Owen Paterson was sacked as environment secretary earlier this year

Shelve the Climate Change Act says former minister

Former Tory environment secretary Owen Paterson has challenged David Cameron to shelve the Climate Change Act.

He said scrapping policies focused on renewable energy targets in favour of "common sense" energy policies would be a "glorious opportunity" for the Conservatives and a chance to address the threat posed by the rise of right wing rival party Ukip.

Paterson said his four policies to "keep the lights on" were to push for shale gas, encourage combined heat and power plants, modular nuclear and "much more intelligent demand management", which he described as "true Conservative policies".

"You could have quite cheap electronic gadgets on every one of our millions of fridges which knock off the fridges at a critical moment, just for 20 or 30 minutes," he said.

"That would knock the peaks out and a mixture of all those things, that would be a sensible, common sense policy, but none of them are possible at the moment within the confines of the Climate Change Act because everything ... has got to be decarbonised."

He called for the suspension of the Climate Change Act, which imposes binding targets on the government to reduce emissions, until it could be seen how the rest of the world including developing countries such as China were responding. "It is unwise for us to be way out in front with this legally binding Act imposing conditions on this country," he said.

The North Shropshire MP said he was acting as a "candid friend" in urging Cameron to follow a different path to existing government policies while speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today.

He said: "I was a loyal member of the shadow cabinet and the Cabinet. But I did really pick up extraordinarily strong opposition from my own constituents, counties all around – if you go to Northamptonshire, if you go to Yorkshire, if you go to Northumberland, you go to the West Country and there is this extraordinarily strong opposition to what people see as subsidised and ineffective forms of renewable energy, and that's wind or it's solar."

He said that following his plan would present an opportunity for the Tories to set itself apart from the other parties – including the Conservatives' coalition partners the Liberal Democrats.

"If they followed the path I propose ... we would deliver our emissions reductions quicker and we would keep the lights on, by very, very Conservative policies – using existing technology and by energy saving,” he said. "I think those are true Conservative policies, they are common sense policies and I would be really pleased if my party took them up."

Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said ripping up the Climate Change Act would be "one of the most stupid economic decisions imaginable".

He said: "The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change exists while most leading British businesses and City investment funds agree with the Coalition that taking out an 'insurance policy' now will protect the UK against astronomical future costs caused by a changing climate.

"Indeed, the majority of European countries have now come around to the UK's way of thinking and are ready to implement proposals that would see other European countries adopt targets similar to our Climate Change Act in a deal the Prime Minister should seal later this month.

"With the USA, China and India also now taking the climate change threat seriously and investing in low-carbon energy, the global marketplace for green technology Britain is increasingly strong in, should balloon over the next decade so ripping up the Climate Change Act would be one of the most stupid economic decisions imaginable."

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