Copenhagen

In December 2009, Denmark will play host to the most important meeting since the signing of the Kyoto Accord. The (UN) United Nations climate conference, to be held in Copenhagen, will seek new global agreements to tackle climate change to replace Kyoto when it expires in 2012.

The Kyoto protocol was fully ratified back in 1997. National limitations, predominantly for developed countries were set, ranging from 8% greenhouse gas reductions for the (EU) European Union, to 7% for the US, 6% for Japan and 0% for Russia. Within the EU, the (UK) United Kingdom was set a country specific target of a 12.5% reduction.

The UK target reduction of 12.5% was immediately considered by many environmentalists as not far reaching enough. However, the new Labour Government of the day seemed determined to pick up the gauntlet of climate change and tackle the environmental issue head on. Whether for political gain or genuine concern or even both, is a matter of speculation.

In November 2008 the ‘Climate Change Act’ was introduced as law into the UK. This act sets out a new approach to how we will manage and respond to climate change in the UK. Significantly, the act has even more ambitious and legally binding targets. Set against a baseline of 1990 levels the UK now has a self-imposed legally binding target to cut by 80% its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. An earlier reduction of at least 34% has been set to be achieved by 2020. Several groups have reacted fiercely to aviation and transport emissions not being fully included within the provision of this act.

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On the 5th June 2009, World Environment Day, the UK announced that its greenhouse gas emissions were expected to be about 23% below the levels of 1990 – a figure well above the 12.5% level set out by the Kyoto agreement.

Joan Ruddock, Minister at the Department for Energy and Climate Change said, “Our latest report to the UN shows what can be achieved when Government, communities and business work together to reduce emissions. We already have significant achievements under our belt, but we know there is more to be done – we must continue to work urgently to reduce our emissions further and faster.”

The UK is far from being the golden child when it comes to the issue of global warming. However, this writer at least believes the UK has now stepped up to the mark and is now looking to its peers to help in the crusade against global warming. As we approach the United Nations meeting in Copenhagen, Demark, the stakes for all of us could not be more important. More than 180 countries will discuss and thrash out the actions and policies that will determine how the global community will face the threat of global warming over the next 50-years and beyond.

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