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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:12 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 6:12 pm, 7th September 2016

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.

Resolved,

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.