The UK government has been accused of trying to ‘wriggle out of’ its commitment to tackling climate change following the disclosure, obtained from a leaked internal document, that the UK is unlikely to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets. Ministers are apparently being briefed to use what it calls ‘statistical interpretations’ of the target and have been warned that they need to be ready to meet criticism of the UK’s achievements to date on renewables.

European national leaders signed up in the spring to generating 20 % of energy from renewable sources. But under current policies the UK is likely to reach only 7 %, with further progress described in the document as ‘challenging’.

The leaked paper, obtained by The Guardian newspaper, advises ministers to lobby EU commissioners to allow for a more accommodating interpretation of renewable energy.

UK government officials would not comment on the disclosure but insisted that the government is “committed” to renewables.

An environment spokesman for opposition party the Liberal Democrats, Chris Huhne, said the paper shows that ministers are not trying to meet renewables targets ‘but instead are trying to wriggle out of them’. ‘If government efforts are now to be taken seriously, and not just seen as green window-dressing, ministers must now come forward with an action plan to boost renewables’ he said.

Friends of the Earth campaigns director Mike Childs said that the UK has great potential for producing renewable energy and has called on prime minister Gordon Brown to commit his government to developing a major new renewables industry and back the EU 20 % target.

“He needs to tell his civil servants to find ways of meeting it, not ways of getting out of it. He must invest £1 billion to help the public reduce their emissions and should replicate Germany’s use of feed-in tariffs which have so successfully increased the production of renewable power,” he said.