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Climate Change: Adaptation Costs

Volume 605: debated on Thursday 11 February 2016

11. What discussions she has had with her Cabinet colleagues on limiting climate change to prevent greater future expenditure on adaptation. (903595)

I am clear that the only way to address climate change effectively is through global action, building on the global agreement that the UK was instrumental in achieving in Paris in December. All countries need to act if we are to bring down emissions and minimise adaptation costs in the future. I want the UK to continue to set an example by addressing the 1.2% of global emissions that we are responsible for, while at the same time continuing to grow our economy.

The Government’s advisers have warned them that if global temperature rises are not limited, there will be a big increase in flooding in the UK. The effects of flooding were felt acutely in the Lancaster district during Storm Desmond, when our substation was flooded and we lost the electricity supply for three days, affecting tens of thousands of homes and businesses. Will the Secretary of State commit to upgrading our adaptation plans, including our flood defence budgets, especially those for defending our electricity supplies?

I am aware of the impact of flooding in the hon. Lady’s constituency, and I remember her speaking during the debate that we had on the subject with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The best way to address dangerous climate change and its potential impact on extreme weather events is to get a global deal, which is why we have been so focused on trying to do so. I reassure her that I will work closely with my colleagues in DEFRA to ensure that we have a national adaptation programme in place.

One thing that we have to do in the UK to meet our obligations under that international deal is to reduce further our emissions from buildings. When people buy a more efficient car, they pay less tax than they would on a less efficient model. Should not the same apply to the taxation of buildings?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that addressing buildings is an incredibly important part of trying to meet the renewable energy targets that we have set for 2020 through the EU. I am working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government to see what action we can take to address that, but buildings are an important part of the mix.

I would be reassured to know that the Secretary of State does not literally address buildings.

Surely one of the most important things that the Secretary of State can do to limit climate change is publicly to state how she will meet the shortfall in our legally binding renewable targets for 2020. She knows that beyond 2017, her Department projects a 25% shortfall across the heating, electricity and transport sectors. The Eurostat data released yesterday show the UK to be missing its target by the widest margin of any European country. What assessment has she made of the potential fines the UK may face as a result of that failure?

I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s catastrophic view of the progress that we have made. We already have nearly 25% of our electricity coming from renewables, and we believe that we may well exceed our target of 30% by 2020. In terms of the overall renewable target, I hope he will welcome, as I do, the fact that we have already exceeded our interim target, which was 5.4%; we are now at 6.3%. However, we are aware that we need to make more progress, and we have set out clearly what we will do during this Parliament to address the shortfall.