With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement to this House.
As the Prime Minister said earlier this year, the international determination to address climate change and deliver a cleaner future is one of the facts of our time and one of our greatest opportunities. Only this month, we had a reminder of the importance and urgency of our mission in the form of the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest special report.
The report’s conclusions are stark and sober. They show that we are not on track to cap global average temperature rises to below 2° from pre-industrial levels, let alone to reach 1.5°. The implications of this difference in warming are spelt out in the science: from flooding risk going up to fisheries going down; from extreme weather events to extinctions due to loss of habitat—serious, challenging and difficult outcomes. To mitigate against the impact of climate change, we need to understand how to best transform our energy generation, land use, transport systems, industrial processes, homes and buildings. That is why, earlier today, I officially requested the advice of our UK independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on the implications of the Paris agreement, and this latest IPCC report, for the UK’s long-term emissions reduction targets.
We are the first major industrial economy to seek such advice, which again reaffirms our determination to lead the world in this area. I have asked for this advice on when and how we could achieve a net zero target for our economy, including whether this is the right time to set such a target, and how reductions might be achieved across sectors in the most cost-effective way.
This request was the first event in our very first Green GB Week, which is designed to bring together businesses, government and civil society to celebrate the extensive cuts in emissions that we have achieved in the UK, and to open up the discussion about the challenges and opportunities from cleaner growth. The week involved tens of partner organisations, more than 100 events, and thousands of participants right across the UK.
No country other than the UK has done more to prove that action on climate change and economic growth can go hand in hand. Since 1990, we have led the G7 group of countries in cutting emissions and also in growing our economy. Since 2000, according to a recent report, the UK has cut emissions per unit of economic growth by an average of 3.7% a year—I know it is a bit technical, but the reduction of carbon for every unit of growth we deliver is how it is measured—which is well ahead of the G7 average of 2.2%. Last year, 2016-17, we achieved minus 4.7% compared with a global average of 2.6%.
This low carbon transition offers huge opportunities for the UK, which is why clean growth sits at the heart of our modern industrial strategy. It creates jobs. There are already more than 400,000 jobs in the UK’s low carbon economy, and this thriving sector could grow by 11% a year up to 2030—four times faster than the rest of the economy. We are already seeing UK businesses leading the world. We have more offshore wind installed in the UK than any other country. Auction clearing prices for offshore wind have halved in the past two years, which is great news for industries and consumers alike, and this progress is opening up new markets from North America to South Korea.
In the first half of 2018, one in five of electric vehicles sold in Europe was made right here in the UK. In the service sector, the UK is consulting, and engineering firms are international leaders for global sustainable and low carbon projects. Since 2010, we have invested £52 billion in renewable energy projects in this country and the result is that we now generate more than half our electricity from low carbon sources—32% came from renewables in 2017.
We have committed more than £2.5 billion in Government investment in low carbon innovation in this Parliament, and we have galvanised action and initiative internationally, helping to secure the historic agreement of 195 countries to sign up to the Paris climate agreement. We have also established the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which has seen more than 70 countries, cities, states and businesses commit to transition away from coal power generation. We are leading from the front. In April this year, our power sector was entirely coal free for three days and we will phase out coal entirely from our power generation by 2025.
In the last seven years, we have delivered international climate finance to over 200 programmes in more than 75 countries, improving access to clean energy for over 17 million people and building the foundations for cleaner economic development in some of the poorest parts of the globe. Our progress to date is cause for celebration. I am proud to think of the UK—through successive Governments’ actions—as one of the greenest nations in the world. But while the world continues to deal with the implications of man-made climate change, we must not be complacent, and there is almost always more that we should be doing.
Today we publish our response to the annual progress report of the Committee on Climate Change, setting out what we have done since publishing our clean growth strategy this time last year and our next steps. The pace of innovation means that we cannot predict with certainty the most cost-effective path to our long-term carbon targets, but I can predict this: from how we travel to how we build our homes, we will need to make profound changes. Our strategy sets out some of the paths that we will need to take to do so.
This Government have set out the ambition to be the first to leave the environment in a better state than the one we inherited, but this must be consistent with strengthening our economy and providing opportunities for young people right across the country. Clean growth—which we are celebrating today and this week during the inaugural Green GB and Northern Ireland Week—can deliver all three, but to build on this success will require ongoing ambition and leadership from politicians right across the House, business, academia and civil society.
