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Topical Questions

Volume 718: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2022

On this day, I want to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his domestic and international leadership on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss. He has championed both during his time as Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister, and he charmed, cajoled and corralled his international counterparts to ensure that more than 90% of the global economy is now covered by net zero targets. Under his premiership, the UK forged the historic Glasgow climate pact, bringing together almost 200 countries, and he has been the driving force to deliver a net zero emissions economy. He has championed the creation of well-paid green jobs, bringing in billions of pounds of private sector investment in the UK. In all these areas, he leaves a legacy to be proud of.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the Whitetail project in Teesside, where an Allam cycle electricity generating plant will burn either gas or coal in pure oxygen, with zero carbon emissions? Does he agree that projects such as this ought to be fully compatible with not only our net zero commitments, but improved energy security, and that they could therefore form a long-term and permanent part of our future energy generating needs?

I am indeed aware of that project. My hon. Friend will know that the Government’s innovation funding has supported the development of Allam cycle power generation technology since 2012. Almost £5 million has been provided to fund research and development, and £1.3 million has been provided for technical studies.

T5.   The President well knows that tackling the cost of living crisis and achieving net zero go hand in hand. Will he go further and endorse a green new deal that brings together job creation, social justice and tackling climate change? (901202)

As a Government, we have a significant number of policies that are delivering, and we need to make sure that we double down on that. As I have said, we will be judged at the next general election on those policies and whether we have delivered.

T3. Does my right hon. Friend agree that net zero should be achieved through rolling out low-carbon technology and scientific solutions such as the gene editing Bill, rather than measures that dampen economic growth and depress living standards? (901200)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Green technologies and innovations will help us to achieve the net zero target He made reference to gene editing, and I would also reference the recent CFD auction, which has delivered record renewables capacity in this country.

T6. Well insulated homes protect against extreme heat as well as extreme cold, while reducing energy demand and cutting bills, emissions and fossil fuel imports. So why are the Government delaying their national energy company obligation 4 programme, with 56,000 households potentially missing out? (901203)

As I have pointed out, the Government are doing a significant amount on energy efficiency. Of course we should always look to see what more can be done.

T4.   Will my right hon. Friend outline the discussions he has had with his colleagues in Government so as to act on the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation on the need for further support aligned to net zero to help people with their energy bills? (901201)

As my hon. Friend knows, support is being provided to help households. In particular, the most vulnerable households will receive at least £1,200 pounds of support. Of course, we also need to look at further energy-efficiency measures, and I am sure the new Prime Minister and Chancellor will look at all of that.

T7. Yesterday, a court found that the Government’s net zero strategy was unlawful because it included only 95% of the emissions reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget and did not include the detail required to enable Parliament to properly scrutinise it. What will the Minister do to rectify that, and which aspects of the strategy will he strengthen now? (901204)

As I said in response to an earlier question, the net zero strategy is not what has been quashed. Obviously the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will look to respond to the judgment.

I commend my right hon. Friend for his amazing service as COP26 President. Will he make it his objective to ban the sale of Chinese lanterns across the UK? Across our tinder-dry land they are simply acting as unguided flamethrowers.

I thank my hon. Friend for her kind comments. I will make sure that the issue of these lanterns is raised with the appropriate Department domestically.

T8. The President showed great leadership at COP26, which we all respect him for. Will he do the same again and cut back on a project that is polluting the lungs of both his and my constituents? Will he please revisit the issue of the biggest CO2 emitter in the whole of Europe and think again about the new runway at Heathrow? (901205)

As the hon. Lady knows, my role as COP President is to corral the international community. She has raised a question, and I am sure the Department for Transport will respond.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the dramatic increase in fuel prices presents opportunities for decarbonising fleets and vehicles in key sectors such as social care?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Of course, decarbonising the transport sector, along with other sectors, should be a key priority going forward.

The recent Carbon Tracker report set out the exposure of each financial sector across the world to stranded assets—over $1 trillion in total. Will the COP President be engaging with each of the heads of the financial sectors—such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the London stock exchange—to ensure that they cope with that problem?

The private sector is very focused on the issue of the move to net zero. As the hon. Gentleman will know, in Glasgow, $130 trillion of assets were signed up to net zero. Anyone investing in assets that might end up being stranded has to be very clear about the financial decisions they are taking.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that establishing a price for carbon would give the free market the signal it needs to invest in low-carbon alternatives across the economy? Does he also agree that a carbon border adjustment mechanism is a necessary first step to achieve that?

I know my hon. Friend has raised this issue previously. Tackling carbon leakage is a vital matter. As he is aware, Her Majesty’s Treasury will be launching a consultation later this year and setting out a range of carbon leakage mitigation options, which includes looking at a carbon border adjustment mechanism.

Am I allowed to say to the COP26 President that many of us on the Labour Benches think that he has done a darned good job? If he survives the present wrangling in the Conservative party, will he make every effort to come back and “grassroot” what we are trying to do about climate change in every town, city and community? Let us have 500 sustainable towns and cities in this country. Does he agree with that?

In the words of Gloria Gaynor, “I will survive”. The point that the hon. Gentleman raises is that tackling the climate emergency is an issue for all of us—for Governments, civil society and individuals—and we all need to play our part.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out that a British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on

I would also like to welcome Lord Mackay, who is retiring today. He served many distinguished years as Lord Chancellor.

Before I call Kim Leadbeater to ask the first question, it is only fitting to note that this is likely to be the final time that the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) addresses the House as Prime Minister. I wish him and his family all the best for the future. We have been through many dark times in this House, and none more so than through the pandemic. That will always be remembered because of what this House did and because of the way that you conducted those duties during those dark times, Prime Minister.

I understand that Members will have differing views about the Prime Minister’s performance and legacy, and those views will be sincerely and passionately held, but I remind Members that our constituents and others around the world watch these proceedings. Let us conduct them in a respectful manner, focusing on issues and policies rather than personalities. I take this opportunity to remind Members of the words of Erskine May that

“good temper and moderation are the characteristics of the parliamentary debate.”

I expect to see that reflected today in the proceedings.