I beg to move,
That this House believes that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris in 2015 is vital in ensuring that the target of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees is met; further believes that the UK Government should push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the two degrees goal, a goal of net zero emissions in the second half of the century, transparent and universal rules for measuring and reporting emissions, climate change adaptation plans for all countries, and an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in their efforts to combat climate change; and further notes the importance of making adequate plans for domestic mitigation and adaptation and ensuring communities are protected from the worst effects of climate change, including flooding.
It is an absolute pleasure, Madam Deputy Speaker, to be under your wise chairship for my first Opposition day debate of this Parliament. I also welcome the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to her new position and offer my congratulations to the Minister of State. I had rather hoped that it would be a different woman running the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but such is life.
I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the former Member for Vale of Clwyd, Chris Ruane, who served as my Parliamentary Private Secretary. Mr Speaker once described him as an incorrigible delinquent, which I think he meant kindly. To me, he is a loyal colleague and friend and he will be much missed from the House, not least for his outstanding work on voter registration to ensure that as many people as possible do not lose their right to vote.
I want to pay particular tribute to the former Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Tom Greatrex. He served as shadow Minister on my team for four years and I could not have asked for a better right-hand man. Tom’s knowledge of energy policy was respected on all sides, and the House is a poorer place for his absence.
Why have we chosen to use half of our first Opposition day in this new Parliament to debate climate change? We have chosen to do so because some have recently tried to argue that we do not need to worry about climate change any more and that temperatures have not risen for 18 years, but that is wrong. The earth’s average surface temperature has indeed risen since 1996, and even using 1998 as a starting point, which was an unusually warm year, the world has got warmer.
Can the hon. Gentleman be a little patient?
The scientific consensus is shown by the fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published last year, which said that warming of the climate is “unequivocal” and that human influence on the climate is clear. We have chosen the subject because this is a crucial year in keeping the global rise in temperatures below 2ºC and avoiding catastrophic damage to the planet. That 2ºC target was agreed at the UN conference in Cancun in 2010. As we know, above that the risks of climate change move beyond our control. We have chosen the topic because this year our country needs to show international leadership, especially in Europe. As the official Opposition we have a role to play in helping to encourage the Government to get the best possible deal in the fight against climate change at the Paris climate conference towards the end of this year.
In the light of the incontrovertible evidence that my right hon. Friend has just cited and the importance of the conference later this year, does she not find it extraordinary that there are still Conservative Members who deny the existence of climate change? I noted the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) trying to intervene.
It is extremely worrying that so many Government Members are still in denial and refuse to accept the views of the majority of scientists around the world. Not only are they a threat to the environment; they are a threat to the jobs and opportunities these changes bring.
My right hon. Friend and I have worked on environmental issues for a long time. Does she agree that there are very good people on the Government Benches who are extremely good on the environment and would like to speak out more, but are worried that that might harm their prospects in their party?
My hon. Friend is right. We want to hear more of those voices in the months ahead. Despite the fact that we will have our disagreements across the House, on this issue political consensus is key to playing our part not only on our national stage, but on the world stage.
I will give way shortly.
We have chosen the subject for this debate not only for environmental but for economic reasons. The floods last year showed that climate change and more extreme weather events are felt in the constituencies of many Members in all parts of the House, which makes it a matter of national as well as international security. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) will discuss the domestic mitigation and adaptation necessary to protect our communities, but let us not lose sight of the green jobs and investment that are the prize for making the right decisions now about the future of energy and energy efficiency in a new, cleaner economy.
I am listening with great interest to the right hon. Lady. The Government in which she served made a big thing about lots of eco-measures, one of which was the building of 10 eco-towns. Can she remind the House how many were actually built?
The eco-towns were such a good idea that the coalition Government did not dump it—they called them garden towns instead. We have just had a debate on the need for more housing. If we build, we should do it in a more sustainable way, creating communities like those great garden cities of the past that took account of transport, jobs and health. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that he does not believe that housing is important, he is on the wrong side of that debate.
My right hon. Friend mentioned flooding, which has been a very serious issue in recent years. The previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government cut the Environment Agency’s flood defence budget by a massive 21% and cut the capital grants for flood schemes by 31%. Was not that incredibly short-sighted?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it was incredibly short-sighted. Not long after that, the Prime Minister said that he would sign a cheque for whatever amount to sort out the problem. After the event is not good enough. We need to take action before these events to make sure that we address not only the financial costs for the communities affected but the devastating social costs that families and businesses suffer from if we do not get this right.
In government we passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which legally bound us to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. It is worth remembering that back in 2008 only five Members of Parliament voted against this ground-breaking legislation, and that strong consensus influenced policy around the world. There are now climate change laws in 66 countries, and even more are developing them. Denmark, Finland and Mexico have all now passed their own climate change Acts with legally binding emissions targets. Labour is proud of its leadership on climate change. We doubled renewable energy generation and put in the work to make sure that the UK was a global leader in a range of clean energy technologies. Two thirds of the renewable projects that came online in the past five years started under the previous Labour Government, and we can be proud of the jobs that those projects have created.
We put climate change on the agenda at the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005, making sure that this issue was discussed at the highest levels. We welcome the agreement that the G7 countries reached this week to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century and to cut greenhouse gases by 40% to 70% by 2050 from 2010 levels. That is positive, but only if the Paris conference sets out staging posts on how to get there.
I am sure that the right hon. Lady knows what I am going to ask. Does she agree that the way forward on a lot of climate change is to restart the civil nuclear programme in this country as quickly as possible and start the building of Hinkley C and the other power stations we need to reduce climate change?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am pleased to have visited Hinkley, and to have recently visited Anglesey as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) speaks up very much for his constituents and the jobs that would derive from the power that the nuclear power station generated for the future. Because nuclear power is a difficult issue, I am proud that the previous Labour Government decided that it had to be part of the mix if we were going to meet our climate change targets. Labour took that position when this Prime Minister said it should be a last resort and the Liberal Democrats were against it. They have obviously changed their tune in the intervening years, and I am pleased about that. However, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, a lot of outstanding issues need to be resolved in the months ahead. I hope that the Secretary of State will give this due care and attention to make sure that we do not stall in what should be an important part of the mix in our energy generation.
One of the outstanding issues that we are facing was mentioned last week in The Sunday Telegraph, which carried a story about the potential threats to onshore wind if the Government change the financial support mechanisms. No clarity has apparently come from the Government since then. From within the industry, I am being told that civil servants are uncertain as to what the steer is from Ministers. Do we not need a statement from the Government, or some other clarification as to what exactly they mean, because investment in the sector is being frozen? What is the right hon. Lady’s view?
I will come to that shortly, and I hope that I will answer all the hon. Gentleman’s questions.
In Paris we need to agree a set of tough, ambitious targets that will keep us under 2 °C and we need a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of the century, but those ambitious targets must also be strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards that 2 °C goal. We cannot just keep relying on crunch moments, as we saw in Copenhagen, to deliver the targets we want. Fighting to limit climate change is part of an ongoing process that will require continual commitment. Transparent rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions are vital to that. This is going to work only if there is widespread confidence that everyone is playing by the same rules. We need a fair deal between richer and poorer nations, because the richer nations have a duty to help poorer countries get access to clean heat and power.
There are reasons to be optimistic, but only 39 countries have put in plans for emissions reductions to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, despite the fact that the deadline has passed. We welcome those plans, but an analysis submitted earlier this year shows that we are not on track.
What should we do both at home and abroad to set the right example and to give the talks the best possible chance of success? First, we need to show leadership at home on clean energy: we need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Yesterday, we got the news that the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project had received development consent from the Secretary of State, which is very welcome.
As my right hon. Friend will be aware from her recent visit to my constituency, the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay is a global game changer in renewable energy. Does she agree that Wales led the way in providing the fuel for the industrial revolution and, now that we are entering the era of the climate change revolution, that Wales and specifically Swansea East will lead this next revolution?
Absolutely. Just as the railways were so important in the 19th century and just as super-highways will be so important, so clean energy is important. It is an energy industrial revolution that we should embrace. I am very pleased to pay tribute to my hon. Friend as well as to my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) for the work that they have done to support the project. The Welsh Assembly and, I should say, the former Member for Swansea East, Siân James, deserve massive credit, as do local councillors who have fought hard for it.
I would, however, tell the Secretary of State in relation to yesterday’s announcement that more steps need to be taken to take us closer to the clean energy and green jobs that we will need. I urge her to have a look at whether the civil servants working with the company can get a bit of a shift on and get some of the documentation into the Commission as soon as possible so that it can start to check it out for state aid. With such projects, to get shovels in the ground—or whatever they will use in the bay—people need to know the timescale so that they do not miss it because of the weather and the seasons. I urge the Department to help make that work happen sooner rather than later.
I welcome this debate. I was delighted to notice earlier today that nine Labour Members of the European Parliament joined the Greens in voting for a Europe-wide moratorium on fracking. Will the right hon. Lady reconsider her and her party’s position on fracking given the importance of what she has just said—that what we do at home sends a really strong signal about the seriousness with which we treat leaving fossil fuels in the ground?
As the hon. Lady will know, we have been very clear—we made it very clear at the tail end of the last Parliament—that no fracking should take place unless the safeguards that we set out in amendments in Parliament are in place to allow it to go ahead. She knows as well as I do that 80% of our heating comes from gas, so we have to think about where gas fits into the picture, but fracking has to be done safely. She will also know that I think we should have a review of the possibilities for green gas, because all the evidence shows that that could be a major contributing factor in making sure that we can still heat our homes as we come off fossil fuel gas.
More steps need to be taken to bring us closer to realising clean energy and green jobs, but with yesterday’s announcement the Government are sending out some damaging mixed messages. The Queen’s Speech reiterated their commitment to fighting climate change, but also followed through on their plans to make it more difficult to build onshore wind projects. No one is saying that we should not be sensitive to the best places to put onshore wind farms, but let us be serious: that is not what is going on. As we saw in the last Parliament, we have a Government searching for ways to placate their Back Benchers. The moves currently being briefed out to end the renewables obligation a year early show that the Tories are bad for green business. Investors have been spending money in good faith under an agreed framework. There are nearly 1,000 projects with planning permission. I would like the Secretary of State to clarify whether those 1,000 projects will be affected by the statements we have heard since the general election.
