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I beg to move,
That this House
notes that the USA and China have both ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change;
regrets that the Government has not accepted the Opposition’s offer of support for immediate commencement of domestic procedures to ratify the Paris Agreement;
further notes that if the UK lags behind its G20 partners in ratifying the Paris Agreement it risks losing diplomatic influence on this crucial future security issue;
recognises, in light of the EU referendum vote, the need to maintain a strong international standing and the risk of rising investment costs in UK energy infrastructure;
and calls on the Government to publish by the end of next week a Command Paper on domestic ratification and to set out in a statement to this House the timetable to complete the ratification process by the end of 2016.
I am delighted to rise to move this motion.
“My country has an unwavering commitment to pursue the path of sustainable development”: those were the words of President Xi last week when he and President Obama jointly—Communist China and capitalist America—announced their ratification of the Paris climate treaty. In a quite extraordinary event, we saw the world’s two superpowers, who are also the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, locked in an embrace to try to save our species from itself—from so altering our atmosphere that we make it almost impossible for many of our fellow human beings to survive, and destroy countless other species and ecosystems in the process. A few days before they did so, I wrote to our Prime Minister urging her to begin the process of ratification of the treaty by the UK. I understand her office passed my letter to the Secretary of State. I also tabled today’s motion to discuss ratification and press for the UK to follow China and America’s lead and get on and ratify the Paris agreement. So now with the US and China making it highly likely that the agreement will formally come into force by the end of this year, I decided that if China and America can put aside their differences and ratify, surely we in Parliament could do the same and become founder parties to the agreement.
I wrote to the Secretary of State and offered to amend the motion to make it the formal vote required by the House of Commons to ratify the treaty. The process of ratification is not unduly complex. It requires the tabling of a Command Paper by the Government and then affirmative resolution by both Houses. The Government have not tabled that Command Paper. In fact, my offer has still not received any formal response. The Scottish National party agreed. The Green party agreed. Plaid Cymru agreed. When I eventually could find a Liberal Democrat to speak to, he agreed as well. Here we had Her Majesty’s official Opposition, the Labour party, offering to forgo one of its precious Opposition day debates to do something on a cross-party basis and for the wider good—to create parliamentary time for something the Government had said they wanted to do but could not find the time for—yet that offer was rejected.
Sometimes, I think that people must look at us in this Parliament and say to themselves, “Can they not, just for once, put aside their petty party differences and agree to do something together? Are they really not bigger than this?” The Government had even said earlier this year that they would do this. In March, David Cameron agreed the EU Council conclusions, which underlined
“the need for the European Union and its Member States to be able to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible and on time so as to be Parties as of its entry into force.”
The shadow Secretary of State knows that I am a great supporter of the Paris climate change treaty, and I hope that we will ratify it as soon as possible, but I cannot help but feel that he is manufacturing a disagreement here. I think that there is consensus on both sides of the House that we should ratify it. All member states of the EU must ratify it in their time, so in my view, his sense of urgency is also manufactured.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. I trust him, and I know that he cares deeply about this issue; I think he knows that I do, too. The olive branch that I extended to the Secretary of State was a genuine one. This is something that I had been told the Government wanted to do; indeed, they stated publicly on many occasions earlier this year that that was the case. However, I had been told that they had been unable to find the time to do it yet, so I decided that this would be an opportunity for them to make time. This is therefore a matter of deep regret to me. I am sure that the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box in due course and explain to us precisely why it was impossible to take this opportunity to table the Command Paper yesterday or the day before and to use this parliamentary time to enable us in the House of Commons to vote to ratify the treaty.
I am pleased that my hon. Friend has secured this time to debate these matters. The United States of America, China and France have already completed ratification, and other G20 countries such as Brazil and Germany have pledged to do so by the end of the year. All we are asking this Government to do is to set out precisely what the timescale is going to be for the United Kingdom to ratify this important piece of work, but we are not getting any answers from them.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but I really hope that we can make some progress this afternoon. The right hon. and hon. Members in the Government Front Bench team know that I have respect for them and that I do not seek to be partisan on this matter, but I will attack them if they do not keep to their commitments and I will continue to do so.
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, and this has been very much a cross-party debate on climate change, but the heart of the commitment on climate change is the Climate Change Act 2008, which was voted on in this House and is now part of British law. We have committed in the Act to achieve an 80% reduction in our emissions by 2050. I echo the comment made by my hon. Friend James Heappey that the hon. Gentleman is creating an argument where there is none. The Government have not said that they will not ratify the treaty, and I fully believe that we will do so. We must think about this very sensibly, and I hope that we will continue to lead the way, just as we have done all along the line.
I am delighted that the hon. Lady has referred to the Climate Change Act 2008 and to the fact that the commitments made under the Act are legally binding on us. Later in my speech, I shall examine exactly what the legislation stated and try to show precisely where the Government have deviated from it over the past couple of years. This is why we have been on a pathway of divergence rather than convergence in this House for the past two years. The bipartisan—indeed, cross-party—approach that used to obtain in the House on these matters has been severely tested by what has been seen as the Government’s backsliding on those legally binding commitments. I shall adumbrate that a little later.
Until this morning, it was not clear to me why the olive branch I had extended to the Government had been quite so haughtily ignored. Then I found out what the Minister had said to the Aldersgate Group and what the Secretary of State had quietly revealed to journalists at his departmental cocktail reception for the ladies and gentlemen of the press yesterday evening—[Interruption.] They laugh. They said candidly that they would not be publishing the carbon plan by the end of the year. Carbon plan? What is that?
This is not the kind of thing that any normal member of the public would think sounds terribly important. If I were to explain that it is really important because it is supposed to set out precisely how the Government are going to meet their carbon budget, that same hypothetical member of the public might look blank, because people do not talk in these terms. They do not talk in terms of carbon plans and carbon budgets; they talk in terms of effects, not budgets. They know that climate change is causing disruption across the world, with more flooding in some places and more drought in others, with stronger hurricanes and typhoons and with the loss of crops and arable land. They know that that is related to the emissions polluting our air and our children’s lungs, and these things are important to them.
That is precisely why we politicians agreed, back in 2008—under a Labour Government but very much on a cross-party basis—to limit the ways in which we were causing those problems. We agreed to reduce and limit those emissions that were changing the world with such devastating effect. That is why we created the Committee on Climate Change to set legally binding carbon budgets that would precisely limit the damage that we were doing, but we tasked it to ensure that we always adopted the most cost-efficient pathway, so that we could move towards the long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in admissions by 2050 at the lowest possible cost to the public, to industry and to business.
That is why this carbon plan is so important. How dare the Secretary of State let slip to a few journalists at a cocktail party that of course he will not be publishing the carbon plan by the end of this year? How dare the Minister reveal to the Aldersgate Group that he “may” find space in the timetable to publish it in 2017? May? May? I ask the Minister to read the primary legislation, which states that after the publication of a carbon budget, the Government must publish a plan to put it into effect
“as soon as is reasonably practicable” thereafter. The fourth carbon budget was published in 2011. Five and a half years later, we still have no carbon plan. My grasp of the English language is not so weak that I would think that five and a half years, during which we have had a change of Government and a new Prime Minister, constitutes “as soon as is reasonably practicable”. And now the Minister says that he “may” get around to doing this in 2017.
Earlier this year, the Government promised that the reason for the delay was simply that they now wanted to include their measures for achieving the fifth carbon budget in the plan, which they set almost three weeks later than the legislation required. This is another area in which the Government have lost the people’s confidence. The primary legislation is very clear. It states that a carbon budget must be deposited on
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is making the point that publishing the carbon plan would be very good and useful next step. He spoke earlier about the pertinence of climate change to ordinary people on the street. The reality is that 222,000 homes in Wales are in danger of flooding. The current cost of remedying that danger would be about £200 million, and that cost is certain to grow. This demonstrates the need for urgency.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. When we talk about such matters in terms of carbon plans and carbon budgets, it can seem as though we are talking about a world separate from that understood by the people who listen to us. They understand when their homes are being flooded. They know that such things are the effects of climate change. What they need to know is that we are following what was the best legislative model in the world when it was set out in 2008 with cross-party agreement under the leadership of my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband. We achieved that here and it has become a model across the world, but we must follow it and the tragedy is that this Government have been backsliding.
The reason Ministers could not accept the cross-party olive branch that I extended was that, the night before, they knew that they were about to admit to the world that they still had not a single clue about how they were going to meet the promises and targets that they had already made to keep the UK safe from climate change. They knew that they were not even going to commit to a new deadline by when they might put such a plan together and that to come to this Chamber today—all smiles—in a cross-party endeavour to ratify the Paris agreement would have exposed them to the accusation of being arrogant hypocrites. They have avoided that charge, but they have opened themselves up to an infinite number more: incompetence, dithering, anti-business, anti-investment. They are a party divided between those who circle on the Back Benches saying that all these budgets and plans are just costly “green crap” and that we should get on with a future industrial based on fossil fuels and the few sane heads, some of whom are in the Chamber today—[Interruption.]
Order. There is some unrest about the hon. Gentleman’s language, but I think that in using a word that I would not advise him to use, nor would I use myself, he was in fact perhaps quoting.
My excuse is that I believe I was quoting the former Prime Minister, who used such language about his previous embrace of the huskies.
We will leave the point as to whether it was a quote or a misquote, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will temper his language.
No. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his making his point of order, because the reason for my intervention was to ensure that the rest of the debate will see temperate language that we would all be happy to quote in future.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
This is interesting because David T. C. Davies is one of those who believes that in meeting their climate change commitments the Government are wrongheaded and that man-made climate change is somewhat overblown as a hypothesis. He is, in effect, a climate change denier—[Interruption.]
Up until that point, the hon. Gentleman was quite right and I was nodding. I have never ever denied that the climate changes. In fact, on every single occasion that I have spoken on this subject, I have made the point straightaway that of course the climate changes, but that it has been changing for a lot longer than 250 years. The real deniers are people like the hon. Gentleman who seem to deny that the climate changed prior to the industrial revolution.
I was of course referring to the hon. Gentleman being a denier of anthropogenic climate change, and he knows that.
However, there are sane heads who understand that when the world’s largest superpowers ratify a climate change treaty that commits the world to a net carbon future by the second half of this century, it is time to do what President Obama said last week and
“put your money where your mouth is.”
Last year, global investment in low-carbon technology was $286 billion. The problem is that investment in developing countries outpaced that in richer nations. We are locked in a low-carbon race and we are losing. The reason I want us to get on and ratify is not because Paris is some sort of totemic environmental symbol, but because political leadership sends a strong signal to attract investment. Countries with a clear policy framework are the ones that attract investment. Countries with a stable policy framework attract investment. The UK has had neither over the past few years.
On solar, the Government plan this month to hike the tax on businesses with rooftop solar installations through a six to eight times increase in business rates. In 2015, they cut all solar subsidy for commercial installations of over 5 MW and reduced the subsidy for the rest by 65%. The Government’s own figures show that that has resulted in a 93% fall in UK solar deployment and the loss of more than 12,000 jobs in the industry.
On wind power, the Government decided to end all subsidy for onshore wind farms despite them being the cheapest source of renewable power. For offshore wind, they took away all investment certainty by announcing that they would extend the levy control framework only to 2021.
On biomass, I wrote to the Secretary of State only a few days ago to ask why regulatory changes to the tariff structure of combined heat and power biomass plants were rushed through this summer, using secondary legislation to amend the renewable heat incentive without proper consultation. No impact assessment was made of the risk to business, and trade associations estimate that £140 million of investment is now at risk.
On carbon capture and storage technology, the Government broke their manifesto promise, cancelling £4 billion of promised finance—the latest £1 billion was cancelled last year just six months before it was due to be awarded, sinking the White Rose and
On energy efficiency, the Government ditched the zero-carbon homes policy and finally scrapped their green deal policy despite having no idea about how to replace it with other household efficiency measures.
On transport, the Government reduced the vehicle excise duty incentives for low-emissions vehicles. Is it any wonder that in just four years we have sunk from fourth to 13th in the Ernst and Young index of the best places for investment in low-carbon industries?
Just to make the investment picture complete, they took the quite monstrous decision to sell off the green investment bank. A bank that was precisely set up because there was a market failure that the private sector simply could not address. By abolishing the GIB, they are now prepared to starve low-carbon industries in the UK of the investment that they need at a critical phase of development.
However, not all parts of the energy nexus are being hit by this Government. In 2013, they announced that fracking companies would pay half the tax paid by conventional oil and gas producers. The then Chancellor called the tax regime the
“most generous for shale in the world”.
CCS, commercial solar, business rates on rooftop solar, onshore wind, offshore wind, biomass, the levy control framework, the green deal—is there any part of our energy sector that I have not mentioned? Oh yes, nuclear. Hinkley—oh dear. Dithering, delay, incompetence and an overpriced contract have led to a contract for difference that will now cost the bill payer, not the Government, not the £6.1 billion originally calculated by the Government but the £30 billion as determined by the National Audit Office.
The Hinkley project has already been delayed for eight years, and the Prime Minister has now thrown in into chaos. Two and half years ago, the Government should have reviewed the project on grounds of cost. To do so after the EDF board had taken a final knife-edge investment decision is to show a level of contempt for investors in our energy infrastructure and a lack of understanding of how company boards actually take decisions, sending out the most damaging message and turning investors away from the UK as a market of preference for low-carbon investment.
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful point, but I suggest that it is all about the way one uses statistics. In this country, 16% of our energy comes from renewables, and this year 25% of our electricity is from renewable sources. He laughs, but in 2014, 30% of all of Europe’s renewable energy investment took place here. Does he not agree that that is an excellent track record, and that one of the best ways we can indicate we are combating climate change is by phasing out fossil fuel power stations, which is exactly what this Government are doing?
The hon. Lady is right to say that we have had an enviable track record on the amount of our renewables and way in which they have been built up. But of course the statistics she referred to were created by the policies that previously allowed the subsidy into the renewable industry. The points that I have just been making show clearly how the Government, in the past 18 months to two years, have withdrawn those subsidies. As I said, the effect on the solar industry was a 93% cut in the projects that are now going ahead—in the panels and the capacity now being installed.
Rebecca Pow mentioned energy investment in this country, but she failed to mention that energy companies in this country often buy in energy from Europe—in fact, they have invested £2 billion to £3 billion in Europe. That does not say much for the Government’s energy policy, does it?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I had not referred to it in my speech, so I am glad he has drawn the House’s attention to it, because interconnection with Europe is vital for our energy security. It would be a very positive move if the Minister were to talk about the future of energy infrastructure and of energy interconnection with the continent. As I understand it, there is no reason why coming out of the European Union should mean we are not part of the single energy market—that can stand separately. I would very much like confirmation from the Minister that the Government intend to make sure that that is safeguarded, because it is an important way of managing our energy supply.
Instead of using our time today to take a bold step forward, seeking Commons approval for the UK to join the founder parties of the historic Paris climate deal, we have had to hold the Government to account for just how far the UK’s leadership on climate change has fallen on their watch. Leapfrogged by the world’s biggest polluters, we have gone from the world-leading Climate Change Act to where we now sit: with a 47% gap in meeting our target, which we simply do not know how to fill—we have not yet even given a date for the publication of the plan as to when we will fill it. I will rephrase that, because we do know how to fill it. It is by properly insulating millions of homes in the UK to increase energy-efficiency and, where that is not viable—with older, single-skin properties—by ensuring that they have access to low-carbon renewable community sources of energy, so that we are not burning fossil fuels to see the heat escape through draughty walls and windows. It is by transforming our transport system with electric vehicles whose battery capacity can double up as storage facility and fill that space that intermittent renewable technologies require.
Later today, the leader of the Labour party will set out his ambitious vision for our environmental and energy policy, creating 300,000 jobs in low-carbon industries and using a new national investment bank to invest in public and community-owned renewable energy projects. The Paris agreement demands that we move to a net zero-carbon future in the second half of this century. That requires courage and imagination. It requires a coherent low-carbon investment plan. Today should have been a day when all parties came together to piece together that future in optimism and hope. By turning their back on that opportunity, the Government must explain when they will ratify the Paris agreement and when they will publish the carbon plan to show the British public how they will deliver on that promise.
As you well know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Opposition days are traditionally set up for division. When I saw today’s motion, I hoped that today was going to be different, but 28 minutes later I was really disappointed by the tone Barry Gardiner set for this debate. That is because, as I hope he knows, I have a deep respect for him personally, and it is widely acknowledged that he has a deep and serious knowledge of this issue and agenda, and, to date, has had a serious commitment to it. His speech, however, was very disappointing. As I said, Opposition days are set up for division. Sometimes the divisions are real and sometimes they are exaggerated, but rarely have I been asked to open a debate where the division has been so entirely manufactured, stretched and distorted, in a way that is really unhelpful and matters. That is at the heart of my disappointment.
Today, we had, and I hope still have, an opportunity to have a substantive and timely debate on an issue of enormous importance. We can take stock, at a pivotal time, of where we are in, what is now, at last, a global effort to manage the risk of dangerous, expensive and possibly extreme climate instability. Arguably—and I have argued this—this is the most complex and important long-term issue that our generation of politicians have to grapple with. It is an issue on which there has been impressive and very important cross-party support over successive Governments, not least when the groundbreaking and enormously influential Climate Change Act, on whose Bill Committee I remain proud to have served, was passed by a majority of 463. Without that cross-party support, British Governments would not have been able to show the leadership we have shown, under different political colours, which has, in turn, enabled us to have the global influence that is at the heart of the hon. Gentleman’s motion.
