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Net Zero Strategy and Carbon Budgets

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2022

3. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet members on the Net Zero Strategy and carbon budgets. (902030)

6. What discussions he has had with Cabinet members on the steps they are taking to meet the commitment to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030. (902033)

Delivering net zero is essential to tackling the global challenges facing countries around the world, including the impact of climate change, threats to energy security, the decline of nature and slowing economic growth. Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and from across Government Departments, such as those represented on the Front Bench, including the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, are committed to that agenda.

I thank the Minister for his answer. A couple of weeks ago, the former BEIS Secretary, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), dropped plans to appeal against a High Court ruling that found the UK Government’s net zero strategy was unlawful after a trio of non-governmental organisations challenged the Department’s strategy on the basis that it failed to show how its policies would cut emissions enough to meet legally binding targets next decade. What recent discussions has the Minister had with Cabinet members to ensure that legally required information on how carbon budgets will be met is available to Parliament and to the public?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and his close interest in these issues. The net zero strategy is Government policy and it has certainly not been quashed. The judge in fact made no criticism about the substance of our plans, which are well on track, but he is right that it was about the information provided, and we will respond in due course. In fact, it is notable that the claimants themselves described our net zero plans as “laudable” during the proceedings.

The Treasury has warned of a £50 billion financial black hole. This has been caused by crisis after crisis—the war in Ukraine, inflation, Brexit and the cost of living crisis—yet oil giants are still making record profits. BP intends to pay around £700 million in windfall taxes on its North sea operations, but more than three times that in the share buyback programme, which puts surplus cash into the hands of their shareholders, rather than renewable investment. Does the Minister think this is ethical, and does he agree that the UK Government should expand the windfall tax for fossil fuel extraction?

Of course, taxation is a matter for His Majesty’s Treasury. The point I would make to the hon. Lady is that a system that encourages those companies to reinvest in the North sea, and produce gas with much lower emissions attached than the liquid natural gas that we import from abroad, is good for Scottish jobs, is good for our energy security and, because of those lower emissions, is good for the environment.

As the Prime Minister will no longer be chairing the Climate Action Strategy Committee, what structures working across Government Departments does the Minister expect the Prime Minister to use to drive delivery of the nationally determined contributions to the COP programme and net zero Britain?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent question. As he will doubtless be aware, we are working across Government—as represented here today; people can see just how cross-Government our efforts are. The Climate Action Implementation Committee, which met only a couple of weeks ago and on which I and multiple Ministers sit, is very much driving forward reviewing our carbon budgets and ensuring that we have the policies to stay on track.

In his discussions with other Cabinet members, did my right hon. Friend reflect on the contribution new nuclear projects, such as Hinkley Point C, can make to the delivery of the net zero strategy and how the objections of some to those types of projects mean we simply end up emitting more carbon?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is bizarre that those who claim to be green oppose the green baseload that is provided from nuclear. Of course, if we take the separatist party over there, with an aspiration of 100% renewables, that is reliant upon the baseload nuclear provides from England. It is not green to oppose nuclear. That is why we have set a 24 GW target and that is why we are committed to it, and the jobs and the technology that are associated with it.

I pay tribute to the work of the COP26 President, and I am sorry he has been removed from the Government. Let me take this first opportunity at the Dispatch Box to congratulate the Minister on bringing down the last Government in the vote on fracking.

Before it fell, that Government pledged to end the onshore wind ban in England, changing the planning rules to bring consent for onshore wind

“in line with other infrastructure.”

But the new Prime Minister spent the summer campaigning for an onshore wind ban because of the “distress and disruption” he says it causes. So can the Minister tell us: is the Government’s policy to change the planning rules as promised by the last Government, or to keep the ban on onshore wind as promised by the new Prime Minister?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I am delighted that, as has been announced today, the Prime Minister is going to be leading our delegation to the COP. We are working to ensure the speedy take-up of a whole range of technologies across the piece to ensure that we can deliver the net zero targets and stay on track.

It is a mad world when the new Government make the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) look like an eco-warrior, and he was in favour of lifting the ban. This is just one example of their failure. We are way off track from meeting our climate targets, the net zero strategy was ruled unlawful, the PM sacks the COP President and all this when the UN is telling us we are heading for 2.8 °C of global warming. Is not the truth that this year began with a Prime Minister who made grand promises that have not been fulfilled, and it ends with one who has to be dragged kicking and screaming even to turn up?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Government of which he was part had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the Conservative party to pass the Climate Change Act 2008 in the first place. Since he left office, this country has moved from renewables accounting for less than 7% of electricity to more than 40%, and seen the transformation of the energy efficiency of our housing stock. This Prime Minister will not only lead us at COP, but take us forward. We are on track to meet our net zero targets, and we will meet our carbon budgets. The Conservative party, and this Government, have a track record of action rather than rhetoric—although I have to admit the right hon. Gentleman is increasingly good at that.