The UK government’s plans to tackle climate change should focus on assisting China on low-carbon development, MPs say.
The UK’s Energy and Climate Change Committee said it was the ideal time for the UK to work with China – both in preparing the ground for a future international agreement on climate change, and also to secure potential opportunities for UK businesses in China. The market for low-carbon technology in China was worth around £430bn, it said.
The committee said the UK could lead the world in developing carbon, capture and storage (CCS) equipment – but risked being seen as only talking shop. The UK must demonstrate better low-carbon leadership and be pioneers in new technology, it said.
Committee chair Tim Yeo said: "The UK's image is unfortunately in danger of becoming tarnished by a reputation of being more talk than action when it comes to climate change.
"If we want to convince the Chinese that they should be doing business with us in this area, then we will need to strengthen our brand.
"The government must not allow the UK to fall behind in the high-tech low-carbon race by faltering on its commitments to create a low-carbon economy here at home."
And the committee warned the government it must come up with a focused strategy to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technology as the government in China develops its strategy.
Yeo added: "China must succeed in building a low-carbon economy if the world is to avoid dangerous and disruptive temperature rises in the coming decades.
"We applaud the steps China is now taking to do this and the emphasis placed in the 12th Five Year Plan on promoting low-carbon technology and infrastructure.
"By demonstrating low-carbon leadership at home, the UK could punch well above its weight in encouraging major emitters like China towards low-carbon development, but only if ministers can come up with a more focused strategy.
"British firms could benefit enormously as China invests in carbon, capture and storage and wind, wave and tidal power, but the government needs to do more to help them gain access to these huge potential markets."
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "China is the world's largest source of CO2 emissions and also its largest potential market for UK low-carbon goods and services: China deserves – and is receiving – our attention as we seek global agreement to additional GHG emissions reductions and develop new markets for UK companies.
"The select committee's report highlights a number of strengths in the government's low-carbon links with China; it also makes some constructive suggestions for how this collaboration could be developed. We are grateful for these recommendations and will carefully consider them as we strengthen our already extensive programme of engagement with China on low-carbon growth.
"At home, our reforms to the electricity market and clear commitment to low-carbon energy will make the UK a leading destination for investment from all four corners of the world, supporting jobs and growth across the country.
"We are determined to help create a cost-competitive carbon capture and storage industry in the 2020s. We have set out plans for a major expansion in offshore wind and given certainty to investors across the renewables sector. And we have removed barriers to investment in new nuclear and recently seen an application for the first new nuclear power station for decades."