Gordon Brown has been accused of presiding over an environmental policy based on “propaganda and deceit” after a leaked document suggested vital ‘green’ energy targets will not be met.
Government officials also faced charges of seeking to “undermine” specific environmental commitments made by Tony Blair shortly before Mr Brown took over as Prime Minister last June.
The former Prime Minister signed up to a new European Union target of achieving 20 per cent of energy from renewable sources such as wind and tidal power.
But a leaked document from officials in the former Department of Trade and Industry revealed that Britain has little hope of achieving its target.
According to the briefing paper obtained by The Guardian, officials said the best the UK could actually achieve was just nine per cent by 2020.
The paper, produced in the early summer when the Government’s energy white paper was published, also admitted that the UK “has achieved little so far on renewables”.
It even suggested that Ministers lobby Brussels to allow nuclear power to be included in the overall renewables aim as part of a more flexible interpretation of the EU environmental target.
Both Downing Street and Malcolm Wicks, the Energy Minister, refused to comment on the contents of the leaked paper.
Mr Wicks appeared to try to dismiss the row as a silly-season “summer” story, saying he would not comment on a leaked document that appeared in August.
But both he and Number 10 fuelled suspicions that Britain would now seek to negotiate for a much smaller renewables target, insisting that the 20 per cent aim was an EU-wide ambition within which different countries could make their own contributions.
Mr Wicks told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I don’t know what we could be arguing for – this is a target across the whole EU, countries are at different levels, some countries have hydro resources because of their natural environment.”
He added: “I am confident that we will play our role in the EU hitting that very, very demanding target. We are committed on climate change, we are committed on renewables.”
Mr Wick said: “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.”
The Energy Minister also went out of his way to stress that the most important task was reducing carbon dioxide emissions, not to “build renewables for the sake of it”.
The Government has already set out ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions by 60pc by 2050.
There is also a specific target of producing 10pc of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and an “aspiration” to raise that to 15pc by 2015.
Currently, about 4.6pc of the country’s electricity is provided by windfarms and other environmentally-friendly means.
But there is no equivalent British target for energy as a whole, which includes electricity production, fuel for transport and heating homes and businesses.
Alan Duncan, the Tory spokesman on business and regulation, said it was now clear that Labour’s environmental policy was “based on propaganda and deceit”.
Under David Cameron, the Tories have put the environment at the heart of their hopes of regaining power. And Mr Duncan sought to use the leaked document to demonstrate that Mr Brown’s administration could not be trusted.
He told The Daily Telegraph that officials were clearly warning Ministers in private that their public ambitions for “green” energy would not be met.
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesman, said it was clear that Ministers were trying to “wriggle out” of their renewables commitments.
Mike Childs, from Friends of the Earth, said that the document clearly showed that civil servants were seeking “to try to undermine” the EU target.
“What they are trying to do is weaken it as far as possible,” he said.
Jeremy Leggett, a former member of the Government’s renewables’ advisory board who now runs a solar energy company, accused Whitehall of an anti-renewables’ bias.
By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent
13 August 2007
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