The Climate Change Bill (the "Bill") was introduced to the House of Lords on 14 November 2007 (unusually the Bill was not introduced to the House of Commons first). The Bill has progressed through the Lords and the Commons, reaching final report stage at the end of October this year.
The aim of this article is to produce a brief review of the main amendments debated at the Bill's final reading. Once enacted at the end of November, we will produce a more in-depth review of the potential impacts of the Bill.
GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS TARGETS
Following pressure from a number of quarters and advice from the recently formed Committee on Climate Change, the Energy and Climate Change secretary, Ed Miliband, has raised the UK's 2050 emissions reduction target from 60 to 80%. In the recently tabled amendment to the Bill, this target is now not limited to just carbon dioxide, but also includes all six of the main greenhouse gases.
AVIATION AND SHIPPING
The proposed exemption of aviation and shipping from the targets has caused controversy from backbenchers and environmental campaigners. In order to halt a growing revolt over the proposed exemption, ministers have now stated that these sectors will be taken into account once a method for measuring international emissions has been found.
From 2012 large and mid-sized companies will be under a compulsory obligation to report their carbon emissions. The amendments set out a process for establishing more rigorous common reporting standards, but do not define exactly how big a company has to be to fall within the rules. Prior to 2012, a voluntary scheme will be in place and a consultation will begin on whether smaller businesses should also be forced to report on their carbon emissions.
The potential impact of this reporting requirement on companies is currently unclear, however many companies already disclose their carbon dioxide output, either under existing regulations or voluntarily. Heavy industry operating under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme must monitor their discharges, whilst thousands of commercial premises will have to begin monitoring output under the Carbon Reduction Commitment.
Joan Ruddock, minister for energy and climate change, said that the reporting requirement would ensure business "goes green":
"This will allow companies to demonstrate their green credentials and provide transparency for investors and consumers. It aims to stimulate businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and work towards a productive low carbon future."
The recent amendments to the Bill help demonstrate that the Government is committed to addressing the causes and consequences of climate change. The enactment of the Bill will make the UK the first country in the world to have a legally binding long-term framework to cut carbon emissions.