Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets

Joss Garman reports on David Cameron's intervention in the row between the Treasury and DECC on the UK's climate change carbon emissions targets.

Over recent weeks there has been a fierce row at the top of government over whether or not the cabinet should accept the recent recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). This committee is the government’s independent advisory body on how the UK can best meet its Climate Act obligations in the most cost effective way.


Under the Climate Change Act, the government must set five-yearly “carbon budgets”. The committee advises the government how big these budgets should be – i.e. how much effort there should be in the short term compared with the medium and longer term and right through to 2050 by which point the act demands an 80 per cent cut in the UK’s emissions.

The committee also advises on what policies are required to then stay within these emissions budgets once they’re established.

So far since the Climate Act was passed ministers have always accepted the committee’s advice in terms of what the size of the carbon budgets should be. The recent argument has been about whether the cabinet should accept the committee’s advice for the size of the next carbon budget from 2023-2027. The Climate Act requires a decision on this by next month.

Were the cabinet to reject the CCC’s advice, it would throw into doubt the UK’s ability to cut its emissions in line with the Climate Act and send a signal to the business and investment community, as well as the international community, that the UK government isn’t serious about following through on all their green rhetoric.

It would also mean that green industries would likely take their business elsewhere, in particular to Germany which is rapidly becoming Europe’s laboratory for green growth.

After a series of leaked letters, and media spin and counter spin (£) in the weekend papers, the BBC reports this morning that the prime minister has decisively intervened and backed the climate secretary Chris Huhne in supporting plans to accept the committee’s advice as to the size of this so-called ‘fourth carbon budget’. This follows pressure from green campaign groups, 38 degrees and Ed Miliband who all piled on pressure in recent days, and also follows the intervention of Lord Turner who is said to have mediated in the cabinet’s dispute.

On the face of it, Cameron’s decision is a rare case of the green agenda winning out over what one Whitehall source described to the Observer as “the dark forces at the Treasury”.

Certainly, it’s fair to say Cameron deserves personal credit for overruling opposition from Osborne and Cable who would’ve settled for a far worse deal. It is also true that the UK now has the toughest legally-binding carbon targets through to 2027 of any country in the world. However, in spite of this, HMT and Vince Cable did both win significant ‘get out clauses’.

In particular, it appears that whilst the government will accept the CCC’s advice on the scale of the carbon targets for the mid-late 2020s, they won’t accept the recommendation that short term cuts need to be increased.

Understandably, some will rightly point out that it’s convenient for the prime minister to agree to a 50% cut in UK emissions by 2025 – when he’s unlikely to still be in power, but to reject the advice of raising the 2020 target. Equally, it is understood that government will announce tomorrow it will rely on carbon offsets to a greater extent than is recommended by the climate committee.

But the more important point about all this though is the one made by James Murray, in his post this morning for Business Green:

“In one of those strange coincidences that so often litter the political landscape, news that the coalition is to sign the UK up to one of the world’s most ambitious low carbon economic strategies has come within hours of the release of a major new report eviscerating the primary policy for delivering that very strategy.”

The focus going forward must surely be the coalition’s failure to establish any credible plan to hit these carbon targets. The Treasury’s consistent sabotaging of any moves towards a green industrial strategy means budgets for clean energy programmes have been slashed, the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) scheme has been hugely scaled back, and the flagship Green Investment Bank is unable to borrow or lend.

David Cameron’s intervention is to be welcomed, but he and Nick Clegg now need to work out how to deliver these new clean energy jobs and industries.

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30 Responses to “Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets”

  1. Joss Garman

    Here's my take on #Cameron #climate decision – just blogged http://bit.ly/lj62if

  2. Joss Garman

    @anthonypainter Here's that blog: http://bit.ly/lj62if

  3. Sarah Duff

    Interesting >> RT @leftfootfwd Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets: http://bit.ly/k7WUDS by @JossGarman

  4. paulstpancras

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets: http://bit.ly/k7WUDS writes @JossGarman

  5. Jamie Kelsey-Fry

    RT @jossgarman: Here's my take on #Cameron #climate decision – just blogged http://bit.ly/lj62if

  6. Roger Lawrie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets http://bit.ly/j9ru8y

  7. PreInnovator

    Cameron deserves praise for overruling Osborne on climate change targets – Left Foot Forward http://bit.ly/mfL1LD

  8. Green Pathways

    RT @jossgarman: Here's my take on #Cameron #climate decision – just blogged http://bit.ly/lj62if

  9. Richard Hooker

    David Cameron remains down in my estimation for having no real strategy as to how to get there: http://bit.ly/mUGiSQ

  10. Tom Youngman

    You’ve hit the nail on the head – the government’s on the way to developing a political framework but building the essential Green economy is a long way off.

