Paris Climate Change Conference — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 17th December 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 3:45 pm, 17th December 2015

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on her maiden speech, short though it had to be on this occasion. I am sure that noble Lords will welcome her to our House, and welcome in particular her commitment to energy and climate change issues, as well as the hugely germane point about the relationship between climate change and mass migrations into the future. I pay tribute also to her local experience in contributing to a greener Wimbledon, and her tireless campaigning for better local health services. She is an excellent addition to our House.

I also congratulate the Government and the Minister on the role they played in the historic COP 21 agreement. Success will, however, depend on all countries implementing rigorous and, in many cases, rather heroic measures once they get back home from the euphoria and exhilaration of Paris and recover. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, rightly looked at the global issues; I want to plunge to a much more local basis and home in on what this means in one small but important and quite illustrative area, and that is energy efficiency.

Obviously, decarbonising our energy supply is hugely important, but so is reducing the demand for energy, particularly in the domestic sector. If I were the Minister, I would say that good progress has been made and that 70% of homes with lofts are now insulated and that 73% of homes with cavity walls no longer have their cavities. But these figures alone mean that 30% of lofts are not insulated and that cavity walls are not protected to effective standards of energy efficiency. In houses with solid walls, only 4% have effective insulation. In that small area of domestic energy efficiency, still a lot has to be done.

However, in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor axed the energy company obligation. The Green Deal has virtually gone. They were both key measures in retrofitting carbon reduction into the nation’s housing stock. We are told that there is to be a new scheme in 2017, which is quite a long way away. Again, the Chancellor has almost halved its budget from the previous schemes. The Secretary of State has reasserted government plans to deliver 1 million efficiency upgrades during this Parliament, but how will that be done? In itself, that is a 78% reduction in the number of homes which received support for energy efficiency during the previous Parliament.

The same is true for new builds. Time prevents me from going into detail but, again, apparently driven this time by pursuit of the holy grail of deregulation, we have lost the sustainable buildings code and the zero-carbon homes policy. Will the Minister tell us how energy efficiency will be secured in the domestic setting in new and existing housing? For me, that would be not only a practical act but also a totemic signal from the Government to show that they are in earnest about the implementation of the Paris agreement and particularly to show that the Chancellor is in earnest about its implementation.