Government Plan for Net Zero Emissions — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:05 am on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 10:05 am, 8th October 2019

Let me begin by paying tribute to my constituents, who are highly engaged on this topic. The young people in the high schools in Stirling are especially on the ball, and they are taking a lead that I am glad to be able to follow.

We owe it to the British people to talk plainly about the implications of Parliament’s commitment to get to net zero by 2050. My right hon. Friend Mr Harper is right that that will not be easy to achieve. We need to spell out the options clearly, in a grown-up way—a way that I think our young grasp. If I have learned anything about the House since arriving here, it is that if we unite and work across parties on this issue, we can get the job done.

We have an obligation to the present, but we have a bigger obligation to the generations that follow. We have both a special responsibility and an opportunity. As has already been laid out, we have a responsibility because our country led the world into the first industrial revolution, but we have an opportunity to lead the world again in the development of new clean growth technologies and industries. There is a first-mover advantage to be had, and I urge the Government to be bold and take a lead.

In the interests of time, I will talk about one area in which the Government can take a lead and send a signal to private investors, who will then calibrate their calculation of risk and move into the sector. That area is carbon capture, usage and storage. I have the privilege of serving on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. We published a report on CCUS, the first recommendation of which was that the Government should

“view CCUS primarily as a tool for decarbonisation, rather than as an extra cost on power generation. Deployment should be prioritised because CCUS presents an opportunity to reduce the overall cost of meeting the UK’s emissions reduction targets.”

The report went on:

“Our view is that the Government should be both ambitious and clear. We recommend the Government sets a specific target to store 10 million tonnes of carbon by 2030, and 20 million by 2035, to keep the UK on track to meet its 2050 climate change targets, as recommended by the CCC.”

However, once the Committee had received the Government’s response to its report, the Chair felt the need to write, with our support, to the Minister, stating that we were

“disappointed by the response’s content: it barely engages with the arguments made in our report, but instead appears largely to repeat previous policy statements.”

The Chair continued:

“Please could you explain why you have not committed to supporting CCUS where and whilst it remains the cheapest route to decarbonisation.”

May I use this opportunity to ask the Minister for his response to the Select Committee’s positive encouragement to make a positive decision on that very important element of our work towards 2050 and the decarbonisation of our economy?