Environmentalists lament ‘disastrous’ Energy Bill – but Lynne Featherstone hails ‘key achievements’

Lynne Featherstone. Pic: Nigel Sutton.

Lynne Featherstone. Pic: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

David Cameron vowed to lead the UK’s “greenest government ever” when he took office in May 2010.

Three years later, though, and his government seems to be doing its utmost to delay imposing tough carbon reduction targets on the energy industry.

The coalition last week saw off a rebellion of eight Conservative and 16 Liberal Democrat backbenchers who had joined forces with Labour in attempting to secure an amendment to the Energy Bill that would have seen power companies facing “decarbonisation” targets from next April.

Instead, the government forced through its bill unchanged, meaning ministers have given themselves three years – until 2016 – before they will even have to consider the matter again.

Camden’s two Labour MPs, Frank Dobson and Glenda Jackson, both backed the amendment, while Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, voted against.

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, who joined Mr Freer in standing by the government, said: “I want to be clear that I actively support a decarbonisation target and I appreciate the concern that a number of my constituents have about this. The issue is not whether we have a target, but when it’s set.

“I would personally prefer to set a target sooner, but to have supported the amendment would have meant jeopardising key Liberal Democrat achievements in the bill.”

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Ms Featherstone’s office insists the bill is a positive step because it will bring £110billion of private-sector investment, creating 250,000 mostly green jobs in the energy industry.

As for the “key Lib Dem achievements”, her aides said these include action to cut energy demand and a commitment to push the EU towards a 50 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030.

Yet environmentalists in Camden, Haringey and Barnet were deeply disappointed by what Labour leader and Dartmouth Park resident Ed Miliband called a “huge missed opportunity” over carbon-cutting targets.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who is based in Somers Town and has long campaigned on green issues in Camden, said: “It’s absolutely disastrous and if there was ever any thought that this would be the greenest government ever, the bill has absolutely destroyed that.”

Critics say the failure of the decarbonisation amendment means potential investors in green energy will be put off by the uncertainty.

“We need to make investment now,” argued Ms Bennett. “The more delays, the more things there are that won’t get built and the more we are leaving ourselves with total uncertainty.”

Catherine Budgett-Meakin, co-founder of Highgate Climate Action Network, which is now part of Transition Highgate, said: “Every time any kind of target slips, it means we have less chance of averting runaway climate change.

“We have to really decarbonise our whole economy and our society in very short order, so every time one of these targets slips, it means it’s more likely the consequences are going to be very serious.”