Net Zero Carbon Emissions: Uk’S Progress

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:35 pm on 28th February 2019.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment) 4:35 pm, 28th February 2019

I am delighted to follow Ruth George, and I congratulate the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing this long-overdue debate. Surely we have seen evidence of global warning this month in the record high temperatures for February, as well as in the disturbing reports of melting polar ice caps. Collapsing ice at the poles is a powerful indication of a warming world.

Tackling carbon emissions is absolutely a matter of urgency, and achieving the necessary emissions reductions for the world that we leave to our grandchildren will require the collective efforts of all peoples and decision makers on a global scale. Young people recently walked out of lessons at their schools in protest against what they see as the lack of interest in and commitment to green issues. Their action showed how aware communities are of this important topic. We as individuals must all do our bit and show leadership, and our debate on our UK carbon emissions is an important step. We must explore cross-party support and progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

The threat of climate change is more real than ever, and it absolutely must be taken seriously. The Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated that to obtain net zero carbon emissions, or carbon neutrality, global society will have to balance its carbon emissions with carbon sequestration by 2050. Failure to limit global warming to 1.5° or less could result in sea levels rising as well as the occurrence of natural disasters such as extreme weather conditions. This in turn would result in the mass displacement of people and the disappearance of entire ecosystems such as tropical coral reefs.

The UK signed up to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 when the EU ratified the Paris agreement in 2016. Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK Government committed to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Under their 2017 clean growth strategy, they pledged to work with other countries towards achieving net zero carbon emissions in the second half of this century. The Government have also promised to use legislation to provide legal clarity that this target will be met at an appropriate point in the future. I would like some clarity on that point. Are these plans working?

The Scottish Government’s 2018 Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill raised their commitment on carbon emission reductions to 90% by 2050, a target that the UK Government Committee on Climate Change currently considers to be at the limit of feasibility. In March 2016, the then United Nations climate change secretary, Christiana Figueres, said that Scotland’s progress on climate change had been “exemplary to the world”. We have now established a climate change Bill that will set new statutory targets for reduction by 2050, moving into a net zero emissions target as soon as possible. Scotland has long been recognised for punching above its weight on tackling climate change. Roseanna Cunningham, the Cabinet Secretary, has stated:

“To be successful, we must create an environment in which industries can transition smoothly to a low or zero-carbon future.”