International Climate Action

– in the House of Commons at 1:02 pm on 26th September 2019.

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Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 1:02 pm, 26th September 2019

I am delighted that my first statement as the Business and Energy Secretary is on a subject that matters so much to every Member of this House and also to every person on the planet. As we heard from a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, it is vitally important to act now so that our children and grandchildren have a bright future ahead of them. We only have this planet, and we all have a duty to do everything we can, cross-party, cross-country and cross-world, to leave it a better place than we found it. So today, with permission, I would like to make a statement on the UN climate action summit in New York that took place on Monday this week.

The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development joined the UN Secretary General, world leaders and key figures from business, industry and civil society at the UN climate action summit on Monday. The science is clear about the speed, scale and cost to lives and livelihoods of the climate crisis that is facing us. Costs show that the total global damage from climate-related events was more than $300 billion in 2017 alone. We know that, globally, emissions are continuing to rise year on year with tragic impact. We also know that the world’s most vulnerable are being hit hardest by the impacts of climate change. Natural disasters are already pushing 26 million people a year into poverty, with hundreds of millions of people potentially facing major food shortages in the coming decade.

The Prime Minister and other world leaders met because they are determined to take decisive collective action to cut emissions and to improve the resilience of countries and communities, and the Prime Minister showed very clearly what decisive climate action looks like at home and abroad. In the UK, we have cut emissions by 42% since1990 while growing the economy by 72%. We have cut our use of coal in our electricity system from almost 40% to only 5% in just six years, and we are leading the world in the deployment of clean technologies such as offshore wind. In just that one renewable sector, the UK is home to almost half the world’s offshore wind power. We became the first country in the G20 to legislate for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

We are already seeing thousands of jobs being created as part of this transition. Almost 400,000 people are employed in the low carbon sector and its supply chains, a number that we plan to grow to 2 million by 2030. We are also playing a critical part on the world stage. In his closing speech, the Prime Minister set out his determination to work together with others to tackle the climate crisis. He called for all countries to increase their 2030 climate ambition pledges under the Paris agreement and confirmed that the UK will play our part by raising our own nationally determined contribution by February next year.

To help developing countries to go further and faster, we also committed to doubling the UK’s international climate finance from £5.8 billion to £11.6 billion over the period from 2021 to 2025. This funding will support some of the most vulnerable communities in the world to develop low carbon technologies and to shift from fossil fuels to clean energy by, for example, helping to replace the wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps used by millions of the world’s poorest families with sustainable and more reliable technologies such as solar power for cooking, heating and lighting.

This new funding will also help our incredible rain forests and mangroves, which act as vital carbon sinks, and help to restore degraded ecosystems such as abandoned land, which were once home to forests, mangroves and other precious habitats. So many of us have been glued to David Attenborough’s incredible series, “The Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth”, which really brought home the scale of destruction and the need for global action. Doubling our international climate finance will help the most vulnerable to deal with the damaging effects of climate change and to become more resilient.

On Monday, as part of the international climate finance commitment, the Government clearly put technology at the heart of our response with the new £1 billion Ayrton fund to drive forward clean energy innovation in developing countries. The fund is named after the British physicist and suffragette Hertha Ayrton, whose work at the beginning of the 20th century inspired the Ayrton anti-gas fans that saved lives during the first world war. This is new funding that leading scientists and innovators from across the UK and the world can access, to save lives in the future as Hertha Ayrton’s work did over a century ago.

Our Prime Minister is not alone in taking action. We led on the summit’s adaptation and resilience theme with Egypt, and delivered a powerful call to action, joined by 112 countries. As part of that, we launched a first of its kind coalition for climate-resilient investment to transform infrastructure investment by integrating climate risks into decision making, ensuring that, for example, when roads and bridges are built, climate risk is taken into account. We also launched a new risk-informed early action partnership, which will help keep 1 billion people safer from disaster by greatly improving early warning systems of dangerous events such as floods and hurricanes, giving people vital extra hours, days and even weeks to prepare for them.

