Decarbonisation amendment defeated in the Commons

An amendment to the Energy Bill which would have required the coalition government to set a decarbonisation target by 1 April 2014 has been narrowly defeated in the House of Commons.

Parliament: Energy Bill amendment defeated yesterday
Parliament: Energy Bill amendment defeated yesterday

Tory MP Tim Yeo’s amendment, which would have required the energy secretary to set, no later than 1 April 2014, a decarbonisation target for 2030 for electricity generation was voted down by 290 votes to 267.

Speaking yesterday during the Energy Bill’s report stage, Yeo said that there were "overwhelming environmental reasons" for supporting the amendment, adding it would help "encourage investment and bring down the cost of investment, benefiting consumer prices".

Yeo, who is chairman of the influential energy and climate change select committee, added that accepting the amendment would be a "big step towards placing Britain in the vanguard of the new industrial revolution, taking our economy to a position in which it is less dependent on fossil fuels".

The amendment was supported by Labour MP Barry Gardiner. He said: "Potential investors in the UK have a policy risk concern; they are concerned about what the future shape of our energy policy might be. Siemens told us if we wait until 2016 to set a decarbonisation for 2030, it and many of its competitors are likely to delay or cancel planned investment in the UK."

But energy minister Michael Fallon said that now was not the right time to set a decarbonisation target, and that it should instead be set in 2016. "There is no certainty for investors in setting a target before we can possibly know how we can meet it," he said.

Fallon said: "Setting a target now to come into effect next April would mean not waiting to consider what is happening in the wider economy, for example, the progress being made in the commercial deliverability of carbon capture and storage, how that could contribute to decarbonising our energy supply, and the take-up of electric vehicles in the coming years.

"Therefore, setting a target now risks imposing additional costs on the economy and on consumer bills in the future in order to meet the target, and that would not be helpful for anyone."

Andy Atkins, executive director of charity Friends of the Earth, said: "The Liberal Democrat leadership’s green credibility has been left in tatters after siding with the Conservatives to back a headlong dash for gas – this would send fuel bills rocketing and jobs overseas, and punch a gaping hole in our climate targets."

Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at charity WWF-UK, said: "It’s really disappointing that the decarbonisation target was rejected so narrowly. However, with the government scraping by with only 23 votes, MPs from all parties have sent a powerful signal that they are not convinced that the coalition’s crude compromise is best for Britain."

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