Britain will fail to meet even the minimum target for reduced carbon emissions by 2020 if it does not introduce tougher green policies, a conference in Cambridge will hear today.

Britain will fail to meet even the minimum target for reduced carbon emissions by 2020 if it does not introduce tougher green policies, a conference in Cambridge will hear today.

Delegates at a climate change conference organised by the University of Cambridge will be told that meeting the target will require particularly strong action to curb household energy use and the emissions created by cars and planes.

Professor Paul Ekins, head of the Environment Group at the Policy Studies Institute, will warn that without tighter measures, Britain stands little chance of meeting the 20% reduction in carbon emissions set by the European Union. On current trends, the country's chances of achieving a 60% reduction by 2050 - a target set by the Government's 2003 Energy White Paper and broadly endorsed by Sir Nicholas Stern in his climate change review last year - are negligible.

Professor Ekins will be discussing the way forward for climate policy following the Stern Review. He will join fellow experts from fields including economics, environmental policy, architecture and the arts in a series of presentations and discussions on how to confront climate change.

"With its current policies, the UK is unlikely to meet even the minimum EU target of reduction of carbon emissions by 2020," he said. "We will miss the 20% reduction target by 2010 by quite a long margin and most current projections suggest emissions will actually rise thereafter.

"What we need to ask as a society is are we serious about reducing carbon emissions by 60% or more by the middle of this century to make a contribution to climate stabilisation? If so, that will involve some major changes in policy because at the moment we simply do not have sufficiently strong measures in place."

Such changes could include the "beefing up" of the Government's Energy Efficiency Commitment scheme well beyond existing Government plans for 2008-2011, to ensure that all UK homes reach high standards of energy efficiency by 2020.

He will also warn that any hopes of meeting carbon emissions targets are being thwarted by limited restrictions on car use and aviation. Possible solutions could include the reintroduction of above inflation increases on the cost of fuel, the charging of drivers for road use, the introduction of congestion charging beyond London, restrictions on airport expansion and emission charges for aircraft across Europe.

The day long conference is being hosted by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), which is part of the University of Cambridge. It will aim to identify the potential costs of climate change, how its effects can be mitigated or reversed and what can be done to heighten public awareness.

The event will also address the quickening Polar crisis. New information about the condition of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, their current and future contribution to rising sea levels, and the experiences of the native Inuit peoples, who are witnessing the change first hand, will be presented.

A further panel will consider the cost of any response to climate change, focusing on the economics of the Stern Review and the critiques of the report that have emerged since. There will also be a series of presentations under the heading "Catastrophe or Strategy", which will look into possible business and technological solutions and explore how society needs to change its attitude to the environment in order to combat climate change.

CRASSH Director Mary Jacobus said: "This conference is timely given that earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that humans are almost certainly the chief cause of the problem. By bringing together experts from a wide range of fields, from meteorology to the arts, we hope to have a lively debate about how this trend can be reversed and overcome."

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