We were delighted that 77 countries, 10 regions and 100 cities committed at the summit to net zero by 2050. The incoming Chilean COP 25 presidency announced a climate ambition alliance of 70 countries, each signalling their intention to submit enhanced climate action plans or nationally determined contributions.

Businesses are taking action, too. More than 50 financial institutions pledged to test all their $2.9 trillion in assets for the risks of climate change. Nine multilateral development banks have committed to supporting global climate action investments by targeting $175 billion in annual financing by 2025.

However, the climate action summit was by no means an end in itself. It was a call for global action, which the UK and many others heeded. We cannot and will not be complacent. Coming out of the summit, the combined commitments of all those countries and all that good will still do not put us on track to meet the temperature goals of the Paris agreement. People across the country and across the world are every day sending a clear message that we must all go further, and as the Secretary-General said, “time is running out”.

Globally, much more is needed. The UK, as an acknowledged world leader in tackling climate change and as the nominated host for COP 26 in 2020, has a unique opportunity to work with countries and business across the world, to build on the foundations laid at this week’s summit, to drive the action agenda forward and to turn the tide of emissions growth. There is no other planet: this is it, and we must look after it.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement.

The climate emergency is worse than we feared. Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its special report on oceans and the cryosphere, which set out the danger starkly. Sea levels threaten nearly 1 billion people who live in low-lying coastal regions, and tipping points in the permafrost could release hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon. The report makes it clear, yet again, that we must do everything to reduce emissions as fast as possible to limit global warming to 1.5°, beyond which climate breakdown will be catastrophic.

The purpose of the UN climate action summit was to spur on greater climate ambition towards that aim, but none of the world’s large polluters met the challenge. China, India and the EU were all unable to announce tougher nationally determined contributions. Brazil and the USA refused even to turn up. Our country must step forward to fill that vacuum of political leadership on the world stage.

The UK’s commitments at the summit need close scrutiny. The new Ayrton fund that the Government have announced allocates £1 billion to help British scientists and innovators create new clean technology. That is great, but the funding has come from the aid budget. We should not siphon off overseas development assistance to spend on UK universities and firms. They should be funded by non-ODA finance, so will the Secretary of State explain why the funding diverts precious resources from mitigation in climate-vulnerable nations? If she claims that the money is classified as aid because it will help export clean technologies to the developing world, perhaps she can today commit to following Labour’s lead and pledge to provide to the citizens of the global south free or cheap access to green technologies that we develop here.

The Government’s pledge to double international climate finance, while welcome, also raises questions. Will the Secretary of State confirm that that money will be disbursed predominantly through grants rather than loans, which unfairly saddle the poorest nations with debt to pay the costs of a problem they did little to cause? Climate change is already wreaking hundreds of billions of dollars worth of damage on those communities. Will she commit to devoting any of the resources to covering loss and damage caused by climate disasters? After all, the Government perpetuate the fossil fuel economy for the poorest nations abroad, completely undermining our international climate finance. From 2013 to 2018, UK Export Finance gave £2.6 billion in export support to the energy sector, of which 96% went to fossil fuel projects, overwhelmingly in low and middle-income countries. Will she therefore commit today to ending taxpayer support for fossil fuels abroad, as so many other countries have done?

What we do abroad matters more than ever. The UK is hosting the UN climate conference, COP 26, in Glasgow next year. It is the most important climate summit since the Paris agreement. Claire Perry is president of COP 26, but COP presidents are normally Ministers in their Governments, and she has indicated her intention to stand down at the next general election. I therefore ask the Government what staffing resources the office of the COP president will be provided with; how much funding the Government intend to provide for COP 26 preparations; what regular reports the COP president will be able to give to Cabinet; and what objectives the COP president been set by the Cabinet.

Those resources must be provided because at COP 26 we will need to use our diplomatic leverage to persuade other nations to bring forward much tougher NDCs. I am deeply concerned that staffing levels are inadequate. In 2009, under the Labour Government, the Foreign Office had an army of climate staff 277-strong. Seven subsequent years of austerity halved that. When the Prime Minister was Foreign Secretary, the number of officials working full-time on climate change fell to 55. Do the Government intend to restore the workforce to levels last seen a decade ago in recognition of the diplomatic resource that is now required to support the agenda of a UK-led COP 26?