Ten years after the groundbreaking Climate Change Act 2008 was passed with almost unanimous support in this place, we want Green GB Week to bring the whole country together to celebrate the UK’s success and to set our ambitions for the future. Crucially, we need to understand that there are profound risks to our planet from uncontrolled warming, but that there are also huge opportunities in rising to this challenge. This Government are committed to maximising those opportunities. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement today. I am pleased to be responding to the news that she has written to the Committee on Climate Change asking for advice on setting a date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. However, despite any good intentions she may have had in writing that letter, she must understand that Government policy is demonstrably incompatible with that goal.
First, investment in renewable energy has undergone what the Environmental Audit Committee refers to as a “dramatic and worrying collapse”—falling 56% in 2017. Changes in planning rules and Government funding since 2015 have seen the rate of deployment of new solar fall 95%, and planning applications for new onshore wind fall 94%. The Government now plan to remove support to small-scale renewables, which according to the Solar Trade Association, risks the almost total collapse of the industry. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Secondly, this Government and the last have sadly overseen a collapse in investment in energy efficiency, with Energy UK pointing to a 53% drop in investment between 2012 and 2015, an 80% reduction in improvement measures, and further declines projected to 2020. Again, how is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Thirdly, this Government have pursued a policy of fracking at any cost, overruling local planning decisions and reportedly even considering relaxing earthquake regulations. Shale gas can only be described as low carbon if it replaces coal in the energy mix, but coal is already on its way out of the UK’s energy mix, before fracking has even started. If shale gas were to come online now, it would be displacing genuinely low carbon energy, not coal. James Hansen, the former NASA scientist known as the father of climate science last week slammed this Government’s decision to pursue fracking as “aping” Donald Trump. What a terrible irony it is that the first day of Green Great Britain Week is the day that fracking is due to commence in Preston. How is this compatible with net zero emissions?
Fourthly, last week the Government announced that they are cutting the electric vehicle plug-in grant by £1,000—a move described by industry as “astounding”. Fifthly, according to the Committee on Climate Change, the Government are off course to meet existing carbon budgets, which are set with a view to achieving an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. So I ask again: how is this compatible with meeting the more ambitious target of net zero emissions?
I believe that the answer to that question is contained within today’s letter to the Committee on Climate Change, in which the Minister describes carbon budgets 3 to 5, which run up to 2032, as “out of scope” of the referral. By effectively ruling out any additional action on climate change in the next 14 years, the Government seem to be asking the committee for advice but only in so far as they do not actually have to act on it. Unlike Labour’s plan to dramatically decarbonise energy supply and insulate 4 million homes as part of a green jobs revolution, the Government do not expect actually to implement any of the real measures needed to avert dangerous climate change. Sadly, without more robust and radical action from the Minister, she must realise that her Government’s vision for a green Great Britain is just a great green washout.
Is it not disappointing, on a day when we should be celebrating what politicians can come together to do, that the hon. Lady could not bring herself to do anything remotely cross-party?
I think the fundamental mistake that the hon. Lady and many other Labour Members make is that they confuse Government spending with results. We have seen a dramatic fall in the price of renewable energy, of solar panels and of energy efficiency measures, so thankfully we no longer need to make enormous subsidies with other people’s money in order to deploy the energy. In terms of the results, as I mentioned, we are now at 32% of renewables, and we had our first coal-free day. I know that the leader of her party, as long ago as 2015, was calling for reopening all the deep-cast coalmines in the north-east and has said that he will rule out nuclear.
He has changed his policy now, but back then it was not at all obvious what it would be.
The hon. Lady knows that investment in this sector is very lumpy. We have brought forward some of the biggest offshore wind projects the world has ever seen. One would always expect that money to go up and down.
The hon. Lady talked about feed-in tariffs. We have spent nearly £5 billion in subsidising feed-in tariffs since 2010, and it has indeed worked. We are now seeing record levels of solar deployment. We signalled back in 2015 that we would be seeking to remove subsidy from the sector. We have had a call for evidence to see what we will replace that with, and I look forward to making some announcements on that shortly.
The hon. Lady is right that we all need to do more on energy efficiency. That is why we have set out the most challenging targets the country has ever seen in order to improve efficiency both in our homes and in our other buildings.
The hon. Lady talked about shale gas. I find it amazing that so many Labour Front Benchers will take the shilling of the GMB union but will not take its advice on shale gas extraction. They are claiming that this does not create jobs; the union fundamentally disagrees with them. They claim that it is not consistent with a low carbon future. The Committee on Climate Change has said that it is entirely consistent with our measures. When they go home tonight to cook their tea, I ask them to think about what fuel they are going to use, because we know that 70% of the country relies on gas for cooking and heating. We have a choice. On current projections, we are going to move from importing about half our gas to importing almost 75% of it, even with usage falling, as it needs to going forward. I know that some Labour Members would love us to be spending more hard currency with Russia, but I am quite keen to soberly—[Interruption.] Perhaps if Labour Front Benchers would all like to stop mansplaining, I could actually make some progress. I would like to answer the hon. Lady’s questions without a whole load of chuntering as if I am the referee at Chelsea.
As I was saying, the challenge on shale is that we do use gas. We want to rapidly decarbonise gas as we will continue to do. This is entirely consistent with all our low carbon pathways. It is even consistent with the hon. Lady’s proposals for the renewable economy, because she will need 40% of that to come from some sort of thermal generation. It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation. [Interruption.] Well, do not listen to me—go and listen to your union paymasters.
We signalled that we would at some point have to stop subsidising electric vehicles. We have spent half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money since 2011 on driving up the deployment of EV, and three things have happened. First, the number of these vehicles has ballooned, with up to 13% of new car sales being electric in August this year. Secondly, the price of those cars is now falling, to the point where the decision to buy electric is becoming less of a challenge. Thirdly, the Government are investing £1.5 billion in the charging infrastructure that this country so desperately needs.
The hon. Lady talked about the carbon budgets. I have said this before, and I will say it again. Budgets 3 and 5 end in 10 and 15 years respectively. If we achieve budget 5, we will have achieved a cut of almost 60% in our emissions since 2010. We are on track already, without costing many of the policies and proposals that we set out last year, to deliver 97% and 95% of what is needed for those budgets. That is a pretty reasonable approach, and, given that we have made clean growth such a fundamental part of our industrial strategy, those figures will only accelerate.
Lastly, the hon. Lady invited me to talk about Labour’s policy. Well, where to start? As always, there is no detail on how their targets would be met, whether they are technically feasible, how much they would cost, how much they would add to energy bills or whether the supply chain could deliver it. As always, it is a load of fantasy numbers designed to create a press release. Labour talks about getting 44% of homes to renewable heating within 12 years, but 80% of homes are on the gas grid. Is the hon. Lady going to add to people’s energy bills the cost of disconnection and reinstatement of gas? I think we should know.
One of Labour’s own MPs said that we do not need to
“talk about renationalising vast swathes of the economy or reopening the pits”,
as the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) made such a virtue of doing in his leadership campaign. We will get on with delivering policies that are realistic and fully costed and deliver the most ambitious decarbonisation of the economy, and we will leave the Labour party to play fantasy economics with its energy policies.
Our annual reduction in emissions per unit of GDP is roughly three times that of the European Union. My right hon. Friend articulately described how the efforts of this Government are starting to pay off. Does she agree that, however much effort the United Kingdom is putting in, we have to look at this as a global problem, continue with whatever arrangement we have with the European Union and encourage it to move and use our budgets in other parts of Government to ensure that this is a global endeavour and that we are using our skills in this country to create a world where there are much lower greenhouse emissions?
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend’s long-standing work in campaigning and his ministerial work on the whole question of environmental sustainability. He is quite right that we are well ahead of our EU counterparts in decarbonising our economy. I was at the European Council on Monday, where we debated our emissions reduction targets. The Road to Zero is a very ambitious programme of emissions reductions, and we were among a handful of nations pushing for maximum ambition on reducing CO2 emissions from cars and vans. We should continue to do that regardless of the technical rearrangements of our relationship with the EU, because when it comes to carbon, we are so much stronger working together.
I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement and agree with her wholeheartedly that profound changes are needed and that more needs to be done. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I share the concerns that it has raised.
It is surely obvious to all that we need to rebalance the economy urgently towards sustainable energy, sustainable business and sustainable manufacturing. However, what is the point in the UK Government launching a Green GB and NI Week at the same time as they are prioritising nuclear over renewables and dragging their heels on climate emissions reductions? Actions speak louder than words. I think the Minister recognises that we are at a privileged moment in time, with most of the world crying out for change.
Will the Minister match the Scottish Government’s world-leading statutory climate targets of reductions of 56%, 66% and 78% by 2020, 2030 and 2040, as well as 90% by 2050? Will she tell the Government to stop dragging their feet and to use reserved powers, including subsidies and technology support, that would allow Scotland to achieve net zero emissions sooner? Will she tell the Government to deliver their green obligations by scrapping plans for new and expensive nuclear power plants and instead bring back renewable subsidies, support the oil and gas sector by aiding the low carbon transition, give Peterhead the £1 billion for a new carbon capture facility that it had expected and restore long-term certainty of policy to the whole sector?
The hon. Gentleman makes some very good points. I am pleased to pay tribute to the work of his Committee, and indeed to the work of the Scottish Government and the other devolved Administrations in contributing to our world-leading climate targets. We do of course score our CO2 emissions on a UK-wide basis.
The hon. Gentleman raised some important questions. He will of course know that UK energy policy is set in Westminster. Many of the subsidies that have been paid for—indeed, they have brought forward much of the renewables deployment in Scotland—have been set on a UK-wide tax basis. I do not think we should be bringing back renewables subsidies, as he called for, as we are getting to a point at which we no longer need to do so. We opened the world’s first subsidy-free solar farm last year, and we are of course buying offshore wind at very low rates.
I think we do have to work together. It is fantastic for all the Governments—I would expect the same of local authorities and Mayors of combined authorities— to set their own targets because there are so many levers that can be pulled on the ground, not least to motivate people and to motivate businesses to change the way in which they carry out their activities.
I do welcome that, and it was my Department that conducted the research. There is a myth that we do not have many green jobs, as we already have 400,000 in the economy. On the basis of our current work, we think that the number could grow to almost 2 million. One of the reasons why so many large companies are changing the way they do business is that they think they have a bit of a recruitment crisis, because they know that so many young people would much rather work for a sustainable company than otherwise. Indeed, Thursday of Green GB Week is all about opportunities: how people can get into this business; and how we can motivate the next generation—from schoolchildren up to young adults—to think about working in what will be one of our great long-term growth areas.
The Minister’s green words are great, but back on planet Earth the reality is somewhat different. What happened to the huge leap forward that Britain had with green power until recently? Does she think the present huge decline in renewables investment is anything to do with the Government? There is the ban on onshore wind, for example. How does she square that mad policy with the climate change challenge?
Again, it is a bit sad to hear that from someone with whom I was very proud to work in coalition and who did so much in this area. I would unpick two of the right hon. Gentleman’s points. First, there is no slowdown. Renewables usage is absolutely accelerating, and we are now at 32%—[Interruption.] Again, if we combine more for less as prices fall, why are we falling into the trap of defining success as how much we are spending rather than how much we are getting? We are getting 32% from renewables. That, along with the investment in new gas, is the reason why we are able to phase out coal.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of banning. There is no ban on offshore wind. In fact, he was the Minister who led so many of the fights about offshore wind farms. Frankly, those fights threatened to derail many of the conversations about clean growth, because they were so terribly controversial. [Hon. Members: “Onshore wind!”] There is no ban on onshore wind. Onshore wind is still operating. What we were elected on in our manifesto—the Government’s manifesto—was that we did not think large-scale onshore wind development was right for England, and I am afraid I believe in carrying out our manifesto commitments.
I urge my right hon. Friend not to take any lectures from the Labour party when it comes to shale gas, because it was under the Labour party that the current licensing round for the shale gas that is being fracked today was issued. May I urge her to continue to put in place the relevant safety measures and environmental protections, as this Government have done, which were not there when the Labour party issued the licence round?
I thank my hon. Friend for sharing that information with us. He is absolutely right. One of the reasons for believing that we can safely extract shale gas is that we have the strongest environmental standards in the world when it comes to oil and gas extraction. We believe that we may, indeed, need to continue to strengthen them.
However, is it not interesting? My hon. Friend has dealt with the brunt of a lot of the protests against the shale site to which we have granted a licence, and I was very disappointed to see the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) having a bit of a chit-chat with the protesters without bothering to go into the site to see its potential and the number of jobs that could be created by that vital industry.
As an electric car driver myself, I would point out to the Minister that the growth of electric cars means it is more imperative to invest in charging infrastructure, because it is pretty difficult at the moment to find a charging point that is not already being used. However, on the broader point, we are now talking about trying to move from a target of 80% in 2050 to net zero. Can she name one new thing she is doing, rather than going backwards, that will help us to meet that goal?
I again have to commend the hon. Lady’s long-standing and non-virtue-signalling commitment in this area; she is one of the few people who takes the advice on diet. I would love to know about electric charging stations between Bristol and London, because I will hopefully be making that transition shortly.
The hon. Lady is right, however. One of the key things that came out of the IPCC report, and will come forward, is that we may overshoot. What are we going to do about that? What are the technologies that will help us get back under 2°? We are one of the first Governments in the world to invest substantially in greenhouse gas removal technologies. I am not saying that that is the answer—I would not want to go there, and I would rather change—but if we have to pull CO2 out of the air or somehow get it out of the ecosystem, we will be one of the first Governments who are able to do that. That is something—[Interruption.] Well, I am afraid we need to consider it, and that is what the IPCC and the CCC have advised us to do.
First, I commend my right hon. Friend on the advances she is making in asking when and how we might reach a net zero carbon economy, because that laudable endeavour fits entirely with the Government’s moves to leave the environment in a better place than we found it in. However, does she agree that reducing our greenhouse emissions need not come at the expense of growing the economy, because we can invest in new technologies to achieve that? That would cut our energy bills, reduce emissions and increase efficiency. All those things were covered by my recent ten-minute rule Bill, and my right hon. Friend was extremely supportive of it.
Indeed I was. The idea that we need a jolly good recession to get emissions down is not in any way appealing, and I hope there is cross-party consensus on that. We of course need to grow in a sustainable way, but in pursuing this opportunity for the UK and to help the world, there is an absolutely immense and incredible opportunity to create jobs, prosperity and growth right across the UK. It is a complete win-win situation, which is why we should be pursuing it, and are pursuing it, so vigorously.
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will know that the signalling of the ending of the current tariffs was done several years ago. He will also know that we have just had a call for evidence, and I am reviewing that information. I will come back to the House shortly with proposals on those policies.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that reducing greenhouse gases need not come at the expense of growing the economy? Will she continue to make available funds for innovative energy sources such as geothermal energy from the projects currently being explored in Clackmannanshire in my constituency?
My hon. Friend has already made a powerful case for investment in geothermal. In many constituencies, we have old mine workings and we have some pockets with natural currents of geothermal—the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) has worked hard on that in the past. We do have some opportunities to extract relatively warm water and to use it for district heating. Indeed, one of the announcements I made today was about how we are going to bring forward some of the competitions to improve the way we collect waste heat and potentially reuse it. The projects in hon. Friend’s constituency are interesting, and I am sure he will continue to make strong representations about them.
In terms of joined-up Government, I wonder whether the Minister has had an opportunity to discuss Clean GB Week with the Transport Secretary, who seems to be merrily cancelling rail electrification schemes in favour of polluting bimodal trains.
I think that is a little unfair, because the bimodal trains that have been put in place have substantially lower CO2 emissions than the diesels they are replacing. The hon. Lady will know better than most the economic benefit that can come from this clean growth transition, because she has the new Siemens wind turbine factory in her constituency, creating many relatively well-paid, highly productive jobs, and we want to see a lot more of that.
In terms of the transport industry, I am very struck that, in Europe, we are able to push at the maximum envelope for ambition because of our “Road to Zero” strategy. We are pushing the envelope when it comes to transport emissions.
If my right hon. Friend has a moment to go on to the fantastic Green GB Week website, he will find 10 things that he and local businesses in his constituency can do, ranging from test driving electric vehicles to upgrading heating controls and understanding where his pension is invested. If he wants to signal the importance of this transition, he should make sure that his investments are in a pension plan that is not investing in unsustainable businesses. There are many things he can do and I would love to hear back from him about which ones he does.
Many of my constituents, as well as thousands of people across the country, have been subject to mis-selling under the Government’s green deal scheme, which was launched in 2013. Many are still paying the price and are thousands of pounds in debt. What will the Government do to compensate them and address the long-standing toxic legacy of the green deal scheme?
There are examples of mis-selling—and, indeed, under the current energy company obligation scheme. There is the usual redress through consumer channels, which hopefully the hon. Gentleman’s constituents know about. If he has specific cases he would like me to take up, I would be happy to look at them. I am working with a number of MPs. The Government do not step in—this was always a third-party scheme—but we do have an ombudsman in the green deal finance sector. It is important that whatever responsibilities and rights are there are used for the benefit of all our constituents.
I was delighted to mark the launch of Green GB Week up at Whitelee wind farm in Eaglesham, the largest onshore wind farm in the UK, to which my right hon. Friend has an open invitation any time she can fit it into her schedule. Does she agree that Green GB Week is not just about recognising how far we have come, but recommitting ourselves to where we want to get to, and, most importantly, how we want to get there, such as by committing to this as part of our industrial strategy?
When we talk about climate change, it can seem like an incredibly powerful threat that we are all completely powerless to deal with, but that is simply not true. We have already cut our emissions by 30-odd per cent. since 1990. In fact, the last time emissions were as low as this in the UK, Queen Victoria was on the throne. We can do it and we can lead the world in doing it, but there is no complacency. We are not doing this to give ourselves a birthday cake and a pat on the back. We are doing this because we think there is much more opportunity, and we can push the world to go further by showing that it is possible.
May I gently invite the Minister to come share a meal with me at some point? I say that because I wish to encourage her, after promising to consider using an electric vehicle, to go one further and consider a meat-free day every week. Alternatives to meat are available; there is a very tasty meat-free “chicken” stir-fry in my fridge right now. This is not something we have to do every day. She is very welcome to come and try out what going meat-free would involve. The serious point is that going meat-free or reducing the amount of meat we eat one day a week makes a huge contribution to reducing our emissions.
I would enjoy the hon. Lady’s company. As I said this morning, I am not trying to sell cookery books. We are here to set out some sober and serious policies. She makes an important point and I know that many people have made it. I am also very mindful of the farming community. If people are eating meat, they should look for locally sourced meat that is raised to the highest ethical welfare standards. We should all have a healthy diet, because it reduces the burden overall. Perhaps she can bring me in a takeaway version of one her specialties at some point.
In the borough of Kettering, 150 GWh of renewable electricity is generated every year, which is enough to power all 38,000 homes in the borough. Will the Energy Minister hail Kettering as one of this country’s greenest boroughs and use it as an example to encourage others to do the same?
It is great to see a Kettering green GB champion on our Benches. My hon. Friend is right: so many of our communities are living this process. It is not some scary existential threat. People are living it. They experience renewable energy—or not—and do not see it as a huge imposition. So many of our towns and communities are committing to these sorts of sustainable initiatives. That is part of Green GB Week, so that people can come together, learn from one another and, frankly, get a pat on the back for some of the things that they have done.
The Minister rightly mentioned the need to use innovation and new technology in rising to this challenge, yet her statement had not one mention of carbon capture and storage, which is considered vital to reach the Paris treaty targets. Norway is pushing ahead. Germany is planning this along the Rhine. Does she regret the £1 billion betrayal of Peterhead and will she commit to restoring CCS funding levels to 2015 levels?
The hon. Gentleman and I have had exchanges on this. He knows that we have committed £100 million from our current budget to invest in carbon capture, usage and storage technology. That money is being spent. We are working with several industrial clusters to work out how we decarbonise the power and get industry to put its emissions in there. Frankly, I was not the Minister at the time of the project’s cancellation, but we were going to spend £1 billion on decarbonising coal, which we no longer want in our mix at all, and we had not thought at all about how we would get industries in this area to put their emissions in. Since the pause of that competition, we have spent more than £300 million investigating our aquifers. They are the best in the world—offshore—and we will continue to explore how to do this in the most cost-effective way.
