The British government has signalled that it is planning legislation to tackle climate change, as it acknowledges the formidable political consensus that has emerged in the UK over the need for action.

The new law, likely to introduce controls on carbon dioxide emissions and an independent system to gauge progress in reducing greenhouse gases, was welcomed by opposition parties and environmental groups, though it is not expected to include binding annual targets.

The environment secretary, David Miliband, has said that it “is not whether to legislate, but what form legislation should take and how it could be organised”.

He said: “We are looking carefully at the merits of introducing a carbon budget as a means of helping to deliver our goals. The only issue for the government is whether the legislation would help in the battle against climate change, support the efforts to join individual activity with business and government leadership, and link domestic and international action”.

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