LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain's Queen Elizabeth II opened the country's parliament Tuesday in a traditional ceremony. The event culminated in a speech in which she outlined the government's legislative program for the next 12 months.
The occasion is considered the UK's most important constitutional event of the year and is steeped in history, tradition, and regalia.
Amid pomp and ceremony, the queen was escorted by members of the Household Cavalry riding white horses and wearing their distinctive gold-colored helmets with tall red plumes.
The speech is actually written by the government and approved by the cabinet, symbolizing the right of lawmakers to debate without interference from the monarch. As a result, the queen "confirms" key bills and measures, rather than announcing them.
There were few surprises in this year's speech, since Prime Minister Gordon Brown already laid out his legislative agenda after he took office in June.
Tackling climate change was a key part of the agenda. The government plans to require a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 percent by 2050, with "real progress" by 2020. It also wants to introduce a new system of five-year carbon budgets and the creation of a climate change advisory committee.
"My government is committed to protecting the environment and to tackling climate change, both at home and abroad," the queen said. "A bill will be brought forward to make the United Kingdom the first country in the world to introduce a legally binding framework to reduce carbon dioxide emissions."
To help battle traffic congestion, which the government predicts will rise by 22 percent over the next eight years, local planners will have more freedom and flexibility to design public transportation networks which suit their individual needs.
As part of tougher measures against terrorist suspects, the government wants to strengthen the monitoring of terrorists after their release from prison and enable police to question suspects after they've been charged.
And while the agenda says only that the government is "considering options" for pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects, it has been widely reported that the government is debating an increase from the current limit of 28 days to as long as 56 days.
Iran's nuclear program dominated the list of international concerns.
"My government will continue to work with the United Nations, G8 and European Union to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including addressing international concerns over Iran's nuclear intentions," the queen said.
The monarch confirmed the government's desire to work with the Iraqi government on reconciliation and reconstruction, continued support for the Afghan government against extremism and the narcotics trade, and Britain's "strong commitment" to achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Tuesday's speech continued an annual tradition that the queen has missed only twice in her reign -- in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant.
After the event, the queen departed the chamber with her husband, Prince Philip, leaving lawmakers to debate the agenda. E-mail to a friend
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