The failures of the UN climate action summit raise the stakes of COP 26 so much higher. We cannot afford for the talks, or those at COP 25 in Chile, to stumble. The issue of climate breakdown is far greater than the party-political divides that afflict this Parliament, and I urge all Members to find common ground in the pursuit of a healthy and stable climate. In that spirit, I make an offer to the Secretary of State: I and my colleagues in the Labour party are fully committed to doing everything we can in a cross-party manner to ensure that COP 26 delivers the highest possible ambition.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I thank the hon. Gentleman. He and I worked together on energy matters some years ago and I welcome his willingness to work cross party on the issue, about which I know he cares a great deal and on which he is extremely knowledgeable. I also pay tribute to Edward Miliband for his excellent efforts on the Climate Change Act 2008, from which so much of the UK’s ambition in this space derives. I encourage Barry Gardiner to work cross-party. I will be delighted to meet him and his colleagues to discuss how we can take the matter forward in a shared endeavour to tackle global climate change.

The hon. Gentleman asked some specific questions. I will try to answer them all, but if I cannot or if I miss some, I would be delighted to meet and tackle them further. He is right that the recent IPCC report provides the best available science on the wide range of impacts of climate change on the ocean and the cryosphere, and outlines potential measures for building resilience to those impacts. The Government welcome the report. We are very concerned about the impact of climate change on the oceans. Of course, as island nations, the United Kingdom, its overseas territories, our Commonwealth partners and close friends are especially dependent on a healthy and sustainably managed ocean, so we will be looking carefully at those recommendations.

The hon. Gentleman is right to ask about the tougher NDCs not being met at the climate summit, and he will be aware that those targets are supposed to be raised by February 2020. The UK is committed to doing that and we will, of course, be urging all others to raise their NDCs by next February.

On the Ayrton fund and its use for scientific work, the Government’s recently published green finance strategy committed to aligning all UK overseas development aid with the Paris agreement so that all our development finance is consistent with climate-resilient and low greenhouse gas development pathways. Such aid is, of course, essential because so much of the problem for vulnerable communities overseas is related to climate change, so those things are inextricably linked. Again, I am happy to speak to the hon. Gentleman more about that.

On grants versus loans, they will almost all be grants. Again, we can speak further about that.

On fossil fuel export finance, as the hon. Gentleman will know, the Committee on Climate Change has made it clear that, actually, achieving net zero requires a transition through lower-carbon fossil fuels, and I point again to the fact that, in just the past six years, we have gone from a 40% reliance on coal—the dirtiest fossil fuel—to only a 5% reliance today, which is quite an achievement. There is much more to be done, but we recognise there will be an ongoing need to use fossil fuels during the transition period.

On staffing resources for COP 26, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the president is a prime ministerial appointment. I will be working closely with my right hon. Friend Claire Perry, the COP president, to make sure that all the parliamentary updates will be made available on time. I will also be working closely cross-party. The UK has a huge ambition to decarbonise and to retain our global leadership in tackling global climate change.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s determination, because this is the greatest challenge we face as a country. I am sure we can maintain the excellent radical consensus achieved by Edward Miliband through the Climate Change Act 2008. This remains above party politics, and everyone in the country will expect us to do that.

On the road to COP 26, will the Secretary of State assure me that there will be roadshows and lots of opportunities for businesses and enterprises the length and breadth of the country that are coming up with solutions that will enable not only us here at home but so many developing nations around the world to meet our net-zero carbon target?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My hon. Friend is exactly right. It is important that during 2020 we spend a good amount of time promoting not only the Government’s work but the brilliant ideas of UK scientists and the efforts around the world to try to tackle global climate change.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I also thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement and welcome her to her position.

The statement focuses on the international situation, but we are in a climate emergency. Although what we do abroad matters, what we do here is even more important. In Scotland, the landmark legislation passed its final stage in the Scottish Parliament yesterday. The Scottish Government have responded and now have the toughest statutory target of any country in the world to reduce emissions by 75% by 2030.

