I beg to move,
That this House has considered tackling climate change, protecting the environment and securing global development.
I welcome this timely debate and the work of the Select Committee on International Development, and of many hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House, to highlight the urgency of addressing the interlinked challenges of tackling climate change, protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable development.
The challenge has never been clearer and our will to act has never been stronger, as demonstrated by the resounding support from both sides of the House for committing the UK to a target of net zero emissions by 2050. The world faces the challenges of doubling global infrastructure to meet development and of feeding 1 billion more people, while simultaneously halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to keep pace with the Paris climate change targets.
Globally, we are not yet on track to meet the aspirations of the Paris climate agreement. On our current trajectory, we may hit 1.5° C above pre-industrial temperatures as early as 2030, and 3.5° C above by 2050. This risks 100 million people being pushed into poverty by climate change by 2030, making the sustainable development goals much harder to achieve.
We have regular discussions with the American Government. Obviously we think the Paris climate change agreement is important, but we are seeing reductions in America’s emissions because many states and many bodies across the country have decided to up their ambitions despite the actions of the federal Government. We are seeing some encouraging signs, even if we hope the US Administration would go further and faster.
The Minister talks of the need for the US to go further, but will he acknowledge that the UK needs to go an awful lot further, too? He will be aware that the Committee on Climate Change reported this morning that
“actions to date have fallen short of what is needed for the previous targets and well short of those required for the net-zero target”.
If that is what the Government’s own watchdog is saying, what will they do to make sure we have real action, not just warm words?
We are the best in the G20 in terms of our reductions. Between 1990 and 2017 we reduced our emissions by 42% while growing our economy by 72%. I will happily take some criticism from the Committee on Climate Change, but we should acknowledge that this country is a global leader in our efforts to tackle climate change.
I congratulate the Government on leading the way as the first major industrial country to call for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We lead the world on our international development commitments and, as a member of the International Development Committee—the Committee is meeting in a few minutes’ time, which is why many members of the Committee are not here today—may I urge the Government to make sure we do so on the environment, too?
I thank my hon. Friend for what he says, and I pay tribute to him and to other members of the International Development Committee for their inquiry on this subject. I know the Committee heard many different pieces of evidence, and it made firm recommendations to the Government. I hope we will have the official response soon—hopefully next week—and then we can all reflect on how we can go further and faster, because we do need to go further and faster in all these areas.
I am going to make some progress. I am about one minute into my speech, and I have already given way to the hon. Lady.
The International Development Committee described the impacts of climate change as “nightmarish,” and it talked about increasing drought, flooding, displacement, hunger and disease, potentially reversing the hard-won development progress we have seen over the past few decades.
The International Development Committee’s inquiry on UK aid for combating climate change, published in April, found that
“it will be the least developed countries and the most vulnerable people who will be hit the first and the hardest by climate change…Climate change cuts across everything. The effectiveness of all UK aid spending is dependent on whether the international community rapidly and effectively combats the causes and impacts of climate change.”
As the scale of the challenge becomes ever clearer, we see a tipping point in public awareness and engagement.
I doubt any hon. Member here today does not have schools in their constituency that are going above and beyond in learning about the environment. I recently visited St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Barnoldswick, in my constituency, to present it with an Eco-Schools green flag award.
We have also seen children at schools around the world going on strike to call for urgent climate action. We have seen the success of London Climate Action Week, with 150 events showcasing a wide spectrum of climate action and solutions, and we have witnessed the strength of cross-party support for our bid to host COP 26 next year and for the UK leading the way with our net zero target.
There are many challenges ahead. We know we need to do more, and we do not have all the answers yet, but we should be proud of the UK’s ambition and leadership to date on climate change. We have led the world in delivering clean growth, showing that action on climate change can be a win-win for the environment, for the economy and for quality of life.
Is the Minister able to go into more detail on the radical change that is urgently needed across all levels of government and all Departments to make sure that change happens within the next 11 years? That is what the advice is telling us. Otherwise we face a climate emergency the likes of which we have never seen.
As the hon. Lady will be aware, the Government have published a number of strategies that are kept under constant review. In my own area—business and industry—“The Road to Zero” was published about a year ago, and it talks about phasing out all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, which is something we need to keep under review. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House think we should do it faster and, as we roll out charging points, invest in industry and take various other steps, we should always keep these things under review as we seek to decarbonise transport, home heating and all sectors of our economy.
Words are fantastic, but we need to see action and targets to meet them. The advice of the Committee on Climate Change is actually to move towards getting rid of diesel cars long before 2040. We need to take urgent action to cut those emissions, and to cut them now.
I have some sympathy with what the hon. Lady says, but the Government set the target in “The Road to Zero” after consultation with industry and different groups. We came to it as a sensible target. We now have more than 200,000 electric vehicles on our roads and more than 20,000 charging points.
One thing that is overlooked when people think about the charging infrastructure is that, over the past few months, we have been installing 1,000 additional public charging points every month. We are starting to see a significant ramping up of progress, following announcements of investment in this area over successive years. Over £1.5 billion is being invested in the decarbonisation of cars in this country. In the months ahead, in addition to further Government announcements, we will start to see progress in this area.
Does my hon. Friend agree that what we have is a process in which the Committee on Climate Change is helping us by pointing out what we need to do next, and we are doing it? Recently, 80% by 2050 became 100%, so it is a process by which we are meeting our targets.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that point. Most of the committee’s critique of the Government is fair, but we are about to publish updates on 80% of the actions. In many we have signalled a clear policy intent, for example on future home standards. A lot of progress is being made, and I agree with his point.
On 27 June, we set a legally binding target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the UK by 2050. That world-leading target will bring to an end our contribution to climate change, and makes the UK the first major economy to legislate for a net zero target. The UK also has a strong track record on international development, through our legal commitment to provide 0.7% of our gross national income as official development assistance. Alongside efforts to reduce our own emissions, we have committed to work with developing countries, including as part of our ODA, to enable them to pursue clean growth and climate-resilient development. We are on track to provide £5.8 billion of climate aid—our international climate finance—to help developing countries tackle the causes and impacts of climate change between 2016 and 2020.
That climate aid is delivering real results. Since 2011, we have helped more than 47 million people cope with the effects of climate change and natural disasters. We have provided 17 million people with access to clean energy. But it is still not enough. As the International Development Committee noted, it is not a problem that can be solved by Government action alone. We need businesses, communities and individuals to also act. It will be really challenging: real shifts in behaviour and global ambition will be needed, and there can be no more business as usual.
The next few years are critical. That is why tackling the crisis has become such a high priority for the UK, and it is why we have offered to preside over the major UN climate summit next year—COP 26—in partnership with Italy.
On the point about business, what has also been said clearly this morning in the report back from the Committee on Climate Change is that the Government need to set out a road map so that business can understand in which direction they are going, and then the investment will follow. The first action has to lie with the Government.
To go back to the example I have just used of decarbonising transport in this country, the road to zero is a clear road map that was set out a year ago by the Government. It was not a kneejerk reaction: it was done in consultation with industry, other bodies and our international partners to come up with a credible track to reduce carbon emissions from road transport.
The UN climate action summit in September this year is a key staging post in our efforts. It will be a critical opportunity for world leaders to set out their ambitions ahead of COP 26, and to drive an unprecedented shift in the way we approach resilience and adaptation. Despite the scale of this challenge and the opportunities to be gained from acting, it is often seen as a problem for the future. That is why the United Kingdom and Egypt are co-leading the resilience and adaptation theme at the UN climate action summit in September. We want to drive a transformational change in the way different stakeholders around the world think about and invest in resilience and adaptation.
The resilience point is well made and incredibly important. The Committee on Climate Change said today that some 9,000 properties a year need to be fitted with flood protection—up from 500 at the moment. Kirkstall in my constituency flooded in December 2015 and the Government still have not committed to the level of flood protection that the community needs. When the Government speak about resilience, is it not just more warm words and not enough action?
I disagree with the hon. Lady. We have seen billions of pounds spent on flood defences across the United Kingdom. There are areas where we want to go faster: the Environment Agency has just finished a £1 million project in Earby in my constituency, and I am lobbying for it to do even more in the area. I am aware that many right hon. and hon. Members would like us to go further and faster on flood defences. I will happily raise the issue with my colleagues in DEFRA, but we are investing in ensuring that we are resilient in the future. We can do more, and we need to do more, but we are making some good progress.
Let me turn to the issue of international climate finance. Many of the interventions so far have been about our domestic record, but I want to steer us back to our international obligations and what we are doing to help some of the poorest in the world.
Let me give the House a sense of the ways in which the UK is supporting developing countries with the climate challenge. The UK uses its international climate finance, a growing part of our UK aid budget, to support developing countries to move on from business as usual to: adapt and be more climate resilient; take up transformational low-carbon development; and tackle deforestation and unsustainable land use. The Department for International Development, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and DEFRA work together to deliver that support, which is making a difference in over 100 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Two quick points. At the launch of the “People and Nature” campaign in Parliament on Monday, we discussed the fact that there is not much point in DFID adopting these very admirable principles if UK Export Finance is supporting fossil fuel investment. Secondly, we have heard reports recently that in Brazil, parts of the Amazon the size of a football pitch are being deforested every minute. The current President’s approach suggests that he wants to continue that deforestation. Where does that fit? We hear that Government Ministers are going to Brazil to talk about fossil fuel exploration. There seems to be a lack of consistency between what DFID and other arms of Government are doing.
I thank the hon. Lady for those points. There has been a clear trend in UK Export Finance to move away from support for fossil fuels and towards significant additional resources going into funding renewables. Where fossil fuels have been supported they have been fuels such as gas, which is widely seen as a transition fossil fuel, and away from high-polluting fossil fuels such as coal, which UK Export Finance has not financed for well over a decade. I will touch on Brazil in my speech, so if she will allow me I will come on to that shortly.
Through programmes like the Climate Investment Funds, we are: climate-proofing road and canals in Zambia; mainstreaming climate resilience into Government planning in Malawi and Mozambique; supporting climate-vulnerable small island states to manage climate risks; and helping to drive investment in some of the largest solar power complexes in the world. Through programmes like the Renewable Energy Performance Platform, we are mobilising private sector investment in solar homes systems and small-scale renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing clean power to those who need it most.
I thank my good friend the Minister for allowing me to intervene. Ever since I was a boy, I have always been extremely concerned about jet fuel being injected directly into the upper atmosphere. I was told when I was young that it was clean. Of course it is not. One of the really big problems we have internationally is that jets go across our skies—some of them are not ours, obviously—and we cannot electrify a jet engine. It would be wonderful if someone could come up with a way of making an electric jet engine, so that we do not spew out exhaust into the upper atmosphere, which must have a direct effect on our climate.
I agree with most of what my hon. and gallant Friend says. I would just say that we do not have an electric jet engine—yet. Through the industrial strategy, a huge number of programmes are being run through my Department, including the Future Flight Challenge, which is looking at exactly these challenges so that we do not just electrify road transport, but move to lighter-weight and more efficient engines, and eventually on to electric engines flying our passenger aircrafts. Some of that work is running over a long period of time, but between Government and industry we are investing billions of pounds in exactly the kind of challenge he talks about.
We are a world leader in climate policy, green finance, and sustainable services and technologies. Through our climate aid programmes we are sharing our learning and expertise internationally, whether bilaterally or in multilateral forums, building on our pioneering Climate Change Act 2008, net zero legislation and standard-setting power sector reform, helping to build markets for clean growth technology and services worldwide. To give the House an example, in June, my Department hosted delegates from 12 developing countries for a week-long workshop to introduce them to British expertise in offshore wind and see it in action in the Tees Valley. We are now working with the World Bank to support those countries with their plans to develop their own offshore wind projects.
We are building bilateral partnerships to tackle these challenges. For example, the UK recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Colombia, signalling the start of a bold new partnership for sustainable growth. This first-of-its-kind partnership focuses on: clean growth; halting deforestation and environmental crime; preserving biodiversity; and promoting green finance to ensure the private sector can play its part in supporting Colombia’s transformation. About 200,000 square hectares of forest are lost each year in Colombia, putting its diverse ecosystems, indigenous communities and natural resources at risk, as well as driving greenhouse gas emissions. Our programmes address the structural development issues that lead to such deforestation, and in turn reduce carbon emissions.
One of our programmes works to restore degraded land, increase biodiversity and protect standing forests while at the same time increasing agricultural production by 17%, bringing income to the poorest farmers. That is sustainable development in action, benefiting the climate, the environment and people’s livelihoods. Working to mobilise private investment to address the climate challenges is a strong focus of our climate aid, and our innovative, market-driven approach ensures that we meet global climate and sustainable development needs hand in hand.
To give another example, growing demand for soy is driving agricultural expansion and deforestation in Brazil, particularly in the Cerrado savannah region, driving up emissions and causing environmental destruction. During London Climate Action Week, we announced a green bond that will help to prevent land conversion and restore natural habitats, while supporting farmers to grow their businesses. Launched the same week as the green finance strategy, it highlights our commitment to using our green finance expertise to support sustainable development in Brazil and other countries that will be most directly impacted by the effects of climate change.
