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On climate change, the UK is providing shaky leadership

Bob Tippee
Editor

Where the UK leads on climate change, few other countries should wish to follow.

Leadership on the issue has been a longstanding priority of British politics. The government even adopted carbon-reduction standards tougher than needed to satisfy European Union targets.

The gesture was noble. But the country remains far from achievement of its goals.

Now deadlines loom for a program originally called Climate Reduction Commitment but lately renamed CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

The scheme applies initially to about 5,000 companies and other organizations using 6,000 Mw-hr/year of electricity and to all energy other than transport fuel.

By Sept. 30, the organizations must register for the program with disclosures about energy consumption. Next April they’ll have to buy emission permits at £12/tonne of carbon dioxide. The government will repay them in proportion to historic emissions, with bonuses or penalties depending on their energy-consumption performance relative to other companies in the program. From 2013 on, the government will auction emission allowances, trimming the number offered each year.

Does this sound messy? It gets worse.

Companies missing next month’s deadline will be fined £5,000 plus £500/day for as many as 80 working days. Their names will appear on a rogues’ roster.

About 15,000 smaller companies also must register with less-comprehensive disclosures. Missing next month’s deadline costs them £500.

On Aug. 11, the Department of Energy and Climate Change reported that the number of registrants stood at 1,229. Greg Barker, energy and climate change minister, acknowledged problems when he said, “I understand the original complexity of the scheme may have deterred some organizations, and I want to hear suggestions as to how we can make the scheme simpler in the future.”

The same day, the Bank of England lowered its forecast for 2010 economic growth from the projection it made in May, warning of “a choppy recovery.”

If climate leadership means imposing costly, complex controls in pursuit of impossible goals while the national economy struggles, the UK will find itself welcome to the throne in an exceptionally sparse court.

(Online Aug. 13, 2010; author’s e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)


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