UK trying to wriggle out of renewables commitments

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A leaked document revealed by the Guardian over the summer showing how the Government was preparing to dodge its EU commitments on renewable energy has been borne out in a new round of EU talks.

The document, which was leaked to the paper, showed how senior civil servants were advising ministers to seek 'statistical interpretations' of a renewables target that the country had no hope of meeting.

At the time, ministers were keen to cover up the revelations, with Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks telling reporters that Britain was 'ambitious' on renewables.

But at a meeting in Brussels on Friday, British delegates were accused of trying to 'scupper' the EU legislation by lobbying for a get-out clause that would allow the UK to effectively 'off-set' its uninstallled renewable energy obligations.

According to the Guardian, British officials led by William Rickett, the supposed author of the earlier leaked document, proposed a system of 'mandatory trading permits', that would allow EU member states who failed to meet their obligations to 'buy-in' renewable energy projects from other countries who had surpassed their targets, including countries outside the EU.

In response to the negotiations, Friends of the Earth spokesman Robin Webster said:
'Government talked a good talk on climate change, but it's vital they demonstrate genuine leadership when it comes to delivery. The target is ambitious but it's only by being brave that the Government can really tackle climate change. The can't-do attitude to renewable energy is deeply worrying and a self-fulfilling prophecy.'

Commentators argue that a permit trading system would simply discourage member states from taking the tough political decisions necessary to develop renewable energy infrastructures.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist October 2007