I beg to move,
That this House
notes the Pope’s Encyclical, entitled Laudato Si’, Our Common Home, on climate change and international justice which is an important contribution to discussions on this vital subject;
further notes that the 2015 climate change conference will be held in Paris between
and calls on the Government to recognise the significant support for a successful outcome to the conference which should commit to take further steps to tackle climate change effectively in the UK and around the world before 2020.
I should like to begin by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for allowing us the opportunity to debate this important issue in the main Chamber today.
Pope Francis published his encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home”, six months ago. In it, he says that he wishes
“to address every person living on this planet” about the “urgent challenge” of “global environmental deterioration”. Following his namesake, St Francis, he writes that
“concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace” are “inseparable”. It is an astonishing and exceptionally rich document drawing on the experience of the Church around the world, scientists, philosophers, and civic groups. He calls for
“a new and universal solidarity” in which
“All of us can co-operate”.
His main theme is the
“relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet”.
He makes a particular appeal to politicians, saying that many of us
“seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems” when there is
“an urgent need to develop” new “policies”. He calls on us to show “courage” and change
“established structures of power which today govern societies”.
This is why I and other hon. Members applied for the debate.
In looking at what is happening to the planet, the Pope contrasts the acceleration of change with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. He is particularly critical of the “throwaway” society, saying that instead we need
“to adopt a circular model of production”.
He makes this important observation:
“The climate is a common good”.
For those who have not been keeping up with papal politics, things have moved on since Urban VIII put Galileo under arrest. Pope Francis embraces the work of independent scientific research and the benefits of technology to medicine, engineering, and communications. He points to the “very solid scientific consensus” on global warming and to our role in it through
“the intensive use of fossil fuels” and “deforestation”.
In considering the
“biodiverse lungs of our planet…the Amazon and the Congo”,
the Pope is not afraid to challenge proposals that he says
“only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations”.
One of the worst things is that the cost of this violent “destruction”, as he calls it, is borne mainly by the poor. He draws attention to the increase in the number of migrants. We know that one reason for the huge increase in the number of people coming across the Mediterranean is the desertification of sub-Saharan Africa. We would be misleading our constituents if we pretended that we could tackle this without tackling the underlying causes.
The encyclical warns of the dangers of the developing situation whereby knowledge, resources and power are in the hands of a small number of people. As Oxfam says, the richest 85 families own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion. The Pope writes,
“a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized”.
“Inequity…compels us to consider an ethics of international relations.”
So he calls for:
“The establishment of a legal framework which can…ensure the protection of ecosystems…otherwise…power structures based on” technical fixes “may overwhelm our politics”, our freedom and our justice. Put simply, the world system is unsustainable.
The Pope is very clear that we need a change of heart, and naturally enough he draws on the creation story, asserting that nature is not solely a source of profit and gain, and:
“Whether believers or not, we are agreed…that the earth is…a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone.”
An important consequence of that is that we must have equal concern for future generations, and another is that private property is always subject to a social mortgage. The Pope says:
“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”
What is the Pope’s positive agenda for change? First, he wants us to understand the world as a whole and to see that strategies to tackle the environment need to incorporate economic and social change. Individuals can and do change their behaviour in worthwhile ways, from turning down the heating to sorting the rubbish, but they can also press for change through consumer boycotts, involvement in campaign groups and pressurising politicians. This morning I was particularly glad to meet people from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, who have come to support us in this debate.
The Pope is very keen to encourage ecological education that goes beyond facts, to challenge our culture. Action can be taken at local and national level. He points to the co-operatives established to provide renewable energy projects and to help small-scale farmers. In his description of the changes in cities, we see clearly his Latin American perspective, with calls to improve housing, public transport and neighbourhood planning. All those things happen in some places some of the time, but for the planet to survive they need to happen everywhere all of the time. In an interdependent world, none of that will be enough without international action, which is why holding this debate before Ministers go to Paris is so important. Global consensus is essential and technologies based on fossil fuels need to be replaced, but the international community has not reached adequate agreement about responsibility for paying for that transition.
Looking at recent history, the Pope points out that, although the 1992 Rio summit set out goals and actions, it was
“poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance…Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility” from those who are most
“powerful and pollute the most.”
International negotiations will not make significant progress while positions taken by countries place national interest above the global common good. It is important that internationalisation of environment costs do not penalise the poor. As the Bolivian bishops have said, the countries that have benefited most have a greater responsibility.
What is needed is global regulatory norms and enforceable international agreements, and that means institutional reform at the international level—
“an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called ‘global commons’.”
The Paris conference is a real opportunity to move things on.
“UK priorities include seeking to agree a five yearly cycle of review that would provide the opportunity to reflect on progress and increase ambition…capitalising on the falling cost of low carbon technology. This will be important as we do not expect the cumulative commitments contained in countries’ INDCs to be enough to put us on track to meet the…2 °C goal. We are also building support for legally binding rules to help ensure transparency and accountability so that there can be confidence that the action committed to is being taken.”
That has been the British Government’s position for some time, but I honestly do not think it is strong enough. First, instead of saying what we must to do keep the global temperature rise to 2 °C and then sharing out the burden, it allows a bottom-up approach that is inadequate and necessitates more difficult and costly action later—or, of course, the possibility of failure.
Secondly, I am not clear what “legally binding” means when there seem to be no penalties. It is time we got tough with those who flout the rules. In other arenas, international bodies levy fines, penalties and sanctions. Why does that not happen in this area? Let me give just one example. We issued sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine, but Canada left the Kyoto protocol to avoid penalties and we have taken no action against it for that.
Let us be clear: people in the deserts of Africa and those affected by the floods of Bangladesh are already dying as a result of climate change. If we are to be serious, we should make other international organisations, such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund, subordinate to what is agreed in the United Nations framework convention on climate change and co-operate substantively with it.
When I was preparing for this debate, I asked my researcher to find the Government’s latest published position. Imagine my surprise when she produced a White Paper on which there was a picture of the happy, smiling face of the former Lib Dem Secretary of State, Ed Davey. The document includes a quote from the current Secretary of State:
“The move to a green economy offers a great opportunity but to be fully realised it requires world leaders to provide certainty, clarity and confidence. The UK is a global leader in developing cost effective policies and innovative technologies”.
I cannot square that with the Government’s actions since May. They have removed the climate change levy exemption; removed the subsidy for onshore wind; restructured vehicle excise duty; ended the zero-carbon homes commitment; cut the support for solar; and yesterday they committed to a further dash for gas. None of that looks like a Government doing their best to decarbonise. The Pope is asking us to be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the common good, but the Government’s changes are so drastic that they will damage our own economic interests.
The hon. Lady is making an interesting speech. She has listed a number of points and I share some of her concerns, but on dash for gas, yesterday’s announcement was about getting rid of coal-fired power stations and all their pollutants and replacing them with gas. No journey to 2050, however ambitious, will not involve interim measures, such as replacing coal with gas. If she wants to give a balanced speech that takes everyone with her, she should acknowledge that.
Of course, it is true that coal-fired power stations will eventually cease to be effective and that they would have to be closed anyway, and it is good that the Secretary of State has formalised that commitment. However, by investing in new gas-fired power stations, we are committing, not just for now, but for 30 years, to a reliance on imported gas. That is problematic, partly because it does not improve energy security and partly because it will not result in decarbonisation.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, of the 10 coal-fired power stations that are still in operation, three were due to close next year in any event and that all but two of the others were likely to close by 2023? Therefore, by saying that there will be no unabated coal by 2025, the Secretary of State has spun an extension of coal-fired power stations into an ending of unabated coal. That is a neat political trick, but it is not exactly where we want to be.
Had Opposition Members invested in energy infrastructure when they were in power, going for gas right now would not be urgent. Indeed, had they even thought about investing in renewables, we would not be in the situation we are today. This Government are taking all that on board and trying to sort it out for the taxpayer by providing energy from a mix of energies.
I admire the hon. Lady for the energy she shows in this debate, but we have heard people in the sector say there is a problem—I will give a couple more examples—because 30,000 jobs are now being lost in small-scale solar and wind, which is very significant.
I want to go back to the point about gas and coal because it really is not good enough to leave it where we have. If the world did what we have done and removed coal from the system, it would be equivalent to increasing the current amount of renewables in the world by a factor of five. To pretend that that does not matter is to mislead us all.
It is good to remove coal—there is no contention about that—but it would be better to replace it with more solar and more wind. That is the simple proposition I am making.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for taking this frenzy of interventions. One thing she has not so far said—she must forgive me if I am not completely au fait with His Holiness’s utterances on this subject—is whether he mentions investment in technology. Surely the lesson of the history of humanity is that science has broadly solved pretty much all our problems when they have presented themselves to us.
Some significant technologies are a little starved of Government investment across the world. I have a particular enthusiasm for the fuel cell and the hydrogen economy that will, I hope, replace the carbon economy in my lifetime as one that is less damaging to the planet. Does she agree that perhaps one thing we should do at the Paris summit is to agree—much as we have on dementia, for instance—that global action on investment in technology and science can solve these problems as much as behavioural change can, not least with the hydrogen economy at the forefront of global considerations, as many countries are now realising?
The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. Of course we need new technologies. One of the problems at the moment is that people trying to invest in new technologies—for example, big battery storage technologies—cannot get funding. They cannot even get them funded by the UK Green Investment Bank. I do not think it is very helpful to privatise the Green Investment Bank when that is the case, or to change the policy framework, which means that we will lose the clarity, simplicity and confidence that industry needs in order its investment over the medium term. We cannot just switch this on and off like the lights; we need to think about it decades ahead.
I am sorry to repeat myself, but that was broadly my point. I was trying to make the point about the Paris conference that, as much as the hon. Lady says the emphasis should be on an agreement about behavioural change by business and industry, there should be a global agreement on investment in exactly the technologies that she says are starved of money. That might mean the Government having to make up for a market failure by investing in them to a certain extent. Nevertheless, as she says, given that we need a decadal view—out to when my grandchildren will be born—such investment needs to put in now. It may be that that has to be paid for out of the global public purse.
The hon. Gentleman is right that we need to have intelligent investment in technology, but I want to draw him back to paying a little attention to the Pope’s encyclical. An over-reliance and an over-optimism about technical fixes when we do not know whether they will actually work has encouraged us to consume too much and to be too destructive. We need to keep such things in the balance as we develop policy.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making a powerful speech. She is talking a lot about the papal encyclical—rightly so, since the motion is about it—but will she also pay tribute to things such as the declaration launched in August by Islamic leaders from 20 countries, which similarly urges Governments to take ambitious action in this area? This is not a monopoly of one faith community or another; all faith communities are coming together to make such a demand.
The hon. Lady is of course right.
The White Paper included a section on the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises. I am afraid that it was greeted with a hollow laugh by people such as George Smith from my constituency. He is an electrician—I have had a ride in his solar PV-powered van—who has spent thousands of pounds training people, but is now concerned that he may have to sack those very people.
Many of us were incredulous about the Government achieving their renewables targets. In the Treasury Committee, I asked the Chancellor whether he was a climate change denier. He responded:
“I am not sure I accept that phrase as a general term in British politics”.
Now we know why: the leaked letter from the Secretary of State to her colleagues says that there will be a 50 TWh shortfall in the delivery of renewable energy targets in 2020, which is a shortfall of 25%. She notes:
“Publicly we are clear that the UK continues to make progress”.
She also notes:
“The absence of a credible plan to meet the target carries the risk of successful judicial review, and…on-going fines imposed by the EU Court of Justice”.
Instead of going back to the Chancellor and saying, “We must think again,” she says that
“we need to reflect...on the emerging strategy once the outcome of the Spending Review is known.”
Strategies do not emerge; they are planned. Fulfilling our part in avoiding global warming over 2° C should be the Secretary of State’s absolute priority.
That is also my suspicion.