That damages investment not just in onshore wind but in other technologies—it damages confidence that the Government will not withdraw support from them or move the goalposts. Onshore wind is currently the cheapest type of clean energy. The Government’s actions mean that it may cost consumers more in the long term. The truth is onshore wind could be cheaper than new gas generation by 2020.
Does the right hon. Lady accept that in some parts of the country there is massive opposition—overwhelming opposition—to the imposition of onshore wind on the scale proposed and that any Government that do not listen to the people will find that they are not electable?
Of course there should be a debate and people should raise their concerns. That is what the planning framework is about, but the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the former the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government sat on planning applications that had been agreed at a local level. I do not know what the answer to that is. It seems that when the public agree with something a big Secretary of State sits on them and—[Interruption.] By big, I mean the office of the Secretary of State. As we know, DCLG is a big office—it is much bigger than DECC, sadly, but there we go. I digress. The hon. Gentleman seriously cannot have it both ways. During the Parliament, we had a consultation on the guidelines. A number of Conservative Back Benchers thought that that was great and we were going to see an end to onshore wind farms. Actually, the consultation did nothing to change the guidelines on that. They were led up the hill and down again. I believe that there are ways in which we can enable communities to see greater benefits from these projects. I would like to see more community-owned wind farms. I would like communities to get more out of the wind turbines and the benefits to go directly into households in the communities. Rather than taking a more positive approach to the issue, the Tory party is just saying no.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that Labour Members and many Members on the Conservative Benches want evidence-based policy—there has not been an ideological knee-jerk reaction saying all wind power is bad. I could give the example of the east coast of Yorkshire, where we have had an all-party, positive attitude. We have been working across parties together to get the vast investment with Siemens to get wind power from the sea.
I am going to make some progress because it is a short debate.
That gap is bad for jobs and for tackling climate change and it does not bode well. Leadership needs to be shown in the months ahead.
By this time next year we could have a binding agreement from 196 countries that puts us on a path to a sustainable future, but it will require us to show real leadership. It used to be said we would never get a deal without the world’s biggest emitters stepping up. Well, America and China have already taken one step with a deal that could see China’s emissions peak in 2030 and would see the US reduce its emissions to 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.
The current bid from the EU for “at least” a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 does not go far enough. We are already signed up to a tougher target of 60% by 2030 at home, because of the Climate Change Act and the fact that we met our first carbon budget. We should be doing everything possible to toughen the EU position. The “at least” in the EU submission makes it possible to do that. The EU has already met its 2020 target five years early. I think we should be more ambitious. In his statement today, the Prime Minister said we needed to be ambitious, so I ask the Secretary of State, what does ambition in the EU look like?
We also have to recognise the link between the sustainable development goals being negotiated in September and the Paris conference, because we will not make progress in reducing poverty unless we succeed in limiting the effects of climate change, which we know devastates communities and affects food security, transport and jobs. It leads to the displacement of people with no home or hope, and to the costs that follow in disaster relief. I am proud that under the last Labour Government, the Department for International Development led the world in helping countries adapt to climate change, such as Bangladesh, where 300,000 people were helped in raising their homes above sea level.
Is the right hon. Lady going to address the issue of cost? She criticised me and four others for voting against the Climate Change Act, but I did so because the impact assessment showed that the potential costs were twice the maximum benefits. According to the Government, the costs will now reach something like £400 a household by 2020. Will she address that issue?
The problem is that although the right hon. Gentleman is right that there is a cost to change, there is a bigger cost to doing nothing at all. The investment that we make will not only help us make energy cheaper and homes warmer but create job and investment opportunities. He might like to stay in the 19th century, but I would like to take us forward to a better—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but that is what it is—“Let’s stay with what has gone on in the past, even though we know that it is not fit for purpose for the future.” There is everything to gain from having a cleaner-energy future. However, I am glad in some respects that he continues to be a minority voice in the House on the issue.
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend’s point. Does she agree that the Stern report made it clear that the medium and long-term costs to this country and many others, particularly developing countries, will be far greater than the costs of not dealing with the challenge of climate change now?
Absolutely. At the moment we are ranked sixth in the world for green goods and services. Just think how many more jobs we could create if we moved up to third or fourth place. The benefits would not just be at home, because we can export new technologies abroad. One example is carbon capture and storage. Not only can the technology be applied to fossil fuels, but it has industrial applications for our energy-intensive sectors.
We had an awful lot of shilly-shallying in the past five years about support for carbon capture and storage—nobody was quite sure where the money was and what it was being spent on. I ask the Secretary of State whether we will see any cuts in support for CCS in the forthcoming emergency Budget. She will obviously say, “I can’t say, that’s a matter for the Chancellor,” but I really hope that the new DECC team is putting its shoulder to the wheel to ensure that such cuts do not happen. There was too much interference from the Chancellor in the past five years—he did not work for investment and did not support this area of public policy.
Is it not a shame that although we are now in a position to develop carbon capture and storage, the coalition Government, in their last throes, denied the British deep-mine coal industry the opportunity to prosper by not allowing state aid? We will be developing carbon capture and storage for countries around the globe that import coal, but we will not have the jobs to deal with it.
My hon. Friend is right. It was exactly like the coalition Government’s approach to CCS, which I do not think they ever fully embraced. There were delays and delays in the state aid procedure, until it just ran into the election period and was done for. We all heard the comments of the Minister whose former responsibilities straddled DECC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and we all know now that his warm words counted for absolutely nothing.
Will my right hon. Friend share in my congratulations to the Teesside Collective, which is embarking on a feasibility study on bringing CCS to Teesside? That would not only bring climate benefits but mean that industries on Teesside could be retained and inward investment could be attracted.
I very much welcome the work that is happening there. CCS is sometimes talked about as though it were not yet working anywhere, but as far as I am aware there are eight working projects happening around the world as we sit here. I thought that we were a country that wanted to back innovation, technology and invention. Was it not the Chancellor who said that we wanted to be the makers? What happened to that?
Does my right hon. Friend share my bitter frustration and disappointment that before 2010 we were, according to the US environment group Pew, third in the world in terms of innovation and investment in this incredible sector? In the past five years we have gone so far backwards in terms of the green investment bank, solar and the green deal—the list goes on. The next five years should be an opportunity that the Government grasp.
We left a legacy that formed a firm foundation for new endeavour. We should have been going up, not down. The sad thing is the other side of this: energy efficiency. I think some 400,000 fewer homes were insulated as a result of the changes the Government made to energy insulation programmes—another missed opportunity. I really hope this new team will grasp it and, when it is in the national interest, work with everybody, including us.
I have taken a lot of interventions. I will just get to the end of my speech now, because a lot of colleagues want to speak in this debate.
Progress in energy efficiency is the other area that could stimulate jobs and investment while helping to reduce fuel poverty. I hope that when we come to discuss this matter, perhaps in another debate, the Government will be open to taking about some of Labour’s proposals to deliver energy. I have to say that they were widely welcomed by industry and campaigners fighting fuel poverty.
In the previous Parliament, we wanted the Government to back our target for decarbonising the electricity supply by 2030, because that would have given investors the certainty they need. It was argued then that a decarbonisation target would be set in this Parliament, but the Conservative manifesto ruled that out. We hope to see such a target set in 2016 in line with the fifth carbon budget from the Committee on Climate Change, which will make its recommendations at the end of the year. Will the Secretary of State confirm that that will happen? Will the Prime Minister’s pledge to be the greenest Government ever be revived in this Parliament?
This is a year with great potential. In 2008, there was consensus across the political parties over the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act sparked investment, created jobs and cut emissions. Before 2010, the Prime Minister promised the greenest Government ever, but by the end of the Parliament the husky was dead and the Prime Minister talked about “cutting the green crap”. [Interruption.] Those were the Prime Minister’s words, not mine. I am just quoting him. We all know the Chancellor could never be described as the greenest Chancellor ever. I hope the Secretary of State, with her all-female House of Commons team, will put the Chancellor and Prime Minister back on track so we can all be proud of what we can achieve in December. I commend the motion to the House.
It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me start by thanking the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) for giving the House an early opportunity to debate this issue. I wish her luck in her own election going forward.
Let me first set out the strength of the Government’s commitment on combating climate change. The Government are committed to taking robust, effective action to tackle climate change here at home and on the international stage. Climate change, as the right hon. Lady said, is not a party issue. It is not a Conservative, Labour, Liberal or even a Scottish National party issue. It is not exclusively left-wing or right-wing, if we can use those terms anymore. Climate change brings together all the parties in this House, and indeed countries across the globe. The G7 on Monday demonstrated just how far the major developed economies are aligned.
The pledge signed by the leaders of the main UK parties in February this year ahead of the election, which was brokered by the Green Alliance, underlines our domestic unity. We are pledged to work together to achieve a fair, legally binding global climate deal; to work together to agree domestic carbon targets; and to work together to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. We are united here in this United Kingdom, because climate change represents a threat to our national prosperity, our national security and our way of life. The science of climate change is sound. While uncertainties remain, especially on scale and pace, there is a lot we do understand. The evidence continues to point in one direction: a world warming due to human activity.
As an island nation surrounded by the sea, with an open economy dependent on trade, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We are exposed to the ramifications of a world 2° warmer or more. Margaret Thatcher, one of the first world leaders to put climate change firmly on the international stage, told the World Climate Conference 25 years ago that
“the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks...The danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.”
She was right on this, as on so much else.
Acting on climate change also represents an opportunity for us to build a stronger, more resilient, more efficient low-carbon economy that conserves resources and energy instead of wasting them; that preserves a healthy natural environment; and that puts Britain at the forefront of the green global transition that must happen if we are to protect this planet for future generations. Getting a global deal on climate change in Paris in December is one of my highest priorities this year. I want, therefore, to talk about the international picture and the prospects for agreement, but first I want to set out how we in the UK, through the actions of successive Governments and with cross-party support, have been living up to our responsibilities on climate change.
In an earlier intervention, I was seeking clarity on the issue of onshore wind. What is happening to the support mechanism? It is affecting jobs, the economy and even farming businesses. Will the Secretary of State clear that up today or make a statement to the House in due course? People need to know, especially if we are to meet our 2020 targets. Are we using onshore wind, or is she going to go for more expensive renewables?
Onshore wind is, of course, an incredibly important area. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that our manifesto said we would remove subsidies for onshore wind, and we will act on that manifesto pledge. We also said in the manifesto that we would consult the devolved Administrations—a process, he might be aware, that I have begun—and I will continue to do that until we have arrived at a firm policy. He can rest assured, however, that I will make sure the House is the first to know on that matter.
