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Carbon Emissions

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 24 November 2011

3. What recent discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the introduction of mandatory reporting of carbon emissions by businesses. (82271)

I have had recent discussions with ministerial colleagues on the issue and I know that there is a lot of interest in it. There is an appetite in Government for it but, as the House will be aware, any policy has to undergo an impact assessment, which we are in the process of clearing.

There are only four months until the Government are obliged either to introduce carbon reporting or to explain why they have not. When the Members who previously sat on the Opposition Front Bench supported the proposal, they said that it would help economic growth. Why, in the present economic crisis, is it not being pursued more vigorously?

Two things have emerged. We had more than 2,000 replies to the consultation, which showed that carbon is reported in very different ways. One challenge is to find a way in which it can be reported meaningfully so that investors know which company to invest in, because they understand the information they receive. Secondly, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is consulting on the content of company accounts—narrative reporting, as it is known. We need to synchronise the issue because carbon reporting would be in a set of company accounts. I perfectly understand the requirements of the Climate Change Act 2008 in that regard.

Climate change is the biggest market failure the world has seen and the Secretary of State’s decision on whether to introduce carbon reporting to correct the failure is imminent. That decision is a once-in-a-Parliament opportunity to create green growth and drive the development of low-carbon products and services across UK plc. With youth unemployment at record levels and mandatory reporting supported by Britain’s largest employers, how many jobs does she estimate would be created in the UK’s green economy if it was introduced?

The hon. Lady shares entirely with me an appreciation of how important it is that we make progress in that area. She will have seen how the coalition Government have committed to challenging targets in order to change our economy to a low-carbon basis. In the spirit of being on the same page on this matter, I can say that I am keen to do what I can to transition the economy in that regard. On this specific question, however, I hope that the hon. Lady will appreciate that, as I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore), we need to synchronise carbon reporting in a way that investors can understand. At the moment, there are different requirements on companies to report in different ways. We need a meaningful measure of carbon reporting in the spirit of achieving that low-carbon economy.

The Secretary of State signally failed to answer my question. There is no estimate in the impact assessment of the number of jobs that the new products and services would create. When the global recession struck in 2008, Labour’s future jobs fund created green jobs for young people in wildlife trusts, country parks and green charities across the country, but they are now on the dole. Carbon reporting will help us to move to the low-carbon economy. When did she last sit down with the Chancellor, one to one, to discuss the autumn statement that he will make on Tuesday and how DEFRA will play its part in creating the conditions for green jobs and growth to tackle the crisis?

I do not think it is my job to share in advance with the hon. Lady the content of the autumn Budget statement. As I just said, I share with her the clear vision about opportunities to create jobs if our economy is transitioned into a low-carbon economy. If her party felt so passionately about that, why did it not proceed with what she now claims we should be doing during its 13 years in office?