My hon. Friend makes an important point about sustainable development and preventing deforestation. Does he agree that we must reach out to countries that we currently have a difficult relationship with—for example, Russia, where we are seeing dramatic deforestation in Siberia that could create untold damage not only to the region, but to the climate?
I agree very strongly with what my hon. Friend says. We must work with all countries around the world. Obviously, most of our overseas work is focused on the poorest countries, but we must ensure that we engage with middle-income countries and all countries to ensure that they play their part, because it is the poorest in the world who will pay the price, and an ounce of carbon does not recognise national borders. We must work on this internationally; that is why I am really proud that we are bidding for the conference of the parties to be held here. We can never stop pushing on this globally to ensure that we are all doing everything that we can.
The scale of the challenge that we have talked about today is immense. Meeting our objectives and delivering the global transition to a low-carbon economy, while ensuring continued global development, will require action from Governments, business and communities. The UK is at the forefront of ambitious action to catalyse that transition. As announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the G20, we have committed to ensuring that all UK aid spend will be aligned with the Paris agreement. That will mean that every penny we spend on support for developing countries, whether for education, job creation or infrastructure, will be compatible with our shared climate change goals.
We will work collaboratively with partners around the globe, including the multilateral development banks, to develop appropriate and robust methodologies for enabling our aid to align with the objectives of the Paris agreement, and we will encourage others to follow suit. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development has also set out his intention to double the spending in his Department on climate and environment between 2021 and 2025, and to put climate and environment at the centre of our aid strategy.
Government action alone will not be enough; the global transition to a low-carbon economy will require unprecedented investment in green and low-carbon technologies, services and infrastructure. That is why the green finance strategy that we launched on 2 July is such an important step. Building a financial system fit for net zero will mean fundamental changes to the way in which investment decisions are made.
The strategy will position the UK at the forefront of this global transition, catalysing the investment we need to transition to a net zero economy, while strengthening the competitiveness of the UK financial sector and the wider economy, and ensuring that the City of London is the go-to hub for green investment and that we seize the significant opportunities of clean growth for the UK economy. Only once we are shifting the global economy by trillions will we really start to see a gear change in the low-carbon transition. It is critical that we all work together to make this transition. Tackling climate change and pursuing clean growth are critical to continued global prosperity and meeting the sustainable development goals, and for our continued prosperity and security right here in the UK.
As well as challenges, the low-carbon transition will bring huge opportunities—for cleaner air, for conserving the environment, for creating economic opportunities that the UK is well placed to seize. There are almost 400,000 jobs in the UK’s low-carbon sector and supply chains, and it is estimated that the UK low-carbon economy could grow by 11% per year until 2030. I am proud that UK companies such as Lightsource, which is developing solar in India, BBOXX, which is enabling off-grid power in sub-Saharan Africa, and Faro Energy, which is investing in renewables in Brazil, are helping to drive the clean growth transition around the world.
I am about to conclude my remarks, but I look forward to the hon. Lady’s contribution.
The UK has a proud record in this area. We have committed to spend 0.7% of GDP on international development and are the first major economy to legislate for net zero. By working together—Government, business and individuals—we can be world leaders in this area. I look forward to the contributions of hon. Members from across the House, including that of the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin).
It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate, although I am surprised that the Secretary of State for International Development is not here, given we were told this would be a DFID debate. It was announced as such in last week’s business statement, but then the business was changed again on Monday. I am glad that the debate itself has not been chopped from the Order Paper, but I am not sure why a Minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened it. This is a rather chaotic way to deal with such an important issue and a pretty shambolic way to deal with the Prime Minister’s legacy.
It is just two months since Labour secured the support of this House for our becoming the first Parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. We called then on the Government to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It was a small but important step and a reminder that real change comes from below. What a testament it is to those young activists striking from school and to the extinction rebellion movements that they have changed the tone of debate in this country so irreversibly. What a testament it is to their moral leadership that Secretaries of State and prime ministerial contenders in the Conservative party are now scrambling to demonstrate their green credentials, albeit, I would say, not that convincingly. It is a testament to their activism that a Prime Minister whose first act in office was to shut down the Department for Energy and Climate Change is now trying to make it her last act to create a climate legacy that she desperately hopes she might be remembered for.
That said, sounding the alarm and setting out promises for 30 years away is not enough. Politicians have known about the impact of climate breakdown for decades but have continued to pour billions into fossil fuel industries while offering little more than thoughts and prayers to those in the global south being hit hardest by the consequences.
I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that he is rather letting down his side of the House. When the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008, a radical consensus had been forged in this House such that this issue was above party politics. Unlike in other countries where climate change is a party political issue, we are united in this House in wanting to tackle it. It is one thing to have a robust debate on the means to the ends, but we are all united around those ends.
I do agree with the hon. Lady, and that brings me to my next point.
The language that we use in this debate is important, and it is important that we are now calling this climate emergency what it is, but unless we as a House act faster to deliver action, these will be nothing more than warm words. It is clear that we must be far more ambitious about international climate action that serves the interests of the world’s poorest, and not just its elites. We must act now, and go further and faster than ever before.
Unfortunately, I am about to lead a debate in Westminster Hall, so I will not hear all of the hon. Gentleman’s speech. I apologise for that, but it is an unavoidable clash.
On the issue of international action, does the hon. Gentleman agree that aviation and shipping emissions ought to be included in the Government’s net zero strategy? The Committee on Climate Change has said that they should be included, but we have heard nothing from the Government to suggest that they are going to include them.
I am happy to say that the Labour party is committed to exactly that. Dealing with the figures honestly is one of the first actions that we can take.
The shadow Chancellor recently spoke at length about the preparations that Labour is making to roll out a climate emergency programme should there be a general election this autumn. We are working on a range of ambitious new policy proposals that we think will turbo-charge our effort. We want to be as ambitious as possible, and we are looking into how we can bring forward the target date for net zero emissions.
Let us examine the Government’s international actions on fossil fuels, climate finance, and global climate justice. Take the Prosperity Fund, set up by this Government, plagued by scandal, and funded to the tune of £1.2 billion from the aid budget. In October 2018, it was found that 29% of its energy spending was on fossil fuel projects, including projects to expand the oil and gas sectors in Brazil and Mexico and support for fracking in China. Or take CDC Group, which is wholly owned by the Department for International Development: it, too, continues to invest directly in fossil fuels. Then—as has been mentioned—there is UK Export Finance, 97% of whose support for energy in developing countries is going to fossil fuels, with less than 1% going to renewable energy. The Minister was keen to give examples of support for renewables, but the statistics are stark and speak for themselves.
Let us take the Foreign Secretary and Conservative leadership contender. He talks a good game on the climate emergency, but in April this year, during his first official visit to Africa, he announced an agreement that will allow money from UK Export Finance to support the building of offshore oil and gas installations in Senegal by British companies BP and Cairn Energy. Or take the UK’s failure to use its influence in the big multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, to ensure that their investment strategies are aligned to help us hit the Paris agreement’s target.
The Government must do much better on all those fronts. The International Development Committee has called on them to use their influence on the boards of the big multilateral banks to move them away from high carbon investments. Labour is committed to divesting fully our aid budget from the financing of fossil fuel projects, so I ask the Minister whether the Government will back up their warm words with action. They could announce today that they will stop funding fossil fuel expansion overseas, and encourage others to do the same.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend has had a chance to look at the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on UK Export Finance, but does he agree that the Minister’s assertion that we are significantly reducing our investment in fossil fuels through that organisation does not stack up? There does not seem to be any evidence that we have shifted our policy at all.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right and the Government need to report back to Parliament on that.
I want to say a few words about climate finance. The signatories to the Paris agreement have committed to finding at least $100 billion just for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, but even that number is extremely conservative; UN Environment estimates that the real number for mitigation and adaptation alone could in fact be as high as £500 billion by 2050. So why does the UK not have a serious climate finance strategy? In its most recent report in May the International Development Committee called again for one to be given to Parliament, and I urge the Minister today to set out exactly when that will happen.
I turn now to how the UK can tackle the root causes of climate emergency, rather than just manage the decline of our planet. It must not be the role of the British Government and the British taxpayer to throw money at clearing up the mess left behind by the world’s biggest polluters simply so that they can carry on polluting. The truth is that our global economic model is fundamentally broken; it is a system that is driving us towards disaster in the quest to accumulate ever more wealth and extract ever more profit. Unless there is a UK Government who are serious about transitioning away from our current economic model, however ambitious our international action is it will only tackle the symptoms of climate change, never its root causes.
It is a tragedy that those least responsible for the climate crisis will be the first to suffer its consequences. It is not the world’s billionaires who are suffering the worst effects of planetary breakdown, and we should be under no illusions: they are making plans not to fix our economic model, but to escape, survive and ride out the catastrophe.
I want to bring to the House’s attention the writings of the technology writer Douglas Rushkoff, who last year recounted how he was brought in as an expert adviser to a room of billionaires to talk about climate change. He was flabbergasted when, instead of asking him about how to prevent the climate catastrophe or what role they could play, they asked him about how they could insulate themselves from the danger, including, amazingly, the use of disciplinary collars to maintain the loyalty of their private security forces to protect them when society finally broke down and when wages and money no longer held sway. That is quite remarkable.
The time for tinkering around the edges is over. To avert climate catastrophe we must radically restructure our economy here in the UK and globally so that it works for the many, not the few. We should consider this: if global growth continues at 3% each year the global economy will have doubled in size by 2043, and so too will material consumption unless we can de-link it from economic growth. For too long we have ignored the plain fact that we cannot sustain permanent growth on a planet of finite resources. That is exactly why we need the kind of systemic change that our shadow Chancellor has spoken about, and it is why we must use and harness every policy lever available to us and ensure that the state and the private sector invest in the infrastructure to bring about the next green industrial revolution. And that is why we must work with the City to reform and why we must use our influence on the global stage to promote a more democratic global economy.
As part of the radical agenda that my hon. Friend rightly says is required if we are to deal with the climate emergency, does he share my view that three things in particular are needed: radical decarbonising of our current energy set-up; an acceleration of investment in electric vehicle infrastructure; and a significant increase in tree cover in the UK?
My hon. Friend makes three excellent points, all of which I hope to touch on later.
Under Labour, the Department for International Development will play a crucial role in global climate justice, and two of our five top international development priorities are to catalyse a global ecological transition and to help build a fairer global economy. We are hearing a lot about a global green new deal across countries, and Labour envisages a green industrial revolution right here in the UK, but we must be clear that the ultimate test of any such deal is whether it will solve the climate emergency, deliver decent green jobs, produce a better quality of life and, critically, bring about climate justice for the world’s poorest, because that is exactly what we must bring about.
We are talking about nothing less than a great transition in how we structure our economies and societies, and that is why I want to end on a note of hope. We spend a lot of time talking about the catastrophe that is starting to unfold and the existential threat facing the planet. The vested interests are so strong that we must keep campaigning and fighting and, yes, the media barons are not always on our side on this one. They tell us that anyone who speaks up on the climate emergency is simply insisting that we all have to make terrible personal sacrifices such as cutting our holidays or our use of plastic straws. I understand why the narrative of fear can prevail, but what the climate emergency is really about is pointing the way to the better world that we all want to live in. This is about levelling things up and radically slashing inequality. It is about our children having clean air to breathe and greener public spaces to play in. It is about living on a planet with millions more trees, travelling on better public transport and having meaningful, decent green jobs in democratically owned companies that put people and planet before profit.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) wrote powerfully last week that, on the climate emergency, we need to
“talk about the dream, not just the nightmare.”
We have little more than a decade to save much of our environment as we know it from extinction, but the urgency of that threat has brought ideas to the surface on how we can bring about a sustainable alternative to the economic system that took us to the brink. Labour is preparing itself so that, when in government, we will not only prevent the nightmare but make that dream a reality. We on this side of the House stand ready to collaborate with our international partners and with other parties to do everything in our power and use every lever available to make the global transition to a new, greener and fairer society.
I thought I agreed with some of what the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) was saying until he started to couch his remarks in what seemed to be a somewhat cynical grab of this issue by Labour. He talked about attempting to reintroduce state control of industry and having a great deal more corporatism of the state kind at the heart of his policy. I became suspicious as the speech went on and suddenly realised that he was a great supporter of the shadow Chancellor, which made me even more suspicious. But anyway, enough of that. Although actually, it was a bit mean of him to criticise the Secretary of State when he is off in Africa visiting environmental projects—
I hear what my hon. Friend says. But anyway—enough of this.
I want to talk about transport and climate change. The Committee on Climate Change has correctly identified the transport sector as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK and made a distinction with other sectors, such as power, heat and industrial, which have all seen year-on-year reductions in emissions, whereas transport has not decarbonised and its emissions are increasing. I am glad that the Government have come forward with proposals, but the UK’s transport infrastructure in all communities, large and small, is vital to boosting our productivity and cutting emissions, and change is needed. As a member of the Conservative Environment Network, I agree with our manifesto, which was launched last week and which I hope the Government will consider seriously. It states that the UK should have low carbon communities and low carbon industrial clusters, and that our communities should be connected by low carbon transport. Meanwhile, poor air quality in our cities is leading to a move out of diesel vehicles into petrol and petrol hybrid vehicles, which improves air quality but increases CO2 emissions, which is putting the fourth carbon budget at risk of not being achieved by 2027.