I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her welcome promotion. She talked about global leadership and the G7. Is she not disappointed that the targets coming out of the agreement this weekend only referred to 2100, and why did it take the German Chancellor to put this issue on the agenda? Where has Britain been on this when hosting similar events?
I do not agree at all with the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation of the G7 communiqué. I met with non-governmental organisations and businesses at an event hosted by the Green Alliance on the same day, and they were delighted by the strong signal being sent out by the G7 that getting an answer and following it was a priority this year. The House should be in no doubt that there has been strong leadership from this Government, as there was from the previous Government.
On the point about leadership and the German Chancellor, is my right hon. Friend aware that Germany has commissioned more coal-fired power stations in the past four years than in the previous two decades, that those coal-fired power stations will be totally unabated and that, partly as a consequence, its emissions are now 30% per capita higher than in the UK?
My hon. Friend is right. I am aware that the German Chancellor has her own political issues to address, but because of that, it was particularly warming—encouraging rather than warming, perhaps—to see her taking such strong leadership on this and making sure it remained at the top of the agenda. Since my hon. Friend mentions coal, I take the opportunity to say how important carbon capture and storage remains to us. I spoke several times in debates in the last Parliament on this subject. The right hon. Member for Don Valley and her team should be in no doubt that we remain committed. We have spent, or put aside, more than £1 billion. We have two tests going ahead, one in Aberdeen and one in Yorkshire, and we are running a competition that we hope to take forward over the next six to nine months. There is a lot of activity going on. The whole purpose is to ensure that we can have a form of unabated coal going forward.
My right hon. Friend is right to talk about carbon capture and storage and the two projects, and I hope that the White Rose project will get Government backing in due course. It is fair to point out that the Labour Government said in 2003 how urgent it was to bring CCS forward as it was critical to any hope of meeting our targets by 2050—and they failed completely and utterly to deliver anything by 2010. We should take no lessons on that particular subject from Opposition Members.
The right hon. Lady is kind in giving way, but I want to press her further on when the Conservative manifesto promises will kick in. There is much uncertainty in the onshore wind energy sector at the moment, and investors and developers are daily—sometimes almost hourly—beating a path to my door. They need to know.
I am aware of the pressing need to get a full answer on this question. I have put a lot of pressure on my Department to make sure that we establish exactly what is in the pipeline and what existing commitments are. The hon. Gentleman will have to bear with us a little longer, but I am aware that we need to give him a full answer as soon as possible.
I said I wanted to speak about the national picture. I stand here as one of a long line of Members who, over the past few decades, have helped to place Britain at the forefront of action on climate change. I want to pay particular tribute to my predecessors in the Department of Energy and Climate Change—Greg Barker and Ed Davey. The last Government achieved what they set out to do, making us the greenest Government ever. [Interruption.] I particularly want to pay tribute to former Secretary of State Ed Davey’s role in securing an ambitious EU 2030 framework deal.
The package requires all member states to make significant emissions reduction efforts, just as we are already legally committed to do under the Climate Change Act 2008. It substantially levels the playing field for UK business and industry to compete fairly across the EU, with UK leadership replicated across the world’s biggest trading bloc. That leadership is underpinned by the 2008 Act—an ambitious piece of legislation, the first of its kind in the world, supported by all parties.
In this Parliament, I know I can rely on sound advice and support from many colleagues, including my hon. Friends the Members for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), who has just spoken, for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith)and for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd).
I join others in really welcoming my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), the Minister of State, to their incredibly important positions at this very important time. I know how concerned my right hon. Friend is about fuel poverty. Does she agree with the Committee on Climate Change that low-carbon heat can play a much bigger role in helping to reduce both carbon and fuel poverty? Is she minded to look again at how the incentives around low-carbon heat work, particularly for low-income households?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is entirely right. Low-carbon heat is an area that we urgently need to address. We are looking in the Department at different ways of doing that. We are looking around the rest of the world, trying to establish what works, and we are taking a hard look at how to achieve what my hon. Friend rightly said is such an important way of addressing both fuel poverty and our carbon targets.
There are, of course, many Opposition Members who have an equally admirable track record in raising climate change up the agenda and in helping to put in place the practical policies that mean we are living up to our commitments. Overall, I believe that the United Kingdom can be proud of the progress made in meeting the climate change obligations that we have collectively put in place.
The carbon budget system ensures that each successive Government undertake the long-term planning necessary to meet long-term targets, rather than defaulting to short-term thinking. I pay tribute to the work of the Committee on Climate Change in providing independent advice to the Government and the devolved Administrations and in monitoring our progress. It was confirmed in September 2014 that the UK met its first carbon budget and that we were on course to meet the second and third budgets through to 2022. In the last Parliament, the Government also maintained the ambition of the fourth carbon budget. Thanks to the actions of successive Governments and the structures we have put in place, UK greenhouse gas emissions are 30% lower than the baseline set in 1990.
If we look at the detail of the fourth carbon budget and the assumptions it makes about residential building insulation and wind insulation necessary to get even to the beginning of this fourth budget, does the Secretary of State agree that we are nowhere near being able to meet those terms at the moment, and that on the basis of present policies we shall not remotely be able to do so?
The hon. Gentleman is well known for working in this field. I respect him, and have debated with him on other occasions. He has made a good point: there is definitely an issue with the fourth carbon budget. However, it is too early to give up on it yet. We will be looking at policies, and it is my firm hope that we will be able to come back and reassure the hon. Gentleman in due course.
Provisional figures show that under the last Parliament greenhouse gas emissions fell by a mammoth 15%, and that, even as the economy grew, they continued to fall. The carbon intensity of the economy as a whole fell by 6% between 2013 and 2014. Britain is demonstrating that economic growth and emissions reduction can go hand in hand.
Is the Secretary of State aware of a letter that is published in today’s Financial Times? It is signed by 80 of the country’s biggest businesses, who call for ambitious action by the Government. That shows that there is a consensus throughout society, both in business and in the wider third sector. The letter says:
“Failure to tackle climate change could put economic prosperity at risk.”
What is the Secretary of State’s response?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The great thing about the battle against climate change is that it is cross-party and also cross-business. Businesses support us because they understand that it makes good business sense, and they also understand that their customers want it, just as our constituents do.
Britain is demonstrating that economic growth and emissions reduction can go hand in hand. That is of immeasurable worth as we enter a key period in our international negotiations.
We all want to see emissions falling. Celsa Steel in my constituency uses one of the most efficient steel-making processes in the European Union—it is in the top 10%—and has invested massively in a carbon-efficient steel workshop. However, it is competing against increasingly carbon-inefficient steels that are coming from, for instance, China and Turkey. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me and representatives of Celsa, to discuss how we can drive down emissions while at the same time not offshoring them to countries such as China and Turkey?
That is a very good point, and I, or my hon. Friend the Minister, will certainly meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it. He is right: we must make certain that none of our carbon reduction programmes leads to carbon leakage. We must ensure that we keep business and industry here, and that we keep growing employment while also maintaining those commitments. Let me add—slightly controversially, given that I have spoken so much about consensus—that the way to deliver that is to have a strong economy, and some might draw attention to the difference between the parties in that respect. If we have a strong economy, we can lead the way.
Through our actions, we are providing a guiding light for others. We are demonstrating that climate-friendly economies can be successful economies, and that the low-carbon sector provides opportunities for jobs and investment. Britain’s low-carbon sector grew at 7% last year, outstripping the growth levels in other parts of the economy. It is now valued at around £122 billion, and supports nearly half a million jobs. It is larger than the aerospace, pharmaceuticals and chemicals sectors, and equivalent to the gross value added by the food and drinks sector.
Clean power is booming. Over £42 billion has been invested in renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage since 2010, and that investment is spread across all regions and countries in the UK. Last year the UK attracted a massive 30% share of renewable power investment in the EU.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to her new job, and very well deserved it is too. While I support everything that we can do with regard to renewable energy, does she not agree that we have a particular problem in the south-west, namely the vast solar farms that are springing up across the land? Hundreds of acres of good agricultural land in my constituency are being wasted, and replaced by the vanity mirrors that are solar farms. Is there any way of limiting them to industrial sites, schools and so on?
My hon. Friend is right. We have introduced limitations for large solar farms, and we will consider what else we can do in this regard. I also agree with him that solar energy is best dealt with by community energy projects. It should not be on people’s houses; it should be on public buildings and factories. That is an excellent way of generating solar energy, and it has become much more affordable and possible since the price has fallen so much under this Government and the previous one.[Official Report, 11 June 2015, Vol. 596, c. 1MC.]
Last year was our best year ever for new build renewable energy finance according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with the UK ranked 4th in the world behind only China, the US and Japan. Renewable generation now provides almost a fifth of our electricity needs and often exceeds that. Last Saturday afternoon, for instance, renewables provided as much as 42% of Great Britain’s electricity. Not only are we increasingly using clean energy, but we are increasingly saving energy as well. Thanks in part to the Government’s energy efficiency drive, energy consumption fell by 7% between 2013 and 2014.
I welcome the Secretary of State to her post. She is reading out some very positive statistics, but has she reflected on our fuel poverty statistics? She will know that in the previous Parliament her Government scrapped the target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and I wonder whether she can update the House on progress in eliminating what is a scourge across our country.
Fuel poverty is an incredibly important issue, which must be addressed. I share the hon. Lady’s concerns. I was pleased that fuel poverty fell under the last Government and we will shortly announce policies to make sure we do that again. We did meet our targets on creating over 1 million houses with home efficiencies, and of course creating a more competitive market is also the way to achieve that. So there is a suite of policies to be addressed.
I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to her post. Does she recognise that advances in technology—such as much more sophisticated filters—can make gasification technology to burn waste particularly appropriate in urban areas, and they can be readily linked into district heating schemes and well targeted towards areas of fuel poverty? Can we do more to encourage and incentivise that?
My hon. Friend is right. District heating schemes are an excellent way of addressing reducing heat and making sure that we have a more efficient way of delivering it. The great thing about this sector is that there is so much technological innovation. So much is being done and we do not really know which innovation will be the big winner, but we must make sure that we continue to support them through our Innovate UK programme with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and other initiatives.
