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Energy secretary rounds on sceptics as MPs debate Energy Bill

Ed Davey lashes out at climate-change sceptics, calls them 'dangerous'

Ed DaveyAs MPs debate and vote on the long-awaited and controversial Energy Bill today, the energy secretary Ed Davey has rounded on climate-change sceptics who claim that the introduction of a 2013 decarbonisation target in the UK is unnecessary.

Lashing out at sceptics

The Lib Dem minister has slammed right-wing newspapers for undermining science for their own political ends, saying that climate-change sceptics are publicity-seeking and accusing them of “blinkered…bloody-mindedness”.

He lashed out at so-called “sections of the press”, warning that they give an uncritical platform to climate sceptics who he denounced as “dangerous”.

Speaking to a group of leaders in the fields of science and business at a Met Office event in London, he commented: “This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity-seeking controversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.”

The other side

Unsurprisingly, not all MPs agreed with Mr Davey’s views, with senior Conservative backbencher David Davis labelling his remarks as “astonishing”.

He said: “The last thing Britain needs at a time of rising energy bills is an energy minister who uses dodgy statistics and alarmist rhetoric to justify even more massively flawed green energy policies.”

Energy Bill vote

These comments came ahead of a vote on the Energy Bill, due to take place today, during which Mr Davey is expected to be accused of going against the traditionally green credentials of the Liberal Democrats.

The energy secretary last year dropped a commitment in the bill for almost all electricity to be produced by low-carbon sources by 2030 after pressure from chancellor George Osborne.

At the time, Mr Osborne demanded that a decision on the 2030 target should be delayed until 2016 at the earliest, however it is thought that many Lib Dem and Conservative MPs will join Labour in voting for an immediate amendment to the Bill, which would bring the target in immediately, rather than after the general election.

This is an issue for Mr Davey, as he is relying on Tory MPs to vote down the change.

Conservative backbencher Peter Lilley said the 2030 commitment should be rejected as the target is too soon, and it will be impractical to eliminate all carbon from Britain’s electricity market in such a short space of time.

The politician, who sits on the energy select committee, added: “We shouldn’t legislate for the impossible in the hope that it will become possible.”

2013 decarbonisation target

Ahead of the vote, a number of major organisations have united to compel MPs to vote in favour of the amendment.

Among these 55 companies are Oxfam, National Farmers Union, The Church of Scotland and SSE.

According to a the group “a low-carbon power sector is essential to secure the future wellbeing of our economy”. It added that the energy bill represents “a major opportunity to put the UK firmly on track to becoming a world leading low-carbon economy, boost employment and show genuine leadership in the fight against dangerous climate change”.

Major change

Despite his reluctance to commit to the 2030 target, Mr Davey claims the energy bill will still see a significant change in the way power is generated. His speech slamming climate change sceptics was in part aimed at persuade Lib Dem backbenchers not to support the proposed amendment to the energy bill.

However, his fellow MPs are likely to suspect that his speech is a way of driving up the Lib Dem’s credibility when it comes to climate change.

  • james lloyd

    Really good that Government is at last having real debate on Climate change, and with rising energy prices and over 40% of the UK population facing fuel poverty it is important to keep all of this at the very top of the political agenda.
    Climate Change Adviser