We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I congratulate Caroline Flint on leading the charge today. I apologise that I was not here at the start of her speech; I was here at the end, in time to hear her five recommendations, all of which I agree with. I hope the Minister considers them. I have no difficulty with them, although I do have further recommendations.
It is a shame that the debate has become a little bit political but, as it has, I make the point that in 2010 the UK was ranked 25th out of 27 EU countries for the proportion of electricity generated from renewables. That is not the case now and I am proud of that. Although I am in favour of renewables, I think we talk too much about them and not enough about decarbonisation. We must try to achieve the decarbonisation of our electricity supply, as the Climate Change Act 2008 mandates us to do.
In response to my earlier intervention, Jonathan Reynolds made the point that I was saying that we are acting unilaterally. I am not saying that. Importantly, what I am saying is that, from looking at the initial submissions to the Paris conference of intended nationally determined contributions, the EU’s consolidated submission for reduction in carbon is at a lower rate than we are achieving—and that we are mandated by law to achieve through the 2008 Act—in the UK. That should give us all food for thought: why that is and what the implications are. The implications may be positive, but people in Redcar and Motherwell might not always agree. We need to be cognisant of and responsive to that.
One of the reasons cannot be a lack of renewables in the EU. Germany has 30% renewables—perhaps more. It has a third more carbon emissions per capita than we do, because it burns so much coal. Incredibly, Austria burns 20% more carbon per head in 2015 than it did in 1990. That is extraordinary. When we cite the progress we have made in Europe, we need to be cognisant of what that means.
I did not say that we are acting unilaterally but, as we are citing European achievements, I use the example of France, which has significantly lower carbon emissions than any other country in Europe—even Scotland. I acknowledge, by the way, that the Scottish Government’s climate change targets are even more onerous than those of the whole UK. I gently say that I believe that those targets were missed last year. Nevertheless, they are in place. France is easily the lowest carbon emitter in Europe. Why? The reason is that about 70% of its electricity is produced from nuclear power. As a consequence, it has a massive start.
In the whole EU, 33% of electricity is produced from nuclear power. The UK is at about 19%, about the same as the total that we get from renewables. I am in favour of renewables and I would like to see more, but it is absolutely not feasible—not even worth thinking about—for us to meet our climate change objectives, particularly those to which we have signed up under the 2008 Act, without nuclear power being a central and dominant part of the solution. The Government have acted on that. I applaud that and I am sure that the Minister will talk more about it.
The other area on which we need to act more quickly is the removal of coal, which is why getting rid of coal and replacing it—at least as an interim measure—with gas makes a huge difference to our climate change position. We need to make more progress on that more quickly.