Coal-fired power stations must face a deadline to adopt carbon capture and storage (CCS), MPs believe.
In its report on CCS, the environmental audit committee (EAC) says stations that do not meet this deadline should no longer be allowed to operate.
CCS is a technique that could prevent up to 90 per cent of damaging carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations entering the atmosphere.
But the EAC claimed that unless the government creates the incentives necessary to drive the development of CCS than it will be very unlikely to meet its own carbon reductions targets.
Its report warns that progress on CCS has been regrettably slow and the future take-up of the technology is far from certain.
And the committee believes there is a very real danger that the development of new coal-fired power stations could leave the UK ‘locked-in’ to high levels of emissions for decades to come.
The EAC also considered the definition of ‘CCS ready’, where a power station is granted planning permission on the condition that it can accommodate the fitting of CCS technology and infrastructure at a future date.
It concluded that there was no guarantee a plant approved on this basis would actually be willing or able to fit CCS once the technology had been demonstrated on a commercial scale.
EAC chairman Tim Yeo said it is “absolutely crucial” the government takes a strong line on CCS.
“By setting a deadline for power stations to meet a certain emissions standard, the development and deployment of CCS will be given a much needed push in the right direction, and the environmental damage caused by these stations will be minimised,” he added.
“In the meantime, the government must demonstrate a clearer and more urgent strategy in order to speed the development of CCS.”
Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, backed the EAC’s calls for coal to be as ‘clean’ as possible and called for “bold leadership” from the government.
“The solution is straight forward: consent must only be given for new coal fired power stations on condition that operating permits are withdrawn if the plant fails to capture 90 per cent of its carbon dioxide emissions by 2020,” he added.
“This will give a clear signal to industry and provide the conditions in which the government and industry can work together to take a lead on developing a very valuable technology.”
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “In calling for the government to ditch plans for out-dated coal-fired power stations, this influential cross-parliamentary committee has joined the ever-growing ranks of scientists, development and environment groups and both opposition parties.
“Gordon Brown must now show he has the courage to tackle the threats of energy security, climate change and high energy prices by introducing tough new standards for power stations that limit global warming emissions.”