Scotland will soon generate 100% of its power from renewable sources. Scotland will be planting 85% of the trees in the UK, and it is pushing ahead on insulation. Scotland has committed to becoming net zero by 2045, five years before the rest of the UK and in line with the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change, the recommendations of which are contingent on the UK becoming net zero by 2050.

To hit the same target, UK policies will therefore need to be ramped up significantly. The UK falls short on home and business energy efficiency and it is way behind on carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Decarbonisation of the gas grid must be accelerated, and it must flatten the pedal on vehicle and tax incentives to promote low-carbon choices. VAT must be reduced on energy-efficiency improvements.

The UK Government must remove their ideological opposition to renewable onshore wind and stop holding back solar power. The Secretary of State is new in post, so will she therefore commit to presenting a clear plan and target to address these issues?

Finally, buried among other news yesterday was the revelation that the cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, already the most expensive development on this planet, will rise by nearly £3 billion. The UK Government should not be pouring money down this bottomless pit of new nuclear when onshore wind, for example, is now less than half as expensive for consumers—

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I am grateful to Drew Hendry for his raft of points, and I will try to tackle them all.

First, I congratulate the Scottish Government on their work in also legislating to achieve net zero by 2045. Of course they, like the UK Government, are following the advice and recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, and we will need to work together to ensure that we all meet those targets.

The hon. Gentleman asks whether there will be a clear plan and pathway for net zero, and there will be. My Department is working flat out to provide particular pathways for us to consult on.

The Committee on Climate Change is clear that our clean growth and industrial strategies provide the right frameworks for delivering net zero, so we will continue to deliver through those strategies, including, for example, recent record low prices for offshore wind, the new future homes standard, the CCUS action plan, the £400 million investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and the £390 million investment in hydrogen and low-carbon technology to reduce emissions from industry.

Finally, on Hinkley Point C, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is no cost to the taxpayer.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Independent, Wantage

I welcome my right hon. Friend to her post and, through her, I thank her excellent officials for their brilliant work in replicating the Euratom treaty provisions and for her Department’s continued support for nuclear fusion, which is such an important industry in my constituency. Can she assure me that, in her no doubt long tenure in her new post, she will continue to support investment and research in nuclear fusion, where Britain helps to lead the world?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. I assure him that my Department is looking carefully at many different innovations, including nuclear fusion, which is important to his constituency

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Labour, Doncaster North

I welcome the Secretary of State to her post. She is deeply committed to this issue, and she certainly has a big task in front of her.

COP 26 is obviously an important moment not just for Britain but for the world. We will be trying to persuade Europe, India, China and others to ramp up their ambition for 2030, because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has told us that we have 10 years to turn round the path of emissions. Can I therefore suggest to her that, as well as having a net-zero target for 2050, we need to ramp up our ambition for 2030? Will she therefore ask the Committee on Climate Change to look not just at the pathway to 2030 but at what more we can do as a country so that we can persuade others to follow us?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point and, as he will no doubt expect, that is exactly the kind of area we are looking at. There obviously needs to be a pathway, as we cannot suddenly decarbonise in 2049, so we are now looking at the trajectory and at the development of different technologies, at how quickly we can deploy them and at the choices to get the best value for taxpayers’ money while setting a real example that we can demonstrate for COP 26 next year.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Air quality is very much part of climate change, and we must increase our air quality in this country. Having more electric cars and charging them at night would use and store a lot of renewable energy, so there is a great advantage in driving those technologies. We must have better quality in this country.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Of course air quality is vital, and the move to electric vehicles is important. My hon. Friend will be aware that we have a £400 million investment in charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, but it is also vital that we generate electricity from low-carbon sources to provide electricity for those electric vehicles.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

