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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 10:23 pm, 8th October 2019

Someone once said:

“It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways”,


“It is no good squabbling over who is responsible or who should pay…we shall only succeed in dealing with the problems through a vast international, co-operative effort.”

In her address to the United Nations in 1989, as on so many things, Margaret Thatcher was right and was demonstrating far-sighted global leadership. That is what Governments of both parties in this country have done. The Climate Change Act 2008 was passed with all-party support in this House; it set the original target to reduce our emissions by 80%—at the time, an ambitious target. It was with cross-party support in this House that we set a more ambitious target to hit net zero by 2050. That cross-party effort is helpful because it gives business and consumers the confidence to invest and plan ahead, knowing that the policies will continue regardless of who is in government.

It is worth reiterating that we have made considerable progress—but not because we want to pat ourselves on the back, as Geraint Davies suggests. It is worth reiterating it for two reasons. The first is to demonstrate to people that the issue is one that legislators take seriously and have acted on. Britain has one of the most impressive records globally, and we have demonstrated the global leadership that my hon. Friends the Members for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) and for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) spoke of. That enables us to keep up global pressure on countries that emit far more carbon than we do, which will be critical in hitting the target. The other reason is to demonstrate to the younger generation that people in this place take the matter seriously. We can debate—I am happy to—how much we are doing and how fast we are going, but anyone who says nothing has happened in the past 30 years is being dishonest and disingenuous. It is simply not true. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but that is exactly what I heard a number of Extinction Rebellion demonstrators say when they were interviewed on “Sophy Ridge on Sunday” on Sky. They said over and over that nothing had happened in the last 30 years, which is simply not true. I do not think that it helps the debate if people perpetuate untruths.

It is worth mentioning some of the considerable achievements that the Committee on Climate Change set out in its report, including massive reductions in emissions from power, waste and buildings. We have made considerable progress. However, I am the first to acknowledge that there are considerable challenges, and the Committee on Climate Change sets out areas where we need to make ambitious changes, such as in transport and housing—issues that Opposition Members raised.

There is a challenge for the Government, now that we have legislated for the target. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham brought in a ten-minute rule Bill, the Climate Change (Net Zero UK Carbon Account) Bill, before the Government moved in that direction, and he should be commended for that. The challenge is to respond now with detailed policy work, because it is through such work that we will get the achievements. If we are to deliver the changes while improving the population’s living standards, the challenge is to deliver the technology and innovation to reduce carbon emissions while raising living standards for all our people.