Climate Change

Part of Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 6:22 pm on 24th June 2019.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Conservative, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland 6:22 pm, 24th June 2019

I give a warm welcome to today’s legislation and to the Minister, who has taken this brief by the scruff of the neck since he was appointed, for which we are all grateful.

This is a moment to give sincere thanks to the Government and the Committee on Climate Change for acting and allowing us to act in the way we are set to, because the IPCC report, which the Minister referred to, is really devastating. If we do not manage to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C, we will find that sea levels keep rising to an unsustainable degree and that the impact on biodiversity is completely unsustainable. The difference between a 1.5°C and 2°C rise is clearly illustrated in that report. At 1.5°C, we will lose 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates. That is devastating enough by any measure. At 2°C, the IPCC forecasts that we would lose 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates.

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C has other consequences, most notably for us as a species. Keeping it to 1.5°C may reduce the proportion of the world’s population who are exposed to climate-induced water stress by 50%. The impact on an increasingly volatile and dangerous world can scarcely be overstated. We need to do this—the science is clear—and we need to rebut the notion that the shadow Minister, Dr Whitehead, referred to. I agree with him that we need to fight back against the idea that the costs exceed the benefits, because doing the right thing for the environment is not at odds with doing the right thing for our economy. The UK’s performance since the 1992 Rio summit—we have decarbonised the most of any G7 nation at the same time as growing our economy the most—only goes to prove that.

The committee’s report was crystal clear that we can deliver net zero at no additional cost relative to the 2008 commitment to an 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050, owing to the pace of technological change. That needs to be factored into all our calculations when it comes to the achievability and costs of the commitment. Anyone who has listened to Lord Adair Turner talking about this, as he has done so well, and seen the work of the Energy Transitions Commission can be well assured that we are on track to deliver this in a cost-effective fashion.

This goes to the point that the coalition Government’s energy policy, under David Cameron, was a huge success. The contracts for difference mechanism, which enabled huge reductions in the cost of offshore wind in particular, goes to show that we can achieve massive economic and technological change if we incentivise markets to deliver the outcomes that we all need. Anyone who looks at the proportion of the UK’s energy generated by renewables—it stood at just over 6% in 2010 and is now 33%—will see that we can deliver far-reaching change in a very short period.