The motion encourages the Government to get on and do what we have already said we will do, which has been confirmed again by the Prime Minister today: ratify the Paris treaty as soon as possible. I therefore urge the hon. Gentleman, who is widely respected for his knowledge and commitment to this agenda, to resist what I think I heard, which is an urge to play party games, particularly against a backdrop of a Labour leadership election. That is extremely unhelpful and out of character for him.
Out of respect for the hon. Gentleman, I do, however, want to address his motion and, in doing so, seek to reassure the House and many outside, whom he rightly says are deeply concerned about this issue, that this new Department, led by a highly respected former shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend Greg Clark, who is sitting alongside me on the Front Bench this afternoon, and the new Government remain very committed to Britain playing a full part in the global effort to improve our climate security. There is no backsliding here; we are genuinely committed to this. Why? It is not only because we see climate change as one of the biggest long-term risks to our future security and prosperity—a risk that has to be actively managed—but because we believe that long-term, cost-effective climate action is an opportunity to promote growth, good jobs and improvements to our health, not least through the right to enjoy cleaner air in our cities.
We are committed to ratifying the pivotal Paris agreement, and we see it, as I said last night, as a start. We are committed to the UK Climate Change Act 2008. Arguably, there is no more important proof of that in the short term than the very early unflinching decision to put into law the fifth carbon budget. I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend Jesse Norman, who, just hours after he was lured from the charms of chairing the thoroughly agreeable Select Committee to enter Government, was on his feet facing the Opposition Front-Bench team putting the fifth carbon budget into law. Anyone who knows anything about this subject will understand that that is an extremely important and challenging commitment on behalf of the British people. Therefore, there is no more important proof than that the new Department was prepared to make such a commitment at such an early stage in its life.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the importance of green jobs. I represent Ashfield, a former coalfield community, where the pits are now closed and the replacement jobs are not as secure or as well paid. What are the Government doing to get those green jobs to areas such as mine?
The hon. Lady addresses a very important and substantive issue, which lies at the heart of this Government’s commitment to forge and commit and put on the tin of this new Department the need for an industrial strategy. As the Prime Minister said, that strategy needs to work for everyone, to create a broader sense of opportunity across the country and to take a very hard look at industries, sectors and places and think about future competitiveness and resilience, It needs to ask such questions as: “Where are the opportunities going to come from?” and “How do we broaden the opportunity for other people?”. I am talking about fundamental, deep-seated questions, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering. Fundamental to that incredibly important work is this debate today and the debate about the future of our low carbon economy.
I was just trying to make the point about the importance of the fifth carbon budget, which commits us to reducing our emissions in 2030 by 57% relative to 1990 levels. That is a very major commitment. I will return to our commitment to take effective climate action in the UK, but, out of respect to the hon. Member for Brent North, I will address the issue of Paris ratification, before moving on to address how we intend to maintain our international influence.
We signed the Paris agreement in April and we said that we would ratify it as soon as possible, and we will. For the information of the House—the hon. Gentleman knows this—there are two steps to ratification. First, countries complete their domestic processes to approve the treaty and then they deposit an instrument of ratification with the UN. We signed the agreement as part of the European Union. As many Members know, we negotiated the treaty together and—this point was ignored in the hon. Gentleman’s speech—the convention is that we will ratify it together. That is our understanding. Until we leave the EU, the UK will remain a full member with all the obligations that that entails.
Colleagues will understand that with such a complex process in which so many different countries are going through their domestic processes of approval—we are lucky because ours is relatively straightforward and there is an understanding that we will ratify simultaneously —it has always been understood that the EU was never expected to be at the vanguard of ratification. Indeed, that was confirmed to me by the most senior people involved in the negotiating process and, in part, explains why others have chosen to go first. Of course we welcome that, as we want early ratification of this hugely important treaty.
I will just finish my point and then, of course, I will take the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. For the same reason, it is very difficult for us to set the timeline for ratification that the hon. Gentleman seeks. It depends on the timing of the other processes. However, I wish to reassure him and the House that we will start our own process as soon as possible. Although I cannot confirm the exact timetable today because the processes are not complete, we will make a decision and we will communicate it at the appropriate point. The main issue is not whether that decision comes next week, as he seeks, or soon after, but that we fulfil our commitment to ratify as soon as possible. With that I am very happy to take the hon. Gentlemen’s intervention and thank him for his patience.
I am grateful to the Minister for allowing me to intervene. He has just said that it was never the intention that the EU would ratify the treaty as one of the founder members, but in March this year, the EU Council underlined
“the need for the European Union and its Member States to be able to ratify the Paris Agreement as soon as possible and on time so as to be Parties as of its entry into force.”
The conclusion of the March Council, therefore, was that we would be founder members and that we would enter the agreement. However, because it is now clear that that final ratification with the Secretary-General will be in December of this year, it is vital that EU member states now take early action. We should be taking even earlier action to push other member states to fulfil what the European Council statement said.
Let me be absolutely clear: this Government welcome the shift in dynamic in terms of the ratification process. It is fantastically good news. As the hon. Gentleman has rightly pointed out, the important change—it has been the most important change since I was immersed in this matter in my first Parliament—is the shift in the attitude of the two biggest economies—the United States and China, This is the big game changer. Frankly, that is much, much more important than the exact timing of when we lay a command order in this place. No one is in any doubt about the commitment of the UK to this process. We have demonstrated that commitment under the leadership of successive Secretaries of State—I am delighted to see Edward Miliband in his place today—over many Governments.
I am heartened by the positivity from the Minister on this subject. The fact that the United States has come forward first with the ratification is largely because Britain was leading the way on this matter. Many of these countries, China in particular, are among the biggest offenders on climate change, so to see them taking part is great. I urge the Minister to continue to lead the way, and I am heartened by his assurance that we will ratify this treaty and that we will be playing our part.
I thank my hon. Friend for that constructive and positive intervention. I am delighted that we are doing our bit to shift the tone of this debate, which is much needed. I will go on to address her point about how we intend to maintain our leadership and this international influence.
The Minister is quite right to point to the two-stage process of ratification, and the question of how the UK will go about that process in conjunction with the EU. The fact is that that process is undertaken in the UK by laying an order to achieve the objectives of an EU treaty, by having it debated by both Houses and by it coming out the other end. That process has already been completed by France, and yet the UK is nowhere near even thinking about it. Is that the Minister’s understanding, or is such a process imminent in this House?
The hon. Gentleman has a long and distinguished record. We served together on environmental Committees a very long time ago. I thank him for his interest. He is right on one point. Yes, France has completed its domestic processes. He is entirely wrong on his second point, which is that the Government have not even begun to think about the process. We have, and we will be in a position to make our announcement on this at an appropriate point. I am sorry that it is not today, but we have made it clear, as the Prime Minister set out explicitly today, that we do intend to ratify as soon as possible.
On the important question of international influence, the challenge is not just how we meet our own commitments in the fairest and most cost-effective way, but how we maximise our influence to make sure that others play their full part. Those two aspects are linked, because it is easier for us to keep our people, businesses and private sector with us on this journey if they feel that other countries are fully engaged, and if they see that the global opportunity offered by the low-carbon economy, which I will come to, is real, substantial and growing, and that we must maximise our involvement in it.
I want to address the question of an international instrument, which the hon. Gentleman is rightly and understandably probing and which underlies the motion. UK diplomacy is widely recognised as having played an important role in shaping and securing the Paris agreement. The framework for the commitments to which countries have signed up has clearly been influenced by the structure that we have set up in the UK. That is enormously welcome. Our influence was built not on symbolism, but on substance.
We were the first to put our own house in order, putting world-leading targets into law and implementing the policies to meet them. We then established what is still the most extensive network of climate attachés in our embassies overseas. We gave other countries practical help in areas such as carbon pricing, energy planning, power sector reform, low-carbon urban development, green finance and climate legislation. Climate change researchers are now, apparently, working with the Chinese on the structure of their own emissions trading scheme. In many of these areas, UK expertise is world leading, and sharing it has strengthened our bilateral relationships and opened up commercial opportunities. I pay tribute to Sir David King for the work that he has done over many years with commitment and passion, which he maintains today.
We have also played a leading role in international climate finance. Ahead of Paris, we committed to providing at least £5.8 billion—that is serious money—of international climate finance over the next five years to support poorer countries in raising their level of ambition to reduce emissions and strengthening their resilience to growing climate insecurity. In the Department for International Development, I had responsibility for the climate finance brief. On regular trips to Africa, I saw the exposure, vulnerability and cost attached to lack of resilience to climate change, which made even clearer to me the importance of international climate finance. I am very proud of the lead that we have taken, and of the fact that we have been asked by the global community to take the lead in Marrakesh on setting out the road map for further progress.
We arrived in Paris well respected, with a strong set of relationships. On top of that, the UK negotiating team in the UN is recognised as one of the strongest in the world. It was rightly praised after Paris for playing a key role in bringing diverse countries into the agreement. Before I close on the past, it is appropriate to put on record my personal appreciation, and I am sure that of many colleagues, of the leadership role played by the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who is now Home Secretary.
I can reassure the House that all these elements of our influence remain strong. Our bilateral co-operation on climate and energy with key international partners remains as wide ranging and ambitious as ever. As I said, our climate finance over the next five years will be 50% greater than it was over the past five years. Our investment in clean energy research and development will double over the next five years, and we are a leading member of a group of 20 countries that have all made such a commitment. The Governor of the Bank of England is leading the way globally on green finance and the important issue of climate risk disclosure. The Bank of England co-chairs the G20’s working group on green finance with the People’s Bank of China. Our negotiating teams across Government remain active and influential, not only on the US process that will meet again soon in Marrakesh, but in critical negotiations on emissions from civil aviation and the maritime sector, and hydrofluorocarbons.
I agree that ratifying the Paris agreement early is important symbolically. That is why we will ratify as soon as we can, but it is not credible to suggest that our international influence hangs on this one symbol when it is so firmly rooted in substance. We in this Government are proud of the leadership that the UK has shown and we have no intention of surrendering it.
Our influence overseas will always rest on our action at home. Few countries can lay greater claim to leadership in decarbonisation than the UK. Through the Climate Change Act, we were the first country to set a legally binding 2050 target to reduce our emissions by at least 80% compared with 1990. That target is in line with the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping the temperature rise to well below 2º C. We have not just set targets; we have acted. At home, just as abroad, we focus not on symbolism, but on substance. We reduced UK emissions by 36% in 2014 compared with 1990. Between 2010 and 2015 alone, we reduced emissions by 17%, which was the biggest reduction in a single Parliament.
On this journey, we have proved something that was in doubt when we started debating the issue in 2005 and 2006: whether cutting emissions comes at the expense of economic growth. We have proved in the UK that it does not. UK emissions have steadily decreased since 1990 while GDP has increased. By 2014, emissions had fallen by 36%, while GDP has increased by 61% since 1990. We have proved that green growth is a reality.
We have invested in clean energy, with 99% of our solar power being installed since 2010. Renewables now provide a greater share of our electricity generation than coal. I am confident that that impressive progress will continue. During this Parliament, our investment in clean energy generation is set to double, and we are on track for 35% of our electricity to come from renewables by 2020.
I will respond to the provocation from the hon. Member for Brent North. As we develop our emissions reduction plan, which is one of the Department’s top priorities, we will set a course towards deeper emission reductions in both heating and transport. The hon. Gentleman asked me about the emission reductions plan and, I think, manufactured a suggestion of gossip from the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman totally distorts what I said last night. He needs to check his sources.
The emissions reduction plan matters enormously. Any suggestion from the hon. Gentleman that this Government are not taking it seriously, are sliding away from it or do not understand its importance is misleading and misrepresents our position. It is important for the reasons that he states: to underpin the credibility of our progress towards challenging decarbonisation targets, and because, as he stated, if it is done well, it will send signals to market for investment and for the mobilisation of private capital and the private sector that is fundamental for success. It is essential that we get our carbon reduction plan right.
I am about to finish. The hon. Gentleman had plenty of time to speak. He knows that I am very laid back, but he stirred me with the approach that he took. The conversations that we are having about the emissions reduction plan—the carbon plan—are driven by the conviction that we must get this right. The hon. Gentleman knows the subject well and he knows the challenge that faces us. We have to take people with us, including a set of new Ministers with critical briefs, who need some time to get on top of the issues at stake because they are so important. We need to engage with the private sector and non-governmental organisations. This has to be a shared challenge. We have to make sure that the process is properly connected with the extremely important substantive and long-term work and thinking being done about the industrial strategy, because Paris, as he rightly said, changes so much—not least because the two largest economies in the world are saying, “We are now set out on a path towards decarbonisation of our power systems and our transport systems.” If we turn that into an estimate of the investment required, it runs into trillions of dollars.
We need to get this right, and all I was saying is that that is the priority. If we can meet all those criteria—if we can do all those things—by the end of 2016, great, but the overriding priority is to get this right, and that is what drives us. I hope that that is supported by Members on both sides of the House who can see that this commitment is important for our UK national interest, as it is for our identity as a responsible global citizen.
I am going to conclude. Our primary task is to manage a risk, but all this investment and innovation, as I have suggested, is creating one of the most important economic opportunities the UK has seen—arguably since the industrial revolution. The global low-carbon market is estimated to be worth more than $5 trillion, and it is now forecast to expand rapidly in the wake of the Paris agreement. Over the next 15 years, it is estimated that around $90 trillion will be invested in the world’s energy systems, land use and urban infrastructure, and an increasing proportion of that needs to be low-carbon if our globally agreed climate goals are to be met. The UK’s leadership and experience will put UK industry in a prime position to benefit.
The UK low-carbon sector is worth over £46 billion across more than 90,000 businesses. It employs more than 240,000 people and indirectly supports many more. There is great potential for it to continue to create high-value jobs in construction, manufacturing and services. That is why—here there is a genuine point of difference with the Opposition—the creation of the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is such an exciting opportunity. As we contemplate the importance and the consequences of Paris, and as we go through substantive processes in the industrial strategy, we think deeply about the future of our places, industries and sectors, and about what we can do to make them more competitive and more resilient, to broaden opportunity in this country and to make the economy work for everyone. It must be right to look at how our energy decarbonisation and industrial challenges can be brought together and thought through much more effectively than in the past. I regret that the Opposition continue to shadow the Government as they would like them to be, rather than as they actually are.
I thank the Minister for so generously giving way to me again. Are not the Government showing that they really have thought deeply about the situation by linking business with energy and with this new low-carbon era in tackling climate change? This shows a whole new move in the direction of this Government. Does not the Minister agree that this is absolutely the way to go if we are really serious about climate change and linking it with business?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. More importantly, the feedback we are getting from the business community on this is extremely positive, because they want the Government to join things up, and to think intelligently and for the long term. However, I have to finish my speech because Back Benchers must get in.
I am very grateful to the Minister for finishing. Can he tell us when we will see the emissions reduction plan for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets?
I know the hon. Gentleman has been busy talking to his colleagues, so he might have missed the bit of my speech in which I said we were reviewing where we are with that plan. It is massively important, and this has to be done well. We would like to do it in 2016. We are reviewing the whole process now, but if that changes and we feel that there is a case for doing this later, we will make an announcement and a decision at an appropriate point, which is not today.
When we are ready is the answer to that.
The UK always has been and, as the Prime Minister has made very clear, always will be an outward-looking country. Brexit does not change that, and nor does it change our commitment to tackling major international challenges such as climate change. We have an unrivalled set of relationships around the world, and our leadership on climate change is recognised in all the key international groupings. We will continue to use the authority that comes from our domestic track record to shape the international agenda.
Few issues that affect our national and global security, economic prosperity and poverty reduction ambitions are as important as climate change. We can rightfully—across all parties and on both sides of the House—be proud of the role we have played. This Government embrace the challenge of keeping the country on track to meet our long-term domestic commitments fairly and in the most cost-effective way possible. We will do everything that we can to maintain our influence, to make sure that other people play their part and to ensure that, on this long-term journey, we maximise the benefits to British businesses, British consumers and the British taxpayer. I leave the House in no doubt about the Government’s commitment to play a full part in the global effort to improve our climate security. I suggest in all sincerity to the hon. Member for Brent North that he does not press his motion to a Division.
That was a long conclusion. I have been sat like a taut spring for the last 10 minutes, since the Minister said he was getting ready to conclude—I will clearly take some time to get used to the new ministerial team. However, I welcome the chance to debate this issue as, I think, the House’s longest-serving Front-Bench climate change spokesperson —the irony is not lost on me.
We are here in our quarterly debate on climate change, and it would seem that we regularly discuss these matters. That is important—it is just a shame that it is, largely speaking, the same faces that we see every time. I think there is a wider body of folk in all parties who could do with hearing some of this, and it is, to a degree, regrettable that we see the same faces and largely hear the same arguments. We can push things on somewhat, and I think the shadow Secretary of State is attempting to do that today. I welcome the fact that we are having the debate.
I listened carefully to what the Minister was suggesting, and I am still slightly at a loss as to why we cannot press on with this issue. He said that the Government see the ratification process as a start and that they will start as soon as possible, but, as we say in north-east Scotland, it might be time to nip on a wee bit, because this is genuinely important. The symbolism the Minister talked about is key. The UK has been a leader on this issue, but with ratification by the US, China, France and others, we risk passing the baton to others. That would be regrettable for the UK’s global voice on this issue, but it is also regrettable in terms of the lack of opportunity and in terms of losing our impetus and our technological lead—the industrial lead we potentially have in deploying the technologies that will make the Paris agreement possible.
