Scottish MPs urged to back lower carbon emission targets

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   By Angela Haggerty

Scottish MPs have been urged by SNP Westminster energy spokesman Mike Weir to back an amendment to the UK’s energy bill ahead of a key vote on Tuesday which would see a 2030 decarbonisation target introduced in line with Scotland’s.

While the Scottish government set a target of 2030 to reduce its carbon emissions to 50gCO2/kWh in January following independent advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change, it’s understood UK energy secretary Ed Davey planned to exclude setting a decarbonisation target date from the Westminster Government’s energy bill until after the 2016 general election due to a deal with the Treasury over subsidies for renewable energy.

However, an amendment tabled by Conservative chairman of the energy select committee, Tim Yeo, will give MPs the chance to vote for an earlier introduction for a target – a move backed by the SNP, Labour party, Plaid Cymru, Green party and leading industry figures.

A number of Liberal Democrat MPs have already indicated they will oppose the government in favour of the amendment in what is expected to be a tight vote, and Mr Weir called on Scotland’s 11 Lib Dem MPs to show support.

“With jobs and investment up for grabs from showing a clear signal to industry I call on all Scottish MPs to back the target – especially Liberal Democrats who have previously championed their climate change credentials, and whose president Tim Farron has signalled his support for the move,” said Mr Weir.

“This vote could be very tight and it would be embarrassing indeed if it was to fall because of the votes of the Lib Dem’s Scottish MPs.”

In February, policy and research director of Scottish Southern Energy (SSE), Dr Keith MacLean, revealed the company was one of 40 organisations including investors, trade unions and NGOs to sign a joint statement calling on the government to introduce a 2030 decarbonisation target, saying the commitment was necessary in the long term to ensure the country could attract the estimated £110bn of private investment required to avoid falling victim to ‘blackouts’ as a result of dwindling power generation.

Dr MacLean said the move would help reassure investors and attract much-needed inward investment to the sector:  “A 2030 decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill would help minimise political risk for investors by assuring them that there is still political support in the UK for decarbonisation in the medium and longer term,” he explained.

“It would send out a strong signal that will enable the UK to attract inward investment in building supply chains, creating new jobs and driving down the cost of low carbon electricity – ultimately giving the UK a more competitive position in the global marketplace.”

Mr Weir added that the UK Government must clarify its energy policy to stabilise the energy industry:  “The delay in Westminster’s energy market reform has caused uncertainty in the energy industry – passing the amendment to secure an early UK decarbonisation target would go some way to addressing that.

“It’s clear that this key vote is getting a bit close for comfort for the Con-Dem coalition government as backbenchers realise the importance of setting an early UK decarbonisation target, not just to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions, but also to give a clear signal to renewable energy companies and hence attract jobs and investment.

“Nowhere is that more important that Scotland and with the Scottish Government leading the way, having set its own decarbonisation target in January – something welcomed at the time by energy secretary Ed Davey – Westminster should now follow suit.”

The Scottish Government is aiming to reduce emissions from a 347gCO2/kWh level in 2010 to 50gCO2/kWh.  The target forms part of a wider strategy for Scotland to produce the equivalent of 100 per cent of domestic electricity by 2020 using renewable energy.

The Government beat its own 2011 target of 31 per cent, with renewable generation instead accounting for 36.3 per cent of demand by the period.