Give a politician a minute and they will wriggle out of a supposedly steadfast commitment. Britain is seeking to change the rules governing renewable energy targets to make it easier for the UK to fulfil its commitment to promote clean energy.

At present, only 3% of the UK’s power comes from renewable energy, but government ministers have agreed to increase this fivefold within 12 years. To help reach this goal, the government has started lobbying the EU over the way the target is calculated. At a closed session of the EU Energy Council of Ministers, British proposed that its investments in renewable energy anywhere in the world should count as part of UK’s effort.

Britian’s business minister, Lady Vadera, said: “It is imperative that cost-efficiency is at the heart of our approach … Demand for renewable energy projects outside the EU should be considered [part of the renewable target].”

But the speech got worse. Vadera argued that EU countries should count carbon “saved” from coal-fired stations fitted with equipment that captures harmful greenhouse gas emissions. The electricity generated by this “clean coal” would then count as renewable energy and go towards UK national targets. “Member states might be further incentivised to support carbon capture projects if they were allowed in some way to contribute to the 2020 [renewable] targets,” she said.

Renewable energy companies reacted with alarm. “This would kill renewable energy in Britain,” said Dale Vince, chief executive of Ecotricity, Britain’s biggest windfarm company. “It makes a mockery of any attempts to address climate change. “