Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Harriett Baldwin Harriett Baldwin Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 6:00 pm, 10th July 2019

It is great privilege to reply to this debate. In this Parliament over the last few months, a 93-year-old man, Sir David Attenborough, has spoken powerfully of the need for us to act, and a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, has come here and told us of the need to act. In the last week, many of our constituents have come to say that the time is now for all of us to act. I am proud to be speaking at the Dispatch Box representing the greenest Government ever of the country that has gone faster than any other major industrialised country to decarbonise, and which is indeed decarbonising faster than any other country in the G20.

Millions of women will have got up this morning in Africa and walked for miles to cut down a tree, turn it into charcoal and cook using it in their own home in a way that poisons them and their family. This is one of the biggest killers in our world today. What came through loud and clear in today’s debate is that this is a global challenge and a global problem. Yes, we have to do our bit here in the UK, but we must also keep at the front and centre of our work the very poorest, who are likely to be the most affected by climate change.

I welcome the spirit of today’s debate. There has been a huge amount of cross-party support. That is important because passing the legislation to go to net zero without a vote in this Chamber, as we did last week, sends out the most powerful signal that we can send to the UK private sector that, whatever happens in our politics, everyone is on the same page on this agenda. Of course, there may be differences about what we do and how fast we go, and a range of different points of view were expressed on that today, but what was most powerful overall was that everyone agreed, cross-party, that this is something we need to tackle.

We should also welcome the fact that, although I am responding to this debate as an International Development Minister, my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson opened it as a Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That also sends a very strong signal about how we are working on this across Government.

We are all agreed that climate change remains one of the biggest global threats to sustained development and, indeed, to our own way of life. No country on this planet is projected to be spared from further temperature increases, and the world is already facing serious challenges to the natural environment, food production and water resources. The challenges posed by change to our climate are systemic. Much more needs to be done and greater global ambition is needed. That is why the UK is jointly bidding with Italy to host next year’s COP 26.

We have had an excellent debate, full of a range of very strong contributions. Although Dan Carden objected to a Business Minister opening the debate, he will be interested to know that 34% of all our climate finance is spent by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He will also be interested to know that the multilateral development banks agreed at last year’s COP to align their $200 billion of climate finance with the Paris agreement—that is a point he specifically requested.

As we send out these strong cross-party messages, we need to think carefully about the attacks I heard from Opposition Members against the oil and gas sector. I am sure that Labour voters in Scotland would be alarmed if they felt that the hon. Gentleman would be as harsh on the oil and gas sector in Scotland as he appears to be on the sector elsewhere in the world.

This is the only political point I will make from the Dispatch Box today, but we need to think about actions that will lead the world and about actions that will lead to businesses moving from this country to other parts of the world. I would put in that second category the shadow Chancellor’s aspiration to remove the UK listings of many perfectly good, British companies, which will simply move their listings elsewhere.