Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Uk’S Progress

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:07 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 3:07 pm, 28th February 2019

I passionately agree with the hon. Lady. I taught at Cranfield School of Management for seven years, although we never got too deep into the soil at that point because we were busy trying to start businesses. She is right to suggest that we have a long database of soil systems. A lot of people in this country like to collect things and keep them, and that is a great thing to have. We have samples that go back 100 years in some cases.

I want to talk about our carbon budget. The IPCC has calculated that a budget of 420 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would give us a two-thirds chance of staying within 1.5°C, and that a 580 gigatonne budget would give us a 50:50 chance of doing so. Those are not betting odds. If I were told that I had a 50:50 chance of something happening, I would not think those are great odds, so 580 gigatonnes is not a good budget to have.

This larger budget, 580 gigatonnes, is the equivalent of 10 years of global emissions at 2017 levels. To achieve that, the global production and consumption of coal must fall by 80%—again, we have done important and good things on that in our country—and the global production and consumption of oil and gas must fall by 50% by 2030. That is why I have come to the conclusion that fracking is not compatible with the 12 years we have left, and it is why I regret that it is being treated as a national infrastructure project rather than onshore wind, which has the power to give us the clean energy we need.

We know there is uncertainty, and we know there are tipping points. We do not know what will happen if we get to 1.5°, but we know that, for example, if the permafrost thaws, releasing methane, or if the sea ice collapses, these things can accelerate.

We can tackle emissions and deliver healthier cities, healthier people and a healthier planet. The Committee’s latest inquiry on planetary health is looking at how these complex systems deliver. We have seen exponential growth of wind and solar, and we are experiencing an industrial revolution. We have done things we thought impossible 10 or 12 years ago, for which I pay tribute to politicians on both sides of the House. The revolution is happening at the speed of the technological revolution, which is good. Big data will help us in this fight, too, but we will need renewable energy to supply between 70% and 80% of all global power by 2050.

In this country, we have done a lot on electricity, but the Committee on Climate Change has said that this progress has

“masked failures in other areas.”

We have seen very small reductions in agriculture and buildings-related emissions. At a time when Persimmon is paying its chief executive £75 million, we have to ask why we are subsidising the Help to Buy scheme. Why are we not subsidising ground source or air source heat pumps, as is happening in Sweden, to make sure we have zero-carbon homes?