A total modernisation of our transport network is an economic, environmental and public health priority.
I was just about to say how I would tackle the problem. Let me do that, then perhaps I will give way.
How do we tackle the problem? First, we have to bring forward the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars to at least 2035. Given the life cycle of a traditional car, the Committee on Climate Change is clear that ensuring that all cars and vans are electric by 2050, which is needed for net zero, will require all new vehicles to be electric by 2035, and I believe that is achievable. By 2025, new electric vehicles will have the same up-front cost as equivalent conventional models, and if we can get the infrastructure right by that point, there should be no reason for consumers not to buy an electric vehicle.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for mentioning road surface transport and the fact that our emissions are still increasing. He is absolutely right that we need the right infrastructure. Does he agree that what does not work is, for example, Highways England, in its recent consultation not even considering that is its responsibility to provide the electricity grid needed to power electric cars? It is important that Departments work together and that Highways England takes responsibility for ensuring that we have the right electricity infrastructure.
I agree that co-ordination is crucial. The hon. Lady makes a good point about infrastructure.
To make that long-term target a reality, we need short-term policies to get us to the point where we can accelerate electrification of road transport. Important measures include providing Government-backed interest-free loans for electric vehicle purchase; creating incentives for the installation of ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at key strategic points, such as on the motorway network; a new tax on sales of non-electric vehicles after 2030; introducing the right to request as a tenant an electric vehicle charging point; and changing the sort of fuel we use in petrol or hybrid petrol cars. I support the campaign recently instigated by the all-party parliamentary group for British bioethanol, which has considerable support in the House, for a shift to 10% ethanol in standard petrol, which would deliver both emission reductions and UK jobs and which I see as part of the transition.
British bioethanol is created essentially from wheat in the north of England. The wheat would otherwise be used for animal feedstuff if, and only if, a high-protein additive such as soya were added to it. It cannot be used for human beings. The soya comes from South America, which touches on the point about the Brazilian rain forest, which makes these soya imports a subject of environmental concern. A by-product of making bioethanol from British wheat is a rich-in-protein animal feed, which displaces the soya. With total investment of £5 billion, two factories have been set up in the north of England, involving 5,000 jobs. One of them is mothballed and the other is running at half capacity as they wait for the Government to mandate E10 petrol—petrol with 10% ethanol. Forward-looking countries in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA are already doing that; it is time we got on board. It is estimated that the reduction in carbon emissions from E10 being used as the UK’s standard petrol would be equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road; it would also be less polluting and protect British jobs. I know the Department for Transport has already consulted on this, but it should move quickly to make this change, certainly for 2020.
Let me now talk about the tax situation and how we deal with the change from fuel duty to a world of electric vehicles. As we shift to electric vehicles, the amount of revenue the Exchequer takes from fuel duty will naturally shrink. We need, therefore, to change how we pay for roads. Road pricing is based on the principle that those making use of public roads should pay a sum accordant to the costs involved. Ideally, the total sum should include the costs of air pollution and greenhouse gases as well. Sophisticated schemes also use live data to factor in congestion, and charge people more to drive during peak times on busy roads. There are existing schemes, such as in Singapore, that show that this can be done. So the Government should be looking at that as a possible way forward. By working with the power of market price signals, road pricing incentivises individuals to use cleaner fuel and to travel at times that are less damaging.
I shall turn now to regional rail networks and bus, tram and cycling services. The lack of decent transport outside London is a handbrake on UK growth. Local transport networks in towns and cities are woefully undeveloped compared with those in similar sized places in other countries. For example, Leeds is the largest city in the European Union with no mass transport system. Its twin city, Lille, has two metro lines, two tram lines, and an international high-speed rail connection. Fixing this disparity is critical to UK growth and to easing the pressure on housing demand in London. To meet net zero, we need a switch of freight from road to rail, and for commuters and travellers to feel confident to use low carbon transport.
I wish to mention a few strategic transport investments at this point. Surely the time has come to modernise the rail network across the Pennines—
The electrification of the rest of the midland main line is another that the Minister would probably agree with. What about the new super-tram network for Leeds? How long has Sheffield had its tram? As the Government engage in transformative infrastructure projects, it is important that they do not ignore local efforts to encourage active transport, such as cycling. I support cycling schemes, through Sustrans and the revamped cycle to work scheme.
In my North East Hertfordshire constituency, we have done a considerable amount to improve cycling facilities, but we want more. At a recent conference in Letchworth Garden City, the subject was “connectivity”. People were looking at how we can have connectivity in a low carbon way, and this involved new developments and how we fit them in with existing ones. Improving both the low carbon footprint of towns and industry, and the low carbon transport between them, was a key subject discussed.
My right hon. and learned Friend is making a fantastic speech. Does he agree that we should build on the success of the cycle ambition cities and make sure that that source of funding is available for towns, so that more people can walk and use bikes, including e-bikes, as part of an integrated public transport scheme in towns?
Yes, exactly so. A place such as Letchworth Garden City was designed with transport in mind from the very start, with Ebenezer Howard ensuring that the railway station was in the middle of the town and that there were cycle ways. In recent times, the amount of cycling racks at the station and the green way have been enhanced; a lot has been done. My hon. Friend is right to say that if we want to meet our ambition of having proper connectivity, we need cycling, walking and low carbon public transport in order to effect the change.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making an interesting speech. I have been trying to keep pace with all his asks of the Chancellor in terms of costs—it is a serious list of asks. Does he not think there is a need for a serious debate, costed out, about the cost of decarbonising our transport network in the future? I agree with his proposals for investment in Leeds, and for Letchworth Garden City and his constituency. Other things are also needed for London and the funding simply is not there within the DFT’s budget, so an urgent plan to change that is essential.
Yes; of course, the purpose of the carbon budgets and some of the work of the Committee on Climate Change is exactly to tease out those effects. It is a good thing that the body that we set up to be independent, to give the Government advice and to hold their feet to the fire is doing just that—that is what it is there for. Yes, there are costs, but there are also gains. I just made the point about bioethanol; there is already investment in green jobs in the places where we want them, such as Teesside and the Humber. Those factories could generate more jobs and make money that could be taxed. At the moment, all that is being held back for want of a Government decision of an environmental kind. There is money to be had for the Government in terms of inputs, as well as just outputs, or debits. I agree with the hon. Gentleman to some extent, but we do have a process in hand.
Let me turn to light railway in the context of rural locations. I shall use the example of Buntingford, in my constituency, where housing numbers are being rapidly expanded—basically, planning is being allowed to double the size of the town—but there is no employment, or not much, because it is a rural community, and it does not have a train service. That means there will be many more car journeys, as the new homes to go to commuters, who travel mainly to London and Cambridge. If we built a light rail link to Stevenage, people would have the option of going by public transport to the big town to shop or on the main line to work.
Of course, people think that light railway is bound to cost a fortune, because in a city it does—the land has to be bought, and it is incredibly expensive—but we need to look more at whether light railway can be done at a sensible price in a rural location. It would also have environmental and social benefits. I have asked Hertfordshire County Council, which is currently visioning its transport for 2050, to look into the idea, and also to look at whether there might be other possibilities for east-west routes in the county.
Both the right hon. and learned Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) have mentioned my city of Leeds, so I feel I should stand up and say something. Three years ago we got the first new train station in Leeds for 30 years, and it has made a huge difference to Kirkstall in my constituency. Other new train stations could be opened on existing lines, including in Armley in my constituency. As well as some sort of tram network or underground system, simple things can be done in cities like Leeds, such as reopening train stations and opening new ones on existing lines.
I am glad that the hon. Lady and I agree on this. In the area near North East Hertfordshire, Cambridge North station was recently opened, and that has had a good effect in respect of building the high-tech businesses in that part of Cambridge. That is another example of using the existing railway system but putting in new facilities.
This might be a bit controversial, but we need to consider as a society where we are going with our shopping behaviour. Walking, cycling or using a low carbon means of transport to visit a bricks-and-mortar shop in a high street is surely more environmentally sound than more and more vans delivering to our doorsteps. We need to consider that in the context of the incentives and disincentives applied by Government.
My hon. Friend the Minister referred to improved environmental fuel for aviation and to electric planes, and such things will happen. This is an enormous subject, but I just wanted to make it clear in my speech that tackling transport emissions is key if we are to meet the net zero carbon target by 2050.
First, I apologise for being a couple of minutes late at the start of this debate.
This is such an important debate, as it covers probably the three biggest areas that will affect our lives directly and the lives of our children and of the generations to come. I look forward to travelling to New York next week with other members of the International Development Committee for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. This serves as a central United Nations platform for the follow-up and review of the sustainable development goals—I was hoping to hear more about that in today’s debate—which have been described as
“a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.”
Achieving those goals will be vital for securing global development. Looking at all 17 of them, it is clear that protecting the environment and tackling climate change will play a fundamental role. Let me give some examples. Goal 6, to provide clean water and sanitation, goal 7, to provide affordable and clean energy, and goals 14 and 15, to protect life below water and life on land, all require environmental protection in order to succeed. The fundamental question that we in this Chamber must ask is: how will we achieve goal 1, no poverty, goal 2, zero hunger, or goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, among many others, when those goals are being put in jeopardy by the disastrous consequences of climate change?
Protecting the environment and tackling climate change must be a priority for all Departments of all Governments in these islands, with clear targets, policies and actions to ensure that that is delivered. As we know, Scotland has a rich and diverse natural environment, and the Scottish Government are determined to lead by example by protecting and enhancing our natural capital.
Studies suggest that the elements of Scotland’s natural capital that can be given a monetary value are worth more than £20 billion pounds each year to our economy, supporting more than 60,000 jobs. Furthermore, many of Scotland’s growth sectors, such as tourism and food and drink, depend on high-quality air, land and water. That is why the Scottish Government are taking action to protect our environment to ensure that we have a thriving and sustainable economy. For example, the Scottish Government have an ambition for Scotland’s air quality to be the best in Europe and have established an air quality strategy called “Cleaner air for Scotland: the road to a healthier future”, with 40 aims to realise this goal. To support this, £10.8 million has been provided to support the introduction of low emission zones—something on which I will touch later and, given what was said by the previous speaker, something that is important for all of us here as well.
Moreover, figures from June have shown that the Scottish Government have met their target of 11,200 hectares of new tree planting and now plan to increase the target further in 2024 to 15,000 hectares. To put that into context, that is 22 million trees. I have to say that, sadly, England has barely managed to make 10% of that, so I am looking to hear more about that later. These actions will not only protect the environment, lead to healthier lives and offer fantastic opportunities for our economy, but play a fundamental role in tackling climate change.
Last month, I spoke in this Chamber and welcomed the UK Government’s decision to legislate for a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, following the advice of the UK Committee on Climate Change. However, simply setting targets will not solve climate change, and I think we have heard that from across the Chamber. What we need is a clear plan setting out how to transition to a net zero economy. Today, the UK Committee on Climate Change has reported that action to cut greenhouse gas emissions is lagging far behind what is needed, and that the UK’s credibility rests on Government action over the next very short 18 months. There is no time to dither or delay. The Committee has called for a net zero policy to be embedded across all levels and Departments of Government and for the new Prime Minister to lead the UK’s zero carbon transition from day one, working closely with Northern Ireland and the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s “Climate Change Plan 2018-2032”, which sets out the actions needed to make Scotland carbon neutral by 2045, is due to be updated within six months of the Climate Change Bill receiving Royal Assent. Work is already under way to meet the increased target. Scotland’s energy strategy sets a target for the equivalent of 50% of energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources by 2030. In order to help achieve net zero emissions, a publicly owned not-for-profit energy company will be established to deliver renewable energy to Scottish customers. This is not a party political debate about the left or the right, but a debate about how we can combat not only climate change but fuel poverty. The reason for setting up that company is it will endeavour to ensure that the price is as close to cost price as possible. I urge the UK Government to do that for the rest of the UK, as well as to achieve their recently set targets.
Furthermore, with transport accounting for just over one third of total energy demand, Scotland already has the most ambitious agenda in the UK for decarbonising transport. The Scottish Government have already announced the change in policy on air departure tax and committed to phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars by 2032—eight years ahead of the rest of the UK. They plan to implement low emission zones in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and my wonderful city of Dundee by the end of 2020.
To help achieve all that and send a clear signal that Scotland is a place for innovation and low carbon technology, the Scottish Government will establish an innovation fund to invest a further £60 million in delivering wider low carbon energy infrastructure solutions across Scotland, such as electricity battery storage, sustainable heating systems and electric vehicle charging. The expansion of the charging network will raise awareness and uptake of ultra low emission vehicles among private motorists and accelerate their procurement in the public and private sector. I am disappointed that the UK Government withdrew the tax incentive from electric vehicles last December; I hope that they will consider putting it back, so that more people move towards electric vehicles again.
Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the most recent data shows that the number of electric vehicles sold has actually fallen? That suggests that the cut in grant and the failure to deliver the charging infrastructure is deterring people from buying the cars that all of us in the Chamber believe people should be buying to help reduce our carbon emissions.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. This is fundamental: if we want to change public behaviour, we have to put the carrots and sticks in place. Things have happened since 2015. For example, the cancellation of the carbon capture and storage project at Peterhead and the removal of tariffs for on-land wind generation are two other factors that should be reconsidered.
I am pleased to say that my own city of Dundee has the highest proportion of electric vehicles in its council fleet in Scotland and one of the largest electric taxi fleets in the UK. As a result, people now feel that the electric charging points across the city are not novel but normal to use.
I have to correct something. I keep hearing that the UK was the first country to declare a climate emergency, but in fact Scotland was. We understand that we will need to go even further. Progress to date has been achieved with little impact on most people; few of us have had to make any real radical lifestyle changes.
The hon. Gentleman is moving on to discuss the broader issue of the environment, I think. A report last week from Zero Waste Scotland suggested that Scottish households spend £600 million a year just on packaging. We can do a lot in that direction. The Scottish Government have rightly taken a lead with the deposit return scheme. However, would it not be more sensible if all parts of the United Kingdom got together with a co-ordinated approach to a deposit return scheme that covered the length and breadth of these islands?
The hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point. I lived in the Netherlands in the early ’90s, and deposit return schemes were the norm there. That is 25 years ago. I feel like an old man standing here and talking about this as if introducing them in Scotland was a novelty. We should be sharing all best practice across these islands, as I shall touch on later. The hon. Gentleman and I have no disagreement on that.
I turn to radical lifestyle changes. Only yesterday, Sir David Attenborough said to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee:
“We cannot be radical enough”.
I look forward to hearing about what radical plans there may be. It is imperative to take action, as climate change threatens us all and will result in a world that will be less safe, where resources will be sparse, and where ecological and demographic crises will become unmanageable. Natural disasters, civil unrest, disease, displacement and mass migration caused by climate change could push 100 million more people into poverty throughout the world, so it needs to be tackled globally as well as domestically.
I welcome what the Secretary of State for International Development has himself said:
“There should be no distinction at all between the work that we do on international development and the work that we do on climate and the emergency.”—[Official Report, 6 June 2019; Vol. 661, c. 256.]
Indeed, the International Development Committee’s recent report on climate change was similarly clear that climate change must be placed at the centre of aid strategy and funding. It urged a minimum spend of £1.76 billion and a halt to funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries unless they can be fundamentally proven to support the transition to zero emissions by 2050.
As one of the UN’s five focus goals for 2019, climate action is an urgent priority that needs to become a central focus of all aspects of DFID’s work, and its funding needs to be protected. With this in mind, I was interested to hear the comments by the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth that, regardless of who the next Prime Minister will be, there would be “absolutely no rowing back” from the UK’s legal commitment to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. She added that she would like the next Prime Minister to persuade Donald Trump of the business case for acting on climate change. The Minister made two very important and valid points. Any reversal of the 2015 net zero target would be disastrous. I hope that she is correct in her assessment that there is no chance of that happening. I, too, hope that any future Prime Minister will convince President Trump that climate change is both very real and very much an emergency, though I am less optimistic about this given that the leading candidate for that role would not even defend the UK ambassador to the US last night.
I also have grave concerns that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is more likely to mimic inward-looking, “America first” Trump with regard to aid and international development. He has previously called for DFID to be closed and rolled back into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with aid spending to be spent
“in line with Britain’s political, commercial and diplomatic interests.”
He has said:
“We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’ money”—
let us remember that this is 70p in every £100—
“as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO...The present system is leading to inevitable waste as money is shoved out of the door in order to meet the 0.7 per cent target.”
That is ridiculous. Of course, as I said in a debate this morning, the UK is not “some independent Scandinavian NGO”—it is one of the largest economies in the world, and it has both a legal and a moral duty to commit to 0.7% on aid spending and securing global development. If we are truly serious about taking the unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, combat catastrophic climate change and protect our natural environment by 2030, as set out in the sustainable development goals, it is vital to have a well-resourced, stand-alone Department committed to international development and the 0.7% aid target.
We therefore now need detailed plans on how this Government will face up to the challenges of protecting our environment, tackling climate change and securing global development. It is up to this generation, not the next one, to find the answers to these great global challenges. Those plans need to be bold, ambitious and unafraid of criticism. SNP Members would rather see plans come forward that were radical and visionary—that allow for real debate, without which we will ultimately fail everyone in our responsibility to meet the urgent targets that have been set. There is nothing to fear in scrutinising bold proposals in this Chamber and debating whether they are fit for purpose. The real fear is prevarication, lack of planning and piecemeal policies that will fail not only the UK but our partners in the rest of the world.
To support these efforts, regardless of who is Prime Minister, it is imperative that the targets that have already been set are not rolled back or undermined and that the Department for International Development is maintained as a stand-alone Department to lead work in tackling these issues globally. Fundamentally, given the breadth of the debate today, it is essential that there is policy coherence across Departments and that the next Prime Minister understands and is committed to this. We cannot have one Department undoing the good work of another. May I suggest that the Cabinet Office is seriously considered to oversee this?
No one Government has all the answers, and it is important that Governments across these islands share best practice and learn from each other. Of course, I look forward to the time when Scotland is an independent nation, but we will always share our responsibilities as an outward-looking, internationalist nation, and share our world-leading policies on issues like climate change and making the world a better place. To do anything less will only leave the world a more divided and more dangerous place to inhabit, with a much darker future ahead.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) and hear about examples of best practice in Scotland, that fantastic member of the United Kingdom.
There is no doubt that our actions are changing the planet. Our relentless consumption of the earth’s resources over centuries has consequences, and today we are starting to see them. Many of our once abundant coral reefs are bleached white and left lifeless. Vast expanses of land where rain forests once stood are stripped bare for farming. Even in Europe, some reports suggest that deserts will expand across the southern Mediterranean. We are destroying the earth’s natural carbon sinks, and with them, the wider biosphere—so much so that our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. Not since the extinction of the dinosaurs have we seen such a loss of plant and animal species. According to one study, current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than they would be if humans were not around. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list found that more than 27% of all assessed species on the planet are threatened with extinction.
We have the facts about what is happening to our world today, and we know why these changes are occurring, so in theory the solution should be simple. In one sense, it is—we need to stop producing carbon dioxide and implement strict protections for vulnerable ecosystems. But to do that, we need both the political will and a sense of economic realism. We need to take the people of the country with us, which is why this must not be a party political issue.
I have heard the calls for putting the UK on to a war-like footing, immediately banning combustion engines, limiting flights and turning off the taps to traditional fossil fuels. It can be tempting to get swept away on this wave of emotion and the calls for drastic change. There is a serious risk of gesture politics overtaking pragmatic, sensible policy making. Setting goals without a plan is wishful thinking. We need a plan, but it must be carefully constructed to avoid the mistakes of the past. We all remember diesel cars—we were all convinced that we had to buy them. As a result, the market share went from 14% to 65%, and look what happened next.
We need to ensure that these actions are complementary. I co-chair the all-party parliamentary group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development. We need to check that the policies we put in place are coherent, because some policies to pursue one goal may impact negatively on another goal. This is the whole world’s ecosystem we are talking about, and we need to take account of that.
My hon. Friend is right that we need to take people with us and ensure that this works for them. Does she agree that if we provide enough charging points for electric vehicles and support people to purchase them, we can help to clean up our environment and significantly reduce the cost of living, because electric vehicles are so much cheaper to run?
Yes. Last year I went to the Nucleus conference at Goodwood and saw one of the world’s leading electric car manufacturers, NIO—a Chinese company—which is solving the problem in a different way. Instead of creating lots of charging points, they had changeable units that people could pick up and drop off in a garage, like we do with Calor gas on the continent. We need to consider all the best practice, because we do not want to get policy wrong again.
The hon. Lady is right; we need to get this right and take people with us. Is it not also true that we are up against some strong vested interests? We should not underestimate how much those with strong vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and the car industry would like to continue as before, because that would be easiest for them. They are going to push back, and that is the challenge we face in this House.
As politicians, we are very used to strong vested interests; in fact, most of us can spot them a mile off. I worked in car manufacturing for eight years before coming to this place. Those companies have made radical changes to their manufacturing processes and designs, and all of them are moving to electric vehicles. We must be generous to those businesses and industries. There is sometimes a little bit of anti-business rhetoric in this place, and we ought to remember that those businesses do most of the investment in most technology innovation in this country.
I thank the hon. Lady for giving way again; she is being very generous. I am not anti-business. My family runs businesses, and I understand how business works. They need to have the right incentives. When I talk to those in the car industry, they say that the Government need to send a strong message out to the industry and investors about where they are going, and currently they are failing to do that.
Having spent 30 years in business, I can tell the hon. Lady that no business waits for politicians to give them the answer. They do not; they innovate, they invest in innovation and they invest in where there market is going. In fact, they often create the market.
We need to take drastic action, but we need to do it in a way that is not drastic. This became apparent to me during the Extinction Rebellion protest. When it came here, I spent an hour listening to, learning from and debating the points raised by one group. One of the suggestions made by some in the group was the introduction of a one child policy here in the UK. That would be a rather totalitarian response, and it is unnecessary given our already declining total fertility rate of just 1.76 in 2017.
That said, there were plenty of sensible ideas as well, such as installing solar panels on all new builds, putting in alternative fuel boilers and ensuring we are insulating homes properly, which is one of the simplest things that can have a massive impact. We should all be doing it, and I hope to see some action on that. Obviously, we should also be moving to greener modes of transport, reusing and recycling, and restoring peat land and planting millions more trees a year. All of these offer many financial and environmental benefits.
It is fundamental to remember that to become a carbon neutral country, we will need to invest in technological development and to incentivise, with incentive schemes, green infrastructure and much more. However, I believe we must be cautious about policies and ideas that negatively impact on growth; for example, calls that limit people to one long-haul flight, which was another Extinction Rebellion idea—it did confirm that it meant return flights—and one short-haul flight per year. As someone who has worked internationally for 30 years, I would clearly be out of a job, because I used to take 200 flights a year. It was my job to grow business and to grow jobs, and such flights are sometimes part of what needs to happen in a globalised world.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, as Britain is a leader and is looked to internationally on how to tackle this, if we were to crash the economy, were able to take only one long-haul flight a year and to have only one child, and so on and so forth, we would be seen as a country that had failed and nobody would follow our example? Does she agree that we have to be realistic?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. It is absolutely key to be realistic. Again, technology does offer a lot of benefits that will help us to sustain our environment and to reduce the need for business travel—for example, by keeping in touch by other means.
The Government have shown that we can grow the economy and reduce the national carbon footprint. Since 2010, we have deployed 99% of the UK’s solar panels. We are now home to the world’s largest offshore wind capacity. In total, we have quadrupled our renewable output. It is not surprising that, last year, we produced over 37% of our energy from renewables, all while growing our economy.
Local authorities need to act, too. I am proud to say that Chichester District Council has voted that there is a climate emergency. Importantly, as Councillor Susan Taylor recently said, it will deliver action, not just words. The council is already seeking to employ a climate emergency officer, who will ensure that a plan is developed to reduce our carbon footprint.
We must not be complacent: we must do more locally, nationally, internationally and individually to grow a truly global green economy. Looking at the big picture, Britain has always been a world leader, and we must continue to build on our target-led, technology-driven approach. We were the innovators of the steam power that drove global industrial development, and we now owe it to the world to lead the renewable green revolution.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan).
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, which I chair, working with five other Select Committees, will in the autumn be setting up a series of citizens’ assemblies to address exactly the challenges and issues that the hon. Lady has mentioned. If we are going to achieve net zero, it will of course require Government policies and Government action, but it will also require all of us to do things differently in our own lives—whether that is the number of times a year we fly, the cars we buy, our diet or how we heat our homes. All of these things will require trade-offs, but I believe they will also create huge opportunities.
The hon. Lady spoke about some of the negative changes in our lives but, over the past few years and decades, reducing our carbon emissions has created better cars and more jobs, and I believe that moving towards a net zero economy and a net zero society will create more jobs and more opportunities. If we are at the forefront and lead this new industrial revolution, we stand to benefit the most from it—we will not stand to lose the most, as some hon. Members seem to suggest—because we will create jobs, skills and technologies that we can export to other countries. That will grow our economy in a way that does not destroy our planet.
I thank the hon. Lady for her enthusiasm and for the opportunity to intervene. She will be aware that the Committee on Climate Change has said that this is about upscaling and making sure that we have the skills we need right across the country. In places like Cornwall, which I represent, the skills are not there and low-paid jobs are the norm. Does she agree that this gives us the opportunity to create wealth and spread it across every corner of the United Kingdom?
