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Climate Change Conference

Volume 599: debated on Thursday 17 September 2015

Securing an ambitious global climate change agreement is crucial, and I am taking every opportunity to press for an agreement that is ambitious, legally binding, has mitigation commitments from all parties and includes a set of robust rules that allows the world to track progress. Over the coming weeks, at meetings in China, India and the US, I will be making the case for an ambitious climate change deal to my international counterparts that helps deliver on these key objectives.

No other country has yet passed climate change commitments to match those in the Climate Change Act 2008, which we passed nearly 10 years ago now. Indeed, globally we are seeing a resurgence in coal, led by countries such as Germany, which is replacing low-carbon nuclear with coal. Does the Secretary of State believe that the Paris process will result in a more level playing field? Without that, the prognosis for energy-intensive industries in this country, which employ 900,000 people, is bleak.

I do not accept that we are acting unilaterally. The fact is that the UK is a leader, which is a good thing when we are trying to be ambitious in this area, and we are finding that other countries are increasingly working with us. I believe that Paris will be critical to getting an international level playing field and, to return to earlier questions, supporting investor confidence.

Given that so many of the intended nationally determined contributions submitted so far, particularly from developing countries, are conditional on international finance, what efforts has the Secretary of State been making with her counterparts in Europe to ensure that Europe’s contribution to a financial pot to meet those contributions is fulfilled?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about climate finance, which is key to getting a successful deal, and I am happy to say that I have been playing a leading role in that, chairing climate finance committee meetings with our international counterparts to ensure the transparency and confidence necessary to bring developing countries into the final deal.

Does the Secretary of State accept that global warming can, by definition, only be tackled globally, and will she confirm that the UK is responsible for about 1.5% of global carbon emissions? Will she therefore agree that although unilateral action might make a few people feel good about themselves, in terms of changing the world’s climate, it is completely and utterly futile?

The green economy is a fantastically growing opportunity for employment and businesses, and I hope my hon. Friend would agree that it will become even more important if and when we get a deal in Paris, because countries internationally will want to invest in the green economy. They are all making it a priority, as the UK has done.

The Secretary of State is meeting her EU counterparts in two days, and she has the Opposition’s full support in negotiating a tough deal ahead of the historic Paris conference later this year. It is clear from recent analysis that the national climate plans do not currently offer sufficient ambition to reach climate safety. She talked about the UK’s being a leader, which was extremely welcome, but what concrete action is she taking to ensure that the UK pushes us further on an international stage and plays a leadership role in the talks in Europe?

The hon. Lady raises one of the most important questions and challenges facing us this year, and I am encouraged to have her support. We are playing a leading role in Europe—I referred earlier to the role I have been playing not just in Europe but internationally to help broker support from the developing and developed countries. It is important to play that role to make sure we get the right outcome, and we continue to be ambitious in the EU, but in truth the EU is committed to this; it is bringing in the other countries that is so challenging.

I am grateful for that answer, but the Secretary of State will be aware that, outside this place and in the wider world, there is real fear that we will not reach climate safety through these negotiations. Will she commit to push the EU to go beyond the existing target of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030, to secure a provision in the agreement that international goals will be increased every five years and to ensure that the UK acts as a force for higher ambition both in Europe and on the international stage?

May I gently point out to the hon. Lady that it is not the EU that is the issue; it is making sure that the other international large emitters participate in the process? China, for instance, produces 26% of the world’s emissions, which is more than the US and EU combined, so the real challenge is to ensure that we get other countries on board. She is right that we are also pushing for, and hope to get an outcome on, regular reviews. If the final outcome will not put 2° immediately within reach, we need to ensure that the ongoing process—the reviews—does.