Not everyone’s convinced by the government’s acceptance of Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendations on Fourth Carbon Budget

Does the coalition have its head in the clouds with ambition to be “greenest government ever"?

In a statement on 17 May, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Chris Huhne announced that the government would accept the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) recommendations on the Fourth Carbon Budget, legislating a 50 per cent cut in emissions (on 1990 levels) by 2025.

David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said the government’s acceptance of its recommendations established a “world first” in that “no other country has made such an ambitious, legally binding commitment to achieving deep emission cuts in the mid–2020s”, and putting the UK in a strong position to meet the 2050 target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions.

Writing in the Guardian, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was less enthusiastic, describing it as a “good news story for the coalition, which has so far failed to impress with its shambolic environmental policy”.

She said that despite its acceptance of the Fourth Budget, the coalition was set to ignore CCC advice to toughen up its existing targets for 2013–2023, and campaigners were “rightly concerned” that a concessionary review set for 2014 could allow the government to backtrack on its promises.

If the government’s ambitions are to become a reality, Kennedy said that the key areas are electricity market reform, demonstration of CCS technology, the Green Deal, the Renewable Heath Incentive, and support for electric vehicle market development.

Lucas’s view is that, while the proposed electricity market reform has the potential to update ageing energy infrastructure and facilitate urgently needed investment in renewables, “ministers have failed to be upfront about the fact that nuclear is set to benefit massively”. With a carbon floor price at £30 a tonne, Lucas believes nuclear power companies would receive a windfall subsidy of anything from £1.3bn to £3bn over 13 years.

She was also quick to highlight the “extraordinary U-turn on feed-in-tariffs” and described the government’s decision to slash financial support to solar over 50kw as effectively “pulling the rug out” from one of the few industries to have created thousands of new jobs.

The greenest government ever?

In a blog post ahead of Huhne’s statement, Forum of the Future’s Jonathon Porritt (http://www.jonathonporritt.com ) described the likelihood of the coalition government living up to its “greenest government ever” pledge as “vanishingly remote”.

Having written a report for Friends of the Earth, , in which Porritt analysed 77 green government promises against delivery, he wrote the “bad and the positively ugly indisputably outweigh the good”.

While Porritt acknowledges the state of the economy as having been the main priority for the government, he says a “a great deal more could have been done to promote the green economy as a central part of the coalition government’s growth agenda.

“The fact that David Cameron has no personal vision for the Green economy provides all the permission that is required for piecemeal decisions across the rest of Whitehall, working against any notion of becoming the greenest government ever’,” he said.

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