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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trident and climate change - have DECC asked about Trident's carbon budget

Dear Mr Lister,

Thank you for your email to my colleague Hadiza Kasimu, in response to her correspondence to you (reference TO2011/23141) about nuclear disarmament and climate change agreements.

I appreciate your concerns at the Durban outcomes but must emphasise that while Durban may not immediately place the world on the path to limiting climate change to our two degrees objective, it does make this path possible in a way it was not before. Durban acknowledged the gap between countries; existing mitigation pledges and the global 2 degree goal. It also agreed to a work programme to look at options for addressing this gap, with a view to increasing global ambition.

Aviation is an area where we are committed to press ahead despite the lack of international action and where the EU is standing firm. But a lot is already being done in Europe to lead the way and re-energise the debate. In January 2012 the EU has successfully included in the EU emissions trading system all emissions from incoming and departing flights into the EU territory. We are determined to make this work and the UK and EU are engaging with governments and industry around the world to make this happen.

Whilst we agree that there is still work to be done, it is not fair to say that countries will only start to reduce their emissions in 2020. Countries accounting for around 80% of global emissions have already pledged mitigation commitments or actions to 2020, and research by GLOBE International has found that every major economy has now enacted climate or energy related legislation. It is particularly encouraging that the large developing countries of Brazil, China, India, and South Africa – who together are likely to represent the engine of future global economic growth – are developing comprehensive laws to tackle climate change.

I note your comments on Trident and nuclear strategy. However, I can only reiterate the points made by my colleague Hadiza Kasimu about the Government’s position on this issue. That is, the Government believes that we need to take action to safeguard our national security at home and abroad. Clearly, the renewal of a nuclear deterrent based on the Trident missile system is not a decision to be taken lightly. However, the Government’s view is that this is not the right time for the UK to give up its nuclear deterrent. In many respects, we face a more dangerous situation now than we have for several decades. There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism.

So, while committed to the long-term goal of nuclear disarmament, we believe we can best protect ourselves against these threats by the continued operation of a minimum, credible nuclear deterrent.

Accordingly, this Government has committed to maintain the deterrent and to continue with the programme to renew it as debated and approved by Parliament in 2007. Whether or not you agree with it, Parliament has taken a conscious and well informed decision and we are not sliding towards Trident’s replacement.

We are not in a position to answer the specific questions you ask about nuclear strategy. We can only outline the Government’s position as above and anything more specific on strategy is a matter for the Ministry of Defense.

I hope you find this response helpful.

Yours sincerely,
Bill LacyPreview
DECC Correspondence Unit
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