By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Analyst
BERR says aviation expect to source 20% of its fuel from renewables
The UK government is lobbying for aviation to be excluded from an EU target to increase renewable energy.
Documents passed to BBC News reveal that Whitehall wants the industry exempted from a general target of 20% renewable energy by 2020.
It also wants interim targets leading up to 2020, and targets on clean energy in new homes, to be optional.
The government says the targets on aviation are pointless while there is uncertainty over the use of biofuels.
But green groups are furious at what they believe is part of an on-going campaign to water down renewables legislation.
The UK has already signed up to an EU target to have 20% of Europe's energy from renewable sources by 2020. That target applies to fuel, as well as electricity.
Under current proposals, the aviation sector would be bound by the 20% target. But it is unlikely to manage this sustainably, so it could fall to other sectors of the economy to pick up the slack to achieve the 20% figure overall.
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) says it is pointless holding aviation to a legally binding target if there is so much uncertainty over biofuels for planes.
It makes more sense, says the government, to remove aviation from the package.
Claude Turmes, the MEP leading negotiations on the renewable energy legislation for the European parliament, says that if aviation is exempted it will be the equivalent of reducing the overall renewables contribution in Europe to 18.5% rather than 20%.
"I find it outrageous," he told BBC News. "Prime Minister Brown came here and said he would stick to the 20%.
"Now his civil servants in Brussels are not following that. They are trying to dilute the target in the directive - they are attacking it.
"On climate change we need to act quickly - I get a bit desperate about what will be the image of politicians in 20-30 years if we fail to act."
The UK is not alone in its opposition to including aviation in the package. But Mr Turmes said it was the major opponent.
He said he believed British government policy was heavily influenced by big business.
A BERR spokesman said the rules demanding a percentage of renewables on new and refurbished homes were too prescriptive.
It should be up to member states to decide on their own strategies for homes, so long as they stayed within the overall target, he added.
The same logic applied to the EU's proposed binding interim targets for renewables. BERR said some countries (like the UK) would be unable to reach the interim targets, but that did not matter so long as the long-term targets were met.
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said he believed BERR's motives could not be trusted.
"Every time Europe comes close to finalising this vital renewable energy deal to save the climate, John Hutton (the Secretary of State who heads BERR) is there with his wrecking ball," said Mr Sauven.
"Stripping out aviation would unravel the whole agreement, whilst interim voluntary targets set in London rather than binding targets set for the whole of Europe, means that business can't invest in clean technologies with any confidence.
"Gordon Brown should step in and save Britain's reputation on climate change."
Over the past 18 months BERR has also:
• Lobbied against the 20% renewables target, saying it is unachievable.
• Negotiated a reduction to 15% for the UK because past renewables performance was so poor.
• Tried to get carbon capture coal categorised as renewable energy.
• Argued that funding for renewable energy projects abroad should be able to count to the UK targets.
Mr Turmes said he believed the UK wanted to downgrade renewables, under pressure from firms seeking to build nuclear and coal-fired power stations. The government denies this.