A year ago—this is something to be celebrated—we were sat discussing the possibilities of the pre-conference of the parties. I do not think anyone thought that the deal that we have would be quite as strong as it is. There is a lot to be done, but a global deal—a global consensus—to keep global warming well below 2°, with an ambition to keep it to 1.5°, is to be welcomed. They are incredibly challenging targets that have been set, and delay in ratification will not help. We need to get on with this. The terms of the debate are shifting. This is not just a subject for NGOs and those who care; it is becoming mainstream in political debate. The world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, in a warning to investors, said that we can no longer ignore climate change, and that
“climate risk factors have been under-appreciated and underpriced because they are perceived to be distant”.
We are already 1° warmer than the long-term trends, and the past three years have been the hottest on record. If that is not a wake-up call to what we need to do, then what is? If we are keep things below 1.5°, we had better get started quickly. We need to deploy the full range of our technological know-how, here and abroad, or we will miss the one chance that we get to make sure that we do not see catastrophic climate change.
The impacts of climate change here in the UK have been set out by the Committee on Climate Change in its risk assessment: increased flooding, and, conversely, drought; food shortages; and potential damage to critical infrastructure. This is a big country and a rich country. We can probably weather a lot of that—no pun intended—but others are not so fortunate. We need to be planning ahead. We need to get the mitigation and the adaption in place early—otherwise it will be more expensive—but we also need to help others.
The most precious thing that came out of the COP21 agreement is the international consensus, but there is a suggestion that it is already beginning to fray. President Duterte of the Philippines is not someone I would regularly seek to quote, but he said something that is symbolic of the attitude change that we risk causing if we are not serious about getting on with this. He said of the ratification and the INDC—intended nationally determined contribution—for the Philippines:
“You are trying to stymie us…That’s stupid. I will not honour that.”
He did change his tune a bit a little later in addressing the Philippine Parliament, when he said:
“Addressing climate change shall be a top priority but upon a fair and equitable equation. It should not stymie our industrialisation.”
That is a fair point. The greatest irony of climate change is that the countries that have contributed least to it are those that stand to lose the most. Above all, the poorest members of those communities, who have contributed even less, will be the first to see their livelihoods and way of life destroyed by it. We have to address the problem of climate change, but we have to do so with justice at its heart.
The £100 billion of climate change finance that was part of the Paris agreement is absolutely fundamental. That money can be used for adaption and new technologies. However, it has to be new money, and it has to be built on an international consensus that recognises that the rich parts of this world have contributed more than their fair share to creating the problem—to causing the mess—and that we are certain that we are going to pay more of the price in cleaning up that mess.
We cannot have a system where global development is stymied because countries cannot industrialise in line with the model that we agreed. We need to have new models of industrialisation. We need to skip the dirty phase and move on to the clean phases. These countries need to see the investment in solar and wind, and the new technologies that will come. They will need support. Some of that support will come through aid, no doubt, but it also comes in the form of opportunities. We have the technologies and the businesses to do this. We can help. This can be a mutually beneficial partnership with the poorer countries of this planet to help them develop. That is a moral responsibility on us, but it is also an economic opportunity. If someone does not feel particularly compelled to act based on the moral imperative, then trying to make some money out of it, at least, would be a way to go forward. The two things can go hand in hand, but they need the correct support both at home and abroad.
The Minister said that it is really important that, to use his term, there is industrial strategy on the “tin” of Government. That is welcome, but we have to reflect the converse—we cannot have it both ways—and off the tin has come climate change. It has come out of the lexicon of Government. That, to a degree, is regrettable. It may have been an oversight or it may have been deliberate. I do not know about the motivations for it, nor do I particularly care. However, it can easily be rectified by putting addressing climate change right at the very heart not just of this Government Department but of Government as a whole. With all due respect to the Minister, he is not going to solve this problem alone; it will take cross-Government, cross-sectoral engagement with the devolved Administrations and with the business community. That is fundamental to everything we will have to do as a country if we are going to get this right. So let us put it at the heart of what we do, and, as the Minister said, let us make a start.
Let us start with a big, symbolic gesture and ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible. We can talk about the fact that we have led the world in the Climate Change Act 2008, and I can talk about the fact that Scotland has led the UK in that by exceeding our 2020 targets. We are already seeing a reduction on the 1990 baselines of 45.8%, against a target of 42%. The First Minister has committed to extending that target, because it has already been reached.
That is the sort of high ambition that we need, and we need it across all sectors. We are getting on fairly well with electricity, but we are doing more poorly in terms of heat and transport—the next big challenges. Tackling them will require money, support, innovation and skills, so there has to be the ambition to deliver on that right across the remit of Government.
The shadow Secretary of State talked about the damage that has been caused to investor confidence, and he listed a whole host of things. I gently suggest that just because there is not 100% agreement on this, that does not mean that we should risk losing cross-party consensus. If ever there was an issue on which we could benefit from political parties seeking to outbid each other, it is climate change. We should welcome the fact that the Labour party is trying to outdo the Conservative party and trying to outdo us. We should all be trying to outdo each other, because that ambition and desire to see things happen will make them happen.
I have commended, in the past, a number of things that the Government have done. The former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change played a great role in leading the high-ambition coalition at the negotiations in Paris, and that is welcome. In a few months’ time, the conference of parties will meet again in Marrakech. If we are to have these discussions, I would rather that the UK went to the table and was able to demonstrate the progress that has been made in one year. I want the UK to be able to say, “We have ratified our commitment. We are pushing ahead. We have taken x, y and z steps,” and I will come on to what those steps should be. If we turn up without having delivered on our promise, and without having been through the ratification process, it will undermine our position. That would be distinctly regrettable, because our voice, the soft power and the pressure that have been applied in this area are among the high points of British diplomacy over many years—potentially in my lifetime. That is too precious to put to waste.
In terms of the x, y and z of deliverability, I do not think that the Government’s renewable energy policies, U-turns and so on—in fairness, I am talking about the previous Government—have been welcome. There are unresolved issues and questions about investor confidence brought on by the Brexit vote.
One of the first reports that the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change undertook was on investor confidence. If there is a plea that I can make to the new team, it is not to lurch and suddenly make announcements, as happened just over a year ago, last July.
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I commend his Committee’s report. We had a welcome debate about it before the recess, and it teased out an awful lot of the issues. I do not think that that jumping around and that policy change were helpful.
We need to set clear guidelines. We need to set out how the decarbonisation process will look. There needs to be a degree of flexibility to allow for new technologies to emerge, but there must not be a cliff edge. We do not need to march people up to the top of the hill and off a cliff face, as has happened with solar and onshore wind and may happen in future with other technologies. That upsets investor confidence in a way that we cannot afford. It will make doing what we need to do more expensive, as the banks factor additional risk into their financing agreements. We all lose from the ad hoc nature of policy in that regard.
We are talking about climate change, and we have had some positive reaction from the ministerial team, but I hope there will be some revision of locational charging so that for wind resources—they are particularly strong in constituencies in the Scottish islands—it will cost less to bring energy to the market. In continental Europe it costs less to bring it to the south of England. There is a penalty to produce energy in the UK that is not faced by our European competitors.
I again agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. To take things forward we need a proper decarbonisation plan. For electricity in particular—he touched on island connections, which we need—a tremendous resource is waiting to be unlocked. Likewise, there is a tremendous potential resource in wave and tidal energy, of which Swansea bay is another example. These big programmes may be costly in the first instance, but we missed the boat with onshore wind in terms of owning and developing the technology, which is where the real money is. With offshore wind, we are part of the way towards making sure we have some of that, although the main basis of the technology is outwith these islands.
With tidal energy in particular, we have the chance to be the world leader. In the past fortnight, fantastic announcements on tidal energy programmes have been made in the north of Scotland by Nova and Atlantis. Such announcements need to be the first of a kind, not one of a kind, but that requires continued access to the market. If I were to make plea above all else to the new ministerial team it would be for them to support and commit to 100 MW of tidal energy, at a CfD of £305. That will be fundamental to delivering the future of tidal energy.
Tidal energy has huge benefits. It is clearly far more predictable than other forms of renewables. It ticks an awful lot of boxes. It may be costly in its initial phases, but it is a new technology. Let us look to the future and not see at as a cost. If I have one criticism of the previous Department of Energy and Climate Change it is that everything was seen as a cost; nothing was seen as an investment. This is a form of investment. If we get the technology right and become the world leader in tidal energy—and potentially in the wave energy to come—such a deployment will provide us with a reliable renewable source of energy, and it will also open up a market. There is a lot of sea and there are a lot of tides in the world. There is astronomical potential for the deployment of tidal technology, so let us not kill it before it has got off the ground. Let us have a pathway and allow it to develop. Let us allow it to bring down its cost, and then allow it to go global.
To conclude, we can have consensus on this subject. We will probably not get it today, but that does not mean it should not be the aim for the future. We can do this, but we need to make a start. Paris is such a start—I agree with the Minister on that—so let us get on and do it. Let us get it ratified, and then get it delivered.
Like the Minister, I was surprised to see the topic for today’s debate given the fact that, as far as I can tell, there is consensus in the House on tackling climate change and ratifying the Paris agreement. I attend many meetings on these subjects, and I know just how heartfelt the concern is for this cause among Opposition and Government Members. To present a picture of disunity is rather unhelpful when there is real consensus of opinion in this place that we must all tackle this real challenge together.
The Climate Change Act 2008 achieved consensus. In Paris, our then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change led the negotiations with great style and was applauded for doing so by Members on both sides of the House. The fifth carbon budget was recommended. There had been concern that it would not be adopted, but it was—in full. We can therefore say that the intention of the Government and of this House is that we should continue to decarbonise at best speed.
It will not, however, be as straightforward in the UK, as a member of the EU, to ratify the treaty as it was for the US, China and elsewhere to do so. I have no doubt that Her Majesty’s Government remain as committed to it as ever, and that they will come up with a timeline that works legislatively and within the reality of the context of what the rest of the EU is doing. We should not seek to create any concern when none really exists. The Government’s green credentials are absolutely sound—£52 billion has been invested in renewable energy since 2010, and the deployment of renewables has accelerated under this Government—but we have to balance the energy trilemma. Price, security and decarbonisation are sometimes at odds with one another, so a bit of sense is required in how we proceed. The Government are clear that we will meet our decarbonisation targets, but we will do so without compromising on the other two elements.
I very much agree with Callum McCaig, who quite rightly said that the same people speak in these debates every time. That is a real shame. These issues range far more widely than the interests of those who are interested simply in energy policy and the environment. I am going to have a go at suggesting a line of argument that might attract a wider audience: whatever someone’s view on anthropogenic climate change, there is no reason not to support many of the opportunities that come from our drive to decarbonise.
I will give just three examples, about heat. I visited a district heating system out in east London recently. On the visit, I went into a one-bedroom flat to meet a chap who was on benefits and right on the poverty line, suffering from fuel poverty. Once the district heating system had been installed, he had put £30 on to his new meter in his flat. He had done so in October; when I went to see him at the beginning of March, there was still £13 left on the meter. He had heated his flat for an entire winter for seventeen quid. That is just extraordinary. It is socially just to adopt such policies; it does not just help tackle climate change.
A hospital in London has installed a combined heat and power station to cut down its energy bills by synergising heat and electricity. It realised that the surplus of heat was an opportunity to sell heat to a district heating system outside. It is doing so at a low cost—again, that is socially just—and the proceeds from the heating network have allowed it to build a new cancer centre. Again, that is extraordinary.
I know of a hotel chain that is installing CHPs. It is making huge savings on its energy costs while still absolutely meeting its customers’ needs for roasting hot water at whatever time of day. It is achieving that while saving money and decarbonising.
We must continue the drive towards greater energy efficiency—too much of our heat and electricity is being wasted—and some pretty nifty technologies are available to achieve that. I bring up heat and the need for greater efficiency together to make the point that the marginal financial gains experienced by businesses and homeowners will encourage people to take on these technologies, but we all know that the cumulative effect of their uptake will be a huge reduction in our production of carbon and therefore a huge increase in our ability to meet our targets.
I hope to speak in tomorrow’s Backbench Business debate on the fourth industrial revolution; I will speak at more length then on the incredible synergies I see being achieved when our physical energy infrastructure collides with the really exciting technological innovations that are coming through so rapidly. By seizing those opportunities we are not just seeking to accelerate our decarbonisation; we are developing a world-beating industrial strategy, with green growth and the pursuit of a zero marginal cost of energy right at its heart.
Arresting climate change and splashing out on subsidy are not synonymous. As far as I can see, the renewables sector in this country is succeeding. Offshore wind deployments around Europe are bringing down prices very rapidly. Despite the reduction in subsidy, the solar industry continues to achieve a good rate of deployment. Hydroelectric is coming. Industry is working hard to achieve tidal. A fantastic company in my constituency has employed some of the brightest oceanographers and hydrologists from around the world to look at what we can do with wave power. There are many more technologies beside. Now that we have recalibrated the planning process to empower communities to resist if it is not their will to have it on their doorstep, even onshore wind production is claiming to be able to operate subsidy free.
Sound climate change policy is not about the levels of subsidy. Subsidy can become a crutch if we are not careful. The Government have used subsidy as a lever to grow the renewables industries to the point at which they can go it alone. The direction of travel is clear. This Government are absolutely serious about decarbonisation and meeting our climate change targets.
There is one area where the Government’s policy is not quite so clear. As a Somerset MP, I daren’t not talk about the new nuclear programme. I understand my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s wish to scrutinise the Hinkley deal in more detail, but, as far as I can see, new nuclear is the only low-carbon generation technology that is ready to guarantee now that it will meet our baseload needs in the middle of the next decade. We cannot wish away the reality that our existing nuclear fleet will decommission in the next decade or so.
I seek to champion decentralised energy, a digitised smart energy system and the incredible economic and industrial opportunities that come with it, but renewables plus storage is not ready to commit to being our baseload in the timelines we need. Gas might seem cheap now, but gas prices can change. The debate about the Hinkley price compared with the current wholesale energy price is, in my view, a non-starter. We cannot build anything at the current wholesale price of energy. We must judge Hinkley and the wider new nuclear programme not only on the current strike price or the current wholesale price of energy; we must consider the costs of insufficient capacity in a decade’s time.
We must keep prices as low as possible and decarbonise as quickly possible, and we absolutely must keep the lights on—full stop. I am sure that this will be the last set of large power stations we will ever build. I am absolutely sold on all the incredible stuff that is happening to make renewables work, including storage and demand-side management. I believe that our future is not in big power stations, but we have to take a decision now for what will power the United Kingdom in a decade’s time. As exciting as those technologies are, none is ready to look us in the eye and say, “In 10 years’ time, we will keep your lights on.” The new nuclear programme is. I hope the Government agree and put Hinkley forward at the first possible opportunity.
It is a pleasure to follow James Heappey, who spoke eloquently, particularly about the role that renewable heat can play. I commend my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner for securing this important debate. He brings huge knowledge and depth to his role and I wish him well in it. I should also take this opportunity to congratulate the new the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Mention was made earlier of the fact that he was my shadow when I was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. I always respected his ability and commitment on climate change. I was deeply disappointed by the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change but the one saving grace was his appointment and that of his extremely able Minister for Climate Change and Industry. I have spoken to the latter since the election about climate change. I do not want to damn his career too much, but I can say that he is a class act, as we will hear when he speaks.
Having got the niceties out of the way, I should add that, when I was thinking about my speech for this debate, I recalled a number of things the Secretary of State said when he was my shadow. Among other things, he called for more generous feed-in tariffs than the ones I proposed; for more generous commitments on carbon capture and storage; and for more generous resources for the renewable heat incentive. I look forward to his making good on all the aspirations he had in opposition now that he has the chance in his new role.
In the main, I want to talk about the impact of Brexit on climate change, but I should mention in passing that I could not help hearing in the Minister’s remarks the wheels of government grinding on the issue of domestic ratification. As his speech wore on, we got more of a sense that it would come more quickly than slowly. I encourage him in that, because my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North is right about the signal it would send.
The central issue for UK climate policy is Brexit. That is the unavoidable context for discussions about climate change. I have been nice about the Minister of State. I am not going take it back, don’t worry—maybe he’d like me to. He talked about British diplomacy. There is a big elephant in the room for British diplomacy on climate change: Brexit. We have to address it. I understand that the Prime Minister says she does not want a running commentary—fair enough—but there is a difference between a running commentary and a Trappist vow. There cannot be a Trappist vow. We have to engage with the many, many hard questions raised by Brexit for UK climate policy. Saying “Brexit means Brexit” does not really solve the problem.
The case I want to make is this: first, our membership of the EU has helped us to be a persuader for global action on climate change. Secondly, the ability to persuade is needed more than ever after the Paris agreement. We all know the issue in the Paris agreement: an aspiration to keep global warming below 1.5° with pledges that add up to about 3°. Thirdly, Britain’s ability to be that persuader for greater ambition is gravely endangered by Brexit. We cannot shy away from that. The real issue I want to focus on is this: the kind of Brexit we opt for—whether it is hard Brexit, which leaves Britain on its own, or whether we forge a new close relationship with the European Union—will be absolutely crucial to the issue of UK influence and the world’s ability to tackle the problem of climate change. That is why, having paid them nice compliments, I want to say to the Secretary of State and the Minister of State that they have a big responsibility in this process—I am sure they are aware of it—to ensure we have the right outcome in these negotiations on climate and energy.
