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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 4:29 pm, 17th October 2019

We have heard lots about what we have not achieved, but it is worth pointing out that in the last two weeks the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has sold at auction the ability to deliver a quarter of our energy from wind power by 2025, so that is good news.

In Cornwall, and on Scilly in particular, we have the smart islands initiative. It is not new; it was in the industrial strategy. It is a commitment to understand how we can generate energy and use the electricity generated by renewable means in all our homes and everywhere else. We have had a geothermal project announced at the Eden Project this week, and we have £23.5 million to get our buses working in a greener and much more effective way in Cornwall.

I am delighted that the Environment Bill was in the Queen’s Speech. I had a debate in April calling on the Government to bring it forward, and I am glad it was there. The ambition for nature recovery is fantastic. It has the potential of improving lives and neighbourhoods in every corner of our nation. I am the species champion for the Manx shearwater. It is an example of how, when we bring people together to work together—in this case, to get rid of rats and litter, because these are ground-nesting birds—we enhance nature. Nature recovery is a really good opportunity to bring communities together in a united cause.

Adequately addressing the climate change crisis requires some joined-up thinking, so I am glad that the Prime Minister is to chair the new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change.

The Government—again, this has not been said this afternoon—have set out ambitious infrastructure investment commitments for public services and ambitious plans to decarbonise the existing the Government estate. Will the Government work in harmony between Departments to make sure that infrastructure investment and decarbonisation are done together? Across this Parliament, we work in offices that are far too hot, so we open all the windows. There is an enormous amount of work to be done in Parliament, as there is in the NHS, the Government estate, local government, fire services, schools and the police. With all infrastructure, we must make sure that as we invest in it, we decarbonise it. That will improve the Government estate, reduce carbon emissions, reduce the running costs of buildings and contribute to the skills agenda.

On the subject of skills, one way to skill up people across the country is to get on top of the situation with homes and make sure that new legislation is brought forward quickly to ensure that new homes are carbon neutral. We cannot continue to build homes that are leaky and inefficient. We must also properly retrofit our homes so that we can reduce their carbon footprint, improve people’s lives and reduce pressure on health and social care.

In my last 20 seconds, let me say that smart meters are a critical part of making sure that we use energy more efficiently. If everyone—every business and every home—had a smart meter, it is estimated that we would reduce the demand for energy by 11%. Alongside that, a piece of equipment has been designed to combust our rubbish in our own home. It is called the HERU, and it enables us never to have to take waste away from home.