I absolutely agree. Some of those coastal towns, cities and regions stand to benefit the most. In my own region, Yorkshire and the Humber, the job opportunities from offshore wind have helped to transform previously deprived communities. There will be huge opportunities in Cornwall, with battery technologies giving huge potential for growth and jobs in an area that desperately needs them.
I endorse the remarks of my hon. Friend and of the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) on the huge potential for offshore wind to create new jobs in this country. Does she agree that the solar industry also offers significant potential for new jobs, and that it would be good to hear the Government’s plans to accelerate the requirement to put solar panels on new buildings?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, and I would also add the opportunities from onshore wind, which the Government disappointingly continue to block, and from tidal power. The experience of offshore wind is that, after initial Government support and investment, the industry and the energy it produces can become cheaper than those it replaces, which again provides big opportunities for jobs and investment.
Sir David Attenborough gave evidence to the BEIS Committee yesterday. Right at the beginning, he said that the environment around us is essential for every breath we take and everything we eat, as well as for our sanity and our sense of proportion. How we treat our natural environment and what we put into it is incredibly important.
As you can imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, the BEIS Committee always has huge audiences for every inquiry and every evidence session, but our audience yesterday was particularly large, and the attendance was pretty impressive, too. The audience was also very young.
The Minister said at the beginning of this debate that when he goes into schools in his constituency they often talk about these issues, which is inspiring and gives us all hope for the future. The next generation, who listened to our evidence session yesterday, and the generation after that, who are at Castleton Primary School in Armley and Beecroft Primary School in Burley in my constituency, know what a priority this is, and I hope they will continue to press us to make it our priority in this place, too.
I am proud that this was the first Parliament to pass a climate change Act in 2008, and that the current Parliament has set a target of achieving net zero by 2050 but, as Lord Deben said on the publication of the report of the Committee on Climate Change today, international ambition does not deliver domestic action. That is an important point for us to dwell on. I welcome the bid to host COP 26 next year, and I welcome the fact that we are the first country to legislate for net zero, but we will achieve it in 2050—I hope we achieve it sooner—only if we put policies in place today to make it happen.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I entirely agree with her. Enfield Council will pass its climate change plan tonight but, on her point about the need for action, does she agree that one action the Government could take is not to subsidise fossil fuels? Fossil fuels have caused so much damage over the years, particularly in developing countries.
We have made huge progress in just the last decade in terms of our reliance on fossil fuels, and we can now get through a week or two without using coal. By 2025, we will not be using coal to generate energy in this country, and that is fantastic. But as the shadow Secretary of State for International Development said in his speech earlier, we are still funding and investing in the development of fossil fuels overseas. Climate change and the emission of carbon is not something that we can just tackle here at home. It is no good reducing our carbon emissions in the UK if we fund investment in them overseas. That is why international action matters, but so do the investment decisions that British companies and the British Government make. Like Enfield, Leeds City Council has declared a climate emergency and is putting in place policies to address it, which is very welcome in our city.
Has the hon. Lady’s Committee looked at the issue of three-phase electricity supply to homes? One of my constituents is keen to invest in solar and Tesla-style wall plugs so that they can recharge vehicles and so on, but the cost of installing the necessary three-phase electricity supply is a problem. Does she feel that that would be a better area for the Government to invest in and allow us to expand renewables?
Electric vehicles have been discussed quite a bit already today, and much more could be done to encourage people to buy them and to make it easier for people to charge them, as well as to get the charging infrastructure in all communities, including more rural ones.
Our Committee has produced several reports over the last few years on practical things that the Government could do. It has been disappointing at times that our recommendations and suggestions are often rejected by Ministers, when if they had accepted them, we might be a little closer to meeting some of our objectives. On electric vehicles, our Committee recommended that the target of 2040 be brought forward to 2032, and that was before the Government committed to net zero.
The Committee on Climate Change today said:
“The ‘Road to Zero’ ambition”—
which the Minister is obviously proud of—
“for a phase-out of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 is too late and plans to deliver it are too vague. A date closer to 2030 would save motorists money, cut air and noise pollution and align to the net-zero challenge.”
I urge the Minister to look at the evidence from the Committee on Climate Change, and the evidence that our Committee took, which points resolutely to the need to bring forward the date for phasing out the internal combustion engine.
While we welcome decisions by companies such as Jaguar Land Rover to invest in a new fleet of electric vehicles, we need to do more to work with our car manufacturing industry to turn the Faraday Institution’s ideas and research into practical applications that can revive our British car industry and keep more jobs here, while not polluting the planet in the way that the car industry has in the past.
Everybody who gave evidence to our Committee said that there is no way that we would meet even our previous targets without the roll-out of carbon capture and storage. But we are still waiting for Government decisions on investment in that industry, so that we are not just doing the research and development in labs, but are trialling it and piloting it in some of our communities. That goes back to the point that the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) made earlier about communities all over the country. The communities that stand to benefit most from carbon capture and storage are in the north-east, Humber, Merseyside, south Wales and Fife, for example—all areas that desperately need jobs and investment. If the Government unlocked the funding, which they have previously cut, they could ensure more good-quality jobs all over the country while contributing to reducing our carbon emissions.
Our Committee has also just concluded a report on energy efficiency, which we will publish soon. Without giving away the findings—my Clerk might be watching—we heard a lot of evidence that the homes we are building today will need to be retrofitted in years to come because they are not of a high enough energy efficiency standard. It seems nonsensical that we know we are building homes today that will have to be retrofitted in future. Those who got planning permission on a development five or 10 years ago only have to meet the energy efficiency rules and regulations from when they got that planning permission, not those in place today. If we just fixed those things, we would be building homes that do not contribute to global warming in the way that they do today.
The Committee also heard evidence that since the Government scrapped the green new deal, improvements to existing housing stock are just not happening. They are not happening in social housing, the private rented sector or the owner-occupied sector. Unless that happens, we have no chance of meeting the net zero commitments. I urge the Government to look at that when our report is published, and not reject our conclusions and recommendations, which happens far too often, but engage with them, adopt them and put them in place. Only by doing that do we have any chance of meeting the targets that we all say we want to achieve.
I have been following the hon. Lady’s Committee inquiry into energy efficiency with great interest. The evidence she has received has been compelling and I look forward to the report. Does she agree that the focus on energy efficiency is unarguable, because if we are going to pass on to consumers the inevitable cost as we transition our energy system, doing that alongside the savings that come with a focus on energy efficiency seems to me to be a fair contract with the consumer?
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. We often debate the cost of living in this Chamber. One of the big contributors to the cost of living is the cost of gas and electricity. This Parliament legislated for a cap on energy prices—I welcome that and our Select Committee conducted important pre-legislative scrutiny work—but the cheapest sort of energy is that which we do not use at all. If we improved the energy efficiency of our homes, we would have lower bills. A Government investment strategy through the National Infrastructure Commission that retrofitted homes, particularly for people on lower incomes, would therefore help to reduce our carbon footprint and put money back in the pockets of some of our poorest constituents. That would be a double win and we should all work together to achieve that.
I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee that I have the privilege of serving on for giving way. There is a triple win here. A lot of ill health stems from poor-quality housing stock. If we were to have a national mission to upgrade our housing stock, one key benefit would be an improvement in the nation’s health. That would save us a lot in health costs.
I thank the hon. Gentleman—I was going to call him my hon. Friend, because he is very much my friend and an excellent member of my Select Committee. He makes a really important point. I do not think any Member in this Chamber has not had a constituent come to their surgery because of problems with a damp or poorly insulated home, while also paying astronomical gas and electricity bills. Would it not be wonderful if we could fix that, particularly for our poorest consumers?
I would like to finish where I started—with what Sir David Attenborough said at our Select Committee yesterday. He said that we “cannot be radical enough” when addressing climate change. If we listened to the young people who have been on strike, the protesters, the people who came to listen to that evidence session and all the people who tune into programmes about our natural environment, this would be a national emergency. We would be taking steps commensurate with the scale of the challenge. I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050, but it is now imperative that we put in place the policies that will help to achieve that, so that our generation can pass on to our children and grandchildren a better world and a better planet.
It is a privilege to follow my friend, the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves). I am very proud to serve on her Select Committee, because I think we do a lot of really good work. Certainly, my pride as a Member of Parliament is augmented by the experiences I have as part of that Committee.
I was among those who were in the House just a few days ago, in relative terms, when we had a debate on amending the law to set a net zero carbon target by 2050. The damage that humankind is doing to the earth and the resulting climate emergency represent a call to action for the whole world. Britain, with its historic role in shaping the industrial age, accepts its unique responsibility to assume a global leadership role in tackling climate change, but we are only 1% of the world’s emissions, so we must use all the soft power at our disposal to influence the nations of the world to approach the challenge of climate change with the serious intent that the times we are living in demand.
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point. He rightly mentions the challenge of climate change, but does he also recognise some of the opportunities in that transition to the low carbon economy—not least in Scotland, where we both come from, with our renewables potential?
Indeed. I am grateful for that intervention and I will come on to talk about some of those issues, some of the lessons that we can learn and some of the opportunities that we can take advantage of, particularly from a Scottish point of view.
It is each generation’s responsibility to preserve and sustain our planet for those who will follow. I believe that this generation accepts the seriousness of that responsibility, but we politicians owe it to the people of our country to hold an honest conversation about what the change in law we made just a few days ago amounts to. Setting targets in law, holding debates, setting up committees and publishing reports are clearly not going to do the job in themselves.
This is the most difficult transitional change we will ever go through as a country, and we should not minimise the challenge. We do ourselves no favours by minimising the nature of the challenge that we face. I too will refer to the evidence that we received yesterday from Sir David Attenborough—appropriately enough, I would say, in the Thatcher Room. We should never forget that Margaret Thatcher was the first politician of stature to highlight the issue of climate change and the dangers that it posed to the whole world, most especially the poorest people on the planet. She did that 30 years ago this coming November, at the United Nations.
It was in the Thatcher Room that we took evidence from Sir David Attenborough. I doubt that anyone has done more to raise public consciousness of humankind’s wanton abuse and neglect of the planet and the impact of climate change than Sir David. As the Chair of the Select Committee has already mentioned, Sir David was indeed a star witness; the Public Gallery was packed—significantly, I would have said, almost exclusively with young people. At one point, he turned in his chair to face them and he applauded them. He told us:
“It is their world that we are playing with. It is their futures that are in our hands. If the faces around here do not inspire us to do that, I don’t know what will.”
It was an inspirational moment.
I had the opportunity to ask Sir David whether he was optimistic about our ability to meet the challenge of climate change, and he said:
“I see no future in being pessimistic, because that leads you to say, ‘To hell with it. Why should I care?’ I believe that way, disaster lies. I feel an obligation, because the only way you can get up in the morning is to believe that actually, we can do something about it, and I suppose I think we can.”
He went on:
“Whether that is optimistic or not, I do not know, and whether in fact it is going to produce a result or not, I do not know, but that is the only way I can operate. I have to get up in the morning and say, ‘Something has to be done, and I will do my best to bring that about.’”
The House will not be surprised to learn that, in the time I have been a member of the Select Committee, Sir David has been the only witness who, at the conclusion of his testimony, elicited a standing ovation from both the members of the Committee and the people in the public gallery. In fact, he is the only witness that the Committee has ever asked for a photograph with.
The young people of the United Kingdom are ahead of the curve on this issue, and it is for us in this House to take up the baton to build a new cross-party consensus. I agree with what was said earlier about the need for this to rise above the cut and thrust of party politics.
I am jealous of my hon. Friend for having been able to hear such amazing evidence in person yesterday. Does he agree that perhaps the edge that young people have over older generations is that they understand the existential nature of the climate change threat? They genuinely see it as a challenge to their ability to live the life that they want to lead in the future. The sooner we can convey that existential threat to older generations, the sooner we will gain the public consent necessary to close meaningfully with these huge challenges of addressing climate change.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Now is the time to unite the generations and the nation itself to tackle the challenge that lies before us. Yes, we have filled columns and columns in Hansard discussing Brexit—it is the national obsession at the moment—but the issues in this debate transcend any of the matters relating to Brexit, which will very soon, I hope, be a chapter in the story of our nation. This is about the future of our planet, and young people absolutely get that.
It is essential that we build a cross-party consensus by dealing with the issues as they arise on an evidence-led basis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its most recent overview of climate science:
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”
I repeat: it is vital that we have an honest conversation between ourselves as political representatives and the people we represent in our deliberations in the House.
The Committee on Climate Change has said there is currently no Government strategy to engage the public in the transition to a low carbon economy and adds that that will need to change. That warning—that very strong nudge—needs to be accepted by us all on the Government Benches. There needs to be a shared determination to address the need for a national conversation. My constituents, of all ages, reach out to me to discuss climate change because it concerns them. Sir David Attenborough yesterday mentioned how a 90-second, two-minute clip in one of his documentary series on the damage that plastics were doing to the ecology of the oceans of the world had galvanised a whole body of opinion not just in this country but across world.
