George Osborne is refusing to sign up to new carbon emissions targets and insisting on a new ‘dash for gas’ as the Government prepares to unveil its latest energy plans. The Chancellor, backed by David Cameron, is understood to be determined not to commit Britain to tough new climate targets beyond 2020, arguing they will put businesses at a significant disadvantage.
One Whitehall source said: ‘The official line is the Government is reserving its position, but George Osborne and David Cameron have made clear they object to post-2020 targets, which suggests the Government will never agree to any.’
Ministers will also announce today that Government subsidies for wind turbines are to be cut by ten per cent and planning rules that regulate their construction reviewed.
Power: Government subsidies for wind turbines are to be cut by 10 per cent as George Osborne refuses to sign up for new carbon emissions targets
The Chancellor had been pushing for even steeper cuts – but agreed to accept Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey’s proposal for an initial ten per cent reduction, followed by a further review next year.
In exchange, the Lib Dems have agreed that gas-fired power stations will be a key part of Britain’s energy production well into the 2030s, despite the objections of climate change campaigners.
The Government will commit to introducing a ‘simple and stable regulatory regime’ to allow domestic shale gas development, using the controversial process of ‘fracking’.
Gas deposits trapped underground are extracted by fracturing shale rock with blasts of water, sand and chemicals – a process that has been accused of causing small earthquakes near sites.
But it is the Chancellor’s determination to block new climate targets beyond 2020 that will cause most controversy.
Resolute: Mr Osborne is understood to be determined not to commit Britain to tough new climate targets beyond 2020
A report from MPs today insists Britain and the rest of Europe should sign up to even stricter emissions targets to boost green energy.
They recommend the EU cuts carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 – instead of the current 20 per cent which they claim is ‘not ambitious or challenging’.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee says that despite opposition from the US and China to legally-binding caps on emissions, Europe should ‘show leadership’ on climate change.
The MPs’ report claims increasing carbon targets would put pressure on the world’s biggest emitters to make similar commitments.
At a UN climate conference in South Africa last December, world leaders agreed a ‘road map’ for all major countries – including developing countries – to introduce targets to tackle global warming for the first time.
However the US, China and India – which make up around half of global emissions – will only have to start cutting them from 2020 and it is unclear how stringent or binding the targets will be.
Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP who chairs the Energy and Climate Change Committee said: ‘Europe can be proud of the leadership it has shown on climate change. It must now show that leadership again by setting a more ambitious goal to bolster the chances of a new agreement being reached in 2015.
‘That needs to be the year an agreement is reached to give the world a fighting chance of keeping temperatures below dangerous levels.
‘The EU’s current 20 per cent carbon reduction target by 2020 is no longer sufficiently ambitious or challenging and will easily be reached because of the recession.’
The committee suggests Britain should commit to around 42 per cent cuts in emissions on 1990 levels, through a new generation of wind turbines, solar panels and nuclear power.
But manufacturers’ groups warned that high energy costs due to climate policies were already putting thousands of industrial jobs at risk.
The Energy Intensive Users Group, representing around 800,000 people in industries such as steel, cement and chemicals, is calling for tax relief on energy costs for its members to avoid job losses.
Its chairman Steve Elliott said: ‘We all want to see a greener societ, but we can’t do this with one hand tied behind our backs.’