UK Politics

Green policy criticism 'utter nonsense,' Cameron tells MPs

David Cameron

David Cameron has mounted a robust defence of his government's green policies, saying claims it is "backsliding" are "utter nonsense".

The prime minister said that "on any reasonable assessment", the government is meeting its carbon reduction and sustainability targets.

He also defended a decision to scrap a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project promised in the Tory manifesto.

He was being quizzed by MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee.

Labour MP Huw Irranca-Davis said everyone from the CBI to accountants Ernst and Young had highlighted how the government was falling behind in this area.

But the prime minister cited research suggesting the UK is second only to Denmark in terms of meeting its commitments.

'Good record'

He said the UK's offshore wind market was the largest in the world and 97% of the solar panels in the UK had been installed since he became PM in 2010.

The SNP's Angus MacNeil asked how the government's domestic energy policies would contribute to the worldwide climate agreement.

Mr Cameron said carbon emissions had fallen by 15% since 2010, funding for low carbon energy was being doubled and the UK was the first industrialised country to phase out coal-fired power stations.

"We have been good to doing what we said we would", he said, adding that his government had a "very good record to speak of".

Mr MacNeil then brought up the decision to abandon carbon capture and storage development projects, saying "one hand of government didn't know what the other was doing".

'Holy Grail'

The PM said it was a collective decision taken by the cabinet, arguing that CCS was not as cost-effective as other technologies and the £1bn earmarked for the schemes could be better spent on flood defences and schools.

He had previously said CCS was "absolutely crucial" for the UK, so the decision to scrap a £1bn competition for a large-scale trial was criticised by the MPs.

CCS is the "Holy Grail" of the fossil fuel industry, the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin says.

If it can be made to work economically at industrial scale, it will capture the emissions from power stations that heat the climate, and bury them deep underground.

That would allow coal and gas to be burned in the low-carbon future deemed essential by all governments at the climate summit in Paris.

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