I shall quickly make some comments about the international picture before finishing, so that colleagues have time to speak. We agree with the sentiment behind this motion. Only a global response on the scale required can hope to keep a 2° pathway within reach. A global deal can help ensure that the transition to a low-carbon world happens as cost-effectively as possible with a more level playing field for business, because business plays a very important part in making sure that we can deliver on these targets and make this transition.
A global deal will protect the most vulnerable countries and share the burden. Paris will be a seminal moment in this process. It will not be the last word. Indeed, holding 195 countries to their commitments will be as challenging as bringing them to agreement in the first place, but that should not curtail our ambitions. In Paris we need to ensure that all countries come forward with emissions reduction contributions that keep that target within reach. The agreement needs to be legally binding, so we can all have certainty in what each country is doing.
I will not give way again. I want to allow other colleagues time to make their speeches.
This agreement needs to be based on a set of rules that define commitments and how they can be met, so that each country’s progress can be tracked and there is no room for backsliding. Indeed, we want the opposite to be the case. We need to build in a process for regular reviews, so that ambition can be further increased.
Both the US and the EU have already made public their so-called intended nationally determined contributions. Those publicly declared cover 31% of global emissions, and we are still waiting for others to come forward, including China, which is expected to declare in the next month or so. As we speak, officials are gathered in Bonn at the United Nations framework convention on climate change inter-sessional, focusing on improving the text to be agreed in Paris and seeking to make progress on key elements such as effective rules and mitigation ambition.
The last Government set out their strategy for Paris in September last year. Although I agree with the sentiment of this motion—which I note was lifted verbatim from Labour’s green manifesto—I am afraid that we will not be able to support it in the Lobby this evening. In setting this Government’s detailed approach and to ensure that we maximise our negotiating position, I need to take stock of the results of the Bonn inter-sessional. In the signals we send to our negotiating partners, we will need to be precise in our language and united in our text. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Don Valley will understand that. Tackling climate change is not just a noble aim. It is not just the right thing to do. It is an economic and social imperative.
I, too, would like to congratulate the Secretary of State on her promotion. I look forward to working with her in this role, and I hope that the majority of our discussions will take place in a constructive manner, although that might not always be the case. I also want to thank Labour colleagues for securing the debate.
Climate change is clearly a matter of great importance to those in the Chamber and in the constituencies that we represent, as well as to the globe on which we reside. We are facing an historic challenge, and it is one by which this generation of political leaders at home and abroad will be judged. The conference in Paris will be a seminal moment, and it is incumbent on us to do everything we can at home to enable us to act responsibly at the conference and show leadership to the world on what needs to be done. The effects of climate change will be felt at home and abroad, and its mitigation needs to be addressed at international level, at national level and within our local communities. Indeed, some of the actions taken in local communities could have the greatest impact on delivering what is required.
Turning to competency, the Scottish Parliament has a climate change Minister and has introduced climate change legislation that in many ways leads the world. A curious quirk demonstrates how this issue has grown in importance. When the Scottish Parliament was set up, it was those matters that were not spelled out in black and white in the Scotland Act 1998 that were to be retained in Westminster. I am not convinced that, were we to go through that process again, this place would decide that it was appropriate to devolve the issue of climate change to Scotland, but I am glad that it was devolved. That signifies just how important climate change has become in the intervening 18 years or so.
I mentioned the fact that the Scottish climate change legislation was world-leading. We have made a legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. The figures for 2013 were published yesterday, and they show that we are three quarters of the way towards achieving our 2020 target. There has been a 34.3% reduction in our carbon emissions since 1990, which is higher than the UK percentage and among the best in Europe. Those targets are tough, and owing to some technical changes, they might not have been met year on year, but had they not been put in place, the changes in Scottish society and the Scottish economy that have enabled those reductions would not have taken place.
Action relating to renewable energy and fuel efficiency has largely been behind that drive. I will talk about renewables in a moment. The investment in fuel efficiency in people’s homes has been hugely important. Levels of fuel poverty in Scotland are very high, largely due to the historical inadequacies of the building stock. It takes more fuel to heat the buildings, which obviously has a societal impact, in that people cannot afford to heat them. One in three houses has received support relating to fuel efficiency. That has helped to reduce emissions and, above all, has had the short-term human impact of reducing fuel poverty in Scotland.
Aileen McLeod, the Scottish Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, has written to the Secretary of State about a joint approach to such challenges. I hope that that will be acted on—there has been mention of discussions with the devolved Administrations. There are cross-cutting competencies and we need to be singing from the same hymn sheet on them.
I am pleased to be joined in the Chamber by my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who is the SNP spokesperson for climate justice. One of the sad ironies of climate change is that those countries that have contributed least to carbon emissions will pay the biggest price as the changes to our climate come into being. We have a moral duty to act on that and the climate justice angle will I am sure be raised by my hon. Friend in the Chamber and in this Parliament to great effect.
Renewable energy has been a major part of the progress made in Scotland. We are now at the stage where nearly half of our electricity demand is met by renewable sources. A large part of that is from onshore wind, which has delivered large reductions in carbon emissions and enabled diversification in the economy of Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil)—I am from Aberdeen, where Gaelic is not spoken, so I cannot pronounce his constituency name very well—has said that removing the subsidies prematurely has the potential to damage the economy of Scotland severely, to damage our ability to meet the targets that we have set in Scotland and to damage the United Kingdom targets.
I understand the Government’s mandate to remove subsidies, but I do not believe that that mandate stretches to Scotland in the same manner. The planning aspects are clearly different. I hope that in the consultation to be undertaken with the Scottish Government nothing to do with how that might be progressed will be left off the table. An important factor is that there are not the same political difficulties with onshore wind in Scotland, although there are clearly some. Significant investment in the pipeline could also be damaged and, if there are going to be problems, grace periods need to be brought in.
In work commissioned by the London School of Economics it was suggested that the No. 1 priority for tackling climate change is investor confidence in the low-carbon economy. Changing the goalposts for onshore wind will damage such confidence. As has been said from the Labour Benches, that will damage not only onshore wind, but the entire range of renewable technologies.
My hon. Friend is making a very reasonable speech. Does he share my frustration, however, that a community-led project in my constituency, the Castlemilk and Carmunnock wind park trust, which was set up by local people to reap the financial rewards of renewable energy, has had a horse and coach driven through it by a Labour-run council, depriving the area of more than £1 million since its inception? Surely communities should be empowered to deal with such things.
That is a disappointing scenario and I share my hon. Friend’s frustration. Onshore wind has the potential to provide a win-win situation for communities to see investment that they might not otherwise have dreamed of—though that might not be the case in Glasgow—as well as a reduction in our carbon emissions.
Scotland is doing well with carbon reduction. Given the nature of our geography and the potential renewable resources in our nation, we are willing, able and well disposed to do a large part of the carbon reduction heavy lifting on behalf of the United Kingdom. However, that can only be done in partnership while the required powers rest in this place. I reiterate the need for that detailed and meaningful consultation with the Scottish Government.
I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention innovation, which will be required for a number of the renewable technologies that will play their part in meeting our climate change obligations. Offshore wind has the potential to deal with that; specific considerations in Scotland make it slightly more difficult there than in other places, owing to the depth of the water, but the resource there is unparalleled. We need the ability, through the contracts for difference mechanisms, to enable offshore wind in Scotland to take off and take up the heavy lifting on carbon reduction.
Clearly, there is a requirement for base-load, and I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention carbon capture and storage. I gently correct her by saying that Peterhead is not Aberdeen—it is a fair while up the road and the differences are stark, both for those resident in Aberdeen and those resident in Peterhead; we are friendly but competitive. CCS, too, has the potential to be transformational in how electricity generation and heat generation can be decarbonated.
Time is clearly of the essence, both in this Chamber and, more pressingly, as the temperatures—
I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman mention “base-load” and “heavy lifting”. He will know that the low-carbon technology that does most to reduce emissions in this country is civil nuclear, and the same applies worldwide; we are talking about double the amount of renewables. That is clearly base-load, and civil nuclear is cheaper, even now, than wind, so is it something he advocates in terms of heavy lifting and base-load?
If the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) looked closely at the difference in the strike prices for Hinkley nuclear and for onshore wind, he would see that the years over which the price is given are quite different—it is twice as long for Hinkley as for onshore wind. The hon. Member for Warrington South, rather than the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), is misleading the House.
Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) would not be misleading the House—otherwise, he would not be an honourable Gentleman. If he is inadvertently misleading the House, I am sure he will correct his point. Usually, it is a matter of how one interprets statistics, and the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) must not accuse another hon. Gentleman of misleading.
I am not entirely sure where to go with that, Madam Deputy Speaker, in case I get into trouble. I do not know whether to say that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) is correct, but I agree with him on this: my understanding is that the deal for the new nuclear power station is over twice as long a period as that on offer to anything in the renewables sector. I do not believe that nuclear is safe, and I believe that there are other ways. On providing that base-load, I would rather see thermal generation, but with carbon capture and storage built in as standard.
As I was saying, we have a short window of time and we require action. This is a welcome debate, I look forward to hearing more about this issue and I hope that in future we will recognise the contributions of Scotland and the other devolved Administrations, and the part they play in the UK’s achieving what is required.
No one has ever denied that carbon dioxide is a global warming gas. No one has ever denied that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere since we started industrialising. Not many people are bothering to deny the fact that there has been an increase in temperature of about 0.8 °C over the past 250 years, and although it is a bit more questionable than some would have it, there is no need to question it at the moment. It follows that CO2 emissions that are man-made have had some impact on temperatures. What does not follow is the argument that is so often put forward, which is that CO2 emitted by mankind has been completely responsible for the very minor increase in temperature that we have seen over the past 250 years. Nobody that I have met has ever, ever denied that the climate changes. I have met many people who are sceptical about the current policy and none of them has suggested that the climate does not change; the climate has always changed and it always will. The existence of glaciers is testament to the fact that the climate has always, and will always, change.
The climate has been changing over the past 2,000 years. It was warmer during the Roman period, a fact that is acknowledged in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent summary for policy makers. It said that it is warmer now than it has been for 1,400 years—as though 1,400 years is a long time. The problem is that, because we all live to be, hopefully, three score years and 10, we think of 70 years or 100 years as being a long time, but the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years, and 100 years is the blink of an eye.
