Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 6:01 pm, 1st May 2019

I refer the House to my entry in the register, especially in relation to solar power and community renewable energy.

I have three small ideas for the House today: reform of capitalism, engagement in Europe and beyond, and the future of technology. On capitalism, when people say that we need a system change, they tend to be referring to a change in the energy system, but I think we need to be bolder and go wider. We need to reform our whole economic system, and that requires reform of capitalism. Nothing else will be a sufficient response to the young people protesting; nothing else will be radical enough. Decarbonising capitalism means reforming the rules for our banks, stock exchanges and pension funds to force them to take account of climate risk. If people think that is radical, well, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, agrees with it. Many people agree with it. We, and this Government, are getting behind the curve on the financial reforms we need. If we made them, we would radically transform the situation.

On European engagement, when I intervened on the Secretary of State earlier, I pointed out that Britain had led climate action at EU level. By winning stronger EU action, Britain influenced the United States and China, and through that we influenced the United Nations, and that led to the Paris climate treaty. Action at European level was critical for global action on climate change. As a Minister, I spent two and half years of very solid climate diplomacy across the EU, but a lot of it in Warsaw, because Poland was the issue. We worked with the Poles, we got a compromise, and we moved them over. Because of that, the whole of the EU adopted a greenhouse gas reduction target that the EU’s Climate Change Commissioner had told me was impossible. We got right to the far end of our ambition, and it was Britain leading that ambition, not going down to the bottom, as is sometimes said about us in Europe. If we are at the table, we can make that difference. Brexit is a climate disaster in itself, because it is reducing this country’s soft power and influence.

Finally, when I became Secretary of State, I was told by the Daily Mail and various other people that renewables were too expensive, and did I not know that the sun does not always shine and the wind does not always blow? Because of the policies we introduced, renewables are now the cheapest option, and that is fantastic for this country and the world. Intermittency, which is the other problem, is fast being solved through storage, interconnectors, the smart grid and demand-side response. If we add in tidal power and CCS, we can have the base load to sort out the problem relatively quickly. The solutions are there. We need the political will and determination to drive them through and meet this climate emergency.