Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the setting of a decarbonisation target for the UK; and for connected purposes.
It is incumbent on this House and every Member to ensure that future generations do better than the generation before. That is no truer than in the area of climate change and the significant impact it will have on communities in the UK and all over the world. We have seen in recent years a considerable rise in natural disasters caused by freak weather, none more so than the recent tragedy in the Philippines. We must not lose sight of the fact that the effects of climate change and high energy prices are felt most acutely by the poorest in our societies. That is why this House should take the opportunity to do all it can to ensure that we decarbonise our energy and make a contribution to addressing the deepening climate crisis.
In the next decade, a quarter of Britain’s power stations are set to close and £200 billion-worth of investment is required to supply the UK’s energy needs. On this Government’s watch, however, there has been a collapse in clean energy investment. The much referred to independent analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that investment in renewable energy has fallen dramatically since 2010: in 2009, investment in clean energy reached $11.06 billion; this year, investment is likely to be less than $3 billion, which is the lowest level since 2006. Some very high-profile projects have been cancelled or delayed that our energy generation and economy can ill afford to lose. Those figures should disturb any hon. Member who cares about clean and affordable energy.
In October, a group of investors responsible for more than £1 trillion of investment worldwide wrote to the Government to argue that leaving a decarbonisation target out of the Energy Bill inhibits investment decisions and negatively impacts on the UK’s ability to attract the capital needed to update its “ageing infrastructure”. Aviva, one of the UK’s largest institutional investors, has said that a target must be set before 2016—the Government have implied that that will be the date—otherwise investment will be fundamentally affected.
The Bill would set in legislation a decarbonisation target to give the energy generation sector the boost it requires by giving it the certainty to invest. That certainty is essential to the researchers and academics, spin-out companies and start-ups, in my constituency. Edinburgh South is home to the university of Edinburgh’s King’s Buildings, a base for pioneering low-carbon development that hosts industries, companies and the university’s world-leading low-carbon technology research and development centre. On regular visits to the campus, it has been made clear to me that future funding depends on a clear policy direction from this Government. I am introducing the Bill to launch my “Hit the target” campaign for decarbonisation.
The Energy Bill has almost concluded its passage through the House, with Lords amendments being considered tomorrow. There has been a robust debate about putting a decarbonisation target into that Bill, and doing so would have shown strong commitment and leadership on this important issue. The target is not, however, just about showing strong leadership in the fight against climate change, but about developing a new and dynamic green economy that puts the UK at the forefront of low-carbon technology, so developing the skills and jobs of the future and diversifying the economy to ensure that it delivers for everyone.
A clear decarbonisation target would help to stimulate green growth in the economy, tackle spiralling energy bills, improve energy security and, of course, reduce our carbon footprint. Not having my Bill might leave households even more vulnerable to completely unnecessary increases in their energy bills, and cause Britain to miss out on vital new clean energy jobs.
I am grateful to hon. Members from across the House for supporting the Bill. Given such cross-party consensus and the fact that the Government want, at least in principle, to set a decarbonisation target, I cannot see why that should not be achieved. My Bill is intended to ensure that the target is put into primary legislation. It is simply not good enough for the Secretary of State—incidentally, he used to support this stance—to be given the power to set a target at some point after 2016, and for the legislation to state that he may, and I emphasise “may”, then decide to set a target.
A decarbonisation target is supported by a wide range of experts, including hundreds of businesses, investors, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, faith groups, trade unions and, critically, energy companies, including SSE and EDF. They have clearly stated:
“A sector-specific target for 2030 would give investors a clear signal about the direction of energy policy after 2020 and encourage greater investment in UK-based supply chains.”
Critically, decarbonising power is the gateway to the decarbonisation of other sectors. We can ill afford more of the Government indecision that we have witnessed on feed-in tariffs, which almost brought the industry for solar power crashing to its knees overnight.
If we do not decarbonise the power sector, we have no hope of meeting our climate change targets. The Climate Change Act 2008, brought in by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, committed the UK to a legally binding reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. To meet the 2050 target, the influential Committee on Climate Change has since recommended that the power sector be decarbonised by 2030. In practice, that means reducing average emissions in power generation from 486g of CO2 per kWh to 50g of CO2 per kWh by 2030.
The danger of missing our carbon targets was echoed by the Prime Minister in 2010, when he endorsed the decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2030, and said:
“If we don’t decarbonise electricity we’ve got no hope of meeting all the targets that we are all committed to.”
Such a target is also good for consumers. During my weekly surgery just last Friday, a pensioner told me in no uncertain terms that this winter she faces having to decide whether to heat her home or to eat, which is surely unacceptable.
The Bill would sit alongside Labour’s 10-point plan for energy, which will fundamentally transform the energy market in the UK, freeze energy prices and make energy more affordable, while helping the industry to invest and plan for the future. One could say that this is the greenest Opposition ever.
The Bill has three key components: first, that a target will be set in 2014; secondly, that the target will be met by 2030; and, thirdly, taking advice from the Committee on Climate Change, that emissions will be reduced to between 50g CO2 per kWh and 100g CO2 per kWh. The Bill is very simple, but it clearly says that we will give investors certainty, that we care about climate change and jobs in the green economy, and that we want security of supply and cheaper and more efficient energy. Finally, my constituents want it to be implemented urgently, and the House should support the Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
That Ian Murray, Dr Julian Huppert, Mark Durkan, Dr Alan Whitehead, Diana Johnson, Ann McKechin, Caroline Lucas, Andrew George, Joan Walley, Albert Owen, Mark Lazarowicz and Sheila Gilmore present the Bill.
Ian Murray accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 28 February 2014, and to be printed (Bill 141).