HC Deb 08 July 2003 vol 408 cc669-70W
Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps the Government has taken to tackle climate change and improve air quality. [124198]

Mr. Morley

The UK Climate Change Programme, published in 2000, sets out the policy framework for delivering the UK's Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent. below base year levels by 2008–12 and to move towards the domestic goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010.

Policies in the Climate Change Programme include the following: the Climate Change Levy, which applies to energy used in the business and public sectors, is helping to fund measures to promote better energy efficiency in business and the public sector; Climate Change Agreements which allow energy intensive business users to receive 80 per cent. discount from the Climate Change Levy, in return for meeting challenging energy efficiency or carbon saving targets; the Carbon Trust, which is recycling about £100 million of climate change levy receipts to boost the take-up of cost-effective, low-carbon technologies; a UK-wide Emissions Trading Scheme, with Government support of £215 million over five years; targets to provide 10 per cent. of the UK's electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2010; the Energy Efficiency Commitment, which requires electricity and gas suppliers to help domestic customers to save energy and cut fuel bills; European Union voluntary agreements with car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency by at least 25 per cent., backed up by changes to vehicle excise duty and company car taxation, and the 10 Year Plan for Transport.

Data for emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases for 2001, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in April 2003, show that emissions fell by 12.3 per cent. between the base year and 2001. Emissions of carbon dioxide for 2002 are provisionally estimated at 8 to 9 per cent. below 1990 levels.

Latest projections suggest we are well on course to meet our Kyoto commitment, a conclusion that is also supported by a recent independent assessment by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Government's policies on improving air quality are set out in detail in the Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, published in January 2000. The Strategy explains the measures that are in place to reduce emissions of harmful pollutants from all sectors, including road transport and industry. Copies are available via the Department's website at www.defra.gov.uk/environment/airquality.

Air quality in urban areas has improved significantly over the last decade, as a result largely of the progressively tighter European Union standards for new vehicles and fuels, and of the continuing reduction in total emissions from industry. The air quality headline indicator, published annually, shows that the average number of days of moderate or poor air quality in urban areas of the UK has reduced from 59 days in 1993 to 20 days in 2002 and, in rural areas, from 50 days in 1990 to 30 days in 2002.