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Framework for Energy and Climate Policies

Volume 587: debated on Thursday 6 November 2014

1. What recent progress has been made on the EU 2030 framework for energy and climate policies; and if he will make a statement. (905915)

9. What recent progress has been made on the EU 2030 framework for energy and climate policies; and if he will make a statement. (905925)

15. What recent progress has been made on the EU 2030 framework for energy and climate policies; and if he will make a statement. (905931)

17. What recent progress has been made on the EU 2030 framework for energy and climate policies; and if he will make a statement. (905933)

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will answer question 1 and questions 13, 19 and 21 together.

I am delighted to tell the House that European leaders recently signed an historic deal agreeing to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, and that the UK played a crucial leadership role over two years to deliver that deal. It establishes EU leadership and influence ahead of negotiations for a global climate deal next year, and it provides business with additional certainty to help unlock billions for low-carbon investment. It reforms EU energy policy to give member states more flexibility so that they can go green at the lowest cost, and it helps to improve Europe’s energy security, sending a strong signal to Russia at a moment of heightened tension. I commend the EU deal on energy and climate change to the House.

The grouping is actually with questions 9, 15 and 17. I fear that the Secretary of State has not been as well served as he might have been. People must try to keep up.

In the light of that deal, I am sure that the Secretary of State will now be anxious to make the UK’s contribution by laying down the order for the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply to 2030. Will he tell me when he intends to lay down that order and, when he has done so, what he has in mind for the decarbonisation range that will be in it?

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman asks that question because, having been an assiduous member of the Committee that considered the Energy Bill, which became the Energy Act 2013, he will know that we cannot lay down that order until the fifth carbon budget, which is due in 2015-16. He will also know that this Government have met the first carbon budget and are on track to meet the second and third carbon budgets, and that in the summer I confirmed the fourth carbon budget at the ambitious levels we have set. We are meeting our Climate Change Act 2008 obligations.

The Labour party has already set out its position on carbon capture and storage as a vital part of our future energy mix. Is the Secretary of State concerned that Europe appears to be falling behind on CCS, and does he agree that his Government need to do more to stop that happening?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for asking me about CCS. This Government are actually leading Europe on CCS; we have the only two commercial-scale CCS projects, one of which was the only such project to get funding from Europe. It was because of the UK Government’s actions that the conclusions of the recent energy and climate change deal included CCS. Like the hon. Lady, we are a strong supporter of CCS.

Given the non-binding EU targets on renewables and energy efficiency, does the Secretary of State agree that the Government now need to demonstrate how we can use that flexibility to increase the UK’s low-carbon programme, especially as it is being undermined by other Departments—for example, by stripping farmers of their common agricultural policy subsidies for solar farms and by rejecting applications for onshore wind farms? What will he do to encourage the Government to support renewables?

No Government in history have done more for renewables than this one. We have seen renewable electricity generation more than double; we have a much better record on this than the last Government. We have also seen renewable electricity investment more than double, with a huge pipeline of investment in renewables, including onshore, offshore, solar and tidal power.

More than 50 companies have called on the Secretary of State to implement a 2030 decarbonisation target, including Asda, Sky and PepsiCo. They have warned that the absence of a specific carbon intensity target is undermining investment. Does he regret the fact that he did not join the other 16 hon. Members of his own party who rebelled against the Government to vote for the target?

It is interesting that not a single Labour Member has got up to congratulate the Government on leading in Europe and securing an historic deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, which is Europeanising Britain’s Climate Change Act 2008. It is absolutely pathetic that they are not prepared to show that they support the Government on this historic deal. As Secretary of State, I introduced into the Energy Bill—now the Energy Act 2013—the power to bring in power sector decarbonisation, and we will do it. The Liberal Democrats will support that policy at the election, and I hope that Labour will too.

The Secretary of State will know that there are times when many European countries have a surplus of electricity from renewable energy but cannot do anything with it because of failures in the energy market and a lack of interconnectors. Is that not the kind of issue the entire Government—not just him, but the Prime Minister as well—should be trying to sort out in Europe, rather than banging on about referendums and European exits?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, because it dealt with one of the big issues we were working on in the negotiations for the 2030 deal. I worked well with my Spanish and Portuguese colleagues, because one of the biggest blocks on renewable electricity flowing through the single energy market in Europe is on the Iberian peninsula because of France’s unwillingness to have investment in interconnections. The European Council’s conclusions were very positive on this, and we will continue to support the case for greater interconnections, both in the Iberian peninsula and, particularly, in central and eastern Europe and the Baltics.

On reflection, will the Energy Secretary now condemn the Thatcher decision to shut not only the pits, but the clean coal technology plant in south Yorkshire? She was so determined to smash the National Union of Mineworkers that she closed that plant as well. When he thinks about it—the late ’80s—does he condemn it? Come on, stand up!

With reference to the EU 2030 framework. [Laughter.] I look to the Secretary of State now to deal with the matter pithily.

It is difficult to find any relevance in the hon. Gentleman’s question to the 2030 deal. Like him, I did not always agree with the late noble Lady, but I have to say to him that he is very backward looking in his approach to energy policy.