CPA and RIBA welcome bill that would bind government to 60% emissions cuts by 2050

Industry bodies have welcomed the draft Climate Change Bill, which will enshrine the government’s environmental commitments in law.

The bill legally binds the government to a 60% reduction in UK carbon emissions by 2050. It also sets up an independent climate change committee to ensure the targets are met.

David Miliband, the environment secretary (pictured), launched the bill on Tuesday. He said it would give businesses “long-term certainty” over their obligations.

The RIBA and the Construction Products Association (CPA) were among the groups who welcomed the bill. A RIBA spokesperson said: “It shows that the government is determined to produce a long-term framework for tackling climate change. The built environment is responsible for about 50% of carbon emissions in the UK so architects have a significant role to play.”

John Tebbit, the CPA’s industry affairs director, said the long-term plan would allow the industry to combat climate change, but called for the bill to be followed by measures to ensure the improved energy efficiency of the existing housing stock in chancellor Gordon Brown’s Budget next week.

“If there’s a 1% improvement on the 24 million existing houses, that will have a greater environmental effect than zero-carbon new homes,” he said.

If passed, the bill will be the first time a government has put carbon reduction into law. If it fails to meet its reductions, it could end up in court. It intends to achieve the 60% target through five-year “carbon budgets”. The bill proposes setting them up in groups of three, with the first being the 15 years from 2008 to 2022.

Miliband said: “Businesses have asked us for years to tell them what the playing field is. Fifteen years of budgeting will give them that.”

David Strong, BRE’s environment managing director, said the economic implications of the bill were positive. He said: “Buildings can deliver the government target without being burdensome on the economy.”

Richard Lambert, the director general of the CBI, said: “This bill is a step forward in combining long-term clarity on policy and flexibility in delivery. We hope the committee will seek the views of businesses.”

The government has launched a consultation on the proposed bill, scheduled to receive royal assent in spring 2008. Comments are welcome until 12 June.

The role of the independent committee

The committee on climate change will be a non-governmental body of between five and eight people advising the government on how to reduce emissions. Committee members will be appointed by the environment secretary on the basis of their knowledge of science, business and climate change policy. Every year it will provide an independent progress report to which the government must respond.

It will advise on all government schemes to lower carbon emissions, including the communities department’s zero-carbon homes proposals.