I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State goes to Paris, she will deploy the same sceptical mindset about some of the things she is told that she always deployed when we worked together on the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I hope she will bear it in mind that it was warmer during the Roman period, cooler during the dark ages, and then warmer again during the medieval period. It then became much colder, and up until about 1800 we had what is called the little ice age when ice fairs were held outside Parliament on the Thames. It was at about that time that we started to industrialise. It was a coincidence that we industrialised at the same time as we came out of the little ice age, and it absolutely must follow that some of the temperature increase that has taken place—about 0.8 °C—must be due to the fact that the Earth was naturally warming up anyway, and the IPCC will not deny that.
The hon. Gentleman keeps quoting the IPCC, but does he not recognise that one of the IPCC’s recent reports said that 100% of the climate change—the warming—over the past 60 years was due to humans and that the IPCC was 95% convinced about the argument overall? The IPCC has been very clear on this point.
Let me read out something for the hon. Gentleman. Under the title “Summary for policymakers” on page 17, fourth paragraph down, the IPCC says:
“It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.”
What that means in simple English is that slightly more than half of the increase that has taken place in the second half of the 20th century is down to man. The overall increase over the past 250 years is 0.8 °C, but in the second half of the 20th century, the increase was about 0.5 °C. What the IPCC is saying in this report is that slightly over half of that is likely to have been man-made.
The hon. Gentleman can shake his head, but that comes from the IPCC. [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to the shadow Secretary of State if she wants to correct me on something. Even the IPCC is not saying that the increase in temperature is a result of man-made carbon emissions. It is saying that some of it is, and that the overall amount is well under half. On the basis of that, we are going ahead with a set of policies that have caused massive increases in energy bills for home owners and businesses. I say to the right hon. Lady that, with all due respect, none of the Opposition Members will back her when the policies that she may sign up to come home to roost, as they will create higher energy prices for businesses such as Celsa, which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. It is absolutely outrageous that steel companies and other manufacturers are finding it difficult to manufacture in this country because they are paying so much more for electricity than their competitors in the rest of Europe.
The reality, of course, is that it costs—I listened with great interest to this discussion—roughly £95 per MWh to generate electricity from both nuclear and onshore wind, and £150 per MWh to do it from offshore wind, so it is very expensive. It costs about £50 to do it from gas and about £30 from coal. We can therefore be absolutely certain that the more we rely on renewable energy, the more we will have to pay for it. No politician from any party should run away from that. They should be willing to go out and make the argument for paying more if they think it is a good idea, but nobody is doing that. Nobody on either the Government or the Opposition Benches thinks it is a good idea to put up energy bills, so why on earth are we prepared to support policies that increase them?
If we are going to do that, we should make absolutely certain that it is not just the UK that will do so. We generate about 2% of the earth’s total man-made carbon dioxide emissions, so we will have no impact whatsoever on the temperature if we unilaterally decide to whack up taxes and start making people pay more money. If there is going to be an agreement, it absolutely has to be global.
What worries me is that, while a graph on which 1 cm represents 100 years may show a slight increase, the reality is that the earth has been around for so long that if we went back 100 million years, it would have to be represented by 10 km and that would show periods with more naturally created CO2 in the atmosphere, as well as greater and smaller temperatures. We would have to go back only 30 cm—about 1,300 years ago—to see the Younger Dryas, a climatic event that was never properly explained but which was entirely natural and during which there was a sudden drop in temperature by about 15 °C within the space of just a few decades.
Somebody cited Margaret Thatcher, a lady of whom I am always happy to call myself a fan. In her book “Statecraft”, in a chapter called “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she actually repudiated much of what she had written when she pointed out that people were getting quite hysterical about this. I think she was absolutely right and I urge the Secretary of State to be very cautious when she gets to Paris, and to remember that there is a difference between healthy scepticism and denial.
We are discussing what I hope will be a global agreement. I hope it will be sorted out in Paris this December, that it will be sustainable and that everybody will play their part in making sure that global warming is curtailed and that the global temperature rise stays below 2 °C by 2050. It is extremely important that the UK takes a robust approach to the conference and that it bases its approach on our own climate change architecture, including the Climate Change Act 2008 and our carbon budgets, in order to make sure that the EU’s offer to the conference is also as robust as possible.
The EU has collectively offered an intended nationally determined contribution of a 40% cut of 1990 levels by 2030. At the moment the UK is going along with that, but the problem is that if we look at the 38 INDCs that have so far been placed on the conference table, including the EU’s collective commitment, we will see that they will not get us below 2 °C. Indeed, we are looking at a prospective global temperature increase of between 2.9 °C and 3.1 °C, so it really is in the interests of a proper agreement, and of the UK’s existing commitments on climate change, that we produce a robust alternative and suggest that the EU increases its contribution, if possible, to 50%, because that is what the UK has committed to in our own carbon budget. In the little time available between now and the December conference, I urge the Secretary of State to push for that increase to the EU’s INDC, in order to emphasise just what we can do to secure a global agreement. Of course, that depends not only retrospectively on what the UK has achieved through its carbon budgets and related architecture to date but on what extent the UK can prospectively ensure that it can meet those commitments in the future. That is where we run into some trouble with the future commitments.
I mentioned the fourth carbon budget in an intervention, and it was, I recall, accepted by the previous Government after some hiccuping. Among other things, according to the Committee on Climate Change, that carbon budget not only produces a gateway of reducing emissions by 50% by 2025 but makes assumptions such as that 23 GW of wind power will have been installed by 2020, that 2 million solid-wall homes will have been insulated for energy efficiency purposes by the early 2020s, and that 90% of homes will have had their lofts and cavity walls insulated by that period. The UK is failing hopelessly in reaching all those measures. That difficulty will be compounded by the policies being proposed, which means that our commitments are facing in precisely the opposite direction over the next few years.
Earlier today I asked the Prime Minister for his commitment that the budgets for home energy efficiency would be maintained. He gave no answer on that, but unless they are maintained and substantially increased we will fail miserably to get anywhere near the fourth carbon budget targets. Similarly, if we do not rapidly unravel the question of what is happening with wind power, we will fall miserably short of the targets. If onshore wind developers cannot get their renewable obligations stamped, they will go into the levy control framework to try to get their schemes sorted out. We know that the levy control framework is already bust as far as offshore wind is concerned, and it will become more crowded. The much-vaunted Swansea Bay development might come on stream if someone does a levy control framework-based contract for difference arrangement for it, but that someone will have to be the Secretary of State. Unless the levy control framework works in such a way that that can happen, that will fail too.
We must remind ourselves that carbon budgets are not just for Christmas. They need to be worked out properly, and if we are to ensure that our commitments in Paris can be maintained we need urgently to get to work on the carbon budgets and to make them work. That means that we in this country must stay by our commitments on climate change in the future.
I am obliged to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate and I thank the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) for a riveting speech.
Right hon. and hon. Members might not be aware that there is a town called Braintree in Massachusetts in America. My predecessor, Brooks Newmark, embodied that transatlantic bridge as he was born in Connecticut before he came to the UK to go to school at the age of nine. Those who knew Brooks will remember a fierce intellect that drove success at both Oxford and Harvard universities and in the financial services sector. Any Member who was intimidated by that academic and commercial success need no longer fear now that I stand here in his stead.
Brooks was a Whip and a Minister and was well liked in the constituency. He was a huge support to me during my campaign and he was also supportive of other candidates in target constituencies, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince). It is fair to say that in the months after my selection Brooks and I hung out together quite a bit.
Since its creation, Braintree has had a history of strong MPs. Its first, Tony Newton, is still held up as a model constituency MP. He was able to do that while negotiating a successful ministerial career in the House. His Labour successor, Alan Hurst, was also highly spoken of, despite serving for considerably less than Tony’s 23 years.
Braintree has pre-Roman roots and was a medieval market town, but came into its own in the 16th century when Flemish weavers came to the town and brought with them their state of the art weaving techniques, heralding 250 years of future prosperity. Blooming foreigners!
The other town in my constituency is Halstead, which is also famous for its weaving industry and is typified by a wide high street leading up to the church at the top of the hill from the River Colne which runs through the town. My constituency stretches to the Suffolk border to its north and east and to Cambridgeshire in its north-western corner, and has a constellation of villages and hamlets scattered through it. In that constellation are a number of binary stars including Earls Colne and White Colne, Sible Hedingham and Castle Hedingham, and Steeple Bumstead and Helions Bumstead. There might be a degree of sibling rivalry between some of my villages. It is best not to ask directions to the famously beautiful village of Finchingfield from either of the neighbouring villages, Great Bardfield or Weathersfield.
It is appropriate in this climate change debate that I recognise the excellent work done by Braintree District Council. Many of the buildings in my constituency are adorned with solar panels, and I am a great believer in industrial, residential, agricultural and municipal buildings having solar panels, perhaps on their roofs, but I will fight hard to prevent the beautiful fields in my villages from being spoiled by row upon row of photovoltaic cells.
Small and medium-sized businesses typify my constituency and I will fight hard on their behalf. I hope the Government can help relieve congestion on the A120, a road so regularly and heavily congested that many drivers cut through Braintree in order to bypass the bypass. Rail services need to be greatly improved to unlock the business potential in my constituency. But transport infrastructure alone is not enough. We also need digital infrastructure. Mobile signals in the rural parts of my constituency are sorely needed, as is superfast rural broadband.
These parochial issues, important though they are, are not the only reason that we are collectively sent to this place. We live in an increasingly competitive global economy and we, as a nation, must rise to that challenge or be swept aside. The challenge from former colonial countries now competing and in some cases overtaking us cannot be ignored. Throughout our nation’s history we have been at our best when we are globally focused on international trade—when we are indeed a nation of shopkeepers. I will fight for infrastructure investment in my constituency and for a good deal for my constituents, but I will also fight to keep this nation an internationally focused competitive trading nation.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) for an excellent maiden speech. He will clearly contribute well, in the years ahead of us, to the business of this House. It was very good indeed. I also pay tribute to all those who have made their maiden speeches today and in the past few weeks. I am now far from a maiden myself, but I do feel a flush of second youth.
