Bowing to pressure from opposition parties and environmental campaigners, the British government will table a new long-term climate change bill for inclusion in next month's Queen's speech.
Despite the new initiative, green campaigners remain critical as the new bill is not expected to include the legally binding reduction targets they have been pushing for. Instead of the mandatory annual decreases in greenhouse gases of 3% that are being called for, the bill is expected to set specific targets for each decade - a move consistent with other European Union targets.
Ideally, there is probably a happy middle ground to be found. Legally binding annual cuts in greenhouse gases are undesirable for the same reason balanced budget legislation is a poor fiscal policy. They unduly restrict the responsiveness of governments to unforeseen needs and emergencies. Unexpected events do and will occur and can often push a nation into debt for a given year, whether that debt is measured in dollars or carbon dioxide makes little difference. The point is to remain financially, and environmentally sustainable over time.
As long as we remain in free market society, the market will require a certain degree of flexibility and room to work within. Unanticipated booms in the economy will occur, resulting in short-term increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Government's role is to ensure that on an overall level emission targets are achieved and any increases are promptly addressed exist only in the short-term.
Binding targets within a two to three year time frame would allow a more realistic amount of room for market fluctuations, while giving the government in power an incentive to hit mandated targets - by keeping those target deadlines within the four to five year election cycle.