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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 5:26 pm, 7th September 2016

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.