To try and ensure that the UK plays its part in the world remaining beneath the 2°C limit, the UK parliament passed the Climate Change Act in November 2008. This commits the UK to a legally binding target to cut emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 with an intermediary target of 34% by 2020 to contribute to the overall aim of reducing global emissions by 50% by 2050. In July 2009 the G8 (industrialised) countries adopted the same targets. However, even these difficult-to-hit targets are now considered to be insufficient. More recently the UK’s 2010 Energy Act, and the Energy Bill now before Parliament (July 2013) which will replace it, introduced further measures to reduce emissions. The main stated aims were to increase energy efficiency, secure low carbon energy supplies and improve fair competition in the energy markets.

No one single magic bullet will solve the problem. What is certain is that the industrialised nations must drastically cut their emissions and the non-industrialised ones must seek to develop without relying on fossil fuels for their economic growth. In theory these requirements can be met in only four ways: by reducing per capita wealth; by reducing the size of the population; by reducing energy use and by relying on low carbon energy sources. In practice, in a democracy, no politician is likely to be elected for suggesting either of the first two policy changes but this still leaves the last two. However it is clear that these two policies on their own are unlikely be sufficient without an overall reduction in global wealth (defined as the product of global per capita wealth and global population). All this means that strenuous and sustained action is necessary at every organisational level on the planet to confront the twin problems of climate change and the eventual and essential decline in fossil fuel production.

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