In a year when the Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to climate change campaigner Al Gore and to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change appears to be rising up the policy agenda. Climate change is a complex and contested issue, both in terms of the scientific understanding of the problem and the range of policy solutions available. As with many environmental problems, the human activities associated with climate change produce relatively invisible outputs; for example, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from a car are not visible and produce no smell. Emissions are also transboundary in nature – there are high levels of inequality between those who feel the benefits associated with CO2-emitting activities (such as energy and transport use) and those who feel the effects of climate change, such as those living in low-lying countries with limited capacity to protect against rising sea levels. As a result, UK policy on climate change occurs at a range of policy levels, and falls under the remit of a number of governmental departments.
This chapter outlines some of the key international, European and domestic climate change targets before discussing the developments in 2006–07, focusing on recent policy changes. The most notable areas of policy development are the 2006 Climate Change Programme, which sets out the overall governmental climate change strategy, and contains core elements such as the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS); the 2007 Climate Change Bill; and the 2007 Energy White Paper Meeting the Energy Challenge (DTI, 2007). An assessment of key policy direction is offered, and the chapter concludes by assessing current UK progress, questioning whether the recent policy proposals do enough to address climate change.
However, prior to this we first discuss the nature of climate change as a policy problem, and the G8 summit and Stern Review that have in many respects precipitated the current policy climate.
Climate change as a policy problem
It is not the purpose of this chapter to enter into a debate about the scientific case for anthropogenic climate change, nor to explore in depth scientific arguments about carrying capacity and acceptable limits to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, it is important to understand the nature of climate change as a policy problem, and the science–policy relationship, and this section briefly considers these issues.