Tuesday, March 20, 2007

British say reducing emissions aids growth

Portland Press Herald
March 14, 2007

AUGUSTA - The governor and members of the Legislature hosted a friendly British invasion Tuesday as four members of Parliament arrived to support Maine's plans for a European-style carbon-trading system.

The four MPs, members of all three major parties, urged lawmakers here to move forward with a plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions and slow global warming. Such action in the United Kingdom has made Britain a leader in renewable-energy development and helped, not hurt, its economy, they said.

"We have managed to both cut emissions and have dramatic economic growth," said Lord Robin Corbett of Castle Vale, a member of the House of Lords from the Labour Party.

From 1990 to 1999, Corbett said, emissions declined 13 percent and the economy grew 49 percent.

The British government proposed legislation Tuesday that would set legally binding, long-term limits on carbon emissions and make it the first industrialized country to spell out such long-range goals. Maine's Legislature is preparing to implement the first carbon-trading market in the United States.

Maine is one of 10 Northeast states that are committed to capping on carbon-dioxide emissions from large power plants and then allowing the plants to buy and trade pollution credits. The market-based system creates financial incentives for the plants to reduce their own emissions over time. It is similar to a trading system that's in place in Europe, and some see it as a model for a national system here.

The British lawmakers said the public and each of the major political parties -- Labour, Conservative and Social Democrats -- strongly support efforts to slow global warming and shift to cleaner energy sources. But it was an incremental change and began with modest steps such as encouraging improved home insulation and efficient light bulbs, they said.

"The whole key to this is taking public opinion along with you," said the Honorable Greg Knight, a member of the House of Commons from East Yorkshire and a Conservative. "There is still a lot of debate going on, but the debate is not about the direction, it's about the means" to move there.

The United Kingdom became a leader in wind-energy development and is investing in tidal-energy technology, both of which are considered opportunities for Maine.

The United Kingdom, like the United States, has large coal reserves. But it has chosen to leave the coal in the ground until it can be used without harming the environment, Knight said.

The British spent most of Tuesday in Augusta. They also are visiting Massachusetts during their brief trip. They wanted to come to Maine because the state is considered a leader on the issue in this country and they wanted to offer support and share ideas.

The MPs were careful not to give too much specific advice about how to implement the system in Maine, saying that it needs to be homegrown and that even the European scheme is still an experiment.
"It's a suck-it-and-see thing," said Lord Colbert, using a British expression that means trying out something new -- like a candy -- and hoping for the best.

"Our knowledge is still developing," Knight said.
They emphasized, however, that concerns about hurting the economy should not get in the way.

In fact, the United Kingdom now has a thriving environmental industry with some 400,000 employees, said the Honorable Greg Mulholland, a member of the House of Commons and a Liberal Democrat from Leeds.

"There are economic and business opportunities around this whole issue," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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