Green GB Week and Clean Growth

Part of EU Exit Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 5:14 pm on 15th October 2018.

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Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) 5:14 pm, 15th October 2018

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement to this House.

As the Prime Minister said earlier this year, the international determination to address climate change and deliver a cleaner future is one of the facts of our time and one of our greatest opportunities. Only this month, we had a reminder of the importance and urgency of our mission in the form of the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest special report.

The report’s conclusions are stark and sober. They show that we are not on track to cap global average temperature rises to below 2° from pre-industrial levels, let alone to reach 1.5°. The implications of this difference in warming are spelt out in the science: from flooding risk going up to fisheries going down; from extreme weather events to extinctions due to loss of habitat—serious, challenging and difficult outcomes. To mitigate against the impact of climate change, we need to understand how to best transform our energy generation, land use, transport systems, industrial processes, homes and buildings. That is why, earlier today, I officially requested the advice of our UK independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on the implications of the Paris agreement, and this latest IPCC report, for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets.

We are the first major industrial economy to seek such advice, which again reaffirms our determination to lead the world in this area. I have asked for this advice on when and how we could achieve a net zero target for our economy, including whether this is the right time to set such a target, and how reductions might be achieved across sectors in the most cost-effective way.

This request was the first event in our very first Green GB Week, which is designed to bring together businesses, government and civil society to celebrate the extensive cuts in emissions that we have achieved in the UK, and to open up the discussion about the challenges and opportunities from cleaner growth. The week involved tens of partner organisations, more than 100 events, and thousands of participants right across the UK.

No country other than the UK has done more to prove that action on climate change and economic growth can go hand in hand. Since 1990, we have led the G7 group of countries in cutting emissions and also in growing our economy. Since 2000, according to a recent report, the UK has cut emissions per unit of economic growth by an average of 3.7% a year—I know it is a bit technical, but the reduction of carbon for every unit of growth we deliver is how it is measured—which is well ahead of the G7 average of 2.2%. Last year, 2016-17, we achieved minus 4.7% compared with a global average of 2.6%.

This low carbon transition offers huge opportunities for the UK, which is why clean growth sits at the heart of our modern industrial strategy. It creates jobs. There are already more than 400,000 jobs in the UK’s low carbon economy, and this thriving sector could grow by 11% a year up to 2030—four times faster than the rest of the economy. We are already seeing UK businesses leading the world. We have more offshore wind installed in the UK than any other country. Auction clearing prices for offshore wind have halved in the past two years, which is great news for industries and consumers alike, and this progress is opening up new markets from North America to South Korea.

In the first half of 2018, one in five of electric vehicles sold in Europe was made right here in the UK. In the service sector, the UK is consulting, and engineering firms are international leaders for global sustainable and low carbon projects. Since 2010, we have invested £52 billion in renewable energy projects in this country and the result is that we now generate more than half our electricity from low carbon sources—32% came from renewables in 2017.

We have committed more than £2.5 billion in Government investment in low carbon innovation in this Parliament, and we have galvanised action and initiative internationally, helping to secure the historic agreement of 195 countries to sign up to the Paris climate agreement. We have also established the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which has seen more than 70 countries, cities, states and businesses commit to transition away from coal power generation. We are leading from the front. In April this year, our power sector was entirely coal free for three days and we will phase out coal entirely from our power generation by 2025.

In the last seven years, we have delivered international climate finance to over 200 programmes in more than 75 countries, improving access to clean energy for over 17 million people and building the foundations for cleaner economic development in some of the poorest parts of the globe. Our progress to date is cause for celebration. I am proud to think of the UK—through successive Governments’ actions—as one of the greenest nations in the world. But while the world continues to deal with the implications of man-made climate change, we must not be complacent, and there is almost always more that we should be doing.

Today we publish our response to the annual progress report of the Committee on Climate Change, setting out what we have done since publishing our clean growth strategy this time last year and our next steps. The pace of innovation means that we cannot predict with certainty the most cost-effective path to our long-term carbon targets, but I can predict this: from how we travel to how we build our homes, we will need to make profound changes. Our strategy sets out some of the paths that we will need to take to do so.

This Government have set out the ambition to be the first to leave the environment in a better state than the one we inherited, but this must be consistent with strengthening our economy and providing opportunities for young people right across the country. Clean growth—which we are celebrating today and this week during the inaugural Green GB and Northern Ireland Week—can deliver all three, but to build on this success will require ongoing ambition and leadership from politicians right across the House, business, academia and civil society.

Ten years after the groundbreaking Climate Change Act 2008 was passed with almost unanimous support in this place, we want Green GB Week to bring the whole country together to celebrate the UK’s success and to set our ambitions for the future. Crucially, we need to understand that there are profound risks to our planet from uncontrolled warming, but that there are also huge opportunities in rising to this challenge. This Government are committed to maximising those opportunities. I commend this statement to the House.