That feeling was reflected in a meeting I attend the Sunday before last with the green team at Stirling Methodist church. They wanted to talk to me about their ideas and suggestions, which they wanted to share more widely, for how people could choose to act and even the mental attitude they could adopt to establish our own net zero carbon target. I could not help but think about that when I was listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan). In addition to sending a first-class Member of Parliament to this House, her constituents have done the planet a power of good by reducing the number of times she flies from 200 to something a little bit more manageable.
We have an individual responsibility in terms of our own lifestyles. In that meeting with the Methodists, we shared together as Christians our sense of having a covenant responsibility to be keenly aware of our responsibility as stewards of the earth. We all agree that we owed it to each other, to our children and to our children’s children to bring about a wider conversation in Stirling and beyond about what these new net zero targets would mean for our lifestyle expectations and how we behaved as individuals, not least in terms of diet. We must be under no illusions as to the real change that will be required of our country and of us as individuals if we are to meet the challenge we have set ourselves of net zero by 2050.
I will make a short list of some of the areas where we need action this day—to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill—and I will start with single-use plastics. Pragmatically speaking, we need to address this issue. There will always be a place for plastics, even single-use plastics—for medical purposes, food hygiene and other specific purposes—but we must adopt the default position that plastic should not be used as a single-use material. I intervened earlier on the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) to highlight a report that appeared in the Scottish press a few days ago and which mentioned that Scottish households alone were spending £600 million just on the packaging of the goods they were buying, which they were then either recycling or otherwise disposing of.
I have been visiting schools for a long time now, and everyone I have spoken to wants a plastic-free school, but the pupils tell me that many of the items that are supplied to the canteens—over which they have no control—are wrapped in single-use plastic. Those children are at their wits’ end, because they feel that they do not have the power to bring about change. What does the hon. Gentleman think we should be doing about that?
We need to do something, and I think we need to have a discussion about what that means, because I think the House has a part to play in that something that we need to do. I have become personally aware—much more than I have ever been—of the extent and volume of single-use plastic in my life. I know that during Lent some of my hon. Friends, and indeed some Opposition Members, engaged in a fast to clear their lives of single-use plastic. That was exemplary in setting the pace for all of us in the House and for the whole country, but we really need to apply some fresh thinking to the urgent need to deal with single-use plastic.
For instance, as I said earlier to the hon. Member for Dundee West, we need action on the proposed deposit return scheme. I know that it takes time for these things to be put together, and I know that it is important for there to be as much discussion as possible in Parliament, in Whitehall and, of course, with the business community, especially the retailers who will have to manage much of the scheme. I also appreciate that the Scottish Parliament, on an all-party basis, has done some pioneering work in this regard. I must say to the Minister, however, that it is surely not beyond the realms of possibility for all the Governments on these islands, at all levels, to work together to create a single UK-wide scheme for the return of plastic bottles in particular. That would remove any danger of geographical or cost anomalies. By working together, we could help to cement the idea of deposit return with the public. The sooner we do that, the better.
The second point that I want to make concerns transport. I do not want to repeat some of the things that have been said earlier, but it is important for us to understand that 15% of global man-made carbon emissions come from cars. We have a huge opportunity to move to lower emission vehicles, but we need many more electric charging points. The infrastructure is patchy to non-existent, and it does not give confidence to potential purchasers of low emission or electric vehicles. The planning laws throughout these islands should be changed to insist that car-charging points are installed in all new private houses and commercial properties as part of their initial construction. We also need a single system for using car chargers: expecting drivers to have several cards in their wallets and separate registrations for different charging points is absurd if we wish to make it easy for people to make the transition to electric vehicle use. Governments need to do what Governments, and only Governments, can do, and bring together every party so that a sense of co-ordination and working together is at the heart of this national infrastructure project.
Let me ask the Minister a question that I asked during a debate just a few days ago. Where is the promised competition for a standard charging point design—the so-called Hayes hook-ups? I think that that could capture the imagination of the wider public. [Interruption.] Yes —the Hayes hook-ups are named after our right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes).
With better infrastructure will come greater consumer confidence, but the Government should restore the incentives for buyers of electric vehicles that they reduced last year, because they have had some impact. We must be ambitious, and set new targets to eliminate the use of internal combustion engines from our cities by the middle of the next decade. I think that that is realistic. I also agree with something that was said by an Opposition Member earlier: it is important for the Government to give a clear signal to manufacturers, because investment decisions are made within the framework of public policy.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman shares my excitement about the potential for wave and tidal energy. Will he join me in calling on the Government to step up and offer the kind of support for the sector that could enable it to shift up a gear or two, start commercialising its projects that are so tantalisingly close to realisation, and then not only contribute to the environment changes that we seek but offer our economy many more jobs?
I agree that no technology should be off the table; all the new technologies and all the existing technologies should be part of the Government’s consideration.
I was talking about the support that I wish to give to the hon. Member for Leeds West in relation to our Committee’s finding that we need to set a clearer and bolder ambition on the discontinuation of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans, the date for which is currently 2040; it needs to be something nearer 2030 or 2032.
The third point I wish to make is about housing, which has already been mentioned by previous speakers. Let me say this is a Scottish Conservative: I know that other Members of the House must sometimes wonder what is going on at this end of the Chamber where my colleagues and I have occasional ding-dongs with SNP Members—all for good reasons I am sure—but the UK Government should follow the lead of the Scottish Parliament. With cross-party support, the Scottish Government have set out a package of measures to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes and commercial properties, including a detailed plan and milestones. Detailed plans and milestones are often lacking in the plans created in Whitehall.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point about the Scottish Parliament. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was passed in the Scottish Parliament—its ambitions are in excess of what was aimed for in this Parliament—because all the parties sitting in that Parliament came together. It was during a period of minority Government, but when we work together, cross-party, and have meaningful conversations, especially on critical issues such as climate change, minority Government can work.
There is sometimes a very strong case for minority Governments, in the sense that we do then have to depend more on reaching out across the Floor of the House. It is true that all the measures that we are discussing on the environment and climate change have pretty much the unanimous support of the Scottish Parliament, and that is a strength. It is a political strength, because when the time comes to change the Scottish Government in 2021 to a Conservative Scottish Government led by Ruth Davidson, we can be sure that those policies will continue.
Upgrading the housing stock should become a national mission; it should become a national infrastructure priority. The Government should now set out their response to the National Infrastructure Commission recommendations in relation to social housing and should come forward with their own proposals to unlock the able-to-pay residential sector.
We need to consider incentives for the adoption of new technologies in heating, insulation and energy generation, and we need to do that across all types of houses. In King’s Park, in my constituency of Stirling, many of my constituents tell me that they spend a fortune on heating their homes because the heat disappears through the single-glazed windows and old-fashioned roofs that they are required to have in the conservation area that they live in. I am a Conservative so I am all for conserving, but it is equally important that we conserve with consideration to the environment. Improving the insulation of our homes and upgrading the housing stock is an investment with a return, as was mentioned earlier, in lower energy consumption and lower energy bills and, as I have said, better physical and mental health. Pound for pound this is a sound national investment from every aspect.
The hon. Gentleman is making a lot of very valuable points here. I wonder if he would support the UK Government setting up a national energy company with all its energy coming from renewables, as the Scottish Government are doing. Not only will that company take energy from renewables and boost the renewable energy sector, but it will also tackle fuel poverty head-on if it is done as close to cost as possible.
I understand the motivation, but, in good Scots tongue, “I hae ma doots” about whether that is a workable solution. I know the hon. Gentleman says that the Scottish Government are going to do it, but we will see what happens, and I do have concerns about that as there are other ways to get to where we want to get to without setting up some kind of state retailer for energy.
I am nearing the end of my remarks, but I want to mention the fact that we need to consider new electrical infrastructure. We need to consider whether the national wiring has the capabilities it is going to need. I really do not see, any time soon, there being a plethora of charge points around the country where we can recharge our electric vehicle in a few minutes, because we just do not have the wiring to support that kind of recharging network. Also, I know the Minister will be disappointed if I do not mention smart meters. A lot of money is being spent on advertising smart meters. This is an individual step to be taken by households across the country to attack the issue of climate change. I support that, because smart meters are a vital component of the creation of a smart grid, but I really think that the Government should explain to the House how we are getting on with our target of rolling out smart meters to all premises by 2020. From what I know of the facts as they stand, that target seems a long way off.
I share my hon. Friend’s concern about the pace of the smart meter roll-out. I also wonder whether that technology has now been overtaken by all the internet of things-enabled functionality that is going into people’s homes. Moreover, does he agree that the slow pace of deployment for smart meters does not fill one with hope for the 1 million homes a year that we will have to retrofit with zero carbon heating systems in order to hit our net zero targets?
That was a good intervention from my hon. Friend, and I do have a lot of those concerns. For example, I have concerns about the status of the SMETS 2 meter installation, particularly in Scotland and the north of the country. There are technological reasons why the pace there is slower than in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am also concerned about where we are in general with SMETS 2 meter installation. And what about SMETS 1 meters? How are we getting on with having Smart DCC adopt them? The answers to those questions might be difficult for Ministers to bring to the House, because there is no shortage of challenges relating to smart meter roll-out, but we really should face up to those challenges. We have an opportunity now to properly review where we have got to. A fundamental question is how many SMETS 1 meters that have been installed will need to be replaced because they cannot be adopted by DCC. I hope the Government will make note of the need to update us on this, whether in a written statement or by some other means.
The generation of energy is important. I have already mentioned that no technologies should be off the table and that we should consider all possibilities. One of the final points I wish to make is about carbon capture and storage. A point that was made about carbon capture and storage in our Select Committee report was that there is need for a collaborative—[Interruption.] I am getting the signal, and I will conclude, Madam Deputy Speaker. Carbon capture and storage. Yes, this is very interesting point, or it is to me anyway. We have the opportunity of a first mover advantage, and we need to start removing carbon from the atmosphere. Otherwise, there is no hope of our becoming a net zero emitter by 2050. We should be prepared to take bold initiatives and risks with the roll-out of the technology. Finally, we need to plant more trees. They are nature’s carbon capture and storage specialists, and the current targets in England are frankly modest to the point of embarrassing and really not appropriate to a net zero target. Because of the rich offering of devolution in our wonderful Union, there are lessons to be offered to the UK Government from Scotland, which I hope they will be wise and examine closely.
In closing, I shall return to Sir David Attenborough’s evidence. We must remain hopeful. The challenges we are facing and discussing today are surmountable. We must play to our strengths as a nation. We need joined-up government across these islands—the United Kingdom at its best, working in partnership with our world-class university sector and the broadest possible coalition of industries and business interests. Our global reputation as inventors, creators, innovators and renovators must now be put to the ultimate test. We must find new ways to leverage old technologies, and we need to be bold and take risks with new technologies as never before. Then, we must take those solutions and our expertise to the wider world, where the UK can properly take its responsibilities as the leading developed nation in the arena to the next level. With proper investment, the new businesses that will grow and develop from this economic revolution will provide the quality of work and the valuable employment of the future. If we are wise enough, if we are honest enough, if we are brave enough, the opportunities may be limitless, and we will be able to sustain our planet—our blue planet, teeming with life—for generations to come.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr). We were talking about batteries earlier, and before the hon. Gentleman made his speech my hearing aid battery was working; it has now run out. [Laughter.]
There has never been a truer saying than “Out of the mouths of babes”. As the effects of global warming and pollution become alarmingly evident, wise young voices in our communities are calling for us to take urgent action to take care of our common home, all united by the same concerns and by the threats that we ourselves—we human beings—are posing to our planet. Children in Scotland and across the globe believe that adults in power have not been doing enough to address environmental issues. Some positive steps to cut down on plastics and attempts to reduce carbon emissions are seen as too little, too late.
The young Swedish national Greta Thunberg went on strike, refusing to go to school until Sweden’s general election in September, to draw attention to the climate crisis. Her protest has captured the imagination of her country, which has recently been plagued with wildfires during its hottest summer since records began. Greta has made her message global; she even came to Westminster to spread the word in the UK. She has shown us that the actions of just one person can make a difference.
I have visited schools in my area, including St Bernadette’s RC Primary School and Denny High School, and the local Baptist church. I have furnished the schools with Greta’s book and had fantastic conversations with the children about deforestation in the Amazon rain forests, the loss of orangutans and the use of palm oil in providing us with probably cheap food. They were so aware—they knew everything that was going on. They even had a mural of Greta up in the classroom. It was so impressive. Greta’s message was not lost. Those children care, and many of us in this House—most of us, I think —care and are taking some action.
Over the years, I have fought to highlight issues of pollution. I have made a stand against fracking to protect the purity and the worldwide reputation of Scotland’s water and land. Like others, I have voiced my anger at the plastic pollution all around us, from nurdles found in our waterways to the plastics that make up our clothes and are present in toiletries and cosmetics. I thank the local charities and voluntary groups I work with to keep up the pressure and raise the profile of the detestable waste that those products cause in our natural world.