Does the Secretary of State agree that the climate emergency demands that we reform the whole financial system, to decarbonise capitalism and green the City? If so, why are the Government taking three years to implement the mandatory disclosure of climate-related financial risks, when it could be brought in within one year?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that just this weekend the Prime Minister doubled our international climate finance contribution, from £5.8 billion to £11.2 billion, for 2021 to 2025. That demonstrates our commitment to providing support for those in developing countries.[This section has been corrected on 30 September 2019, column 10MC — read correction]

Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot

The Secretary of State might be interested to know that, as well as Greta Thunberg, young people in my constituency of Newton Abbot are absolutely determined to have a voice on climate change. They attend Torquay grammar school and have uploaded to YouTube content that has gone viral, but they want to know how they can get involved. Could the Secretary of State tell my constituents what they need to do to engage with Government and get young people’s voices heard?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My hon. Friend raises such an important point. So many young people are taking part in demonstrations and want to know what they can do to help. We will hold Green GB Week early in the new year, which will be a great opportunity for schools to get involved and for young people to give their views.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I welcome the commitment to double the aid spending on international climate finance, but it has to be new money and the Government have to be consistent. It makes no sense to give with one hand but to invest in fossil fuels with the other. My hon. Friend Barry Gardiner on the Front Bench raised the issue of the 96% of export credit finance going to fossil fuel energy projects. That makes no sense at all. The Secretary of State says that we need a transition, but that locks developing countries into dependence on fossil fuels for decades to come. That is not a transition, so will she look into stopping doing that in the future?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I think the hon. Lady will be delighted to hear about the Ayrton fund, which provides £1 billion for that transition from fossil fuels—including, as I have said, kerosene lamps, coal-fired stoves and so on—to solar power for cooking, heating and lighting. This is a genuine opportunity for developing economies to transition early.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

British carbon emissions are down by 42% on 1990 levels, which is a fantastic achievement, but we are responsible for just 1% of global emissions, and emissions overall are rising. What can the international community do to ensure that polluters such as India and China, which are responsible for nearly 30% of global emissions, clean up their act?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

It is absolutely clear that this has to be a global effort. The UK, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, is responsible for a small proportion of global emissions, and those emissions continue to rise. It is incumbent on all of us to follow the instruction of the Paris climate change agreements and for the United Kingdom to provide encouragement and do everything we can to lead the way.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

May I urge the Secretary of State, who is a persuasive woman, to persuade every Member of Parliament—Lords and Commons—to read Professor Steve Jones’s compelling new book, “Here Comes the Sun”, which is about the fragility of our planet and what human beings are doing to it? Will she also wake up the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union? We as legislators should be persuading our fellow legislators around the world to move on this issue. Let us share technology with them.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I hope the hon. Gentleman is not the agent for that particular book and taking a commission on every one sold. Obviously, that would be a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, I take his point. We need to be shouting from the rooftops. There are so many brilliant young people out there doing that for us, but he is right: we all need to do all we can to tackle the issue.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

May I welcome the Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050 while creating jobs? Given today’s paper, I hope that most of them will be green jobs. What is the Government’s rationale for not agreeing with the Opposition’s target of 2030?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I regret to say that the 2030 target announced by the Labour party is simply not credible. Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said:

“We need zero emissions. Getting there by 2050 is tough and expensive but feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change. Aiming for zero emissions by 2030 is almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus.”

I urge Members to work, on a cross-party basis, on zero emissions by 2050.

Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

The Secretary of State has rightly emphasised the need urgently to decarbonise our economy. Will the Government consider looking again at the contribution that a tidal lagoon project might make to decarbonising our energy supply? Perhaps a regulated asset base model could finance the development.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The hon. Gentleman may have raised this issue four years ago—we could talk about this for a long time. A lot of consideration has been given to the potential of tidal power. It is incredibly expensive and was ruled out on those grounds. We are looking at a regulated asset base model for the financing of big energy efficient projects. We will continue to keep that under review, but of course it has to offer good value for taxpayers’ money. The path to net zero that we are setting out will enable further opportunities to consider different technologies.

Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle

I welcome the launch of the Ayrton fund and the £1 billion for the creation of new technologies. We also have a proud history of commitment to developing countries through international aid. How will the fund fit into our existing commitments?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The UK Government have committed to spending 0.7% of our national income on aid. Analysis shows that without urgent action on climate change, development progress is at risk. Tackling climate change and protecting the environment is bound up with development, so it is right that it has to be a priority for UK aid. It is also very important that the OECD criteria for official development assistance include addressing climate change, and that is what we are doing.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

The Secretary of State has mentioned the £140 million package for protecting and restoring forests around the world. That is all well and good but if we are still bound to the trade in beef and livestock feed for the Amazon, we are contributing to the problem. When is she going to say something about that?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

As the hon. Lady will know, that would be a matter for comment by the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I am sure that the opportunity to raise the issue will come up at DEFRA questions soon.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

The decision to hold the UN climate change summit 2020 in Glasgow was a great success for Anglo-Italian diplomacy. It also highlights an advantage for Scotland of being a member of the United Kingdom, with some 30,000 attendees are expected. I do not share the concern of Barry Gardiner about the £1 billion coming from our international development fund. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that one of the advantages of the money is that it can be used to help to save forests in Indonesia, and does she agree that our climate change unit should continue its good work there?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My hon. Friend is exactly right. We are all delighted that COP 26 will be held in Glasgow. We shall all be there. It will be a great opportunity to visit Scotland as part of a stronger United Kingdom post-Brexit. We all very much look forward to it. My hon. Friend is exactly right to say that the Ayrton fund offers a fantastic opportunity to contribute to low-carbon technologies for use in developing economies.

Photo of Anna McMorrin Anna McMorrin Labour, Cardiff North

May I begin by saying that it is good to see the Secretary of State in her place and to be able to question the Government on climate change, which we did not think we would have the opportunity to do? Data from Antarctica suggests the onset of irreversible ice sheet instability, which would result in sea levels rising by several metres. This was not the future my father envisaged for his children when he spent years working in Antarctica more than 40 years ago, and it is not what I want for my children either. Why are the Government so reluctant to show leadership in setting hard and fast targets, particularly on the tried and tested technologies of onshore wind and solar?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I thank the hon. Lady for her collegiate approach; I think we should attempt to continue in that vein. She will know that we have more than 10 GW of onshore wind capacity in the UK. No doubt she knows also that just a couple of weeks ago we had a successful round of contracts for difference for offshore wind, showing costs of sub-£40 per MWh, which is extraordinary; when I was an Energy Minister only a few years ago, the cost of CFDs then was about £150 per MWh. The UK is leading the world. We should be proud of that. Of course, we will continue to look at all renewable technologies.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

The Conservative Environment Network recently produced its manifesto. One of the proposals for a quick win on emissions is to increase the amount of ethanol in petrol to 10%, which would also help the British bioethanol industry, farmers and us all. Has my right hon. Friend considered that? Will she encourage the Transport Secretary to implement that measure? It would be equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I am aware of the idea my right hon. and learned Friend mentions. I am to meet the Secretary of State for Transport soon to talk about how we can speed up the decarbonisation of the transport system, and I am sure we will discuss it then.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

We have mentioned the involvement of young people. One of the demands of the Student Climate Network is to reform the curriculum to reflect the ecological crisis as an educational priority. Has she discussed, or will she discuss, the matter with the Secretary of State for Education?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I have not yet discussed that with the Secretary of State for Education, but I certainly will make a point of doing so.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

It is an easy mistake to make, Mr Speaker.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

Yes, but I was brought up in Ochil and South Perthshire, so we have a great deal in common, albeit there is a slight age difference.

