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Economic Growth and Emissions

Volume 647: debated on Tuesday 16 October 2018

My hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) will know—and, I am sure, celebrate—that we have led the developed world in cutting emissions in our economy. Growth in our economy went up by 72% while emissions have decreased by 43%. That is not good enough—we want to go further and faster. That is why we set out last year all the policies in the clean growth strategy and why this week the first ever Green GB Week is helping us to re-emphasise the message that growth and green go hand in hand.

Earlier this month, I was pleased to welcome a Virgin Atlantic flight into Gatwick, the first ever sustainable fuels flight to land at the airport, using fuel derived from the recycled steel-making process. What can this Government do to ensure that the UK leads in this technology, which has the potential for zero carbon aviation by 2050?

This is a brilliant project and an example of exactly the innovation we need to tackle one of the most insurmountable problems we face, which is airline emissions. The Government relaunched last year a £22 million industry competition on future fuels for flight and freight to stimulate exactly this sort of innovative thinking.

Given that most people would prefer to live in a house that costs nothing to heat, boosting their spending power, that we have known for decades how to construct such houses cost-effectively and that there is no sign that big house builders will routinely offer such houses, are the Government planning to raise minimum standards for the thermal performance of new build houses, which will help the planet, the real economy and ordinary people’s household budgets?

I have here a card with my hon. Friend’s title—he is the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on self-build, custom and community housebuilding and placemaking, and he speaks with such knowledge and enthusiasm on this subject. He is quite right, and that is why we have set up the clean growth mission, why we have set out clear standards to drive up the energy efficiency of all homes to at least band C by 2035 and why we can no longer see new homes—particularly new build homes—that are off the gas grid being built with fossil fuel heating; we want that out by 2025.

But does the Minister not agree that the two aims can be brilliantly combined if we have an ambition to become a world leader in renewable energy and to increase investment in research and development in tidal and wave energy—two resources we have in abundance—to take them rapidly to commercial stability and create the jobs of the future?

The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that our renewable energy build is already over 30%, which is why we were able to get off coal earlier than many other developed countries. The problem with the tidal projects that we debated so extensively this year was that we were being asked to fund the most expensive power station that this country had ever built, with very few jobs created, and it was simply too expensive to burden consumers with. That is why we have said that the door is always open to innovation, but it has to be funded at the right price.

18. There is a huge opportunity for economic growth in the solar industry, but the news that the export tariff is being scrapped has alarmed many clean energy providers. More than 300 organisations, from small solar co-operatives up to Nissan, have signed a letter calling on the Secretary of State to reinstate the tariff. I am grateful to the Minister for meeting me in the past to discuss solar. Will she again meet me and representatives from the industry to discuss why a fair export tariff is essential to a viable solar industry? (907088)

It is always a pleasure to meet the hon. Gentleman. The problem we have with feed-in tariffs is that we have spent nearly £5 billion since 2011, through consumer bills, on supporting some often very uneconomic projects. Quite rightly, particularly given the reduction in the cost of other renewable energies, the decision was made that that was no longer affordable. I support that. He asks whether there are other ways to continue to invest in the sector, and he is quite right that solar has an important role to play in the system. We have just finished the call for evidence and are considering the responses, and I hope to come back to the House soon.

Yesterday, the Minister requested that the Committee on Climate Change update its advice on the action necessary to respond to the report on 1.5° by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For a brief moment, I thought she had done the right thing, but then I read her letter, which says:

“Carbon budgets already set in legislation…are out of scope of this request.”

The committee has already written to her twice, warning that the country is not on track to meet the lesser targets in those budgets. By saying that those budgets are out of scope, the Minister is pushing back the necessary change by 12 years. When did she become a follower of St Augustine—“Lord, make me virtuous, but not yet.”?

Blimey! Let me just clarify some of the hon. Gentleman’s misinformation. The reason those budgets are out of scope is that we already have a set of policies and procedures that will deliver 97% and 95% of the decarbonisation—[Interruption.] If he listens for a second and stops mansplaining, he might learn something. I live in hope; which saint said that?

The point is that the Committee on Climate Change told us last time we discussed the challenge of zero carbon that it was not technically feasible now. It would be pointless to ask for its advice again when we already have some of the most ambitious carbon reduction plans in the world up to 2032, set in statute. We need to know what to do from 2032 onwards, so that we can start planning for it now. Just once, it would be lovely to have some cross-party consensus on the challenging, vital issue of the destruction that climate change will cause. I live in hope.