The Secretary of State now proposes to buy renewables from other countries. That is not a way to support British industry. It will not maximise the EU contribution to the global deal. It is not consistent with the argument put to this House by Ministers for abolishing the climate change levy, which was that too much money went abroad.
I am very grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important issue. The Paris conference is absolutely vital to our making progress. I urge the Secretary of State to reflect seriously on her responsibilities and to work for the best possible deal in Paris.
It is a pleasure to follow Helen Goodman. She asked me to sign her motion, and I was happy to do so. I do not know why she thought I might be interested in the Pope’s encyclical, but here I am. I hope the House will forgive me if I concentrate entirely on the encyclical, on which I have some expertise; I have absolutely no scientific expertise on other climate change subjects about which other hon. Members will want to speak. I will, if they are interested, try in a few minutes to put the encyclical in context.
I have tried to read the whole encyclical. Like all Vatican documents it is very subtle, very profound and very long—the best part of 200 pages—but the part on climate change is relatively short. Since the papacy’s unhappy experience with Galileo, which the hon. Lady mentioned, the modern papacy tends to endorse scientific consensus, but the detailed part on climate change is quite limited. The encyclical is really a very long prose poem that concentrates on and affirms the Pope’s belief in the interdependence of man, nature and God.
It is important that we do not try to weaponise papal encyclicals for one side of the argument or the other. The words that come from the Vatican are seldom very useful in that context. To give an example on another subject, I was in the Vatican last week to meet Cardinal Baldisseri, who has been leading the synod on the family. Journalists always try to pigeonhole such debates inside the Vatican as controversial, saying that there are traditionalists and modernisers. That is the way of politicians. The Vatican moves in a rather more sedate manner. The long document on the family does not take a confrontational viewpoint on all the matters that have worried us in this House over recent years. Again, it is a long prose poem in favour of traditional marriage and the family. We must therefore be careful about how we read the document we are discussing.
The encyclical is primarily saying that mankind is much more than mind or body; there is a deeper soul. As mankind is about the soul and its connection with a universal God and a universal nature, we must recognise that we are part of nature and respect nature. That is where the Pope comes from when discussing climate change.
I do not want to weary people too much and will not read out the whole encyclical, but I will read a couple of paragraphs to give a flavour of it. It is very beautifully written and it informs the debate in a general way. In paragraph 65, the Pope says:
“Without repeating the entire theology of creation, we can ask what the great biblical narratives say about the relationship of human beings with the world. In the first creation account in the Book of Genesis, God’s plan includes creating humanity. After the creation of man and woman, ‘God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good’… The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in God’s image and likeness”.
That informs the Pope’s view on climate change and the other debates that we, as politicians, are interested in. Unsurprisingly, he is always much more interested in the God-centric point of view.
In paragraph 67, the Pope states:
“The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world… ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.”
I am sure that Caroline Lucas would not disagree with any of those remarks. They are very beautifully put. I hope that the House will forgive me for having referred to those couple of paragraphs.
It is important, whether one is on the right or the left, not to say that the Pope has come down on one side of the argument. When the Pope went to see Congress, all the Republicans stood up and cheered when he proclaimed the right to life and his opposition to abortion. They were still clapping and cheering when, almost in the same breath, he talked about the rights of migrants and his opposition to the death penalty. They were left on their feet, clapping for something they did not agree with.
The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting speech. He says that the Pope does not come down on one side or the other. Will he clarify, however, that the Pope is saying very clearly that we need to tackle climate change? We might have an argument about the best way to do it, but he is saying that. He also has a strong economic critique. I can quote him too:
“Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending.”
That is pretty strong language.
I am happy to accept that. I do not want to weary the House by referring to the paragraph, but the Pope does endorse action on climate change. That is a relatively small part of the encyclical and it must not be seen in the context of the political debate. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland was right to mention conferences and what is going on in Paris, but I do not think that the Pope is concentrating on that. What he is concentrating on, fundamentally, is the theme that we are part of nature. The debate around climate change relates to his profound belief that we are part of nature and connected to nature, and that we are abusing the world. Because we are abusing the world, we are abusing ourselves. I think that that is what he is trying to say, and that is what I am trying to explain to the House in my very inadequate way.
The hon. Gentleman has obviously thought deeply about these matters and has given more of the theology than I did. However, the Pope does talk about the need for more effective international action and he does decry what we politicians have done up to now.
I am happy to accept that the Pope talks about more international action, but he is careful not to be too specific. In one paragraph, he is quite critical of carbon credits. He gives a general thesis and acknowledges the problem, then he leaves it to us—the Secretary of State, the Minister and the Opposition parties—to come up with solutions.
The most important theme of the encyclical comes out in the very first paragraph. It relates to our common home. This is where I hope I can take Opposition Members with me. The Pope states:
“‘Laudato si’, mi’ Signore’—‘Praise be to you, my Lord’. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’.”
When one reads through this long encyclical, that sort of language is repeated again and again.
The Pope is repeating the philosophy of the 20th century philosopher, Professor Charles De Koninck, who understood that the person, the individual, could not be neglected. He differed from the personalists because he knew that the person had to be integrated within a vision of the common good. In the encyclical, the Pope constantly concentrates on our common good and our common nature: the good of the individual, the good of the family, the good of the village, town, province and country, and the good of the whole world. People—you and I—have to be understood, De Koninck argued and the Pope now argues, in the context of our place in the universe as a whole. That is one thing that the Pope is trying to do with the encyclical. Like De Koninck, the Pope understands the truth expressed by St Thomas Aquinas that the greatest perfection of the created person is the good of the universe.
The Anglican academic, Professor Jacobs, wrote a moving reflection on the encyclical, in which he pointed out that Francis does not use the word “planet” or even “environment”, but uses the word “home”. He constantly concentrates on our common home. Professor Jacobs writes:
“All the economic questions he explores later in the encyclical are therefore grounded in the etymology of ‘economy’: the governance of the oikos, the household. Such domestic language is a powerful means of fighting the abstracting effects of any attempt to ‘think globally.’ Francis seems to be saying that if you want to act globally, you should think locally: think of the earth as your home, one you share with others to whom you are accountable.”
“Laudato Si’” is distinctly not merely an encyclical about climate change. While the papacy has always been a patron and promoter of modern science and learning, specific scientific matters are outside its teaching authority. Rather, this is an encyclical about the fundamental crisis of humanity that is at the foundations of our modern world. Ecological aspects are a symptom of that crisis, not the root of it, and there are no simple solutions.
Professor Thomas Hibbs, who was formerly of Boston college, an institution of the Pope’s own Jesuit order, has written:
“The most audacious claim in the encyclical is not the affirmation of the reality of climate change, but the insistence that to have a coherent and effective environmental philosophy requires both an anthropology and a cosmology.”
He writes that “Laudato Si’”
“seeks nothing less than the re-imagining of the place of human persons in the entirety of the created cosmos. Francis discerns beneath the contemporary ecological crisis a crisis of the human person, who is now lost in the cosmos, increasingly alienated from self, others, nature, and God.”
I apologise for trying to explain the encyclical, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have done it as best I could. It is a most beautiful document and I recommend that hon. Members read it in its entirety.
It is a great pleasure to follow Sir Edward Leigh. He spoke with huge eloquence, and I do not propose to compete with him on the papal encyclical. I have read it, but he informed the House about it brilliantly. I also congratulate my hon. Friend Helen Goodman on securing this incredibly important debate.
I will not spend time talking about the important encyclical because I want to mention what I believe we need out of the Paris summit, what we are likely to get out of it, and what should happen after it. Before I do so, it might be helpful—particularly for the Secretary of State, who is in her place—if I shared briefly a reflection on the Copenhagen summit of six years ago that I took part in, and I will offer one tip in particular.
I wish to relate an experience that was told by my lead official, the brilliant Pete Betts, who I believe still works with the Secretary of State. In the dying hours of the conference he rang me—I had not slept for 36 hours and was about to go to bed—to say that the deal was about to collapse. That was obviously a global problem, but it was also a particular problem for me because it followed a period when world leaders, including Gordon Brown, had come to town and made a heroic effort to salvage something from the wreckage of Copenhagen. Gordon had departed with the immortal words to me, “Make sure it doesn’t go wrong now,” and I had foolishly said, “I’m sure it’s all going to be fine, Gordon. Don’t worry about it.” When Pete rang me to say that the deal was about to collapse, part of me was obviously thinking about the world and the future of the planet, but I was also thinking, “What will Gordon say when I tell him the whole thing has collapsed?” I suggest to the Secretary of State that lowering prime ministerial expectations when the current Prime Minister leaves the summit—as I think he is due to do—is probably a good idea.
Let me return to the process of the Paris summit. We need an agreement that is as close as possible to what the science tells us is necessary. We should all be worried about what the science is telling us, because compared with six years ago it is even clearer. A good assessment produced by the Met Office earlier this month stated that 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record—yet another record. Some of that may be related to El Niño, but all the experts tell us that the underlying warming is a result of human-induced climate change. We are now at 1 °C of warming, which is half way to 2 °C. Importantly, global warming is not some theoretical idea—sometimes we speak as though it is—because it is happening now and the changes are already being witnessed.
Another study produced by the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this month found, among other things, that devastating floods in Indonesia in 2014, the 2013 Argentine heatwave, and tropical cyclones in Hawaii were all linked to human-induced climate change. The science is clear, dangerous, and should make us deeply concerned: climate change is real and it is happening now.
That takes me to what we are likely to get out of Paris, as opposed to what we need. I believe that we will get a 2° commitment, as at Copenhagen, but I am afraid not a 2° deal—the Secretary of State has acknowledged that. The UN says that on the best case scenario for Paris, current commitments made by countries for 2030 mean that we will be half way between “business as usual” emissions—that means no action—and where we should be to have a fighting chance of a 2° deal. As the UN has made clear, on the basis of submitted plans, we are heading for something like a 3° deal.
If the world ends up in 2100 with 3 °C warming, that would be catastrophic. It would mean temperatures that are higher than at any time in the last 3 million years, with dramatic effects of intense heatwaves, flooding, and millions—or hundreds of millions—of climate refugees. Does that mean that we should dismiss the likely Paris agreement? In my view, we should not. If the Secretary of State, her colleagues, and world leaders pull off an agreement in Paris, new ground will have been broken. It will be the first agreement to get anywhere even in the vague neighbourhood of 2°, the first to oblige all major emitters to take action to reduce emissions, and the first—we hope—to comprehensively stand up $100 billion of climate finance for mitigation and adaptation for the developing world. Those would be signal achievements—behind the science but ahead of where we have been.
However, just as we should not dismiss that progress, we should also be clear about what a dangerous position we will be in. If that is the agreement, the judgment on Paris will be that it has been a success, but that it can only be a staging post. Importantly, just as what happened after Copenhagen perhaps made it seem less of a disaster than it seemed at the time, what happens after Paris will determine whether the summit has turned out to be a decisive moment.
Since the ambition will be insufficient at Paris, our focus should be on raising that ambition afterwards. I think of that in two parts: ambition before 2030, and ambition after. Before 2030—my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland mentioned this—we need a ratchet mechanism to ensure that the Paris agreement is the beginning of what is required. That must mean a tough, five-year review mechanism, so that countries renew and improve their pledges. My colleague in another place, Baroness Worthington, said that the agreement might ultimately come to be seen as a global equivalent of our five-year carbon budgets, and that is the right way to think about it. The hope—I think it is not a forlorn hope—must be that as technology develops and as confidence is built, countries will move further and faster.
I agree with most of the speech by the right hon. Gentleman. Providing certainty, and ratcheting and tightening up a deal in Paris over time, send a signal to the investment market. That means that we will get investment in innovation, research and development and the supply chain, which is a prerequisite of driving down costs. Only by that level of commitment will we get the acceleration of a cost curve downwards, which is the way that we will deliver for the planet while also protecting the consumer. That is why we need certainty and those kinds of framework.
The hon. Gentleman’s point is important and well made, and it takes me to what I was about to say. This is not just about hoping that we can make that kind of progress with technology and so on; by setting the right framework we make it more likely that such progress will be made, and that the constructive, imaginative, and inventive side of humankind will defeat our destructive side.
My right hon. Friend is making an incredibly powerful and important speech with his immense knowledge in this area. Does he share my concern that the word coming out of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is that the numbers of officials who are engaged on climate diplomacy will be cut around the globe, just as the case is being made that we need to proselytise even more in that area with our fellow nations?
I think that the FCO and every Department must be concerned with these matters, and I am sure that the Secretary of State, who is a champion on these issues, will argue for that. I know from my experience that that sometimes feels a bit lonely in government, but in our case we had support across the Government from the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.
In response to the point from Graham Stuart, ensuring progress means that we must keep on track here at home. Next Thursday there is an important moment when the Energy and Climate Change Committee publishes its recommendations for the fifth carbon budget, and I hope the Government will support that.
Let me move on to the period after 2030. Every excess tonne of carbon that we emit between now and 2030 means that we will have to do more later—we must be clear about that. The easiest way to think about it is that we have a finite carbon budget, which has been helpfully estimated by the UN to be about 1,000 gigatonnes—a round number. Once that is used up, we can emit no more if we are to avoid dangerous warming. Frighteningly, the UN tells us that on current pledges to 2030, 75% of that total carbon budget will be used up by 2030. That suggests the scale of the task facing us, particularly if we do not improve the pledges between now and 2030. The crucial point, whether we do that or not, is that the world will at some point have to reach zero emissions. I commend the Government and the Secretary of State for signing up to the G7 pledge, made recently, that the world will have to get to zero emissions sometime in the second half of this century.
It is striking that increasing numbers of business leaders—this again relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness—are putting their energies and thinking into the so-called net zero commitment. Ratan Tata, Paul Polman of Unilever, Richard Branson of Virgin and many others from the so-called B-team of business leaders, recently sent a letter to all those attending Paris calling for the adoption of the long-term goal of zero emissions. They are right: the long-term goal is an essential part of a successful Paris agreement.
What does zero emissions mean? It means a 100% clean energy system. It means the right decisions about infrastructure. It also means—this is where the inventers and engineers will be incredibly important—technological advance on how to capture carbon, reforestation and a whole range of other matters. Increasingly, the question of when and how we get to zero emissions will become our focus and energy after Paris. It will need to become the benchmark for the decisions we make in the years ahead.
Finally, we will also have to continue to work on the all-important question of a fair and equitable approach. The reality that all of us in the House have to face is that industrialised countries have grown in a high carbon way and we are now saying to poorer countries that they have to grow in a low carbon way. That is an unprecedented challenge of equity. It makes it all the more important that rich countries cut their emissions to allow space for poorer countries to develop. It also means, and I commend the Government on this, that it is right to be leading on development aid around climate change. That will enable countries to leapfrog the high carbon path and go to a low carbon path.
Those are the ways in which I think Paris must lay the ground for future ambition, and a future ambition that is fairly shared.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we have to ensure there is engagement and understanding on this issue in Parliaments across the world? That is why today’s debate, and others like it, are so important. I refer the House to my declaration of interests. I will be chairing a GLOBE International two-day conference at the Assemblée Nationale on 4 and
Let me take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the role he plays in GLOBE International, which is an incredibly important organisation. My hon. Friend Barry Gardiner has also played a very important role in that organisation. By bringing legislators together, it plays a crucial role in building support for tackling climate change.
I want to end by making two observations. My first observation is about the process of what we might call summitry. Many people thought Copenhagen was a failure—I referred to it at the beginning of my speech—and that it did not achieve what we wanted. It certainly did not meet people’s expectations. The reality, however, is that it laid the groundwork for some of what we are seeing in Paris: a 2° commitment, the $100 billion of climate finance and the whole notion of bottom-up pledges.
Trying to get countries to sign up to these issues is such a knotty problem that we will not get all the way the first, second or even third time. We just have to move things forward and make progress. The negotiations in Paris look like an elite-level exercise and people will often ask what the point is of all those leaders gathering together. I believe, however, that it is a forcing mechanism. I do not think we would have seen the progress from a lot of countries around the world if there had not been a moment when countries came together. World leaders know they will be judged on whether they are doing something or just ignoring the problem. We will not get everything we want from Paris, but that does not mean we should be discouraged. In fact, we should redouble our efforts at home and around the world.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that many people will look to Paris as a first test of whether the very worthy spirit of the sustainable development goals are truly the working ethic of international action? As this is the first generation that can eradicate extreme poverty and possibly the last generation that can address climate change, people want to see that ethic at Paris and to see it proven afterwards.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is an incredibly important year, with the sustainable development goals and the Paris talks. He makes the point very well.
My second and final observation—we have already had a bit of to and fro on policy questions—is on cross-party consensus. It is worth making the point that we came together, as political parties, to pass the Climate Change Act in 2008. It is hard to remember this—I checked back and even I was surprised—but the Act passed by 463 votes to three. That is an extraordinary achievement. The Prime Minister and I have had our differences over the years, but I have to say that, as Leader of the Opposition, he did indeed break new ground by putting this front and centre. The extraordinary consensus that was built sent a message about the commitment of the parties across this House. That was important in Britain. It was also—I do not think this is British arrogance—important around the world, too, as it sent an international message. Since 2008, we have seen the Climate Change Act emulated in many countries. Parties across this House should be proud of what we achieved together.
The point, to which I referred earlier, that I would perhaps mostly direct towards the Secretary of State is that it is hard being the biggest fighter for tackling climate change in government. There are many competing pressures, but I know she is totally a believer on these issues. I think that part of her role, if I may suggest this, is to find ways of maintaining and strengthening that consensus. This is not just in relation to the policies, but for the idea that somehow a good economy and a good environment are not in contradiction, but that the two go together. The CBI has made huge advances on this issue.
There will, of course, be disagreements. There is, however, a basic set of assumptions: the science on climate change is real; we know that, as human beings, we are responsible for it; and we are conscious—this is crucial—that we have in our hands the ingenuity to tackle the problem and deal with it. Whatever party we are from, we care about our responsibilities to hold the planet in trust for future generations. Whatever party we are from, we know we will be held to account for the actions we take or do not take now. Whatever party we are from—this relates to what the hon. Member for
Foyle said in his intervention—our children will either see us as the last generation not to get climate change or the first generation to get it. That is why I believe we cannot afford to fail. I will be supporting the Secretary of State in getting the best possible agreement out of Paris.
It is a pleasure to follow Edward Miliband, who made an excellent speech. I regret to tell the House that I am the first speaker this afternoon who has not read the encyclical, but I shall be speaking specifically about the Paris agreement: what the objectives are; whether we appear to be on track to meet them, and, given that we are not, where the problem is; what structural issues in my view we need to address, which are similar to, but not the same as, the ones we have just heard; and what all that means for UK policy.
The objective of the Paris summit is the 2° limit. In objective terms, that means either 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon, or something like 550 parts per million of carbon. In truth, there are a lot of probabilities around that: we could meet the targets and still have more than a 2° increase; we could fail to meet them and get less. Nevertheless, those are the numbers we are dealing with. The right hon. Member for Doncaster North made the point that on current progress we will have reached 75% by 2030. A figure I prefer to use is that by 2036 it will have all gone: by 2036, our business-as-usual scenario will be finished.
Are we on track or not? A couple of Members have mentioned the intended nationally determined contributions. However, about only 80% of all participants in Paris have delivered them. The first problem with the INDCs—this is an indicator of the issues the Secretary of State will have to face—is that we could not even agree a common benchmark or starting point for the INDCs. The Europeans prefer 1990 and the Americans prefer 2005. We both have our own reasons: they make us look better.
It is not surprising, given that we could not agree a benchmark or common template, that the INDCs, 80% of which are now in, are all over the place. The right hon. Member for Doncaster North said they implied a 3° outcome. I find this surprising. A report by the secretariat of the United Nations framework convention on climate change mentioned 2.73°. This is an optimistic analysis—that is unusual as these guys are usually over-pessimistic—because it assumes we will continue on broadly the same trajectory after the initial INDC period. That will be hard, however, because there are low-hanging fruit and it will be easier to make progress on the first things. The other key points are that we need five-year reviews and that only the EU and China have put in place policies reflecting their INDCs, suggesting that regulating the process might be harder than we think.
Where is the problem? It is not the UK. The Climate Change Act mandates an 80% reduction in emissions over 60 years: a rate of 1.33% a year, which is significantly higher than the EU INDC in Paris. I would like a Front-Bench spokesperson to contradict me if I am wrong, because it is an important point. The Act commits the UK to an emissions target 33% higher than the EU INDC submission, of which we are part. That is an extraordinary statistic. With our policies—the carbon budgets and everything that goes with them—we have imposed on ourselves requirements more stringent than those set by the EU as a whole, let alone individual member states. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that other countries have passed climate change Acts. If only they had! We expected they would—we thought we were taking a worldwide position—but it has not happened to anything like the extent we hoped it would. I note that neither Front-Bench team has intervened, so I think I am right.
The INDC we submitted to Paris requires a 40% emissions reduction by 2030, which is significantly less than we are legally obliged to achieve in the UK. How are some of our European partners getting on? There is a database called the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research—EDGAR—and it is a rattling good yarn. It details carbon emissions by country, capita and unit of GDP for every year up to 2013. Since 1990, Austria, a wealthy European country, has increased its emissions by 20%, while we have reduced ours by 20%, in accordance with the Climate Change Act. That is the same country, by the way, that is suing us for building nuclear power stations. Holland and Belgium are flat. Germany has reduced its emissions, but, in spite of being a leader on renewables, its emissions are 30% higher than ours per capita. That is because it is going heavily for coal, and what makes the difference on emissions is not how many renewables a country has, but how much coal it does not have. We need to examine that. That is a slightly pessimistic analysis of the INDCs—I know we are going to negotiate—but I wanted to make the point that the European submission to Paris is 33% lower than what this Parliament has already mandated for this country. I wonder why that is.
What is causing this apparent possibility of failure? There is actually one piece of good news from the last few years. I am pleasantly surprised that we appear to have broken the link between GDP and energy intensity. The only caveat is the issue that dare not speak its name: embedded carbon. If we have broken the link only by importing carbon in the form of embedded carbon, we will have undermined much of what we are doing.
A bigger issue concerns an error that was made before and at Copenhagen and by the EU, and one that we are still making—I heard it in DECC questions again today: we have tended to overemphasise renewables targets and underemphasise decarbonisation, yet for too long we have used those words interchangeably. I am in favour of renewables, but because all the EU targets were for renewables, not decarbonisation, we placed a false emphasis on certain technologies. In particular, we did not develop nuclear power and carbon capture and storage as quickly as we should have. That error is still being made. This morning, I received a document from Friends of the Earth in preparation for this debate. It cannot bring itself to use the words “nuclear power” in this context. I can only conclude that although they care about climate change, they do not care enough to countenance the dominant technology that is by far the best chance the world has.
Those of us who are deeply sceptical about nuclear power are not sceptical for ideological reasons. Nuclear is slow and deeply expensive. We need to reduce our emissions quickly, but the next nuclear power stations will not be on grid for at least another 10 years. It is an issue of speed and cost, as well as ideology.
As an advocate of nuclear power, I accept we have not solved the waste issue, but it is one that the human race is capable of solving, whereas I am not certain that climate change is. And I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s point about cost.
Returning to the coal and gas debate, another issue is that we confuse post-2030 emissions pathways with the cumulative impact. The gigatonne target is a cumulative one. The effect of carbon and burning coal is cumulative. It is not just about post-2030 pathways or saying that gas has to be an interim energy source. In an intervention earlier, I made the point that were we able to replace all the coal in the world with gas—just like that—it would have the same effect as a fivefold increase in the level of renewable energy. We all ought to think about that statistic. This is not just about renewables. Of course they are vital, but we have to use other technologies, such as nuclear and CCS. The Copenhagen analysis and the EU’s approach have focused too heavily on renewables and not enough on decarbonisation, so I am pleased we appear to be fixing that now.
In that regard, I would make one final point. I have mentioned Austria and—to an extent—Germany as countries that are doing badly, but one country in Europe is a shining example: France has the lowest emissions, the lowest emissions pathway and the lowest level of emissions per capita and GDP, and that is because it is 80% nuclear. There is an emperor’s new clothes element to this. I wish we could be where France is.
What does all this mean for the UK? We have our Climate Change Act, and next Thursday we will get the next ratchet of that. We have to be careful that we do not act unilaterally—I have bought into all this stuff—and do not take a worldwide leadership position for a world that does not wish to or will not be led. That is why Paris is so important and why, for me, it is so disappointing that the EU submission to Paris is so unambitious vis-à-vis our Climate Change Act. The issues of fuel poverty will not be resolved by having the highest electricity prices in the world. I mentioned earlier in DECC questions that a number of EU leaders had sent the Secretary of State texts congratulating her on her announcement yesterday about removing coal from the system and replacing it with gas. I would just say that texts are no substitute for action by some of those countries. I am sure she will be telling them that in Paris, and I wish her luck.
Climate change is the biggest challenge that any of us or any future generations will face. It is absolutely right that the House should be given the opportunity to debate this important issue, particularly with Paris just a couple of weeks away. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for giving us time to debate this subject. I shall confine my remarks almost entirely to the domestic issues and the Government’s policy on renewable energy and its impact on Britain’s CO2 reduction targets, but also on jobs more widely and the UK’s reputation going into the Paris conference.
As we have already heard from my hon. Friend Helen Goodman, thanks to the information we received via a leaked letter from the Energy Secretary, we now know that Britain is likely to miss our 2020 target of 15% of energy production from renewables by some margin, in all likelihood reaching just 11%. That compares to Germany, which already produces 31% of its energy from renewables. As we have also heard, the cheapest renewable energy by far is onshore wind. It is so cost-effective that is no longer needs any subsidy, but as we have also heard, it has been virtually stopped in its tracks in England by the Government’s planning changes.
Now the Government are proposing to abandon support for solar almost completely, in spite of the growing scientific and political consensus around the world that it holds the secret to our future carbon-free energy needs. The proposed cut in solar feed-in tariffs by a staggering 87% from
We now face a situation in which in a couple of years’ time, renewables could be the only sector not to receive any subsidy. There is also the impact on jobs, our economy and our science base. Our solar industry alone provides 35,000 jobs, including nearly 4,000 in the south-west of England. We face losing 27,000 of those jobs nationally, including more than 3,000 in the south-west, if the proposal goes ahead unaltered. That figure is similar to—indeed, higher than—the job losses recently announced in the steel industry, but these jobs have a far lower profile because they are at small companies, they are scattered all over the country and they do not have a loud enough political voice. The irony is that by 2020 our solar industry could be operating subsidy-free. Indeed, the sector itself acknowledges the common sense in reducing the feed-in tariff, but it believes it should be done in a tapered way, not with a cliff edge, as is currently proposed. As my hon. Friend said, jobs are already being lost because of the uncertainty. We had the announcement of another 35 job losses in Exeter this week alone.
I would like to say a little about the situation facing hundreds of community renewable energy projects up and down the country in the light of recent announcements of changes to the way in which tax relief is administered. As hon. Members will remember, that was announced without any consultation on Third Reading of the Finance Act 2015 at the end of October and is to take effect at the end of this month—just one month’s notice. This, I am afraid, is a disgrace. Those renewable energy schemes at community level get off the ground as the result of the blood, sweat and tears—often over years—of thousands of ordinary, civic-minded citizens, who have now had the rug pulled from under them.
My community energy project in Exeter has been working tirelessly for more than two years preparing its share offer, but it had to rush it out this week, before it was really ready, in order to beat the loss of tax relief at the end of the month. The project has, heroically, managed to raise more than a quarter of the funds it needs, but raising the rest will be much more difficult without the tax reliefs, which have suddenly been taken away. Community Energy England estimates that £127 million of current investment and £242 million of potential future investment is at risk from the decision. When the Secretary of State responds, I would like to know whether she or her fellow Minister were consulted on the change, and if not, why not? If they were, why did they agree to it? I understand that the community energy sector feels so angry and betrayed by the decision that it is considering taking legal action, and I am sure there are many people in this House and outside who would support that.
The Secretary of State asserted earlier in departmental questions that she believed that Britain under the current Government had maintained its leadership role and its international reputation on climate change, but in that case why has Ernst & Young dropped the United Kingdom from the top 10 countries for renewable energy attractiveness? Why did the UN chief environment scientist, Jacquie McGlade, say recently on the BBC that it was
“disappointing…when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going—we see subsidies being withdrawn and the fossil fuel industry being enhanced”?
She went on to say that she thought Britain was sending a worrying signal in the run-up to Paris by shifting away from clean energy just when the rest of the world was rushing towards it.
I made the point earlier that one of the issues we face is that we confuse decarbonisation with renewables, and I think many of the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks are along those lines. He talked earlier about Germany, which has 34% renewables but very high emissions because it is building coal-powered stations. The Government’s position is to reduce carbon, but not just by using renewables.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman: it is not an either/or. What he says about Germany is absolutely right and is due in large part to the, in my view, unusually foolish policy decision by the Merkel Government to withdraw from nuclear. Germany is paying a high price for that, and it is a very good lesson to those of us who advocate an anti-nuclear policy.
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman’s analysis. Real analysis of what has happened in Germany shows that the reason why coal has come up and taken that space is the lowering of the price, not least because of the dash for gas in the US which has resulted in a low price for coal. That is what has undercut the situation in Germany, not the fact that it has had to get rid of nuclear.
I am not going to have a ping-pong about it, but I am sure there is a price driver as well. The simple fact is that Germany needed that coal because it had abandoned nuclear energy so suddenly.
When the Secretary of State responds at the end of this debate, I want her to explain to the House and the British public why the Government have adopted the approach they have on renewables since the election. I want an honest assessment from her, given what I have said, of how she feels that has impacted on Britain’s reputation internationally and on our leadership role.
I would also like a clearer explanation than we have heard so far from the Government of how they intend to close the gap between our legally binding 2020 target and the current trajectory.
I remember climate change summits not that long ago when Britain was a world leader. The commitment, hard work and leadership of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Prescott and my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband delivered real and vital progress globally and at home. Even the current Prime Minister felt the need for a while at least to pay lip service to this agenda, but I am afraid that since 2010, and particularly since this year’s election, the Conservatives appear to have stopped even pretending to take climate change seriously. They are doing real damage to our renewable energy industry, and I believe they are damaging Britain’s reputation in the process.
I hope we will see more progress and a more positive approach in the run-up to Paris, and I hope that the Secretary of State and her colleagues can persuade the rest of their colleagues in government to take this—the biggest challenge both in Britain and globally—far more seriously than they are.
I too welcome this cross-party debate. It is essential that we work together not just nationally, but internationally, as so many of my colleagues have said. Climate change is bigger than the internal political debate. It was my work over many years as a television environment correspondent that really put climate change on my radar, which is why I wanted to speak in today’s debate. It showed me that tackling this issue is pivotal to the future of the planet.
I congratulate Helen Goodman on securing this debate, but we should also be praising the Pope for focusing on this issue in his encyclicals. It is the Pope who has raised the issue climate change and its inextricable links to poverty, as mentioned earlier, and it has put that issue right at the top of the agenda—and amen to that. As a good convent girl, although not a Catholic, I know that when the Pope speaks, we listen.
Speaking as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I am heartened that the Pope has made the direct link between climate change and the sustainability of the planet. If we do not tackle climate change, the biodiversity of our environment will be in jeopardy, and if we do not look after our land, our soil and our water for the long term, not the short term, we will not be able to feed the population. There will be increased famine and floods, our natural world will be decimated, and we will head for environmental disaster. There is no beating about the bush on this.
By setting a new set of sustainable development goals running until 2030, I am pleased to say that the UN has recognised that we must act in this area. I am also pleased that we have a 25-year environment strategy right here in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in which climate change is firmly embodied. I shall press to ensure that we have a firm strategy for putting that into place. Lord Krebs, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, specifically highlighted that recently in a sustainability conference. I am confident that our Government are taking this on board.
Just yesterday, as mentioned earlier, the Secretary of State said that we are committed to delivering our climate change commitment and that we are the greenest Government ever, so she must stick by it. She echoed the past words of the Prime Minister, who has said the same thing not long ago in Prime Minister’s Question Time. He said that climate change was the “greatest danger” we have ever faced. I believe he is a great leader, as my hon. Friend David Mowat said, and we need him to champion the cause.
The Climate Change Act 2008 gave us the tools to become a low carbon economy. No other country has commitments to match those Climate Change Act commitments, and we also have the independent Committee on Climate Change, which must keep holding our feet to the fire to ensure that we remain committed to cutting by 40% our 1990 levels of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and to have reduced the six greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.
As a new Conservative MP, tackling climate change is a personal priority for me. It may seem strange, but in Taunton Deane, there is a great appetite for this. I was approached by an incredible number of people who raised the issue of climate change during my electoral campaign. They included groups such as Transition Taunton, Transition Athelney, the Quantock Eco group, and wildlife groups such as the Somerset wildlife trust—I declare an interest as a trustee—as well as farmers who had to combat flooding. They all came to me, some travelling to London, to urge me to press our Government to ensure that we keep to our climate change commitments. That is another reason why I am speaking today.
We have heard that Governments have agreed to limit global warming to 2 °C, which means that greenhouse gas emissions will have to fall by 80% to 95% by 2050. The statistics were eloquently put by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South. We need in Paris a clear global climate deal that sets out how each country is going to achieve that. But it is not all about what goes on internationally. We have to lead by example at home, as there is an indissoluble link between our methods of energy production and emissions. I think everybody is quite clear about that. Cutting emissions relies on transferring to a low carbon economy.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Energy Secretary to phase out all our coal-fired power stations by 2023 means that we are leading the way in this area, and we are one of the very first countries to make that commitment to phase out fossil fuels. It is a great message with which to head to Paris. As the Secretary of State said earlier, many people are talking about it. Coal is the most polluting way to generate power, and it still produces 30% of our energy. Coal plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and this is one of the main reasons why we are facing the challenge of climate change. Running one large coal plant full time as far ahead as 2030 would provide only 3% of our electricity, yet it would use up 50% of the UK’s emissions targets, so it makes absolute sense to get rid of coal-fired energy.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend and with the Secretary of State’s statement yesterday. I understand that Indonesia is planning to build coal-fired power plants equivalent to about two thirds of the entire UK grid capacity. While it is great that we are doing this, we are a very small player. That is why Paris is so important. We can lead by example, but we need the rest of the world to follow. Otherwise it is literally fiddling while Indonesia burns.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I am coming on to talk a little more about the international context. He is absolutely right, but that is not a reason for us not acting. We still have to do everything we can to set the example, and then we need to go along and hopefully encourage others to join the team.
I agree with much of what the hon. Lady is saying. Does she agree that it is not just about setting an example, but about recognising historic responsibility? If we are looking at the cumulative emissions of CO2 in the atmosphere, the UK is one hell of a lot more responsible than Indonesia.
I am not going to disagree with that, but it is again no reason for not doing something. That is historic, and we did not have all the science at that time. We do have the science now, which is why we are going to move forward.
Caroline Lucas is quite right that the UK is more responsible than Indonesia, but that is why it is disappointing that Germany is building brand-new coal-fired power stations, as is the case in Holland. The point about Indonesia is right; it does not apply to Germany. While we are on the subject of coal, we need to understand that the world is still increasing its use of coal in absolute terms at a faster rate than its use of renewables.
I thank my hon. Friend for that valuable intervention. While we are talking about the best kinds of energy that we should use, it is of course important to mention nuclear energy, which is another crucial part of our clean energy strategy. I mention it in particular because Hinkley C is on my doorstep and it will have a massive knock-on effect on Taunton Deane. It is the first new nuclear power station that we have built for 20 years. This is low carbon energy, and it will provide 7% of our energy requirements and keep the lights on for 6 million homes. It is so important as the baseload of non-fossil fuel energy.
Mr Bradshaw, who is almost a parliamentary neighbour, was talking about jobs lost in the renewables sector, but 25,000 jobs should be created with the development of Hinkley C, and 5,000 of them are going to be in Somerset. Hinkley C will spawn a raft of low carbon technologies, which are already starting up. That is very positive and heartening, and we should raise the flag, because this is the direction in which we should be going. Moreover, this power station is largely fuelled by private investment, which we must encourage, because we cannot keep demanding that the state supply everything. It is a model for the way forward, and I have high hopes that it will be used as a model for other nuclear power stations built in this country.
We have made progress on renewables, although things are changing slightly at the moment. It is welcome that 16% of our energy comes from renewables, and that £42 billion has been invested in renewable energy so far. Yes, the tariffs are changing, but the Secretary of State is considering what to do about solar companies that are in that “in-between” phase. We are continuing to encourage the use of offshore wind, which is a valuable addition to our energy supplies. However, in developing what I would describe as a new model for energy production in the UK, we must ensure that it does not damage the environment. As I said earlier, it must be sustainable. It must also be affordable, involving the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. We must meet the Government’s fuel poverty targets, and we must do so at a time when the country is still in debt. The Pope was at pains to point out that energy costs must not penalise the poor and the vulnerable.
Given that we are getting hot under the collar, this is an appropriate moment at which to mention heat. A third of our emissions in the UK result from the inefficient use and waste of heat. I have spoken to the Secretary of State about the issue, and she assures me that the Department will look into it. It is a difficult issue to deal with, and it is expensive, but it is essential that we tackle it at a later stage. Decarbonising heat from buildings will definitely help us to close the carbon gap. Local authorities could work with low carbon roadmaps. The development of zero-carbon homes—which we should encourage when it is possible—and of more localised heating systems, such as district heating systems, will also help us to cut our emissions and secure higher energy efficiency, lower carbon emissions and less climate-warming.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way a second time. She is being very generous.
During the last Parliament, I served on the Bill Committee that considered what became the Energy Act 2011, which created the green deal. Like many other Members on both sides of the House, I am disappointed that the green deal is not continuing, although it would have been crazy to continue with something that was not working and was not delivering as we wanted it to. I hope my hon. Friend agrees that the issue of existing housing stock and its emissions is still critical, and that we need to reinvent the green deal in a new form in order to address it.
I too was concerned about the green deal, but it clearly was not working. It was so complicated that there was no take-up. I know that lessons will be learnt, and I think that eventually we will come up with some sort of plan to make houses more efficient. The builders are certainly not averse to that.
As we have just heard, the UK is responsible for only 1.5% of the world’s carbon emissions, whereas China, for example, produces 26%. This is a global issue, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has announced the provision of £5.8 billion of aid to help developing countries to tackle climate change through the international climate change fund between 2016 and 2021. I am also pleased that we are contributing £720 million to the green climate fund.
The lady is very honourable, and very generous; too generous, perhaps. As she says, the UK is responsible for only 1.5% of global emissions while
China is responsible for 26%, but China’s emissions percentage reflects its percentage of the world’s population. Per head, the UK’s emissions are far higher.
That is a good point, although China’s population is already falling, and we hope that it will continue to fall. We have to advise other countries, which is why Paris is so important. We must set the trend, and explain why it is important for others to buy into this.
It is interesting to note that China’s emissions per capita are the same as ours this year. I know that that does not detract from the point about embedded carbon, but it is interesting none the less.
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.
Trees have been mentioned only briefly, but I am a great tree person, and I must speak up for them. We must encourage partnerships to reduce deforestation. We need to work with countries such as Brazil to stop the cutting down of rain forests, which is the single largest contributor to the release of carbon. Reducing cutting will have an enormous impact on climate change, and will also maintain our biodiversity—and placing a value on the benefits of biodiversity is part and parcel of the climate change debate. In that context, I am pleased that the Government are now talking about the importance of nature capital. Maintaining tree cover, whether it is done in Brazil or elsewhere in the world—including here, on the Somerset levels—will reduce flooding and soil erosion, aid soil maintenance, and give us cleaner water.
The Pope has called for increased action. We should bear in mind that not everything can be achieved in a stuffy room in Paris; a lot can be done there, but we in the House can do a lot as well.
I will not, because I am about to end my speech.
I urge you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to join me and play your part in cutting emissions by running your washing machine on a very low heat. I do that, and the washing is still clean. You can also reduce your wash time, and you can turn down the heating or not put it on at all: my husband hardly ever lets me turn ours on. You can also use public transport, and grow your own food. Look after your soil!
Those are all things that we can do at home, but Paris is important in the long term. It is essential that the Government work to get the very best that they can out of it, and that we continue to lead by example.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I do not want to impose a time limit as such, but if Members speak for no more than 10 minutes, everyone will have an equal amount of time.
It is a pleasure to follow Rebecca Pow. She stressed the importance of combining the twin goals of tackling climate change and poverty globally, and I could not agree with her more. We must show a way forward that is about hope and optimism, and about making it clear that tackling climate change need not lead to impoverishment. Something that our country and other developed countries can contribute to—and, in a sense, we may be a bit jealous in this regard—is the ability of many countries to leapfrog over where we are to a cleaner and greener future. We can enrich the lives of communities and villages and children who live without light, which affects everything that they do in their daily lives.
If we do not challenge climate change, we will not tackle the potential for conflict in the world. The impact of climate change on our food production and water supplies is a starting point for more conflicts. Those who own the means of food production, and have access to and control of water supplies, can be a force for bad as well as good in the communities around the world in which they live.
My right hon. Friend is kicking off what will clearly be a fantastic speech. The present appalling situation in which people are fleeing Syria could occur again, through devastation caused by climate change or, as she says, because people simply want access to drinking water.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Part of the challenge for all of us is the need to demonstrate, through discussions not just in the House but in our communities and with our partners around the world, that events happening thousands of miles away can have a knock-on effect here in way or another. I believe we have already seen in our own country some of the impacts of climate change. I think the public know that. That is why I thought it was important when my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband, as leader of the Labour party, when we had those terrible floods here, said that we should look at tackling climate change as a national security issue. That important point was well made then and it has as much relevance today.
The National Academy of Sciences in the United States recently described climate change as a “threat multiplier”, particularly in the context of the middle east, where war, drought and hotter weather will mean a greater chance of increased pressure on water supplies, food and agriculture. That will have an impact on the potential for war and civil war in that area. My right hon. Friend raises an important point.
It is an important point. We should all be mindful of that. We should ensure that we do not approach this with an island mentality and that we recognise how those links should lead us to step up even more and paint the portrait of what is happening. We have to speak in pictures. Words, stats and learned prose have their place, but we have to draw a picture of what could happen if we do not step up and make some serious changes.
I am going to make a bit of progress because I have been forewarned by Mr Deputy Speaker, who said that we should try to limit our time.
I thank my hon. Friend Helen Goodman and the Backbench Business Committee for securing this debate. I was happy to sponsor it. I would also like to mention some people from my constituency. I recently received a copy of a CAFOD petition organised by Gillian McCallum, a constituent, on behalf of two parishes in Don Valley, Christ the King Church Rossington, and Holy Family, Finningley. It called on the Prime Minister to show leadership on climate change. I know they will be pleased that the House is taking note of the Pope’s encyclical today.
I was also delighted to welcome students from McAuley school, a Catholic school in my constituency, when they were here for the love of climate coalition event in June and talked about how important the issue was to them. Last year, I was at that school and met some people from Peru, who vividly talked about the impacts of climate change on their communities and livelihoods. Speaking to those bright young pupils about climate change—all of us have probably spoken to such pupils in our constituencies—provided a vivid reminder of the fact that, although we are seeing the effects of climate change already, it is their generation and their children and beyond who will have to live with the consequences if we do not get this right now.
I also pay tribute to the city of Paris, which has been defiant in the face of the brutal murders there last weekend, and I commend its decision to go ahead with holding the Paris conference in a few weeks.
As shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I led a debate on the road to Paris on the first Opposition day of this Parliament. I did so because the Paris conference means that this year is a vital year for climate change, but also because I wanted to voice the concerns of many that a Conservative majority Government might lead to the consensus on climate change formed in 2008 becoming less secure. In that debate, I asked for a number of reassurances about the Government’s approach in this vital year.
It is important to the success of Paris that the agreement includes a review every five years, so that ambition can be ramped up as progress is made, and that includes robust and consistent reporting mechanisms so that every country can have confidence others are playing by the rules. I was pleased to see the Secretary of State commit to that as part of the UK’s demands. However, with weeks to go, this debate gives us the chance to look at what else has happened since that June debate.
We now have 140 intended nationally determined contributions submitted by countries that will be attending the talks. Although we know those submissions do not achieve the crucial target of keeping us under 2° of warming, significant progress has been made. The bilateral agreement between the US and China is one important step that would not have taken place without the process we have. When we think of the many years fighting for climate action, and the long road from Kyoto, we know this is no small step.
For the US, Obama has signalled the intention to ramp up investment in renewables, alongside a role for nuclear and carbon capture and storage, and to prioritise energy efficiency to cut bills as well as emissions. China has pledged up to 1,000 GW of new clean capacity by 2030. However, we have a long way to go, as the opposition of India and Saudi Arabia to a review mechanism in the G20 communiqué last week shows. But the momentum being generated is important in and of itself. If the direction of travel is right, 2° can be kept within touching distance. Not only that but we can reduce the atmospheric pollutants that kill people here and in the developing world, a point made recently by the eminent Lord Stern, as well as by the Pope.
David Mowat made an important point. He is right: the EU submission is lower in terms of its ambition on targets than our own enshrined in the Climate Change Act 2008, but that is why we need leadership. I would still like to see the EU raise its ambition but it does have in its submission the line, “at least” a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030, so there is still scope for the Prime Minister to press the point home that we can do better than that and we can do more. I am not ashamed, and I am not suggesting the hon. Gentleman is, that we are leading from the front. We should tackle those individual countries that talk the talk but do not walk the walk and point out when there are inconsistencies in the way they are delivering their energy supply and reducing their emissions as a result.
However, the Prime Minister’s leadership has to be backed by leadership at home. I was concerned when the Secretary of State said that the UK should cease to play a leadership role and move “in step” with the rest of the world. As we have heard, since the election, a number of policy changes are affecting our ability to meet climate change targets and to create that important investment and those important jobs. We have seen the two cheapest forms of renewables undermined, onshore wind and solar. We have seen the green deal axed. I will make no bones about it: I thought the green deal was never a good deal anyway and we tried to effect some changes in the previous Parliament, but the fact is that it has been axed and there has been nothing to replace it.
The ECO—energy company obligation—has not served the needs of those most affected by fuel poverty. As a result of changes to the structure of that scheme, 400,000 fewer homes have been insulated. The zero carbon homes plan has been scrapped, an issue I feel close to as a former Housing Minister. When we set the target on that, in some ways, for the construction sector, it was not about the target date; it just galvanised the sector to think differently about how construction could play a part in ensuring that we have more energy-efficient homes that reduce emissions as well. Renewables have been forced to pay the climate change levy and the contracts for difference auction has been delayed.
The news from Government that a date has been set for phasing out unabated coal generation is welcome, as we know coal is the biggest emitter and the dirtiest pollutant. However, it is ironic to say the least that the Drax power station, which relies on coal to create its electricity, has been so undermined in recent times in its efforts to move to renewables and its support as an important partner for CCS. I urge the Government: please do not give up on CCS. We need it for industrial processes such as steel production as well as for electricity generation. Also, there is huge potential for the by-products from that process to create a market that could be good for our economy as well. It seems that that is an important area in which we can lead and not just follow others.
Nuclear is important, too. The hon. Member for Warrington South and I agree on that, but again let us look at the history. Part of the reason that this country and Parliament decided to look at nuclear again was that we wanted to commit to more ambitious climate change goals. I am proud that the last Labour Government took a very difficult decision on that. I remind the House that the Prime Minister said that it should be a last resort and the Liberal Democrats were against it, full stop. So I will not take any lectures about how slow the process has been. It has been difficult. We need to know now what the Government are going to do to ensure that that can play a part in decarbonising our generation.
The last six months have been disappointing, and the policy framework and certainty just are not there. His Holiness said:
“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years.”
None of us can dispute that. He then expressed a shared love of our planet, saying
“The entire material universe...the soil, water, mountains, everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”
He also said:
“Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home... Truly, much can be done”.
His words speak to those of faith and of no faith. What they all share is an optimism that humankind, with the knowledge we have today, can save our planet. I stand with those people. I hope the Government will stand with them too.
I, too, congratulate the sponsors of the motion, and in particular Helen Goodman on her substantial contribution.
It is clear we all agree today that climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet and its people. It exacerbates the existing challenges of poverty, conflict, disease, resource depletion and population displacement and it increases the risk of greater insecurity around the world, reversing the progress made to a more peaceful and just world. The opportunity in Paris in a couple of weeks should not be overlooked, and in the light of the dreadful atrocities of last week, that opportunity is even more important. By the end of this year the city should not be remembered only as a target of terror, but as the cradle of a climate deal that cares for our communities and our “common home”, which, as we have heard, is how Pope Francis describes the planet in his encyclical on the planet Earth.
I thank the Members from various different parties who signed the early-day motion I tabled recognising and welcoming the encyclical when it was published. That was an extremely prophetic call from the Pope. I enjoyed the slightly theological exchanges between the hon. Members for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and for Bishop Auckland. Catholic social teaching is not usually either/or, and I have something to say about the messages the Church has produced going back over 150 years, as well as more recently—the Pope’s immediate predecessor Benedict XVI should be given credit for the work he did on the environment and this year we mark five years since his visit to the UK. Catholic social teaching does not prescribe specific courses of action; it outlines a direction of travel and broad principles, and it is then for decision makers, including all of us here today, to make judgments on the right course of action.
It is right to describe much of what Pope Francis has said as a prophetic document, in particular in paragraph 49 where he says that
“a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
That is the challenge before us today.
I also recognise the comments of Caroline Lucas that many religious leaders, and indeed secular leaders, of good will are behind this call. What the encyclical represents—at least if we come from that perspective—is the pinnacle of a global consensus that now is the time for action. That was ratified, as it were, at the UN back in September when the sustainable development goals were agreed by every single member state.
I do agree: the window of opportunity is closing, which is why the need for action is all the more urgent. That is perhaps why the SDGs, unlike the millennium development goals, particularly emphasise in goal 13 the need for urgent action on climate change. We have heard a lot about energy as well, and goal 7 commits the global community to providing
“access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
That is a huge and significant challenge and some of our exchanges on how best to do that have been very important.
Scotland, of course, is committed to playing its part as a good global citizen. It has some of the most ambitious targets for carbon emission reduction in the world, and, despite challenges, it remains on course to meet them. It is worth noting that the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament—there were not the three votes against that we heard about here.
Under the current and former First Ministers, the Scottish Government have also championed the concept of climate justice in their approach to climate change. Climate justice recognises that the poor and vulnerable at home and overseas are often affected first and hardest by climate change, yet have done little or nothing to cause the problem. If we adopt that justice principle, we have to take a human rights-based approach to the heart of decisions on sustainable and equitable global development, and it reinforces the strong economic case for a swift transition to a low-carbon economy that can still deliver jobs, investment and trade.
There is a particularly innovative approach through the Scottish Government’s climate justice fund, and I declare an interest here as before the election I worked for the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, which received grants from that fund. That employment gave me the opportunity to see at first hand the impact of climate justice funding, which is helping communities in rural Malawi overcome the effects of climate change through irrigation and sustainable agriculture projects.
Importantly, the climate justice fund is additional to the Scottish Government’s international development fund. It recognises that tackling the impact of climate change means going beyond traditional aid flows and structures. It would be useful to hear from the Minister what discussions she has had with the Scottish Government about this model and whether the UK Government are prepared to learn any lessons from it. This is particularly relevant given research from CAFOD which shows that the vast majority of UK Government support—43% of their total funding for energy projects overseas—is still going to fossil fuels
One reason the Scottish Government are able to be so ambitious is the widespread and unambiguous public support for action on these issues. At the climate lobby here at Westminster in June, many of the SNP MPs—43 of our 56 MPs—were lobbied by constituents. They had travelled—by sustainable and low-carbon methods, I am assured—all the way from Scotland to speak to us about the need for urgent action. I look forward to joining many thousands of others at Scotland’s climate rally a week on Saturday in Edinburgh, which will also send a powerful message to world leaders attending the talks in Paris.
Public support for political action also represents an appetite for deeper and more sustainable changes in our daily lives. People will make lower carbon choices if they are given the opportunity to do so. In my own city and constituency, we have seen a great uptake in cycling since the introduction of a bike-hire scheme, for example, but Governments have a role to play in promoting lifestyle change. Again, therefore, it would be interesting to hear the UK Government’s views on this matter.
I said to the Prime Minister during his statement on Tuesday that his attendance in Paris would be an act of leadership and solidarity, and I welcome the previous confirmation from Ministers that Scottish Government Ministers, and, I believe, representatives from the other devolved Administrations, have been invited to attend as part of the UK delegation and will be present in Paris as well. It is important that Heads of State and Government take part in the conference and do not simply leave negotiations to Ministers or officials. That will be not just an act of defiance in the face of terrorism, but a clear signal of what global priorities can, should, and must be: collective action to tackle climate change, which will otherwise remain the biggest threat to peace, security and the sustainability of our common home.
I start by congratulating Helen Goodman on taking a lead in securing this important debate. It could not be more timely, not only because of the Paris climate talks that are due to start in 10 days’ time, but because just last week the World Meteorological Organisation warned that global average temperatures are set to rise by 1°C above pre-industrial levels for the first time. As the WMO’s secretary general, Michel Jarraud, put it,
“We are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed...The laws of physics are non- negotiable.”
While that is the crucial context for the Paris climate talks, the challenge of climate change is about much more than degrees Celsius and parts per million. That is why the Pope’s encyclical matters. It forces us to confront the reality that our response to climate change goes to the heart of who we are, and the values that guide our decisions collectively and as individuals.
Similarly, I welcome the leadership that other religious figures and organisations have played. I referenced the Islamic leaders’ initiative earlier, and I also want to pay tribute to the many innovative initiatives in my own constituency, especially that of the Brighthelm church, the first church in the UK to divest by pulling its funds and investments out of fossil fuels.
The case for the Government to adopt a scientifically literate and cross-governmental approach to climate change is coming from many directions—faith groups, business, civil society and, most recently, from the Governor of the Bank of England. It is increasingly clear that there is a strong economic reason to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, greener energy future. Back in September, Mark Carney issued a blunt warning to the fossil fuel industry that investors face what he called “potentially huge” losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas “literally unburnable”. That is because, to remain under the 2° threshold, we as a global population must burn no more than 886 billion tonnes of carbon between the years 2000 and 2049, according to the International Energy Agency.
The global oil and gas companies have declared the existence of 2.8 trillion tonnes of carbon reserves, and their shares are valued as though those reserves were burnable, but the Carbon Tracker Initiative has warned investors that
“they need to understand that 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of listed firms are unburnable”.
That is because, if we burn them, the atmosphere will warm to a catastrophic degree. The threat of ending up with assets stranded by tougher rules to curb climate change could affect the nearly 20% of FTSE 100 companies in the natural resources and extraction industries. As Mark Carney has said:
“Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late”.
Within the investor community, the early adopters have already begun a substantial movement to divest from fossil fuels, a movement representing $2.6 trillion in assets under management. The world’s largest institutional investors, including the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth and Rockefeller Brother funds, have all expressed their concern about carbon-related investment risk, and they are already adjusting their portfolios accordingly by moving out of fossil fuel holdings.
I believe that Parliament should be taking a lead on this too. That is why I am engaged in an ongoing and, frankly, very lengthy correspondence with our own parliamentary pension fund managers. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us today that she will use her good offices to make them look at this more seriously and with more urgency because, to be frank, I have seen nothing to suggest that they are treating this with any urgency at all.
Divestment also models more broadly the kind of commitments we should expect to be taken by Governments, yet on the challenge of redirecting finance—both public subsidies and private capital—away from fossil fuels and into low carbon energy, our own Government’s policy too often involves doing exactly the opposite. We have seen the ending of subsidies for onshore wind, the slashing of solar subsidies, the awarding of tax breaks for fracking and for offshore oil and gas drilling, the application of the climate change levy to renewables, the ditching of zero carbon homes, the removal of community energy tax breaks and the funnelling of export credits into hydrocarbon projects abroad—the list goes on and on—yet not a penny is being put into the new public infrastructure fund for energy efficiency. Then yesterday, the go-ahead was given for a whole new dash for gas.
The Secretary of State has been treating us to a masterclass in cognitive dissonance. She continually speaks of competiveness being at the heart of our energy system, yet her Government have committed to subsidising outrageously expensive nuclear power stations while slashing support for solar and wind, which are more popular, cheaper and faster to deploy.
The hon. Lady is putting forward some very good arguments. There is an underlying assumption that going green and acting to reduce carbon emissions come at a cost. However, I want to put on record that I recommend Amory Lovins’ TED talk—a well-spent 27 minutes and 10 seconds—entitled “A 40-year plan for energy”. It underpins some of her arguments and shows that we will not necessarily lose out financially by adopting green policies. On the contrary, it demonstrates that we could gain financially and that they could provide a boost to our economy.
Indeed we will benefit economically. We will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, because the green economy is far more labour intensive than the fossil fuel economy that it will replace. That will help us out of our economic difficulties, rather than being a distraction from them.
At the risk of being a little more controversial, I want to say a few words about nuclear power—as though we have not already—and in particular about the issue of baseload power. There is plenty of evidence that those who think that we need nuclear for baseload power are peddling myths based on last-century thinking on energy systems. None other than Steve Holliday, the chief executive officer of National Grid, said recently that the idea that we need large power stations for baseload power was “outdated”. He also said:
“From a consumer’s point of view, the solar on the rooftop is going to be the baseload. Centralised power stations will be increasingly used to provide peak demand”.
He also said that energy markets
“are clearly moving towards much more distributed production and towards microgrids”.
Let us take an example from international best practice. The Kombikraftwerk project in Germany shows how a 100% renewables system can be made to work, using variable technologies such as wind and solar backed up by dispatchable ones such as hydro, biogas or biomass—in the UK we could add tidal—and reinforced by a variety of storage methods, with demand-side measures reducing overall demand and flattening peaks.
It is not just in Germany that that can happen. Recently, a study for Greenpeace set out a similar scenario for the UK. It showed that it is possible for the UK’s power system to be nearly 90% renewably delivered by 2030, while electrifying 25% of all heating demand and putting 12.7 million electric cars on the road. However, that is achievable only if we cut demand for space heating by 57% in the next 15 years. That is doable, but it is a major challenge, which again underlines the need for the Chancellor to make energy efficiency a top infrastructure investment priority in the spending review later this month.
These are the kind of positive measures that would make a real difference to reducing emissions while creating jobs and lowering fuel bills. Let me highlight a few more that would enable us to look back on the Paris COP in a positive light. First, as others have said, we must raise ambition before, not just after, 2020. We already know that the INDC—intended nationally determined contributions —pledges will not be sufficient to keep temperatures to below 2°, never mind the 1.5° demanded by more vulnerable nations and many campaigners. That means that Paris must produce a framework to ensure that commitments are rapidly strengthened, with ratchet mechanisms for countries to scale up their national plans every few years, starting straight away.
Does the Secretary of State accept that an honest analysis of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s budgets for a “likely” chance of not exceeding 2 °C, accompanied by even weak allowances for equity, would require the EU to deliver at least an 80% reduction in emissions from its energy system by 2030, with full decarbonisation afterwards? That figure is roughly in line with a recent civil society review, highlighted by Oxfam and others, which found that national pledges add up to barely half the emissions reductions needed. Global ambition therefore needs to at least double by 2030.
Secondly, we need a long-term goal to phase out fossil fuels and phase in 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest. Countries such as the UK, which are rich financially as well as in bountiful renewable energy resources, should get there faster. It is a scandal that the Government are taking the UK in precisely the opposite direction, with the slashing of support for renewables, a reckless dash for gas, and increasing subsidies for fossil fuels.
Thirdly, Greens are calling for the Paris protocol to establish adequate and predictable international climate finance for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries, as well as a functioning mechanism to address loss and damage. We could find that money from the revenues from market-based instruments to reduce global aviation and shipping emissions.
Fourthly, we need to kick the fossil fuel industry out of the negotiations. Governments have been meeting for more than 20 years, yet greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased and the climate keeps changing. The forces of inertia and obstruction prevail, and the fossil fuel giants and the politicians who do their bidding are responsible. That is why I am calling for the fossil fuel lobby to be kicked out of the UN climate negotiations.
Finally, we need to maintain human rights at the heart of our work to tackle the climate crisis. The respect, protection and promotion of human rights are prerequisites for effective global climate action. And, very finally, I want to highlight another imperative for ambitious outcomes at Paris—namely, our collective security. The reality of climate change as a threat to national security is something we hear more often from the military than from politicians. For example, just four months ago, the US Defence Department sent a report to Congress warning specifically of growing instability as a result of climate change.
More specifically, a major peer-reviewed study in March made a link between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Here in the UK, last year’s Ministry of Defence report, “Global Strategic Trends—Out to 2045”, warned that if global temperatures continued to rise, the consequent droughts and food shortages could trigger widespread social unrest—[Interruption.] Mr Lilley says that that is absurd. I suggest that he reads retired navy Rear-Admiral David Titley’s report, which puts forward the theory that the droughts in Syria are likely to be caused by accelerating climate change, which has led to more people leaving rural areas and coming into the cities, adding to social unrest. These things are being said by serious people.
In conclusion, for months and years to come, thinking back to “Paris 2015” will bore a terrible, painful hole in people’s hearts and minds. For the sake of our individual and collective security, we should work hard to ensure that Paris 2015 is remembered for the climate talks as well.
I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend Helen Goodman on securing this debate. In my experience, if we ask most people what they want politicians to do, we find that they want us to work together to tackle the really big challenges, and that is quite hard in this place, as any newly elected Member soon comes to appreciate. However, there was one moment a few years ago when this place really did come together; as my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband pointed out, the Climate Change Act 2008 was supported by almost everyone in this House, and rightly so. It was a groundbreaking piece of legislation, setting out the structure we need to tackle one of the key problems of our age. The Climate Change Committee, by setting out the carbon budgets—we anticipate the next one soon—creates the framework within which investors and innovators can operate with some certainty, and without which we would not be able to make progress. It is a model of how a modern competitive economy can operate, with markets regulated in the interests of the common good. It is good for citizens, good for the environment and good for business; this is the model of how a modern economy looks to many of us in the Labour party.
How disappointing, then, that even with this excellent model, recent actions by the Government have taken us backwards. Their erratic U-turn on renewable subsidies; the selling off of the Green Investment Bank; the green deal disaster and binning of the decade-long zero-carbon homes plan have left the green energy sector infuriated and non-plussed, and left investors nervous. We are already lagging behind Germany, India, Japan, China and the United States in green investment, and cutting our commitment to renewable energy is hardly likely to improve matters.
Yet, what an opportunity we have. There is huge interest in these issues in Cambridge, and I commend to the Secretary of State the Cambridge climate message, which is supported by an impressive array of local organisations. They are clear that they want COP21 to be a success, not a cop-out. Cambridge and the wider East Anglian region is at the forefront of the clean-tech revolution, with more than 1,000 businesses already active in the sector, ranging from product development specialists to multinational enterprises with global reach. Some 10% of the UK total of low carbon and environmental goods and services companies are in the region, which means that the per capita concentration of companies is twice the national average. That emerging cluster is supported by a network of world-class universities and research centres, a highly skilled workforce and some of the world’s leading technical consultancies. Growth there can be built upon to bring about a halo effect for similar success outside our region, but it depends upon attracting investors. At the moment, these investors are scratching their heads and closing their wallets when faced with the Government’s constantly shifting policies on green energy.
I recently met people from Cambridge Cleantech, a highly effective members organisation supporting the growth of clean-tech companies in the greater Cambridge area, with the clear ambition to further develop Cambridge as a leading clean-tech centre in Europe. To fulfil that ambition they need to see better-defined, more stable Government policies that influence confidence in clean-tech investment.
Not subsidies. One of the outstanding local projects, Cambridge Retrofit, is a network of public and private sector organisations working together to bring at-scale retrofits to the building stock of the Cambridge community.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. What we know is that when the private and public sectors work together effectively, we get a market that works. The problem in the current situation is that without investor certainty, the market does not work.
Let me return to talking about Cambridge Retrofit, which I commend to the right hon. Gentleman. Led by Professor Doug Crawford-Brown at the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, it is helping the UK to meet its CO2 emission reduction targets, while helping the community reduce energy bills and supporting local businesses. When completed, the project will make a massive 20% to 30% reduction in carbon emissions in the Cambridge area. This shows that it can be done; it is about political will and political leadership, and that is what we need in the run-up to Paris.
We need—in fact, the wider world needs—to hear from this Government a clear assurance that they intend to prioritise innovation and reinstate long-term policies that will demonstrate their confidence in clean, green energy and technology. Attracting investment to this sector will help us deliver on our national energy, economic and environmental ambitions, and help the UK meet its international obligations and achieve a just transition. This House has shown before that it can rise to the challenge to come together to meet the great challenges of our age. My question is: can the Government?
I add my thanks to Helen Goodman and the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate to happen, in incredibly timeous circumstances. The debate has been very enlightening and well-conducted. The importance of the COP21 meeting should not be understated. The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he was confident that a deal would be struck; the issue was whether we got a good deal or not. I wish to talk a little about what that good deal should look like.
As we have heard, the UN has analysed the INDCs submitted by 90% of the countries on Earth, suggesting that if they are met, we will get down to a 2.7° increase in temperatures. That represents huge progress from the 4° to 5° that we would have with no change, but it is still not enough. An increase of 2° C is the Rubicon that we must strive not to cross, as the impact on life on this planet if we get things wrong almost does not bear thinking about. As we have heard from a number of hon. Members, the impact will be harshest on the poor. As my hon. Friend Patrick Grady has said, those who have contributed least to global warming stand to lose by far the most. As one of the planet’s earliest industrialised nations, and as a major producer and exploiter of carbon dioxide in terms of fossil fuels, we have a moral responsibility here.
One really encouraging sign, which has been touched on in this debate, is that there has been a decoupling of growth and carbon emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, at the global level we have 3% growth, with flatlined emissions. From the UK perspective, we are talking about 2.8% growth, with an 8.4% reduction. The comments about not offshoring are pertinent, but if we are having 3% growth globally with no increase, the suggestion is that it is possible to achieve growth and prosperity, which is required, but without the detrimental effects on our planet and the ensuing impact on populations—and then the knock-on effect on our economic prosperity.
What do we require? The commitments to seeking five-yearly reviews are fundamental. Whatever deal we get cannot be seen as enough in and of itself; it will have to be reviewed and improved upon, which will require concerted effort from Governments across the Earth. We also need the commitment to finding the money that is required—$100 billion has been suggested in order for us to feed in the required changes. That money needs at least in part—we hope it will be a considerable part—to be new money, because if it is a redistribution of existing aid, we will not meet the dual aims. We have heard about the sustainable development goals, which are fundamental. These things go hand in hand, and we cannot be seen to be taking money from sustainable development, in terms of some aspects of eradicating poverty, and putting it into climate change. There must be a combination of moneys and a concerted effort to ensure that we do this.
The action we will take in Paris, the words we will use and the power that we will exert—the soft power, in the form of diplomatic pressure on the rest of the world to take a lead—must be backed with action at home. The Secretary of State’s announcement yesterday on coal can be welcomed by most of us. I do not think that commitment should be understated—it is hugely important—but it should not be overstated either. It needs to be taken in consideration with some of the other things the Government have been doing, which we have heard about and which are damaging to our attempts to meet our climate change commitments. Mention has been made of the changes on onshore wind and solar, the removal of the climate change levy from green energy production, the scrapping of the commitment to zero-carbon homes—in England and Wales, I assume—and the decision to privatise the Green Investment Bank. That headline of scrapping coal will be the thing that many in the world will see, and it does provide a certain legitimacy to the Secretary of State and to the UK Government in arguing for change, but let us hope that people do not scrape too far beneath the service, because if they analyse this Government’s action in depth, they will find that the world-class rhetoric is not borne out by action here.
As we have heard, the change on coal and its replacement with gas can make a significant contribution, but it will also lock in change, potentially for 30, 40 or 50 years. I have this ask of the Secretary of State: when we are looking at that new generation of gas-fired power stations, can we consider how we can use them, or at least make them ready to be adapted, should CCS be commercially deployable? If they are built ready to adapt to that technology, it will mitigate the amount of carbon that we cannot afford to have released.
I hope that in the autumn statement and the comprehensive spending review next week, the commitment to the funding of CCS is still there. That is essential, and we back the go-ahead of both Peterhead and White Rose. I agree with the Climate Change Committee’s assessment that we need at least another two projects coming out of this Parliament. That is probably the easiest way to adapt to a low carbon economy, but it requires support. Being at the forefront of that technology could allow us to benefit financially as well as ecologically.
I support the calls for a reconsideration of the policies around renewable energy. Again, we need to look at the economic case. I come back to the IEA, which has suggested that, in the coming years, 60% of all money that is spent on energy infrastructure will be on renewables. That is hugely important. The Secretary of State is very keen on offshore wind, and she will know that we have the potential to become a world leader in that area. We also need to see what more can be done with solar energy and onshore wind. I welcome her suggestion this morning that there is an open mind to the possibility of subsidy-free onshore wind, and a willingness to engage with the industry to make that happen.
We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North about Scotland’s climate change legislation. We are on track to meet our agenda. It is ambitious—moderately more so than the UK agenda as a whole. We are uniquely placed to contribute to the UK’s carbon reduction and to take more than a fair share of global reductions.
The right hon. Gentleman mentions subsidies from a sedentary position. In her speech yesterday, the Secretary of State acknowledged that no form of new generation will be built without subsidies. That is the reality of the energy climate in which we work today. Whether we like it or not, subsidies are required. If we take in carbon costs, the area that is most likely to be developed without subsidy is onshore wind, which, ironically, is the one that has been ruled out.
I welcome the fact that Scotland will be able to play its part in the UK delegation. Our story, as part of the UK story, is compelling, and I look forward to the UK, with Scotland playing a leading role, taking this matter forward, showing true global leadership and ensuring that we get a deal that is worth its name.
I thank my hon. Friend Helen Goodman and the Backbench Business Committee for not only initiating this debate, but putting on the parliamentary agenda an issue that will be the defining test of our generation of politicians and people.
In just a few days’ time, the world will meet in Paris, which has, in recent days, been the site of so much distress and despair. The attacks that took place at the weekend were acts of hatred, designed to divide us, crush people’s hopes and destroy lives. At the landmark summit, the UK will have the opportunity to show real leadership, to give hope to people around the world and to take real action, collective action, on one of the most pressing issues of our times.
This is urgent. For years, Governments around the world have agreed that temperature rises should be limited to no more than 2°. As my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband said, this month we have learned that the world is already half way to that critical threshold.
Last year, scientists at NASA said that global temperatures have risen to their highest recorded level. With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years on record have all been since the turn of the century. Humanity’s greatest scientific minds have warned us time and again that the warming trend is now unmistakeable, and that climate change is no longer a distant threat; it is already happening.
We are running out of time. This is a direct threat to our national security. Global warming is already worsening extreme weather, putting at risk homes and livelihoods across our islands from worse and more frequent flood events. After the most intense period of rainfall in the record books caused Britain’s worst-ever floods last winter, the head of the Met Office warned that
“all the available evidence suggests there is a link to climate change.”
Climate change is a threat to our broader economic prosperity and to the families and businesses that depend on a growing economy. New research for Aviva Investors found that if temperature rises of up to 5° of warming occurred, it could result in $7 trillion of losses, which is more than the total market capitalisation of the London Stock Exchange. As Caroline Lucas reminded us some moments ago, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said:
“Climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer term prosperity”.
“Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late.”
Climate change is also a threat to public health. A major commission by British doctors, published in TheLancet earlier this year and backed by the World Health Organisation, found that rising temperatures constituted a threat to people’s wellbeing because of heatwaves, the spread of infectious diseases and crop failures.
“Climate change is a medical emergency. It demands an emergency response.”
This is an issue of social justice. All of us have a duty to protect some of the poorest people in the world, and here at home, from threats to their security. That is why I do not believe that we or anyone else can afford to turn our back on the issue.
Pope Francis was right when he called action on climate change
“a matter of justice...a question of solidarity.”
“It is the poorest who suffer the worst consequences.”
When world leaders meet in Paris for UN talks to try to finalise a new global agreement, it is imperative that the outcome keeps the goal of climate safety within reach. Nobody expects that the Paris summit will completely solve the carbon problem, but it is a moment when we will stand at a crossroads. We have a real chance to establish a pathway to the ultimate goal of a global economy that does not rely on destroying the world’s rainforests and burning highly polluting fuels, and that seizes on the opportunities presented by modern clean energy technologies.
The Government should know that they have our full support in the UN talks to strive for an agreement that includes ambitious climate plans from all countries towards the ultimate goal of a completely carbon-free global economy in the second half to the century. It was encouraging to see the Prime Minister and other G7 leaders back this target when they met in June. I hope this will now become a truly international commitment when Governments meet in Paris in a few days’ time.
As the cost of clean technologies continues to fall, the Paris accord must include an important commitment to strengthen national plans every five years towards achieving this global long-term goal. I had an exchange this morning with the Secretary of State and I was pleased to hear her express her support for this.
We should start from where we are. Some climate change impacts are inevitable as a consequence of the carbon pollution that is already in the atmosphere, so I welcome the Government’s commitment to direct substantial aid towards the poorest and most vulnerable communities. As my hon. Friend Dr Whitehead knows and reminds me so often, we must take steps to adapt to worsening extreme weather and rising seas through the hurricane-proofing of schools and the building of sea walls.
The UK goes to the Paris summit with a proud history of action on climate change. It was Tony Blair who put the issue on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council and the G7. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North and his brother who passed into law the world’s first-ever Climate Change Act. It was Gordon Brown who took action in Copenhagen to win agreement from other world leaders to set up the UN’s global climate fund to help the poorest countries in the world to protect their citizens from the impact of stronger hurricanes and rising seas.
I am proud that we doubled renewable energy generation and put in the work to make sure that the UK was a global leader across a range of clean energy technologies. I am proud of the jobs and the opportunities for young people that those projects have created across the length and breadth of Britain, including in my own constituency. Two thirds of the renewable projects that came online in the past five years started under the Labour Government. But as we were told by my right hon. Friends the Members for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), who did so much to keep this on the agenda in the previous Parliament, we cannot ignore the fact that the legacy of the UK’s leadership at home and abroad is now at risk.
We cannot make progress towards climate change safety while we are unravelling all the policies at home that will help us shift towards a low carbon economy. Let us consider what they are. Solar energy support has been cut by almost 90%. The only nuclear power station on stream has been delayed yet again—delayed twice under this Government; delayed yet again. Energy efficiency programmes are being cut in real terms. Carbon capture and storage projects have not been delivered. Onshore wind farms are being blocked, as Callum McCaig said, even where they enjoy local support. The green investment bank is being sold off without a proper mandate to invest in new green clean energy.
The Energy Secretary was right yesterday when she said that ageing coal-fired power stations would be closed within the next decade and should be replaced with more modern technologies, but new cleaner power stations are not being built at the rate required to replace them and to secure our energy supplies. I will take no lessons from Government Members about Labour’s record on this. We delivered a record number of gas power stations. The nuclear projects that the Secretary of State is working on were initiated under Tony Blair. They have twice been delayed on this Government’s watch. When this Government came to power, they inherited a 16% power surplus. It is now down to 5% and National Grid is having to use emergency measures to safeguard our energy supply.
The Government do not appear to have any kind of plan to ensure a just transition that protects the communities that are dependent on those industries for their livelihoods and to ensure that the workforce remain in good, skilled jobs. Only yesterday the Secretary of State acknowledged the role that coal miners have played in this country, doing dangerous and difficult work that changed lives here and boosted our national prosperity. As we move into the future, the skills, the patriotism and the work ethic of people in coalfield communities ought to be our greatest national asset, but where is the industrial strategy that will safeguard jobs and skills in those communities and help us build a new, clean energy system?
The present chaotic, contradictory approach to energy policy has been criticised by the CBI and by Ernst and Young for causing serious confusion. It puts off investment that we badly need for our energy security, and it sends a hugely damaging signal at a time when Britain must harness the momentum that exists internationally to get a deal to tackle the threat posed by climate change. This will be the defining test of our generation. It is a test that we cannot afford to fail. It is right that the Secretary of State has come to respond to the debate herself. I applaud her for doing so. She will have heard what hon. Members said today. She will have heard the words of Pope Francis. I urge her to change course, and if she does so, she will have our full and guaranteed support.
I thank Helen Goodman and the Backbench Business Committee for calling this important debate at this crucial time as we enter the climate negotiations in Paris. I thank all those who participated in it. It has been truly inspiring and interesting on account of the many different points of view expressed.
The hon. Lady spoke clearly about the Pope’s encyclical and underlined His Holiness’s points about how it is incumbent on all politicians to limit the increase in climate change in order to protect the poorest of the world, who are already the worst affected by dangerous climate change. She spoke also about the imperative of legally binding agreement—that is our aim—and moved on to comment about sanctions. However, the situation is more delicate than that. Her emphasis on sanctions, the legally binding aspect and the outcomes thereafter misses the point about the intended nationally determined contributions—the INDCs. We are tantalisingly close, I believe, to a successful outcome in Paris. We now have countries involved in these debates and conversations in reaching for an agreement in Paris who were not participating 10 or 15 years ago, but we have to tread very carefully in relation to what is perceived as national sovereignty. I take her advice in terms of wanting this to be legally binding, but I urge her not to make the perfect the enemy of the good.
My hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh gave us a helpful run-down on the Pope’s central theme about man, nature and God.
He suggested that we do not “weaponise” what the Pope said. Perhaps Labour Members might remember that as we debate this important issue. I am grateful for his eloquent summary of the encyclical.
I can tell Edward Miliband that the same people with whom he was in discussions at Copenhagen are still on the circuit, and they remember him fondly and with respect, I am happy to say—although mentioning Copenhagen at the Paris negotiations is like mentioning Voldemort to small children. I share his view that what happens after Paris is key. As he will know, we are ambitious to get a deal in Paris, but what is really key is the nature of the reviews and how binding they are going forward. He will also be aware of how difficult it is to get certain countries to commit, and how delicate it is, as we approach Paris, to try to keep everybody in the tent and yet to have an ambitious deal. The world sought to build on progress in Copenhagen, though the high expectations were not met. The Copenhagen accord did result in a number of countries pledging to reduce emissions by 2020, but we have moved on. Climate change is almost universally recognised as a serious threat to global prosperity, security and wellbeing, and more and more countries are taking action in response.
My hon. Friend David Mowat is right that the UK’s ambition is one of the toughest in the world. He made the important point that nuclear power is a critical part of our low carbon future, and he reminded us that achieving our reduction in emissions is not all about new renewables but also about low emissions at least cost. Innovation is important, and progress in low carbon energy and storage is driving down the costs of climate action. The cost of low carbon technology is falling sharply. Solar costs have fallen by 80% since 2008, and wind turbine costs have fallen by 27% since 2009. I would say to Mr Bradshaw that that is why we are reviewing the costs and reducing subsidies, and it is right to do so. We now have 8 GW of solar—I would not describe it as a “fledgling” industry—and I hope that we will have much, much more as we go ahead.
My hon. Friend Rebecca Pow spoke well about her contribution and experience as an environmental commentator. I am grateful for her comments and her involvement in this debate.
Caroline Flint made the key point that we can have emissions reductions and grow our economy. I agree. We are seeing the uncoupling of growth and emissions. This year’s PricewaterhouseCoopers low carbon economy index shows for the first time that while global GDP grew by 3.3% in 2014, energy carbon dioxide emissions rose by only 0.5%. The UK is at the forefront of this development, cutting our emissions by 8.4% last year against a backdrop of a growing economy. The UK is already benefiting from the transition to a low carbon economy. In 2013, the UK’s annual turnover in this sector was £122 billion, equivalent to twice that of the auto manufacturing industry and food and drinks industry.
Patrick Grady highlighted the importance of climate justice, and asked particularly about climate finance. This is a critical area for a deal in Paris. The pledge is to demonstrate that the developed world can mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries. The UK continues to play a leading role in that, and it is right that the Prime Minister was able to increase our pledge in order to support it.
Caroline Lucas shared her regular view that we are making insufficient progress, but I agree with her on the implications of climate change for the wider economy, as set out by Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England.
Daniel Zeichner is a new Member of Parliament, but nevertheless he has learned the skill of calling for unity but then attacking Government policy. I urge him to look at the full statement I made yesterday, which set out a full energy policy, and I hope he will see the pattern in it.
Callum McCaig made some interesting comments and we agree with him that it is possible to have both growth and a reduction in carbon emissions. I was also delighted to hear his support for our policies on offshore wind.
The final speaker was Lisa Nandy. I am delighted to say that we welcome her commitment towards, and share her feeling of urgency for, what we are trying to achieve, but it is disappointing that the Opposition choose to weaponise our differences in focus, because we should be taking a cross-party approach. However, I will glide over that and simply agree with her that we are united as a country and as a House in wanting an ambitious, legally binding deal in Paris, with regular reviews and a long-term goal. Paris will not be the end but the moment when the world changes direction and kick-starts a revolution to a new kind of growth and development.
I am grateful to all hon. Members who have contributed to this excellent and worthwhile debate on a very important issue. Over the next few weeks, many people will have their eyes on Paris, hoping and praying for a good agreement. I will give the last words to Pope Francis, who asks
“that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.”
“Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good… and care for this world in which we live… help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future”.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House notes the Pope’s Encyclical, entitled Laudato Si’, Our Common Home, on climate change and international justice which is an important contribution to discussions on this vital subject; further notes that the 2015 climate change conference will be held in Paris between