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Carbon and Renewables Targets

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 6 November 2014

11. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in European Union member states about carbon and renewables targets. (905927)

As my hon. Friend knows, I have been engaging with a large number of my EU counterparts over the past two years on these issues. By engaging in Europe—by building relationships and trust over a period—I believe that a UK Minister is better placed to win arguments in the EU that are in British interests.

That is what we have done over carbon and renewable targets, so now we have more ambitious carbon targets than many thought possible. We have an EU-wide renewables target, not a rigid member-state-based target, so European countries can cut carbon emissions using the lowest-cost technologies for them while still providing a strong signal to Europe’s renewables industry.

I agree that decarbonisation targets, not purely renewables targets, are a good way forward. However, the Secretary of State may be aware that the Government of Austria—a country that since 1990 has increased its carbon emissions, which are more than 25% higher than ours—have reportedly said that they are going to sue us over Hinkley Point C. Could the Secretary of State give us his perspective on their comments? Is there anything we can do to counter-sue carbon junky countries such as Austria that repeatedly fail to meet their emission targets?

I probably will not answer the last part of that question, because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office might want to have a word with me. On the first part of my hon. Friend’s question, Austria has reportedly been considering taking the European Commission to court, to judicially review its state aid decision. We are confident that that decision was taken in a robust way and we were very supportive of it.

Given that Germany obtains a higher proportion of its energy from renewables than we do, why is it that it has higher emissions per head and that those emissions are rising as it replaces nuclear with lignite-burning coal-fired power stations?

A number of final investment decisions were taken around 2007, before the 2020 agreement, and they are now resulting in some coal power stations coming online. Since then, however, almost all of the proposals for new coal power stations in Germany have been turned down. My right hon. Friend is right to say that there is an effect, but in the long term I am clear, from talking to German Ministers, that they will get their carbon emissions on a downward trajectory.