Climate report prompts calls to ban new power stations
There were renewed calls to stop the building of new coal-fired power stations in the UK as the government's climate change committee called for large emissions cuts by 2020.
The Committee on Climate Change, chaired by Adair Turner, said the UK must cut its greenhouse gas output by at least 34 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020 and by even more if an international deal on reducing greenhouse gases is agreed.
If the current UN negotiations lead to a new deal on climate change in Copenhagen next December, the UK's greenhouse gases should be cut by 42 per cent by the end of the next decade, the committee recommended. The power sector could see emissions reduced by two-fifths by 2020 and be virtually carbon-free by 2030, a report from the committee said.
The significant reductions across the economy can be achieved at a cost of less than 1 per cent of GDP in 2020 - but could lead to more people facing fuel poverty as energy bills were pushed up by measures to cut carbon. The report on moving to a low-carbon economy did not rule out new conventional coal-fired power stations in the next decade.
But it recommended that fossil-fuelled power plants which do not have technology to trap and permanently store carbon emissions should not be allowed to generate electricity beyond the early 2020s.
New coal-fired power stations should only be built with the "clear expectation" they should be retrofitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) by the early 2020s, Lord Turner said.
The Lib Dems warned the report had left the door open to new "dirty" coal power stations and demanded the country "should not go ahead with unabated coal".
But environmental groups said it was clear that planned coal plants, such as the one at Kingsnorth, Kent, could not go ahead if the government followed the committee's recommendations.
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said if ministers followed the committee's advice, "Kingsnorth is dead in the water", while the RSPB said the report sounded the "death knell" for coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage technology.
Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins called on the government to block plans for new coal-fired power stations and airport expansion in light of the report.
He also welcomed Lord Turner's backing for investment in green energy and improving energy efficiency, which he said would cut emissions and provide jobs and business opportunities.
The report said emissions cuts could come from cleaner power generation from sources such as wind, which could make up 30 per cent of the UK's electricity by 2020, and measures including energy-efficiency improvements in homes and offices and developing more efficient, electric and hydrogen-powered cars.
The report said nuclear power could play a role in low-carbon electricity generation.
Lord Turner acknowledged that the higher electricity and gas prices created by investment in renewables could push a further 1.7 million households into fuel poverty - but said 400,000 could be lifted out by energy efficiency measures in their homes.
Lord Turner said that as well as higher bills, ordinary people would see better insulated homes, replacement of conventional light bulbs with low-energy and LED alternatives, and more plug-in and hybrid electric cars on the roads.
Parking meters could even be installed with plugs for recharging vehicles, he said.
Today's report set out the first three five-year "carbon budgets" needed to meet the interim and long-term reductions in emissions.
The committee said the budgets should include all greenhouse gases, not just carbon, but should not include aviation and shipping because of difficulties in deciding how much the UK is responsible for.
The report also said the 34 per cent target should be achieved by emissions cuts domestically and within Europe, and not through "offsetting" by paying poor countries to reduce their greenhouse gases.
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said moves to reduce emissions would not just bring about changes in policy but a "revolution in thinking" in which all important decisions would have to take account of the carbon budgets.
And he said: "Plotting a course to a low-carbon future here in the UK is vital if we are to reach our domestic goals and reach an international agreement.
"Carbon budgets will set our trajectory and send out a clear message that we will tackle climate change here in the UK."
The committee's report was published as negotiators began the latest round of international climate change talks in Poznan, Poland - with the aim of achieving a new global treaty on cutting emissions next December in Copenhagen