The starting point for addressing this question is to understand that, in this area and in many others, the debate about our co-operation with the EU has not somehow ended with the referendum. It is only just beginning. I was on the remain side, but we all know the reality: the British people did not vote for a particular model of Brexit. They voted to leave the European Union, but the model we decide now has to be a matter of detailed debate and negotiation. As the House knows, in the international negotiations on climate change we currently negotiate as part of the European Union. As part of the EU, we are on a par with players such as China and the United States. The EU is responsible for about 10% of global emissions and Britain is responsible for about 1%. In the EU, we have been a successful advocate of strong European ambition on climate change. We have been—mention was made of this earlier in the debate—at the forefront of landmark international agreements, punching above our weight as a country. To be fair, we have seen that under Governments of both parties: at Kyoto in 1997, with the role played by John, now Lord, Prescott; and just last December, to give her rightful credit, with the role played by the last Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, now the Home Secretary, in the negotiations around the Paris agreement.
We in this House should be proud of what Britain has been able to achieve, but we should be under no illusions. The influence and role that Britain has played in the past two decades on climate change, which has been hard won, is now gravely at risk. The danger, in this area and in many others, is that we are outside the room when the big decisions are made, or are in the room as bit-part players. A recent paper from Chatham House, the respected international think-tank based in London, said that the danger of Brexit is that we would
“move alongside other second-tier powers such as Australia, Canada and South Korea”.
All those countries have played varying roles on the issue of climate change, some of them important and honourable, but we have had greater influence. I want to preserve that influence.
There is another danger. We have been persuaders for ambition in the European Union and the real danger is that our absence from the EU waters down and dilutes the commitment of the EU. The danger is that our absence tips the centre of gravity away from the high-ambition countries to those countries that have more anxiety about the issue. That is why the implications of Brexit are not just self-serving ones about Britain’s influence in the world and on climate change; they are also about the world’s ability to make the right things happen in the fight against global warming.
The risk that I have described about Britain’s influence comes with other associated dangers, including for the role of British science and research, which I am sure the Secretary of State and the Minister are concerned about and which draws huge benefit from EU resources, and of the European Investment Bank, which in the past few years has either loaned or given the UK a quarter of the money for energy and climate change projects. There is also a massive issue relating to the repeal of environmental legislation from the European Union.
I now come to the question of the mandate of the referendum result. Personally, I do not believe that when the British people voted to leave the European Union, they did so to diminish our influence or to weaken laws on air pollution or other environmental legislation that comes from the EU. That is why, as I said at the outset, there is a huge responsibility on us to shape new arrangements that can protect British influence and, indeed, our national interest.
Some people say that the best we can hope for in the negotiations is a Norway-style arrangement in the European economic area or the European free trade agreement. I like Norway—I spent part of my holiday there this summer—but I do not think that that should be our aspiration. It is a country of about 5 million people and we are a country of 65 million people. Our international role has traditionally been different from theirs, and I think that Norwegians would say that, too. On the issue of the climate, Norway negotiates on its own, not as part of the European Union. Crucially, if we went for a Norway-style arrangement, it would leave us without a voice on key aspects of environmental legislation. We would be affected by them, but we would be rule-takers, not rule-makers. That is the Norwegian problem: it accepts directives on air pollution and so on, but it does not have a say in the formation of that legislation.
What is to be done, given the referendum result? Surprisingly, I agree with some in the leave campaign who say that, after the referendum, we have to carve out a role for Britain that reflects our size, position and global reach, and that does not necessarily emulate the role played by other countries.
I want to draw the House’s attention to a recent pamphlet produced by an august group including Paul Tucker, who is the former deputy governor of the Bank of England, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, and a senior advisor to the French Government. They propose a continental partnership between Britain and the European Union. What does that mean in practice? Essentially, it is an argument for the closest possible co-operation on a host of issues of foreign and defence policy and, crucially, climate and energy.
What should that new arrangement mean? In my view it should mean that we continue to negotiate with the EU in international discussions, thereby protecting British influence. There is no earthly reason why, following the vote on the European Union, we should not continue to be part of the European bloc on those issues. We can write our own script for the future on those questions. We should also continue to be part of the emissions trading scheme; after all, Britain played a role in coming up with it, so there is no reason why we should leave it. I also believe that we should continue to be part of crucial environmental legislation, such as car emission standards and waste management. The reality is that we will probably have to accept that legislation anyway, if we want to gain access to the single market, so it is far better to find an arrangement that gives us a say on the rules.
I want to be clear: we would not continue to be members of the European Union—our status would change—but we would be crucial partners, and in my view that is completely consistent with the referendum. We should do that because it is in our national interest. Whether Members think we have gone too far on climate change or not far enough, nobody in this House, on whichever side they sit, has an interest in diminishing our influence. I think it is just objectively the case that we are in real danger of diminishing our influence as a country on this vital issue for the future of our people.
That provides some thoughts about where we need to go and where we need to take our new relationship, but there is a hard truth here for Government Ministers. For this to happen, it requires those in government who are sensible and who care about these issues to stand up to those who want hard Brexit. Let us not be under any illusions: hard Brexit is about detaching ourselves from the EU on all these issues. It is about some form of free trade arrangement, although goodness knows what, when what is at the front of the Government’s mind gets more confusing by the day. Leaving that to one side, it is not about having these kind of relationships.
I view the three Ministers who are in their places on the Front Bench as people who all care about these issues, so I urge them not to leave their climate convictions at the door when it comes to the Whitehall battles around Brexit. As I said at the outset, I do not doubt their commitment, but they have got to prove it in the proposals that the Government eventually produce.
Finally, I believe in the principle of co-operation with our closest neighbours in Europe, and I believe that we are strengthened, not diminished, as a country when we do that. Climate change is just one example of where that is the case. That was true before the referendum, and it is true after the referendum as well. I think that both the Secretary of State and the Minister of State know that, too. The stakes could not be higher on this issue and on what unfolds in the coming months and years. We will hold them to account, because Members of all parties care about not just tackling climate change, but making sure that we can continue to punch above our weight as we do so and get the right outcome for humankind. A lot rests on those Ministers’ shoulders; if they make the right decision, we will support them on it.
I begin by welcoming the new Ministers and indeed the new Department. I am very pleased at the fact that industrial strategy is going to be a huge part of what is going on. I think it is impossible to separate industrial strategy from climate change and energy.
With the greatest respect to Ministers, experienced though they are, I suggest that when their teams of advisers and experts tell them that the temperature is rising directly as a result of carbon dioxide, they should merely deploy the scepticism and intelligence that I know they have and ask a few pertinent questions. They should at least try to get some rational answers before embarking on decisions that will have a huge impact on industry, particularly energy-using industries such as the steel industry, which is an important one for me.
I do not intend to speak for too long today, but every time I speak on this issue, I deliberately and repeatedly make the point that I accept climate change. I have never tried to deny climate change; in fact, I have never met a scientist who does. The climate has always changed, and the ice age is a testament to that. Those changes have gone on over the course of millions of years, and over the last 2 million years, we have seen ice ages usually lasting about 100,000 or so years, followed by interglacials, which are usually about 10,000 to 12,000 years. We are possibly coming towards the end of an interglacial at the moment, so we might want to turn our thoughts to what will happen when the earth inevitably starts to get cooler, as it will.
Of course I do not deny that the climate will continue to change; no sensible scientist has ever done so. The point I always make is that the climate change we have seen over the past 250 years is not particularly exceptional. Although it is of course true that carbon dioxide is a global warming gas—there is no doubt about that either—and that if we have begun to emit more carbon dioxide, it follows logically that it must have had some effect on the climate, that does not mean that it is responsible for the relatively small increase in temperature seen over the past 250 years.
I believe that Callum McCaig said that the temperature has increased by about 1°, and in common with many other commentators, he has linked that directly to increases in carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the temperature increase that is generally agreed on—it is, of course, open to question—is 0.8°, but even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognises that a significant amount of that is not due to man-made carbon dioxide emissions. The first question that I would put if I were ever to become a Minister in the Department—which I accept is probably an unlikely proposition—is, “What percentage of that 0.8° has come about as a result of man-made carbon dioxide emissions, and what percentage is due to the natural forcings that we know are there?”.
I have mentioned the ice ages and the interglacials, but over the last 2,000 years there has been a well-documented series of climate changes that have had nothing to do with carbon dioxide emissions. We know, for example, that 2,000 years ago, when the Romans ruled Britain, there was what was called a Roman optimum, a warmer period. That was followed by the dark ages, when things were cooler. There was then a medieval warming period during the Renaissance, which was followed by what was commonly referred to, and scientifically recognised, as a “little ice age”. That came to an end in about 1800, which, coincidentally, is when we started to industrialise.
Another important question that I would love to put to experts—in fact, I have put it to experts on many occasions, but have never received a rational answer—is, “How much of that 0.8° increase in temperature is due to the fact that the temperature was warming anyway because we were coming out of a particularly cool period, when the Thames”—just outside the House—“used regularly to freeze over so solidly that ice fairs could be held on it?” Some of that warming is clearly natural.
If people are still not convinced, we can look at the correlation, or rather the lack thereof, between carbon dioxide emissions and the temperature increases that have taken place since industrialisation. If it is the case—as some of the more alarmist commentators would have it—that this 0.8° increase has occurred directly as a result of carbon dioxide emissions, it would logically follow that one could correlate a line between carbon dioxide emissions that have taken place since, say, 1800 and temperature increases, but obviously, if we look at the graph, we find that there is no such correlation. We see that over the last 250 years there have been periods, once again, of warming and cooling, regardless of carbon dioxide emissions. In the first part of the 20th century, for example, there was a significant warming. From 1940 until about 1970, or probably a bit later, there was a significant cooling, which led to people beginning to suggest—
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but that is a fact. There was a cooling from the 1940s onwards. That is why, when I was growing up in the 1970s, people were worried that the next ice age was coming.
From the mid-1970s until about 1998 there was a significant amount of warming, but from 1998 until now there has been no statistically recognisable warming. People keep referring to the third hottest year on record, or whatever it is, but the reality is that when we look at the actual temperature increases, we see that they are absolutely minute. They are almost impossible to detect. Scientists who are asked about it will also have to admit that the margin for error within those increases is much greater than the increases themselves. Given the level of increase that we are seeing, it is perfectly possible to explain it away, because we are not comparing like with like. We are using slightly different temperature gauges, the areas in which we are using them have moved, some of the areas that they are in have changed over the years, and they can be subject to something called the urban heat island effect or to other natural factors. So there has not really been an increase since 1998.
Members may shake their heads, but I have raised this with the Met Office, and also with Professor Jim Skea. Scientists refer to it as the Pause, and they have come up with numerous explanations for it. I have heard about volcanoes, for instance, and the heat going into the ocean. At a meeting in this building, Professor Skea suggested that a pause over 16 or 17 years was statistically insignificant, which prompts an obvious question: if 17 years of temperatures not rising are insignificant, why are 30 or 35 years of temperatures increasing slightly so significant that we have to make radical changes to our economy and our industry to try and tackle that?
Of course I have not dismissed the possibility that the hon. Gentleman might be right and that all the meteorological experts in the world are simply mistaken, but does he accept that if his thesis that there is natural as well as anthropogenic warming is correct, we are in a much worse position than we had thought, and therefore anything we can do to minimise the anthropogenic causes becomes all the more important, rather than less so?
I do not of course dismiss the possibility that the experts may be right. I have never said they are wrong; I have merely suggested that they ought to be able to answer some fairly basic questions if they expect us as policymakers to go ahead with policies that are going to be profoundly unpopular with the public and which, in many cases, the NGOs that support those policies will not support the consequences of—I will come back to that. The point the hon. Gentleman is making is that if some of this warming is natural, the amount of warming that is not natural is that much greater in terms of the percentage of CO2 that has caused it. [Interruption.] Well, there is another issue that I am tempted to go into, but I have been asked by the Whips to keep it short and I will respect that, and that is whether or not this is a logarithmic increase. In other words—[Interruption.] Yes, I am getting looks from all around. In simple terms, if X amount of CO2 has caused Y amount of warming, would 2X of CO2 cause twice as much warming? People seem to have made the assumption that it would, but of course, in nature things often do not work that way.
Let me return to the Paris agreement. It talks about limiting temperature increases to about 2° of what they were in pre-industrial times. With due respect to the Minister, which pre-industrial times is that? I do not mean to look angry, but which times is he talking about? Presumably 1800 is about the base figure, but pre-industry goes on for about 4 billion years longer than that. We could quite easily go back a few years further and say 2° above temperatures in the medieval warm period, when they were around the same level as they are now. They were around the same temperature as they are now in the Roman optimum, too. I am probably going to mess this point up, but a Greek philosopher—I think he was called Thracius—was writing about date trees in Greece and how they could be made to grow but could not produce fruit, therefore intimating, through that, that temperatures were about the same then as now in Greece because date trees behave in the same way as they did 2,000 years ago. The point I am making is if we took as a pre-industrial basepoint the year 10 AD we could probably carry on merrily putting CO2 into the atmosphere for quite a while yet before we hit 2° degrees above that period.
My hon. Friend is an oracle on these things. I do not share his analysis, but if he is right does he not still agree with me that a low carbon future with its clean air and low cost is surely something to be embraced and sought anyway?
My hon. Friend is making the assumption that carbon dioxide is some sort of pollutant. It is not. Sulphur dioxide is a pollutant, and we have done wonderful things in getting rid of that. Carbon dioxide is actually the elixir of life, and a small increase in carbon dioxide has a very beneficial effect on the ability of farmers to grow crops. So I do not accept the premise of my hon. Friend’s question, which is that CO2 is a naturally bad thing.
I would of course accept that we should concentrate on making sure our air quality and environment are good. I have been a surfer for 20 years—or I was until I had children, anyway—and I strongly believe in the environment. I was a member of the environmental group Surfers Against Sewage for years. I am not some kind of lunatic who wants to tear the environment apart and build everywhere, but I do have concerns about policies that are going to be enormously costly and have an impact on businesses, including some in my area.
I suggest that Ministers should ask themselves whether they actually believe what the NGOs that call on them to adopt certain policies are saying. A good point was made earlier about nuclear power. I believe it is absolutely safe. It is very interesting that whenever anyone proposes a nuclear power station somewhere, some of the biggest supporters are the people who live in that area. In Anglesey, or Ynys Môn, the Wylfa site is being supported by Members of Parliament right across the political spectrum, including those of Plaid Cymru, who normally try and paint themselves, literally and figuratively, as the most green party of them all. When it comes to nuclear jobs, Plaid Cymru is very enthusiastic about nuclear power and I commend it for that. It is right to be so. Let us contrast that with what happens when people want to put up wind farms. I know of Liberal Democrat politicians in Wales who will bang the drum for wind farms at every opportunity until someone suggests that one should be constructed in their own constituency, at which point they come up with all sorts of reasons why that should not happen.
One of my concerns is that green groups—and perhaps Barry Gardiner—say that global warming is the greatest threat to mankind but then oppose proposals for a nuclear power station, which could resolve some of our energy problems without creating any extra carbon dioxide. The same attitude has been shown repeatedly by green groups towards the Severn tidal barrage. I do not know whether that project would stack up economically, but from an environmental point of view it has the capacity to produce about 5% of the UK’s electricity without creating carbon dioxide emissions.
The hon. Gentleman will no doubt take the opportunity to discuss that with his close colleagues in the Welsh national party, Plaid Cymru, who are incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of a nuclear power station in a constituency that it represents in the Welsh Assembly. No doubt that will be an interesting discussion.
My concern is not so much that we are adopting renewable energy schemes, because I understand the arguments about the need for energy security and diversity, but if we go too far, we are going to end up adopting energy generation systems that will cost a lot more money. I have had a lot of emails recently from environmental groups complaining about Hinkley, saying, “Mr Davies, it costs too much. Solar power and wind power would be much cheaper than Hinkley.” I am tempted to suggest that the Secretary of State should have a look at those emails and, on this basis, perhaps cut the renewables subsidies further and bring them down below the £92.50 per MWh that we are promising for Hinkley, given that we are paying up to £150 for some offshore wind farms.
I also get frustrated when I receive emails from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and all these other environmental groups complaining about fuel poverty, because fuel poverty will get worse if we continue to have to pay more for our electricity because we are adopting schemes that require strike prices. Similarly, I cannot understand why Opposition Members and non-governmental organisations will not support fracking, when it is quite clear that if we get rid of our coal-fired power stations and instead use gas that is produced in this country, we can create jobs and cut carbon dioxide emissions. That is surely something that they should support.
I do not want to be a thorn in the side of Ministers. I understand many of the concerns that people are expressing, and I hope that Ministers will put the pertinent questions to the experts. I also hope that they will remember at all times that it is rising tempers about increased energy prices that have caused companies such as Tata to consider closing down in Wales. That is the big cause for concern, rather than rising temperatures, which mankind has coped with quite happily for thousands of years.
James Heappey described David T. C. Davies as an “oracle”. I cannot resist observing that the oracle at Delphi was a priestess known as the Pythia who raved incoherently under the influence of the noxious gases coming up from beneath the earth’s surface and whose comments were then translated by the priest for the delectation of the general public. I shall simply let that observation fall to the floor, for what it is worth.
Today’s debate is about not just the ratification of the Paris accords, but the consequences of their ratification for the UK, and the ability of the UK to ratify them in good faith and good order on the basis of what it recognises as the commitments it will undertake as a result of being a party to the accords. In that context, it is important not only to clarify one or two points about the ratification process, which we have already done to some extent today, but to review the process and how it relates to issues such as the existence or otherwise of a low-carbon programme that actually sets out what we are committed to. I would have thought that it would have been a particularly good idea—or should be particularly good idea—to make the low-carbon programme available at the same time as the consideration of the ratification process so that we could have the full raft of information in front of us, but I will return to that point in a moment.
It is clear that the ratification process has two stages, as we have discussed, and that the UK’s particular responsibility now is to put an order—the EU treaty converted into an order—in front of the House and to get our bit done, which, as I mentioned in an earlier intervention, France has managed to do. That is important not only to get the business done for our country, but to ensure that the EU ratification is made as speedy as possible by getting the full process undertaken, especially by the heavy-hitters such as the UK, at the earliest possible time.
