George Osborne slammed by his own climate change advisors over 'dash for gas'

 

George Osborne's 'dash for gas' is putting Britain's legally binding carbon reduction commitments in jeopardy, the Government-appointed climate change advisory panel warned today.

In a highly significant intervention the Climate Change Committee (CCC) sent an open letter to ministers criticising the "apparently ambivalent position of the Government" about whether to commit to new zero-carbon electricity generation or build new gas power stations.

Mr Osborne is known to be in favour of prioritising gas to replace Britain's current ageing coal burning power stations rather than spending extra money on renewables or nuclear power generation.

However he is facing fierce private opposition from the Liberal Democrats who have warned that any watering down of current proposals to subsidise renewable generation to make production economically viable will result in Britain breaching is legally binding carbon reduction commitments.

They are pushing for the Government to adopt new legally binding commitment which would specify how much carbon can be produced through electricity generation by 2030 - as a way of spurring investment in renewables. However this is being blocked by Mr Osborne.

In its letter, the Climate Change Committee - which is chaired by the former Conservative minister John Gummer - criticises recent statements by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, forced upon them by Mr Osborne, that gas has a significant role to play in electricity generation.

"We are writing to express great concern about the recent Government statement "that it sees gas as continuing to play an important role in the energy mix well into and beyond 2030...[not] restricted to providing back up to renewables," they write.

"Extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets."

The committee adds that the mixed signals being sent by the Government on how it will choose to meet Britain's future electricity needs risks putting off investment in renewables.

"The apparently ambivalent position of the Government about whether it is

trying to build a low-carbon or a gas-based power system weakens the signal provided by

carbon budgets to investors," they say.

"It makes more pronounced the perceived risk that the Electricity Market Reform (EMR) will perpetuate the current stop-start approach to investment in lowcarbon technologies.

"As a result, the cases for low-carbon business development, capital allocation, innovation and supply chain investment are undermined, damaging prospects for required low-carbon investments.

"This has been made clear to us in our extensive discussions with the energy and supply chain companies....who have suggested to us that the sector investment climate is currently very poor."

Senior Whitehall sources said while the letter had been sent to the Climate Change Secretary Ed Davy - the real target was Mr Osborne who was copied in.

"This is very significant," they said. "Normally these warnings are given behind closed doors. The fact that they have chosen to go public shows just concerned they are that Osborne might succeed in watering down our current commitments."

Environmental groups welcome the committee's intervention.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace's chief scientific adviser, said: "So now it's clear, the Chancellor's expensive and polluting dash for gas is not only economic madness, it's potentially illegal. 

"The Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary now needs to side with the Committee and stand up to George Osborne or leave his party's own green credentials in tatters. The test will be if he backs the decarbonisation of our electricity system in the forthcoming Energy Bill."

Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, added: "This intervention by the CCC is devastating blow to those in the Government who are trying to steamroller through a new dash for gas. The Committee couldn't be clearer; this is just not viable if we want to meet our carbon budgets."

In a statement Ed Davey, said the Government's plans were "consistent" with significant decarbonisation of the power sector.

"We are absolutely committed to meeting our statutory carbon budgets," he said.

"That is why we are pushing through ambitious reforms to overhaul existing old fossil fuel power plants, replacing them with new low-carbon forms of power generation. 

"A fifth of our power stations are closing over the next decade and we need to build a diverse mix of all the technologies to keep the lights on and lower our emissions.

"We have always said this will include gas fired plant, which is quick to build and flexible.  After 2030 we expect that gas will only be used as back up, or fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage technology. But, alongside up-scaling of renewables, nuclear new build, and eventually with carbon capture and storage, gas has an important role to play in the transition to a low carbon grid."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sport
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas