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Zero Emissions

Volume 607: debated on Thursday 24 March 2016

7. What steps her Department is taking to enshrine the commitment to net zero emissions made at the Paris climate change conference of December 2015 in UK law. (904299)

As confirmed last Monday during the Report stage of the Energy Bill, the Government will take the step of enshrining into UK law the long-term goal of net zero emissions, which I agreed in Paris last December. The question is not whether we do it but how we do it.

I am sure we all welcome that change of heart from the Government thanks to the campaign waged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), but how does the Secretary of State think the Government’s antipathy towards the renewables industry—and the fact that she has a Minister who is actively campaigning for Brexit—will help to achieve that target?

There has been no change of heart. I was at the Paris climate change talks and we fought for a high ambition. We ran the high ambition coalition meetings and we are absolutely committed to delivering on our existing commitments and to looking further ahead. This Government are committed to that and we believe we can do it better by staying within the EU.

After we passed the Climate Change Act 2008, we hoped that other EU countries would follow with similar commitments: none did. Indeed, many countries, including Austria, Holland and Ireland, have made no emissions savings since 1990. We saw the result of that in the Paris COP 21 when the EU submission was significantly lower than the UK’s targets. Can the Secretary of State look me in the eye from her position and tell me that we will not be acting unilaterally this time?

Order. May we have an end to this rather tedious business of requests for looks in the eye? I say that in the context of answering the hon. Gentleman because the Secretary of State’s responsibility is to address the House. If she looks at anybody, she should look at the Chair. She certainly should not be looking behind her at the hon. Gentleman, a very agreeable sight though it may be.

Thank you for that guidance, Mr Speaker. May I point out to my hon. Friend that a positive element of the Paris deal is that other countries are now making commitments? I know that he is concerned that other EU countries are not making the same commitments as us, and it is correct that our Climate Change Act is one of the most ambitious, but I am proud of it and other EU countries are beginning to emulate it, although there is more work to do.

Since 2010, the Government have presided over a sharp reduction in the number of households receiving energy efficiency measures. Does the Secretary of State agree that meeting a net-zero emissions target will require a step change in the Government’s energy efficiency polices? If so, when might we see that?

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of the EU directive coming in in 2020 to make all new houses nearly net-zero. We will be sticking to it, which will be a helpful addition to ensuring that new houses do not have the same problems that some have at the moment.