Ed Davey says the UK's drive against new binding EU renewable energy targets, will make it cheaper to tackle climate change.
Proposals for curbing global warming up to 2030, published by the European Commission yesterday, included plans for an EU-wide binding target to meet 27 per cent of energy consumption from renewables by 2030.
But green groups have criticised lobbying from a number of countries including the UK that prompted the commission to back away from setting binding renewables targets for individual countries, which had been included in a similar EU package of climate measures for 2020.
The UK had argued for a 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, with a potential increase to 50 per cent if a global deal on tackling climate change could be agreed in Paris at the end of 2015, and Davey was unapologetic about the government's opposition to country-specific renewables targets.
"Today's proposals are a step in the right direction towards an ambitious emissions reduction target for Europe,” he said yesterday. "They provide the flexibility to tackle climate change in the most cost-effective way, so that British consumers aren't paying over the odds to go green.
"A 40 per cent greenhouse gas target for Europe is a good start which the UK fought hard for, and will lead to massive investment in low-carbon energy, including many more renewables. Yet Britain has been clear that Europe must be ready to adopt a 50 per cent target if the rest of the world is prepared to sign an ambitious global climate deal in 2015."
He said analysis suggested that the UK could meet its share of the 40 per cent cut on its existing carbon reduction plans, and in response to concerns that there was no renewables target for individual countries for 2030 he said the coalition had legislated for a "decarbonisation" target to be set in 2016, which would slash emissions from the power sector.
This "technology neutral" approach would allow all low-carbon technologies, nuclear, carbon capture and storage technology and renewables, to compete in the 2020s, he said, and help cut emissions without putting up consumer bills disproportionately.
"The coalition government has wanted to make sure we go green but we do it at the lowest possible cost," he added.
Roger Kemp, Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, welcomed the investment certainty the proposals provided.
“While we already have our own UK carbon reduction and renewables targets, for 2020 and 2050, the new EU targets are useful as they put a peg in the ground for what we want to achieve in the interim between the two UK target dates. It should help us – and the other EU nations – to justify investing money in carbon reduction measures and technologies,” he said.
“The lowest cost, but not always the easiest, carbon savings come from avoiding energy use and using energy more efficiently. Perhaps this change will rebalance policy more in this direction.”