I congratulate Andrew George on securing this debate.
When we were served on the Joint Committee on the draft Climate Change Bill, we heard from manufacturers how much they wanted certainty. They said, “Well, whatever you decide, whatever you do, certainty is what we want. We want to have that message. We want to know exactly what we are doing.”
The decarbonisation of the power sector is vital, not only in its own right but as a contribution to decarbonisation in other sectors, such as transport, industry and buildings. If we delay setting decarbonisation targets, that will lead to an increased reliance on gas. We can all understand why we had North sea gas and why we then imported gas to take over from North sea gas, but can anybody understand why a country would wish to rely so much on imported gas now? First, importing gas contributes to greenhouse gases and the speeding-up of climate change, but secondly, following the oil crisis in the ’70s, surely we must understand the volatility of oil prices and, linked to them, gas prices. In addition, there is increased world demand and the volatility of some nations that supply gas to us. Furthermore, the versatility of gas means that when we do have it there are things that we should be using it for, such as piping it directly to industry or homes.
As for shale gas, it is highly controversial in a densely populated country such as our own, and costs will certainly escalate before it can be extracted, not to mention the carbon footprint that its extraction will leave behind. However, tacitly encouraging—