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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:35 am on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 10:35 am, 8th October 2019

I congratulate Sarah Newton. She said that everyone in this room is committed to net zero; she is correct about that. She also said that things must go further and faster, and that we must see a strategy and concrete policies from the UK Government. I agree with her on the need for targets, tests and scrutiny, as well as on her points about retrofitting energy efficiency. However, I will be a critical friend during the short time I have to speak and point out areas where things could be done much better by the UK Government.

Spending per head on energy efficiency in Scotland is four times that in England. If it were more, we could do even more in Scotland. The UK Government are falling short on home and business energy efficiency, and they are way behind on carbon capture, utilisation and storage. They need to get on with decarbonisation of the gas grid, which must be accelerated to enable low carbon heating for homes and businesses. They must flatten the pedal on vehicle and tax incentives to promote low carbon choices. VAT must be reduced on energy efficiency improvements. This Government must drop their ideological opposition to renewable onshore wind and stop holding solar power back.

Luke Pollard said that more of the same will not do. The budget needs to cut through to every aspect of climate change, and big, bold investments are required. James Richardson from the National Infrastructure Commission said:

“You need to really push ahead with renewables in the 2020s.”

Chris Stark from the Committee on Climate Change said that the choice is between nuclear and CCS; I firmly believe that CCUS is the way forward. Evidence abounds that poor air quality affects productivity. The National Infrastructure Commission has said that the money we need to spend on air quality should not be seen as a cost, but as a benefit to us.

I agree with what Stephen Kerr said about young people. I will focus on what he said about CCUS. He is correct that we on the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy were unanimous in expressing huge disappointment about the UK Government’s response to CCUS. Scotland has enormous potential in this area. Storage and readiness at St Fergus has the infrastructure, expertise and transferable skills to move with a fast first-mover advantage. It has capacity to store at least 5.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, that is 150 times the emissions from Scotland in 2016. That is a massive storage capacity. The UK Government need to get on with doing that. Existing oil and gas infrastructure must be plugged and transferred, or it will be lost.

My hon. Friend Gavin Newlands talked about the UK’s obsession with nuclear power. He outlined the many actions of the Scottish Government and talked about the cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament. He said clearly that we could do more if we had the powers to do so. The UK Government need to step up and allow us to go even further and faster with what we need to do.

The cost of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, already the most expensive single development on the planet, is set to rise by nearly £3 billion. The Government should not be pouring money down the bottomless pit of new nuclear when offshore wind, for example, is much less than half the price for consumers and does not blight the planet with further nuclear legacies. It is important that this Government strip out their nuclear obsession.

Emma Hardy talked about the fantastic opportunity for butterflies and, more important, for trees. Forestry is a critical area where this Government need to up their game dramatically. In 2019, the new Scottish Government forestry strategy and tree planting scheme across Scotland took enormous strides. The industry employs 25,000 people and the trees planted in Scotland make up 84% of all trees planted across the UK. Some 22 million trees were planted in Scotland, while England fell 7 million short of its target. The Government need to get that fixed.