MPs warn of 'schizophrenia' over climate change targets

Cottam power station Chancellor George Osborne says emissions reductions must not harm UK industry

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The government's "schizophrenic attitude" to climate change is undermining investor confidence in low-carbon industries, MPs have warned.

The UK is committed to cutting emissions in half by 2025 but has said it will review that goal in 2014.

Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said a review was needed to ensure UK industry was not losing out by cutting much faster than the rest of Europe.

But the Environmental Audit Committee warned against sending mixed messages.

David Cameron says he wants his to be "the greenest government ever", but last week Chancellor George Osborne sparked anger among environmentalists when he told the Conservative Party conference the UK would cut emissions no faster than others in Europe, and environmental measures would not be taken at the expense of British business.

'Stroke of a pen'

Earlier this year, the government signed up to the fourth in a series of tough "carbon budgets" - for the period 2023 to 2027.

Labour MP and committee chairwoman Joan Walley said the move suggested the UK really was determined to switch to a greener economy.

"Unfortunately, the government's somewhat schizophrenic attitude to climate change seems to be undermining that confidence," she said.

Start Quote

Getting the rest of Europe to go further and faster in providing certainty to green investors is vital”

End Quote Greg Barker Climate Change Minister

"The chancellor's comments last week show that five years on from the Stern report, the Treasury still doesn't get climate change - or the risk it poses to global stability and economic prosperity."

Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative committee member, said policymakers must recognise "that with the stroke of a pen, they can make a good investment bad".

"Unless they provide real long-term certainty, the transition to a low-carbon economy will be slower and bumpier than it needs to be," he added.

Nick Molho, head of energy policy at WWF-UK, said: "Failing to clearly endorse the fourth carbon budget now will not only slow down urgent action on addressing climate change, it will also seriously undermine investment certainty in the UK's low-carbon sector and result in the UK missing out on the opportunity of creating hundreds of thousands of UK jobs in low-carbon manufacturing."

Mr Barker said the UK was doing more than any other nation to provide long-term certainty for those investing in the low-carbon economy.

"At the same time, it's right that we review progress towards the EU emissions goal in 2014 so that we're not disadvantaging British industry which would simply result in emissions being shipped overseas.

"Getting the rest of Europe to go further and faster in providing certainty to green investors is vital, which is why we're not letting up in pushing the EU to up its emissions reduction target to 30%."

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