David Cameron: Labour's carbon targets amount to a cop-out

After nine years of neglect, the Government is still not taking the issue seriously

Share

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister's Questions, Tony Blair failed to confirm that there would be a Climate Change Bill in his final Queen's Speech on 15 November. Despite all the press briefings that suggested the contrary, he could not give a straight answer. Briefing to the press one minute, obfuscating in Parliament the next, this government really does not get the importance of the issue.

Tackling climate change is a responsibility shared by individuals, communities and businesses. But the responsibility for giving a lead lies with government. Politicians must set the overall framework and take the tough decisions that will make a lasting difference for the long term.

Carbon emissions in this country have risen for five of the past eight years. It hardly needs saying that we need a step change in our national efforts to tackle climate change, and we cannot rely on individuals, activists and businesses alone to cut carbon emissions - we need the Government to act and show leadership. That is why the Conservative Party, along with a coalition including Friends of the Earth, the Women's Institute and Action Aid, are calling for a Climate Change Bill in the next Queen's Speech.

But all the Government seems ready to offer is, at best, a watered-down Bill. At a time of acute water shortage, I am sure the irony escapes them. Their Bill will reportedly make provision for an independent body to advise on whether government policies will meet green targets and that the Government will oppose the idea of a law requiring a cut in carbon emissions year on year. Instead, Mr Milliband is looking for binding targets for each decade.

This attempt to tackle the greatest threat to our planet is nothing short of a cop-out. If Labour does not understand the futility of targets for every decade, they need only look at their previous policies. In each of their last three manifestos, Labour made a clear commitment to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2010. Yet, this year, they dropped this altogether, proving beyond doubt the pointlessness of far-off targets. This new proposal to have targets for every decade is simply an old, failed policy, rehashed in a monument to spin over substance.

The Conservative Party is instead proposing a Climate Change Bill with binding, year-on-year targets on carbon emissions. As The Independent pointed out forcefully on its front page yesterday in its own radical green manifesto, only this will provide the accountability that is desperately required and help us to reduce our emissions by 60 per cent by 2050, in line with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Annual binding targets for carbon reduction will create a price for carbon in our economy, so things that produce more carbon will become more expensive. It will place a responsibility on us all to find environmentally friendly alternatives.

We also believe an Independent Climate Change Commission, comprising scientists, economists, non-governmental organisations and representatives of industry, commerce and finance, should be established to set and enforce these targets, not merely monitor them as the Government is proposing.

The Commission will operate in a similar way to the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee. It will have a duty to observe the evolving international science on climate change, and to review the UK's progress towards meeting its carbon reduction obligations, reporting to Parliament every quarter.

So the framework will be set, free of political interference and informed by prevailing scientific knowledge, by the Commission. But the Commission will not make policy. It will be up to the Government to deliver the range of policies needed to ensure that the UK stays on course towards the 2050 target.

And to help ensure that the Government does indeed deliver, we are proposing that each year, the Environment Secretary not only publishes a carbon budget report, but appears in Parliament to make a formal statement on progress. This event will provide the opportunity, as with the Chancellor's Budget, to set out strategy and publish any new measures thought necessary to attain the Commission's targets.

The Government's proposals are proof that after nine years of neglecting the issue they are still not taking it seriously. Climate Change is a threat we cannot ignore. That is why today we are stepping up our campaign for the Government to introduce a real and worthwhile Climate Change Bill in the Queen's Speech and launching a campaign called "Can I Have the Bill please". By e-mailing tony@canihavethebillplease.co.uk, you can register your support, and we will forward your views to the Prime Minister in the hope that he is listening.

The writer is leader of the Conservative Party

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The blurring of traditional social class lines is bad news for Labour as it prepares to elect a left-wing class warrior in Mr Corbyn  

Labour leadership contest: Can grey beard Jeremy Corbyn win the grey vote?

Andrew Grice
Writer and director Armando Iannucci at the 40th Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival  

BBC bosses should be prised out of senior roles to let new talent rise up

Anonymous
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future