Earlier this week, I read that climate change is firmly back on the political agenda, but it has been on the agenda for decades now under different Governments. Tributes have already been paid to Edward Miliband, who is no longer in his place, and to Sir Edward Davey, who must have left the Chamber a few seconds ago. A sense of urgency has been felt across all the parties—I will come back to the word “urgency” a little bit later in my contribution.
The task of decarbonising our economy is necessary. If we go about it in the right way, which this Government are doing, we will build a better and more secure future for generations to come. As I mentioned, I have a slight problem with the wording of this motion. I do recognise the need for urgency on this matter. I prefer the word urgency to emergency, coming to this matter as I do with 25 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry. In all my time in that industry, climate change and CO2 emissions were front and centre of how we operated. As people can imagine, the word emergency in that industry has a whole different meaning. It means to drop everything and to do something now, and it is the dropping everything part of that expression that I have a problem with.
The future of our environment is, as many have said, too important for party political point scoring. It is time for deeds, not words, and this UK Government are delivering on deeds. Those who say that the Government are doing nothing could not be more wrong, because we are leading the world in decarbonisation. I will not list the very many ways in which we are doing that, owing in part to time constraints, but also owing to the fact that many other Conservative Members have already done so.
Between 2010 and 2018, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 25%. CO2 emissions have fallen six years in a row, the longest run of reductions on record, and last year they fell to the level they were at 130 years ago. We are achieving that without compromising on economic growth, defying the naysayers who argue that we must choose between prosperity and the planet.
The debate on decarbonising our economy as effectively as possible is a serious one, and it merits serious discussion, not grandstanding gestures such as suddenly declaring an emergency. We should be working constructively with the UK Government to build on their achievements. I therefore hope that they will take into consideration three landmark publications. One of those, as others have mentioned, is the report of the Committee on Climate Change, which is due out tomorrow and which I very much look forward to reading. The second is a recent report from the Scottish Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, on the future of the Scottish oil and gas industry, and the third is last week’s report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee on carbon capture, usage and storage.
CCUS technology will be a necessary part of any serious plan to decarbonise our economy. The St Fergus gas plant in my constituency of Banff and Buchan, which is connected by an existing pipeline to the industrial complex at Grangemouth, is also known as the Scottish cluster. It is one of five clusters currently being considered for Government investment, which should be operational by the mid-2020s. In north-east Scotland, we have the expertise and we have the infrastructure in old North sea oil and gas wells and pipelines that we can take advantage of. I know that the UK Government are committed to CCUS and to the development of at least two cluster sites. I agree with what Members from all parts of the House have said: there is space for more ambition. Today, I am calling on the UK Government to commit to developing—or to consider developing—at least three CCUS clusters, to be operational by the mid-2020s, including, of course, the one in north-east Scotland.
The necessary investment will be outweighed many times over by the economic benefits of being a world leader in CCUS technology exports, by allowing heavy industry to continue in a low-carbon economy, by fighting climate change and by being able to export that expertise around the world, as that expertise will be much sought after in the years to come.
This is how we deal with climate change. This is how we decarbonise our economy. It is not by shouting about an emergency, but by building on real action, on CCUS and on other projects that this UK Government are already implementing.