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Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Volume 599: debated on Thursday 17 September 2015

3. What assessment she has made of the potential effect of Government policy measures announced since May 2015 on carbon dioxide emissions. (901433)

As our manifesto made clear, we are determined to meet our climate change commitments. We will do this as cheaply as possible and in the interests of bill payers, hard-working families and businesses. The policy announcements that this Government have made to date are consistent with those commitments. We are making good progress towards meeting our 2050 carbon target, with emissions already down 30% since 1990. We will bring forward further proposals on how to meet carbon budgets over the course of next year.

In its June report to Parliament, the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change said that stronger action was needed to meet the carbon budgets for 2025 and 2050. Since then, as we have heard, the Government have cut support for solar and onshore wind, extended the climate change levy to renewables, and weakened housing standards. Will the Secretary of State go back to the Committee and ask it to make a new analysis, taking account of those policy changes?

I repeat to the hon. Lady that we are committed to meeting our climate change commitments. She will be aware that there are some areas of this that are more challenging than others. For instance, we still need to work up and make more progress on heat. As far as the relationship with the Energy and Climate Change Committee is concerned, she is right that we are in regular contact. I believe it will shortly be publishing a response to some of the changes we have made and we will have more comment to make on that in October.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the main factors accounting for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990 have been the recession, the dash for gas and the outsourcing of the manufacture of carbon-intensive products to China and other third-world countries? The huge expenditure on trying to reduce CO2 emissions by renewables has had far less impact. Is she therefore not right to try to pare down the cost of this rather ineffectual policy?

I have to confess that I do not agree with everything my right hon. Friend has said, but I agree that our energy needs a mix of policies. The bringing on of more gas has certainly been a successful way of reducing carbon emissions. With the development of shale, we believe that that will continue to happen.

Surely the Minister realises that if we are to have a cleaner and better environment, we also need to balance that with consumer interest in energy security. We need high-quality innovative technology—in which I have a long-term and registered interest. Many big environmental companies with leading technology have been absolutely alienated by the Government’s policy and are ceasing to invest.

I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation of what has happened. The Government are completely committed to innovation and are absolutely admiring of the areas in the industry where innovation is changing things. For instance, I named storage, where we think there will be great opportunity for more solar deployment.

Despite the Government’s policy announcements, investor confidence in green energy in the borough of Kettering appears still to be high, because, much to residents’ alarm, fresh applications for solar farms are being submitted to the local council. What can the Government do to get solar energy out of our agricultural fields and on to the big roofs of warehouses?

My hon. Friend raises a key point. It is the Government’s aim to ensure that subsidy support is only temporary, and we are hearing that solar could soon be without subsidy, which is something we want to encourage. Finally, just to agree with him, we much prefer, and will try to encourage, roof-top solar, rather than solar in fields.