Having stepped back from the Front Bench after nearly a decade, I am glad to step forward boldly and early into the climate change debate. This is an issue that I have understudied in parts such as DEFRA’s marine and natural environment Minister in the previous Labour Government and as a DECC and a DEFRA shadow Minister in the previous Parliament. Stepping out of the shadows of shadow ministerial responsibilities brings a touch more freedom, and I intend to use it. Today, from these green Benches, I intend to speak of green government and of leadership, and, in particular, of climate change. Like sustainable development itself, our actions and inaction on climate change are a matter not only of looking after this planet and the delicate ecosystems on it, but of social justice and equity between the people and generations who live on different parts of this interconnected planet and those yet to arrive. I want my three teenagers to grow up in a world that is healing and not hurting.
As we begin this crucial Parliament, and this crucial year for climate change, it is worth casting our minds back to the stark diagnosis of the Stern review, and its prognosis. In 2006, Stern cited evidence demonstrating that
“ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth.”
“Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes.”
I think that Stern was right in his prognosis and may even have underestimated the damage already done, as subsequent research and real-life evidence are showing. Equally importantly, he was right when he said that the benefits of strong early action considerably outweighed the costs. He said:
“Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be.”
That is still true. We truly, urgently, relentlessly need to get on with the actions that flow from that.
I say to the House today: let’s feel the love! That was the theme of the brilliant and ongoing campaign by the Climate Coalition, supported by hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, including my constituents, who lobbied and lobbied and persuaded the Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition and the then leader of the Liberal Democrats to put their signatures to a climate change pledge brokered by the wonderful and clearly very persuasive Green Alliance, which I had many dealings with in government on the marine Bill, climate change adaption, biodiversity plans, and much more. I have the document here. It says: “Show the love. If you feel the love, show it!”
The party leaders and the current Prime Minister did feel the love—all together in one room, amazingly—and they signed and they pledged. They pledged that in this very special year of 2015, nine years on from Stern, they—and this Prime Minister—will work from now until Paris at the end of the year, and beyond, to reach that agreement on tackling climate change, with the UK playing its part in ensuring an ambitious outcome. They pledged to seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal that limits temperature rises to below 2° C; to work together, across party lines, to agree carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act; to accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy-efficient low carbon economy; and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation.
I would like to show the hon. Gentleman some love—I am not sure what kind. I totally agree that this is such an important issue that it needs to be about everybody deciding what to do—there should not be disagreement. I am delighted that this Government realise this and are forging their way ahead, following the lead of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but also Margaret Thatcher before her, and the Prime Minister, who has really pushed all this forward.
I thank the hon. Lady. I agree that we need to find cross-party agreement on major, substantial issues to drive this forward and support leadership at a global and a UK level. There will be differences, and we will have to argue out those differences, but we need to focus on the big, substantial goal.
I give credit to the Prime Minister for his commitment. In accepting that commitment, he said:
“Climate change poses a threat not just to the environment, but also to poverty eradication abroad and to economic prosperity at home.”
He was right, so now we need the Prime Minister who was decisive with his pen before the election to be equally decisive in his actions right now. From now until Paris later this year is the time during which actions must speak as loud as the written words.
The G7 is the first test. Many have already been a little less than full of praise for the outcomes of the G7 summit, which simply shows the mountain we still have to climb. Oxfam has praised it faintly, declaring it
“a stuttering start on climate change”.
It has stated that there were some new and significant steps, but firmly says that the G7 is not pulling its weight and must put words into action by phasing out coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.
The excellent Oxfam briefing paper “Let Them Eat Coal” puts the case starkly and eloquently. To reassure colleagues from coal communities like mine in south Wales, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation is telling in her endorsement of that paper when arguing rightly and saliently for a “just” transition involving dialogue with workers and their unions, and one where their future and that of their families and communities is secured. She goes on:
“Climate change is serious. It is already destroying lives and livelihoods. All governments and all industries need a plan for a transition to decarbonise with clean technologies and energy is the key.”
“This is the most significant challenge the world will face in the next 30 years but we must start now or we will lose the war on climate change with horrendous consequences for all working people and their communities. Governments and responsible industries must heed the call for a just transition with a transparent and ambitious plan that puts working families and their communities at its heart.”
In closing, I say to the Secretary of State that, as the climate campaign advocates and as spring is in the air, “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I of course loved the speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) on an excellent maiden speech.
I am very pleased to be speaking on climate change. My constituency of Twickenham has many homes at risk of flooding. Most Twickenham residents are very aware of their carbon footprint and know the three Rs of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. People come to Twickenham because of the quality of life, and it is also a destination place for heroes.
As hon. Members will know, the previous MP, Dr Vince Cable, is highly respected and was a brilliant local constituency MP. He was also in the Cabinet, and the apprenticeship programme for which he was responsible has benefited Twickenham greatly. He served Twickenham for 18 years, and I am very privileged to follow on from that record. I am also very privileged to follow on from Toby Jessel, who served Twickenham for 27 years. I may be the first woman MP for Twickenham, I may be the first woman MP from one of my university colleges, I may be the first Conservative MP from my school, but I am not the first Twickenham MP to put Twickenham residents first in everything they do in Parliament.
On that note, I was saddened to read Toby Jessel’s maiden speech. When he made it in 1970, he mentioned that aircraft noise was a problem for Twickenham residents. In the 21st century, it is still a problem for Twickenham residents. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, three quarters of a million people suffer from Heathrow noise pollution of 55 dB, and a quarter of a million people suffer from Heathrow noise pollution of 57 dB. We know that noise pollution is related to cardiovascular events such as stroke and heart attacks. I am against Heathrow expansion. I am against night flights. Twickenham residents deserve a better quality of life.
Nevertheless, Twickenham is still a great place to live. We are top for culture. We are top for sport. We are top for science. Noel Coward was born in my constituency. JMW Turner built a house in my constituency and painted the River Thames from his back garden. Eel Pie Island has hosted the best bands. Olympic canoeists train on my part of the River Thames. Olympic athletes train on Twickenham’s running tracks and we will be hosting the rugby world cup. Furthermore, no laboratory is better than the laboratories in Twickenham: the National Physical Laboratory and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist.
Beyond all that, we are a place for heroes. Teddington Lock is where the little ships assembled before going to Dunkirk, but I want to talk about the unknown heroes and heroines in Twickenham. Many years ago, when I first came to Twickenham, one of my neighbours, Jack Green, was the perfect neighbour: he would not invite me in for a cup of tea—it was always a glass of whisky. As he stood in his living room, his wife Winnie would wander in and out. She did not know who she was. She did not know where she was. She had dementia. Every time she came into the room, Jack would smile and say something cheery. When he died, we realised he had looked after her 24 hours a day and never ever asked for help. He was an unknown hero.
That is why I support the Care Act 2014. We need to identify these carers. That is why I support health and social care integration. Unknown heroes and heroines need help.
I have worked in the NHS for many years and there are many heroes and heroines in the NHS, but the NHS needs more of our help. I want people to choose the NHS first. By that I mean top cleaners should choose to work in the NHS first. Top administrators and top managers should choose the NHS first. All our scientists should think about working in the NHS first because we need more heroes and heroines in the NHS.
Madam Deputy Speaker, when you come to Twickenham, as you surely must, I will show you the memorial to the little ships that assembled before going to Dunkirk. Then I will take you to the Memorial hospital in Teddington. As you walk around the constituency, know that you are brushing shoulders with unknown heroes and heroines because that is what defines Twickenham.
I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to address the House for the first time. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) not only for their maiden speeches but for setting the bar so high. I also pay tribute to my predecessor as Member for City of Chester, Stephen Mosley, who will be missed in this House, not least because he was here so often. He was justly proud of his record as one of the most active Members in the Chamber, always, as he would put it, championing Chester. He was very proud of our city. For me, however, his greater contribution was his work, so often undervalued, on the Select Committee on Science and Technology promoting the importance of science across Government and beyond. As a non-scientist, I recognise that that is an area where the UK still has a world-leading position that must be protected. Indeed, in the area of climate change, our scientific expertise should present an opportunity, as much as man-made climate change is a threat. My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) talked about the potential for a revolution in engineering.
I therefore urge consideration of two issues related to today’s debate. First, those in our academic science sector must be given the support to take their research wherever it takes them. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge and learning for the sake of learning are as sound foundations as any on which to base scientific research. Secondly, when technological applications spin off our science base into industry, we must maximise the return to the UK by ensuring that the full value of that innovation remains in the UK. The value of any product is in the knowledge that is used to create it, but also in the skills used to manufacture it. We must retain the value of that product by retaining high-tech manufacturing in the UK and resisting the short-term appeal of low-cost manufacturing countries that allow the value added by our science base to seep out of Britain over the years.
I grew up in rural Cheshire, and my happy childhood within a strong family and community has shaped much of my outlook. I now live in the county town, Chester, and it remains a wonderful place to live, and especially to visit. I urge all hon. Members to spend a weekend there, to walk along the banks of the River Dee; to visit Chester races, one of the oldest racecourses in the country; to visit Chester zoo, where the North of England Zoological Society does so much globally leading work in conservation and ecological research; and to enjoy the rich history of my city.
We are very proud of our history in Chester, dating from the Roman era. Deva, to give Chester its Roman name, was host to a Roman garrison for 400 years, and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and gardens are still a sight to behold today. The city walls date originally from this time, but they have been rebuilt many times since. In the middle ages, every village nearby needed a giant to scare off evil spirits, and Chester was a centre for giant-making. We still have a giants parade through the city even today.
Chester is also a centre for the financial services. MBNA, Bank of America, M&S Bank and Lloyds Banking Group all have major presences in the city, and I urge any business looking to invest or relocate to consider the merits of Chester—its beauty, its quality of life, its transport links, its skilled workforce and, if I may, its enlightened electorate.
But it is to Chester’s manufacturing base that I wish to turn, particularly in the context of this debate. In the immediate vicinity we have major employers such as Airbus, Vauxhall-General Motors and Toyota, some of which I am proud to have worked with when I was an official of the Unite trade union. These top-level businesses generate skills and value for the area and drive growth through the supply chain. Our manufacturing sector has shown adaptability and innovation in responding to the increased threat posed to the planet by climate change. The successful employers in my area that I have mentioned have responded not just in the products that they make but in the way in which they make them. Innovation in design and investment in skills are good for the environment and good for the economy.
Yet industry can respond to the challenges of climate change only if we have the skills to do so. Ours should be a high-skill, high-wage economy, not least because the richest and most successful countries are those with the highest wages and the highest skills. Top-level businesses can drive growth through the supply chain, and we should look to other countries that have policies that are constant, not stop-start, and long term, not short term.
