Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Uk’S Progress

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford 3:45 pm, 28th February 2019

Absolutely. The Minister is a force to be reckoned with on climate change, and I thank her for her leadership not just in this country but across the world.

If we are to leave the planet a safer and better place not just for our children but for their children and grandchildren, then much more must be done. The science is very clear. We cannot continue to pump more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and we must achieve the net zero target by 2050, or sooner if possible. However, it is not good enough just to talk about the targets—we must also think about the actions that we need to take as a society, as individuals and as Governments.

We must also think about how we harness the powers of science and technology to help us to find these solutions. I serve on the Science and Technology Committee. We are in the middle of doing a study on the technologies that we will need in order to meet the clean growth targets. It is a fascinating study. We are in the middle of taking evidence. I do not want to prejudice the final report, but perhaps I can make some comments on some of the actions taking place. First, on energy supply, it is absolutely vital that we continue to work on more zero-carbon energy sources, investing in renewables. I know the Minister knows that I would like to see a pathway to market for onshore wind again, especially to re-power the old sites that are often in the windiest parts of our country but now have very old turbines. We could make them much more efficient. There is very exciting technology being developed. We have heard about floating wind—going out to our deeper oceans and having floating turbines. As a physicist, I will always campaign for continued investment in nuclear fusion, because the potential benefits are too enormous to be ignored. We then need the storage, batteries, air compression and smart grids to go with it.

We must do more on the energy efficiency of homes. In my constituency of Chelmsford, the district is building 1,000 new homes every year. Our new homes should be zero carbon, and we need to reignite the discussion about how we retrofit old homes to make them more efficient and decarbonise heat.

Net zero means that we need strategies to take carbon out of the atmosphere, which is why the Agriculture Bill is such an opportunity. We must incentivise tree planting in woodlands, but in a way that does not take away from our carbon sinks.

I would like to thank the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for the paper it has produced. I am a sucker for a puffin, and I have visited puffins all over the UK. The RSPB made the excellent point that peatland in the UK is estimated to hold more carbon than the forests of Britain, France and Germany combined. We must protect our peoples.

The food that we can grow and eat will fundamentally change because of climate change. In universities and institutions such as Rothamsted Research and the John Innes research centre in Norwich, we have world leaders in food technology, and we must continue to encourage their work.

I want to wrap up by talking about plastics. I am pleased that the Government have taken action on bags, beads and bottles, launched their “producer pays” tax and are looking at better ways to recycle. However, this is a global problem. Plastic is a true disaster in developing countries, where plastic waste is blocking waterways and causing flooding and disease, and uncontrolled burning of plastic is polluting the air.

This time last year, I led 41 Conservative MPs in giving up plastic for Lent, to make us all think about our environmental footprint. Yesterday, Tearfund held an excellent drop-in where it encouraged Members across the House to do the same again but also to partner with it on the work it is doing in some of the poorest parts of the world. I encourage Members to not only give up plastic but think about other things they will do this Lent. I will be going lentil for Lent and giving up meat. Any Member who would like to take up a pledge for the environment this Lent should let me know.