It is also important to clarify what we are undertaking in our joint ratification with the rest of the EU. As my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband underlined earlier, we need to clarify our ratification position as the Brexit process is undertaken. As far as we are concerned, the INDCs that were put on the table in Paris form part of the European block for the international negotiations. We have a joint INDC with all other EU member states, and the commitments that come from that relate to ambitions not for 2050, but for 2030, given the 40% reduction in emissions between 1990 and 2030 that was jointly agreed among all participating EU states.
The INDCs will then be the subject of progress reports. The INDCs together represent a reduction in temperature of substantially less than the 2°/1.5°C ambition, coming in at 2.6° or 2.7° in the overall INDCs. Therefore, the conference of the parties progress reports on how the INDCs are going will not only consider whether countries have carried out their INDCs, but form part of a process of strengthening them over time to get further commitments and to move them down towards a reasonable target or ambition for global temperature stability.
In those circumstances, by my reading, we will be in the first review period just at the point when we will be undertaking Brexit, so the INDCs that we had negotiated jointly with the EU may no longer be seen as tenable for the UK. The question we may have to start to face in those international negotiations is: do we, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North said, seek to nail ourselves down in the EU discussions on the INDCs, or do we decide at some stage that we are somehow going to develop our own INDC, which will be recalibrated from whatever it is we think we have allowed ourselves to be put in line for within the EU? If we do that, does that recalibration indicate a lessening or an intensification of our commitment? Better still, is there simply an agreement that, whatever else Brexit may say, we are committed to that joint INDC on the basis of whatever is shared out by the EU as the process goes forward? I would value a thought from the Minister about what the intention on the INDCs might be, because that is important for clarifying our long-term commitment over the next period in reality.
Notwithstanding that, the ratification process will take place on the basis that we are committed to being part of the European basket of a 40% reduction by 2030 as our offer from Paris and beyond that. The question of the missing low-carbon programme therefore starts to loom large because, as a result of Paris, we need to know whether the UK is really able to deliver on that 40% reduction, be it separately or as part of that EU programme. The whole issue of ratification must have that as one of the questions within it—are we able to do what we said we would be doing at the time of the agreement?
At the time, it was welcome news that the Government went ahead and agreed to the fifth carbon budget, and that they did so without any suggestions that there might be caveats attached, unlike what happened with the fourth carbon budget. That sent a clear signal about what our overall ambitions should be. A question then arises about the fourth and fifth carbon budgets moving forward, and whether we can fit what we have agreed regarding the INDCs into the process of agreeing those carbon budgets and their consequences. That is where we start to have a problem. I am increasingly concerned about whether we have the policy instruments in place and the wherewithal to reach a position where we can say, hand on heart, “Yes, we are in this seriously.” Indeed, that concerns not only me but, more importantly, the Committee on Climate Change. Its recent progress report to Parliament on carbon budgets made the important point that although, as the Minister mentioned, our progress on tackling overall emissions has historically been looking pretty good over the recent period, with emissions falling by an average of 4.5% a year since 2012, that has been almost entirely due to progress in the power sector, not progress in the rest of the economy.
The Committee on Climate Change says that, in the rest of the economy, emissions have fallen by less than 1% a year on a temperature-adjusted basis. It specifically says that that is because of a slow uptake of low-carbon technologies and the behaviour of the building sector—low rates of insulation improvement and low take-up of low-carbon heat—as well as because improved vehicle efficiency has been offset by increased demand for travel. It also says that there is minimal evidence of progress in the industrial and agricultural sectors. The Committee is beginning to raise alarm bells about the extent to which we will be able to make the progress that is needed if we are to carry out those INDCs properly.
The Committee on Climate Change points out that, even as far as the energy sector is concerned, some areas have seen progress. It says that funding for offshore wind has been extended to 2026, which I very much welcome as an important step towards attaching the next stage of the levy control framework to offshore wind. However, the Committee says that there are backward steps in other areas, and Members will not be surprised to hear what they are: the cancellation of the commercialised programme for carbon capture and storage; the reduction in funding for energy efficiency; and the cancellation of the zero-carbon homes standard.
The Committee on Climate Change also says that other priorities have not moved forward. There have been no further auctions for the cheapest low-carbon generation, no action plan for low-carbon heat or energy efficiency, and no vehicle efficiency standards beyond 2020. It also says that progress on improving the energy efficiency of buildings has stalled since 2012. Annual rates of cavity wall and loft insulation in 2013 to 2015 were down 60% and 90% respectively from annual rates between 2008 and 2012. I cite these points from the Committee given its status as an expert body.
The carbon budget and carbon programmes have substantial ramifications for endeavours, aspirations and targets way beyond the size of what appears to be the policy put in place at a particular moment. I have a lot of sympathy with the Minister in his task of putting the new low carbon programme together over the next period. He inherits a number of issues that have percolated down to short-term policy decisions, which have substantial ramifications on climate change targets over the longer period. Like my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband, I would like to big up the Minister’s new post. It is a good idea to have a Minister for climate change who is completely onside as far as climate change is concerned. Not only is he onside, but he has a long record of being onside. His commitment to this cause is absolutely unquestionable.
Indeed, yes. That is now two stabs to the heart of the Minister’s career.
In his responsibilities and those of his Secretary of State, the Minister has a problem arising from the flurry of policies over the past year on the long-term considerations relating to climate change effects. If his new Department lets those policy changes lie, or runs further with them, the problem will be exacerbated, and his problem of writing a low carbon programme will be magnified.
The new Department benefits from particularly good appointments in the form of Ministers who completely understand and are at ease with the question of what we need to do, where we need to do it, how we need to do it and what the effects will be. We need to identify where those effects may continue to be felt outside the new Department. We can point the finger at what happened with some of those changes under the previous Department of Energy and Climate Change, and we can point the finger in the direction of the Treasury. During the latter stages of the previous Government and in the first period of the present Government, we had the Treasury’s energy and climate change policy and the Department’s energy and climate change policy, and the two rarely coincided. Let us guess who came out on top in terms of policy direction.
My first plea, coupled with kindly advice to the Minister, is to get on top of the Treasury straight away. If Treasury domination of energy and climate change policy is allowed to continue, regardless of the long-term climate consequences, the writing of a new carbon policy will end in tears. To illustrate that, we can look at the previous carbon plan, which came out in December 2011. That plan not only contained some bright ideas, but set out where we were, where we wanted to be in 2050 and how the transition would be undertaken in each of a series of sectors, and that was analysed thoroughly for those sectors.
In the context of the 40% emissions cut that we are now looking at in the European INDCs, the assumptions underlying a low carbon plan are important. How effectively do they cover where we are now, where we are going to be in 2050, how we make that transition and how that transition works in 2030, which is the period that we are now considering? The carbon plan 2011 is clear about carbon saving, the green deal and ECO. It envisages that all practical cavity walls and lofts will be insulated by 2020 and up to 1.5 million solid walls will be insulated. We know that that has gone. There is no longer even a remote chance of such an achievement, particularly with respect to solid walls and probably also with respect to other forms of insulation, because the green deal has gone and ECO has morphed into a pretty restricted version of the original ECO. Yet, the Committee on Climate Change, in its preamble to the fourth carbon budget, suggested, as an assumption in that carbon budget, that by the early 2020s over 2 million treatments of solid-wall properties would have to be undertaken as a central contribution to carbon reduction. So that has gone.
The 2011 programme says carbon capture and storage will
“make a significant contribution by 2030”.
In the scenarios modelled, it is estimated that CCS will contribute as much as 10 GW. Well, that has gone. The Treasury managed to bundle CCS into a cupboard very neatly just a little while ago. Personally, I thought that was one of the biggest enviro-crimes committed by the Treasury, in terms of its policies of cutting off the fundamental route to decarbonisation of remaining baseload power over the period and apparently not worrying about the consequences.
The 2011 carbon plan says:
“From 2030 onwards, a major role for gas as a baseload source of electricity is only realistic with large numbers of gas CCS plants.”
We have committed ourselves to close down coal by 2025, although we have yet to see the consultation on that, but that is to be undertaken, it is stated in the relevant consultation, only if the progress on building new gas plants is sufficient to allow that to happen—that is, the commitment is to phase out coal, but to replace it with a new dash for gas. Yet, the carbon plan and, indeed, the Committee on Climate Change indicate very clearly that gas itself can be maintained as a baseload only if it has a substantial amount of CCS attached to it. We are apparently going ahead with the dash for gas over the next period without any thought that in the reasonable future CCS may come in as far as gas itself is concerned. That has a substantial impact on our ability to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets over the next period.
The low carbon plan says:
“Looking to the future, between 21% and 45% of heat supply to our buildings will need to be low carbon by 2030”, but the then Secretary of State warned last year that we are failing badly on our 2020 heat targets and there is no chance at present of getting to our 2030 target, so that contribution has also gone.
Finally, let me just pick out some of a larger number changes from the 2011 report. The report said
“all new homes from 2016” will “be zero carbon”, which would make a considerable contribution to the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. Well, of course, those homes will not be zero carbon, because the zero-carbon homes plan has also been pulled.
My hon. Friend always speaks with such authority on these matters. In relation to CCS, is he as concerned as I am that the cross-Yorkshire and Humber pipeline has just had its planning deadline extended by the Secretary of State? It looks as if, yet again, these projects are being put into cold storage.
There is perhaps an irony in the words “put into storage”, because the whole purpose of the exercise in the first place is storage. However, my hon. Friend is absolutely right that the whole question of what will happen with not only CCS pilot projects but the infrastructure and the prospects for CCS as a whole appears to have been put into the long grass, and that is a profound problem as far as our future climate change commitments are concerned.
It is going to be hard to write a convincing new low carbon programme in the light of just some of these things unless the Department gets to work very rapidly and unpicks the damage to the long-term low carbon prospects that have been underlined by the savage changes of the past year. I know that the new Minister is committed personally to making sure that the consequences are right, so that is perhaps an early task on his desk. Let us turn this round so that we can put into the low carbon programme positive consequences for the future rather than the negative consequences that there are at the moment.
These two issues go very closely together. We have to get on, very soon, with doing our bit on ratification. I am encouraged to hear from the Minister that if the documentation is not imminent, then perhaps it is pretty imminent.
The Minister is sort of nodding his head, so that is good. At the earliest opportunity, we need to have a good look at the new low carbon programme to see whether what we are committing ourselves to do can really be carried out, and, if it cannot, what we must do next to make sure that we can meet those commitments. That is part and parcel of the documentation, and the sooner it can come forward, the better. I hope that by putting the two issues together, we can get a real grip on what we have committed ourselves to and how well we can do it for the future.
I shall keep my remarks brief because other right hon. and hon. Members have spoken very eloquently, with great expertise, and at length.
My constituents are only too aware of the effects of climate change. South Ribble lies on the plain where the River Ribble—the historic boundary between north and south—meets the Irish sea. Last Christmas, in the village of Croston—which you, Mr Deputy Speaker, used to represent so well—many of my constituents’ homes and businesses were flooded. This brings home the absolutely paramount challenge to our generation of how we deal with climate change. As a country, we need to tackle climate change while growing our economy and providing for energy security. My hon. Friend James Heappey, who is no longer in his place, described this as a trilemma. It is a great challenge to us, but one that I believe my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, and the whole UK Government, are meeting.
Let us look at the progress that has been made. The Climate Change Act 2008, which was steered through by Edward Miliband, who is also no longer in his place, and received great cross-party support in this House, obliges the UK to achieve an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Since 2010, when the coalition came to power, investment in renewables has increased by 42%, and support for renewable energy will increase to £10 billion during this Parliament. Emissions have already been cut by over 30% since 1990. This is to be applauded; it is great progress. Offshore wind generation is up by two thirds, and the UK has enough solar power to power almost 2 million homes. Nuclear power, which supports so many jobs in Lancashire, is also benefiting from Government support. All this has happened while the economy is growing. In 2014, there was a 2.8% growth in the economy and yet an 8.4% reduction in emissions. This is absolutely crucial, because it is particularly important to our energy-intensive industries that they have energy they can pay for. We do not want to see these jobs go to other countries.
I do not think there can be any doubt of this Government’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions, as was set out greatly as a priority. The Paris climate change conference was a pivotal moment in binding the world’s superpowers to a path towards decarbonisation. The UK pushed to ensure the excellent outcomes that were achieved last year by my right hon. Friend Amber Rudd. Rather than decrying the fact that the UK has not ratified the Paris agreement in haste but is taking a careful approach to ratification, the Opposition should be applauding the cross-party progress that has been made.
I am still quite a newcomer to this place, so I learn a lot from you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In my 16 months here, I have spoken in several Opposition debates that have been marked by the paucity of argument from Opposition Members, but this one really wins the prize for being an utterly confected motion, and it goes to the heart of the Opposition’s disarray. I conclude by echoing the remarks of the Minister in asking the shadow Minister not to press the motion to a Division where there is none, and instead to work in a cross-party manner to meet the fundamental challenge of our age.
We in the SNP find ourselves in full agreement with Barry Gardiner, who was both comprehensive and passionate; he and my hon. Friend Callum McCaig, who is no longer in his place, are quite right to be so, given the critical nature of this issue.
Confidence in the UK Government’s commitment to tackling climate change is on the wane. They have rolled back almost every green policy, and in the previous Prime Minister’s strong language on the subject lies the truth of it. The rolling back of policies that supported energy investment and domestic energy efficiency is more than disappointing; it is irresponsible.
The Minister spoke of how business was very much behind him. I can forgive him for that misapprehension, because he is new to the job—I sincerely wish him all the very best in his new role—but for quite some time, investment in the UK, particularly in energy, has been undermined by the almost continuous moving of the legislative goalposts by the Government. Backtracking on issues such as privatisation of the Green Investment Bank, the withdrawal of the renewables obligation element for onshore wind and the cut to solar subsidies have been well covered in the House, particularly by Dr Whitehead, who provided us with a comprehensive list; it does, indeed, go on.
The aforementioned reversals and the withdrawal by the UK Government of the £1 billion carbon capture and storage competition with no prior warning has left a hugely damaging legacy for investment incentive and consumer confidence in the UK. On the plus side, I am delighted to say that the carbon capture and storage advisory group will report its findings this coming Monday,
The recent Brexit vote should not become a flippant reference. This is the UK leaving the European Union—the biggest single market in the world. It is a frightening prospect, hence why many Brexiteers have simply run away. They are like the proverbial dog that has finally caught the bus that it was chasing and now has no idea what to do with it; in fact, they cannot even define Brexit. This grave uncertainty has plunged the UK’s energy sector into yet further uncertainty. As such, the SNP calls on the UK Government to halt their damaging programme of austerity and inject the economy with the investment necessary to stimulate growth and create a healthy environment for investors and consumers alike.
The behaviour of the UK Government stands in contrast with the ambitious programme for government set out by the Scottish Government yesterday, which will inject resources into the economy to help it to withstand the trials of Brexit. The Scottish Government are also leading the way in tackling climate change, with one of the most ambitious climate change Acts anywhere in the world to tackle carbon emissions. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that all the UK Government’s actions that he is outlining are undermining our ability to meet those targets?
I will come on later to some of the points that my hon. Friend has raised, but he has encapsulated them perfectly.
I ask the Minister: will his Government reverse austerity and make the necessary investment? As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South and, more recently, my hon. Friend Patrick Grady, have illustrated perfectly, Scotland is a world leader in tackling climate change, with ambitious statutory targets and strong progress to date. We must work together to tackle the issue, and it is most encouraging that all contributors to this debate agree on that. We will support the Minister in any way we can to find a collegiate solution to our requirements in this country.
Scotland has made a leading contribution to the EU-wide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Considering that Scotland is the biggest EU oil producer, the second biggest EU gas producer and has about 25% of the EU’s renewables potential, we would of course be extremely well placed to do so were the decision only ours to make.
I agree with the hon. Member for Brent North in criticising this Government’s approach to energy in the UK—their almost complete reliance on the rash dash for gas, fracking and nuclear. While I must applaud the current Prime Minister for pausing to reconsider Hinkley Point C, I condemn her party for the poor decision in the first place.
The Minister touched on the domestic and European processes for ratification, but how difficult is the process? The hon. Member for Southampton, Test, also touched on the process, but what is it? To put it simply, there are two separate processes for the ratification of the agreement: one for the European Union, and one for the UK Government. For the UK, an EU treaty requiring ratification is presented to Parliament as a Command Paper and approved in secondary legislation. A draft Order in Council is laid before Parliament, which may be debated and approved in both Houses under the affirmative procedure. This process seems straightforward enough, so let us get on with it.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner on securing this important and most timely debate.
Last September, I met Councillor Miguel Magalang from the Philippines to hear his first-hand experience of the impact of climate change in his country. He was visiting the UK to raise awareness of the impact of the increasingly extreme weather conditions that the Philippines are experiencing. The Philippines are made up of thousands of small islands. He told me that it looks like a tropical paradise, with sandy beaches lapped by turquoise blue waters. However, this beautiful place is suffering from the impact of climate change through increasingly frequent typhoons. His country—his home—is under threat, and people have to live in readiness to follow evacuation procedures. This means uncertainty and instability for everyone, and it has a knock-on effect on the economy, the education of children and the provision of healthcare. In the typhoons of 2012 and 2013, over 8,000 people lost their lives. The message from Councillor Magalang was simple: climate change is here now, not in the future, and we should play our part in tackling it. The UK has responsibilities to other parts of the world, such as the Philippines, as a major emitter. Like other industrialised countries, we clearly bear a strong responsibility for climate change, and we should therefore provide a strong lead in taking action to tackle it.
