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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 2:55 pm, 7th September 2016

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.