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 Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:51 pm, 12th June 2019

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their—I suppose I ought to say “relatively”—positive welcome for this Statement. I think I heard a slightly more positive welcome from their colleagues in another place when I listened to my right honourable friend make the Statement I am merely repeating. Anyway, I got some sort of welcome.

I will deal with some of the points made on the negative side of their so-called welcome—first, the allegation yet again that we are failing to meet the existing targets. We have met the first two carbon budgets, are on track to meet the third and are over 90% of the way to meeting the fourth and fifth. Many of the policies and proposals in the Clean Growth Strategy published a little under two years ago are taken into account. Obviously, there is more to be done, but we are making progress, doing what we can and will continue to do what we can. As advised by the climate change committee, we now want to set stricter and more testing targets as necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked what steps we are taking. He knows about the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy. I hope he is awaiting the energy White Paper that will come out later in the summer, and we will probably have a chance to discuss this matter in greater detail when we get the statutory instrument. He asked when that will come before the House, and at this point I have to say that that is beyond my control. I am awaiting advice from the usual channels and will be ready and available to debate that with all noble Lords as and when it is ready.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, then posed a number of specific questions about various forms of renewable energy, such as why we could not do more onshore. I point him to the success of offshore wind: we have seen a dramatic decrease in the costs of offshore energy, are now the world leaders in offshore wind energy and are making great strides forward. He asked what we are doing about nuclear. As I have made clear in a number of recent debates in this House, we are still committed to nuclear, which can provide carbon-free energy and the baseload we need at this stage. We will continue to pursue the possibilities of nuclear, but not at any cost—as my right honourable friend made clear when he made the announcements about Moorside and Wylfa. Again, we will continue to look at possibilities for expansion regarding small modular reactors, advanced modular reactors and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, then asked about transport. I can assure him that the Department for Transport is signed up, and we will continue to pursue the policy of phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2040. I do not think it is right and proper that we should bring that forward. To answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the automotive industry deals in quite long periods of time. To disrupt it in such a way, as it is beginning the process of moving to electric vehicles, would not be good for that industry. We have seen the problems that Bridgend is facing; a Statement on that was made only two days ago. To bring forward that sort of disruption before the industry was ready would not be right or responsible.

Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness asked about buildings, homes and so on. Again, I point to recent debates we have had on statutory instruments bringing in new obligations on landlords to ensure that their homes are suitably insulated. We have announced the future homes standards, with new-build homes being future-proofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency by 2025, along with the energy efficiency regulations I referred to.

The noble Baroness also asked about Swansea tidal; again, I do not want to repeat everything I have said about that. We have debated that matter, and we debated the general aspects of tidal lagoons only last week. Yes, it is possible, if it can be done at an affordable price, but there is no point building a lagoon that is going to cost probably two or three times as much as nuclear power when one also has to take into account the carbon footprint of building things such as Swansea tidal. In effect, concrete and other matter is simply poured into the ground. Concrete, as we know, also has a fairly big carbon footprint, so do not think that tidal is going to be the be-all and end-all. It might be, and we will continue to offer help and research in that area, but it is not necessarily the answer to everything.

The noble Baroness also asked about fracking. It is right that we should continue to pursue a policy of looking at shale gas extraction. Gas is obviously going to continue to be a major part of our energy mix for some time. Shale gas extraction has a role to play as a transition fuel, and I hope all noble Lords will bear in mind that it offers us the possibility of greater energy security as we see quantities of gas in the North Sea decline. Is it not far better that we use our own gas, rather than import it from countries of a rather dubious sort in other parts of the world? I would have thought that the answer is yes, and we will continue to pursue the possibilities of shale gas extraction as we can.

Lastly, the noble Baroness asked how we are going to encourage others. My right honourable friend made it clear in the Statement that we are very keen to host COP26 next year. He also mentioned the praise we have received from the International Energy Agency for what we have achieved so far. We are the leading G7 country in this field and we can provide a good example not only for this country but for the rest of the world, and we will continue to do so.