UK renewables sector cheers carbon budget decision

Efforts by the U.K. chancellor George Osborne to remove a legally binding pledge to lower carbon emissions have today been dealt a blow by the Liberal Democrat energy secretary Ed Davey.

Announcing that the target will not be changed, Davey said that the so-called fourth carbon budget, which covers the period between 2023 and 2027, will go ahead as originally planned three years ago when Lib Dem politicians faced down Conservative pressure to remove the emissions cap.

Coalition Prime Minister David Cameron, himself in favor of the target, intervened against fellow Conservative Osborne but did set a review date for the carbon budget in an effort to appease his right-hand man.

That date was today, but the review body rejected Osborne’s assertion that the pledge to lower emissions to 80% of their 1990 levels was a burden on business.

"The fourth carbon budget, which caps the U.K.’s emissions, will not change," said Davey in a statement issued today. "It covers 2023 to 2027, and will cement the U.K. as a global leader in combating climate change in an affordable way. We are increasingly seeing other countries recognize our shared responsibility to tackle climate change join us in ambitious action."

Chancellor Osborne had argued that the U.K. was too far out in front of other countries on this matter, and as a result was suffering financially. But his concerns were thrown out by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advised the government’s statutory advisors on the matter.

Decision receives industry backing

Nina Skorupska, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association (REA), welcomed today’s announcement.

"The decision to keep the fourth carbon budget in line with the CCC’s advice is very good news for the U.K.’s green economy and the pursuit of a sustainable future," Skorupska said. "This decision puts independent expertise and long-term thinking ahead of the possible lure of political point-scoring.

"Across renewable power, heating and transport fuels, investors need certainty that when it comes to the low carbon economy, the government is in it for the long-term." The U.K.’s Solar Trade Association (STA) also supported the campaign to back the fourth carbon budget, and was joined by more than 100 interested businesses and organizations across the U.K.

Ed Davey also revealed that the EU is close to agreeing a new climate deal that would pledge a 40% emissions cut across Europe by 2030 – a situation that should, he argued, offer a level-playing field for British business and industry, and would therefore hopefully appease the disgruntled chancellor Osborne.

The ‘green blob’

One British politician far from appeased is former environment secretary Owen Paterson, who yesterday launched into an astonishing attack against the U.K.’s environmental sector, claiming he was sacked to appease the "powerful, self-serving" environmental lobby, dismissing the entire U.K. sector as "the green blob."

Writing in the conservative Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Paterson’s extraordinary tirade appeared to be in stark contrast to the opinions of somebody formerly charged with the difficult task of steering British environmental policy.

"This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart," he wrote, "but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely."

Rebutting in the Guardian, environmental campaigner Damian Carrington described Paterson’s article as a "smoke screen deployed to obscure the incredible success story of the green economy, which is growing faster than almost any other sector, and already employs more people in the U.K. than teaching."