The row over the coalition’s energy policy is set to be reignited on Wednesday with the threat of a backbench rebellion on the new energy bill, led by former Tory minister Tim Yeo.
The bill receives its second reading on Wednesday, but omitted from it – at the insistence of the chancellor and prime minister – is any target on decarbonising electricity generation. Such a target is regarded as crucial by supporters of low-carbon energy, and Yeo, who is chairman of the energy and climate change select committee, will give a speech in the City on Wednesday morning urging the coalition to accept an amendment to put a decarbonisation target in the bill. Amendments cannot be made at this stage, but when the bill enters the committee and reporting stages early next year, an amendment is likely to be brought forward.
A further row is expected as Ed Davey, the secretary of state for energy and climate change, will announce his decision the same day on whether the government will accept the advice of its statutory advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), and include emissions from aviation and shipping in the UK’s carbon targets. Some on the Tory right are vehemently opposed to this, but for Davey to overrule the committee – the statutory body set up to advise ministers on how to meet long-term carbon targets – on this matter would be inflammatory to his own party.
Yeo told the Guardian that a 2030 target on removing carbon from power generation was essential to giving certainty to investors and ensuring the UK meets its long-term carbon-cutting targets: “I have been having a dialogue with investors, and this is a constant theme – the need for certainty. This would be very helpful in boosting investor confidence. Consistency of targets is very important.”
But he said his proposals were not a rebellion: “I see it as a helpful contribution – this is a way of confirming that the government genuinely intends to move to a low-carbon electricity industry.”
Yeo’s decarbonisation proposal would have a reasonable chance of success, as Labour strongly supports a decarbonisation target, as do many Liberal Democrats and a sprinkling of Tories. Yeo’s committee made the case for such a target in a report earlier this year.