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Carbon Emissions

Treasury – in the House of Commons on 7th January 2020.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of funding allocated to programmes to reduce carbon emissions.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of funding allocated to programmes to reduce carbon emissions.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

The Government take our environmental responsibilities very seriously, and the Prime Minister established the new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change for that very reason. The UK is, of course, the G20 leader in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions while growing our economy. Later this year, the Government will set out further plans to reduce emissions in key sectors such as transport, energy and building while seizing the economic benefits of clean growth. We have launched a review into the transition to a net zero economy and how that will be funded, and the review will publish its findings this autumn.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

I am pleased to see two ideas in the Queen’s Speech that were recycled from previous Labour manifestos: the waiving of NHS car parking charges, and renters’ rights. Will the Government go that bit further and adopt a third idea, our completely costed green new deal? Greenpeace rated the Labour party as best for the environment, whereas the Conservative party languished in fourth. This idea would help the Government to reach their carbon emission targets, which are woefully off track at the moment.

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

The electorate obviously gave their verdict on the relative credibility of our manifesto. This Chamber, on a cross-party basis, should welcome the real consensus that the UK has done the right thing by becoming the first major western economy to commit to a net zero policy. We have allocated £1 billion for the take-up of ultra low emission vehicles, £350 million for the industrial energy transition fund, and £800 million in our manifesto for carbon capture and storage.

The hon. Lady says our ambitions in this area are inadequate, but the Committee on Climate Change report of May 2019 did not consider it credible to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050. The report called it the “highest possible ambition” supported by the science for us to target 2050 rather than an earlier date.

Photo of Helen Hayes Helen Hayes Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood

The UK Government currently offer more financial support than any other European state for fossil fuel industries. The oil giant Shell paid no corporate income tax last year due to tax rebates, despite making a £557 million profit in the UK. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable in the context of a climate emergency. Can the Minister explain how a Government who continue to subsidise fossil fuel extraction to such a degree can ever be trusted to deliver net zero?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

The most important thing to recognise is that last year was the first year on record in which renewable energy constituted more of our energy mix than fossil fuels. We also need to recognise that oil and gas support many thousands of jobs in the United Kingdom, and we must be careful not to jeopardise economic growth during the transition.

Photo of Richard Bacon Richard Bacon Conservative, South Norfolk

The best way to reduce carbon emissions is not to produce carbon when building houses. Given that the Conservative manifesto proposes to extend Help to Buy to people who wish to build their own homes, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows all about, will he meet me and the Right to Build taskforce to see how it can implement this excellent policy as quickly as possible?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

I thank my hon. Friend, who is very persistent in this area. I would be delighted to meet him to discuss following up on this issue.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

The Minister is right about the growing role that renewables are playing in our energy mix, as 2018 was the greenest year on record for our energy system. Does he agree that the UK’s track record on cutting emissions, while maintaining jobs growth and economic growth, is remarkable at a global level and should be applauded?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. It is worth noting that between 1990 and 2016 the UK reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% while growing its economy by more than two thirds. We should be proud of that record; it shows that we are on track to meet our targets.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury)

First, let me associate myself with the comments welcoming you to your place and your Chair, Mr Speaker—long may you sit there.

For what have been described as a “post-truth” Government, here are two clear and simple facts: first, COP 26 is coming to the UK and, secondly, the eyes of the world will be on this Government’s climate crisis policies—or, rather, the appalling lack of them. As Australia burns, millions in African states face climate-driven famine and floods have swept the north of England, will this Government give a damn about this existential threat and act, not posture?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

It must be said that that was a rather ungracious recognition of the Government’s work in this area. We are clear that COP 26 is the centrepiece of the Government’s work on climate this year; the Prime Minister gave a presentation to Cabinet on it today. There is no question but that, led by our former Friend on these Benches Claire Perry, we have an excellent head of the COP, and we will have maximum ambition. The UK is clear that we are committed to the Paris agreement and delivering on it in full, and by committing to net zero we have led the world in this area.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that this Government do everything they can to help energy-intensive industries to reduce their carbon footprint and do not merely regulate and tax, as some would do, because that risks exporting not only the carbon, but the jobs?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we must avoid shedding jobs as we change our energy mix. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, we got £350 million allocated to the industrial energy transformation fund. I am also a big supporter of new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which can address the challenges of decarbonising energy-intensive industries.

Photo of Edward Davey Edward Davey Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Treasury), Acting Leader, Liberal Democrats

Happy new year, Mr Speaker. May I associate myself and my colleagues with your remarks of support for the people of Australia? In that regard, may I ask the Treasury Front-Bench team whether this March’s Budget will be a Budget for the climate emergency? If it is, will Ministers look at the ideas of the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England to decarbonise finance and green the City, and come forward with the rules and regulations that will catalyse private investment to beat climate change?

Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke The Exchequer Secretary

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We are clear that this is a central priority for the Budget in March. Obviously, I am not going to disclose details of that today, but the Government have a clean growth strategy. We are clear that green finance lies at the heart of the UK’s offer to the world, and obviously that goes for both the private and public sectors; we need to bring together the whole strength of the country to make a truly radical offer.