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Climate Change

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 9 May 2019

Tackling climate change is a cross-Government priority and it is one of a range of issues that I discuss with all Cabinet colleagues. My Department works closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to reduce emissions in the natural resources sector, as set out in the clean growth strategy.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Of course Scotland leads the way not only on renewable energy production but on the commercialisation of new renewable energy technology. Can he explain how this area is a priority for his Government when they are cutting the subsidies to renewable energy generators? When will he review that process so that Scotland can continue to generate new renewable electricity and export it to the rest of the UK?

I am happy to congratulate the many entrepreneurs, innovators and others who have been responsible for powering ahead with the growth of the renewables sector not just in Scotland but across the United Kingdom. One of the reasons why subsidies for solar, for example, have been cut is because the price has come down—the subsidies were necessary to kick-start investment. It is a fact that 99% of solar power generated in this country has been generated since 2010—since the Conservatives have been in Downing Street.

I understand that the Secretary of State sat in close attention when Greta Thunberg visited recently. Following her visit, will he tell us whether he agrees with the Scottish Government that there is a climate change emergency? If so, what does he intend to do to cut emissions from aviation?

There absolutely is a climate change emergency and a need to act, and Greta Thunberg’s testimony was incredibly powerful. When it comes to aviation, we need to work with the sector to ensure that we balance the need to promote growth and, indeed, the need to promote links across the United Kingdom while moving towards meeting our net zero goal.

The Scottish Affairs Committee, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and, most recently, the Committee on Climate Change all agree with the Carbon Capture and Storage Association that carbon capture, usage and storage technology—CCUS—is essential for achieving a net zero emissions target by 2050. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that, in order to tackle climate change properly, we must develop a CCUS cluster such as the Acorn project, which is centred on St Fergus in my constituency? Does he also agree that this cluster approach is far more effective technically and financially than previously proposed carbon capture and storage programmes?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and we are absolutely committed to supporting the work in St Fergus. Technological breakthroughs in institutions such as Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen are also precisely the sorts of work that we should be getting behind.

Today the Environment Agency announced that it is preparing for a catastrophic 4° rise in global temperatures and huge sea level rises. The EA says it needs £1 billion a year for coastal defences, but the Government have allocated only £2.6 billion over six years —less than half of what the EA says is needed. When should we expect the necessary increase in funding and a plan to protect our vulnerable coastal communities?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. First, I record my thanks to Emma Howard Boyd and Sir James Bevan, the chair and chief executive of the Environment Agency, for the leadership that they have shown on this issue. Under this Government, record amounts have been spent on flood defences and record efforts have been made to combat climate change. However, in both cases, more needs to be done. The national policy statement will be forthcoming shortly.