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Decarbonisation

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 28 November 2013

I agree that there should be a power sector decarbonisation target for 2030. That is why the Government are legislating so that a decarbonisation target range can be set in 2016, once the fifth carbon budget has been set. When that target has been set, we believe it will be the world’s first such legally binding decarbonisation target.

I am interested to hear that the Secretary of State agrees with me. We have all-party support for the Climate Change Act 2008, a recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change that the target for clean power should be set now, rather than later, and a Bill going through Parliament that could get rid of all the uncertainty. By delaying this decision until 2016, is he not simply creating greater investor uncertainty, risking green jobs and kowtowing to the Chancellor?

I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Lady, now that she has told people that she will not be standing at the next election. She has been a doughty champion of green issues in the House. However, I do not believe that this short delay of two years will have the impact that she describes. She should remember that we have the EU 2020 targets for energy efficiency, renewables and emissions; the Climate Change Act, with the carbon budgets running up to 2027; and the Energy Bill which provides the most secure framework, the levy control framework going up to 2020, and industrial strategies. This country is arguing for the most ambitious 2030 greenhouse gas emissions target of any EU member state. It is just not true that investors think that this Government are not committed to this issue.

This Government talk loudly, and at times obscenely, about the costs of decarbonisation, but they say little about the benefits, such as the potential for green jobs on Tyneside, which leads the world in clean power. If the delay is not causing the lack of investment, why has investment in clean energy fallen by billions of pounds since this Government came to power? And what is the Secretary of State going to do to bring more green jobs to Tyneside?

The hon. Lady should not talk down the sector or her own area. She ought to know, because we have debated the matter at the Dispatch Box, that £31 billion has been invested in renewable electricity since 2010. We have doubled the amount of renewable electricity generation since we came to power.

Does the Secretary of State agree that setting a decarbonisation target for 2030 would greatly assist the much needed investment in Hull by Siemens? Or does he agree with the Prime Minister that this is all just “green crap”?

The whole Government, working with colleagues like the hon. Gentleman, are doing our very best to ensure that we get that supply chain investment in the UK for our green sector. He knows that we are working with him and other hon. Members from Hull to do just that.

The Secretary of State will be aware that the UK now has among the lowest emissions per capita and per unit of GDP in Europe. For example, they are 25% lower than those of Germany, which has just embarked on a programme of building coal power stations. Is there anything more we can do to help our European partners have any kind of meaningful targets?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. We are working with all our EU partners to raise ambition in the EU. This Government have proposed that we should have an EU target of a 40% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and be prepared to go up to 50% if we can get a global deal in 2015. We are leading the way in Europe on ambition.

My right hon. Friend will have noted that progress towards the decarbonisation goal was interrupted this week by the withdrawal of the Atlantic Array offshore wind project off the north Devon coast. Is he concerned that if that were to be followed by other decisions by utility companies to withdraw from such schemes, we could lose control of those critical national infrastructure decisions? Is he content with a situation in which the big six and foreign utilities effectively have a veto over those critical investment decisions?

I do not see it quite as my hon. Friend does. We were initially disappointed when the decision on the Atlantic array was announced, but when we learned that it was for technical reasons and that the further analysis of the seabed that was needed would have increased the cost, we understood why it had been taken. My hon. Friend should be reassured, because the number of applications that we have received for final investment decision-enabling contracts for difference—the “go early” CFDs—has far exceeded our expectations. I believe that there will be some good news on offshore wind shortly.

As has been said, RWE pulled the plug on the 240 turbine, 1.2 GW wind farm in the Bristol channel this week, saying that it was not the right time to invest, although I accept that it also cited some technical reasons. That is the pattern with this Government: investment has gone down from £7.2 billion in 2009 to a point where it is expected to be £1.9 billion this year. Nearly four of the five projects coming on line since 2010 were started under Labour. Does the Secretary of State accept that his refusal to adopt a 2030 power generation decarbonisation target now is scaring away investment, damaging green jobs and jeopardising our future energy security?

That, of course, is absolutely not the case. If anything is damaging green jobs, it is the Leader of the Opposition and his irresponsible position on freezing energy prices. That has had a damaging effect on investment, and the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) knows it. We have a very good record in this area, and I am looking forward to making more announcements of more investment.