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Green Policies

Volume 571: debated on Thursday 28 November 2013

8. What recent assessment he has made of the Government’s progress on implementing green policies. (901305)

There has been huge progress in this area. In the Energy Bill, we are building the world’s first ever low-carbon electricity market and have already seen renewable electricity generation double. To date, the UK Green Investment Bank has committed £740 million of public money to projects in a range of green sectors, including waste, offshore wind and energy efficiency, helping to mobilise an additional £1.9 billion of finance from the private sector. From the largest investment in the railways since Victorian times to our leadership on climate change in Europe and the world, our record in this area is a vast improvement on the past.

According to EUROSTAT, we were one of only four countries in the EU 27 whose carbon emissions went up in 2012. They went up by 3.9%. That cannot be right, can it, if this is the greenest Government ever? Is the Secretary of State’s new slogan, “Vote yellow, go blue”?

If the hon. Gentleman looks at our work over this Parliament, he will see that we have been reducing carbon emissions. It is true that last year there was a small increase, because we have been burning more coal than anyone expected. As a result of shale gas, the United States has been exporting its coal. That is why this Government are working so hard to reform the EU emissions trading scheme, to make sure that we send signals so that the same amount of coal is not burned in future.

In order to be able to both maintain the hundreds of thousands of green jobs in this country and to secure hundreds of thousands more, the Government need to reassure the renewables sector and major investors through consistent messaging and certainty. Is my right hon. Friend able to reassure me that such messaging is certain and secure not only in his Department, but across all levels of other Government Departments, including the Prime Minister?

It is interesting that when the Energy Bill received its Third Reading in this House, only eight Members voted against it. All the Front Benchers of all parties bar one—and that party has only one Member—voted for the Bill. I think that sent a sign, not just from the Government, but from this whole House and across the British political system that this country supports investment in renewables.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) talked earlier about good value for green money, but the green deal has been a complete failure. What is the Secretary of State’s assessment of the enormous amount of money spent on this complex, bureaucratic project that has delivered no results?

A scheme that has already led to 100,000 assessments and a huge number of very good satisfaction ratings from people acting on those surveys is a success. When the Labour party talks down the green deal, let us remember what it is doing: it is talking down reductions in carbon emissions and action on fuel poverty. It should be ashamed.

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of this Government’s many achievements has been to create an economic framework for innovative firms to start developing new ways in technology to improve our green performance so that our green economy is alive and well, generating jobs and producing good results on CO2 reduction?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not just my Department that has been involved in investing in research and development and technological innovation, vital though that is in our area. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills has ensured investment in ultra-low emission vehicles. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is investing in the railways in a way that has not happened since the Victorians. We have a very proud record of investment, both in infrastructure and in innovation and technical development.

RenewableUK published a report today on offshore wind. It recognises what the Government have done, but it also warns:

“Industry is facing a hiatus in confidence that the large scale economic rewards associated with sustained high delivery levels will be achieved.”

We have heard warnings about the Atlantic array and there are signs elsewhere that offshore wind might not get the increase in deployment that was hoped for and expected. May I ask the Secretary of State not to be complacent about the issue and recognise the real problem faced by the industry?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am certainly not complacent, but I am aware of major investments that we believe will go forward, and that will reassure the industry and the supply chain. We already have the world’s largest deployment of offshore wind, and we are already recognised by Ernst and Young as the top place in the world in which to invest in offshore wind. With the Energy Bill going through the House with cross-party support, that gives a real signal to investors in offshore wind.