Labour will press the energy secretary Chris Huhne this afternoon for a firm commitment that his government is serious about tackling climate change by reducing the UK’s emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases. With the government’s promise to be the ‘greenest ever’ in shreds, Labour has set three tests for Chris Huhne ahead of the second reading of the energy bill today.
First, will the Government sign up to the committee on climate change (CCC) recommendations in its ‘fourth carbon budget’ to move the UK to a low-carbon economy? Leaked letters in today’s press point to a Whitehall battle between DECC and the Treasury and BIS, with the weak and ineffectual energy secretary on the losing side.
Second, will the Government move swiftly to beef up the proposals in the energy bill for a ‘green deal’ to insulate people’s homes? In particular, the Government should start insulating the homes of those poorest households living in fuel poverty. The bill as it stands means that ministers are leaving the poorest out in the cold.
Third, will the Government make a clear commitment to the tough carbon-reduction targets in Climate Change Act. Ministers have placed the act in a review of ‘red tape’, which can only lead to scepticism about their seriousness in tackling climate change. If they intend to scrap it how will the UK meet its targets; if not, why is it included in the review?
Meg Hillier MP, shadow secretary of state for energy and climate change, said:
“Instead of a Government leading the fight against climate change, we have Ministers at war with one another. One year on from Cameron’s promise to run the ‘greenest government ever’, Ministers have one last chance to prove they take climate change seriously.
“Today’s energy bill should have been a landmark piece of environmental politics; instead it is a limp lettuce leaf of a bill. Chris Huhne has failed to show leadership, and failed to win the Whitehall battle with the Treasury. Today, the leaked letters show that the government’s commitment to a low-carbon economy is being contested by ministers. That would be a great green betrayal, and proof that Cameron’s conversion to environmentalism was just hot air.
“Huhne is a weak secretary of state, at a time when we need strong leadership to tackle the gravest threat to our planet’s future.”
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