Gordon Brown announced he was backing the campaign to eliminate wasteful plastic bags in a wide-ranging speech setting ambitious climate-change targets for Britain.
The Prime Minister said he was calling a forum of supermarkets, the British Retail Consortium and other groups urgently to assess how they could end the use of disposable bags.
Speaking two weeks before the Bali conference on climate change, which he said would start two years of hard bargaining over cuts in carbon, Mr Brown warned that rich countries, including the US and Britain, may have to increase their targets for cuts in emissions to 80 per cent.
Mr Brown surprised eco-campaigners by announcing that the targets could mean Britain would have to supply 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources such as wind and wave power by 2020. There has been scepticism among Greenpeace leaders that these will not be met unless a dramatic investment in renewables is made.
Mr Brown said Britain would plan for more wind farms, and wave and tidal schemes pending the expected go-ahead for more nuclear power stations in the new year.
The Prime Minister told a conference held by the WWF charity in London that he was asking a new independent UK climate- change committee whether Britain should increase its statutory commitment to reduce carbon emissions from 60 per cent to 80 per cent, and to include aviation emissions for the first time.
The Climate Change Bill before Parliament will set a target to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050. But Mr Brown warned that Britain and other governments, including the Bush administration, may have to go further. He said they needed to match the urgency highlighted by the International Energy Agency that "business as usual" would lead to increases in carbon emissions of 60 per cent. "Developed countries may have to reduce their emissions by up to 80 per cent. …