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Low-carbon Economy

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 8 January 2015

The Government have taken strong action to create a low-carbon economy, including setting up the Green Investment Bank and a catapult centre dedicated to new renewables, and electricity market reform. Through the Department’s industrial strategy, we are working with industry to increase green jobs via sector-specific strategies for the offshore wind and nuclear industries.

Although I welcome the Government’s commitment to green energy and a low-carbon economy, surely there must be a better way of achieving that than hydraulically fracturing for fossil fuel such as shale gas, which causes huge environmental disbenefits.

I am aware of the hon. Lady’s concern about the areas of outstanding natural beauty in Yorkshire, which she represents. There is indeed an expression of interest, but there are very strong environmental and safety protections around shale gas drilling, and I am sure she will look forward to the extra development that this will produce in her constituency in due course.

The Environmental Audit Committee says that our investment in renewable energy is growing at half the rate it needs to grow at to meet our future energy needs. What is the Secretary of State doing about that?

My understanding is that investment in renewable energy is double what it was in the previous Parliament. There are certain aspects of new renewables where we lead the world, including offshore wind.

Does the Secretary of State realise that if we are to have a low-carbon economy, he and his Government have to start taking investment in higher education seriously? I chair the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s committee on sustainable production. If we do not put more money into postgraduate education, and if we do not support higher education and get away from this crazy system where all higher education relies on a mountain of student debt, we are heading for terrible trouble.

That is a rather creative stretch to the low-carbon economy, but specifically on postgraduate education, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have just introduced a postgraduate loan scheme for the first time.