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Huhne Threatens Families With Even Tougher Green Energy Targets

Britain pledged yesterday to sign up to some of the toughest green targets as critics claimed that even a massive expansion of renewable energy would not be enough to keep the country’s lights on.

Under a climate deal announced in South Africa after days of negotiations, world leaders agreed a ‘road map’ for all major countries to introduce legally-binding targets to tackle global warming for the first time.

But the world’s biggest polluters – including the U.S., China and India – will only have to start cutting their greenhouse gases ‘from 2020’ and it is unclear how stringent the targets will be.

In return the EU has agreed to negotiate even more ambitious curbs on emissions, which could see green taxes on energy bills rise to fund a new wave of wind farms and solar panels. Currently they cost £90 per household a year in the UK.

The Government will thrash out the details of a second period of the Kyoto Protocol next year, but it is likely the current target of reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 will rise to 30 per cent.

Officials said yesterday that if agreed, Britain’s share would be a 42 per cent reduction on 1990 levels in only eight years, to replace the current target of 34 per cent.

It will require ramping up existing green measures which already include plans to build up to 32,000 wind turbines onshore and offshore.

At the UN climate talks in Durban, Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, hailed the deal as a ‘significant step forward’ in the fight to keep temperatures from rising more than 2c this century – the level scientists say is needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

‘We’ve managed to bring all the major emitters into a road map leading to a global overarching legal agreement, which is exactly what we wanted,’ he said. ‘We’ve got a timeline on it. For the first time we’ve seen major economies, normally cautious, commit to take the action demanded by science.’

There was high drama in the conference hall as talks looked on the brink of collapse at around 4am yesterday.

Ministers for India and China both insisted their countries were still developing and could not commit to the legally-binding cuts pushed by the EU.

But at the last minute, urged by their South African hosts to form a ‘huddle’ in the middle of the conference chamber, the major countries managed to agree on a wording for the deal – that all countries would be committed to an ‘agreed outcome with legal force’.

This must be fully mapped out by 2015, with curbs on greenhouse gases starting ‘from 2020’. But critics say this is still very vague.

And no sooner was the ink drying on the agreement than a report from the Adam Smith Institute questioned the effectiveness of renewable sources of energy.

The analysis by the right-wing think-tank claims wind turbines and solar panels cannot replace gas, coal and nuclear power because the energy they produce is intermittent and depends on the weather.

‘The UK’s plans for renewables are unrealistic, and these technologies cannot provide the secure energy supply the country needs,’ it says.

‘Present policies will lead to an energy crisis by the middle of this decade.’

To meet current targets for wind power would require five turbines to be installed every working day until 2020, it says.

More damningly, the analysis found renewables only achieve ‘modest’ cuts to greenhouse gas emissions as they require so much back-up generation.

Britain currently produces 6.6 per cent of energy from renewables but has a target to increase this to 15 per cent by 2020. The report claims solar and wind energy have ‘no prospect of being economically competitive’ as the market is ‘rigged’ by subsidies.

Daily Mail, 12 December 2011