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UK in 80% emissions slash pledge

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The UK will reduce its carbon emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by the year 2050, the Brown government has pledged. Plans to subsidise household wind turbines and solar panels were also announced, and a warning was given to energy companies to stop overcharging poorer customers and those with no access to gas.

The plans were announced by the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Miliband the Younger.

"We will amend the Climate Change Bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and that target will be binding in law," he told Parliament yesterday.

Miliband felt that things were well in hand as far as large-scale renewable power plant was concerned.

"The Renewables Obligation has tripled supply in the last five years and we are making further changes in its structure, in planning policy and in access to the grid," he said.

The more hardline renewables supporters have suggested that large-scale renewables cannot coexist on the grid with nuclear. Miliband didn't agree, stating that "investment in nuclear power" is needed.

However he skipped briefly over that and onto home microgeneration, saying:

"I also believe that ... guaranteed prices for small-scale electricity generation, feed-in tariffs, have the potential to play an important role, as they do in other countries."

A separate announcement will be forthcoming on this, but it appeared that Miliband was in favour specifically of renewable home microgeneration. That would be mainly rooftop wind turbines and perhaps some solar-electric panels - although authoritative independent research suggests that equipment of this type usually fails to save as much carbon as was emitted by making it. The more viable use of gas-fuelled combined heat and power kit (CHP) would unfortunately worsen the national addiction to gas, so it's to be hoped that Miliband isn't planning to subsidise that.

He might be, though, as he went on to say:

"Heating produces almost half of Britain's carbon emissions, and cleaner sources of heat can help us meet our target in 2050 and the milestones on the way. I'm clear we need to make rapid progress on this too and will make further announcements soon."

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