stimulate energy efficiency in households. The Government also announced in last week's pre-budget report a £20m package of measures to encourage the development of energy-efficient technology.
  • A rise in the production of biomass.
  • More environmentally friendly travel choices, such as workplace travel plans and promoting alternatives to the school run.
  • Increased use of biofuels.

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