The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 17 October 2019.

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Photo of Grant Shapps Grant Shapps The Secretary of State for Transport 4:53, 17 October 2019

This has been a very good debate. While it was kicked off by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it has also dealt with many of the transport issues that concern me daily. However, we could have been forgiven for thinking that we were living in a parallel universe, having listened to the concerns expressed by some Members in what I thought should have been a much more consensual debate. After all, the House voted very strongly for net-zero emissions by 2050.

Members suggest that nothing has happened, but this is the only major country—the only major economy—that has legislated for net-zero emissions. Last year, this country generated more than half its electricity from low and zero-carbon means. Since we came to power in 2010, 99% of all the solar power available in this country has been installed. We have already ruled that there will be an end to petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, and I am sure that many Opposition Members are already driving electric vehicles. Some of my hon. Friends have also expressed concern about that date. I am, as an electric car driver, investigating bringing that date forward, but we have to be considerate of the jobs in the supply chain in which there is already investment for the next period of production. As a responsible Government, unlike Members who just want to barrack over the Dispatch Box, we realise we have to balance these things in order to make them happen. I encourage everyone across the House to get an electric car. Range anxiety has now been tackled because there are now more charging locations than petrol stations in this country.

Nitrous oxides have fallen by over a quarter since 2010. We have reduced the use of single-use plastic bags by 90% since we took action on them. This year, for the first time ever in this country, we had over two weeks in which we burnt no coal to generate our energy. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we will be phasing out those coal stations altogether by 2025. We are the country with the most offshore wind farms in the world. Opposition Members repeatedly talked about the Queen’s Speech containing only six words about the environment, but they seem to have forgotten that there is an entire Environment Bill, which will contain thousands of words and be the subject of hours of debate, quite rightly, as it is the first Environment Bill before the House for 30 years.

I want to cover some of the comments raised, many of which were very good. Angela Smith asked about the Office for Environmental Protection. Its role will be to provide scrutiny and advice, and to offer an up-to-date system for complaints. It will be the delivery mechanism for environmental law and will also enforce delivery.