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Cross-Departmental Environmental Agenda

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 25 June 2015

1. What contribution her Department is making to cross-departmental work on the Government’s environmental agenda. (900535)

12. What contribution her Department is making to cross-departmental work on the Government’s environmental agenda. (900548)

On 5 June, I marked world environment day by visiting the Thames barrier, an important defence and an iconic part of London’s landscape. When designed, it was expected to close once or twice a year, but has closed 61 times in the last five years alone, clearly demonstrating the impact of climate change. We are determined to protect and enhance our natural environment for everyone and pass it on to future generations. That is why my Department is leading the cross-Government work to push for a strong global deal in Paris, and ensure that we are the greenest Government ever.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer and welcome her to her post, to which I know she will bring great expertise and passion. It is especially pleasing to have a Conservative Secretary of State for this Department—for the first time in 18 years. Which Departments has my right hon. Friend had discussions with and why are the discussions important?

My hon. Friend is of course right. Cross-governmental work is incredibly important for delivering our ambitious targets. It is already happening, including between my Department and the Department for Transport through a joint unit on ultra-low emissions vehicles. There is also DECC-Department for Communities and Local Government collaboration on energy efficiency in homes, and DECC-Department for Business, Innovation and Skills collaboration on helping businesses to save money on their energy costs by cutting their energy use. Government policies have contributed to an overall 22% decline in energy intensity since 2004—more than for most comparable economies.

May I echo the congratulatory comments made to the Secretary of State? In my Bath constituency, an incredibly active climate change lobby is working very hard day to day to educate young people about the impact of climate change on future generations. Will the Secretary of State update us on proposals to work with the Secretary of State for Education to ensure that climate change is taught as part of the national curriculum?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Making sure that the dangers of climate change are communicated to the next generation remains an important part of our plan. We work closely with the Department for Education to ensure that that happens. I recommend to my hon. Friend and to other Members the global calculator, which demonstrates to people what levers need to be pulled and what changes need to be made in order to achieve our climate change targets. We have a particularly user-friendly children’s version, which hon. Members might choose to show at their schools.

What is the Conservative Government as opposed to the coalition Government policy on carbon capture? There are three deep-mine pits left in Britain, and they are going to close within the next 12 months unless something is done on that front. The Conservatives always say that they differ from the coalition Government, so I want to test this new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Will she save those three pits? The last Government took £700 million out of the miners’ pension fund. Let us give some of it back, apply for state aid, save the three pits in question and save a lot of jobs.

The hon. Gentleman made an interesting point on which we can agree—that carbon capture and storage could and should be a very important part of our future. If we are to achieve our climate change targets and reduce emissions, we must have success with carbon capture and storage. We are committed to continuing to spend on and invest in CCS, and we hope that it will yield a positive result for our targets in the 2020s.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her new job, but want to press her on this. Could we see more sign of joint research and development innovation with Departments such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? At the moment, I am getting very little response from DEFRA on squaring up to the fact that climate change is changing the nature of the plants we can grow in this country, which is a great challenge to our economy.

The hon. Gentleman is right that we need more joint working. The ambitions we have to address our climate change targets require joint working. I will meet my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in order to work more closely with her. If we are to protect our environment from dangerous climate change, all Departments need to play an active role—and I will ensure that they do so.