I applaud my right hon. Friend’s initiative. First, with her announcement today, the Government are one of the first around the world to respond to the IPCC report, and secondly, she has taken the initiative of Green GB Week to provide more focus on this country’s achievements—it is leading the world—in developing clean growth. I encourage her to get her officials to come up with a rather more snappy means of demonstrating the metrics used to show that we can grow the economy and renewable energy at the same time. If I might give her a pointer in that regard, will she please work more closely with Ofgem to encourage pre-accreditation for anaerobic digestion plants, which will shortly run out of time to get installed to take advantage of the feed-in tariffs?
My hon. Friend is the definition of “snappy”, so I will always take his advice on how to spice up any of these visuals. He is right that the way to make this acceptable is to make it visual and easy for people to understand. There is some very good stuff on the Green GB Week website, which I encourage him to look at. I will take away his point about pre-certification and perhaps we can discuss it at a separate time.
I am not going to congratulate the Minister on a letter. Action on this is long overdue. Scientific advice to the UK has been very clear. It tests political and policy consensus and hard decisions will have to be made. Is she ready, and crucially, does she have the influence across the Government to deliver? When will she start focusing on the cheap, tried and tested form of renewable technology—onshore wind?
We benefit from a lot of experience in this House and the hon. Lady has more than many in this area. Even though I could not get her to congratulate us, I am always very willing to listen to her thoughts on this issue. Two things are important. The clean growth strategy was the first cross-Government document we have ever published that set out in detail how we plan to decarbonise all sections of the economy. And, it was very lovely that the Prime Minister asked me to attend Cabinet, albeit at what I call “the kids’ end of the table”—it demonstrated that this is fundamentally part of the Government’s plan going forward. So yes, we are up for the challenge. We do not underestimate it and it will be a cross-Government initiative, as the hon. Lady can see and as we are delivering.
I very much welcome this statement on green growth. With green growth, can we make sure that we concentrate on electric cars, electric buses and electric taxis so that we can get better air quality in our inner cities, especially in the 43 spots across the country where we really do need to improve air quality, so that we have a greener Britain?
My hon. Friend, in his capacity as Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, knows very well that what is referred to as the “co-benefit” of cutting emissions also means better air quality, better human health and better child outcomes, in terms of reduced asthma levels. We did not think about that before, but now we are, and luckily we can understand those things and work out the costs and benefits, taking into account some of these new measures.
The Minister has made decisions now around scrapping the tidal lagoon project and rejecting her own commissioned report. We need to move on from that. What is her plan now for introducing tidal energy across the UK and making sure that south Wales is given the investment it was promised by the Conservative Government?
The hon. Gentleman will know that we have spent tens of millions of pounds looking at wave energy—we have Wave Hub off the coast of Cornwall and we have invested substantially in many of the trial sites. As we debated at the time, the problem with the Swansea lagoon was not the source of power per se, but the fact that it was the most expensive power station proposal we had ever had in the UK, and it is right that we care about taxpayers’ money. That said, we are always interested in looking at tidal: several other proposals have been brought forward, and the door is always open. I, like him, know the power of the Bristol channel, having grown up on the other side; the problem is delivering it in the most cost-effective way.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that businesses that do the right thing and install solar panels for electricity generation for their own use face a revaluation of business rates, which results in a higher charge, but that they do not face such a revaluation if the energy generation is for provision into the standard domestic grid. Will she commit to working with the Treasury to solve this somewhat unintelligible inequity?
The short answer is yes. I would point out, however, that there are companies making substantial investments in solar—Rolls-Royce, for example—that absolutely see its value and see it as part of their whole energy-balancing process. So this is happening, but my hon. Friend makes a good point.
I commend the Minister’s aims, but surely one easy way to pursue a clean growth strategy would be for the Government to require all new builds to include some form of solar energy panel in their design, apart from in the handful of situations where technical problems preclude it.
