George Osborne hints at watering-down of UK's commitment to cutting carbon dioxide emissions

 

A A A

George Osborne gave a strong signal that he intends to water down Britain’s commitment to cutting its carbon dioxide emissions over the next 15 years, threatening tens of billions of pounds of vital investment in renewable energy generators.

Paving the way for a rush into gas that would make it virtually impossible for Britain to meet its emissions targets next decade, Mr Osborne said Britain would be able to produce far more energy from gas if the carbon ceiling for the five years to the end of 2027 “is revised upwards and emissions reductions are more gradual”.

Mr Osborne added: “We are also reiterating that our approach to decarbonisation trajectories will continue to stay in step with other EU countries throughout the 2020s.”

Britain has already met Europe’s target of a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, while analysts believe there is little prospect of the continent setting a target for the next decade that is as strong as the one the UK currently has.

“This is very regrettable. The uncertainty over the Government’s commitment to decarbonisation will further weaken investor confidence. It will also make it much harder to hit our 2050 emissions target,” said Dr Robert Gross, director of Imperial College’s Centre for Energy Policy, who advised the Energy and Climate Change Committee and the Department for Energy and Climate Change on the recent Energy Bill.

Even with the dash-to-gas, Britain desperately needs substantial investment in wind, solar, biomass, water and other renewable energy projects. However, figures released earlier this week show that potential investors are being put off backing low-carbon energy generators because of uncertainty about subsidy levels and the government’s commitment to reduce emissions. They are particularly perturbed by the decision to remove a legally-binding target from last week’s Energy Bill that would have made electricity generation almost entirely green by 2030 – although there is a possibility of an amendment to return it to the bill as it passes through Parliament.

They show that private investment in large-scale renewable energy projects has tumbled from a peak of $10.61bn (£6.6bn) in 2009 to just $3.63bn in the first nine months of this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

If Britain is to meet its legally binding target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, it needs to have cut its carbon footprint by about 55 per cent by 2027, the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) advised the Government in the fourth in a series of five-year carbon budgets designed to keep the country on track.

However, while the CCC’s first three carbon budgets were waved through by the Labour Party and David Cameron supported the fourth one last year, Mr Osborne won a key concession that will allow him to review it in 2014.

“The Government expects up to 26 gigawatts (GW) of new gas capacity could be required by 2030 on current carbon budgets. If the fourth carbon budget is revised upwards and emissions reductions are more gradual, then up to 37 GW of new plant could be required,” the Autumn Statement said yesterday.

The Treasury declined to comment on whether Mr Osborne was planning to relax the fourth carbon budget.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there