As the hon. Member for Stirling and others mentioned, the natural historian Sir David Attenborough has apologised to younger generations for the damage that we have done to their planet. We are so fortunate and privileged to have that great man speaking out and, we surely hope, being listened to by the decision makers. On the sustainable development goals, he said:
“Over the next two years there will be United Nations decisions on climate change, sustainable development and a new deal for nature. Together these will form our species’ plan for a route through the Anthropocene.”
This crucial time presents an opportunity to reach an agreement on the political will and the resources needed to address the crisis together and to make certain that no one is left behind.
The hon. Gentleman, a fellow member of the Environmental Audit Committee, is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that the COP process is vital? We expect to hear that the UK will host the 26th COP next year, 2020. Does it not need to be a zero carbon COP, when we get global agreement on this, so that we can pursue our own international development goals and ensure that everyone shares the burden globally?
I absolutely agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. We serve on the Environmental Audit Committee, where we have received invaluable evidence in the past two or three years. I agree that we cannot just set a target; it has to be achievable at a very early stage. We simply do not have the time, and I will speak more about that as we go on.
We have been put to shame by the urgency demanded by the new breed of young environmentalists. They have had enough of taking baby steps. They know that time is running out, and I agree with them. In October 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us that we have only 12 years to make the unprecedented and unparalleled changes needed to prevent a rise in global temperatures of more than 1.5° C. Mike Thompson, the head of carbon budgets at the Committee on Climate Change, told the EAC that it is now or never on that. Exceeding this by even half a degree risks global catastrophe, with flooding, fires and famines, which other hon. Members have mentioned. Those are clear and challenging messages that we simply cannot fail on.
A decade ago, in 2009, Scotland set itself the world’s most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target, when the Scottish Parliament voted unanimously to cut the country’s emissions by 42% by 2020—next year. The latest statistics show that we remain on track to achieve that. In her recent speech at the Scottish National party conference, our leader, Nicola Sturgeon, acknowledged the situation’s urgency. Her speech was inspiring, strengthening my resolve and that of many others, from all parts of the community, not just politics, to do what we can to make this a dominant issue.
How are we helping? Thanks to a green initiative, myself and fellow MPs are forming climate youth ambassadors groups to generate public interest in initiatives we can help with locally. As with the SERES education for sustainable development youth ambassadors programme in South America, we aim to build a cohort of facilitators to inspire, mobilise and grow community resilience to climate change. UNESCO is recruiting youth ambassadors, again with the aim of developing organisers and future leaders to build this resilience to climate change. We in Scotland certainly want to be part of the environmental ambitions. This is very much about, “If you can change the world, get busy in your own little corner.”
My hon. Friend is making an amazing speech, talking about young ambassadors. Will he join me in paying tribute to the children at Sunnyside Primary School in Craigend, who have led the way with their NaeStrawAtAw campaign? It is important to place on record our thanks to these young people, who have realised that generations before them have let them down. Even at the local level they are having a massive influence. Will he pay tribute to them?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, and what he says just exemplifies what we need to do as politicians to make their voices heard. We cannot just have empty voices in this place—we need to take action.
On 26 June, most of us here met up with “The Time Is Now” mass lobby. Thousands of people from nearly every constituency in the UK came to Westminster to meet us. Like others, I was inspired by constituents of mine who had travelled here to meet up with each other and with MPs. I sincerely hope that our constituents went away feeling that they were being listened to and that their message and concerns had been made clear. What united the firefighters, schoolchildren, doctors, church groups and many others who came to Parliament? It was, quite simply, that they care. They care about our warming climate and they care that our natural world is in decline.
In Scotland, we have already been leading the way with our public rejection of fracking, our strides forward in investigating alternative energy sources and our consultancy on climate change, and our programme of change within the Scottish Government is working really well. We are consulting and we speak to people; we do not just take it for granted that people are not listening.
In Scotland, the purity of our water and land is integral to the quality produce we sell and trade to other countries. As a publicly owned body, Scottish Water is a company that brings many admiring looks from elsewhere in the UK and globally; I was delighted to attend an event this morning, where we heard how it, too, is looking to own its own water system. The people at this morning’s meeting looked on at us enviously, thinking, “Why can people not run a utility properly? It is all part of us and it is all part of a community. Why should we not own these things?” I take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of Scottish Water, who protect the reputation that we enjoy.
But that is not enough. Nothing happens in isolation. Around the globe, toxic air affects many towns and cities; plastic-strewn rivers and seas are commonplace; sea levels are rising; and millions are being displaced. Closer to home, as the Environmental Audit Committee has heard, some of our best-loved species, such as hedgehogs, puffins and red squirrels, are now hard to find or threatened by climate change and/or invasive species in their natural habitat. Although biodiversity is declining across the planet, the UK as a whole is one of the worst offenders, ranking 189th out of 218 countries for biodiversity intactness. We are well below our neighbours Germany and France, and only slightly above the USA. Our joint bid with Italy to host the next major climate summit in 2020 will be another opportunity for Scotland and the rest of the UK to show global leadership. The next step will be to put in place the policies that get us to net zero as soon as possible.
Let me finish—and I will finish; I know the hon. Member for Stirling appreciates some good humour—by taking this opportunity to wish the ethical stock exchange in Edinburgh the very best wishes on a successful future venture. It is an idea whose time has come. Investors who care about our common world can be reassured that due diligence is being carried out on the companies to be listed. Project Heather, the group setting up the new exchange in George Street, adds some “magic dust” to the uniqueness of the stock exchange, because it, too, wants to make a difference to the world we live in, now and for the long term. The stock exchange promises to list only companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment. I hope that some, or all, of Scotland’s famous investment trusts, as well as, for example, the National Trust and church organisations, take the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and invest in the courageous step taken by the people leading the company. The stock exchange will meet the ever growing demand for ethical investments, and offer a clear pathway and peace of mind for investors.
Ideas such as the ethical stock exchange can clearly demonstrate that companies have a capital and a social conscience. For example, the famous ice cream producer Mackie’s has produced an all-electric ice cream van. This is probably the best day to talk about ice cream, although it might be the worst day to talk about ice cream, because everything is so dry. That ethical step shows how a company is looking to the future and giving out a message. The most important message is that Mackie’s is aware of what is going on the world. I think kids who are going to buy an ice cream will flock to that van. Perhaps that is an advert for the company— I do not know, but I certainly hope it is.
Maybe they will get a pokey hat ice cream—I don’t know.
Citizens and our youth are rightly demanding action, and as politicians we are duty-bound to listen and respond. Like many people throughout the UK, people in my Falkirk constituency are participating in active travel and using the last mile. We have active bikes. I recently visited Stockholm, where I was amazed at the stand-on and sit-on electric scooters. It was quite hazardous, I have to say—they did not seem to have any control, so it was quite chaotic—but nevertheless the demand was there. I would like to see that happening more. We must support youngsters in their efforts to develop a decent, modern planet to live on.
It is always a pleasure to speak last, because one can follow all the interesting comments and contributions.
I absolutely agreed with the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) when she said so passionately that there are wonderful opportunities. We should not be all gloomy, because there absolutely are opportunities. We should look forward positively, rather than thinking only that we do not really know how to do it. We do know how to do it.
We should of course work together across party lines, but I am a bit baffled that some behave as if this was a new subject and we have suddenly seen the light and understood what is going on. This is not a new subject. I have grown up with it and I have been thinking environmentally for as long as I can remember. The fact that we have been destroying our planet is not news. Certainly since we heard from Al Gore in 2006, we have known the inconvenient truth that we are warming up this planet in a very, very dangerous way, and that we are heading for extinction unless we do something. So, what have we been doing in the past decade? It is really disappointing to see, particularly over the past four years with this Government, that we have actually gone backwards. I feel very angry about that, and it is normal for the young generation to feel angry about it, too. I am not surprised. We really need to look at ourselves and ask, what have we done when we knew that this was coming our way?
I really hope that this is a new beginning, that we are all going to work together, and that we understand that some difficult decisions need to be made. We will probably have party political ding-dongs about that, because there are so many different ways of achieving what we need to achieve. We all know that we need to get to net zero by 2050, but how we get there is obviously the big question.
I do welcome the fact that we want to work cross-party on this matter. I am looking forward to that and, as I said earlier, one starting point for me would be to stop fracking. There are some simple things that we can do, but obviously there are political differences to overcome. Mention was made, for example, of nationalising the grid in Scotland. Is that a proposal? There are different ways of addressing this issue. We need to have a rational discussion about it and be honest about the difficulties, but we also need to understand where our political differences lie and, hopefully, overcome them. We need to do something; we owe it to the younger generation.
The climate crisis is the most pressing challenge of our time. We are already seeing its disastrous effects across the globe. The UK has a moral responsibility to take the lead in tackling the crisis. First, as a pioneer of the industrial revolution, we have been among the greatest producers of historical emissions, so I do not take the point that we are responsible for only 1% of global emissions. We have a much greater responsibility than for just 1% of current global emissions. We need to take our share of responsibility for the emissions that we have produced over many decades, and even over centuries. Secondly, we are a rich country. We have the means to decarbonise more quickly than poorer countries.
The hon. Lady has made a very important point. One of the challenges that we will have to meet as a world is how we bring billions upon billions of people out of poverty in a way that does not damage the environment. If we are not careful, we will be seen as saying, “We’re okay,” and as pulling the ladder up after us with our comfortable standard of living. It is a real challenge for us to tackle climate change both here and across the globe in a way that is fair and equitable to those people who are currently living in poverty.
The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. Social justice absolutely must be at the heart of tackling this issue internationally and in this country. We cannot afford to allow such action to become the burden of the poorer communities. We need to work internationally and collaboratively, which is why the whole debate in this country about separating from Europe through Brexit—I will touch on that later—is so damaging, because it sends out a message that we want to say goodbye to international collaboration.
Thirdly, as Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said this morning, when we know, we have a responsibility to act. We know now how to get to net zero, so we have a responsibility to do it. This is a very important point. It is not that we do not know how to go about it; we do know what to do, and therefore we have a moral responsibility to do it, and do it quickly.
I welcome the fact that this House and the Government have now said in legal terms that we should get to net zero by 2050, but I wonder whether that is only a desperate effort to build a legacy for the current Prime Minister. The hypocrisy of it is striking, given that her Government have relentlessly undermined the climate progress achieved by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government. Distant targets such as 2050 are meaningless unless backed up by concrete short-term action. The Committee on Climate Change has reported that of its 25 headline policy actions for the past year, this Government have only fully delivered on one—one out of 25.
Complacency—[Interruption.] Complacency, which I am hearing from the Government Benches, is not in order. The Liberal Democrats are committed to achieving a net zero target by 2045, but we recognise that that will be achieved only if vital steps are taken immediately. For example, we need to ban fracking now. It is unacceptable that the Government support the development of new fossil fuels when all our efforts should go into developing renewables as sources of power. The Government blocked the Swansea tidal lagoon, even though it would have allowed us to become world leaders in tidal power. They privatised the green investment bank and stopped the growing solar power industry in its tracks. They have all but banned onshore wind, although that is now the cheapest form of renewable energy. They are also failing to lay out a clear road map that would allow industries to make long-term green investments.
I apologise for not having been in the Chamber earlier; I had to attend a Westminster Hall debate. The hon. Lady mentioned the privatisation of the green investment bank. Will she inform the House of how much money is being lent by that bank post-privatisation in comparison with when it was under Government ownership?
The hon. Gentleman wants to make a political point—that the private bank works better. This will be the big debate about climate change. Who will take the lead—the private or the public sector? I am not convinced that the private sector will deliver what we need to achieve the net zero target in 2050. I do not believe it will. Those will be our big political differences. I do not mean that everything needs to be nationalised, but we need a clear debate about what will be carried by the public sector and by the private sector. I believe that, to make the transition socially just, the public sector will have a very important role to play.
I am going to say something else that the Government side of the House will not like. If we are serious about the climate emergency, the most immediate thing we can do is stop Brexit. Climate change is a global problem and the fight against it requires co-ordinated international action. As our closest geographical neighbour, the EU is a good place to start. It has been a force for good in meeting the challenge of climate change. Through its institutions, we have learned how to negotiate and bring together separate national interests under a commonly shared vision.
The process is not easy and not perfect, but it is far preferable to going it alone. The EU has taken the lead on international climate change action: it has, for example, introduced projects such as emissions trading schemes and interconnectors between national grids. One initiative important for local councils was that of the European directives on biodegradable waste, without which this country would have done nothing about recycling.
This is why the European Union actually works: it makes national Governments take action when they would not do so on their own. EU directives have required member states to take decisive action even when national Governments would not have done. It has built environmental protections into its dealings with the rest of the world, putting key protections at the heart of its trade deals. Outside the EU, we will be weaker. We will have less clout, for example, against the United States, which might impose environmentally harmful terms on us as a condition of any new trade deal. While we are desperately looking for new trade deals, we might be victims of all that.
The hon. Lady mentioned the impact of Brexit. I am not trying to rehash the Brexit debate here, although we probably would have been on the same side. The Paris climate accord obviously includes countries outside the EU. We can show leadership and try to bring countries together from both inside and outside the EU once we leave.
