It's a heartening move. It's long overdue. And it's not enough.
The British government today revealed its draft climate bill, with 60% cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050--making Britain the first of the heavy hitters to produce a significant plan for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Britain's plan will measure emissions against their 1990 levels--like the essentially defunct Kyoto Protocol--while exceeding Kyoto by seeking an average 5.2% cut among developed-world nations by 2012.
The plan will involve setting five-year targets for emissions reduction, called 'carbon budgets'. These targets should see Britain cut its carbon emissions by between 26% and 32% by 2020--exceeding the 20% cuts agreed by many European nations at a summit last week. The United States has no federally mandated emissions targets, although some individual states have set goals.
Again from Nature.com:
It is not clear exactly how the UK targets will be met, although the government has pledged to invest in energy efficiency, home power-generation schemes, renewable-energy technologies, and increased carbon trading. Miliband stressed that individuals will be able to make a difference: "In the end, this isn't something that governments and businesses can do alone," he said.
The Los Angeles Times reports that new legislation is not as stringent as many political leaders are seeking:
[California] Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has overseen the adoption of similar legislation in California, joined Blair for the launch by satellite link via the ITN network. He said technology and carbon tradeoff partnerships across the globe would allow gains that would not be achievable individually. "This is a huge, huge announcement," Schwarzenegger said of the proposed British legislation.
Yet California's regulation is far more ambitious than the British proposal, calling for an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. Again from the LA Times:
Many environmental groups also have urged annual targets. Friends of the Earth welcomed the proposed law but called for it to be even stronger, with targeted emission cuts of 3% every year, annual progress reports and taxes on international aviation and shipping emissions. "The government's current target--a cut in emissions of 60% by 2050--is no longer considered to be a sufficient contribution by the U.K. or other developed countries," the organization said in a statement.