by MONITOR “GLOBAL climate change is the biggest challenge the world faces...That's why we will push for the EU to demonstrate leadership by supporting an increase in the EU emissions reduction target to 30 per cent by 2020” -- the words of Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change minister this week. Mr Huhne is one of the most environmentally-conscious ministers in the Lib-Com coalition -- even to the extent of opposing his department's commitment to nuclear power. His intervention on climate change is timely. The chaos of the Copenhagen climate change conference at the end of last year is fading, a new UN commissioner has taken over the reins and will preside at the next conference in Mexico in December.

A new EU report published this week recommended the 30 per cent target in principle but acknowledged that in present economic conditions it might be difficult to get agreement on an increase from the existing 20 per cent target. Mr Huhne's intervention, implying UK leadership for the increase regardless of present circumstances is the more interesting given that Germany, Italy and most East European EU member states are opposed to the idea of the EU setting an example to the rest of the world. On the whole British business is against the 30 per cent target unless it is widely supported. On the other hand Friends of the Earth think that 40 per cent cuts are necessary if global temperatures are not to rise more than two degrees centigrade.