Dramatic proposals to combat global warming became a key political battleground as details emerged of far-reaching plans by the two main opposition parties to slash carbon emissions.
A leak of transport proposals likely to form part of a major Conservative policy review included a moratorium on airport expansion and a crackdown on domestic air travel, while the Liberal Democrats published detailed plans to transform Britain into a zero-carbon economy by 2050. The rival plans put the battle against climate change firmly at the top of the agenda as the main parties jostle for position at the start of the new political season.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat leader, said his party had become the first in Britain to advocate a target for Britain to become carbon-free. Plans include removing petrol and diesel cars by 2040 to eliminate emissions from transport and committing Britain to zero carbon power generation by 2050. He rejected any new nuclear power stations, saying that his party would instead pour resources into developing commercial wave, wind and solar energy.
Transport proposals drafted for the Conservatives' quality of life policy group, chaired by former Cabinet minister John Gummer and environmental campaigner Zac Goldsmith, are thought to include plans to impose VAT on aviation fuel for domestic flights.
Domestic flight landing slots could also be given to long-haul flights to encourage passengers away from aeroplanes and onto high speed rail links.
The Conservatives insisted any proposals in the policy-group report, due to be completed next month, did not represent party policy. A spokeswoman said any proposals would be considered by David Cameron and his shadow cabinet for inclusion in the party's next election manifesto.
But Sir Menzies said the Conservatives were still unable to say whether their plans would include any green taxes, declaring that the Tories "have nothing to offer but bluster and obfuscation".
He added: "With these policies the Liberal Dem-ocrats have become the first major British party to map out the route to a carbon-neutral Britain.
"Pollution doesn't respect national boundaries. Climate change is a global problem that requires an international solution.
"Britain should not be a bit player in finding that solution, we should be leading the pack. Under our proposals, the United Kingdom would set the green standard for others to reach."
Chris Huhne, the party's environment spokesman said new targets would cut and then eliminate emissions from cars. He said: "The EU is now committed to reducing emissions from cars. What we are saying is that needs to go further. We need to provide certainty for the car industry and every other industry that is involved in this area to make sure that by 2040 we are using alternative non-carbon emitting fuels."
A party policy paper includes plans to set legally binding annual carbon budgets and give government departments clear responsibility for adapting Britain to changes in the climate.
Proposals to be debated by the party's annual conference next month also include plans for a "leapfrog fund" to channel money from the world's rich polluting nations into low carbon energy for the third world, a radical shift towards "green" taxes, and plans to increase flood protection.
How the parties compare
Conservative policy group proposals may include:
* Moratorium on airport expansion
* VAT imposed on domestic flights
* Flight tax on carbon emissions from aircraft.
* Landing slots for domestic flights transferred to long haul flights.
Liberal Democrat plans:
* Britain to become carbon-neutral by 2050
* No new nuclear power stations
* Petrol cars to be phased out to make transport zero-carbon by 2040.
* Government to set legally binding national annual carbon budget.
* Shift in taxation towards "green" taxes.Reuse content