Skip to main content

Topical Questions

Volume 696: debated on Wednesday 9 June 2021

Two weeks ago, I chaired the G7 Climate and Environment Ministers track with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At that meeting, the G7 nations agreed overwhelmingly to decarbonise their power systems in the 2030s, consistent with their 2030 nationally determined contributions and net zero commitments. In addition, they committed to take concrete steps to end support for international coal power generation by the end of 2021. This is a critical step in consigning coal power to history and accelerating the international transition to clean energy.

Of course we welcome plans for a cleaner, greener Britain, but can my right hon. Friend reassure my hard-working Harlow residents that the Government’s environmental measures will not mean a more expensive Britain, hitting the low-paid with extra costs and increasing the cost of living for ordinary folk?

The Government are committed to getting the transition to net zero right for all consumers. We are committed to driving savings and making our homes better insulated with more energy-efficient measures. My right hon. Friend will know that through the energy company obligation and the expanded warm home discount, we will provide at least £4.7 billion of extra support to low-income and vulnerable households between 2022 and 2026.

For a successful COP26, we have a particular responsibility as hosts to build trust with developing countries. The Government’s decision to cut aid spending—the only G7 country to do so—is therefore an appalling one, not just because it is wrong in principle, but because it is staggeringly self-defeating. The COP26 President knows that that decision makes a successful outcome at the conference of the parties harder, not easier, so may I invite him to add his voice to the powerful calls we heard yesterday, including from the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), to immediately restore Government aid spending to 0.7% of GDP?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the UK is doubling its international climate finance commitment to support developing countries; I can tell him that that has been very much welcomed around the world. With regard to the overall official development assistance spend, this is a temporary measure, as he knows. As the economic situation improves, I hope that it will be possible to restore the 0.7% target at the earliest opportunity.

The problem is that cutting aid spending severely undermines the ability of developing countries to tackle the challenges of climate poverty and public health. The COP26 President knows that: it is what developing countries are telling him in the negotiations. We need vulnerable countries to be calling for more ambition from big emitters such as China, but they will be much more reticent in doing so when they do not feel that we can be trusted.

Totemic on the issue of trust is the promise made at Copenhagen for $100 billion of public and private finance for developing countries. More than a decade on, it still has not been delivered. It is our job as hosts to deliver on that promise. Can the COP26 President therefore tell us whether the $100 billion will finally be delivered this weekend at the G7 meeting?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the $100 billion is a totemic figure. We are doing everything we can to ensure that we are able to deliver it by COP26. I can assure him that I am having very frank discussions with donor countries—with developed countries —to ensure that they deliver on that commitment made in 2009.

Does the COP presidency share my concern at the reputational hit that the UK will take in the event that it continues to approve old-style carbon-belching waste incinerators such as the one proposed at Westbury in my constituency? (900953)

All energy-from-waste plants in England are regulated by the Environment Agency and must comply with the strict emissions limits set in legislation. I am aware that Northacre Renewable Energy Ltd has applied for an environmental permit from the Environment Agency to operate an incinerator in Westbury, Wiltshire, and the Environment Agency is considering responses to the public consultation.

Some 11% of Scottish renewable generation comes from small projects such as Harlaw Hydro in my constituency. Ahead of COP26, will the Government introduce a replacement for the feed-in tariff that is better placed to encourage similar new projects than the smart export guarantee scheme? (900951)

We will be launching a new contract for difference auction at the end of this year. The opportunity for a number of smaller sources of energy storage will be available.

May I commend my hon. Friend for all the work that he is doing in Dudley on supporting the local economy and green jobs? As I set out earlier, I co-chaired the G7 climate and environment Ministers meeting, which came forward with some ambitious commitments.

The world is not currently on track to meet our Paris targets, is it? The current pledges only add up to less than 10% of emissions; we need 45% to meet the target. In the last parliamentary Session, 109 MPs signed the climate and ecological emergency Bill. When it is reintroduced, will the Government give time to debate it so that, as we did with the Climate Change Act 2008, we can lead the world on legislation, not just follow? (900952)

I would recommend that the hon. Gentleman talks to the Leader of the House on the matter of the timetabling of the debates and other events in the House. I would also say to him that we are working very hard and pressing all the big emitters to ensure that they come forward with the ambition that is required to be able to halve emissions by 2030.

I am currently doing a lot of work with people in my constituency on the climate agenda in preparation for the COP summit, and local schoolchildren and young people are particularly interested. One child in particular has asked me raise this question with the President of COP:“To beat climate change we’ve got to look at it as one whole world. Surely this means giving more not less help to poorer countries to help them make the changes needed to save our planet?” (900960)

The right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) raised this issue with me, and I have set out the position on overseas aid. In terms of our schools, we are engaging, and I hope I will shortly be able to send out a pack that will encourage young people in our schools to get even more involved in COP26.