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The introduction of an economy-wide carbon tax could play an “important part” in the UK’s growing efforts to cut emissions, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has told MPs.

Chris Stark, giving evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee yesterday (15 January) for its probe into the clean growth strategy, said he is “glad” Dieter Helm recommended the policy in his cost of energy review for the government.

Helm’s proposal to replace existing green subsidies with a single universal carbon tax met widespread opposition. But Stark said the idea will have to be given a “full airing” as part of a wider review of taxation triggered by the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

He said the government’s tax base will suffer an “astonishing level” of losses as motorists switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles.

The CCC’s chair, Lord Deben, said Helm’s proposal is “reasonable” but warned it should not be seen as a “silver bullet” for delivering the UK’s present target to cut emissions to 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

In the meantime, he said the focus should be on improving existing carbon reduction mechanisms.

And the peer said “nothing has happened” to change the CCC’s assessment last year that the UK will not meet the targets set out in the fourth and fifth carbon budgets – covering the period 2023 to 2032 – without fresh policy mechanisms.

He praised energy minister Claire Perry’s “manifest” commitment to tackling climate change but said there needs to be action from across the government.

Current efforts are too “siloed” within BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the two ministries with direct responsibility for the issue, Lord Deben said: “We need a sense of urgency not just in BEIS and Defra but the whole of government. You never hear the secretary of state of health make a speech on climate change.”

“We’re not doing things as fast as we need to.”

“The incremental policies we’ve seen in last six to twelve months are welcome but won’t take us to the goals,” added Stark. “We need to have a wider sign up to give us confidence.

“Unless policy stretches in a fundamental way beyond the department that is responsible – i.e. BEIS – we won’t see the step change required to meet the carbon budgets.”

Stark also urged the government to learn lessons from the successful roll out of fixed offshore wind technology by taking steps to kickstart the development of floating windfarms.

He said the mass deployment of floating wind turbines, which is technically feasible but yet to be proven in terms of economic viability, would significantly boost the CCC’s confidence the UK can meet its emissions reduction goals.

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