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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

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.