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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade 2:27 pm, 7th September 2016

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

Peterhead projects.

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.