Call for climate change minister to end ‘confusion’

The government risks pursuing a “confused” approach to climate change and must take bolder action to “rise fully” to the challenge of global warming, MPs have warned.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has called for a dedicated cross-government body to tackle climate change, in order to ensure long-term government policy succeeds in reducing carbon emissions.

In a report published today, it warns the government is likely to miss its own targets for reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2010, impeding its efforts to push for international cuts in emissions.

The committee has called for a climate change and energy secretariat within Whitehall to coordinate efforts. This would see a dedicated climate change minister sitting at the Cabinet table.

At present Hilary Benn has responsibility for the environment through his position at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The committee argues a dedicated secretariat would be able to take the initiative on climate change and lead work across departments, in contrast to the “confused” approach at present.

EAC chairman Tim Yeo said: “The UK must be equipped to meet both the challenge of a carbon constrained world and the likely climate change impacts that will occur.

“However, this framework alone will not cut emissions. That needs committed leadership by the prime minister and his Cabinet.

“The government’s commitment to sustainable development and climate change will be judged by actions and achievements, not speeches and targets.”

The committee also warned civil servants lack the specialist skills needed to target emissions and efficiency.

Today’s report comes as Mr Benn publishes his response to the climate change bill consultation.

Environmental campaigners had warned Mr Benn the government’s plans for a 60 per cent drop in emissions would not be sufficient to curb damaging levels of climate change.