Setting a decarbonisation target will help the UK secure a lead in the green energy sector, a Lib Dem backbencher has said.
Andrew George told MPs it was Lib Dem policy to set a decarbonisation target now rather than in 2016 but in coalition Government "sometimes you can't always get the outcome you desire".
Speaking during his Westminster Hall debate on decarbonising energy generation, the MP for St Ives voiced concerns over the politics of introducing such a target.
"It is my intention to advance the economic case for green jobs and investment as the fundamental justification and raison d'etre for advancing as quickly as possible a decarbonisation agenda in the UK. If we are to corner a global market here then the UK needs to lead the way," he said.
"Looking decades ahead which is absolutely right, the worry is that actually it is the political agenda which might drive the basis on which the decarbonisation targets are met."
George said investors were wanting certainty and confidence, adding: "Seeing this as one sector where they believe that if that certainty can be demonstrated with a target set sooner rather than later then this is a part of the economy that has not only performed by generating a large number of jobs and seeing significant growth."
The Energy Bill, published late last year, allows ministers to treble investment in low-carbon power generation to £7.6bn by 2020, up from £2.35bn in 2012, but its failure to include a target to slash emissions from the electricity sector by 2030 has led to criticism from environmental groups that the measures do not go far enough to secure the investment in green technology needed in the next two decades.
George said Britain now had an opportunity, adding: "That opportunity isn't going to exist for many years and if we miss that opportunity we will be dragged behind other places and will be importing their technology into this country and the cost to this economy will be very significant indeed."
The Energy Bill, he said, made "significant advances", but the "difficult compromise" on targets needed further debate and when it came back to the Commons, MPs would have an opportunity to make the economic case for the early setting of a decarbonisation target.
George added: "A large numbers of those companies have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than the Secretary of State when they are seeking to move this agenda forward. I think that indicates really where I believe that the target for this debate really needs to be directed."
Labour's Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) also backed the case for setting a target.
She said: "We need something like targets to actually create that impetus for some of these measures to be put in place and also to create a situation where investors have the confidence. At the moment there is so much uncertainty about the future of Government energy policy."
Labour's Barry Gardiner (Brent North), who sits on the Energy and Climate Change Committee, argued that postponing the 2030 target decision until 2016 created "entirely avoidable political risk".
He added: "This will slow growth in the low carbon sector, handicap the UK supply chains, reduce UK research and development and produce fewer new jobs."
Climate Change minister Gregory Barker said the Government had already put in place many of the key building blocks of a greener, cleaner energy economy, but the Government did not believe in "going green at any price".
Barker said he saw the merit of an argument for a decarbonisation target, but he added: "We must also resist the temptation to think that life is about targets, we've surely learnt our lesson under the last Government that simply setting targets doesn't deliver results.
"If this Government is about anything it's about deployment, it's about results and it's about actually driving real change in real time. I think we have a record that demonstrates that we're capable of doing it."