George Osborne has begun describing the green lobby as the “environmental Taliban”, it has been reported.
The joking reference reflects the Chancellor’s position as the Treasury fights to water down renewable energy commitments in the Coalition’s Energy Bill, according to a newspaper.
It comes after the Government’s quad of top decision makers – Osborne, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander – met yesterday to thrash out details of the legislation with Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. The bill is expected to be published within weeks.
Mr Davey is said to be pushing for a legally binding commitment to the total amount of carbon that can be emitted by power stations by 2030, in order to “bind in” the Government to renewable energy.
The Liberal Democrat minister has also been arguing that the Treasury should guarantee loans that energy companies will need to invest in new renewable and nuclear power stations.
However, Mr Osborne and the Treasury have been opposing both measures, reflecting the Chancellor’s growing scepticism about the need to take immediate action to “de-carbonise” the economy during a recession, senior Conservative sources told The Independent.
One MP said: “It was fine to be talking about spending money on climate change in the good times but when energy bills are going up it doesn’t seem like good politics.”
Another source said: “George has started referring to the green lobby in Government and Tory party as the environmental Taliban. It’s meant as a joke but it shows where he’s coming from.”
The Chancellor is also said to be pushing for a new “levy control framework” which would effectively put a cap on the total subsidy from taxpayers and energy customers going towards green power.
It is a move that would allow Mr Osborne to claim that he was helping to keep energy bills down, although critics believe it would result in a “dash for gas” and, in the long term, less green energy.
Yesterday’s meeting was understood to be inconclusive, with a source close to Mr Davey telling the newspaper that discussions were still ongoing.
Liberal Democrats are keen to be seen as holding their ground on environmental policy after Greenpeace targeted their party conference warnign them “not to let Osborne kill green growth”.