I wholeheartedly agree with the points the hon. Lady is making. I have experience of living in Malawi, where people are also being affected first and hardest by climate change, having done the very least in terms of emissions to cause climate change. Does she agree that the concept of climate justice, which has been articulated by Pope Francis and others, is very important to this debate? The Scottish Government have a very innovative climate justice fund, and it would be interesting to see the new Department working closely with DFID to try to imitate it.
Absolutely. Climate justice is very important to this debate.
Last year, I attended the COP21 legislators summit in Paris, which was organised by GLOBE and the French National Assembly. I attended it alongside colleagues from across the House who are also on the Environmental Audit Committee. I particularly thank Graham Stuart for his work within the GLOBE organisation.
The summit was attended by over 200 parliamentarians from around the world, from whom we heard, at first hand, accounts of climate change. We heard about how more frequent weather events are threatening the lives of these people, and about the threats to diversity in places such as South Africa and Brazil. We heard from people in India about the impact of the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers on water supplies, and about the threat of increasing sea levels. We also heard from politicians from Nigeria, who described how in the north of that country the desert is moving in and about how Lake Chad, which once seemed to be like an ocean, now appears as a puddle. That has been accompanied by internal migration, delivering an awful lot of upheaval for those people.
We know that climate change is the biggest global challenge that we face. Its impact is clear around the world in increased storms, flooding, droughts and movement of peoples because of lack of resources. We also know that the poorest people on the planet are the most badly affected; as one of the richest nations on earth, we have a real duty to do something about that. The message at the summit could not have been clearer. We must reach our targets on emissions to reduce climate change and must protect fragile ecosystems. Action is needed at local, national and international level.
I was proud to hear British politicians being praised for the lead that our country has taken in tackling climate change. In particular, respect was shown for my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband and for Lord Prescott, who was hailed in Paris as the “father of the two degrees” for the part he played in focusing the world’s attention on the significance of the 2° target. Back in the UK, the Home Secretary is to be congratulated on the contribution she made in Paris last year to help bring about the final agreement. It is clear that Britain has the expertise to play an important role in tackling the greatest global challenge the world faces. It is therefore important that we continue to show leadership.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to ending the unabated use of coal in energy generation all together by 2025 and to restrict its use from 2023. I urge them also to commit to banning the burning of coal underground, an issue I have raised on a number of occasions. I ask them to look very closely at that; it would be particularly welcome in my constituency of Wirral West. I am pleased that the Minister is committed to the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change. But we must be clear that this Government’s record on taking action to cut carbon emissions in the UK is poor, and the policy direction of the past year is particularly worrying.
Last year, the Government cut feed-in tariffs for solar by 65%. Further attacks on that important industry are imminent through a proposed rise in business rates for businesses and other organisations, including state schools, that have installed solar panels on their roofs. The Government announced plans to privatise the Green Investment Bank, despite its real success in investing in more risky renewable projects. They also ended support for new onshore wind through the renewables obligation a year earlier than expected. In the face of huge public opposition to fracking, they are pressing ahead with encouraging that carbon-hungry technology. All those measures are undermining my confidence that the Government are serious about tackling climate change; I am sure they are undermining the confidence of a lot of other people.
We face the greatest challenge to the future of the planet. The agreement reached in Paris last year was greeted with celebrations right around the world, and rightly so. The Paris climate deal offers the very best chance for ourselves, our children and our future children for a more secure future. Hillary Clinton has said that if she is elected US President in November her Administration will mobilise a global effort, on a scale not seen since the second world war, to tackle climate change. China and the United States have already ratified the treaty. France has completed the domestic legislative process.
Britain must step up to the plate and lay an Order in Council so that Parliament can approve the treaty and send a clear signal to other European states that we still intend to provide a strong international lead on tackling climate change. In addition, the Government must revisit their damaging policies, so we can foster vital green industries, provide confidence to investors and be at the forefront of the green energy revolution that must surely come. There should be absolutely no delay. I urge the Government to take action.
Under the last Labour Government, we in the UK took the initiative and developed the Climate Change Act 2008, a world first. We really should continue to take the lead on the world stage. I was therefore disappointed to hear the Minister say today that he cannot give us a timetable for ratifying the Paris agreement on climate change. I urge his Department to bring one forward as soon as possible.
People often wonder what the point is of us in the UK doing anything if the big players do not. But now China and the US are taking the initiative, which is particularly welcome because of the size of their economies and populations. I really would like to see the UK up there among the world leaders on climate change, keeping our position of influence on this extremely important issue.
Tackling climate change is an immensely important task, but one that it is very easy to put off, or accord only a low priority to, particularly when voters have more pressing concerns in their everyday lives. We ignore climate change at our peril, as we have seen from the numerous flooding incidents in our country in the past few years. As other hon. Members have mentioned, the problems are very much worse in some of the poorest parts of the world. Temperature increases and periods of drought are driving people from their homes and becoming a major cause of migration. At the other end of the scale, we have the problem of flooding, as was well explained by my hon. Friend Margaret Greenwood.
It is not for me to tell the Prime Minister how to organise her Departments, and there is certainly a logic in including energy with industrial strategy, but I am concerned that the abolition of DECC will make the issue of climate change less visible. It is extremely important that proper resourcing and importance should be dedicated to tackling climate change. More than that, tackling climate change should be a part of thinking and policy development in all Departments. As my hon. Friend Dr Whitehead pointed out, the Treasury is a key Department to get onside. I would have preferred to have a dedicated Energy Minister in the Commons rather than in the Lords because other Ministers will stand in for her at questions and debates in the Commons, which is not satisfactory.
The Government’s record to date on green issues, and on the incentivising behaviour that will help to reduce our emissions, has been inconsistent and disappointing. First, back in 2011, the accelerated reduction in feed-in tariffs for solar energy was announced before the industry had been properly consulted. We had a repeat earlier this year with the changes in valuation office assessments, which will make it less viable for businesses, including schools, as an hon. Friend pointed out, to benefit from having solar panels on their roofs and to contribute to a reduction in emissions. We also had the abolition of the green investment bank, which had provided valuable finance to incipient industries that cannot always get funding from elsewhere, and the abandoning of plans for the carbon-capture demonstration plants, despite their being a manifesto commitment.
On wind power, energy companies have effectively withdrawn from new projects in England because of the hostile environment the Government have created. We at least have a more positive attitude to wind power in Wales, but subsidies are a UK Government matter. Eventually, wind projects in Wales will be affected by those reductions.
The Swansea tidal lagoon is continuously postponed and kicked into the long grass—back in February, a review into tidal lagoons was announced. I urge the Government to look carefully at the tremendous potential that the project offers. Rather than looking at the cost of the Swansea tidal lagoon, they should look at the potential of lagoons elsewhere and the export potential. The Swansea proposals require no money up front from the Government—the taxpayer pays only when the electricity is delivered. The bosses of the project are very committed to sourcing as many of the components as possible locally in the UK. If we could be a world first and lead the way, it would open up opportunities to our manufacturing industry, not only in providing the Swansea lagoon, but in providing other lagoons here and abroad.
The figure that has been given is 800,000 homes—that is just one project and it could be repeated elsewhere. That number of homes heated is the size of a substantial town, so it is very worth while.
I was referring to exporting the idea. In the past—with wind turbines, for example—we have lost the initiative in manufacturing and find ourselves importing. We do not want to do that. We want to be world leaders—we want to make the components, export them and build potential markets for our industries for the future.
That sounds like a very exciting project indeed. The whole point is not to think about the cost of an initial project, but the huge impact of rolling it out: reducing emissions, finding good markets for our components industries and ensuring we are up there as a world-first. There would be huge kudos for the Government if they did that.
I had the good fortune to speak in the Swansea tidal lagoon debate. I am sure the hon. Lady agrees that the ultimate aim is for a chain of tidal lagoons that could power all of Wales and meet up to 8% of the UK’s energy needs. Does she agree that that would be an investment well worth making?
Absolutely—indeed it would.
Sadly, the Government’s record has not been very good to date. The green deal was a complete fiasco. It proved to be a very unattractive deal, as the figures show, with only 2.7% of those who had had the assessment done actually taking out the investment in energy-efficiency measures. Indeed, many of us have had constituents who have experienced real difficulties with the scheme. It is no wonder that the National Audit Office was scathing in its assessment, pointing out what poor value for money the scheme was. In spite of warnings from the Labour Benches about the scheme’s faults, the Government did not do anything to improve it.
The sudden ending of the scheme in itself produced problems. One constituent of mine, who was in receipt of pension credit, paid for an up-front survey. She then found she had difficulty getting a copy of that survey. After I chased it up, we got the copy but found that it was too late and the scheme was no longer up and running. She lost her money on that survey. That is an appalling situation in which to leave a pensioner in receipt of pension credit.
There is an awful lot more to do on very simple matters, such as recycling. We should be trying to ensure as many products as possible are either completely recyclable, such as steel, or biodegradable. For example, will the Government consider banning polystyrene takeaway trays, as some local authorities are already seeking to do, and asking catering businesses to use alternative, biodegradable ones?
I very much welcome the inclusion in the Department’s title the words “industrial strategy”. I very much hope the Government are really serious about developing consistent long-term policies for both manufacturing and energy. Business leaders are crying out for clarity and consistency. The Government are continually moving the goalposts, which completely reduces business confidence. We saw that in the massive job losses in the solar industry when the feed-in tariff regime was changed at short notice. To get businesses to invest in energy projects and measures to help us reduce our emissions and tackle climate change, we need long-term certainty from the Government.
As we no longer intend to remain in the EU, companies need to know exactly what the Government are going to offer them. Sadly, Ford in Bridgend has slashed its investment plans from £181 million down to £100 million, and instead of creating 700 jobs it will be creating only 500 jobs. That is really, really worrying. The Government urgently need to provide the certainty and reassurance that the UK will be a good place to invest in and that we have the right sort of policies that both favour industrial development and reduce emissions. We need to ensure we are seen as a place in which to invest. More than anything else, I urge the Government to get on with the carbon plan. It is very important that the carbon plan is a major part of their strategy, that the “industrial strategy” part of the title of the Department becomes a reality, and that we give the certainty that investors need for the future of our country.
When I was on my way to the Chamber, one of the Whips told me that the debate had been rather serene and soporific. I do not think that that is the case, and, having listened to the debate so far, I am excited by the prospect of a heated agreement among all parties.
I support the Labour motion, for a number of reasons. Climate change requires all political parties to take it seriously and, if possible, to agree, which would be in everybody’s best interests. We need to bind a commitment to mitigating climate change in the hearts and minds of the people our country, and we must do so in perpetuity if we are to succeed in that mission. We need to commit the country, businesses and others to the mission at hand; it is no good to commit only Parliament or this or the next Government if we want to succeed. Tackling climate change has to become part of our national mission, and it should also become a central part of our national identity.
But words are cheap. Acts of Parliament can be meaningless—God knows that we have seen enough of such Acts—and the same can be said of treaties, arrangements, commitments and manifesto promises. That is why I am both hugely optimistic and a little sceptical about the Paris agreement. On paper, the agreement is absolutely huge, but, obviously, climate change does not happen on paper, and it will not be beaten, resolved or mitigated on paper, either. I am delighted that the US and China have signed the deal, but we have been here before. I am genuinely pleased that the tradition of US Presidents committing in their final weeks in office to international efforts that might not overjoy the American electorate remains alive and well, but—I know this view may not be widely shared—let’s face it: we have been here before.
My right hon. Friend Edward Miliband mentioned Kyoto. If Kyoto had worked, we would not have needed the Paris convention, so it has always been the case throughout my life that the prose required for climate change progress does not always reflect the poetry of climate change politics.
I will be candid: when I saw Heads of State hugging each other in front of the cameras in Paris, like a scene from a NASA mission control room at the end of a space disaster movie, I was pretty contemptuous. I put that to the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whose achievements and work I commend in the same way that Members on both sides of the House have done today. She was not very happy with my comments, but I stand by them, because the truth is that, so far, this is a diplomatic and political achievement, and nothing else. There is no doubt that that is important—the Minister was right to say in his response to the opening speech that China and the US signing this agreement is a game-changer—but let us acknowledge the physical realities.
Politicians alone cannot solve climate change. That is the task of scientists, engineers, inventors and investors. The role of politicians is to enable those people to do that by establishing market frameworks and by ensuring access to capital and stable, predictable policy frameworks. They also need a fair, improved and quicker planning process, which successive Governments have tried to achieve over at least a decade, and the centre of Government needs to develop a completely different relationship with local government and its local communities. Those are profoundly important issues, because without them investor confidence cannot be ensured and the progress that we all seek cannot be delivered.
The truth is that, despite some progress, this country is a long way from achieving that. Whitehall and Westminster do not work anywhere near well enough. That is not a partisan comment or a criticism of the current Government. Nobody could argue that, right now, our institutions are up to the task before them. I would go further and suggest that the machinery of government is actually stymying the efforts of those committed to combating climate change.
We will not achieve a low-carbon economy without industrial activism: an industrial strategy that, as many others have said, sees energy, economic and environmental policy as one and the same thing—a holy triumvirate, if you like—and I sincerely hope that the new Department has been designed to pursue that approach, which I have outlined and campaigned for over nearly 12 years in this House.
I am pleased that the Government have abandoned the market fundamentalism of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was touched on by my hon. Friend Dr Whitehead. Under his stewardship, the Treasury effectively killed the industrial strategy of the last Labour Government, who sought to pursue so many of the same aims articulated today by Members on both sides of the House.
Members have also mentioned nuclear power, which, along with every other source of electricity generation, should be central to our national industrial strategy. Right now, we have no such policy, only talk. We urgently need one, particularly post-Brexit. Let me be clear, however, that I do welcome talk of such a policy. The industrial strategy should have at its heart a commitment to combat climate change. Such a policy could transform our country for the better. It would secure our energy supplies and enable us to meet our climate change obligations and to transform our manufacturing and research and development sectors, including our universities. Crucially, such a policy could and should rebalance our economy, so I stand totally committed to assisting the Government in this regard, and I urge them to look no further than at the community that I represent. West Cumbria and my constituency of Copeland could and should be the engine-room of this national effort.
At Moorside, where three AP1000 Toshiba-Westinghouse reactors are shortly due to begin construction, my constituency will soon provide 7% of our electricity needs—clean, CO2-free electricity generation, providing thousands of well-paid jobs. I am a long-standing advocate of a tidal lagoon project nearby in Workington, which could be the largest in the world, providing another 7% of our electricity needs, along with thousands of jobs and helping to regenerate an area of traditional market failure.
It is my hope that the Government will prioritise both the schemes I have mentioned as a matter of urgency. We do not need the Paris agreement to get on with these projects. I say to the Government, “Let my community help you; let us be the engine-room of this national effort and let us get on with it without any further delay.” We should do everything we can to ensure that these projects are developed as quickly as possible. In particular, I trust that the Secretary of State and his Ministers will join me in highlighting the critical importance of Japanese investment in that regard, and the need to work on our crucial relationship with Japan.
Climate change wears no party colours. Although these are hollow words now, we really are “all in it together” and it is past time that we got into the business of implementing an industrial strategy with the climate change agenda at its heart. The lesson for all of us is that talk is cheap.
I apologise for not attending the first part of this debate. I was chairing the Environmental Audit Committee where we were hearing from Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister from the Department for Exiting the EU.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner on bringing this debate forward. It has been some time since we debated climate change. Like other speakers, I believe that this issue is one of the three great challenges of our age. The first is the challenge of the ageing society and how we can all live better now that we are living longer. How can society adapt to that new longevity? The second challenge stems from technology hollowing out traditional jobs and traditional workforces. How can the Government collect taxes on the new economy when the intellectual capital exists in places such as California, but the products are consumed in our own country? The final great challenge of our age is climate change.
There is the challenge of adaptation to protect our island from the different weather patterns we will see in the future. How can we mitigate the risks and play our part in the world in standing by our poorer neighbours? As previous speakers have said, they have done nothing to cause this catastrophe, but having risen out of poverty, they now risk seeing hundreds of millions of their own people being dragged back into it through climate change. It will either cut off their food supplies and their traditional ways of life or, in the worst-case scenarios, see island states disappear under water altogether.
In 2015, 190 countries adopted the new climate agreement in the first ever universal and legally binding global deal. We cannot overstate how much of an achievement that was and what a great part the UK Government played in achieving it. The now Home Secretary, then Climate Change Secretary, really took the lead on that, and it is a great shame that the Government have now abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The lessons from other countries show that when climate change is put into a pot alongside other industrial and energy policies, climate change is often the loser as economic interests take over. We do not value what we cannot see. This is one of the big “abstract thinking” problems of trying to deal with climate change. We are talking about worst-case scenarios in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time, but scientists would argue that we have just seen 14 consecutive months as the hottest on record and are now 1.1° above our pre-industrial revolution peak.
Does the hon. Lady agree that if the Government want an example of certainty of policy, which has been mentioned by previous speakers, they should look at the state of California, where what I think is a 20-year all-party agreement on renewable energy has led to investment by various companies? Does she agree that Westminster Governments have probably been practising long-termism and short-termism for far too long, and they cannot allow this to go on until 2020, 2030 or 2040, or for an indefinite period?
I strongly agree that what investors and businesses want is certainty. Members of the Conservative party may want to see outcomes, but one way of achieving those outcomes is to set a strict framework and then stick, within that framework, to the interim targets that we wish to meet. The hon. Gentleman has played an important part in the Environmental Audit Committee, sharing with us not only the Scottish experience, but his wider global experience.
