Climate Change

Part of Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 24th June 2019.

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Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Labour, Doncaster North 6:41 pm, 24th June 2019

I am glad to follow Peter Aldous. There is something paradoxical about the fact that this is a low-key debate on a Monday evening, but one thing that it indicates is that there is a great deal of consensus on the need for action, and that is a good thing. The fact that there is not a huge row going on shows that, on both sides of the House, we want to act.

I shall make three substantive points. The first is about the target itself. It is based on the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, and I welcome it, but I believe that it should be regarded as—I hesitate to use this word—a backstop. [Laughter.] I could not think of a better word, although I asked my hon. Friend Rachel Reeves for one.

The reality is that the science is heading in one direction, towards more urgent action. Let me draw the House’s attention to a document that was produced for the Committee on Climate Change by its international advisory group, chaired by Peter Betts, an excellent former civil servant who was responsible for the international negotiations. In that document, the group said that we should set a net zero date no later than 2050, and that there was a case for 2045. As the Minister said, it is good that there is a review clause, and I think that we may well have to bring that point forward.

My second point is this: if you will the end, you have to will the means. I am glad to hear that the energy White Paper is coming, and the Minister has built up my expectations about what it will contain. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West talked about cars. By the mid-2020s, the lifetime costs of electric vehicles will be lower than the lifetime costs of petrol and diesel vehicles. As the Committee on Climate Change says, the economically sensible choice is to make an earlier rather than a later transition. That is not to say that no issues are involved, but that makes a profound point about the benefits of m oving forward.

Thirdly, if we will the means as well as the end, we should think not just about the 1% to 2% of GDP that this will cost—on top of what we already spend—but about the 98% of other economic activity. I raise the issue of the Heathrow third runway gingerly, but if we are so serious about this climate emergency, I do not see how we cannot look at all the things that the Government and the private sector are doing and ask whether they make sense in a net zero world. I hope that the comprehensive spending review will have a net zero carbon budgeting process attached to it.

My final point concerns the international negotiations. It is excellent that we shall be hosting the conference of the parties next year, but let me say to the Minister and to the House that this is a massive challenge. It is an incredibly important moment for the world, when every country has to update its Paris targets. In a way, this is the last chance for us to get on track for what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has described to us as a really dangerous and urgent situation. Let me say this to the Minister. Of course Brexit will be ongoing, at least for a bit, but will he please ensure that all the political and diplomatic muscle of Government will be put into this process? It is a massive thing for the world, and it will require a huge focus from the Government. This is an important moment, and I welcome it, but, in a sense, the hard work is only just beginning for all of us.