Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Sheehan Baroness Sheehan Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 2:00 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, for this opportunity to look to the future, while reflecting on the ease with which economies built on measuring GDP with zero regard for the well-being of people or the planet have been shown to have zero resilience to a pandemic that was foretold but not acted on.

The world faces warnings from scientists of an even greater cataclysmic event, that of climate chaos, and this time we must act. A report in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy last month showed that a massive green economic stimulus post Covid-19 will lead to stronger, faster growth while reducing emissions and protecting jobs. However, Governments must send the right signals to industrialists and investors, not mixed messages.

That brings me to my Private Member’s Bill, the Petroleum (Amendment) Bill. Quite simply, it seeks to address the legislative anomaly that currently exists. The Petroleum Act 1998 as amended by the Infrastructure Act 2015 confers a duty on the Government, through the Oil and Gas Authority, to maximise revenues from petroleum. The so-called MER strategy means pumping up fossil fuels as fast as possible. At the same time, the Climate Change Act and the Paris agreement commit the Government to a target of net zero emissions.

It is time to eliminate that policy incoherence. However, the OGA consultation on MER currently under way focuses on perpetuating a declining industry, fails to appreciate the urgency of the change needed and does not recognise the need to protect jobs. This is not leading us to a brighter future; it is looking backwards to a time pre Covid-19.