Climate Change

Part of Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 6:45 pm on 24th June 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Hollinrake Kevin Hollinrake Conservative, Thirsk and Malton 6:45 pm, 24th June 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Edward Miliband, who has been one of the world leaders in the debate on this issue.

I welcome the Government’s announcement today. Climate change is without doubt the biggest danger to our planet. The UK has a very good record in this regard, but the planet has a very poor one. All of us will have to up our game massively to meet the challenge. Moreover, the next stages of the decarbonisation of our economy will be much more difficult than the progress that we have already made.

As I have said, the UK has a good record. The climate change performance index, which is collated by the independent organisation Germanwatch, lists it as fifth in the world, behind only Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Morocco. We are ahead of every other country that Members may want to mention, so it is not a question of the Government’s marking their own homework. We are a world leader in this area. Ours is the best performance in the G20. We were the first country to announce that we would abolish coal energy production by 2025, and are now the first to announce a net zero target of 2050.

It has not been mentioned yet in the debate, but we should not forget that all this progress has come not necessarily at a cost to businesses, although they are having to change, but principally at a cost to consumers. All these levies are paid by the consumer. In 2010, we were spending just over £1 billion. Today, consumers are bearing a cost of more than £7 billion a year, and the figure will be more than £9 billion by 2020. When we make more progress—as we will—we must do so in a way that is sensitive to, particularly, those on low incomes, because otherwise the burden will be entirely disproportionate.

Yes, we have made progress. As has been pointed out, 33% of our energy comes from electricity. However, that is only 19% of the total energy that is being produced. The next challenges, particularly those involving heating and transport, will be much more difficult. We need a stable framework. It is great that the Government have made their announcement, because it means that businesses will respond and feel confident that their investments will be supported in the future.

There is plenty of innovation coming down the line that will have nothing to do with Government action. I am thinking of, for example, transport as a service. When we do not own cars any more, but simply dial a number on our iPhones so that they arrive outside our doors, energy requirements for transport will be transformed. Solar energy and batteries will transform them as well. This is more about a technology disruption than about a transition. As the right hon. Member for Doncaster North said, it is about economics. It will be cheaper to run a car that is electric and autonomous than to run one with a diesel engine.

It has been good to hear this issue debated on both sides of the Chamber today, but if we are to deliver these solutions, we need a fact-based debate. We cannot simply say that we need to decarbonise our energy and that therefore we need to stop using gas, and then stop producing gas. Fracking has been mentioned today. Given that 90% of my constituency is covered by petroleum exploration development licences, we will need gas. The Committee on Climate Change says that the widespread deployment of hydrogen is critical to the decarbonisation of our economy. That can only realistically be achieved by stripping the carbon molecule out of methane. We will need gas for many decades to come. Let us talk facts, and not just base what we say on emotions.

I welcome the Government’s actions, and I have been delighted to speak in the debate.