Praise for UK government from UNFCCC chief Figueres

RTCC Exclusive
By Edward King

The head of the United Nations’ efforts to combat climate change has praised Britain’s ‘leadership’ in confronting the issue.

Speaking exclusively to RTCC, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said she admired UK efforts to cut emissions.

Under the previous Labour administration the UK adopted the 2008 Climate Change Act, which set stiff carbon reduction targets.

As a result the UK has a legally binding target of at least an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to be achieved through action in the UK and abroad.

In addition the government has to reduce emissions by 34% by 2020, although the pathways to achieving this aim remain unclear.

“If there is a government that is responding to pressure from the public and being very avant-garde about its engagement with climate it is precisely the UK,” Figueres told RTCC.

“We have been very appreciative and quite admiring of the leadership displayed by the UK government as with many other European governments, as with China, as with most countries around the world, the United States being a sad exception to that rule”.

Despite promising to be the ‘Greenest Government Ever’, the current UK Coalition government has faced severe criticism over its perceived lack of support for low-carbon energy, highlighted by a recent decision to cut Feed In Tarriffs for solar energy.

And as the global recession continues to bite, Figueres warned that ambitions need to be raised ahead of this year’s Conference of the Parties in Durban, which is expected to be dominated by negotiations over the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

Efforts to extend the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, have hit stiff resistance from a number of states.

Australia and Norway have called for any new treaty to be delayed until 2015, while lead US negotiator Todd Stern says they will only sign a binding deal if all the major emitters of greenhouse gases agree to similar targets.

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