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Carbon Emissions (Economic Situation)

Volume 533: debated on Thursday 20 October 2011

The Department published updated energy and emissions projections last week. They took due account of the latest published economic outlook by the Office for Budget Responsibility, and of Office for National Statistics figures covering gross domestic product and output for the first six months of 2011. Both current and projected carbon emissions are now lower than in our previous projections. However, our assessment is that only a small part of those revisions is due to lower economic growth, with most being a result of higher projections for fossil fuel prices and other changes.

I thank the excellent Secretary of State for that full answer, but are we not seeing that the economic climate has produced a carbon reduction that the Government could never have hoped for? Is it the Government’s policy to increase the economic downturn to save more carbon?

It is absolutely not the policy of this Government—nor, I am sure, was it the policy of the last Government or any other British Government—to have a downturn in order to improve carbon emissions. It is certainly the case that if there is a downturn, it goes hand in hand with a reduction in carbon emissions, but our efforts are directed entirely at ensuring that we can have greater energy efficiency, so that we can increase our output with a lower intensity of energy use. In fact, that has been a long-standing trend in the UK economy. We have had a very substantial increase in GDP, even though we have managed to hold our energy use completely stable. That gives us considerable hope that we can continue to do so.

Order. We now need to increase our efficiency and have somewhat lower intensity in the answering of questions from the Treasury Bench. May I say very gently to the Secretary of State that the “War and Peace” versions of answers should be preserved for fireside chats in the long winter evenings that lie ahead?

Plans for carbon capture and storage have descended into a farce. The length of the pipeline from Longannet to the empty reservoirs in the North sea, which is the excuse for not continuing, has not changed. Is it not the Government’s economic commitment to CCS, and to the pioneering project at Longannet, that has changed?

No, I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on that. Once we had gone through the front-end engineering design studies, the specifics of the Longannet project were clear, including on the costs of transferring carbon into the reservoirs. Those costs were high; as a result, we could not do carbon capture and storage at Longannet, compared with where we believe we can do it elsewhere.