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Carbon Budget 'wasted opportunity'

The Government’s first ever UK carbon budget reveals a disappointing lack of ambition and leadership, says Christian Aid.

‘Producing the first national carbon budget in the world was a huge opportunity for the UK to prove its determination to tackle climate change and provide leadership for other rich countries,’ says the agency’s climate policy expert Dr Alison Doig.

‘But that opportunity has been wasted. Cutting emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 will fail to prevent dangerous global warming from devastating the lives of people in developing countries, who are least responsible for this crisis.’

Dr Doig adds: ‘This is not leadership. It is not even adequate. The UK, EU, US and other industrialised countries, must commit to the urgent, deep emissions cuts that are vital if the world is to avoid catastrophe.  Time is running out for such commitments – the Copenhagen UN summit at which world leaders must agree global action on climate change is just seven months away.’

Christian Aid is, however, delighted at Gordon Brown’s decision to protect the UK’s aid budget, which it was feared was under threat. It warmly welcomes the news that existing commitments will in fact be honoured.

Dr David McNair, Christian Aid’s Senior Adviser on Economic Justice, says: ‘The Government deserves credit for continuing to meet its responsibilities on aid, in the face of the cuts made by several other EU countries. While the financial crisis has had severe effects here, it has been far worse for millions of already poor people around the world, who literally do not have enough to eat.' 

On climate change, UK cuts of 34 per cent by 2020 imply EU-wide cuts of just 20 per cent. This reflects a European Commission proposal about how the burden of responsibility for cutting emissions should be distributed across Europe’s very different economies.

Calculations by Christian Aid’s partner organisation EcoEquity show that if industrialised countries generally were to cut their emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, then the world would be on its way to a global temperature rise of more than 3oC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that a global rise of 3oC will bring widespread chaos and suffering.

Global food production will be seriously reduced, with crop yields down by 50 per cent in parts of Africa where supplies are already short. Up to three billion people worldwide will face freshwater shortages, while health will be affected through increased malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria.

Millions of people will also be at risk of coastal flooding, with disastrous consequences for many small island states. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and drought will become far more common place and unpredictable across much of the developing world.

Christian Aid calculates that by 2020, the UK and the EU as a whole must reduce its emissions by a minimum of 40 per cent, to keep global temperatures within tolerable levels.

More positively, it is good news that the government aims to achieve emission reductions with action here in the UK, rather than by purchasing ‘offsets’ from countries outside of Europe.

Christian Aid will be watching closely to see how well this aim is actually achieved.

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Notes to editors:

1. Ireland has already produced a carbon budget but, unlike the UK’s, it is not legally binding.

2. For more information, interviews and pictures, contact Rachel Baird on 0207 523 2446 or 07545 501 749.

3. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in 49 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.