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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:41 am on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 10:41 am, 8th October 2019

I congratulate Sarah Newton on obtaining today’s debate. It is truly important, but should not have been obtained by a Back-Bencher. It should have been scheduled in Government time, on one day, as I called for a few months ago when we passed the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, amending the Climate Change Act 2008 to move to net zero. That was a 90-minute debate on an amendment, and this is our next debate on the matter.

In the words of my hon. Friend Luke Pollard, it is not good enough. We need urgently to debate this matter properly. An indication of why that is so important is the tremendous turnout of hon. Members today, and the informed and thoughtful contributions from around the Chamber that hon. Members have had to gabble through on a two-minute time limit because there is no opportunity to debate the topic properly, on the Floor of the House, in Government time. The first thing I ask the Minister is whether he is willing to ensure that a debate is obtained at the earliest possible opportunity, to discuss this important series of events properly and do it justice on the Floor of the House.

We might ask ourselves why it is that a debate has not been scheduled. Is it that:

“Overall, actions to date have fallen short of what is needed for the previous targets and well short of those required for the net-zero target”?

Maybe that is why this issue does not seem fit for a debate. Is it because:

“The Government’s own projections demonstrate that its policies and plans are insufficient to meet the fourth or fifth carbon budgets…This policy gap has widened in the last year as an increase in the projection of future emissions outweighed the impact of new policies”?

Is it because the Government:

“has been too slow in developing plans for carbon capture and storage”?

Is it because:

“The ‘Road to Zero’
ambition for a phase-out of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is too late”?

Is it because:

“Policies are not in place to deliver the Government's ambitions on energy efficiency”?

None of those words are mine; they are all the words of the Committee on Climate Change’s 2019 report to Parliament, which set out a coruscating catalogue of things that should have happened and have not as far as policy development is concerned. That underlines a theme that has been part of our debate this morning. It is not that nothing has been done since 2008, when the Climate Change Act was passed; it is just that nothing much has been done, and that ambitions for doing things next fall woefully short of what is needed, given the climate change emergency that we have declared and that we know is underlined by the people now demonstrating outside Parliament.

It is not that nothing has been done on climate change in particular areas, but, as the Committee on Climate Change itself indicates, the only area where any significant progress in reducing carbon emissions has happened since 2008 is in the power sector—not even the energy sector as a whole, because nothing much has happened on heat. The power sector has been responsible for 75% of emission reductions overall since 2008. Every single other sector has been level or increasing—in transport, housing and industrial sectors, emissions are level or going up. Those are areas where we can go further than saying that nothing much has happened: nothing has happened in those areas over the period.

It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that those things happen, and they are woefully failing to set policies that can really shift those numbers on climate change, given the 12 years that were set out by the IPCC as the time available to achieve measures that move us toward the zero-carbon economy. We have set ourselves that target, but we have no policies in place to achieve it. We have 12 years to get those policies, not only on paper, but in place in reality on the ground.