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Climate Change

Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 5 January 2016

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that more action needs to be taken by the UK Government to address the threat of global warming; and further that steps should be in place to promote the use of renewable energy as part of a wider strategy to tackle climate change before the problem gets worse.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to implement a comprehensive energy strategy that will address the threats of climate change, both here in the UK and abroad.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Official Report, 19 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 7P.]


Observations from the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom); received 18 December 2015:

The Government have set out clear strategic priorities for Energy and Climate Change policy for this Parliament. These are:

secure energy so people can get on with their lives and businesses can plan for the future;

affordable energy so bill payers get a good deal; and,

clean energy to safeguard the country’s future economic security and ensure we meet our climate change commitments.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has outlined a range of initiatives to deliver on these priorities by developing an energy system that puts consumers first, delivers more competition, reduces the burden on bill payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation.

A cornerstone of our new energy strategy is the planned consultation to close all unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025, and restrict their use from 2023. This is significant as even with the huge growth in renewables over the past decade our dependence on coal has not reduced. Indeed a higher proportion of our electricity came from coal in 2014 than in 1999. If the UK takes this step we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.

New nuclear power stations will also have a central role to play in Britain’s energy future as a means of providing low carbon generation. We are dealing with a legacy of under-investment and with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid-2020s, this is already changing. There are also plans for new nuclear stations at Wylfa and Moorside and the Government will explore new opportunities, like Small Modular Reactors, which hold the promise of low cost, low carbon energy.

Renewable energy sources have increased dramatically over the past decade. In 2005 just 1.3% of UK final energy consumption originated from renewables. That has increased to 7.0% in 2014. Renewable electricity generation is driving that change, and in 2014 almost 20% of electricity generated in the UK was from renewable sources. With the current pipeline of projects, we are confident of achieving our ambition of 30% renewable electricity by 2020.

This deployment has led to some significant cost reductions. For example, the cost of solar has fallen by 60% since 2010. At the same time, some technologies have deployed at a fast rate. For example, with existing and planned future onshore wind projects the UK will be within the 11-13 GW range for 2020.

Some renewable technologies will continue to require Government support as costs fall. The Government have announced their intention to hold three auctions this Parliament, provided that the offshore wind industry meets conditions on cost reduction.

On the use of renewables in transport, the Government have taken a whole system approach to decarbonising the sector—promoting electrification alongside controlled biofuel deployment to maximise carbon reduction whilst continuing to make progress towards EU targets. To date this has included a £500 million commitment to make ultra-low emission vehicles more accessible to families and businesses and a requirement on fuel suppliers to ensure that 4.75% of transport fuels are sustainable biofuels.

Alongside this progress in developing renewable electricity and transport, the Government have announced a substantial increase in support for renewable heating. This will see funding for the world-first renewable heat incentive reaching £1.15 billion in 2020-21, as well as a commitment to spend an additional £300 million over the next 5 years on heat infrastructure, such as local heat networks.

As the petitioners note, climate change represents a significant threat to the welfare of the planet. As a country we have set ourselves the ambitious goal, one of the toughest in the world, of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. Progress to date has been strong and emissions were 30% lower in 2013 than in 1990. The actions outlined above in the energy sector will help us achieve this goal, and we will bring forward plans in 2016 for Carbon Budgets four and five—the interim steps on the way to 2050.

However collective, global action is required to address climate change, not just activities in one country. That is why achieving a global deal at the on-going climate talks in Paris was so important. To this end, the Government have also increased by 50% the funding provided to help the most vulnerable countries protect themselves from the effects of climate change. This £5.8 billion from April 2016 to March 2021 will help countries reduce their emissions as well as adapt to the weather extremes and rising temperatures associated with climate change. Alongside this funding, the most important task for the UK is providing a compelling example to the rest of the world of how to cut carbon while controlling costs.