Our skills base can create decent skills through proper apprenticeships and through engineering and science, not through cheap and cheerful qualifications that have little genuine value at the end. Sadly, it seems that the Government’s industrial policy and priorities at the moment are focused on further attacking trade unions rather than on building skills and building partnerships involving employers and employees to achieve common aims together.
With its history, heritage and culture, our leisure and shopping in the city, including the famous rows, and our financial services and manufacturing, Chester should be a model of a successful mixed economy. It is my home and the area where I grew up, and today I pledge my commitment to my constituents to serve them with diligence, fairness and good grace, and never to lose a sense of my gratitude nor lose sight of the honour they have bestowed upon me.
I will use the first part of my three minutes to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) and my near neighbour the hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) on their excellent maiden speeches this afternoon.
We have had Opposition day debates on energy many times over the past five years, and I am delighted to say that this is one of the first motions that I am happy at least not to oppose, even if we are not going to vote for it. Climate change clearly matters to us all, and it is worth reflecting on why the solution is so difficult. Why is the world struggling to keep the increase at 2° C or keep the level of carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million?
It is important to understand the context: the UK is responsible for 1.5% of global emissions. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), in an interesting speech, made the point that the initial submissions for the EU offer on climate change are significantly less onerous than those in our own Climate Change Act 2008. That is something we will have to fix in Paris, because it is not right. Emissions in the UK are, roughly speaking, 30% lower than those in Holland and Germany, and they are among the lowest in the EU. France has very low emissions—even lower than Scotland—because it has civil nuclear power at the heart of its energy production. The issue we have is how to get the rest of Europe and the rest of the world to do anything that comes close to the 2008 Act’s 80% emission target by 2050.
Four things have made that more difficult than it needs to be. First, we have confused renewables with decarbonisation. We have gone after renewables targets when we should have been going after decarbonisation targets. The impact has been that we have not spent enough time on either carbon capture and storage or nuclear power. We also have not spent enough time looking at gas as a very viable alternative to coal. I will mention just one statistic as I wrap up in the last 30 seconds. If the world were able to replace all our coal with gas, that would be equivalent to increasing the amount of renewables we have by a factor of five. Those who oppose fracking need to think about that. This is a very serious issue and it will not be solved by slogans.
At the weekend I met Action/2015 campaigners in Bristol, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), to discuss inequality, poverty and climate change. Tomorrow night I will be meeting members of UK Youth Climate Coalition to talk to them about how they can lobby MPs, and next Wednesday we will be lobbied by those taking part in the Big Climate Summer rally. I hope that this means we are seeing climate change back firmly on the political agenda.
The Labour Government led the way with the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act has now, in one form or other, been adopted by 99 countries around the world. Since then, however, the UK has stepped off the international stage. We failed to push for a stand-alone climate change goal in the sustainable development goals, we have not secured the ambitious EU targets we need, and at home the Government failed to include a 2030 target to decarbonise the power sector in its Energy Bill.
Any deal reached in Paris should include a goal to phase out fossil fuel emissions and a transition to a low carbon global economy by 2050. It is very good news that the G7 has decided that the decarbonisation of the global economy should be completed by the end of this century. As a step towards this, will the Energy Secretary commit to phasing out coal without carbon capture technology by 2023?
Back in 2010, the coalition agreement talked about becoming
“champions for British companies that develop and support innovative green technologies around the world, instead of supporting investment in dirty fossil-fuel energy production.”
That did not happen, however. Earlier this year, figures obtained by The Guardian through a freedom of information request showed that UK Export Finance gave £1.13 billion in export credits to “dirty” energy operations abroad, compared with just £3.6 million to clean energy—and £3.2 million of that was for a single deal, an offshore wind farm in Germany. Joining the USA and France in stopping support for coal through export credits would send a strong signal to the rest of the G7 and G20.
May I ask the Minister to comment on last week’s report by a UN panel of experts released to coincide with UN environment day, which ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts? The experts concluded that both energy and agriculture needed to be decoupled from economic growth if we are to meet our climate goals. Agriculture is on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth. Environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income. That is simply unsustainable. By 2050, global consumption of meat and dairy is expected to have risen by 76% and 65% against a 2005-07 baseline. That is simply incompatible with the objective of limiting warming to 2°.
The final point I would like to make in the very limited time available to me is that the Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa in July is very important. Will the Minister urge the Chancellor to attend?
I congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) on his excellent maiden speech and his generous tribute to Stephen Mosley. I would very much reiterate his comments. I also congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) on their fantastic maiden speeches. The Conservative party is in extremely good hands with such people on our Benches.
In the short time I have, I would like to concentrate on why I believe the issue of climate change is so important. My reasons come from a very practical standpoint. I lived in Tanzania for 11 years on Mount Kilimanjaro and I saw the diminution of the glaciers there, which continues to this day. I also worked—I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—in small-scale agriculture, and I saw the impact on smallholder farmers across the world of both erratic rainfall and unseasonable events, such as hail storms that could destroy crops and droughts that could mean they had no crops at all. That is why adaptation is so critical, and the work of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for International Development is incredibly important.
My approach is also practical in the area of distribution. We have talked about generation quite a lot, but the distribution of power is vital, which is why I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to mention smart grids and interconnectors between the UK and elsewhere, allowing us to balance generation both within the UK and across Europe.
Finally, I would like to reiterate the comment made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) about high energy-intensive users. We have to be practical. We do not want imported carbon emissions. We have a large trade deficit, and perhaps one reason our carbon emissions have decreased over the past 20 years is that we have a substantial deficit in manufactured goods. As we seek to increase our trade and cut that deficit, we might see an increase in emissions related to those exports, despite the energy efficiency of our industries. We have to adopt a practical approach, like the French and Germans do. We also have to remember that our house-building programme, which is vital, depends on the availability and manufacture of bricks and tiles in this country, often from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, part of which I represent. We have to make sure that we do not drive the manufacture of those products overseas by policies that might have those unfortunate consequences.
Climate change is development in reverse. A changing climate threatens the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world, and it is one of the gravest development challenges we face. Global warming slows growth and creates new poverty traps for families and communities already struggling to survive. Failing to tackle it will not only stifle progress on poverty alleviation, but cause millions of people to fall back into poverty. If temperatures continue to rise on current trends up to 2030, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia alone face an increase in poverty of up to one third.
When someone’s very survival is under threat from failed crops or natural disasters, from thriving diseases or conflict over resources, economic development and other priorities become a romantic ideal. The recent news of the agreement by the G7 fully to decarbonise the global economy should be welcomed by all sides, but the lack of more immediate binding targets from the world’s richest nations points to a profound lack of global leadership. The news from Bonn that negotiations are floundering just six months from what must be a historic climate change agreement is also deeply worrying.
There is an opportunity coming up to address this matter, but it is not in December in Paris; it is in September at the sustainable development goals conference. It would allow us to set binding targets that are achievable in our own lifetimes and during our own political careers. Therefore, I urge the Secretary of State and her counterpart in DFID to ensure in September that the climate change situation remains a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, with the 2° target embedded in the language. Although I welcome her to her position, I was disappointed that she did not get the opportunity to speak about the September conference in her opening remarks. Environmental sustainability should be integrated in the attendant targets. We need measures on mitigation and adaptation and we need to make sure that both are adequately funded.
It is vital that the UK Government lead by example and push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of progress made towards the 2° goal. The poorest people in the poorest parts of the world deserve nothing less.
We have had an excellent, if short, debate on this vital issue. I begin by welcoming the Secretary of State to her role and the Minister of State, who will be replying to the debate, to hers. I would like to compliment all Members who made their maiden speeches—the hon. Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) and my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson). We all enjoyed hearing three excellent maiden speeches. I am sure that their constituents will enjoy reading them and will enjoy their contributions over this Parliament and into the future.
We have heard some excellent speeches from across the House. We know that the global climate is warming and that human activity is contributing to that change. That is solid, established scientific fact, which even the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) accepted. As global temperatures increase, so do the associated risks of drought, forest fires, the melting of the polar ice caps, sea-level rise and flooding. The consequential devastating impact of such risks on people around the world is obvious.
The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, completed in 2014, makes it clear that to control these risks, we have to limit global temperature rise. That is why 2° of warming has long been accepted by economists, climate scientists and world Governments as the level above which the risks associated with climate change become unacceptably high. Dangerous climate change beyond 2° means natural disasters and human suffering on a massive scale in the decades ahead.
We in the UK will not be immune. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change here, with increasing incidence of severe weather events such as the flooding of winter 2013. Indeed, the chance of a catastrophic flood happening in England within the next two decades, causing in excess of £10 billion in damage, is one in 10, so inaction is not an option—a point with which the Secretary of State agreed.
This year will be a critical one for efforts to keep global climate change below 2° of warming. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Paris at the end of this year are a massive opportunity to get Governments from all over the world to agree to binding emissions reduction targets. This is a moment when politicians world wide need to be ambitious about what we can achieve through international co-operation. That will include agreeing in September a stand-alone commitment to combat climate change in the sustainable development goals, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) said. It also means pushing for success in Paris in December, with all nations committing to emission reduction targets for the first time. More work needs to be done, however. Based on the pledges made by Governments so far, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) said, global warming would be limited only to around 3°—insufficient to prevent the worst possible consequences of climate change.
Prior to the Kyoto talks in 1997, there was concern that the world lacked enough ambition. It was Lord Prescott and a newly elected Labour Government, leading from within the EU bloc, who fought for the toughest target possible. The UK has done it before and we have to do it again. I hope Ministers and the Secretary of State will rise to that challenge, as Lord Prescott did.
We welcome the historic commitment by the G7, led by Germany, to agree to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century, but let us be clear—that is 85 years from now, and the truth is that it would be better if we were able to go faster. That is why our own domestic targets, enshrined in the Climate Change Act 2008, commit the UK to an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.
We need the UK Government to push for ambitious emission reduction targets for all countries, which the Secretary of State said she would. We need them strengthened every five years, based clearly on the scientific evidence, which she also accepted. We need to see net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, alongside transparent and universal rules for measuring them, which apply to all nations. It is simply not enough just to set targets if each country has a totally different method of accounting for its carbon emissions. Again, the Secretary of State appeared to be sympathetic to that call.
We also need a global deal that recognises the unique responsibilities of each nation. Richer countries that have played a far greater role in contributing to global emissions need to support and empower poorer nations, so that they can combat climate change and deal with its consequences. That point was made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), whom I welcome to his Front-Bench responsibilities.
