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Paris Climate Change Conference

Volume 597: debated on Thursday 25 June 2015

I can assure the House that securing a global climate deal in Paris is my highest priority this year. Within the first two weeks of becoming Secretary of State, I attended the Petersburg dialogue in Berlin, and G7 Climate Ministers recently reported on the shape of the deal in their meeting. We will take every opportunity to press for an agreement that is ambitious, with regular reviews to further increase ambition and effective rules to allow us to track progress. I should also like to thank my predecessor, Ed Davey, for the leadership that he brought to this critical issue.

I, like other Members, was delighted to welcome constituents led by Christian Aid, in my case from Cardiff North, to talk about climate change last week. I spoke to members of Beulah church about the importance of the Paris conference and, in particular, about ensuring that countries such as China and India are brought along. Will the Secretary of State update us on that?

I, too, met constituents and leaders from that climate change campaign last week, part of the “Speak Up For The Love Of” climate lobby, which demonstrates support across many sectors. Many MPs met their constituents to discuss the issue. I spoke to counterparts in India and China when I attended the Berlin talks last month, and I was reassured by their commitment to a successful outcome in Paris. We look forward to both countries submitting their intended nationally determined contributions as soon as possible, and we are pressing for them to be ambitious.

I know the Secretary of State will be familiar with Glenleigh Park school in Bexhill-on-Sea, which was the first school in the Schools Energy Co-operative and has the largest community-owned primary school solar installation in the UK. How important does she think it is that all age groups engage with the issue of climate change ahead of the Paris conference?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: Glenleigh Park school is an excellent example of the engagement of young people with climate change, because it has the largest solar array of any primary school in the UK, generating clean, green energy, helping to cut the school’s carbon emissions but, above all, showing children how important and easy it is to access green energy in their everyday lives.

May I welcome both Ministers to their new roles and wish them well in their jobs? In addition to the Paris conference, there is the important New York conference on sustainable development goals, including climate change and energy. Will the Secretary of State make sure that her Department works with the Department for International Development to ensure that those issues are high on the agenda and we do not have a missed opportunity for the next 15 years?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to ensuring that the sustainable development goals become as binding and successful as the millennium development goals. I am working with my colleagues at the Department for International Development to ensure that we make those commitments happen in New York.

In my constituency, many people are concerned about the impact of fracking on their area, as it has a direct effect on their lives. Will the Secretary of State present a detailed health and environmental impact assessment of fracking to the conference in Paris?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that this Government have made a commitment to ensuring that we can extract shale and to do it in the safest and most environmentally friendly way. This country has a long history and record of safe environmental working in oil and gas. Let me reassure him that that will always be a priority in ensuring that we access the shale.

It is important that we make progress in Paris, and the EU must have a position on that. Is the Secretary of State concerned that no other country within Europe has made carbon reduction commitments that equate to what we are doing in the Climate Change Act 2008? In particular, I am thinking of countries such as Germany, which is now building unabated coal power stations at scale and whose carbon emissions are a third higher than ours per capita already.

My hon. Friend will be aware that Germany, despite that, has continued to reduce its emissions, but he makes the good point that we are ahead of our European counterparts. The great thing about that is that it gives us the leadership potential we need to make sure that the EU works as one unit and is ambitious in driving the agreement that we hope to get in Paris at the end of the year. It gives us that leadership opportunity.

Will the Secretary of State give us her assessment of the importance of Britain’s membership of the EU to our achieving a successful outcome at the Paris climate change conference? Following on from what she has just said, is she keen to see Europe agree an even more ambitious reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than the 40% already announced?

Let me take the opportunity to welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place, stepping in for the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), who I understand had something else to do this morning. He is absolutely right to say that making these targets is essential to us. The leadership provided by this Government within the EU was an important part of uniting the EU to make sure that we made the targets which enabled us to provide international leadership. The leadership role we have been able to play in the EU will be crucial to getting the Paris deal, and hon. Members on both sides of the House will draw their own conclusions about how important that is in terms of delivering on this important issue.

I welcome those words from the Secretary of State, but she did not appear to want to make the specific commitment to a 50% reduction in Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions. She will, of course, be aware that our domestic interim target of a 50% reduction by 2025 is already tougher, so does she not agree that it would be in our best interests, as well as those of the EU, to commit now to tougher action?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we have reserved our position; having brought the EU to the agreement, we will make a 40% reduction by 2030. We would still like to see it go further, but we are not pushing for that at the moment because we are looking to hold the whole of the EU together. We are working to make sure that we can use that unity to get a global deal, but that proposal is still on the table as a possibility we may yet push.