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Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery: Climate Action

Volume 689: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2021

What steps he is taking to help ensure that climate action contributes to the post covid-19 economic recovery. (912519)

What steps he is taking to help ensure that climate action contributes to the post covid-19 economic recovery. (912527)

What steps the Government are taking to promote (a) climate action and (b) a green recovery from the covid-19 pandemic ahead of COP26. (912530)

We are determined to build back better and greener as we recover from covid-19. The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution sets out the Government’s blueprint to grow the sunrise sector, support 250,000 green jobs and level up across the country.

The north-west, as you are well aware, Mr Speaker, is the heart of the UK nuclear industry, including Westinghouse nuclear fuels in my constituency. With the world increasingly focused on utilising low carbon energy sources, what steps is my right hon. Friend the President taking ahead of COP26 to promote UK-based nuclear energy production satisfying our future energy needs and supporting countless high-skilled jobs across the north-west?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nuclear power clearly has a part to play in our clean energy mix, and he will know that in the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan we have committed to backing large-scale nuclear advanced modular reactors and small modular reactors—AMRs and SMRs. Of course, the sites such as the ones in my hon. Friend’s constituency are vital in terms of creating jobs and investment in the north-west.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new appointment. Does he agree that the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan will not only help places such as Meon Valley to build back better and greener from covid but level up all regions across the country?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The 10-point plan will be a catalyst to unleash innovation and jobs across the country. We are going to have a green industrial revolution, which is going to be powered by wind turbines in Scotland and the north-east, propelled by electric vehicles made in the midlands and, of course, supported by carbon capture clusters across our industrial heartlands.

Public transport is one of the cleanest modes of transport we have, as it helps to get thousands of carbon-emitting vehicles off our roads, but our public transport infrastructure, particularly rail, is woefully outdated in the north of England and simply not fit for purpose. Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore back my calls for the northern powerhouse rail scheme to be built in full, including a Bradford city centre station, to prove that we are taking this climate emergency seriously by getting more people on to public transport and more cars off our roads in the north and by providing good, green, sustainable jobs?

I certainly agree that we should be encouraging people to take public transport where that is possible. I come in from Reading to Paddington every day by train myself. The hon. Gentleman has raised a policy issue relating to the Department for Transport and I will ensure that I make representations on his behalf to the Secretary of State.

Next week, the Government will co-host a summit of the Powering Past Coal Alliance to boost international co-operation on the phasing out of coal, yet at the same time, Ministers are refusing to intervene here at home to prevent the opening of a new deep coal mine in Cumbria. The president knows full well that the proposed mine is not purely a local matter, that it will not help to secure the future of UK steel and that it will not provide the long-term secure jobs that Cumbrians need. However, it will increase emissions, undermine progress to our net zero target and damage our credibility as COP26 host. My question to him, therefore, is a simple one: in this critical year, why on earth are he and his Cabinet colleagues content to see this mine approved?

I note the hon. Gentleman’s point about the Powering Past Coal Alliance, and I am very proud that the UK is part of leading it. Of course, we have made significant progress in reducing coal as part of our energy mix over the last decade. It has come down from 40% to just under 2%, and I set out my detailed views on this issue at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee hearing, as he will know. This is now a local matter; it is a local issue. Cumbria County Council is considering the application and, like him, I wait to see the outcome.