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Bill shies from annual targets; CLIMATE.

Byline: By Jonathan Walker Political Editor

Tough measures to fight climate change must not be allowed to damage British industry, West Midland employers have warned.

The Engineering Employers' Federation spoke out after the Government unveiled plans for legally-binding reductions in pollution linked to global warming.

But the federation praised Government for deciding against imposing annual targets.

And West Midlands business leaders predicted tackling climate change could create opportunities for innovative firms.

Labour and the Conservatives have made policy announcements designed to portray themselves as the party that cares about the environment.

And yesterday the Government unveiled its Climate Change Bill, including plans to reduce carbon emissions thought to cause global warming by 60 per cent by 2050.

The Bill does not specify exactly how emissions must be reduced, but the targets will be legally binding so future governments could be taken to court if they are missed.

There will be targets for reductions over five years rather than every year, allowing greater flexi-bility for industry and government.

Ministers also promised greater investment in low-carbon fuels and technologies, such as wind, wave and solar power.

The Engineering Employers' Federation welcomed the Bill, but said every "green" proposal should be examined to ensure they did not damage industry.

Ian Smith, Chief Executive of EEF West Midlands, said: "We welcome the draft Climate Change Bill's approach to five-year rolling targets on carbon emissions, overseen by an independent Climate Change Committee.

"However, any measures introduced must pass a rigorous 'Competitiveness Test' applied by the Committee - rigid annual targets would clearly fail such a test."

The federation is the largest employers' association in the West Midlands, representing engineer-ing, manufacturing and technology-based organisations.

David Middleton, Chief Executive of the Business Council for Sustainable Development UK branch, said the Bill could provide new business opportunities.

He said: "If the legislation is right then it could be a stimulant to innovation as well as being what is needed in terms of responding to climate change.

"West Midlands businesses should be, and I think are, well set to capitalise on that, with new products and new services."

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry called on the Chancellor to ensure businesses were encouraged to develop green technology.

BCI head of policy Charlotte Ritchie said: "Most companies would agree that firms should be discouraged from polluting and taxation is an effective way of achieving that. But businesses should also receive encouragement to develop greener working practices in tax breaks or research and development assistance."

The Government must make a firm long-term commitment to using new energy sources if it expected industry to invest in research and development, she said.

"UK businesses have the expertise to develop the best wind turbines and the most effective solar panels.

"But we need the government to outline how renewable energy is going to play an integral part of climate change initiatives."

jonwalker@mrn.co.uk
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 14, 2007
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