One thing that New Labour governments here have been really good at is setting targets for everything. At one point, I seem to remember, the government even set a target for the maximal number of suicides that was going to be allowed to happen in a certain time frame (or was that in a dream?).
So the whole business of setting carbon reduction targets for timepoints well beyond the next elections really suits them, especially if they don't have to take any actual measures to start moving towards the targets.
This was the philosophy underlying the Climate Change Act 2008, which Gordon Brown has recently held up as a shining example to other nations. Now the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in the UK has picked the Act apart and checked whether the UK can actually meet the targets specified in the Act, based on performance so far, manufacturing capacity, engineering and servicing workforce available, etc.
Obviously, the engineers have their own hidden agenda, namely the grudge that the manufacturing has moved away from the UK, so engineers are now no longer in demand here, so this is an opportunity to say "told you so", and "that's what you get when you train people to become accountants rather than engineers".
But still, the bottom line is that the government hasn't done much to actually meet the targets contained in the 2008 Act, and there is little chance it could meet the targets even if it started doing things now (and in fact, stopped expanding airports now).
Read my news feature in today's issue of Current Biology:
‘Failing’ claims on climate targets
Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 23, R1054-R1055, 15 December 2009
Summary and restricted access to PDF file