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Benn: Waste rethink needed to help tackle climate change

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has said changing the way we think about waste will help to 'decarbonise' energy.

Benn was speaking in Parliament after the new study published by the Government called Adapting to climate change: UK climate projections (18 June) was launched. The study looks at how the UK is likely to be affected by climate change over the next 70 years.

Labour Party MP for Southampton, Test, Alan Whitehead, asked Benn (18 June) whether his department will commit to using waste as a recovered resource and a vehicle for decarbonising energy, through heat gain from biogas?

In response, Benn said: I agree with my hon. Friend about the need to decarbonise and to change the way we think about waste. Let us take a practical example: aluminium cans. Why would we want to chuck them away into landfill? We know that if you recycle them, we can get £550 a tonne for them. It takes about 90 per cent less energy to produce another can, as opposed to making one out of virgin material. That is a practical example of why it makes sense to think about waste in a different way. If we are talking about the right policies, the landfill levy has been very effective in moving us from eight per cent of domestic household waste recycled 12 or so years ago to just over 36 per cent, which is what we have now reached, although we need to go a lot further.

The Met Office was asked by the Government to use the latest climate science to predict the probability of changes in temperature, rainfall, sea-level, humidity, cloud, and radiation, for the study.

In the medium emissions scenario, which the world is currently closest to, the study predicts that the UK will face temperature rises of between 2°C and 6°C; summer rainfall reductions of 22 per cent and winter rainfall increases of 16 per cent.

Benn said: There is no doubt about it climate change is the biggest challenge facing the world today. Climate change  is already happening the hottest ten years on record globally have all been since 1990. This landmark scientific evidence shows not only that we need to tackle the causes of climate change but also that we deal with the consequences.

The projections will allow us to make sure we have a resilient infrastructure to cope whether its the design of school buildings or protection of new power plants, maintaining the supply of drinking water, adjusting ways of farming for drier summers or understanding how our homes and businesses will have to adapt.



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