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Testimony to Sustainability

Our testimony to sustainability is newer than others such as the Peace Testimony, and is still developing. The following reproduction of the response to the recent consultation by DEFRA on the draft Climate Change Bill by Gloucestershire Area Quaker Meeting (formerly Gloucester & Nailsworth Monthly Meeting) illustrates something of where we presently stand.

The words of our response are shown in red.

Targets and Budgets
Setting statutory targets
1. Is the Government right to set unilaterally a long-term legal target for reducing CO2 emissions through domestic and international action by 60% by 2050 and a further interim legal target for 2020 of 26-32%?
Yes, in unilaterally setting a target. However we believe a deeper reduction by 2050 will be needed. In the IPCC WG3 report, 50-80% reduction in global GHG emissions are required to limit mean temperature rise to 2-2.4C. The UK needs to go much further than 60% to take account of the latest IPCC findings and to allow for an international convergence as people in poorer countries increase their consumption levels. This could require reductions of the order of 80% by the wealthy industrialised nations. We believe that, with appropriate infrastructure, technology, and economic and social developments, such deeper reductions are possible, and could be achieved along with an improvement in the quality of life.
2. Is the Government right to keep under review the question of moving to a broader system of greenhouse gas targets and budgets, and to maintain the focus at this stage on CO2?
Yes. It is important to focus on CO2 as the main GHG and the one most associated with our present energy-intensive way of life. Separate targets should be considered for other GHGs, to ensure that the overall greenhouse effect reduction is at least as stringent as the target for CO2.
Carbon budgeting
3. Should the UK move to a system of carbon management based upon statutory five-year carbon budgets set in secondary legislation?
Yes, but these should be supplemented by annual non-binding targets against which progress should be reported to Parliament.
4. Do you agree there should be at least three budget periods in statute at any one time?
Reviewing targets and budgets
5. Do you agree there should be a power to review targets through secondary legislation, to ensure there is sufficient flexibility in the system?
There should be a power to review targets to take account of developments in climate science, and to make the UK targets more stringent as international agreements are strengthened. This should not be a let-out clause if, for example, a future government feels that greenhouse gas reductions are too costly.
6. Are there any factors in addition to, or instead of, those already set out that should enable a review of targets and budgets?
Yes, for example, if international agreement is reached, as it should be, on inclusion of international aviation and shipping in emission allocations.
Counting overseas credits towards the budgets and targets
7. Do you agree that, in line with the analysis in the Stern Review and with the operation of the Kyoto Protocol and EU ETS, effort purchased by the UK from other countries should be eligible in contributing towards UK emissions reductions, within the limits set under international law?
Any credit from international emissions trading should be very limited. There should be a clear target for UK direct emissions. Unrestricted Emissions Trading could lead to continued growth in some sectors (e.g. air travel by the wealthy) while constraining the poorest people from meeting basic needs. Any international trading scheme will need to have targets for countries and organisations that are stringent, and the scheme tightly monitored. The first phase of the European ETS showed what poor results occur when the initial targets are too loose. International aviation and shipping must be included. The principle of Contraction and Convergence as proposed by the Global Commons Institute should form the starting point for negotiations in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change for a post-Kyoto agreement.
8. Do you agree it should be permissible to carry over any surplus in the budget? Are there any specific circumstances where you consider this provision should be withdrawn?
Only where over-achieving is due to major non-uniformity in the optimum route to achieving the overall targets.
9. Do you agree that limited borrowing between budget periods should be allowed?
Any borrowing should be very limited, as delays in achieving reductions could accelarate positive feedbacks in climate change. Knowledge that some major new emissions reduction programme or project will be coming on-stream in the next budget perion might allow for some limited borrowing.
Compliance with carbon budgets and targets
10. Is it right that the Government should have a legal duty to stay within the limits of its carbon budgets?
The Committee on Climate Change
The need for an independent analytical organisation
11. Do you agree that establishing an independent body will improve the institutional framework for managing carbon in the economy?
Functions of the Committee on Climate Change
12. Do you agree that the Committee on Climate Change should have an advisory function regarding the pathway to 2050?
13. Do you agree with the proposal that the Committee on Climate Change should have a strongly analytical role?

