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I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement today. I am pleased to be responding to the news that she has written to the Committee on Climate Change asking for advice on setting a date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite any good intentions she may have had in writing that letter, she must understand that Government policy is demonstrably incompatible with that goal.
First, investment in renewable energy has undergone what the Environmental Audit Committee refers to as a “dramatic and worrying collapse”—falling 56% in 2017. Changes in planning rules and Government funding since 2015 have seen the rate of deployment of new solar fall 95%, and planning applications for new onshore wind fall 94%. The Government now plan to remove support to small-scale renewables, which according to the Solar Trade Association, risks the almost total collapse of the industry. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Secondly, this Government and the last have sadly overseen a collapse in investment in energy efficiency, with Energy UK pointing to a 53% drop in investment between 2012 and 2015, an 80% reduction in improvement measures, and further declines projected to 2020. Again, how is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Thirdly, this Government have pursued a policy of fracking at any cost, overruling local planning decisions and reportedly even considering relaxing earthquake regulations. Shale gas can only be described as low carbon if it replaces coal in the energy mix, but coal is already on its way out of the UK’s energy mix, before fracking has even started. If shale gas were to come online now, it would be displacing genuinely low-carbon energy, not coal. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist known as the father of climate science last week slammed this Government’s decision to pursue fracking as “aping” Donald Trump. What a terrible irony it is that the first day of Green Great Britain Week is the day that fracking is due to commence in Preston. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Fourthly, last week the Government announced that they are cutting the electric vehicle plug-in grant by £1,000—a move described by industry as “astounding”. Fifthly, according to the Committee on Climate Change, the Government are off course to meet existing carbon budgets, which are set with a view to achieving an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. So I ask again: how is this compatible with meeting the more ambitious target of net zero emissions?
I believe that the answer to that question is contained within today’s letter to the Committee on Climate Change, in which the Minister describes carbon budgets 3 to 5, which run up to 2032, as “out of scope” of the referral. By effectively ruling out any additional action on climate change in the next 14 years, the Government seem to be asking the committee for advice but only in so far as they do not actually have to act on it. Unlike Labour’s plan to dramatically decarbonise energy supply and insulate 4 million homes as part of a green jobs revolution, the Government do not expect actually to implement any of the real measures needed to avert dangerous climate change. Sadly, without more robust and radical action from the Minister, she must realise that her Government’s vision for a green Great Britain is just a great green washout.