Britain needs climate change minister - report

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LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) Britain should have a cabinet rank climate change minister and a powerful new coordinating body to manage its somewhat haphazard and conflicting climate policies, a parliamentary committee said today.

The call comes on the same day that the government is due to produce its response to months of public consultations on the draft Climate Change Bill it published in March.

The Environmental Audit Committee said the government's climate change rhetoric was not being reflected in its actions, and noted that it was likely to miss its own target of cutting national carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent by 2010.

''The way the government has addressed climate change has led to a confusing framework that doesn't promote effective action to cut emissions,'' said Tim Yeo, chairman of the all-party committee.

''A new and authoritative body should be created within government, in the Cabinet Office, to drive forward policy and diminish the potential for conflicting objectives,'' he added.

The report said the new climate change minister would have an automatic right to attend cabinet meetings and be responsible for ensuring that government departments adhered to their environmental responsibilities.

The committee said the government's failure to match reality to its rhetoric not only risked allowing more climate warming carbon gases into the atmosphere but it also undermined its high international standing in the global warming crisis.

This, it said, could be crucial given that Britain has taken a leading role in pushing for international negotiations to start immediately on a follow-on to the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty that expires in 2012.

AVIATION There have often been clashes between government departments over climate policies, particularly the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry now renamed the Department of Enterprise, Business and Regulatory Reform.

Environmental campaigners note the apparent contradiction between the government's pledges to cut carbon emissions and its promotion of the booming aviation industry.

''The government must also ensure that all its policies are consistent with both long-term emissions reductions targets, and long-term climate change impacts,'' Yeo said.

''It would be disastrous if bad planning policy meant that today's new developments become tomorrow's climate slums.'' The committee praised the government's draft Climate Change Bill which sets a target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 and around half that by 2025, saying it indicated its heart was in the right place.

Environmentalists and the committee itself have urged the government to raise the target to 80 percent -- a step which to date the government has dismissed, as it has calls for annual targets on the way to the final goal.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn will later today spell out the government's intentions for the full Climate Change Bill which is expected to be announced on November 6 and published the same month before becoming law in mid-2008.

Reuters SYU DB0859

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