Factors for the Committee on Climate Change to consider
14. Are these the right factors for the Committee on Climate Change to take into account in assessing the emissions reduction pathway? Do you consider there are further factors that the Committee should take into account?
The Committee should also take account of shifts in public perceptions and culture, and an understanding of people’s behaviour and social change.
Membership and composition
15. Do you agree the Committee on Climate Change should be comprised of technical experts rather than representatives of stakeholder groups?
16. Are these the appropriate areas of expertise which should be considered? Do you consider there are further areas that should be considered or any areas that are less important?
Expertise should also be included on the human dimensions of mitigation, including psychology, culture, ethics and social change.
Enabling powers
Extending the suite of domestic trading schemes
17. Do you agree with the principle of taking enabling powers to introduce new trading schemes?
We agree with establishing the power to set limits on the emissions of particular groups of organisations and individuals. The possibility of introducing individual carbon allowances at some stage should be kept open.
Benefits and structure of enabling powers
18. Do you consider that these powers are sufficient to introduce effective new policies via secondary legislation? If not, what changes would you make?

The need for regular, independent monitoring of the UK’s progress
19. Do you agree that the Committee on Climate Change should be responsible for an independent annual report on the UK’s progress towards its targets which would incorporate reporting on a completed budget period every five years?
Yes. The committee should also report to Parliament on the adequacy of current policies to achieve the targets, and advise it on options for strengthening policies.
20. Is statutory reporting the best way to drive forward progress on adaptation while at the same time ensuring Government is able to develop flexible and appropriate measures reflecting developments in key policy areas?
Statutory reporting is only a first step. It is not clear how this will ensure that sufficient steps are taken unless there is some statutory obligation to implement policies and criteria for determining whether those policies are sufficient.
Other responses or comments
(Please use the following space for any other responses or comments)
We welcome the government’s intention to take a lead in setting targets for the medium and long term for CO2 emissions, with the possibility of including other greenhouse gases. Whilst we have given our responses to the specific questions in the consultation document above, we feel it right to give the background to our concerns in this area. As Quakers, we value and seek to encourage peace, equality, sustainability, truth and simplicity, both in individual lives and in the public sphere. We believe the Climate Change Bill is an opportunity to bring these values to the forefront in the way the UK responds to the crucial issue of climate change.

Continuing climate change and rising sea levels will cause loss of fresh water and productive land, which can exacerbate conflicts particularly in areas like the Middle East, South Asia and parts of Africa which are already subject to tensions. Thus limiting climate change as far as can possibly be done is vital as part of promoting peace and seeking to remove the causes of conflict.

The rich industrialised countries have far larger emissions of greenhouse gases per person than poor developing counties, which are likely to suffer the most from the effects of climate change. In seeking equality and justice, we believe the richer countries should accept the objective of moving towards an equable framework for the quantity of greenhouse gases allocated to different countries. Also, where policies to meet climate change objectives lead to higher energy costs, measures to protect people on low incomes from disproportionate burdens need to be put in place.

We believe all life has a value of its own, and not just in terms of its value to humankind. Protection of the environment and the great diversity of nature must be seen as a driving force in tackling climate change.

These aims of peace, justice and the integrity of creation have been emphasised by the World Council of Churches.

While advances in technology and widespread adoption of existing technologies for energy efficiency and low-carbon energy sources can give significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we believe major changes in the way we live will be needed to meet the very stringent reductions in emissions required by the wealthy countries. In particular, rethinking our use of air and road travel and transport and other energy-intensive activities will be needed. However, we believe that a simpler and less frenetic lifestyle with less rampant consumerism could actually lead to a better quality of life and a greater sense of community.

Truth in giving the most accurate picture to the public of likely climate change and its effects under different scenarios of emission reductions is needed (including where there are still uncertainties), particularly to counter people and organisations that are still trying to discredit the now well-established picture of the range of consequences of climate change. The near certainty that significant climate change is now inevitable, but that catastrophic change can be averted by strong international action is a message that should encourage support for the necessary policies. Public trust in government intentions is needed to help people to accept the changes in lifestyle that will be needed.

We fully support the main thrust of the Climate Change Bill that the UK should set legal limits for CO2 emissions and that there should be the ability to reassess these limits in light of changing scientific knowledge and due to any new international agreements. However, we believe that the recently published reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicating the need for very severe limits on the atmospheric concentration of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, mean that the proposed value of 60% reduction in emissions by 2050 is unlikely to be sufficient. Also, if developing countries are to brought into an international agreement on limiting emissions, countries like the UK which now have relatively high levels of emissions will need to move towards a level reflecting more equable emissions quotas, requiring more stringent cuts - a figure of around 80% for the UK could be needed. The UK should not rely other than in very specific circumstances on international emissions trading to meet its obligations.

We believe the draft Bill does demonstrate a commitment by the UK government to take climate change seriously, which should give the UK a good basis for negotiating an international framework for limiting emissions. In these negotiations, the possibility that people and countries could seek legal redress from organisations and countries which show no willingness to take reasonable actions to limit their greenhouse gas emissions should be emphasised.

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