    We need to see effective infrastructure creating a sustainable economy in Great Britain. Our massive offshore wind resources need to be harnessed with turbines built in UK factories, installed from UK ports rather than Danish ports as they currently are. We need to see an effective public transport infrastructure, high speed rail – the sorts of projects that require cross-departmental collaboration on sustainability, something we’ve yet to see.

    And we all know what’s happened to the only body that might have overseen that, the Sustainable Development Commission….

  11. Northern Worker

    Once again you are pushing ideas that will increase the price of electricity for poor people, transferring their money to rich people with solar cells on their houses (don’t see many solar cells on council flats), and helping to make more workers redundant as our jobs get exported to places where energy is cheaper. What is wrong with the left? Have you lost your sense of responsibility for working people? You just don’t get it. All this green stuff is a cost – taxes, jobs, electricity bills, etc – and most other countries have figured it out and backed away except for the coalition. And you are backing them and want more! Unbelievable.

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Northern Worker – The author of this article is a posh boy eco toff who hasn’t done a single days work in his life.

    He’s been used to living out of big daddy’s pockets and has no idea how normal people live.

    I am sick to the back teeth of this green government stuff. This may be the greenest government ever but who the hell cares?

  13. Jessica Brooks

    It’s about time people started to wake up and stopped this ridiculous speculation about the importance of a low-carbon economy – Anon, and Northern Worker. You clearly haven’t been educated of the consequences of climate change – otherwise, you’d be concerned. My generation have inherited a polluted, unbalanced and fragmented world and we want to change it so it can become sustainable. There is nothing more important than being able to survive. And, whether you’re aware of it or not, survival is at stake – whether it be the accelerating extinction of species on this Earth due to shrinking habitats and distribution shifts, or rivers shrivelling up so rural poor die of thirst, or eventually us selfish, frontier-ethic inhabitants of the developed countries when all that we know changes irreversibly. If we do not exude stewardship over this Earth it simply isn’t going to provide for us any more! Do you drink clean fresh water? Breathe air? Eat food? Where does it all come from I wonder? It all depends on this world being healthy and functional, which is not what it will be if we do not crack down and stop run-away climatic change. We need a green, low carbon economy that provides in the long term, or we will not live to HAVE an economy! Wake up. Get educated about planet Earth. You wouldn’t be alive without it.

  14. Dan Evans

    …but what happens next? http://bit.ly/k7WUDS via @leftfootfwd

  15. danielevans149

    …but what happens next? http://bit.ly/k7WUDS via @leftfootfwd

  16. Dan Evans

    …and what happens next? http://bit.ly/k7WUDS via @leftfootfwd

  17. Martyn Williams

    Northern Worker

    Try the Meadows estate in Nottingham – its hardly your average yuppie street, but has seen a investment in solar panels, with the proceeds from the Feed-in Tariff used to fund further insulation and energy efficiency improvements. It is very popular, saving people money and ensuring their homes are warm and healthy, not cold and damp.

    Or check the recent campaign by greens to ensure that all Private Rented Sector housing has to meet minimum energy standards – something conceded in principle by the Government last week. Private Rented housing is among the worst insulated housing there is – and so has the large numbers of people living in it who cannot keep warm. They generally are not yuppies.

    Improving housing is an area with the potential to save far mroe energy – and create masses of jobs. Obviously, the highest number of jobs will be in the areas with the worst housing, which are usually the most deprived areas. The jobs require skills that can be gained quickly – so people who have been without work for a long time can benefit – you don’t simply get an imported expert workforce soaking up the jobs.

