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Climate Bill expected in Queen's speech


Environmental and business groups in the United Kingdom will be watching the Queen's Speech on Wednesday very carefully to see whether the government is really prepared to follow through its recent verbal promises to tackle climate change with concrete and vigorous action.

The Queen's Speech is used by U.K. governments to give details of legislative plans for the following parliamentary period.

Following the publication of the so-called Stern Review into climate change and what needs to be done two weeks ago, the climate change and carbon emissions debate has dominated the headlines in the United Kingdom.

The U.K. government and Prime Minster Tony Blair in particularly have been making loud noises over the last few weeks about the need for more urgent action to tackle the causes of climate change before it is too late.

Environmental lobby groups are delighted with the apparent rise in acceptance among policymakers about the realities and seriousness of climate change.

But many environmental campaigners remain cautious and want to see real evidence of commitment from government's and in particular tougher targets for carbon emissions.

Friends of the Earth said Monday that it is pleased that the U.K. government will announce some form of climate bill on Wednesday but wants to see further clear targets for emissions reductions that will be binding on future governments.

Friends of the Earth Director, Tony Juniper said: "We are delighted that the Government is set to introduce new legislation to tackle climate change. There is now overwhelming cross-party support for new legislation to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions by at least three per cent every year, which Friends of the Earth has been calling for through The Big Ask campaign for the last 18 months. We hope that Ministers will seize the opportunity presented by this political consensus and make the UK a world leader in developing a low carbon economy."

The U.K. generally has a better record than most European governments on the reduction of carbon emissions if judged by the Kyoto standards that were adopted by the European Commission.

But groups like Friends of the Earth remain wary and refuse to let up the pressure because they say that despite three manifesto promises to cut UK carbon dioxide emissions by 20% (from 1990 levels) by 2010, UK emissions are higher than they were in 1997 when the Labour party came to power.

Earlier this year the Government conceded that this target would not be met, and revised its target to a 15-18% cut in carbon dioxide.

"The aim of climate change legislation must be to ensure the UK does its bit to stop global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius. Past manifesto promises have not been kept. A new law would make successive governments legally accountable for cutting emissions," added Friends of the Earth.