Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Uk’S Progress

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:26 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 3:26 pm, 28th February 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Mary Creagh, the Chair of the Select Committee, of which I am proud to be a member. I am delighted that we are having this debate today, and I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who secured it. As my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon said, this is the most important issue. In an effort to chip away at my gigantic constituency majority in Richmond Park and North Kingston, one or two local opponents enjoy telling my constituents that I care more about the environment and climate change than I do about Brexit, and they are right—I do, for all the reasons we have just heard. So they can stick that on their leaflets.

This is already a year of records. Last year, we had record snowfall in March in this country. We had the joint hottest summer on record. Two days ago, we had the record temperature in any February ever. Clearly, we cannot attribute individual weather extremes or events to climate change, as that is just not scientific and not possible to do, but the trends do tell a story. The most recent Met Office report, from November last year, tells us that the UK is experiencing an increase in weather extremes: hottest days have become hotter; the number of warm spells has increased; the coldest days are not as cold; and there has been an increase in rainfall levels. None of that, individually, is catastrophic, but it is a sign.

Globally, the signs are even more alarming. The five warmest years in recorded history have been since 2010, with 2014 being the hottest year ever recorded—until 2015. It became the record year—until 2016. In 2016, at the time the warmest year on record, eight of the months were the warmest the individual month had ever seen in history. So the implications of all this, if the science is right, are truly alarming: ecosystems forced through such rapid changes that they are unlikely to be able to adapt; lands becoming harder and harder to farm; and refugees on a scale we have never had to deal with before as a species. We heard in an intervention from my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin about Bangladesh, which is probably the most extreme and alarming example. We should commit right here and now to trying to secure a debate on the issue—it is extraordinary that we have not debated it—but Bangladesh is just one among other examples. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that an average of 21.5 million people are already displaced each year because of weather-related sudden onset hazards. That figure will only grow if any of these predictions are correct.

Last year’s IPCC report painted the most alarming picture yet. The House will remember that the Paris agreement of 2015 commits the world to a target of limiting global warming to 2°C. The report looked into the difference between what we can expect if we achieve the 2°C target and what we can expect if instead we limit increases to 1.5°C. It tells us that the number of people exposed to water stress would be 50% lower if we kept to 1.5°C. It tells us that half a degree would mean hundreds of millions fewer people, particularly in the world’s poorest countries, being at risk of climate-related destitution. The half degree of extra warming would lead to a forecasted 10 cm additional pressure on our coastlines. That half degree is the difference between losing all our corals and managing to hold on to 10% of them.