    How about green campaigns for public transport? They provide access to those without a car – and far more jobs than simply extending roads. What about the jobs we could create building renewables. Or would you prefer the money we spend on our energy to continue to go predominantly to massive fossil fuel companies?

    Have a look at DECCs work on what rising fuel costs do to our economy. Think about how badly we would have been hit by recent petrol price increases if our cars and lorries were still as inefficient as they were in the 1970s (or as inefficient as they are in the US where lower taxes has meant people have not bought cleaner vehicles). Think how much less hard we would have been hit if environmental campaigns for greener vehicles has been listened to, rather than Clarkson-ite rants about freedom to drive gas-guzzlers winning the day.

    It’s always easy to fall back on class prejudices, but I can’t see how it really helps those you claim to speak for.

  18. Anon E Mouse

    Jessica Brooks – Grow up please and stop the amateur dramatics regarding this subject. You are advocating a flawed “education”.

    This planet was supposed to run out of food and oil, Global Cooling in the 70’s (look it up), aids would finish us, CJD, Bird Flu, GM food and on and on and on and on.

    And the planet continues to get cooler year on year and selfish middle class individuals like the author here, who serves no discernible purpose whatsoever in the world, continue perpetuating the nonsense that keeps the poor poor and gives him something to do.

    Minimum wage workers like myself are suffering in this country and everything you suggest involves people like me having less and less money to live on.

    Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes for once and you may be more concerned with paying the bills and less on the this “Oh my god we’re all going to die” nonsense.

    If you feel this strongly go to China and ask them to stop building coal fired power stations instead of living in the luxury of a western democracy. Go and tell chinese workers they can’t have incubators and electric lights and must live on a bowl of rice a day or the African who cannot be schooled because he has to break his back tilling the soil without a petrol powered tractor whilst his children starve…

    Something this particular author has no problem with btw: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/11/what-channel-4-got-wrong/

  19. Northern Worker

    It’s pointless arguing with you people as you’ve no idea what it’s like for most of us struggling to pay our energy bills and the taxes hidden within them that are then paid to rich people.

    As for global warming do you honestly think anything we can do makes a difference? 65 million people against 2.5 billion in India and China where they don’t care about this stuff? A friend of mine has been made redundant twice in the last 6 years from good jobs in a factories making electrical parts. Why? because they moved the factories to China where labour and energy is one tenth of the cost. Try telling him at 50 years old and on the dole and never likely to get another good job that we should be taking a lead in this nonsense.

    And where’s the proof? Computer models that say we’ll all die in 100 years. I’ve said it before on here and I’ll say it again – I despair about the people who are supposed to represent me. Got to go to work now.

  20. Anon E Mouse

    Northern Worker – Absolutely agree. As a Labour voter pre-Brown who the hell represents me?

    Not these Joss Garman types clearly.

    Why can’t Labour understand that this Thatcher invented global warming nonsense has become a business with all that brings and realise their “progressive” drivel means nothing to the electorate.

    If Labour started representing the working man again they might actually become popular once more but not with this lot. If it was as dangerous as these doom merchants say then why don’t we bomb China this afternoon unless they stop destroying this planet…

  21. Jessica Brooks

    In case you haven’t been looking at every piece of advice from researchers, goverment organisations, the CCC, IPCC, etc etc, the notion for whether or not human-induced climate change is happening has passed, and the petty, selfish debates about the dangers of it have been qualmed. Letting climate change happen will lead to the loss of 5% of global GDP per YEAR. Reducing the impact and actually exercising some mitigation will reduce this loss to 1%. It’s a loss, but it’s a better loss than your actions will land us with. The fact is, it will do us worse, to do nothing. And, I am well aware that China generates 70% of its electricity from coal-fired stations, I cannot be hoodwinked into thinking it is my fault for not marching over there and trying to stop it. This is where it is important for people to show they care about the world as it is and don’t want degradation and poverty to continue – and here you are spreading pessimism and speculation and trying to thwart people who care about our future! And I’m sorry if I seem to be quite adamant that change needs to happen, but I find it maddening that people exist who actively seek to prevent us repairing and nurturing something that intrinsically exists and support us.

