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Net Zero Emissions and Green Investment

Volume 700: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2021

8. What fiscal steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in green (a) industries, (b) growth and (c) jobs. (903242)

13. What fiscal steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in green (a) industries, (b) growth and (c) jobs. (903247)

The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan demonstrates our commitment to net zero. It sets out £12 billion of new Government investment in green industries. This will create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs in the UK. In addition to this £12 billion, our plan will attract up to three times as much private investment by providing regulatory certainty and robust green finance frameworks.

The recent Climate Change Committee progress report showed that the Treasury had not fully met a single one of its recommendations in the past year. Does the Minister think this is good enough, and what steps should be taken to rectify that?

I am afraid I do not think that is what the report has said. What I will say is that we will be releasing many publications this autumn around net zero, not least the net zero review. This final report will be published in advance of COP26. The report will inform sectoral decarbonisation strategies and the net zero strategy, and work on those will continue to develop at pace across Whitehall.

The recent cuts to the international aid budget have undermined the UK’s leadership in advance of COP26, so what urgent steps will the Treasury take to develop a carbon neutral programme of international aid going forward?

I will ask my counterparts in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to answer the hon. Lady’s question directly—they are responsible for aid. What I will tell her is that there is a lot of stuff we are doing within our remit on international climate finance action, not least on the taskforce on nature-related financial disclosures.

Time and again, I speak with companies that want a freeport on Anglesey. I want a freeport on Anglesey, and local people want the jobs and local investment that will come with a freeport, but the Welsh Government say and do nothing. Will the Minister please urge the Welsh Government to work with me to deliver this game changer in my constituency of Ynys Môn?

I thank my hon. Friend for her letters and her continued campaigning for her constituency. We are working closely with the Welsh Government and remain committed to establishing at least one freeport in Wales as soon as possible. I encourage them to work closely with constituency MPs on that. As in England, specific locations will be chosen in a fair, open and transparent allocation process.

The Minister must recognise that climate inaction is not just a disaster for the planet but has a huge financial cost and economic consequences. We cannot dodge the critical decisions that we need to decarbonise the economy any more. How exactly will the Government hardwire our net zero targets into every decision in the upcoming spending review?

The Government have used the Green Book to mandate that policies must be developed and assessed against how well they deliver on our long-term policy aims, including net zero. We did that at spending review 2020, where guidance required Departments to include the greenhouse emissions of bids and their impact on meeting carbon budgets and net zero, and allocations to Departments were informed by that information. That is how we will continue to carry out consideration of climate impacts in fiscal policy.

I thank the Minister for her response. With more than £10 trillion of assets under management in the UK, there is scope for more green innovation investment via the venture capital sector. I therefore welcome the measures she explained and the regulatory changes being driven by the Treasury, but will she meet me to discuss a potential office for venture, similar to the new Office for Investment, which could provide a centre for expertise and growth in this area?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Government recognise the important role of financial markets in supporting the UK’s transition to a net zero economy. The British Business Bank is a Government-owned economic development bank that makes finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, and its remit includes venture capital. I note her point about a meeting and believe that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is happy to meet her on this issue.

It is only 55 days until COP26 in Glasgow and households, consumers and businesses urgently need clarity and certainty about how the costs and benefits of our transition to net zero will be shared. Labour’s approach to tackling the climate crisis would have fairness at its heart, because we know that while some are planning to build personal heated swimming pools in their homes, millions of others are struggling with energy bills. The net zero review is supposed to consider fairness. At the last Treasury questions, the Chancellor told my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) that the final report would

“of course be published imminently”—[Official Report, 22 June 2021; Vol. 697, c. 750.]

That was 11 weeks ago. Where is it?

As I said, the report will be published in advance of COP26, but we have published other things that the hon. Member does not seem to have heard of or read. We have set out ambitious plans about the net zero target and published the energy White Paper, the industrial decarbonisation strategy, the transport decarbonisation plan, which has not happened anywhere else in the world—we are the first country to do a transport decarbonisation plan—and a hydrogen strategy. We will publish the heat and building strategy in due course. The Government have been busy setting out plans on net zero, and we would appreciate it if Opposition parties took some time to read them.

The Government’s measures will have important consequences for taxpayers and energy bills. Will my hon. Friend therefore set out in detail the cost of net zero and the calculations behind that cost?

We will put affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms to reach net zero. Our latest estimates put the costs of net zero at under 2% of GDP—broadly similar to when we legislated for it two years ago—with scope for costs of low-carbon technologies to fall faster than expected. Most of those represent increased investment in growth markets of the future. However, I take my hon. Friend’s point. All I would say is that he should wait until the net zero review is published.

The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) and I may not have the same views on net zero, but we share a concern about how the Government will fund it. We will see, for example, a reduction in petrol vehicles, so what will happen to the tax on them? We have also seen yet another failure recently with the green homes grant. What is the fiscal plan for making sure that net zero achieves its targets while we maintain the Exchequer balances?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. We recognise that this is an issue under intense speculation. We will publish a strategy that will set out many of the answers to the questions she is posing. What we have said is that we will put affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms to reach net zero. The fact is that everyone in this House agreed with us when we set that target. For example, we have put in place plans to bring in electric vehicles by 2030. These will require changes not just in how we spend, but in our tax and regulatory system. The answers will come in due course.

As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hydrogen, may I take this opportunity to welcome the Government’s world-leading comprehensive hydrogen strategy, backed up by £105 million of public funding to unlock £4 billion of private investment by 2030? Does the Minister agree with me that this is how we will build back better and create more jobs in places such as Teesside?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I do agree with him: building back better and building back greener are at the heart of this Government’s strategy. I thank him for raising those points, which will benefit Teesside and the north-east in general.

At the weekend, a young activist called Fatima challenged the Chancellor, asking why the Treasury is blocking action on the climate crisis. He replied that the Treasury has committed £12 billion of new money to the 10-point plan, but even that is not true, as he knows, and the President of COP26 has said that actually only a paltry £4 billion is new money. When will the Treasury start committing serious money to the green transition, in the region of the £85 billion that the TUC has said is necessary to put into green investment so that we go into COP26 as climate leaders, not climate laggards?

I will tell the hon. Lady what the Treasury is doing. We are issuing £15 billion of green bonds over the next year, and launching a world-first green savings bond ahead of COP26 to help finance the Government’s green projects. We set up the UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in net zero, backed by £12 billion of capital, which will also help to unlock more than £40 billion of overall investment in infrastructure. We are committing £11.6 billion in international climate finance over the next five years to help developing countries tackle climate change. The Budget also announced three UK-wide competitions that are part of the £1 billion net zero innovation portfolio. We have the towns deal, which is helping people create new green spaces, build back greener, create sustainable transport routes and repurpose empty shops. The fact is that the Treasury is doing everything it can to support the transition to net zero.