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

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices