EU Referendum: Energy and Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:58 pm on 12th July 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 12:58 pm, 12th July 2016

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is clear from what the Committee on Climate Change has said that the area in which the United Kingdom is falling behind most badly is not the power sector, but the transport and heating sectors. Of course, dealing with that does not rest solely with the Secretary of State; it also rests with her colleagues in the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Perhaps the Secretary of State would find it easier to explain how the UK might continue to benefit from the EU internal energy market—or does Brexit mean Brexit in this regard as well? We really do need clear answers to all these questions. Perhaps the right hon. Lady can tell us what will happen to the four clean energy projects that are currently being assessed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments. She knows that the European Investment Bank has been the UK’s biggest clean-energy lender, having put €31 billion into clean energy over the last five years. Has she identified a replacement source of funds for such projects?

Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain why, last week, the Government pulled their funding for the only large new gas plant that had managed to secure finance under the capacity market scheme after Carlton Power was unable to secure the investment that was needed for the Trafford plant. The capacity market has resoundingly failed to secure the new gas build that it was introduced to incentivise.

Perhaps the right hon. Lady can explain—after the failure of the green deal, and after acknowledging that neither the warm home scheme nor the energy company obligation is sufficiently well targeted to reach those most in need—precisely how she proposes to address energy efficiency and tackle the fuel poverty experienced by 2.38 million of our fellow citizens. Let me correct that, Mr Speaker: 1 should have said 2.38 million households, in England alone. Perhaps the right hon. Lady might also explain why National Grid warned on Friday that the lights were kept on only by emergency measures last year. The fact is that the Government’s energy policy has pushed us further towards energy insecurity.

Our purpose in securing this Opposition Day debate is precisely to ensure that the Government cannot ignore such pressing concerns following the referendum. The vote to leave was not a vote for blackouts and soaring energy bills; it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that those things do not happen.

The Committee on Climate Change, which has a statutory duty to advise the Government on the most cost-effective route to decarbonisation, has always made it clear that early action is cheaper action. As its chief executive warned us last week, leaving the EU calls the mechanism of how we reach our targets into question. The Government’s policy failure has created a 10% gap in emissions projections towards our legally binding climate target for the mid-2020s, and they are nearly 50% short of meeting their intended target for 2030—that is, if the Secretary of State ever gets round to actually complying with her statutory obligation to set the target. I believe that that is now due to happen on Monday, which would make it only 18 days beyond the legal statutory limit.

Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee gave the Government a red card for their record on managing future climate change risks. The chair of the Infrastructure Operators Adaptation Forum concluded:

“we simply do not know the capability of the vast majority of stuff out there for current weather, never mind the future”.

The National Security Risk Assessment cites flood risk to the UK as a tier 1 priority risk, alongside terrorism and cyber-attacks, and, of course, it is our most deprived communities that face the greatest increases in flood risk. However, new evidence released today by the Committee on Climate Change renders starker than ever the threat to British households and businesses from a failure to manage climate change. Its published estimates show that, without increased Government action on climate adaptation, the number of homes at high risk from flooding will rise to well over 1 million even if we meet our current climate targets.