Nuclear should be used to tackle the 25% of UK carbon dioxide emissions that come from power generation, according to the UK Enviroment Minister, David Miliband. He was speaking as the UK launched its new Climate Change bill that, if enacted, will set five year targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
Miliband made his comments whilst speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme. The draft bill itself makes few references to any specific fuel source, but Miliband told the BBC that the carbon impact of electricity generation could be reduced by using a large amount of renewables, "and nuclear, which provides 20% of our load and, in my view, should continue because it is a low-carbon for of power." The government's Energy Bill, which will include measures to facilitate new nuclear plants is expected to be published within weeks.
Launching the Climate Change bill, Miliband made a speech available on the video website YouTube, saying "I believe it is vital that industrialised countries - richer countries like the UK - take the lead." The bill is the first of its kind put forward by any government. It includes the following proposals:
- A series of clear targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions - a 26-32% reduction by 2020 and a 60% reduction by 2050, which will be legally binding.
- A new system of legally binding five year "carbon budgets", set at least 15 years ahead, to provide clarity on the UK’s pathway towards its key targets and provide the certainty that businesses and individuals need to invest in low-carbon technologies.
- A requirement for the UK government to report at least every five years on current and predicted impacts of climate change and on its proposals and policy for adapting to climate change.
- A new statutory body, the Committee on Climate Change, to provide independent expert advice and guidance to government on achieving its targets and staying within its carbon budgets.
- New powers to enable the government to more easily implement policies to cut emissions.
- A new system of annual open and transparent reporting to Parliament. The Committee on Climate Change will provide an independent progress report to which the government must respond. This will ensure the government is held to account every year on its progress towards each five year carbon budget and the 2020 and 2050 targets.
The draft bill is now open to public consultation. Pending the results of this consultation the bill may pass into law later this year. Campaign groups had argued strongly for legally binding annual targets for greenhouse gas emissions, but Miliband said that such targets would not be effective because greenhouse gas emissions would vary due to factors such as short-term (annual) weather variability.
UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Climate Change Bill
YouTube: Climate Change bill launch
WNA's Climate Change: the Science information paper
WNA's Climate Change: the Politics information paper
WNA's Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom information paper