One way in which the UK can truly lead the world in this generational battle against climate change is through climate science, in particular polar science. In that respect, I pay tribute to the father of Anna McMorrin, after whom the McMorrin glacier in Antarctica is named. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State join me in congratulating British scientists in universities and institutions throughout Britain, who make a vast contribution to polar and climate science, and will she, today of all days, pay tribute to the launch of SS David Attenborough from Birkenhead, and perhaps make passing tribute to the great man himself?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Yes, the RSS David Attenborough—“Boaty McBoatface”—is launching today. I am always delighted to pay tribute to David Attenborough, whose series on Earth and our oceans have brought home to so many people the urgent need for action. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend James Gray, himself a bit of an Arctic explorer who has done a great deal to highlight climate change, and we should be grateful to him for that.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse)

If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. To that end, does the right hon. Lady agree that the proposals for the west Cumbria coal mine should be cancelled, and will she speak to her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to whom I have written? Will she instead commit Government money through the northern powerhouse to create renewable industry and energy jobs in west Cumbria instead?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is as delighted as I am that we have shifted from 40% reliance on coal to only 5% today. That is quite an achievement. He makes an important point about fossil fuels. He will be aware that we are looking at carbon capture, usage and storage, and an action plan with projects to improve our use of fossil fuels and to make them lower carbon. There is a lot to be done in this area, and we will continue to look at how we can make that work.

Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. As part of the Cabinet Office team that pushed for Glasgow to host COP 26, I thank my right hon. Friend for coming through and ensuring that one of the greatest cities in our United Kingdom can showcase the fantastic commitments we are making and how we are developing world-leading technologies. We are making our name known internationally and locally, with UK Government investment in the international environment centre in Alloa and the world-leading recycling facility being built in South Perthshire. Great progress has been made in the past two years, but will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss taking the next step to bring geothermal energy and smart grids to Clackmannanshire?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My hon. Friend tempts me to make some budgetary commitments, which I cannot do right now, but I am always delighted to talk to him about his brilliant ideas for his constituency and the surrounding area.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Our Government in Scotland are consulting on public sector climate change responsibilities and reporting duties. What work will the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy be doing with UK public bodies based in Scotland, whose emissions will count against our world-leading targets?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The hon. Lady will know that there are regular and frequent discussions between officials at all levels on how to meet our carbon commitments. Those will continue and will, I dare say, be increased in the run-up to COP 26 next year, so there will be plenty of opportunities for collaboration between nations.

Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon

It has been reported that 38% of Americans believe that we face a climate crisis—slightly fewer than Americans who believe that aliens walk among us. What is the Secretary of State doing to encourage all countries to treat climate change as a priority?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

As others have done, my hon. Friend makes the important point on the need for global action. In seeking to host COP 26 in Glasgow, we demonstrate our determination to be part of the solution and to lead other nations into showing the same level of commitment.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Secretary of State told my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy that she could not answer her question because it was a matter for DEFRA, which I understand. Will she join the call from the schools and schoolchildren of Bristol to ask the Prime Minister to bring back the Department of Climate Change?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Obviously, I am delighted to be fulfilling the role of Secretary of State for energy as well as for business. I see the clear link between the amazing UK-led science and innovation and the need for commercialisation of many of the solutions that tackle climate change, so I feel comfortable with the way the Department is now managed. The hon. Lady makes an important point about the specifics of the DEFRA portfolio, but there will be an opportunity to put oral questions to that Department.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Defence Committee

Do we have a policy of using our large international aid budget as a means of incentivising other countries to improve their climate change policies?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My right hon. Friend will be aware that in our recently published green finance strategy, we committed to aligning all UK overseas development aid with the Paris agreement, so that our development finance is consistent with climate-resilient and low greenhouse gas development pathways. We urge all nations to do likewise.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

I want to follow the point made by my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband, who is right to say that we will not be a leader abroad unless we are a leader at home. We in the west midlands have been the leader of industrial revolutions for three centuries, but we need a green development corporation to build homes, we need municipal energy companies to roll out solar, and we need a regional investment bank to roll out climate finance here at home. Give us the tools and we will show the leadership.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

We have already taken a number of actions on charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, investments in hydrogen and low-carbon technology to reduce emissions from industry. We will be doing a lot more, and we will set out our plans in the next few weeks.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes

HMRC is having to change VAT rates from 5% to 20% for the installation of renewables, such as solar panels, to meet the EU VAT directive. Will the Minister commit to reversing that decision when we leave the EU?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

My hon. Friend is right. We will be able to choose our own VAT rates.

Several hon. Members:

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