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Energy secretary Ed Milliband says 2009 is crunch year for climate change

Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said 2008 was an historic year for confronting the twin challenges of developing a low-carbon economy and combating climate change, thanks to the agreement on European energy and emission targets, the passing of the world-first Climate Change Act, and strong growth in the UK renewable industry.

But he said 2009 will be crucial when it comes to meaningful action on climate change.

"We have seen significant progress during 2008 in our goals of developing secure, affordable and clean energy, and tackling the threat of global warming," said Milliband on Saturday.

"In 2009, the world will meet again to agree a new international deal on climate change, while in the UK we will be laying out the groundwork for long-term energy efficiency improvements and carbon reduction measures.

"However 2009 will be a crucial year when it comes to negotiating a meaningful, binding climate change deal in Copenhagen. There is still much to be done, but I'm confident we can achieve a global deal."

Milliband also set out his "top ten" achievements for the new Department for Energy and Climate Change this year:

1. Climate Change Act

The UK became the first country in the world to introduce a legally-binding framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Our target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050 will be met through carbon budgets, the first of which will be set out by June next year. The passing of the Bill also saw the creation of the Climate Change Committee, an independent expert body which advises the government on setting carbon budgets and making carbon savings.

2. Energy and Planning Acts

Together these two Acts will help reduce carbon emissions, remove barriers to industry to invest in important new infrastructure, and offer incentives to householders and communities to use energy more efficiently and generate low-carbon heat and energy.

3. A European deal for 2020

The UK Government played a leading role in European negotiations towards a 2020 package, agreed in December. The agreement will see Europe cut emissions by 20%, increase energy efficiency by 20%, and source 20% of its energy from renewables - all by 2020. The EU's Emission Trading Scheme was strengthened with a tighter cap and greater levels of auctioning, putting a premium on low carbon technologies, while EU leaders agreed to use 300 million trading allowances to part-fund up to 12 Carbon Capture and Storage Demonstration plants.

4. World's first auction of carbon allowances

2008 saw the beginning of Phase II of the European Emission Trading Scheme. This scheme covers around 50 per cent of all UK emissions and sets a cap on emissions from large industrial comapnies including energy generators, chemical plants and cement manufacturers. Its aim is to help make carbon savings at least cost by allocating carbon allowances for each tonne of carbon. In November the UK strengthened this principle by becoming the first country in the world to sell carbon allowances through auction and providing real cash incentives to installations which cut their emissions.

5. UK becomes world leader in offshore wind power

In October this year the UK overtook Denmark to become the world's number one for wind farms built offshore, following the completion of work at the Lynn and Inner Dowsing wind farms near Skegness. Offshore wind farms now have the potential to power the equivalent of around 300,000 UK homes.

6. Clean, green international energy deals

Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband visited the Gulf states in November, where the UK signed an agreement to help secure our energy supplies, and pump millions of pounds into the green revolution. This includes a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK and Masdar (the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company) to develop renewable and low-carbon energy such as wind, solar and marine, as well as a new £250 million partnership with Qatar to help British companies develop groundbreaking clean green technology.

7. Diversifying the UK gas supply

This year saw the first shipment of Liquefied Natural Gas arrive at the Isle of Grain in a tanker the size of two football pitches, and consent granted for a huge offshore gas storage project where gas can be kept in tardis-like pods. Gas storage and LNG are both important to ensure we maintain secure diverse gas supplies.

8. Smart meters to be rolled out

Households and small businesses will benefit from the decision to go ahead with a full roll-out of smart meters for both electricity and gas meters. This will mean the end of estimated bills for millions of energy customers, giving consumers more information about, and control over, their energy use. Smart meters will also help the UK meet its emissions targets through cutting carbon emissions and making homes and buildings more energy efficient.

9. Helping householders keep warm and bringing down energy bills

Vulnerable and elderly householders will benefit after the government took steps this year to increase funding to fuel poverty programmes. Funding to the Warm Front scheme was increased by a total of £174 million (£74 million in September, and £100 million in November) while a further £50 million in spending was brought forward - giving heating and energy efficiency help to an extra 60,000 householders. The Government also announced a £1 billion programme of energy efficiency measures.

The Government also worked with Ofgem to monitor the cost of energy to consumers and bring an end to unfair pricing differentials, such as higher tariffs for customers on prepayment meters. While some progress has been made, we will continue to press for fair price setting and will legislate if necessary.

10. More people opting to ACT ON CO2 and reduce their carbon footprint.

In June 2007 the Government launched the Act on CO2 Carbon Calculator to help people who wanted to actively engage in cutting their emissions work out their personal carbon footprint. Just one year on, in June 2008, the calculator received its 1 millionth unique visitor. As well as helping people work out their carbon footprint, the calculator also provides an action plan for people to make simple savings in their own lives, such as turning down their thermostat by one degree or using low energy light bulbs.

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