Brown hints at tougher carbon targets

Environmental groups have welcomed the clearest signal to date that Gordon Brown is prepared to strengthen the carbon emission reduction targets included in the upcoming climate change bill.

Speaking at the Labour Conference in Manchester, Brown reiterated his desire for the recently formed Climate Change Committee to examine the feasibility of an 80 per cent cut in emissions rather than the previously proposed 60 per cent cut by 2050.

"I am asking the climate change committee to report by October on the case for, by 2050 not a 60 per cent reduction in our carbon emissions, but an 80 per cent cut - and I want British companies and British workers to seize the opportunity and lead the world in the transformation to a low-carbon economy," he said.

Brown again highlighted the need to challenge the "dicatatorship of oil" and argued that the government's plans for new nuclear power stations, an increase in renewables and investment in CCS were essential for improving energy security and cutting emissions.

The comments were welcomed by Stephen Hale, director of business group Green Alliance, but he added that the rhetoric must now be matched with policy.

"Gordon Brown was right to rail against the dictatorship of oil," he said. " Now he must back those words with energy and transport policies that will overthrow it and put us on track for a prosperous low-carbon economy."

The Climate Change Committee - set up as part of the Climate Change Bill to assess which cuts the UK is capable of achieving - was previously to report by the end of the year on the feasibility of an 80 per cent cut, but will now report by next month.

Brown's speech came on the same day as a poll by research firm Opinium showed that while many people think the government needs to do more to tackle climate change, they are reluctant to pay for low-carbon measures themselves.

The poll of 2,000 people found that 70 per cent were unwilling to pay higher taxes to tackle climate change, but nearly two thirds thought government measures to boost energy conservation needed to go much further.

The poll also indicated dissatisfaction with the government's recent decision not to impose a windfall tax on energy companies, with 78 per cent of people claiming that energy companies' profits are unfair.

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