Government accused of 'harmful' delays on decarbonisation

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The government has successfully resisted calls to set a decarbonisation target by 1 April 2014, despite widespread criticism.

The chair of the Environment Select Committee has accused the government of creating a "harmful element of doubt" in refusing to sign up to a 2030 decarbonisation target.

The government would prefer to set a target in 2016, but Conservative chair of the committee Tim Yeo introduced an amendment to bring in a target in less than a year.

Speaking at report stage of the Energy Bill on 4 June 2013, Mr Yeo said his amendment would "remove an element of uncertainty whose presence hampers investment, increases the risk of a capacity crisis and raises electricity prices unnecessarily".

He accused the government of "St Augustinian coyness", in its "promise of possible future chastity in the matter of greenhouse gas emissions but 'Please God, not just yet'".

Labour MP Barry Gardiner, chair of the committee on the bill, took aim at Lib Dems who had pledged to support a 2030 decarbonisation target.

He told them they had ignored "the Lady Bracknell rule of politics - to break one pledge may be regarded as misfortune, to break two looks like contempt for the electorate".

"All pretence of meeting our carbon budgets and emission targets will be abandoned," he predicted.

'Pipe dreams'

Speaking against the amendment, Conservative John Redwood argued that the decarbonisation target would compromise the UK's competitiveness.

He pointed out: "China isn't being asked to cut emissions in the same way the United Kingdom is being asked to cut emissions."

Labour MP Ian Lavery, another opponent of the amendment, felt its supporters should "forget the pipe dreams" and focus on "what we can really achieve".

Lib Dem Mike Crockart acknowledged the difficult position faced by those in his party: "I feel a bit like Lord Cardigan, commander of the gallant 600, charging into the valley of death."

He went on to say that green growth and jobs were of more interest to small businesses than decarbonisation targets.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon warned the House that setting a target to cut carbon emissions before 2016 would "risk higher bills now for our hard-pressed industries and constituents".

"Let us have economic and industrial policy that is coherent. An energy policy by design, not decarbonisation by dogma or by default that could only drive our industries offshore," he appealed.

His Labour counterpart, Tom Greatrex, invited others to join him in backing the amendment: "There's an opportunity this afternoon for Parliament to be assertive - assertive about security of supply, assertive about jobs and growth, assertive about investment."

Mr Yeo's amendment was later defeated by 290 votes to 267, leaving the government with a reduced majority of 23.

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