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

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Critics of Fiona Woolf say she should step down amid accusations of an establishment cover-up  

Fiona Woolf resignation: As soon as she became the story, she had to leave

James Ashton
 

Letters: Electorate should be given choice on drugs policy

Independent Voices
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes