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Extreme Weather Events

Volume 576: debated on Thursday 27 February 2014

14. What recent assessment he has made of the effects of climate change on the frequency of extreme weather events. (902737)

The science is clear: we are already seeing some effects of man-made climate change and the future threat from climate change is great, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister confirmed in the House yesterday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its fifth assessment last September, which covered the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events. It stated:

“Extreme precipitation events over most of the mid-latitude land masses and over wet tropical regions will very likely become more intense and more frequent by the end of this century”.

It also stated:

“It is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.”

With respect to recent events, the UK Met Office’s chief scientist said that

“all the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change”.

I welcome that response. It seems that extreme weather events are increasingly becoming the norm. Tomorrow, I am hosting a Green Alliance event in Eastleigh to discuss with local businesses, community groups and service providers how climate change will affect our area. Does the Secretary of State agree that such inclusive local approaches are as vital as international agreement?

I do agree with that. My hon. Friend and Eastleigh borough council are leaders in the bottom-up approach. He will know that there are two areas that we need to tackle. First, local communities and individuals must reduce their carbon emissions to stop climate change getting worse. Secondly, communities must work together to make people’s homes and communities much more resilient to the climate change that has already happened.

21. Many of us have welcomed the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement yesterday that climate change is one of the greatest threats that we face. Will the Government follow through on the logic of that position, and will the Secretary of State now rule out categorically any weakening of the fourth carbon budget? (902746)

The fourth carbon budget review is under way. I will not prejudge that, and the hon. Lady should not expect me to do so. I will say that this Government are leading the international climate change debate in Europe. The 2030 energy and climate change targets, which will be discussed at the European Council in March, are critical in tackling climate change. She will know that we have to work internationally to do that. This Government and the UK have been leading that debate.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State and his wife, Emily, on the birth of their daughter? I commend him for taking paternity leave, although I know only too well that he will never have been far from the duties of his office.

The Secretary of State has criticised his Conservative coalition partners for undermining the consensus on climate change. Given that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that people should

“just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries”

and that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon) said that he has

“not had time to get into the…climate change debate”,

will the Secretary of State tell us whether it was them that he had in mind? Are his comments not a bit rich, given that he voted against setting a decarbonisation target?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her warm comments about the birth of our daughter. May I report to the House that mother and baby are doing well? It is nice to come back to Parliament for a rest.

When I made those comments, I was not talking about my ministerial colleagues; I was talking about some voices on the Conservative Benches, particularly in the other place, who question the science of climate change, and I think that is very unhelpful. The right hon. Lady talks about a decarbonisation target, but it was this Government who brought forward legislation on a decarbonisation target. The Labour party did not have one in its manifesto and neither did the Green party. We took the policy forward and it is in the Energy Act 2013.