Let us be clear: such a deal would be good for the United Kingdom. Achieving a global deal will mean reducing our own exposure to costly climate impacts, but it also presents an almost unparalleled economic opportunity to create new jobs and growth throughout the world. Many of our own citizens and UK companies could be part of that. The International Energy Agency, of which the UK is a member, expects nearly $7.8 trillion to be invested in renewable energy over the next 25 years in what Lord Stern has described as the “new energy-industrial revolution”. The UK should take advantage of that rapidly growing market. It should grab a slice of the worldwide action to enable UK companies to innovate and succeed, creating the good jobs of the future here in the UK.
Will my hon. Friend join me in asking the Minister why the Government are not sorting out the chronically under-performing green deal, which could help to keep people warm, cut their fuel bills, tackle fuel poverty and create thousands of jobs, as well as cutting carbon emissions?
That is a good point, and I am sure the Minister will refer to it. My hon. Friend hardly needs me to reiterate it for her.
We must have an active industrial strategy for the green economy, with the potential to create 1 million new green jobs by 2025. We need a legally binding target to take the carbon out of our electricity supply by 2030, and we need borrowing powers for the green investment bank. We also need to protect our homes and businesses from the impact of climate change, including flooding. Opposition Members do not think that the current national adaptation programme is good enough to meet the challenges of the times, which is why we have called for a new national adaptation programme to protect our most vulnerable communities and ensure that all sectors of the economy are adapting to climate change. We also hope that the £83 million cuts in the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that were announced last week will not come from the funds that have been set aside to maintain our existing flood defences.
The Government should accept that we cannot separate the need to take action on climate change from the need to protect nature. Climate change is a serious long-term threat to nature, but restoring nature is also part of the answer to the problem of reducing emissions and increasing our resilience.
It is not just the Labour party that has called for those developments. This morning, as was mentioned earlier, representatives of some of Britain’s biggest businesses—including Tesco, Unilever, BT, and even Sky—wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, published in the Financial Times, warning that
“Failure to tackle climate change could put economic prosperity at risk. But the right action now would create jobs and boost competitiveness.”
This Government must wean themselves off the Chancellor’s misguided idea that to be in favour of action to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change is somehow anti-business. Persisting with that view will put at risk our ability to lead the world in securing high-skill jobs as we innovate our way to a low-carbon future.
In the run-up to the Paris climate negotiations, we need a Government that set out real solutions to the problem of reducing our emissions and adapting to climate change. If that is to happen, there must be a huge increase in commitment from the Conservative party. All too often over the past few years, what we have seen from it has been equivocation on the science, and warm words instead of real action. We have high hopes of the new Secretary of State: we hope that she will be able to change that. The last Government were too fast to slash investment in flood protection in the early years of the last Parliament, and even their revised plans following the 2013 winter floods actually allow an increase in the number of households that are at significant risk of flooding.
Over the past few months and years, the debate about our national security has been dominated by calls for 2% of our GDP to be spent on defence, but we have heard far less about the 2° target towards which we shall be working at this year’s Paris climate talks. We need to hear more. If we fail to keep global climate change below 2° then I fear the threats to our national security in future will dwarf those that we face today. We could not, and we should not have to, justify to future generations why we failed to mitigate and adapt to climate change caused by human activity. The UK has a proud history. It falls to this Government to make sure it continues to have a good reputation. I wish them well and I hope they are up to the task.
This has been a valuable debate on climate change and the international negotiations to secure an ambitious outcome in Paris in December. We have had some excellent maiden speeches and we have heard some knowledgeable and passionate views from Members on both sides of the House.
As many have rightly said, climate change is happening and is already impacting on our environment, economy and health. A global deal is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required, and it is the only credible way to drive down the costs of climate action. It will give a clear signal to businesses and investors that Governments are committed to delivering a global low-carbon economy. It will also give a clear message to our citizens that we are determined to ensure affordable, secure and cleaner energy for them, their children and grandchildren.
A global deal is fully in the UK’s interests. It provides the route to leverage more from others without taking extra effort ourselves and, as a leader in green technology and innovation, our economy and competitiveness will benefit more from a global deal than without one.
I am sorry, but there is not enough time.
In addition to the science and sustainability arguments, there is a compelling case to avert direct threats to the UK such as severe weather events from floods to heatwaves that can wreak economic and social damage, as well as indirect threats through global changes such as rising costs and regional instability. So it is vital that we act.
We had some excellent contributions including from the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Aberdeen in my first week in this job. He talked about being collegiate and working together. He also talked about climate justice and I applaud him for his interest in that subject. He talked about onshore wind subsidies, recognising that this Government have a mandate to act to balance the views of local communities against the need for renewables. He has the opportunity to consider, and will be consulted on, those changes to subsidies and what Scotland can do for itself to maintain them if they wish to.
I am afraid I cannot give way.
My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) offered some challenging proposals, saying the climate is changing but that that is not necessarily man-made. I would say to him that there is a lot of evidence that the current level of atmospheric CO2 concentration is unprecedented in the earth’s history. The Royal Society has said:
“The present level of atmospheric CO2 concentration is almost certainly unprecedented in the past million years, during which time modern humans evolved and societies developed.”
I can also tell my hon. Friend that when I met DECC’s chief scientific adviser—an engineer, not a climate scientist—for the first time he told me that if we keep adding CO2 we will warm the earth. We can argue about how much and by when, but I personally, with 25 years’ experience in finance, tend to take the probability argument that it is not something I would want to bet against, so even if we do not accept the 2° argument, we must accept that we cannot take away the risk to our children and our grandchildren’s futures. At the same time, I assure my hon. Friend that my priorities and those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be to keep costs as low as possible, and to keep the lights on while delivering a secure and clean energy future.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) talked about the fourth carbon budget and the importance of meeting it. He was concerned we may not do so. Interestingly, he talked about the cost, and I am glad to hear an Opposition Member talking about the cost of these things, as that is a huge priority on the Government Benches. He will appreciate that we are determined to meet our fourth carbon budget, but with a growing economy. We do not believe that decarbonisation and a growing economy are opposing goals. I am sure he knows that we intend to set our policies to meet our fourth carbon budget after we have announced the targets for the fifth carbon budget, which will be some time in the middle of 2016.
My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) made an excellent maiden speech in which he praised his predecessor, Brooks Newmark, for his brilliant intellect. I certainly remember Brooks from the Treasury Select Committee, and I am sure that, as a huge supporter of getting more women into Parliament, he would have been pleased to see today’s all-female line-up on the Front Benches for this important debate. My hon. Friend gave us a wonderful insight into his lovely rural constituency and told us of his determination to defend and improve it, including by fighting for better road and broadband infrastructure.
The hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) has great experience in the area of energy and climate change. He talked about his duty to his three children’s futures. With three children of my own, I fully share his commitment to all our children’s futures. He talked about love—feeling the love, sharing the love—which was a good, even heartfelt, way of approaching this subject. I am glad that he acknowledged the leadership shown by the Prime Minister in prioritising our low-carbon future.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) made a fantastic maiden speech without notes. She quite rightly paid tribute to the work of Dr Cable, and pointed out that she is the first woman MP for Twickenham. She said that she would put Twickenham first in everything she did. She is against expansion at Heathrow. She talked about culture, sport and science being great strengths, and about how Turner had painted the Thames from his home in her constituency. And of course Twickenham will be hosting the rugby world cup. Fantastic! She might not know that the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in her constituency contains the centre for carbon measurement, which plays an important part in tackling climate change.
The hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) also made his maiden speech today, in which he praised his predecessor, Stephen Mosley, for his work on the Science and Technology Committee. He talked about the importance of the high-tech manufacturing sector in the UK and said that many of the businesses in his constituency were involved in the aerospace, automotive and other high-tech industries. He emphasised the importance of supporting them. He also talked about the impressive history of Chester, about its giant-making legacy, which I think we all need to look into, and its financial services capability. He described Chester as a model for a mixed economy and expressed his gratitude to his constituents for voting for him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) is extremely knowledgeable in the area of energy and climate change. He asked how we could get everyone else to do something that came close to the target in our 2008 Climate Change Act of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. He gave us cause for optimism by mentioning ideas and pointing out what we should be doing. He talked about what we had not done and what we needed to do, and I am grateful to him for his thoughts.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) spoke passionately about her need to see further and faster decarbonisation. I can assure her that we share her concern and her determination, but we believe that we can achieve decarbonisation with a growing economy. We do not see those two goals as mutually exclusive.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) talked about his considerable experience in fuel-poor developing countries and about the importance of smart grids and interconnectors. I can assure him that we share his interest in the vital importance of getting better and smarter, and in the grave importance of keeping manufacturing in the UK rather than driving it out by raising energy costs.
The hon. Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) talked about fuel poverty in developing countries and about how the survival of people in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia was under threat from failed crops. He spoke passionately about the need for greater ambition, and we share that concern.
It is clear that the most cost-effective and competitive way to address the severe impacts of climate change is through an international legally binding rules-based agreement covering all 194 countries under the UN framework convention on climate change. Securing an ambitious deal is a priority for the UK Government and we are already working closely with our international counterparts to reach consensus. This can clearly be seen from the G7 summit last weekend, at which the Prime Minister, along with other leaders, prioritised an ambitious climate change package and agreed the language on the need for a deal in Paris on finance and on future ambition. Negotiations will not be easy, but we are making progress and we will work hard to achieve an outcome that keeps the 2º target within reach and puts us on the pathway towards a global low-carbon future.
As Margaret Thatcher said:
“No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy, with a full repairing lease.”
claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).
Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.
Question agreed to.
Main Question accordingly put and agreed to.
That this House believes that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris in 2015 is vital in ensuring that the target of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees is met; further believes that the UK Government should push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the two degrees goal, a goal of net zero emissions in the second half of the century, transparent and universal rules for measuring and reporting emissions, climate change adaptation plans for all countries, and an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in their efforts to combat climate change; and further notes the importance of making adequate plans for domestic mitigation and adaptation and ensuring communities are protected from the worst effects of climate change, including flooding.
Perhaps I might gently appeal to Members who are unaccountably not staying for the Adjournment debate to leave quietly and with consideration for the hon. Member who has the debate, just as they would wish that courtesy to be extended to them if roles were reversed.