The independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) has warned unequivocally that the government would breach the Climate Change Act if it pursues Chancellor George Osborne's plans for a surge in new gas investment.
In what will be seen as an explosive intervention in the simmering row between the Lib Dems and the Chancellor over whether to include a target to decarbonise the electricity sector by 2030 in the upcoming Energy Bill, the CCC today stated categorically that "extensive use of unabated gas-fired capacity (i.e. without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS)) in 2030 and beyond would be incompatible with meeting legislated carbon budgets".
In an open letter to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey, signed by the CCC board, including the new chair, Conservative Peer Lord Deben, the group criticises the "apparently ambivalent position of the government about whether it is trying to build a low-carbon or a gas-based power system", warning that after extensive discussions with investors and energy companies it has become clear current policy uncertainty has created a "very poor" investment climate.
The letter also criticises recent statements from DECC in support of increased gas investment, which were wrung out of the department by Osborne during long-running negotiations over the future of renewable energy subsidies.