Low-carbon Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Innovation, Universities and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th June 2008.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Transport 10:30 am, 26th June 2008

What funding his Department has allocated to the implementation of policies set out in the "Building a Low Carbon Economy" document.

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Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

As the House will be aware, the Government are today publishing for consultation plans to take the UK towards a low-carbon future. Research Councils UK expenditure on energy research and training has more than doubled since 2003 and, over the period 2008-09 to 2010-11, that will approach £300 million. The Energy Technologies Institute will invest up to £1 billion over the next 10 years, and the Technology Strategy Board is expanding its portfolio of activities through a range of initiatives, including innovation platforms that are low carbon.

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Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Transport

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I would like to help him to invest the money wisely. Although the document referred to in the question has been led by another Department—the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—does he agree that it is an excellent ambition for this Government to lead the world both in the transition from high carbon to low carbon and in being successful in the future low-carbon economy? The document shows that the route to get there is through innovative technologies and world-class skills. Does he agree that it is important to make sure that we are preparing people now with the skills for then? In that context, is he aware of my proposal for a network of what I call "sea change colleges" around the country, where we could train people in those skills—and, naturally, I have suggested a location in my constituency for one of them?

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Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I understand that the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education met my hon. Friend to discuss the "sea change colleges" proposals. The DEFRA document is excellent, as is the consultation document being launched today, which refers to the potential for creating 160,000 new jobs as a result of making the transition that we need to make towards a greener, low-carbon economy. The "World Class Skills" document sets out how we want to embed sustainability and address environmental skills as a key issue for the future. We had a major conference in Windsor last week, involving the sector skills councils, expert bodies and all those involved in the environmental industries, to help us chart a way forward as we look to implement the "World Class Skills" document.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I welcome the research programme that the Minister has mentioned. He will be aware that the Climate Change Bill is being considered upstairs in Committee and, in that context, the CBI has asked for interim targets and rolling budgets. Will he commission research to come forward with precisely that in the context of the Climate Change Bill programme?

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Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I do not want to give any specific commitments today, but I can say to the hon. Lady that the Government are funding some major research programmes. "Living with environmental change" is a major cross-council programme that is looking at a range of areas. Through the Committee on Climate Change, a lot of research is also going on into setting targets, and work is being done on frameworks. There are tremendous opportunities here for the UK not only to do the right thing by making that transition to a low-carbon economy, but to make sure at the same time that sustainable new jobs can be created in our economy. Research and development and support to enable that to happen are in Britain's best interests.

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Photo of Ian Taylor Ian Taylor Conservative, Esher and Walton

The Minister will be well aware that there is wide support for a low-carbon economy, but we are facing energy challenges that mean that we probably need to build some more coal-fired power stations. That will largely depend on carbon capture and storage. Can the Minister give a status report on where we are with the grant going into research into carbon capture and storage in this country, and the challenges faced?

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Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Minister of State (Science and Innovation), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a deep interest in these issues, and he will be aware of my personal very strong commitment to carbon capture and storage as a new technology that needs to be deployed, at scale, worldwide if we are to be successful in tackling climate change issues. The Government will shortly be publishing further proposals on carbon capture and storage, and I will make sure that he sees those. If I can provide him with any further information, I would be delighted to do so.

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