  22. Anon E Mouse

    Jessica Brooks – What will my actions do exactly? Go to work and struggle as governments approve the building of Runway 3 at Heathrow whilst increasing the price of fuel with it’s unfair “Green Escalator”.

    I find it maddening that you are happy to go along with policies that involve increasing the cost of living for the poor in this or any other country.

    When unpleasant individuals like this Joss Garman actually agree that it was better for thousands of Zambian men, woman and children to be left to starve to death rather than eat the (now proven) perfectly safe and available and offered GM food because it was some American “conspiracy” I really have problems believing him on anything.

    You may be right about your panic merchant stuff but it’s no different from Global Cooling in the 1970’s and does not help the poor of this planet and as usual will not affect the rich.

    Like joss Garman and his cohorts…

  23. Jessica Brooks

    You are quite misled if you think I am happy to sit back and watch the skewed effects of a shifting climate all over the world. It is the rural poor and those in poverty that will suffer first and worst. With increased stress on the natural environment and ecosystem services that support livelihoods, more environmental degradation will take place and fuel a viscious circle. Climate change is already affecting developing countries, but it’s convenient for people to forget that until your street is flooded or someone you know dies in a heatwave. The evidence against your claim about cooling in the 70’s (that you are seemingly clinging to as an argument against global warming) is quite titanic, how do you not see long-term trends as a viable source of determining what is and isn’t normal? There are no natural forcings in play that could have made temperatures rise by a degree over the past century. When the ability of the atmosphere to balance ingoing/outgoing radiation is messed with, complicated effects will happen that produce all kinds of blip effects on the climatic system. Stochasticity will become normality. People jumped at the chance to create an unsupported argument about Britain’s recent harsh winters, but there is no doubting that nine of the ten hottest years on record (since records began 1000 years ago) have been in the 00s and that temperature records correlate perfectly with GHGs. The world is changing, and if we do not mitigate and adapt – and support policies that will encourage green development – then you had better believe that those skewed effects will worsen, and jeopardise economic infrastructure far more than you envisage.

    Oh and P.S. there will be no third runway. I think you’re a bit behind… The coalition soon saw that off after Labour approved it…

  24. Anon E Mouse

    Jessica Brooks – The Third Runway is another reason I’m glad I’m no longer a Labour voter but you’re ignoring my central point about world poverty.

    We now have a situation where orang’s and other primates are now being forced into extinction so that the middle classes can pat themselves on the back at dinner parties as they drive their gas guzzlers around Kensington and Primrose Hill.

    We have taxes on fuel that the poor can no longer afford yet the likes of this author and his ilk remain unaffected.

    I am also not clinging to an argument about Global Cooling – just illustrating that at the time there was just as many people advocating that position as there are now about global warming (even though year on year the planet continues to get colder).

    If you are right or wrong I don’t know but I do know that the uncaring attitude towards the poor on this planet in countries that need to develop using fossil fuels is staggering.

    I’ll bet Joss Garman hasn’t considered the plight of one single African baby as he troughs his organic muesli whilst reading the Guardian and drinking coffee from another continent every morning…

  25. Jessica Brooks

    That’s precisely why at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, world leaders agreed to raise $100bn per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in implementing an infrastructure tailored to move away from fossil fuel usage. I can tell you that everything I argue for is correct – unless you are disputing the work of thousands of climate scientists, reviewers, NGOs and goverment organisations. I do wonder where on earth you get these cooling claims from – I’m not going to make snide assumptions as to where, but there is a reason for all this international concern and action to stop climate change and global warming. Because it is proven that it is happening. Whatever happens, the underlying fact is that climate change will thwart the progress of the developing world and increase their vulnerability to suffering – even more so with the swelling population. You should support the move towards sustainable use of resources and electricity if you want to see any sort of long-term progress in this economy or theirs.

  26. Anon E Mouse

    Jessica Brooks – I am not questioning the science just the conviction of our leaders who continue to pile the pain on to people who can’t afford it encouraged by people who are not affected by it. Such as Joss Garman and his rich clan.

    Global Cooling in 1975: http://denisdutton.com/newsweek_coolingworld.pdf

    I’m just pointing out that these scares have gone on forever – it seems to be a human condition.

