George Osborne is expected to reject the recommendations of the Government’s independent advisers on climate change by slowing its drive to tackle global warming.
The Committee on Climate Change said it had found no economic or legal reasons to change the UK’s green targets, a verdict welcomed by Liberal Democrat ministers. They are embroiled in a battle with the Chancellor, who wants to water down the targets to create room for up to 40 gas-fired power stations to be built over the next 20 years.
Allies of the Chancellor said the committee’s advice would be “taken into account” but would not necessarily reflect the Government’s final word on carbon emissions. Mr Osborne argues that Britain should not go further or faster than its competitors and said last week that it should “not be in front of the rest of the world” in tackling climate change.
The committee, chaired by the Tory peer and former Environment Secretary Lord Deben, gave its initial advice in a letter to Ed Davey, the Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary. Its final proposals will be made by the end of the year.
Mr Davey and Nick Clegg are keen to stick to the original targets, believing that any change would threaten investment in renewable energy. Mr Davey said yesterday: “While we can’t pre-judge the outcome of the review, keeping to clear long term targets is vital for attracting the investment we need, at the lowest cost.”
Lord Deben warned in his letter that changing the UK’s “carbon budget” at this point could damage investor confidence and “severely undermine UK credibility” in forthcoming European Union negotiations on climate change.
The Lib Dems are worried that a retreat would further undermine the Government’s green credentials. But privately they fear that the Treasury will not give any ground, despite the advisers’ recommendation. One Coalition insider said: “It will help – but it won’t convince those who don’t want to be convinced.”