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George Osborne Backs Down On Unilateral Carbon Targets

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Jim Pickard, Financial Times

George Osborne has been forced to back down from an attempt to weaken measures to tackle global warming, the Financial Times has learnt.

The Tory chancellor had sought changes to Britain’s “fourth carbon budget”, which sets a limit on greenhouse gas emissions through the 2020s, after claims it would make British businesses less competitive than EU rivals.

But on Tuesday the coalition will announce there will be no change to the targets, which were agreed three years ago after a bitter fight between the Tories and their Liberal Democrat governing partners.

The budget effectively commits the UK to a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gases, compared with 1990 levels, by 2025.

The announcement will form part of an energy “package” agreed by both sides of the coalition, which will incorporate an agreement on fracking and on fuel poverty.

The news on the carbon budget will delight green campaigners but will prompt disappointment from manufacturing groups such as the Engineering Employers Federation.

The question of carbon budgets has been the focal point for a war of attrition between Mr Osborne and Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary.

Mr Osborne wanted to alter the target because he feared it could make it harder to achieve his plans for up to 40 new gas-fired power stations to come on stream over the next 15 years. He had argued Britain should not be “further ahead of our partners in Europe” when it came to green energy.

But Mr Davey had sought to keep the carbon budget – introduced by his predecessor Chris Huhne – untouched. He had been supported by the Committee on Climate Change, the statutory group set up to advise the government under the 2008 Climate Change Act. 

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