The core Department has reduced the size of its core estate to three properties and implemented measures such as LED lighting and improved insulation to reduce energy use. Carbon emissions, the quantity of waste we generate and the amount of water we use have reduced by 39%, 30% and 2% respectively. In the coming year, we are looking to use energy performance contracts to make our buildings more efficient and potentially to introduce renewable generation.
The environment is clearly a key part of preventing and combating climate change, and that was one of the performance indicators. However, the Secretary of State has reduced from 38 to six the number of people working on climate change, and the Committee on Climate Change gave her Department a mere three out of 10. Does the Minister agree that in so trivialising climate change, the Secretary of State is putting at risk our long-term economic and environmental future?
Mr Speaker, you will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s contention. I have a meeting this afternoon with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on the important work that we are doing on mitigation and adaptation. That remains a priority for this Government, which is why we are delivering on making a difference on this important range of issues.
Could one of the Department’s environmental key performance indicators be the simplification of uplands entry-level stewardship agreements? I have several hill farmers who are struggling with unhelpful interpretations of those agreements by Natural England, and they need to be clarified and simplified.
It is absolutely right that we should do all we can to ensure that these important new schemes are brought in properly, and that the existing schemes are functioning correctly. If my hon. Friend has particular concerns about the schemes, I would be happy to receive a letter from him that I can share with my colleague who deals primarily with these matters.
The Select Committee on Environmental Audit has used a traffic-light system to assess the Government’s performance over the past five years. On air pollution, it has given the Government a red light; on biodiversity and wildlife, it has given the Government a red light; and on climate change adaptation, flooding and coastal protection, it has also given the Government a red light. This Government were supposed to be the greenest Government ever, so why are they ending their time in office without being awarded a single green light?
During my time in office, I have been happy to give evidence repeatedly to the Environmental Audit Committee, though I might disagree with some of its conclusions. I am happy to say that this Government are making improvements on air quality. There are issues with nitrogen dioxide, but they are being addressed at European level. We are improving our status in the important area of biodiversity in this country. We are improving our water quality. Across a whole range of areas, this Government are taking action to improve the quality of our environment and to establish, through the processes of the Natural Capital Committee, the importance of our natural capital now and in the future.