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Topical Questions

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 14 April 2021

If we are to protect our planet from the ravages of climate change, we must support developing countries to respond, but without adequate finance the task ahead is well nigh impossible. That is why on 31 March, the UK presidency convened around 50 developing and donor countries and multilateral institutions to consider how we can get more—and more timely—public finance flowing into climate action. I am pleased that we have secured a range of commitments from the likes of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and donor countries to move this vital work forward. It is our moral duty to protect the most vulnerable communities from a climate crisis that they have not caused.

How does supporting a new Cumbrian coalmine, giving new licences for oil and gas exploration, scrapping the green homes grant and reducing incentives for electric vehicles reflect the Government’s stated commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050—or is this more dad-dancing rhetoric by the Prime Minister, unconvincing and unco-ordinated?

The hon. Lady raises a number of points. In previous answers I have set out the ambition that the UK has and the progress that we have made. Specifically with regard to oil and gas licensing, the UK Government will introduce a new climate compatibility checkpoint before each future oil and gas licensing round to ensure that licences awarded are aligned with wider climate objectives, including net zero emissions by 2050.

Surfers Against Sewage in my constituency are ardent environmental campaigners, particularly on plastic pollution and water quality, and our environment is all the better for their work. The Government have a key role to play on protecting the environment, so can my right hon. Friend assure me that when the world gathers for COP26 in November, protecting and enhancing the environment, particularly for the people of Cornwall, will be at the very top of the agenda? (914089)

The COP26 nature campaign is driving ambitious international and domestic action to protect and enhance our environment, and this will be a high priority at COP26 in November. I commend the work that Surfers Against Sewage are doing on water pollution and water quality, which I hope to see first-hand when I visit Cornwall as part of the G7 summit in June. Protecting the ocean, including through nature-based solutions, provides multiple vital climate change adaptation and resilience benefits.

Last month, the COP President wrote that the world is doing nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 1.5° C, and he is right. A green economic stimulus could make a huge difference to meeting the target, but while we have put it as the top item of the G7 agenda, the sum total of the Chancellor’s measures here in the UK promised just £12 billion of green spending over a decade, and he has already cut £1 billion from that. Our investment is 60 times smaller than President Biden’s green infrastructure plan. Is it not a very significant challenge for COP26 that when it comes to a green stimulus we are telling others to act but not doing so ourselves?

The right hon. Gentleman knows that we agree on many of these issues on tackling climate change, but when it comes to Government money, we have also ensured that we leverage in private sector money. It is not just about Government money; it is also about leveraging in private sector money. Ultimately, this is about not just cutting emissions but creating jobs for constituents across the UK.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, as COP26 host, our actions face particular scrutiny, and I think he will know that the international community is increasingly concerned, and not just on green recovery. The Government call on others to power past coal but flirt with a new coalmine; say to others, “Adopt a net zero target”, but are off track on ours; and tell countries to support the world’s poorest but slash aid spending. Rachel Kyte, former special representative of the UN Secretary-General, said this week of our record on climate:

“What the UK is doing is like dad dancing…they are very uncoordinated.”

Is it not time the Government gave up the dad dancing on climate and showed some consistent leadership?

The right hon. Gentleman himself is obviously a very good dancer and therefore unlikely to take part in dad dancing; we should try it together at some point.

Of course every country, including the UK, needs to make more progress on cutting emissions. The right hon. Gentleman makes particular reference to coal. He will know that our energy mix with regard to coal has gone from 40% in 2012 to less than 2% last year, and we have been leading the Powering Past Coal Alliance, to which a large number of countries have now signed up. So we are making progress; of course, there is more that we can do.

What diplomatic steps has my right hon. Friend taken to engage with international partners on preparations for COP26? (914091)

We are working closely at many levels with international partners on preparations for COP26 and to accelerate climate ambitions. The COP26 President-designate has met large numbers of Governments. He is already out and about visiting many countries—15 in the past few weeks—and briefing UN member states on a regular basis. I am working with the most vulnerable countries to make sure that they are supported in their ambitions to meet their resilience challenges.

Converting UK homes to zero carbon heating will be a huge task. Does the COP President believe that heat pumps can adequately replace all gas boilers? If there is a need for supplementary heating, what form does he think it should take? (914080)

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the 10-point plan, which sets out clearly the progress that we want to make on decarbonising buildings and homes, and heat pumps will of course play a part. We have also set out there our plans on the use of hydrogen for home heating.