Whether solar, some other form of renewable energy or just improving energy efficiency, all were set out in the clean growth strategy. One of our aims is to get new homes built off the gas grid—there are 42,000 homes off the grid in my constituency—not to have fossil fuel heating from 2025. We intend to do that not only because we want to reduce emissions but because it will boost routes to market for some of our world-leading renewable heat technology.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I was looking particularly beseechingly there.
I thank the Minister for her statement. She is a great champion of growing our economy while also protecting our environment. Last week, I was proud to go to Downing Street with the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) to present a letter from 130 colleagues from across the House setting out our shared commitment to supporting the Government in the event that they decided to pursue net zero. Does the Minister recognise the strength of feeling across the Chamber that we must do everything in our power to limit the rise in global warming to 1.5° C and that net zero is the key to this?
I thank my hon. Friend and the other MPs for that challenge and their support. Ultimately—forget the political banter—we are the House that will have to agree these policy decisions, justify the spending to our constituents and help to communicate to them the opportunities that are there. I urge him to look at the Green GB website. There are masses of events in his area over the week, for students, businesses, local authorities and the like. There is lots of good stuff we can use to spread this important message.
The Minister has written to the UK Committee on Climate Change, but that committee has written to her twice saying she is failing to meet our Paris commitments, which it is important that we meet. When I was on Leeds City Council, we put 1,000 solar roofs on council housing. We cannot do that now without the subsidies. On cars, again she has cut the subsidies. Why not consider changes to subsidies for new hydrogen technologies for both heating and transport?
The hon. Gentleman, in his former role as a councillor—and, indeed, Leeds City Council—did amazing work on one of the really big challenges, which is decarbonising heat. As he will know, some of those heat projects are proceeding thanks to Government investment. In fact, a project up in the north-west involving Keele University is going live, blending hydrogen into the heat network. We are innovating, and are doing so in a way that could completely change the methods through which we heat our homes over the next 20 years. However, this is not just about subsidy. The Government cannot do this all on their own, while putting the burden on taxpayers. We must leverage in private industry, and we must work out the most cost-effective way to deliver our aim so that we can keep bills down.
The key to a decentralised smart energy system is people installing generation not for the purpose of selling to the grid, but to meet their own needs. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the way to make all that happen is to encourage people to install the storage, the electrified heat, the electric vehicles and all the other facilities that will help them to consume the power that they generate on their premises?
Indeed, and they should also be encouraged to install the smart meters that can join everything up and show them where the energy generation and export are coming from. We are seeing more and more of that, and we are supporting many of those investments through our innovation funding. Decentralised energy generation and energy balancing are a big part of the future.
As one who represents the constituency with the greatest number of green deal mis-selling cases, I think that the Minister’s answer to the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) was nowhere near good enough. The shameful mis-selling by Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd of UK Government-backed green deal products has cost potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds in my constituency alone, but so far the Government have shamefully washed their hands of any responsibility. When will they do the right thing and fund a compensation scheme for all those affected?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier answer. The scheme was employed in the private sector. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman want to listen, or does he want to keep shouting? There are obviously risks to consumers, and, as I also said to the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), I should be happy to sit down and have a conversation to see whether we can do more to make the current statutory powers more effective.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that nuclear will play a vital role in securing a low carbon future for this country? Does she think that we could keep the lights on if we stopped using it, as the Leader of the Opposition would like us to?
My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner. She has seen the benefits of nuclear locally and understands its international importance. We need a diverse energy mix, and that means making good decisions. It was very sad to see this reported in the Financial Times:
“In private, Jeremy is against, as is the majority of the shadow cabinet, but no one wants to put Rebecca in an awkward position.”
I feel terribly sorry for the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles. Dealing with that level of ideology cannot be easy. However, this Government can be trusted to deliver ideology-free energy policy that keeps the lights on and bills down.
As my right hon. Friend will know, along with the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), I have been a champion of the potential of geothermal energy in Cornwall. Although progress has been frustrating, we are very excited to be on the verge of seeing test drilling. Does my right hon. Friend agree that geothermal energy has the potential to play a significant role in the delivery of clean renewable energy in this country, and will she back its development in Cornwall?
I think that that is an incredibly important challenge. How amazing it is that the economic opportunity created so many years ago by the removal of all the various minerals there can now give us the potential to decarbonise our heat and to generate more jobs in my hon. Friend’s beautiful constituency.