A proposal to add an amendment to the Energy Bill that would force the government to set out a decarbonisation strategy next year has been defeated.

Lord Oxburgh’s suggested amendment to include the setting of a decarbonisation milestone for 2030 was defeated by a margin of 14, after 202 voted for the amendment and 216 voted against.

During the House of Lords debate, Lord Oxburgh stated that a decarbonsiation target was required before 2016 because, “the two defining characteristics of energy infrastructure are the long timescales and the high costs”. “With sufficient forethought and consistency of policy, both can be reduced. That is what the amendment seeks to achieve. As the Bill stands, important decisions on timing are deferred until at least after the next election, and who knows what other distracting pressures on government time there will be then,” he said.

Parliamentary under secretary of state for energy and climate change at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Baroness Verma, explained why the department felt that 2016 was the right time to set a decarbonisation target. She said: “The right time to consider this is in 2016, not 2014 as proposed by Amendment 1, as 2016 is when, in line with the requirements of the Climate Change Act, we will be undertaking extensive analysis to set the level of the fifth carbon budget in law, incorporating advice from the Committee on Climate Change. At that point we can consider a decarbonisation target within the broader context of the trajectory of our whole economy towards our 2050 target.”

The narrow margin of defeat has left green groups frustrated, especially after the same vote was defeated in a similar fashion in the House of Commons earlier this year. Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins explained: “By voting against a clean power target the Lords are saddling us with an Energy Bill that’s bad news for bill payers, the economy, and the climate – letting the Big Six energy suppliers off the hook.
“Putting off the decision on a target until at least 2016 will continue to undermine investor confidence in the UK’s energy market and risk driving much needed business and jobs abroad.”

Atkins added: “The Liberal Democrats have played a sorry part in this decision – shamefully this is the second time they’ve blocked a clean power target, despite claiming to support it all along.”