25th July, 1990.
Dear Mr Date,
Thank you for your letter concerning climate change and the greenhouse effect. I am sorry it has taken so long to send you a reply.
We take the potential threat of climate change very seriously. As a global problem, we must look for a global solution, and the primary focus for international effort is the United Nations sponsored Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We have been making a substantial contribution to the work of the IPCC, in particular providing the Chairman and Secretariat of its working group on the science of climate change which published its Report this may.
The Report shows that global warming is a very real threat. In response to this the Prime Minister announced on 25 May that, provided other countries are willing to play their part, we are prepared to stabilise our emissions of carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas) at current levels by the year 2005. This would mean a reduction of up to 30% in presently projected levels of emissions and is in line with the IPCC's illustrative abatement scenarios. The IPCC also looked at how present global emissions of greenhouse gases would need to be reduced in order to stabilise present atmospheric concentrations. However they did not envisage this reduction in emissions taking place, were it to prove necessary, until the end of the next century.
The full report of the IPCC, covering the science of climate change, its possible impacts and possible responses, will be published later this year. It will be considered at the Second World Climate Conference in November 1990 when Ministers from around the world will meet to consider the findings of the IPCC and to decide on international action to tackle climate change. We have also been in the lead in pressing the case for an international Convention on Climate Change. We hope that negotiations for the Convention can begin as soon as possible after the Second World Climate Conference.
We are already taking many practical steps which make sense in their own right and which also contribute to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases. For example, the Energy Efficiency Office's very successful programmes to help promote energy efficiency, the support given to research and development into renewable energy sources, and the support we give to projects to help conserve the tropical forests. This programme now covers some 115 projects in over 30 countries and the Prime Minister announced last November that we expect to commit and additional £100 million to such projects. In the United Kingdom the Ministry of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food is supporting the Farm Woodland Scheme which aims to plant 36,000 hectares of trees over the next three year. You may be interested in the enclosed copy of our booklet 'Global Climate Change' which gives more information about climate change and the initiatives on it which are being taken by the United Kingdom and our international partners.
We will be setting out possible measures to meet our targets for CO emissions in our White Paper on the Environment to be published in the Autumn. The White Paper will also give details of the steps the Government will be taking to deal with many other environmental issues including those connected with energy, transport and agricultural practices.