Climate Change Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:42 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) 7:42 pm, 23rd April 2019

Well, again, I would be very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with the data and copy in Ms Thunberg.

Across the UK, almost 400,000 people are working in low-carbon jobs and their supply chains. It is a sector that is bigger than aerospace and is growing at a factor of two or three times the mainstream economy. We have continued to be active on the international stage. My right hon. Friend Amber Rudd was the Minister who carried the baton at the Paris climate change talks, which were so instrumental in the world coming together, as it did previously in the Montreal protocol, to show that there is concerted international support on action to tackle these enormous international challenges. COP24 took place last December in the Polish city of Katowice—a city where you could taste the hydrocarbons in the air. That is what happens when you burn coal; it must have been what London was like in the 1950s. At that conference, we in the UK—I pay tribute to my excellent officials—helped to drive the work of progressive groups and secured global agreement on a robust rulebook that brings the Paris agreement to life. If you cannot measure it, Madam Deputy Speaker, you cannot manage it. We are continuing to take targeted and impactful actions to support ambition internationally through promoting global alliances and collaborations, from the Powering Past Coal Alliance—which now has over 80 members that, like the UK, are committed to rapidly ending the use of coal as a source of electricity generation—to the Carbon Neutrality Coalition.

I was frequently asked this afternoon, “What are some of things you have done in the last six months?” so I thought I would focus on a few choice morsels to share with colleagues. Colleagues will, I am sure, be sick of me waving around the “Clean Growth Strategy” document that we published in November 2017. We will continue to do that, because it is one of the most comprehensive documents that any Government across the world have put out, detailing how we will take decarbonisation action across the economy. To date, we have acted on the vast majority of those actions. I will highlight some of them.

Only last month, I launched the offshore wind sector deal, including a £250 million growth partnership with investors to ensure that we will continue to invest in the North sea—the best place in the world for offshore wind. We will, crucially, drive up the UK content of that nascent industry to over 60%, and we will ensure that the industry employs at least 30% women by 2030. This industry is regenerating coastal communities right around the UK. It is one in which we lead the world, and we will continue to do so.

In the spring statement, the Chancellor introduced the future homes standard, which will require all new homes to have low-carbon heating systems and world-leading levels of energy efficiency by 2025. That will radically transform house building in constituencies such as mine, where most homes are not connected to the gas grid. He also announced that we will increase the proportion of green gas used in the grid, in a bid to drive down the carbon profile of the hard-to-decarbonise heating network.

Only this Easter weekend, we had the longest run ever in this country of no coal contributing to power generation on the grid. When many of us were elected to this House, coal contributed 40% of our electricity. Our unilateral policies, including a carbon tax and emissions targets, have led us to do something utterly transformational that other European countries have been unable so far to replicate. We also continue to contribute internationally. We are one of the largest donors of overseas development assistance, with more than £6 billion committed in this Parliament. In January, UK Climate Investments announced almost £30 million of investment in a dedicated African renewable energy company, to try to make projects marketable and investable in much of the developing world, so that those countries never have to go through a high-carbon stage in their growth cycle.

Action is being taken not just in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy but across Government. We have published the ambitious 25-year environment plan and kick-started the creation of a vast northern forest, which will see 50 million trees planted from Liverpool to Hull. Tree planting is one of the most cost-effective ways to sequester carbon and improve soil conditions, as colleagues will know. Our new resources and waste strategy outlines steps to reform the packaging producer responsibility system, introducing a deposit return scheme and food waste collection scheme.

We should celebrate those actions, not to imply that we are in any way complacent or do not need to go further much more rapidly, but to demonstrate that this is a win-win for both the planet and future generations’ jobs and prosperity. As colleagues will know, last year we celebrated our first ever Green Great Britain Week, and I can announce that we will continue that process annually, for the second time on 4 November this year. We look forward to the celebrations and challenges around that.

We have not shied away from our responsibility. That is why, after the publication of the chilling Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5° C report, we were the first industrial economy to ask our Committee on Climate Change for advice on our long-term targets, and particularly a net zero target. I look forward to receiving its advice on 2 May and will engage with colleagues across the House on our next steps in the light of that. It is worth pointing out that the last time we asked for this advice, the committee told us it was not feasible to do from either a technological or cost point of view, so it will be extremely interesting to see what has changed and how we can rise to that challenge.

I have the utmost respect for those who are pushing for stronger action to address the risk of uncontrolled climate change. The right to protest peacefully is a long-standing tradition in this country and a vital foundation of our democracy, and it has been good to see that the demonstrations have by and large been good-natured, and the policing response has been sensible and proportionate. I welcome the passion and fervour of the protestors and their constant reminder of our duty to raise our eyes from the next few years of conversations about our relationship with Europe, to think about the long-term challenges we face. I hope that those who have taken their passion public will continue to express their views without disrupting the daily lives of ordinary people, endangering the safety of the public or undermining the consensus that I strongly believe we will need to support further, bolder action.

We must work together to solve the challenge of climate change—in this House, in the other place, in classrooms and boardrooms across the UK, in international negotiating huddles, in homes and throughout civil society—and to deliver the broad, just and progressive action on climate change that we urgently need.