British Glass, the trade association for glass manufacturers and recyclers, addressed the Associate Parliamentary Manufacturing Industry Group on Tuesday, the same day that Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would use Britain's presidency of the G8 nations to push climate change up the global agenda.
As part of the global Kyoto Protocol agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions, the European Union is introducing an emissions trading scheme in January 2005. Carbon dioxide is seen to be a major cause of the enhanced greenhouse effect, which has been blamed for global climate change. Later this year, industry sectors in the UK are to be allocated limits on the amount of carbon dioxide they can generate in their activities, limits that will be tradable.
British Glass welcomed the UK government's decision to "lead the world" on emissions by pushing for a 20% reduction in emissions by 2010 surpassing the 12.5% reduction needed by the EU to meet the demands of Kyoto. In the long term the government has said it is committed to reducing emissions by 60% before 2050.
But director general David Workman said that the decision by the UK to do more than the EU target - and the expected decision that the UK's allocation of emissions limits for the glass industry will be tougher than in other European countries - will have a "major negative impact on the UK glass manufacturing industry".
Mr Workman said: "In its current form this legislation will have a major negative impact on the UK glass manufacturing industry, reducing competitiveness and ultimately driving investment and jobs abroad," he said.
"Tragically it will do this for no environmental gain. Manufacturing will simply move to countries with less onerous emissions controls and products will be transported ever greater distances."
The UK has already reduced its overall emissions by about 14% on 1990 levels. Partly through of the use of more recycled glass in the container manufacturing process, the glass sector has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 50% in the last 25 years while still increasing production "massively".
The glass industry recycled about 861,948 tonnes of glass packaging waste in 2003, which should rise to over 1.4 million tonnes by 2008. But British Glass argues that with the threat to long-term investment because of competition from abroad, increasing the amount of recycling that needs to be carried out could prove difficult.
In order to counter this competition from abroad, Mr Workman said it was "vital" for the UK to continue to put pressure on all EU countries to make efforts to meet their Kyoto obligations and to persuade those nations currently outside the agreement, like the USA, Russia and China, to sign up.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said in his address to the Prince of Wales Environment and Business Programme on Tuesday that "the UK has already shown that it can have a strongly growing economy while addressing environmental issues". He said: "Between 1990 and 2002 the UK economy grew by 36%, while greenhouse gas emissions fell by around 15%."
He said during the UK's EU Presidency he would argue for other sectors such as the aviation industry to be brought into the emissions trading scheme. And, he said that together with Africa, climate change would be the top priority for the UK's presidency of the G8 nations.
Mr Blair said: "While the eight G8 countries account for around 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is vital that we also engage with other countries with growing energy needs - like China and India; both on how they can meet those needs sustainably and adapt to the adverse impacts we are already locked into."