Secondly, does the hon. Lady agree that a number of Members in this House are nationalists who want not only to break out of the EU but break up our own United Kingdom? Surely breaking up the component parts of the United Kingdom would not help us to tackle climate change in any way.
It is absolutely true that we should not be getting into the Brexit debate, but I believe in co-operation at every level, and the environment that has been created in this House in the past two years against the European Union is very damaging to international co-operation.
Our closest geographical neighbour is the European Union, and we should work very closely with it. That is why the best thing we can do if we are serious about climate action is to stop Brexit. History will not look kindly on us for leaving the European Union just at the moment when our moral responsibility is to protect our planet and work together. We should be placing ourselves at the heart of the European project, because the climate emergency demands it.
It is a pleasure to close this debate on behalf of the Opposition. We have heard excellent contributions from across the House. It has been heartening to hear the common theme that tackling the climate emergency is of the highest priority. Indeed, the Minister said that the will to act has never been stronger. It was very heartening to hear that. However, there will be a lot of changes on the Treasury Bench over the next couple of weeks, and we hope that those who really care about this will continue to make sure that it is pushed to the very top of the agenda. We can afford nothing else.
There were excellent contributions from colleagues across the House, and I want to reflect on a few of them. The right hon. and learned Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) put forward an excellent manifesto on behalf of electric vehicles. His speech was very well made. Indeed, he made my heart leap, as a Nottinghamian, when he talked about electrification of the midland main line. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) would say the same: we think that that is a priority project. When there is a change of Prime Minister, I will again, humbly but very sincerely, ask Ministers to prioritise that project. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman might join me in that, because the current approach is fundamentally wrong.
The hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) prioritised talking about economic benefits. That is important, because there is a danger that we discuss this issue in too many negative terms and it turns people off. We need to grasp that opportunity. I very much agree with what he said about making it a priority for each Department to report on its individual target. It is that kind of aggregate action that will make an impact.
The hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) began by talking in very sobering terms about mass extinction and loss of species. Again, if that does not act as a call to action to us, I really do not know what will. I did slightly depart from her argument when she talked about not being swept away by major promises on a grand scale. Pragmatism can indeed be very important in the difficult choices ahead, but I would say that we have to be really ambitious. There will have to be a step change in our approach in order to do this. I do not think that slogans are necessarily any use either, but that is certainly not what Labour Members are endorsing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) talked about citizens’ assemblies. As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on deliberative democracy, I was very interested to hear that. I wonder if she might come and talk to our group about what her Select Committee is up to, because we are very interested in this sort of work. She echoed the comments of the hon. Member for Dundee West in saying that we have an awful lot to gain from a green industrial revolution. In my community, we have had four decades of deindustrialisation. That has absolutely scarred our community, and this is the route back from that. The tens of thousands of skilled, sustainable jobs in these industries are our future, so there is an awful lot to gain.
The hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) relayed lots of what David Attenborough had said to the Select Committee, which was a stand-still moment for all of us in Parliament. The hon. Gentleman is dead right to say that young people are ahead of us on this issue—a theme I will return to shortly. I echo his comments about the importance of faith. I really feel that faith communities can act as conveners within our local communities, because these are important places where people come together and are willing to be vulnerable and generous with each other. He talked about the individual actions we are going to take to change our lives, and faith communities have a really strong role to play in that.
The hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) said that when he talks to young people, there is a sense that adults have not done enough. That message has been loudly heard, and we now have to catch up. I was interested in his idea about local climate youth ambassadors. There is a lot of energy among young people. The two things I get asked when I go to my local schools are, “What are you doing about it, Mr Norris?” and, “What more can I do about it?” That would be a good avenue. Finally, the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) talked about the inconvenient truth; I agree. I would be interested to hear the response from those on the Treasury Bench to her strongly made point on fracking.
The shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden), set out clearly the Labour party’s programme for tackling the climate emergency and getting to grips with the root causes, and I want to build on that for a couple of minutes. One element is addressing our aid budget. The new and possibly outgoing Secretary of State for International Development says that he wants to spend more of the 0.7% set aside for aid on tackling the climate emergency. That level of ambition is great, and we all recognise how urgent the emergency is, but it should not be a zero-sum game.
I would like to be very clear that, for the Opposition, tackling the climate emergency must not come at the expense of tackling poverty and inequality abroad. That goes back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling—how do we lift billions out of poverty in a sustainable way? It cannot not be at the expense of aid spending on health, education and sexual violence against women and girls. I am sure the Minister agrees with that, and I would be interested to hear more on that.
UK aid spent on tackling the climate emergency must go towards climate-compatible development and climate justice. It must continue measurably and demonstrably to reduce poverty. It cannot be another excuse to repurpose the aid budget and take some money we would have spent somewhere else and badge it up as aid. That would really miss the point. Will the Government commit to finding additional funds for climate finance, rather than relying on incremental increases from the existing official development assistance budget? Will the Minister restate that all ODA-funded climate spending will directly and measurably help the world’s poorest, in line with current UK law?
Global climate justice also means that we must ensure that our transition in this country towards a better, greener future is not at the expense of the global south. The Opposition reject any new green colonialism, which is becoming too real a risk. We must not export our climate emergency overseas. We must solve the problem, not brush it under the carpet. That fundamental principle of global climate justice must be at the root of all the actions we take.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that the exporting of our climate problems is part of what we need to address in this House? I fear that, in trying to clean up our own act, we might be merely pushing the problem overseas to countries that are less well equipped and morally should not have to take responsibility for ensuring that what we do here is properly contributing to net zero carbon.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. That is a really inconvenient truth. We might think, “We’re only 1% of the world’s emissions. We’ll sort ourselves out,” but we must understand what we have exported. I talked about the deindustrialisation in my community. Those jobs and functions are happening elsewhere in the world, as are those emissions. We have to be very careful that we are not dishonest about that.
We must manage our waste properly rather than export it, filling the seas around south-east Asia with plastic. The principle of global climate justice must guide us to secure labour rights and fair supply chains when Britain pays for the raw materials to build millions of solar panels. It must guide us to net zero by reducing our emissions, not by simply supporting carbon offsetting and carbon markets that we know can generate enormous problems in the global south. It must guide us, as the shadow Chancellor has argued, to make our new green technologies available to the global south. Labour is clear: urgent action by the UK on the climate emergency must bring about justice and a new, fairer world, rather than a repeat of history.
I want to take a moment, with a little bit of self-indulgence, to talk about Nottingham. I was very proud today when I read in The Guardian that our council and city are arguably the most ambitious in the country, with our target of net zero carbon by 2028, our green transit, our trees and our bees. Indeed, I have beaten the hon. Member for Dundee West to it, as we have our own not-for-profit, locally run energy supplier. I would be interested in talking privately with him about his plans and how we might be able to work together on that.
As an Opposition, we have set out our plans. Earlier this year, my colleagues the shadow BEIS Secretary and the shadow DEFRA Secretary set out Labour’s ambitious environmental plan for a green transformation. The shadow Chancellor has spoken at great length about how we will green the City. We, the shadow DFID team, have set out in great detail our plans on entering government to ensure that our aid budget brings about climate justice. Shadow departmental teams across Labour’s Front Bench are now bringing forward policy plans to tackle the climate emergency. Across Government, we will recommit to the Paris agreement, explore bringing forward the date by which we can achieve the net zero target, and fight in the global financial institutions for a fairer global local economy that puts people and planet before profit. This is our promise as the next Labour Government, and that is what we will deliver.
It is great privilege to reply to this debate. In this Parliament over the last few months, a 93-year-old man, Sir David Attenborough, has spoken powerfully of the need for us to act, and a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, has come here and told us of the need to act. In the last week, many of our constituents have come to say that the time is now for all of us to act. I am proud to be speaking at the Dispatch Box representing the greenest Government ever of the country that has gone faster than any other major industrialised country to decarbonise, and which is indeed decarbonising faster than any other country in the G20.
Millions of women will have got up this morning in Africa and walked for miles to cut down a tree, turn it into charcoal and cook using it in their own home in a way that poisons them and their family. This is one of the biggest killers in our world today. What came through loud and clear in today’s debate is that this is a global challenge and a global problem. Yes, we have to do our bit here in the UK, but we must also keep at the front and centre of our work the very poorest, who are likely to be the most affected by climate change.
I welcome the spirit of today’s debate. There has been a huge amount of cross-party support. That is important because passing the legislation to go to net zero without a vote in this Chamber, as we did last week, sends out the most powerful signal that we can send to the UK private sector that, whatever happens in our politics, everyone is on the same page on this agenda. Of course, there may be differences about what we do and how fast we go, and a range of different points of view were expressed on that today, but what was most powerful overall was that everyone agreed, cross-party, that this is something we need to tackle.
We should also welcome the fact that, although I am responding to this debate as an International Development Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) opened it as a Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That also sends a very strong signal about how we are working on this across Government.
We are all agreed that climate change remains one of the biggest global threats to sustained development and, indeed, to our own way of life. No country on this planet is projected to be spared from further temperature increases, and the world is already facing serious challenges to the natural environment, food production and water resources. The challenges posed by change to our climate are systemic. Much more needs to be done and greater global ambition is needed. That is why the UK is jointly bidding with Italy to host next year’s COP 26.
We have had an excellent debate, full of a range of very strong contributions. Although the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) objected to a Business Minister opening the debate, he will be interested to know that 34% of all our climate finance is spent by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He will also be interested to know that the multilateral development banks agreed at last year’s COP to align their $200 billion of climate finance with the Paris agreement—that is a point he specifically requested.
As we send out these strong cross-party messages, we need to think carefully about the attacks I heard from Opposition Members against the oil and gas sector. I am sure that Labour voters in Scotland would be alarmed if they felt that the hon. Gentleman would be as harsh on the oil and gas sector in Scotland as he appears to be on the sector elsewhere in the world.
This is the only political point I will make from the Dispatch Box today, but we need to think about actions that will lead the world and about actions that will lead to businesses moving from this country to other parts of the world. I would put in that second category the shadow Chancellor’s aspiration to remove the UK listings of many perfectly good, British companies, which will simply move their listings elsewhere.
The Minister is talking about future investment. Will she commit her Government to taking real action on carbon capture, utilisation and storage? The project in Peterhead was shamefully abandoned by George Osborne a few years ago, and we need to get projects such as St Fergus up and running. If we could do that by 2023, it would do an awful lot to help this issue. Can the Minister get behind that?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are spending £45 million on supporting this technology, and we published an action plan last November, but of course we need to do more.
In a strong speech, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) talked about transport and the importance of changing behaviour in the sector, which is such a big emitter of carbon. I highlight the £1.5 billion that goes with the “Road to Zero” strategy, which was published last year, and the private sector is rapidly responding to the signals sent out from this place.
All the UK car companies have now developed electric models, including today’s welcome news about the Mini in Oxford and the wonderful news about Jaguar Land Rover in the midlands. Even in my constituency, Morgan Motor Company, known for its traditional cars, will have an electric model. My right hon. and learned Friend will be interested to know that 1,000 charging points a month are now being installed across the UK, which exceeds our expectations. The sector is rapidly responding to the signals we have sent out from this place.
The hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) made an excellent speech about what Scotland is doing, and he made the valid point that the minority SNP Government may have examples of best practice from which England and other parts of the UK can learn.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) made an amazing speech, and I salute her work as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development. With her experience of the car industry, she made some powerful points about how we are bringing people with us.
The hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), who is Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, made a powerful speech about how this is an opportunity for the UK to lead the next industrial revolution, and she highlighted some of the Committee’s excellent work in this area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) spoke at some length—I am now looking at the time to make sure I am not also going over—and he highlighted the importance of our moving beyond single-use plastics. As a member of the Select Committee, he spoke with great knowledge of trees, electric vehicles and a range of other important areas. He also spoke of the importance of cross-party work in Scotland.
I am glad that the hearing aid of the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) did not cause any faltering in his excellent speech as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) highlighted that this is not a new issue. I am old enough to remember the slogan “Plant a tree in ‘73”. I will not embarrass the House by asking other hon. Members to acknowledge that they remember that, but it is something that we have been doing for a while. We need to act faster and go further. I diverged from her only on her feeling that we would be helped in doing that by being a member of the European Union. We are going further and faster than the European Union which was not able to reach consensus on the issue recently.
The shadow Minister talked about the importance of climate finance. The UK has led the world in green finance. We published a further green finance strategy last week, and the leadership of Mark Carney at the Bank of England has been strong in this area, including on disclosure in annual reports. The City of London has shown itself able to attract a lot of listings, and we have more than $25 billion of funding going into green developments, which has happened as a result of the UK’s leadership in this area. We need to carry on with that because such investments can often be very capital intensive.
Looking to the future, I am confident that the UK can lead from the front in helping the world to drive the change necessary. That is why debates like today’s are important, timely and effective. I thank everyone who has generated the strong amount of consensus in this important debate today.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered tackling climate change, protecting the environment and securing global development.