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Topical Questions

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 15 June 2022

Last month, I co-chaired a ministerial meeting with Egypt’s COP27 President-designate, bringing together almost 50 Governments to discuss progress on the implementation of countries’ COP26 commitments. We discussed the commitments to revisit 2030 emission reduction targets, finance, and work programmes on adaptation, loss and damage. While some progress has been made in turning commitments into action, countries need to significantly accelerate the pace of implementation on the road to COP27.

On Friday, I joined the Rugby Green Christian group for a question time event to consider national and local responses to the challenges we face. Does the COP26 President agree that those discussions are essential to building local support for the measures the Government are taking?

I commend my hon. Friend for the work he is doing in this area and he is absolutely right. We can all play a part in tackling climate change. It is vital that we do so to make not only the environmental case but the very positive economic case for climate action.

T2. Six days ago, the Government approved an application to draw gas in Dunsfold in Surrey, although the council had refused the application twice. Does the Minister agree that this decision by the Government to draw gas from a new gasfield in Surrey flies in the face of the commitment the UK Government made during COP26? (900538)

I refer the hon. Lady to the British energy security strategy, which sets out the very clear direction of travel towards a clean energy future for the UK.

T5. I agree that action is much more important than just straight-forward commitments, so will the COP26 President update the House on the progress made on climate action at the G7 climate, energy and environment meeting? (900541)

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend about the need for commitments and action. I can confirm that at the G7 Ministers reaffirmed the key climate commitments that were made at COP26 and we also agreed to phase out the use of domestic coal and end G7 international fossil fuel finance by the end of 2022.

T3. As we have heard, the Government have recently given the green light for oil exploration in the Surrey Hills despite their own admission that it will degrade the quality of the setting of the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty. We have already seen the degradation of the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty in my constituency. Why are such new licences for oil and gas exploration still being issued and why do the Government continue to allow the destruction of our areas of outstanding natural beauty in the name of fossil fuel production? (900539)

Again, I make a wider point that we all need to consider. What is our future policy? Our future policy is all about clean energy. Again, I refer the hon. Lady to the energy security strategy, which sets that out very clearly.

T6. The UK is in the unique position of being able to become a net exporter of energy again. What progress has my right hon. Friend made towards developing green hydrogen, in particular, for the UK to export to the energy market? (900542)

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Of course, hydrogen is clearly part of our energy future. We set out our hydrogen strategy last year and, as he will know, in the energy security strategy we have doubled our ambition to 10 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. Internationally, we are working with partners through the COP26 breakthrough agenda to ensure that clean technologies such as hydrogen are affordable and accessible for all by 2030.

T4. The war in Ukraine, the Freeport LNG explosion and Nord Stream 1 pipeline issues caused a spike in wholesale gas prices overnight at 30%, announced at £2 a therm. Scotland is uniquely placed to assist in the response to this international shortage, but it must be done responsibly and support carbon capture underground storage to meet net zero targets. After a very recent and helpful discussion with the Energy Minister, will the COP26 President meet me to discuss the opportunities in my constituency? (900540)

The hon. Gentleman knows that the North Sea Transition Authority launched the UK’s first ever carbon storage licensing round yesterday. I am very happy to meet him or to ensure that a Minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy meets him.

My right hon. Friend has just told the House that at the G20 meeting of environment and climate change Ministers, the agreement was reached to phase out global coal. Did he support that measure on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government?

As my right hon. Friend said, the agreement we reached was for the G7 to phase out domestic coal. Of course, we want to see that happen in developing economies across the world and that is why we are working, as we did with South Africa, to ensure that funding is made available to a number of other countries that are major emitters to ensure that they are able to make that transition to clean energy.

T7. Yesterday, RWE announced a partnership with SGN to investigate the provision of hydrogen gas to a number of off-grid small towns in Scotland. They are also investigating the development of a 100 MW hydrogen production plant at Markinch in my constituency, building on the world-leading H100 project in Methil. Will the COP26 President join me in welcoming this confirmation that Scotland leads the world in genuinely renewable energy technologies? (900543)

I think we should all be welcoming the fact that the UK leads the world when it comes to clean energy transition.

If all the forest pledges made at COP26 are delivered, we will have achieved 10% of the emissions reductions that we need to stay within 1.5°, so nature is critical to achieving net zero. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on his ambitions for biodiversity at the COP15 summit?

We are working very closely on the issue. We want to ensure that there is a new framework for biodiversity. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that COP26 had a big focus on reversing deforestation and supporting biodiversity; we are continuing to press forward on that issue.

Before we start Prime Minister’s questions, I remind Members of the service at St Margaret’s at 1 o’clock today to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of the Falklands war. I hope that as many hon. Members as possible will be able to attend.

I would also like to point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings on PMQs is available on [Interruption] Not that sign language!