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Volume 672: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2020

I am delighted to have been appointed COP President. I have already held discussions with former COP Presidents, including Paris COP President Laurent Fabius. I met, among others, the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and Patricia Espinosa at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Last week, together with the Prime Minister’s COP26 climate finance adviser, Mark Carney, I launched the COP26 finance strategy. My officials and I are working at pace to deliver a successful summit.

COP26 will be the most critical talks since Paris, yet preparations so far have been beset by chaos. What response can the Minister provide to the former COP President who says that this Government are presiding over “a huge lack of leadership” on the issue. The Prime Minister has admitted to her that he does not even understand climate change. Does the Minister acknowledge the embarrassing lack of credibility and competence that the Prime Minister has shown on COP26 preparations?

I thank the former COP President for her work. The hon. Lady talks about the Prime Minister’s leadership. I can assure Members that when we were at the UN General Assembly in September, there was a huge amount of positivity around his leadership in doubling our international climate finance commitment. She will also know that last month the Prime Minister launched the Year of Climate Action. He is absolutely leading on this issue from the front, and the rest of us are supporting him. Let me tell her that we are absolutely determined to make sure that COP26 is a success, not just for the UK but because it matters to the whole world.

Every country has to submit its contribution to climate action before COP26 meets. Why is the Secretary of State preparing the UK’s contribution statement on the basis of the fifth carbon budget, which works towards a target of only 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, when this House has determined that the target to be met should be net zero by 2050?

We met the first two carbon budgets, and we are on track to meet the third. Of course, I recognise the need for further action: 2020 will be a year of climate action, as I have said, and we have new plans to decarbonise key sectors in industry.

I congratulate the Department on its far-sighted announcement yesterday that sets the tone for COP26 by allowing onshore wind and solar projects, which have local support, to bid for funding. The announcement also floated a further pot for less developed technologies, such as tidal stream and wave, some of which the Energy Minister and I met last week. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should pursue this opportunity to develop diverse sources of green energy and look closely at the innovative tax credit proposal, innovation power purchase agreement, to help some of these technologies get off the ground?

I make the general point that innovation is vital in all sectors of industry, but particularly in the renewables sector. As my hon. Friend will know, the proposal that we set out will help the UK to achieve its 2050 net zero ambition. Ultimately, this is about achieving value for money by driving further cost reductions in renewable electricity.

I welcome the Secretary of State and his new ministerial team to their places. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee looks forward to taking evidence from them, and I am sure that they look forward to that as well.

May I follow up on the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) about our fourth and fifth carbon budgets? Those carbon budgets are premised on achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions, yet this House has unanimously passed legislation to achieve net zero. It is neither coherent, nor showing leadership, for our fourth and fifth carbon budgets to be based on an outdated objective that this House has rejected. Can the Secretary of State confirm that we will be updating our fourth and fifth carbon budgets—and, crucially, that we will meet them?

I thank the hon. Lady for welcoming my ministerial team and me. Of course I look forward to coming before her Select Committee. Let me be absolutely clear: we are one of the first countries in the world to have legislated for a net zero target, and we have demonstrated our global leadership. We have met the first two carbon budgets and are on track to meet the third, but I take her point.

I agree that one of the best ways of preparing for COP26 is bringing forward the new contracts for difference auctions for onshore wind and solar, which will help us to achieve net zero. Could we also take this opportunity to demonstrate to the hard-working taxpayers of Rother Valley and across the country that we can reduce their bills by going green. Can we make it a key part of COP26 to show that going green is better value for those hard-working people?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Offshore wind prices have dropped by over two thirds between 2015 and 2019 because of the CfD auctions. Going green is positive for the economy: GDP has grown by 75% since 1990, yet we have also managed to reduce emissions by 43%.