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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?