UK Net Zero Emissions Target - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:51 pm on 12th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:51 pm, 12th June 2019

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the other place, which we welcome. I am pleased to hear the Government confirm they will be adopting Labour’s policy, announced at our 2018 conference, to target net zero emissions before 2050. I look forward to examining the statutory instrument that legislates for this target, and hope that time is found as soon as is reasonably possible to give it appropriate debate. Can the Minister confirm when it might be timetabled?

This has become a generational issue. Parliament and Government must recognise the growing challenge of climate change. Meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2050 is the only way to avoid a climate catastrophe and the horrors that could be realised if the world does not come together to prevent a 1.5 degree temperature rise. Net zero emissions by 2050 must not be left as an ambitious aim; it must become a real achievement. The Government are not even on track to meet their existing climate targets, so they have a long way to go to engender confidence. We need only look to the comments made by the Committee on Climate Change and official BEIS statistics to see that the UK is far from meeting its fourth and fifth carbon budgets at present. The Government must show immediately that there is a genuine commitment to this new goal.

Will the Minister outline in detail the immediate steps the Government will take to ensure that the public can be confident that these targets will be met? The UK most emphatically needs a green industrial revolution to answer key questions and target causes of emissions today.

First, what policies does the UK need to clean up our gas supply? We need to develop carbon capture and storage and enable industry to use clean sources. Fracking is not an answer to today’s challenge. Secondly, the Government must dismantle the blockages to onshore wind. They need to make sure that the cheapest form of renewable energy is able to contribute, and support new, innovative projects, low emissions and renewables, as the House discussed last week in relation to tidal power. Instead of closing down options, such as feed-in tariff schemes, the Government must enable commercial solar development to flourish.

Thirdly, what is the Government’s policy on nuclear energy? What is the appropriate response on size of schemes between the Hinkley Point development and small modular reactors? We need urgent answers. Fourthly, what are the immediate plans of action for transport? Last month’s electric vehicle registration figures show that new registrations are down almost 5% on last year and the use of buses is in freefall. Is the Department for Transport signed up to this target? Does the department realise that it needs to develop new policies? Can the Minister confirm what steps the Government will now take to increase the uptake of environmentally friendly forms of transport? How will they ensure that clean transport becomes affordable to working families so that they can feel engaged and contributing, not remaining chained to expensive polluting fuels?

There are many issues right across government. Another example of where clarity is needed is on zero emission homes. Home insulation measures have fallen by 98% since 2010. The UK needs to deal with immediate problems, and any policies put forward on offsetting emissions must be developed not to export or bypass our problems but as a route to going further and faster. The UK must look even further into the future towards paying back its carbon debt.

The threat facing the world from climate change is the greatest in human history, and responsibility for addressing it crosses all departments. While I welcome the Government’s Statement and the target of zero net emissions by 2050, it must be realised that every government department should report back to Parliament on how they are contributing to reaching our climate targets.