A parliamentary advisory committee has accused the Government of being only "half-committed" to low-carbon energy generation, warning that the UK is likely to miss emissions reduction targets as a result.
David Kennedy, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), said Britain needs a huge investment in renewable, or clean, power infrastructure if it is to hit its target of a 50 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2025 on 1990 levels.
Emissions are currently a fifth lower than in 1990. While the recession has caused emissions to fall, the underlying trend in CO2 output is flat when it should be declining, Mr Kennedy said. "We won't be able to meet that target without significant measures – and they have to be taken now if it's going to happen by the mid-2020s."
He said potential investors in low-carbon energy – from wind-turbine blade makers to nuclear-power project developers – "need to know there is a market" for clean power. Unless they are confident about their likely returns – for example through guaranteed subsidies and the Government's commitment to hitting renewable energy targets – they are unwilling to risk investment.
"We don't know how the low-carbon technology market will look in the 2020s because the Government will not commit, and that uncertainty is stopping investment," Mr Kennedy added. "The Government is only half-committed to the future, and that is the worst of all worlds. This report reinforces the fact that there is a lot more to do to reduce our footprint, and the Government should not be patting itself on the back."
The CCC has published a report showing that Britain's carbon footprint has grown by 10 per cent in the past two decades, as a rapid rise in CO2 emissions generated by making the UK's imports outweighed reductions in those produced in this country.
Britain is the second biggest net importer of carbon emissions, after Japan, because much of its manufacturing industry has moved abroad.