Owen Paterson has been slammed by politicians and experts, after reports emerged that the former environment secretary will call for the government’s climate change targets to be scrapped.
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On Wednesday, Paterson will deliver a lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the secretive thinktank launched to lobby against climate legislation.
Paterson – an outspoken climate sceptic who clashed with campaigners and experts many times during his controversial stint at the helm of DEFRA – is expected to propose the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act be repealed.
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The legally binding act, which passed with cross-party support, requires the UK to cut carbon emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. In his speech, the Tory MP will claim this target will cause blackouts and cost billions.
“Blind adhesion to the 2050 targets will not reduce emissions and will fail to keep the lights on. The current energy policy is a slave to flawed climate action,” he will say, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
“It will cost £1,100bn, fail to meet the very emissions targets it is designed to meet, and will not provide the UK’s energy requirements. In the short and medium term, costs to consumers will rise dramatically, but there can only be one ultimate consequence of this policy – the lights will go out at some time in the future.”
Instead, Paterson is expected to call for the UK to keep the lights on with a mix of fracked shale gas, unproven small nuclear plants and combined heat and power plants. The Climate Change Act, he will argue, prevents this dream from being realised.
However, critics have rejected the idea, claiming Paterson has failed to understand the technology neutral act and the severity of the climate change challenge.
Labour’s Baroness Worthington, one of the architects of the Climate Change Act, told the Guardian that the proposal was “utterly bonkers”.
“He obviously hasn’t read it [the act], is my overall conclusion. There’s nothing in the act that tells you how to get to the  target, it’s completely flexible.”
The Liberal Democrat secretary of state for energy and climate change Ed Davey said, “The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that climate change exists while most leading British businesses and City investment funds agree with the coalition that taking out an ‘insurance policy’ now will protect the UK against astronomical future costs caused by a changing climate.
“With the USA, China and India also now taking the climate change threat seriously and investing in low carbon energy, the global marketplace for green technology Britain is increasingly strong in, should balloon over the next decade so ripping up the Climate Change Act would be one of the most stupid economic decisions imaginable.”
Economist and renowned climate expert Lord Stern added, “This is a further example of the former environment minister’s complete failure to understand the immense risks from unmanaged climate change, as documented by national academies of sciences around the world.”
Photo: Policy Exchange via Flickr