Tony Blair faces a major Commons revolt over his refusal to commit Britain to annual cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
The opposition parties and more than 200 Labour MPs have demanded that the Climate Change Bill, which will be announced in this week's Queen's Speech, include a promise to reduce C02 emissions by 3 per cent each year.
But the Prime Minister is resisting the demands, insisting that annual legally-binding targets would be too inflexible. He argues that without "pretty heavy" tax measures an unusually cold winter would scupper hopes of achieving that year's planned reduction.
Without a compromise, the Government looks certain to trigger a rebellion on a scale that could wipe out its majority.
Ministers have agreed a Bill that will set out the aim of cutting C02 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, but critics argue that it can only be achieved by the discipline of annual targets. Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, who tabled the motion demanding yearly reductions, said Mr Blair's preference for targets over a longer period such as 10 years was a mistake. It could mean action being delayed until the seventh or eighth year and then the target being abandoned as impossible.Reuse content