Michael McCarthy: Dealing with climate change reports could be a struggle for the Tories

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You can bet your last penny that there will be no more attentive reader of today’s first annual report of the Climate Change Committee than Greg Clark, Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells.

Mr Clark is the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and if political events turn out the way everybody seems to be expecting, this time next year he will have dropped the Shadow bit and (barring reshuffles) be himself the cabinet minister in charge of tackling global warming.

And what that means is that when the SECOND report of the Climate Change Committee appears in twelve months’ time, Mr Clark is the guy who is going to get it in the neck.

It has been too soon in the first report to criticise Government progress in meeting Britain’s carbon budgets; it will not be too soon in the second. And even if the Tories replace Adair Turner, New Labour’s favourite businessman, as the chairman of the committee, with someone (shall we say) a little more well-disposed towards them – and d’you think they won’t? – it is very unlikely that report No. 2 is going to be a paean of praise for the Government of the day.

What this year’s lucid document shows compellingly is just how hard it is going to be to meet our climate targets, and also, that only massive action by the state, on home insulation, on low-carbon cars, on the energy market, is going to do it.

The free market by itself won’t deliver the low-carbon economy, not by a mile. Yet the new mantra of Mr Clark’s boss David Cameron is to roll back the state wherever possible, and get Big Government out of things. Good luck, Greg; watching you square that particular circle will be fascinating.