Britain sets out climate bills, deemed conflicting

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LONDON Nov 7 (Reuters) The British government, a major advocate of international climate change action, will bring forward within weeks three climate related pieces of legislation that environmentalists say are contradictory.

The Climate Change Bill, the Planning Reform Bill and the Energy Bill were announced yesterday by Queen Elizabeth in a speech at the state opening of parliament setting out the government's legislative agenda for the coming year.

The Climate Change Bill, already announced a year ago, sets a legal requirement for the country to cut climate warming carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050 and around half that by 2025.

It will make Britain the first country in the world to have such a legal carbon emissions limit.

The Planning Reform Bill, which follows a Treasury report late last year, rips up planning red tape and sets the scene for faster decisions and fewer impediments on major infrastructure projects like roads, runways and power stations.

''We welcome the Climate Change Bill, although it needs a much more ambitious 80 per cent target,'' said Keith Allott, head of climate change at campaign group WWF.

''But at the same time the government is driving a coach and horses through the planning system which it says supports renewables but which also allows much more high carbon developments,'' he told Reuters.

Environmentalists also attacked the Energy Bill as paving the way for a new fleet of nuclear power stations under the guise of energy security and low carbon generation.

''These woeful plans mark him (Prime Minister Gordon Brown) as a sorry shambles when it comes to dealing with energy and climate change,'' said Greenpeace chief John Sauven.

LAW WITHIN MONTHS The Climate Change Bill is expected to be presented to parliament next week with a view to passing it into law within six months, while the Planning Reform Bill is expected later this month with a similar legislative timeframe.

The government says the bills are integral to its domestic and international commitments to tackle the climate crisis that scientists say will boost global temperatures by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius this century causing worldwide havoc.

Environmentalists and many politicians have over the past six months of pre-legislative parliamentary scrutiny of and public consultation on the Climate Bill campaigned for the 80 percent carbon dioxide cut goal and annual targets on the way.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said last week he would ask a climate monitoring committee to be set up by the bill to see if 80 percent was necessary, endorsing Brown's statement to the Labour Party conference in September.

''We're delighted that the UK is set to become the first nation to introduce legislation to cut its contribution to climate change,'' said Friends of the Earth chief Tony Juniper.

''But the Government must strengthen its proposed legislation if it is to be truly effective and deliver the scale of action that scientists are now calling for.'' But, like WWF, Friends of the Earth too attacked the Planning Reform Bill.

''Its proposals will strip away one of the public's key democratic rights to have a say on how their area is developed, easing the way for a whole range of climate-damaging developments,'' said Planning coordinator, Naomi Luhde Thompson.

''These proposals are undemocratic, environmentally-damaging and -- according to recent legal advice -- likely to be unlawful,'' she added.

REUTERS RC ND0926

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