Britain needs 20,000 more wind turbines to stick to green targets

Business guru Lord Turner, chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, said the UK had to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2030 to help tackle global warming. The costs of switching to wind power and transport would be covered by new environmental taxes and higher fuel bills.

Experts say the plans will cost around 1 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product by 2030 – the equivalent of £30billion a year. The report also called for the end of the free market for electricity companies and the return to a centralised planned system of power generation.

The target – published as environment ministers arrive in Cancun, Mexico, for the UN climate change talks – is the fourth ‘carbon budget’ set out by Lord Turner’s committee. If ministers accept the report, the 60 per cent target will become legally binding.

The Government has already pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020, and by 80 per cent by 2050. ‘We are recommending a stretching but realistic fourth carbon budget and 2030 target, achievable at a cost of less than 1 per cent of GDP,’ said Lord Turner.

He added: ‘Any less ambition would not be compatible with the 2050 target in the Climate Change Act. We therefore urge the Government to legislate the budget we have recommended.

‘Climate science remains robust and suggests there are very significant risks if we do not cut emissions. And countries acting now will gain economic benefits in an increasingly carbon constrained world.’ The Government has committed the UK to building up to 10,000 wind turbines over the next decade.

But to meet the latest 60 per cent target, Britain will need another 40 gigawatts of wind energy between 2020 and 2030. That’s the equivalent of at least 25 new nuclear power stations, or up to 20,000 new offshore and onshore wind turbines.

David Kennedy, chief executive of the committee, said: ‘In the early 2020s we would be adding nuclear and wind farm plants, particularly offshore wind power, to the system. By the mid-2020s we hope to branch into clean coal and gas with carbon capture and storage.’

The report said the UK will also need greener central heating of homes, with seven million heat pumps – devices that circulate warm air from deep below the soil into homes – by 2030.

Around 3.5million homes with ‘leaky solid walls’ should be insulated, it added. Eleven million electric cars will help cut emissions from road and rail by 45 per cent, it said.

The committee wants a major reform of the electricity market with the Government tendering out long-term contracts for low carbon power and promising a fixed return to investors in advance. Mr Kennedy said the new system would be planned from the centre but added: ‘It’s not moving to a Stalinist sector.’