Paris Climate Change Conference — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:11 pm on 17th December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 4:11 pm, 17th December 2015

My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for her skill in securing this timely debate and her felicitous choice of time-slot, which allows us to deal with not only the outturn from COP 21 but what the Government will do to try to resolve that. I also thought her speech was extremely interesting, wide ranging and far seeing. She highlighted a point that a number of noble Lords picked up on—without really noticing, we have moved from regarding green issues as very much a techy subject to something we must all take on board and deal with. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on an excellent maiden speech. We will all look forward to more contributions on climate change and refugee issues if she is able to speak as she did today.

The title of the debate is indeed about progress on COP 21, but today we have talked mainly about what the Government will do to meet Britain’s climate change commitment. As my noble friend Lord Judd said, we are looking for consistency—in the aspirations achieved in Paris, and in the political reality on the ground. That has been picked up outside. Business leaders, academics and environmental campaigners all believe that recent U-turns on wind, solar and other clean technologies have fatally undermined the UK’s ability to meet the new CO2 targets. Many noble Lords have pointed out that, since the 2015 general election, the Government have cut, delayed and scrapped the Green Deal home improvement fund and the zero-carbon homes policy. They have cut solar and onshore wind subsidies and undermined progress on carbon capture and storage.

It will be obvious to anyone who knows the structure of our Front Bench that this is not my area; I should have started by apologising for the fact that I am neither my noble friend Lord Grantchester, who had commitments up in Liverpool and had to go back, nor my noble friend Lady Jones; I am sure that the whole House will join in sending condolences to her on her recent loss. However, as an outsider watching the politics of this, it is obvious from the debates around COP 21 and the good points made today by a range of speakers across the House that there seems to be a green moment. By that, I mean a short period in which the political calendar will allow a determined Government to sweep through some very far-reaching, game-changing proposals. Does the Minister recognise that, with a good Paris behind him, momentum on his side and support all round Parliament and beyond, there is an open goal? Do his Government have the policies to take advantage of this green moment? Perhaps more importantly, do they have the courage?