Speed limit crackdown to cut emissions
Leak reveals climate change plans
Guardian | November 14, 2005
By David Adam
Ministers are planning to crack down on motorists who speed on motorways in an attempt to meet government targets aimed at reducing Britain's emissions of greenhouse gases.
Officials acknowledge that any move to force the 15 million motorists who currently exceed the 70 mph speed limit to slow down would be "politically sensitive", but they say it would save significant amounts of carbon dioxide pollution. Engine efficiency falls quickly beyond 70 mph.
The proposal is among dozens of new measures outlined in a confidential government review of its policies to tackle climate change, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian. The review was ordered in September 2004 because ministers were struggling to meet their pledge to cut UK emissions of carbon dioxide by 20% by 2010, a commitment restated in this year's election manifesto.
It was drawn up by Elliot Morley, minister for climate change at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and is being discussed by the cabinet committee on energy and the environment, which is expected to publish a revised version early next year.
Marked restricted, the review document says: "The government needs to strengthen its domestic credibility on climate change. The revised programme must therefore set out a comprehensive and ambitious package of policies to deliver the manifesto commitment and achieve our domestic goals. We must not underestimate the scale of the challenge."
Existing policies set out in 2000 to cut carbon dioxide emissions are falling well short, it adds. "We need to do about 75% more in around half the time."
The review lists 58 possible measures to save an extra 11m-14m tons of carbon pollution each year, which it calls the government's "carbon gap". One of the options, a new obligation to mix renewable biofuels into petrol for vehicles, was announced last week. Stricter enforcement of the 70 mph limit, the document says, would save 890,000 tons of carbon a year - more than the biofuels obligation and many other listed measures put together.
Andrew Howard of the AA Motoring Trust said: "They would have to win a lot of hearts and minds to convince the public that this wasn't just a revenue generating exercise. It also raises some big questions about whether speed enforcement for environmental rather than road safety reasons should be an offence for which motorists get points on their licence."
The most effective steps, the review says, are pollution caps imposed on industry under UK and European carbon trading schemes. Other proposals include mechanisms to increase electricity generation from offshore wind turbines and combined heat and power systems, stricter enforcement of building regulations and linking winter fuel payments for pensioners to energy efficiency measures.
It also weighs up what it calls "politically difficult" options, which include road-user charging, changes to speed limits, high-speed rail links and reintroducing double British summertime - where the clocks go forward two hours in spring.
The document concludes: "Even if we implement all the front runner and emerging policy options, we may only just fill the carbon gap." Other measures will be needed, it adds. Controversially, it proposes that carbon allowances and credits from emission trading schemes could count towards the 2010 target, though it concedes this "may raise presentational issues".
A Defra spokesman said a variety of options were being discussed.
Last modified November 15, 2005