As we know, 23 countries have now ratified the agreement, and over the past week the United States and China have come together. Given that they represent 40% of the world’s carbon emissions, this is a really significant moment. It seems to me that they are firing the starting gun for the next big industrial revolution. Britain led the way in the first industrial revolution, with the spinning jenny, electricity and other forms of energy, and the steam engine. The second industrial revolution, in the 1990s, introduced technological change which has revolutionised the way we think and do business. This will be the third great industrial revolution of our time. Whichever country first gets to market with individual transport solutions that are non-emitting—solar-powered cars and battery storage—will have a massive competitive advantage in the global race.
We have heard about the Climate Change Act 2008. That was Labour’s achievement, but it was a cross-party achievement in that only five Members voted against it. It committed the United Kingdom to reducing its emissions by 80% of the 1990s level by 2050. It has been copied, replicated and imitated across the world because it gives investors certainty, which is crucial, particularly at a time when, following the referendum result, there is a great deal of uncertainty in our economy. The Act sets out long-term goals, but it also gives Governments flexibility to decide how they want to meet those goals. Our Government also introduced feed-in tariffs and the renewables obligation, which brought about an energy revolution in this country. In 2005, none of our energy was being produced from renewable sources, whereas at certain points last year, 25% of our electricity was coming from such sources.
I want to say something about the work of the Environmental Audit Committee. I have here a copy of an excellent report that we published about 10 days ago, entitled “Sustainability in the Department for Transport”. It did not receive quite as much press coverage, or Daily Mail pick-up, as the microbeads report, which is a great shame. I am sure that no Member who is present, or anyone sitting in the Galleries, uses microbeads. I must say that we are all looking very polished and relaxed after our summer break.
What the Committee found was concerning. We found that the UK is failing to reduce its carbon emissions in the transport sector, that air quality targets that were supposed to be met in 2010 will not be met until 2020 at the earliest—and the only reason there is a plan for developing them is the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, and the threat of action against us by the European Commission and the European Court of Justice—and that although a year has passed since we discovered, on
Domestic transport is the single largest emitting sector of the economy, accounting for 22% of UK emissions. Those emissions need to fall by 31% over the next 10 years. We found that the UK is on course to miss that target by 50%. So demand for transport is growing and, despite marginal falls in average car and van CO2 intensity, this is driving up emissions. Therefore, we are not going to be on the most cost-effective pathway to those 2030, 2040 and 2050 targets. That is deeply worrying, because if we are not on the most cost-effective pathway, it means we are idling along in the slow lane, hoping that something will turn up to suddenly help us meet those carbon budgets later on down the road, literally and figuratively.
Does the hon. Lady agree that the Scottish Government proposition to make sure that all towns, communities and cities are free of fossil fuel vehicles by 2050 is the right approach? Does she agree that the UK should be looking to follow the example of Norway and the Netherlands, which are looking at banning all new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025?
What I would say about a 2050 target is that it is long enough away for none of us to be accountable for it, because most of us will be dead by then. [Interruption.] Well, some of us; I probably will be—no, I will be enjoying a long and fruitful old age, as I intend to live until I am 100. I want to see interim targets, so if there is a 2050 target I would be interested to see what are the 2020, 2025 and 2030 targets, because faraway targets can always be our children’s problems.
The issue in the report about our transport sector is that we are not doing enough now, and I want to develop my theme because transport emissions increased in both 2014 and 2015. Some 94% of those transport emissions are from road transport, and we were concerned that less than 1% of new cars are electric. There is a good reason for that: they are very expensive—£30,000 or £32,000, perhaps. The Committee on Climate Change says that we need 9% of all new cars to be ultra-low emissions vehicles by 2020 if we are to meet those targets at the lowest cost to the public. We should match what the Committee was saying with the Department’s forecasts; the Department was saying, “Well, actually 3% to 7% of vehicles will be ultra-low emissions by 2020, but our average central point is 5%.” So the Department’s central forecast is 5%, but the Committee on Climate Change says it should be 9%.
That is worrying, because the next target—the 2030 target—is that 60% of all new vehicles should be low-emissions. If we are only at 5% by 2020, I cannot see a way of getting to 60% of low-emissions vehicles without some spectacular change in the way we buy cars in this country, and we did not hear any brilliant bright ideas from the Department for Transport. We heard of the money that was committed, but we did not hear a strategy for getting that mass take-up. That means we are playing catch-up and we are not going to follow the lowest cost route to decarbonise the economy.
Yes; it is done in the single departmental plans and the annual reports, and the Committee on Climate Change looks at these targets every year and says whether we are going to meet our various carbon budgets. There is a range of reporting mechanisms, and I see it as the job of the Committee to point out where we think things are going wrong.
We could see a whole range of policies that would help drive low-emission vehicle uptake, and local authorities had a range of innovative ideas, particularly in the area of fleet procurement. The Government are probably the largest buyer of vehicles in the country, and if the NHS were to move to all electric vehicles, they would get them at much less than £30,000 per car. They could then guarantee buy-back and there would then be a second-hand market that gets people used to buying these vehicles. We could see workplaces investing in charging points—one of the perceived problems with electric vehicles is their range—and the introduction of a national grant scheme, or scrappage scheme, for electric and low-emission taxis.
We also want the Treasury to think about changes to the taxation of vehicles, including company cars, to make electric vehicles more attractive. This is really important for the UK’s industrial strategy. I was born and brought up in Coventry, and I watched the car manufacturing industry virtually disappear around me in the 1980s. The remaining manufacturers, including Nissan, Honda, LTI—which I am delighted to say makes electric taxis in Coventry—and Toyota, need a reason to choose their UK car factories based in Sunderland, Swindon, Coventry and Derby to manufacture the next generation of low-emission vehicles. We have heard from the Japanese ambassador about some of the anxieties following the vote to leave the European Union, but we are obviously keen to see Nissan manufacture the next generation of its electric car, the Leaf, in Sunderland from 2018. That decision is under consideration at the moment. Investors want stability, certainty and policies that will signal the Government’s intention to incentivise the uptake of these vehicles. All those factors are vital.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee has similarly been looking at the uptake of electric vehicles. What assessment has the Environmental Audit Committee made of the preparedness of our energy system, particularly for clusters of electric vehicles? For example, are we going to be able to provide the level of charge required if, say, two dozen or more electric cars on the same road all need to be charged at the same time?
We did not look at all the life cycle issues, but I have a feeling that that might be coming out in the hon. Gentleman’s report. If so, that would be great—a good bit of boxing and coxing from both Committees. He makes a good point: we still have coal-fired power stations, and it would make no sense to have emitting power stations fuelling electric vehicles. We need to look at the whole life cycle of the power supply. There are big issues with battery storage and battery life, and it would be a great prize for our industry if we could find a way to capture renewable energy and store it when we have more than we need.
I have talked about air pollution and air quality zones, and the fact that the targets will not be met until 2020. The report contains a detailed analysis of that. The Volkswagen emissions scandal revealed that 1 million diesel cars in the UK contained cheat device software, and we found a worrying inertia among Ministers when it came to deciding whether to take legal action or any other action. We want Ministers to ask the Vehicle Certification Agency to carry out tests to find out whether those Volkswagen group cars in the UK would have failed emissions tests without those cheat devices. It is important for people to know that. We would also encourage the Serious Fraud Office and the Competition and Markets Authority to make their decisions about whether to take legal action against Volkswagen. In the United States, Volkswagen owners have already started to receive compensation; some have received as much as $10,000.
The Committee has also produced a report recently on the Government’s approach to flooding. Flooding is the greatest risk that climate change places on our country, and the risk is threefold. There is a risk from surface water following heavy rainfall, whether in summer or winter. The July 2007 flooding, which flooded more than 1,000 homes in Wakefield, was the largest civil emergency that this country had seen since world war two. There is a risk from river flooding, which is what we saw in the Christmas and Boxing day floods in York and all across the country, including Scotland and Wales. There is also a risk from a tidal surge from the North sea. We were in a position, I think in 2014, in which a combination of high winter tides and heavy rainfall resulted in red flood warnings and evacuations from Newcastle all the way down to Margate. The entire east coast of England was at risk from a tidal surge.
The ways of mitigating these risks are complex. We need to get in place the civil resilience systems so that we are able to respond when floods occur. So far, we have been fortunate that most of them have happened at different times, but if we were to experience all those different kinds of flood problems at the same time, there could be issues relating to our ability to respond adequately.
My hon. Friend is making such an important point about flooding. Does she recall that had the high tide and the surges been realigned by one hour, more than 10,000 homes in the Humber area would have been underwater?
It was an anxious time. I remember following events on the Met Office website and thinking, “This is not looking good. I would not want to be the Minister in charge.” We cannot keep relying on luck. We must be fully prepared. I am disappointed that the Government’s flood review and the analysis of the resilience of national infrastructure to deal with flooding emergencies has been postponed. We understand that it was a Cabinet Office responsibility, and I have written to the DEFRA Secretary and the Minister for the Cabinet Office to find out where that responsibility now lives because there has been some confusion.
During the recent flooding, we found that if the transport network goes down because a bridge has been taken out or a road has been flooded, the police, the fire service and ambulances are unable to respond. People are unable to make phone calls because digital infrastructure or phone lines go down, and power supplies can also go down. People end up literally and metaphorically in the dark about the flood situation sometimes only 10 miles up the road. We heard that from the people of the Calder Valley who came to Leeds to talk to John Mc Nally, who is not in his place, and me, and we had an interesting conversation.
Turning to the Environmental Audit Committee’s work on looking at the Treasury, all such decisions are ultimately signed off or not by the Treasury. The National Audit Office told the Committee that there is a growing gap between our stated ambitions on climate change and the policies and spending that the Government are bringing forward to get us there. According to the Government’s own calculations, we are on track to miss our fourth carbon budget between 2023 and 2027 by 10%, yet we saw no action in the previous spending review to take us nearer to closing that gap.
In fact, the spending review contained a number of negative decisions that impacted on our ability to tackle climate change. The last minute cancellation of support for carbon capture and storage, for which industry had been preparing for seven years, has delayed the roll out of this crucial technology for a decade or more, meaning that the eventual bill for cutting our carbon emissions could be up to £30 billion more. Other last minute changes, including ending all funding for the green deal, cancelling the zero band of vehicle excise duty on low-emission cars, abolishing the zero carbon standard for new homes, cutting the funding available for greener heating systems available under the renewable heat incentive, and closing the renewables obligation to onshore wind a year earlier than previously promised, have all damaged business and investor confidence.
We need to start valuing our natural capital, such as our bogs, peatlands and rivers—our wild and special places. There is twice as much carbon in our bogs than in the UK’s atmosphere. If we practice farming techniques that drain that land, degrading peat soil and releasing that carbon, we are contributing to the problem, not taking away from it. We need to consider the role of soils—that was another excellent report by the Committee that did not get much Daily Mail attention—and what peatland and bog restoration can do for capturing carbon. That work is vital and contributes to the richness of our ecosystems and wildlife. We will continue to scrutinise the Treasury’s record and work with the National Audit Office and evaluate every future autumn statement for its environmental impact.
In conclusion, the US and China have worked together to ratify the agreement. They are getting a head start in the next great innovation race: the decarbonisation of advanced economies. We are fortunate that we have the Climate Change Act 2008 and the framework that forms the basis for this new industrial revolution in sustainable technology. I hope that all Members will continue to work together and do diligent work in our Select Committees and interest groups to ensure that the Government ratify and honour the spirt of the Paris agreement.
I am particularly grateful to have caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, having missed the start of the debate. I apologise to the Front-Bench speakers for that, but I was detained in the Procedure Committee, where we were taking evidence on the effectiveness or otherwise of our EVEL—English votes for English laws—procedures. I look forward to that issue returning to the Floor of the House in due course.
I was particularly inspired to try to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, by the comments of Margaret Greenwood about the impact of climate change on people in developing countries. As she said, and as I said in my intervention on her, the poorest and most vulnerable people around the whole world, who are often those whose historical carbon emissions have done the least to cause climate change, are feeling the impact of climate change first and hardest. That is why, in this debate and in the negotiations that took place in Paris, the concept of climate justice is so important. As I said in my intervention, the Scottish Government have really embraced that concept, as can be seen in a range of policy interventions. The former First Minister, my right hon. Friend Alex Salmond, spoke about this concept at the central party school of the Communist party of China in Beijing, no less, which shows the Scottish Government’s ambition in this area.
Along with this Parliament, the Scottish Government have set some of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets anywhere in the world. Earlier this year, we were able to announce that the commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 42% on 1990 levels by 2020 had already been met this year. Of course, 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, according to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, but I am sure that it was just a coincidence that that was the target.
The other innovative approach the Scottish Government have taken is through their climate justice fund. I have had the privilege of seeing that in action at first hand in Malawi, a country with which I have become very familiar over the years. I have seen the impact of climate change in that country, as rain patterns change significantly from what people were used to. Periods of drought are followed by periods of intense rain, which makes the cultivation of crops incredibly difficult. Of course, most people in that part of the world rely on their crops as they are subsistence farmers. The changing weather patterns that result from climate change are having a huge impact on the day-to-day lives of the population of that country and the wider region. The region is, of course, facing a drought at the moment.
The climate justice fund has been able to help people to adapt to the impacts of climate change, often by using innovative methods that are energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly in their own right. For example, I visited a community in Dedza where people were able to irrigate their crops thanks to a reservoir built at the top of a hill. Without the need for any kind of electricity or pumping—just through the force of gravity—that irrigation allows people to grow crops and cultivate their food, whereas previously that would not have been possible because of drought or the erratic rain patterns. Likewise, in Chikwawa, in the south of the country, a solar pump is harnessing the extreme power of the sun that is felt in that area and turning that into green energy which, again, has allowed crops to be irrigated and food to be grown.
My hon. Friend mentioned innovation, particularly in a country such as Malawi. Does he agree that there is an opportunity for hydrogen technology and storage to be deployed to meet some of these ambitious targets? Many of us here hope to be around in 2050 and the Scottish Government have targets for emissions up to then. We have not heard a lot about hydrogen today, but it could also be used in vehicles, as we are doing in Aberdeen, where hydrogen buses and council vehicles are running now.
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. That is an example of the kind of innovation we see in small countries such as Norway, which was mentioned earlier, Malawi and Scotland. What is particularly important about the Scottish Government’s climate justice fund is that it is additional to the international development fund that they make available for mainstream international development programmes. It is encouraging that the Minister for Climate Change and Industry was formerly a Minister in the Department for International Development. I hope that will mean that there will be joined-up conversations across the Government as we take forward these important concepts.
The other matter on which I wish to reflect briefly, which I mentioned in an intervention, is the message from Pope Francis about climate justice and tackling climate change, and our own personal responsibilities to take action in our daily lives to reduce our footprint on the planet. Much of this has already been discussed in terms of where our energy comes from in the first place and clean electricity generation, but we have a responsibility to drive demand reduction through the more efficient use of electricity and by purchasing more efficient electrical appliances. We do not need to live in the stone age, but we should make much more efficient use of the energy that is generated, hopefully in a clean manner. The idea of climate justice is due to the fact that people who have contributed the least to climate change and can least afford to deal with it are experiencing the greatest impact.
Prime Minister Modi of India has said that his country, which has only recently been industrialised, should not be presented with a full share of the bill for carbon emissions. He said that that would be like being presented with a full bill for a meal having had only a dessert. Does my hon. Friend agree that justice should take that into consideration?
Yes, absolutely. We must take responsibility for our history. We live in such an industrialised country because of the extent of industrialisation that took place. Buildings in this very part of the world—even the building in which we are standing—had to be cleaned of the soot that had been generated, and those carbon emissions are having an impact today through the climate change that we are experiencing, so we absolutely have a responsibility to lead on these issues. Even in our own country, it is the people who can least afford it who are being hit the hardest. Pensioners living in fuel poverty during colder winters are finding their incomes squeezed as they try to heat their homes. Indeed, people who cannot afford air conditioning in the excessive heat of the summer, as we have seen in France, are feeling the impact. This concept works both at home and overseas. We have heard about all kinds of interventions. In my home town of Glasgow, we are introducing food waste recycling, with all of us having grey bins. It will be interesting to see how the uptake of that scheme goes; I encourage everyone to make the best of it.
Mary Creagh was absolutely right to say that this is one of the greatest challenges of our time. That is why there is not just a political, economic and social impetus behind tackling climate change, but a moral impetus, which is why the Government have a moral responsibility to show leadership on this issue and to ratify the Paris agreement as soon as they possibly can. This is much like the position on the Istanbul convention, which my hon. Friend Dr Whiteford is having to address by bringing forward a private Member’s Bill because the Government are dragging their heels so much. Again, this is another example of the Government ceding the moral high ground in global political leadership to other countries, which is quite disappointing.
I said to the Prime Minister earlier that we should mark the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek”. The fourth movie in the series has the crew going back in time to save the whales as a bit of a metaphor for the damage that our generation is causing to the planet. It is fair to say that, if we want to live long and to prosper, we really must tackle climate change.
This has been an incredibly important debate. There have been a number of excellent speeches from all parts of the House by Members who really know this subject inside out and upside down. The debate was opened with a formidable tutorial by my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner, who mentioned the Government’s woeful record.
On the subject of the Government’s woeful record, does the hon. Gentleman agree that a missed opportunity was not supporting the alternative air fuel scheme, proposed by British Airways, which would have transformed 575,000 tonnes of London’s waste into fuel and allowed BA to operate its flights twice over for a year from London City airport? Does he agree that that was a missed opportunity by the UK Government and that they should revisit it?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his exceedingly early intervention in my speech. Of course, there are many examples of the kind that he gives.
