March 20, 2006

Pacts complicate UK climate change targets: official

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain cannot ignore recent,
international climate change agreements as it struggles to meet
its domestic carbon emission targets, a government official
told a Reuters conference on climate change and investment.

Britain is set to announce this month whether it will meet
by 2010 a target to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping
carbon dioxide -- commonly blamed for global warming-- by 20
percent from 1990 levels.

But since it set that target, the global Kyoto Protocol and
the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) have
created carbon markets that allow polluters to buy their way
toward meeting their limits on emissions.

These markets make it more difficult for Britain to view
its emissions targets in isolation, given that from next year
UK companies will be able to buy permission to emit carbon from
as far afield as China or India.

"It is now obligatory for us to have our energy-intensive
industries within the EU ETS," Henry Derwent, Head of the
Climate Change Programme at the Department of Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs, told the conference late on Monday.

"It would be politically pretty difficult for us to say
that we repudiate the whole Kyoto mechanisms and the whole
extension of the market to Europe in order to maintain absolute
purity of a set of domestic targets. It's got broader, wider
than that."

The government says Britain is currently heading toward
only a 10 percent carbon reduction by 2010.

To include within this domestic target emission reductions
that industry had bought from outside the country could help it
meet its goal but prove politically difficult to explain.

Failure to meet its 2010, self-imposed target would not
represent any treaty violation but would be an embarrassment to
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has put tackling climate
change high on his agenda.

Britain is on track to meet its separate, Kyoto Protocol
carbon emission targets for 2008 to 2012.