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Fossil Fuel Industry

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2022

1. What recent assessment he has made of the role of the fossil fuel industry in meeting the UK’s COP26 climate commitments. (900521)

3. What recent assessment he has made of the role of the fossil fuel industry in meeting the UK’s COP26 climate commitments. (900523)

The Government are committed to a managed transition from fossil fuels to green energy as we work to deliver on our 2050 net zero commitment.

The UN Secretary-General has called investment in new fossil fuel production and power plants “moral and economic madness”. The European Parliament has objected to plans to include gas in the definition of sustainable energy. Surely the COP26 President must agree that the Westminster Government are making a mockery of their presidency at COP. Not only have they increased support for fossil fuels, but their renewables policy is disguising billions in subsidies for biomass. How does he square the Government’s plans with the UK’s COP26 commitment and with the views of his possible future boss?

I am very happy with my current boss, the Prime Minister. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the British energy security strategy, which was published a few weeks ago, it clearly sets out our commitment to a clean energy future. He knows that our stated aim is to decarbonise the electricity sector by 2035, and we stand by that.

The fossil fuel lobby at COP26, covering more than 100 fossil fuel companies, fielded a larger delegation than the combined delegations of the eight countries worst affected by climate change, and was the single largest delegation with more than 500 delegates. Does the COP26 President not agree that although investment in renewables by fossil fuel companies is a key part of tackling climate change, it would not be appropriate for that situation to be repeated at COP27? The fossil fuel industry should not be given the loudest voice in climate discussions.

The presidency in any one year is not responsible for who attends a particular COP; we are responsible for the presidency platform. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that at COP26, all participating corporates were required to have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign and were committing to reach net zero by 2050 on science-based targets. There were no fossil fuel companies participating on UK presidency platforms in Glasgow.

I encourage my right hon. Friend to continue to get the balance right between marching towards a green future and using whatever fuels we need to use in the meantime to keep the lights on in our hospitals, schools, homes and offices. He has done a great job so far. Will he continue to get that balance right?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have always talked about a managed transition to a clean energy future. It is not about flicking a switch off overnight; I think everybody understands that. As a Government, of course, we have to make sure that we keep the lights on and keep the factories and businesses running.

Does the COP26 President recognise that fossil fuels remain critical in the transition to net zero 2050 and in the production of blue hydrogen, plastics and power through carbon capture, utilisation and storage projects such as Net Zero Teesside?

My hon. Friend makes the same point that this is about a managed transition. We want to ensure that we decarbonise the electricity system by 2035. Hon. Members will know that the energy security strategy is all about transitioning to a clean energy future with a big push on renewables, nuclear and hydrogen.

It has been reported that the COP26 President is in the running to become the executive secretary of climate at the UN. I wish him well, because he would do an excellent job in that post. Part of the reason he won respect at COP26 was for his commitment to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, yet here at home the Chancellor has created a massive loophole in the windfall tax to give away at least £4 billion of public money in new incentives for new oil and gas projects. Can the COP26 President tell us whether he was consulted on that plan? How much does he estimate that it will drive up emissions? Is it not totally at odds with the agreement on fossil fuels that he worked so hard to secure in Glasgow?

The energy profits levy to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is a targeted short-term measure with an effective end date of December 2025. Any company looking to make future energy investments will have to factor in the risks of potentially ending up with stranded assets.

Maybe the COP26 President has one eye on the UN, because that did not sound like a wholehearted endorsement of the Chancellor’s policy, and he is right to think that the Chancellor’s policy does not make any sense. The money will either go to oil and gas projects that would have happened anyway, or incentivise new projects that will make no difference to consumer bills, take years to come to fruition and drive a coach and horses through our climate commitments. What is more, this policy excludes investments in renewables, which are the quickest, cheapest and cleanest form of power. Does that not reveal the truth that on climate, he says one thing on the world stage and the rest of the Government do another here at home? Is it not totally understandable that he wants to jump off the sinking ship?

The right hon. Gentleman will not get rid of me that easily. He needs to look at what the Government have done over the past few years: we have built the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world, which is precisely the reason that we are not dependent on Russian hydrocarbons, as some countries are. We have had a big push on renewables. He talks about the energy profits levy, but he should please have a look—he will have done this anyway, but a detailed look—at the energy security strategy, which sets out a very clear direction to a clean energy future for the UK.