    Relax Jessica. You’ll be OK and many years from now there’ll be some new scare that people will be touting around. Food’s not run out. The oil’s not gone and everything is pretty much as it always was. The world goes through cycles of heating and cooling. It always has done and if the fossil fuel’s run out as people claim then what’s the problem?

    Bet you’re a big fan of Nuclear Power though what with the zero damage from CO2….

  27. Jessica Brooks

    PRETTY MUCH AS IT ALWAYS WAS!?

    This is actually quite laughable. This world is so fragmented, its resources and natural integrity so ravaged by human exploitation, that half of all life on earth is in danger of disappearing within our children’s lifetime. The extinction rate is 1000 times that of the background evolutionary rate, and every rivet removed from the ship leads to a shaky voyage (ecology: rivet hypothesis). The world does indeed go through cycles of heating and cooling, they are called glacial periods. What makes everyone concerned is that this time, warming is anthropogenic and is happening too quickly for our natural systems (and managed systems) to cope! So you say there’s plenty of oil? Not pure, easily extracted oil! Look what they’re doing in Canada in the Tar Sands! As it becomes more difficult to extract oil, prices, tada, will go up. Why wouldn’t you want to support renewables which require an initial investment and then just maintenance, harnessing the earth’s own abundant energy that will never run out – we HAVE to use them sooner or later, so why not now! The world is finite, just like our lives! Food will not grow in extreme, unpredictable environments, causing further poverty. It’s happening already. Reductions in yield are already seen in Sub-Saharan African maize, and there was a 5% decline in global wheat yields from 1970 to present – despite massive technological advances and extensions in production range.

    Thus, it is apparent that you have a frontier ethic. Look it up and be ashamed. In fact I shall spell it out for you:

    ‘A frontier ethic assumes that the earth has an unlimited supply of resources. If resources run out in one area, more can be found elsewhere or alternatively human ingenuity will find substitutes. This attitude sees humans as masters who manage the planet. The frontier ethic is completely anthropocentric (human-centered), for only the needs of humans are considered.’

    I do not have the time to reel off more facts about quite how serious a situation our world is in, and you are not rightful to argue in such a naive fashion when you do not know the facts; I think you are on a superficial vendetta against this author, and I think it is time I stopped wasting my breath. Thank you for your time.

  28. The Carbon Budget « Greensen

    […] in passing the budget. However, the Osborne-Cable alliance did win some important concessions. As Joss Garman points out at Left Foot Forward: [I]t appears that whilst the government will accept the CCC’s advice on the scale of the carbon […]

  29. Anon E Mouse

    Jessica Brooks – Thank you for your time also. I more than support renewables. I have no comment on global warming – just the types of people who earn a living from scaring people about it.

    I don’t have any vendetta against anyone I just don’t like the uncaring attitude shown towards the poor and needy on this planet by those who have never had to worry about the real world and paying bills.

    Since you are worrying about maize in Africa I’m sure you are in favour of GM food.

    Since you care about the effects of CO2 I’m sure you are in favour of Nuclear power.

    If you support biofuels you also support increasing food prices and driving primates to extinction.

    You can’t have it both ways but you certainly polite Jessica Brooks which makes a pleasant change from the usual doom mongers….

  30. Jessica Brooks

    Couldn’t help myself – no I do not support FIRST generation biofuels and am fully aware of knock-on effects of deforestation. Don’t generalise about terms such as biofuels, for there is very promising research in that field, as well as biomass, that will not jeopardise more pristine ecosystem and the species associated with it. Nuclear is not ideal (and it certainly isn’t zero-carbon) however, I have trust in those that are advising the government and agree with their long-term plans to generate a stable renewable infrastructure, of which nuclear is key. Nuclear will provide 40% of our electricity by 2025, allowing us to meet emissions targets whilst not rushing the installation of said renewables – which needs to be carefully planned, soon. You seem to have changed your tack a lot – but at least now I can see you understand certain issues and maybe you’ll change your opinion about being sick to the back of the teeth about a green government, and know that people do care. Not just for our children’s future in this country, but for all countries. For climate change is uniform. And just remember – primates are not the only concern. You should be concerned for all nature, whether it is ugly, beautiful, boring or flagship. Goodbye, Sir/Madam and thank you again.

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