‘Greenest Government ever’ failing on climate change

The Government’s ‘schizophrenic attitude’ to climate change is holding back the country’s economy by stifling investor’s confidence in green industry, MPs and business leaders have warned.

David Cameron promised to be 'the greenest government ever' but MPs in his own party are now questioning his commitment.

David Cameron promised to be ‘the greenest government ever’ but MPs in his own party are now questioning his commitment. Photo: EPA

Louise Gray

By , Environment Correspondent

7:00AM BST 11 Oct 2011

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The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said the recent decision to review targets for cutting emissions in half by 2025 makes business think David Cameron is not really serious about being ‘the greenest Government ever’.

As a consequence companies are failing to invest in urgently-needed renewable energy projects like and wind and solar.

Ultimately the delay could push up energy prices due to the Government’s failure to see the potential in green energy.

Zac Goldsmith, a Conservative member of the EAC, said investors will not provide the capital to replace Britain’s creaking coal-fired power stations with low carbon alternatives until they are certain of support.

Without certainty, the UK will be left behind the rest of Europe and be forced to continue paying high prices for imported oil and gas.

“It is therefore absolutely crucial that policy-makers recognise that with the stroke of a pen, they can make a good investment bad,” he said.

“Unless they provide real long-term certainty, the transition to a low-carbon economy will be slower and bumpier than it needs to be.”

The report adds to a growing rift in the Conservative party over the green future.

Despite Mr Cameron’s attempts to “detoxify” his party by going green, the Treasury appears to be watering down key policies like support for companies putting up solar panels.

Environmental groups are also annoyed about the recent planning reforms that they claim will damage the countryside and a failure to make the environment a key part of Coalition plans.

The Government also risk being alienated on the international stage.

Speaking in London Christina Figueres, the head of the United Nations climate change process, said it was more important than ever that developed countries lead the way.

She said the ability of countries like Britain to fuflll ambitious climate change targets will encourage poorer countries like China and India to also cut emissions and ultimately stop global warming.

Dr Neil Bentley, the CBI’s Deputy Director-General, said both the UK Government and international negotiations are failing to provide the leadership business needs to invest in green growth.

“Despite our green ambitions, economic and political realities bite. We find ourselves not ahead of the pack, but out on a limb. We’ve got no international deal, no global carbon price, no meaningful EU price and the UK tying itself in costly green policy knots. The UK is in danger of straining to hit its targets but missing the point: that we need an economy that’s low carbon and competitive.”

: World governments are ready to sign a ‘letter of intent’ promising to cut carbon emissions, according to the head of the United Nations climate change body.

Despite warnings from scientists that global warming could go beyond dangerous limits if the world fails to halve carbon emissions by 2050, the international community has so far failed to draw up treaty.

The only existing legally-binding agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, comes to an end at the end of 2012.

The most high profile push in Copenhagen at the end of 2009 ended in failure and a weak ‘accord’ that only asked countries to cut carbon voluntarily.

However the process recovered in Cancun Mexico next year and negotiators now believe the possibility of a global deal is back on the table.

Christina Figueres, Exectutive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), hoped the next meeting in Durban at the beginning of December may make major progress.

“Governments are willing to consider a document that is equivalent to a letter of intent of all Governments to move towards a comprehensive agreement that is binding to all and incentivising to all at some point in the future.”

Ms Figueres admitted that any agreement will take years to draw up but it is a major leap forward if all countries agree to the principal of a legally binding treaty.

In Durban it is also hoped that Governments will agree on how to raise funds $100 billion per year by 2020 to adapt to climate change, share technology and save forests.

The European Union, which includes the UK, has promised to sign up to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol if all other countries are part of a long term global deal to cut emissions.