Peers reject carbon target bid

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The government has seen off an attempt by a cross-section of peers to force it to set a 2030 decarbonisation target, during day one of report-stage consideration of the Energy Bill.

Ministers will consider introducing a target to decarbonise the UK's electricity generation in 2016, but crossbench peer Lord Oxburgh led calls for the target to be set in 2014.

Energy Minister Baroness Verma warned the move could increase household bills if the costs of compliance with the target were passed on to customers by energy companies.

Lord Oxburgh's amendment was narrowly rejected by 216 votes to 202, on 28 October 2013. A similar amendment was rejected in the House of Commons earlier this year.

Explaining his amendment, prominent scientist Lord Oxburgh said it was about "about getting on with the job, setting milestones for ordered progress to a new energy structure and specifically setting a decarbonisation milestone for 2030".

Labour's frontbench in the Lords supported Lord Oxburgh's amendment. Baroness Worthington said it would give the bill a "purpose" which it "is largely lacking in".

It also had the support of Conservative Lord Deben, who chairs the UK's Committee on Climate Change. He argued that the target made good business sense, and would create jobs.

But the Earl of Caithness disagreed. The Tory peer countered that it would be damaging to the UK's competitiveness if the country introduced a decarbonisation target before the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, Conservative former Chancellor Lord Lawson of Blaby said Lord Oxburgh's amendment would make "an unbelievably bad bill... even worse than it is at the present time".

Liberal Democrat Lord Teverson argued there should be a target but he was "happy to wait for it until 2016 in order to deliver real decarbonisation now".

Speaking on behalf of the government, Baroness Verma said a target should not be rushed into: "A target would have significant implications for the power sector, consumers and the wider economy."

She added: "It is therefore vital to understand fully, based on evidence, whether a target represents the best approach to meeting our economy-wide carbon budgets cost effectively and if so what level it should be set at.

"The right time to consider this is in 2016, not in 2014 as proposed by the amendment."

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