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Carbon Budgets

Volume 518: debated on Thursday 11 November 2010

3. What assessment he has made of the potential effects of the outcomes of the comprehensive spending review on the ability of the Government to meet its carbon budgets; and if he will make a statement. (23143)

According to our initial analysis, we are still very much on track to meet our first three carbon budgets. However, the details of the carbon impacts of the spending review will be subject to change until all Departments have decided how to allocate their new financial budgets.

May I congratulate the Minister on achieving a 21% increase in environmental spending right across the Government under the CSR? Will he use this resource to unlock the private sector, which will have the benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions while at the same time helping the economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That was an excellent settlement for the green agenda and we now have the resources to fund our core mission of moving towards a low-carbon economy. Ultimately, however, it will be the private sector and private capital, taking advantage of the opportunities that those resources afford, that will allow us to achieve that big transformation. All our initiatives and market reforms are aimed at crowding in private sector capital and making the private sector an exciting place to invest for entrepreneurs and investors.

Part of the private sector in my constituency, Stiebel Eltron, has come together with training provider, Scientiam, to open a new green energy training centre in Bromborough. That is the sort of action that could really help carbon budgets. Will the Minister join me in congratulating all involved?

I certainly will. It sounds like an excellent initiative, and the hon. Lady will know that despite the catastrophic deficit that we inherited, early on we made £150 million extra available for skills. She is absolutely right that skills and retraining are vital, and I would be delighted to learn more about that institution. Perhaps one day I might be able to visit.

Given that the Government’s own impact assessment of the feed-in tariffs to which the Minister referred earlier shows that the costs exceed the benefits by a factor of 20, wasting £8 billion of taxpayers’ money, how does that fit in with the comprehensive spending review? Have green policies been exempted from it and become a form of financial self-flagellation?

Not when I last checked.

I am afraid there is a fundamental difference of approach between the coalition and my right hon. colleague. [Hon. Members: “Colleague?”] My right hon. Friend. I beg his pardon. The feed-in tariffs have to be seen as a key element of our policies to drive a decentralised energy revolution. If we decentralise energy production, it will have a large number of knock-on effects. It will engage communities and householders, who will become more responsible in the energy economy and take up opportunities that are currently not available to them in an old, 20th-century style of energy provision.

To realise the carbon budgets, I make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman. He is a reasonable and intelligent man, I will give him that, and, despite the mixed messages, he understands the importance of new nuclear energy to the UK’s carbon reduction strategy. Will he go back to his Treasury colleagues and argue the case again for Sheffield Forgemasters, if only for the carbon reductions, for making the UK a world leader in nuclear build and the export of green jobs and technology, and for the sake of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg)? Just do it.

Really, is he still banging on with the first half-year’s crib sheet? I thought the hon. Gentleman had come with some fresh material.

We are absolutely committed to a thriving nuclear industry, not just for the domestic sector but for export opportunities. Participants in the industry to whom I talk are very confident about the outlook for the British nuclear industry.