Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

UK 'shouldn't front climate fight'

George Osborne: Britain shouldn't lead climate change efforts.

George Osborne has said he does not want Britain to be ahead of the rest of the world in fighting climate change.

The Chancellor suggested that Britain should not price itself out of international energy markets by placing too heavy an environmental burden on suppliers.

He was speaking after a landmark report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that global warming was "unequivocal" and human influence on the climate clear.

It also comes after Ed Miliband pledged that Labour would freeze energy bills if it won the next election.

Interviewed ahead of the Tory party conference, Mr Osborne told The Times: "I want to provide for the country the cheapest energy possible, consistent with having it reliable, in other words as a steady supply, and consistent with us playing our part in an international effort to tackle climate change.

"But I don't want us to be the only people out there in front of the rest of the world. I certainly think we shouldn't be further ahead of our partners in Europe."

The Chancellor attacked plans backed by Labour to eliminate carbon from the power sector by 2030.

He argued that for an aluminium smelter to leave the UK and go to another country would not make much difference to climate change.

But it would make a "huge difference" to those who lost their jobs as a result, he said.

Energy companies claim that green taxes are to blame for around 10% of the average household's energy bill.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon is understood to be looking at ways to reduce the impact of environmental measures have on household energy bills, The Times reported.

The Energy Companies Obligation, which forces suppliers to pay lagging bills for benefit claimants and pensioners, is thought to be a potential target.

A moratorium on inland windfarms is also believed to be under consideration, in a move that would appeal to many grassroots Tory supporters.

Mr Osborne also said he would not be matching Labour's cost-of-living proposals, claiming that some would turn out to be "illegal or unworkable".

Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said: "With the world's top scientists clearer than ever that human activity is causing climate disruption, George Osborne is showing a shameless lack of leadership.

"The Chancellor's policies are not only contributing to climate change, they're also undermining our economic future by keeping the nation hooked on increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

"The tragedy is that while our top academics and leading-edge companies develop innovations in areas like battery technology and environmental design, George Osborne constantly talks them down with his unambitious words and support for fracking.

"The UK led the world on industrialisation - if our children are to enjoy a safe, clean and prosperous future we should be at the forefront of the drive to decarbonise the world's economies."

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