The Department of Energy and Climate Change has refused to comment publicly on claims energy secretary Amber Rudd misled parliament over progress towards climate change targets.

Yesterday environmental publication The Ecologist exposed emails it had received, purportedly sent by Rudd to other high-ranking politicians, revealing that the UK was at serious risk of missing legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions by 2020.

The emails claim to reveal Rudd admitting that while the UK is on course to meet milestones in 2017/18, in the years afterwards the “trajectory… increases substantially”, resulting in the UK coming up short by roughly 3.5 percentage points.

In order to meet these targets, the UK would require a further 50TWh of renewable electricity generation. “Publically [sic] we are clear that the UK continues to make progress to meet the target,” the email claims Rudd to have stated.

The emails also show Rudd stating that the country's failure to meet targets by 2020 would incur repeated fines and a possible judicial review into the matter.

If accurate, the emails would contradict repeated claims by Rudd that the UK is on target to meet 2020 targets, supposed facts that both her and the department have used as reasoning behind the curtailing of subsidy support for both onshore wind and solar PV.

And DECC has not yet refuted the accuracy of the supposed leak, instead choosing to pick fault with The Ecologist’s interpretation of them.

The department has yet to release a statement on the matter but did issue a tweet yesterday evening, claiming that the article was “misleading” and had confused the UK’s “overall renewable target with our electricity renewable target”.

Since publication yesterday afternoon the story has gained significant traction in the national media and could not have come at a worse time for Rudd. The secretary gives evidence before the energy and climate change select committee later this morning and the subject will undoubtedly be referenced.

Daisy Sands, head of energy at Greenpeace, said the leaked emails showed “the dark side of the government’s incoherent energy policy”.

“This is hugely shocking. But more deplorably, it is wilfully hiding this from public scrutiny. The government is planning on cutting support for the solar and wind subsidies in the name of affordability. But perversely, we see that the government believes investing in renewable energy projects involving buying power from abroad is more desirable than supporting home grown renewable energy industries.

“Even more worryingly, it seems the government is seeking to haggle with the EU to revise down our legal commitments. This policy makes no environmental or economic sense as the UK is losing jobs and affordable clean, renewable energy sources. The government’s claim to leadership in the Paris climate negotiations requires us to have targets, but we must meet them too,” Sands added.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.