UK’s methane emissions cap faces cabinet challenge

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Thompson-Kilvert would like greater investment in the research for behavioural and other technology to reduce methane emissions

Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to cut emissions of methane – a global warming gas – could be put in doubt after Steve Coley, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said he plans to fight the measure.

An amended rule was backed last week in Parliament.

It means oil and gas firms will have to find ways to reduce emissions by an average of up to 20% by 2025.

The proposal is worth at least £50m in subsidies, partly in the form of lower company tax.

Mr Coley said the proposal contained a number of anomalies and not enough support.

He also said the provision to pay firms to find ways to cut emissions was too open ended, while the incentives for companies to explore better technologies remained underfunded and lacked clarity.

The rule is designed to address the release of methane, the greenhouse gas with the strongest climate-changing potential.

But it could also impact on gas companies’ activities because of the atmosphere’s high concentration of methane.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Cameron would like more investment in research for the detection of methane

Vaughan Spencer, executive director of the sustainable transport lobby group Transport for London, told the BBC the policy could increase air pollution and undermine efforts to combat climate change.

“In practice, this could lead to gas stations becoming less appealing to drivers and restaurants and pubs having to put up windows in order to prevent gas escaping, so the air-quality impact would be quite significant,” he said.

Wilkinson not happy

It has received cross-party backing and was rejected by the UK’s scientific academies.

However, in a letter to the government last week, Mr Coley said it could cause a damaging “adverse reaction” and damaging uncertainties to the UK’s international reputation.

He said it needed to be done in a way that would achieve its aims, which was not to hobble UK’s ambitions to have the UK’s own “leading role” in tackling climate change and air pollution.

The rule change was backed in a House of Commons vote last week on an amendment to the environment department’s spending bill.

MPs will debate the government’s opposition to climate change legislation later on Monday.

Former World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson is among those who signed the letter.

“The UK must continue to lead the way in tackling climate change and pushing for innovative technological solutions to help tackle our emissions – but only if we find the right balance between economic growth and keeping the UK’s competitive edge,” he said.

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