We heard from my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband about the worrying loss of UK influence on tackling climate change, like so much else that results from the Brexit vote. He also mentioned his grave concerns about the damage being done to the international community’s ability to tackle climate change, given our leading role up till now and the likely dramatic reduction in our influence outside the European Union.
We heard contributions from my hon. Friend Dr Whitehead, who reinforced the importance of the UK’s role and the implications of Brexit. He questioned whether Government policy meant that we were on track to meet our obligations. That theme was picked up by other hon. Members later in the debate, including my hon. Friend Mary Creagh. We heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood), for Copeland (Mr Reed) and for Llanelli (Nia Griffith), among other contributions.
Earlier, the Minister spoke about what he called the Government’s fantastic record, but he rather ignored the fact that investor confidence has plummeted, subsidies have been cut and jobs, not least in the solar industry, have been lost. He blamed the European Union for our not having ratified the Paris agreement, while acknowledging that other European countries had done so. The Government and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have been happy enough recently to act against the rest of the EU. The UK recently blocked action by the rest of the EU to protect our steel industry. The Government are happy enough to take unilateral action when it suits them, but we had enough false claims about the EU during the referendum campaign, thank you.
It is my understanding that no EU member country can fully ratify the treaty until all have done so and the EU ratifies it as well, so some European countries may have taken the early legislative steps to put themselves on the way to that, but I do not believe that any of them will have ratified it yet.
Last time I checked, France was still a full member of the EU, with no intention of leaving.
We had the announcement last night, and we have heard the loose interpretation of legal obligations today in the Chamber when it comes to the preparation and delivery of the fourth and fifth carbon plans. That announcement, the approach and what we heard today confirmed the need for today’s debate, and it is why we are right to press the motion.
It is astonishing how quickly the Government have trashed our hard-won reputation for leading the world in responding to the challenges of climate change. Our role as key EU negotiators at Kyoto, our world-leading Climate Change Act 2008 and our progressive reputation at the Paris climate conference all risk being left in tatters if we are seen to be dragged to the table at the last minute as a result of being outside the EU. Whereas China, the US and France, among many others, have all ratified the Paris agreement, despite what the Prime Minister said earlier today, we are being left lagging behind.
At least the Government have moved on from the position under the previous Business Secretary, who refused to let the words “industrial strategy” pass his lips. The new Business Secretary will have to develop a strategy. That is especially true in respect of green energy. The argument for energy, particularly green energy, to be at the heart of our industrial strategy was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland, and the Minister made similar remarks in his speech.
Last year, we were going to lead the way in Paris with a £1 billion carbon capture and storage competition. The United Nations framework convention on climate change identified CCS as one of the interventions that could help countries worldwide meet emissions reduction targets, yet just a week before the Paris climate conference the Government scrapped their plan, despite the international praise it had received. After the Paris agreement had been signed, the Government abolished DECC, precisely when the Department’s expertise would most sorely be needed. They cut subsidies for green household energy initiatives by 65%, and then they increased subsidies for fossil fuel production at the same time as cutting investment in green technologies. While the cost of green energy has been falling, the Government have instead focused on fracking.
There are signs, with the arrangements for devolution, that we are starting to see the sort of long-term, ambitious vision at a local level that is sadly lacking at the national level. My hon. Friend Steve Rotheram is Labour’s candidate for metro mayor for the Liverpool city region. After many false dawns, we finally have a chance for the Mersey barrage to be a reality, developing the high-tech industries that can drive forward the economy and deliver the quality jobs his constituents and mine so badly need, while potentially delivering energy self-sufficiency to the city region. The devolved Administration in Wales are committed to green technology, with eye-catching proposals for tidal lagoons—something mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli. Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan has committed to make London a city run entirely on clean energy by 2050, joining the leaders of 50 Labour-run councils in making a 100% clean-energy pledge. Sadiq and his Labour colleagues recognise the damage being done by harmful emissions to the health of the people they represent.
Labour in local government and in the devolved Administrations wants to deliver on the green agenda, but it cannot do these things alone, and they should not have to be done in a piecemeal way. Why is the green agenda not a national priority, on which Government, local authorities and Assembly Administrations can all work together to deliver as full partners? Where is the underwriting by the Government of the development of our green industries? Where is the Government-backed green energy company to challenge the market and to address complacency from the energy cartel, which is simply not set up to put the needs of residential or business customers first? That is what follows from the short-term nature of the stock market-listed companies that make up the cartel and from their need to put shareholder returns above all else. Where is the development of a national energy strategy to address the very real security concerns about supply? If the Government are committed to the green agenda, why, oh why, did they privatise the Green Investment Bank?
The Government are missing the fact that inconsistency and uncertainty are the enemy of investment. Last year, for the first time, the UK fell out of Ernst and Young’s top 10 most attractive countries for renewables investment. We used to top the table, thanks to clear long-term planning that gave investors confidence, but we fell to fourth in 2013 and 11th in 2015, and now we are 13th. The Government’s inconsistency is also undermining confidence in green tech start-ups. Why has confidence gone among investors? Because the Government have put short-term budget cuts before strategic investment, and because they make and revoke green policy piecemeal and in a vacuum.
There is an overwhelming economic case for the UK to build infrastructure and cutting-edge technologies, not just to meet our Paris agreement commitments. We are well placed to serve the market that exists given that 180 countries signed Paris. There are nearly 100,000 low-carbon and renewable energy businesses in the UK. UK Government figures value the green economy as a whole at £122 billion a year—double the size of the automotive industry, twice the size of the chemicals industry and five times the gross value added of aerospace.
Green energy is a major trade opportunity. We have signed deals for low-carbon trade of £6.7 billion with China and £3.2 billion with India. The global green energy market is growing at over 4% a year and is expected to reach £5 trillion this year. Trade in green energy has the potential to transform our export prospects just at the moment we most need it, following the Brexit vote.
Then there is the long-term cost of failing to invest. The decision to cut the pioneering CCS project might have saved the Exchequer £1 billion this year, but it is forecast to push the bill for meeting climate change agreements up by more than £30 billion, according to the National Audit Office—a very clear example of false economy. So where is the strategy: where is the coherence? Where is the Government’s fabled long-term plan? Whether we are looking for an environmental, economic or business rationale, the plan simply is not there. No wonder the 100,000 members of the public who signed the petition on ratifying the agreement on environmental grounds were joined by investors worth £13 trillion arguing the business and economic case for early and enthusiastic ratification of Paris.
The complete lack of strategy in green and renewable industries is threatening to rob the UK of a golden opportunity at the very time when it is most needed. The opportunities exist in renewables. They include the potential for us to be self-sufficient, the delivering of energy security, lower prices, a chance to develop world-leading status in a high-tech sector, and a massive export opportunity at a time of great economic need—and all the while we deliver on our obligations to the international community and to the environment.
We have a new Business Secretary: the chance for a fresh start. If he wants to—I hope that he is serious about an industrial strategy and about our global and domestic responsibilities—he has the chance to develop and deliver a strategy that puts the green sector at the heart of what his Government do. He has the chance to support our renewables industry, so that it can be the world leader it wants to be and can be. I hope that he takes the chance he has been given.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is my first time at this Dispatch Box. I have often wondered what the view would be like, and I must tell you that it is really not bad. [Laughter.] And I do not just mean the Scottish National party. I was lured, without difficulty but with great regret, from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee because of the challenges involved and the extraordinary fascination of the issues. I discovered on my first day the challenging, testing and strenuous nature of the Department: the Canadian swim technique of being welcomed to the Department, briefed, and then invited to manage two statutory instruments within four hours—on carbon budgets, I might add. I could not have been more pleased to do that, given the importance of the issue.
We have heard many passionate speeches about climate change from Members on both sides of the House. We have gone from the Oracle of Delphi, to the Philippines, to Swansea, to Malawi. We have gone from “Star Trek” to logarithms, and from bogs to lagoons. It has been a fascinating debate. There has been great expertise, some humour and some real wisdom displayed across the House. However, one very odd thing is that this has been an Opposition debate with remarkably little true opposition. We heard very eloquent words from Edward Miliband, who was very kind about the new ministerial team. We have had Dr Whitehead welcoming the fifth carbon budget. We have had the hon. Members for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) and for Wirral West (Margaret Greenwood) praising the Home Secretary. Their tone has been absolutely admirable—constructive, bipartisan, intelligent and right— and it has been echoed by other colleagues across the House, particularly Callum McCaig.
What a contrast with the manufactured indignation of Opposition Front Benchers. You may know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that John Gielgud’s Hamlet was famous for its choked ferocity. He had the capacity to bring a tear to any eye, such was the intensity of his engagement. The Opposition spokesman managed to bring a tear to the eye of those in the House but, alas, it was a tear of laughter. He reminded me more than anything, in his histrionics, of Dame Edith Evans in the role of Lady Bracknell; but instead of declaiming about a handbag, he gave us a lot of nonsense about the Government’s record.
Can the Minister adumbrate one single point that I made in my opening remarks—one single point where I criticised the Government for backsliding—on which I was wrong?
So I was not wrong; I just said it in a nasty way.
I am enjoying the sedentary contributions from the Opposition spokesman, but he has had his moment. Let us focus on the two themes that came through, loud and clear, across all the speeches and interventions today. The first is that the issue of climate change is now in the absolute mainstream of our political debate. Whatever people’s specific views, climate change is recognised across all parties, in all the nations and regions of this country, as a central issue of public concern. The second point follows from that, and it is that we cannot and we must not view this country’s commitments in relation to climate change in a narrowly partisan or party political way. The Paris agreement has been welcomed by Members from across the House, as has the concerted action taken this week by China and the USA.
As the Prime Minister underlined only a few hours ago, this country has long exercised global leadership in this area. It has balanced great ambition with a sober recognition of the costs involved—costs that can hit not merely industry but often, directly and indirectly, the poorest people in our society. There is so much more to do, but what the UK has done is cause for celebration, not regret.
We can all agree that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world, and that has been brought home to us again today by the excellent examples highlighted in the contributions of Patrick Grady, my hon. Friend Seema Kennedy and the hon. Members for Wirral West, for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and for Wakefield, as well as by my brilliant colleague the Minister of State. We agree that climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world. We agree that the UK has played, and will continue to play, a unique and important role in global action to tackle the changing climate. We agree that that action is an opportunity for growth, for new jobs and for improvements to health, to cities and to our daily lives.
That consensus is the prerequisite. It is the essential long-term basis for concerted action in this area by all Governments, at any time. It will be especially helpful to us as we look forward to the COP 22 meeting in Marrakesh in November, which will help to set many of the rules relating to the Paris agreement and so will mark a shift from aspiration to implementation. That consensus, and the need to maintain it, is fundamentally why I still hope that the hon. Member for Brent North will not press this needlessly divisive motion to a vote.
The Government have made it very clear that they welcome the push by the US, by China and by other countries towards the early ratification of the Paris agreement. We remain firmly committed to that agreement and to ratifying it as soon as possible. The convention, however, is that all European Union member states ratify the agreement together, collectively. We hope that that will happen, as has been said, as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, it is not true, as was stated by Bill Esterson, that France has ratified the agreement. The Commons Library briefing of
“As set out on the UK French Embassy website it will not do so until all Member states and the EU are ready to do so, and will focus”— in the meantime, on—
“encouraging other Member States to make progress”.
France was reported in the press as having ratified the agreement, but it has not in fact done so.
I appreciate that we have heard some perfectly proper concerns about the Paris agreement coming into force before the EU has ratified it. However, there is widespread international understanding that in the event that the agreement enters into force early, countries that have not yet completed their domestic processes to allow ratification to take place—very important processes of consensual ratification—should not and will not be prejudiced. Not to do so would mean that as many as 140 countries, including some of the very poorest and most climate-afflicted nations in the world, would be denied a full seat at the table. COP22 in Marrakesh in November will, I hope, take a formal decision to that effect.
Turning to recent history, few countries have been more active in decarbonisation than this one. We were the first country to set, through the Climate Change Act, a legally binding 2050 target to drop our emissions by at least 80% on 1990 levels. Far from not having a strategy, we have just signed off our fifth carbon budget, which sets the terms for the overall picture. The UK has made great progress in reducing its emissions, which had fallen by 36% by 2014 on 1990 levels. During the past five years, between 2010 and 2015, our domestic greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 17%, which is the biggest reduction in a single Parliament. We already have domestic obligations that keep the UK well below the 2° rise in temperature goal mandated by the Paris agreement.
The Minister mentions the signing off of the fifth carbon budget and my pleasure about that, but perhaps he missed the point I made earlier, which is that the Government are nowhere near in any possible way meeting the terms of the fifth carbon budget, as a result of the policies they have recently put in place. That is presumably of some concern to him.
It has always been understood that, as has been stated, the Government would announce measures during this Parliament that will address the concerns—the perfectly proper concerns—the hon. Gentleman raises. I do not demur from the point that the framework exists, with the independent check of the Committee on Climate Change, whose suggestions the Government have, broadly speaking, in every case accepted. I do not think there can be much doubt about the structure and credibility of the long-term framework that the Government are following.
Through the Climate Change Act and the carbon budgets, Britain has an advanced model for the requirements set out in the Paris agreement, with a national plan to curb emissions and the aim to improve the plan every five years, setting progressively tighter targets. That model has been widely admired abroad, and it has proven extremely helpful and influential to other countries facing the same challenges, including Denmark, Finland and France. With the confirmation of our fifth carbon budget in July, we are in a strong position to continue on this steady path of improvement. That is the goal of this new Department. Its creation shows that climate change has become an absolutely mainstream part of our political life.
I do not know whether the Minister has seen the conclusions of the Environmental Audit Committee report, but the transport sector is set to miss one of the Committee on Climate Change’s interim decarbonisation targets by over 50%. Will he comment on some of the specific challenges facing the transport sector and on the fact that we are set to miss our fourth carbon budget for 2027, which is in nine years’ time?
I think we all recognise that, on present projections, the UK will have more to do to reduce domestic emissions. As has been said, that is going to require an emissions reduction plan. It is too early to give specifics about what will be included in that plan, but I can say that it will aim to set out the Government’s proposals across key sectors of the UK economy over the medium to long term and will be specifically structured to meet such needs.
I turn briefly to the issue raised by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North, namely our relationship with the EU in the context of Brexit. His words were wise, well chosen and constructive. Although we will ratify the agreement as part of the EU, leaving the EU does not mean that the UK will step back from this agenda. Indeed, let us all be quite clear that the UK will not step back from international leadership as such, and remains as committed as ever to tackling climate change. We will continue to be an outward-looking country. We have an unrivalled set of relationships around the world and membership of key international groupings through which to make the case for action and to build bridges between different views and interests, as he said.
Even after Brexit, we expect to work closely with the EU and with individual EU member states with whom we will have a continuing shared interest in pressing the case for action on climate change. We will continue to use the authority from our track record to support domestic and international climate action and shape the wider international agenda.
As I have made clear, our history of domestic climate action puts us in a very good position to build on what was agreed in Paris. The COP22 conference in Marrakesh marks an important further stage in the implementation of that global agreement. The negotiations are very complex and will take time, and we should not necessarily expect headline-grabbing outcomes. But it is important to focus on the positive side, from an innovation standpoint; some very important contributions, including that of the hon. Member for Glasgow North, stressed the importance of innovation.
Ambitious action on climate change should also lead to real opportunities for this country. As a result of the UK’s historical leadership we can build our progress towards a low carbon economy both domestically and abroad. Low carbon sectors are already an important and growing part of our economy. In 2014, more than 95,000 businesses were directly engaged in low carbon and renewable energy activity, generating £46.2 billion in turnover and resulting in 238,500 full-time equivalent jobs. I particularly enjoyed and benefited from the remarks of my hon. Friend James Heappey in that context, with his call for common sense and his emphasis on social justice and the importance of taking advantage of the economic opportunities.
Capital markets, too, play an increasingly important role in the transition to the low carbon economy, and green finance is a major priority for the largest emerging markets. The green bond market, which funds projects with positive environmental or climate benefits, has grown from just $3 billion in 2012 to $42 billion globally last year. With London, the world’s most international financial centre, and with significant expertise and strong professional and legal services, this country is very well positioned to help finance the transition globally to a low carbon economy.
I conclude by congratulating and thanking every Member who has contributed to the debate. It has been a very absorbing debate indeed. The number and quality of the speeches testify to the importance of the issues involved. The UK remains firmly committed to the Paris agreement and to its ratification as soon as possible. This country has not and will not step back from international leadership in combating climate change. We also remain committed to ambitious domestic action. The fifth carbon budget was set in line with the recommendation of our independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, as I have stressed. It is equivalent to a 57% reduction on 1990 levels.
We know that there will be complex challenges to decarbonising in the years ahead. That is to be expected. But our aim is to meet those challenges in a way that is fair and affordable, and maximises the economic benefit to the UK. That requires a whole-economy approach to delivering our climate change goals, one that effectively balances the priorities of economic growth and carbon reduction. Through the creation of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy we will do just that.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
notes that the USA and China have both ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change;
regrets that the Government has not accepted the Opposition’s offer of support for immediate commencement of domestic procedures to ratify the Paris Agreement;
further notes that if the UK lags behind its G20 partners in ratifying the Paris Agreement it risks losing diplomatic influence on this crucial future security issue;
recognises, in light of the EU referendum vote, the need to maintain a strong international standing and the risk of rising investment costs in UK energy infrastructure;
and calls on the Government to publish by the end of next week a Command Paper on domestic ratification and to set out in a statement to this House the timetable to complete the ratification process by the end of 2016.