Yesterday I was lucky enough to be in the House of Lords to see the latest instalment of the decarbonisation target saga unfold. This is the target which would see carbon removed from the UK’s electricity system by 2030. It should be in the Energy Bill but isn't, because George Osborne fought to keep it out.
After an impressive rebellion by Lib Dems and Tories over the target in the Commons, joint heavyweights Lords Oxburgh and Stern chose to re-table the amendments in the Lords. They’re so well respected across all the parties that rumour had it the government was worried it might just pass.
Still, with only about 40 votes in it, even if not a single Lib Dem or Tory rebelled (although the Lib Dems damn well should have because it’s their party policy to decarbonise the power sector), a win was still possible if enough Labour and crossbench peers showed up.
The day began badly, with the worst storm in five years battering most of the south of England. Calls began to come in from peers unable to attend due to cancelled trains and road closures. The vote remained too close to call.
As the Government started getting jittery, smears started to appear online about the impact the decarbonisation target would have on bills.Official Conservative Twitter accounts began to roll out false claims that £125 would be added to every household bill (a claim swiftly destroyed by Carbon Brief).
As the empty spaces on the Tory benches became more pronounced, it looked from the gallery as though the amendments would pass given the number of supportive peers present. But at the 11th hour, the back door of the gallery opened and in strode (or rather, hobbled) more than 20 Tory peers.
Lib Dem brows furrowed as peers agonised over whether or not to defy their leaders and vote for the target. Despite the pained expressions, only one Lib Dem, Lord Lester, actually stuck to his principles – the rest betrayed them.
In the end, between the storm, the misinformation, the spineless Lib Dems (with the one exception) and a Conservative party more committed to the fossil fuel industry than the electorate, the amendments were defeated by just 14 votes.
Just another day in parliament for those who blindly followed the advice of their party leaders, but for the thousands who will be affected by market uncertainty, rising CO2 emissions and brand new gas-fired power stations on their doorstep, the impact will be felt for years to come.