Headlines: April 2nd, 2008

A Government planned carbon trading scheme will be undermined unless local councils are given clarity soon about what they will be expected to do. The warning has come from the Local Government Information Unit following the publication of DEFRA’s latest report on the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), due to be launched in 2010.

The proposal would see a mandatory “cap-and-trade” scheme for the public and private sectors with local authorities being included in the scheme, depending on their electricity consumption. It is based on the idea of putting a price on carbon to create an incentive for organisations to reduce their emissions.

The LGiU believes some vital details of the scheme remain to be sorted out. For example, it says, the Government is still considering whether schools should be included in a local authority’s CRC portfolio. The CRC would cover around 5,000 public and private organisations but, says the LGiU, there has been no confirmation yet of which they will be.

Gemma Roberts, a policy analyst at its Centre for Local Sustainability, said the Unit supported CRC but it was frustrating that the latest report had not provided councils with more information. “Overall the CRC is a good idea but uncertainty about the details of the scheme will lead to perverse decisions in the short term as it may mean that councils won’t start reducing their carbon now,” she said.

The new report did give come important details but most local authorities were still uncertain about whether they would be included, because no final decision had been taken about schools. “Detailed consultations are welcome, but they need to be balanced with timely decision making. Local authorities will need to start planning their 2009-10 budgets this autumn and need to know what to set aside for CRC,” Ms Roberts said.

The LGiU’s own voluntary carbon trading scheme, which will be open to all councils as a way of preparing for CRC, will be launched at the House of Commons later this month.