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Glasgow Climate Pact: Businesses

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 20 April 2022

COP26 was one of the first such conferences to have a significant private sector presence, as well as key corporate commitments to tackling climate change. For example, more than 7,000 international companies have signed up to the Race to Zero campaign, committing them to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.

According to the Met Office, my beautiful Eastbourne constituency has held the record for sunshine hours recorded in a month since 1911. Arguably, we should be leading the nation in harnessing solar power. On my right hon. Friend’s earlier point, we do not have land readily available locally, but we have acres of rooftops, courtesy of three commercial and retail parks. What work is he doing, including with other Departments, to promote feasibility studies to identify untapped potential for solar generation and to promote financial incentives so that local businesses in my town can play their part in tackling climate change?

My hon. Friend raises an important point, and her beautiful constituency is well worth a visit. She makes a vital point about rooftop solar, and she will know from the energy security strategy that our plan for rooftop solar is to radically simplify planning processes, with a consultation on relevant permitted development rights, to help support the deployment of rooftop solar on commercial premises. We will also consider the best way to make use of public sector roofs.

Local energy companies are often well placed to support small and medium-sized enterprises with the transition to net zero. Local authorities, with their insight into local opportunities for things such as solar, are best placed to help with that. What assessment has the COP26 President made of the opportunities that that model may afford?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the role of local energy companies in helping the transition to net zero through the provision of renewable energy. Close to my constituency we have Reading Hydro, a community-financed, built and operated hydro plant that supplies renewable electricity to local businesses. The Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change and I would be happy to meet him to discuss this matter further.

Is it not the truth that business has learned that this Government are entirely inconsistent from one day to the next? The COP26 President talks about solar, but only a few years ago the Government cut feed-in tariffs, which decimated the industry. Business really needs to know that the Government have a strategic plan, such as the Labour party’s green new deal, so that it can make long-term investments and know that the Government will say tomorrow what they are saying today.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have published a net zero strategy that clearly sets out our long-term plans for creating hundreds of thousands of extra jobs. Green jobs get many billions of pounds-worth of private investment. One of the reasons we are not reliant on Russian hydrocarbons is that over the past 10 years we have built the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world, and we want to quadruple the size of that sector.

The only net zero that really matters is the one for planet Earth as a whole, so does the COP26 President agree that there is real potential for shooting ourselves in the foot on energy-intensive industries in this country? I am thinking about James Cropper, the paper manufacturer in my constituency that makes the paper for poppies and Hansard, and paper with medical and military applications. If we tax it too much, or if we allow its bills to be so high that it goes out of business, all we will do is export its carbon emissions to other countries. Will he talk to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about help for our energy-intensive industries in the long run?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government are providing support to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. Through the COP26 process, the breakthrough agenda is working globally to see how we can decarbonise some of the most difficult sectors. There is a global plan as well as a domestic plan.

Will the COP26 President work with the agriculture sector on pursuing his COP26 goals? We have some of the most sustainable farming practices anywhere in the world, and many farmers and growers want to go further in playing their part in protecting nature and safeguarding the climate.

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and his Ministers are, of course, working on that. Again, at an international level, we are looking to start an agriculture breakthrough, so that we have a global focus on this issue.

Facebook promoted ads containing outright climate falsehoods and scepticism during COP26, and it is reported that fossil fuel companies and lobbying groups spent an estimated $574,000 on Facebook ads during the summit, resulting in more than 22 million impressions. Many of these ads were directly aimed at undermining efforts to achieve climate progress. Does the COP26 President agree that the best way such businesses can help in the fight against climate change is to put the planet before their profits and come down hard on the climate naysayers? What action has he been taking to address that?

At COP26, probably for the first time at a COP, we saw the business community coming together in force to make commitments on tackling climate change. The business community is, of course, determined to deliver on these commitments. I will happily write to the hon. Lady separately on the specific issue she raises.