LONDON – Lawmakers in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition this week plan to rebel against the government in favor of setting pollution targets earlier, a measure industry groups say will hurt the economy.
Some members of the ruling Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties plan to join with the Labour opposition in demanding the government set by April 1 a target for removing most carbon emissions from power generation by 2030. The government wants to postpone that decision until 2016. A vote on the legislation is due Tuesday in the House of Commons.
The rebels are concerned Britain risks delaying the investment needed to curb emissions blamed for global warming. Cameron, backed by some utilities and the Treasury, want to wait for the economy to recover before establishing a target.
“It will be a very tight vote,” said Barry Gardiner, a Labour lawmaker who is co-author of the proposal. “If we don’t pass this amendment and put in place a clear 2030 target, it’s going to make it extremely difficult to meet our legally binding obligations to reduce carbon emissions.”
The vote on an amendment to the government’s energy bill comes as the legislation clears the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament and moves to the House of Lords for consideration. The bill is aimed at stimulating £110 billion ($167 billion) of investment in power stations and the electric grid needed as aging generators are retired from service.
Manufacturers, including Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S and French nuclear reactor builder Areva SA, say the target is needed to send a signal to investors that the government is committed to developing low-carbon power beyond 2020. Today, 55 organizations and companies, including SSE PLC, one of the nation’s top six generators, called on lawmakers to support the amendment.
“Wind projects have an investment horizon of 25 to 30 years,” said Brent Cheshire, the chairman of the U.K. unit of Dong Energy A/S, which operates offshore wind farms. “We cannot undertake this type of large-scale, long-term investment if political and regulatory frameworks are too short-term and leave too much uncertainty.”
The target was recommended by the government’s own adviser on carbon policy, the Committee on Climate Change. It recommends ministers set a goal to reduce carbon from power output by 90 percent to 50 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour in 2030.
On Sunday , Energy Secretary Ed Davey tried to stave off the amendment, urging lawmakers to support the bill as it is.
The bill “will enable the U.K. to cut its economy-wide emissions by 50 percent by 2030” Davey said in an emailed statement. It “will make the U.K. a destination of choice for investors in low-carbon energy,” driving growth and jobs.
Davey, a Liberal Democrat, originally pushed for a de-carbonization target before reaching an agreement with Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) George Osborne to delay setting the measure until at least 2016.
Industry is also divided. Spanish oil producer Repsol SA, Cisco Systems Inc., which is the biggest maker of networking equipment, and renewable energy developer EDP Renovaveis SA, were among companies set to join Dong in signing Monday’s statement calling for lawmakers to back Gardiner’s amendment. The U.K.’s biggest business lobby, the Confederation of British Industry, said the measure should not be allowed to derail the law.
Investors in renewables argue the target is needed because an existing EU goal to get 15 percent of Britain’s energy needs from renewables runs only to 2020.
Vestas in March joined five other manufacturers in writing to Davey and Osborne calling for the goal’s early introduction. Areva, Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA, Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe Ltd., Alstom SA and Doosan Power Systems U.K. were the other signatories.