Today’s EU climate deal means it will be harder for Westminster to blame Brussels for rising energy bills

One positive effect of today’s European deal is that it should be more difficult for MPs to deflect attention onto the faceless bogie-man that is 'Brussels'.

One positive effect of today’s European deal is that it should be more difficult for MPs to deflect attention onto the faceless bogie-man that is ‘Brussels’

It has long been convenient for British politicians and journalists to blame Brussels for any number of the problems that we face, including rising energy bills. Today’s EU climate deal means that from now on this should be much harder to get away with.

Yesterday the Daily Mail reported on concerns from the ‘Open Europe’ think tank that a new Brussels agreement on climate change and clean energy could put up energy bills for British families and businesses.

Contrary to some of the media headlines, the author of Open Europe’s report since clarified to the Carbon Brief website that his organisation was not opposing new targets for cutting carbon pollution per se, just some of the proposals made by some European countries for nationally-binding technology specific targets.

These would, for example, determine how much renewable energy the UK would need to be generating through to 2030.

Since governments today rejected this kind of top down approach, this criticism is now somewhat academic. European leaders have instead agreed to commit to a doubling of cuts in emissions through to 2030, but to leave it up to member states to determine how these reductions in pollution should be made most cost-effectively.

What this means is that it should now be much harder for politicians here to blame European green energy policies for any future bill rises. Whether or not policies to cut pollution put up energy bills or reduce them will now ultimately be largely determined by what carbon-cutting delivery plans national governments put in place.

Today’s EU deal does not specify what these should look like. That will now be almost wholly up to Westminster.

The government’s advisers at the Committee on Climate Change set out what they think the cheapest route is to make the emissions reductions needed, and their route map involves a significant growth in renewable energy alongside the deployment of other low-carbon technologies like nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) as well as major efficiency improvements.

Their view is that an energy pathway like this would anyway work out cheaper for families and businesses than a more polluting route to energy security.

Nevertheless, there are legitimate criticisms of the way this government is seeking to cut carbon from the UK energy system and whether a cheaper approach is possible. To date a number of the decisions – incidentally, made in Westminster, not Brussels – have been questionable.

For example, in today’s Telegraph, Centrica’s chief executive reasonably points out the government is both getting the public to pay to close coal stations, and to keep them open. The National Audit Office is investigating whether the new deal on nuclear power is a bad deal for taxpayers.

IPPR has also previously pointed out how the poor design of the government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme has meant bill-payers’ money that could have cut the fuel bills of thousands of fuel-power households has instead been wasted.

One positive effect of today’s European deal is that it should be more difficult for our MPs to deflect attention away from these kinds of failures and onto the faceless, distant bogie man that is ‘Brussels’.

Joss Garman is associate fellow on climate change at IPPR

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