Govt ‘committed’ to renewables

Downing Street has insisted the UK is committed to renewable energy, after a leaked document suggested civil servants were trying to “wriggle out” of EU targets.

A Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) briefing document obtained by the Guardian newspaper, said the UK was unlikely to meet targets for 20 per cent of energy to come from renewable sources.

Civil servants advised ministers to seek alternative “statistical interpretations of the target” – prompting environmental campaigners to accuse the government of “wriggling” out of its obligations.

Downing Street responded it was “no secret” the EU targets are “ambitious”.

The UK will face a “major challenge” if it is to achieve the 20 per cent target, the prime minister’s official spokesman (PMOS) admitted.

But, he said this was true of all EU member states, while the UK is one of the few European nations on course to meet its Kyoto targets.

The PMOS insisted the UK was committed to renewable energy, pointing to the energy white paper which stipulates 15 per cent of energy should come from renewable sources by 2015.

However, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) argued the UK’s claim to be a climate action leader was on “shaky foundations”.

REA’s Philip Wolfe said: “The reality is that we are the laggards, despite having the continent’s best resources of wind, wave and tidal energy. For a rich country that claims international leadership it’s a truly shameful situation.”

The REA believes the 20 per cent target is achievable and the government should concentrate on findings ways to meet it.

Friends of the Earth also attacked the government for seemingly reneging on the target.

Campaigns director Mike Childs argued Gordon Brown should tell civil servants to find ways of meeting the target, not get out of it.

Mr Childs said: “He must reaffirm the UK’s commitment to show leadership on climate change by introducing a strong climate change bill, as called for by Friends of the Earth’s Big Ask campaign to give business the certainty that the UK will reduce emissions year on year.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme, energy minister Malcolm Wicks said he was confident the UK would play its part in hitting the EU’s “very, very demanding target”.

Mr Wick said: “We are committed on climate change, we are committed on renewables.

“I reject entirely the idea we are not completely committed to meeting our carbon targets. We are. We have led the world on climate change.”

Meanwhile, environmental protesters have gathered near Heathrow airport to highlight the role of the aviation industry in climate change. They argue airport expansion is at odds with the government’s claims to be acting on climate change.

Downing Street yesterday warned protesters any action that disrupted the airport would be unacceptable.