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Net Zero by 2050

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

With permission, I would like to make a statement on the Prime Minister’s announcement on net zero.

Britain has led the world on tackling climate change. We have cut our carbon emissions in half over the past 30 years. We have boosted our share of renewables from just 7% in 2010 to almost half today. We have delivered the second highest amount of recorded low-carbon investment cumulatively across Europe over the past five years. Of all the major economies, we have set the toughest targets, and we have exceeded every carbon budget target so far.

As we look forward to becoming a net zero economy by 2050, we must ensure that our ambitions are practical and achievable—achievable by industry, which is investing billions to decarbonise; achievable technologically, as much of the green tech we will need to hit our 2050 target needs to be scaled up; and achievable for consumers, in particular for the millions of households that are currently struggling to make ends meet.

We will not reach net zero over the next three decades unless our plans for the future are pragmatic and viable. Only 7% of people in the UK currently think that net zero is going to be good for them and their family’s finances in the near term. In Europe, we are seeing people push back at clumsy policy that is negatively affecting our lives. It is clear that if we do not bring people with us, we risk sacrificing the whole climate change agenda. That is why the Prime Minister set out his plans last month for a fairer approach to ease the burdens on hard-working people and keep people feeling optimistic about net zero.

The Prime Minister’s approach includes giving people the flexibility to choose a new petrol or diesel car until 2035; removing the requirement that would have seen property owners forced to spend up to £10,000 or more on energy upgrades; easing the transition to clean heating; and raising grants under the boiler upgrade scheme by 50%, to £7,500—that scheme is now one of the most generous of its kind in Europe. The changes will allow us to meet our international net zero targets while avoiding disproportionate costs at a time when global inflation pressures are challenging the finances of many households.

We are responsible for less than 1% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. While our emissions are down 48%, America’s remain unchanged and China’s are up by 300%. It cannot be right that our citizens face punitive costs here when emissions are rising abroad. As the Prime Minister said, the fear is that if we continue to impose extra costs on people, we risk losing their consent for net zero. I want people to feel optimistic about net zero and connect that with jobs, investment and a sense of pride in playing our part in a global challenge. By taking a more measured approach, we will achieve our ambitious targets with the public’s consent.

Meanwhile, we are spending tens of billions to transform our energy security, and to boost renewables and clean nuclear power. We are investing £20 billion to get our carbon capture and storage industry up and running, with jobs supported in places such as Humberside, Scotland and the north-east and north-west of England. We will take carbon dioxide from polluting industries and store it under the North sea. The UK can lead the world in the provision of carbon transport and storage services, with an estimated 78 billion tonnes of theoretical carbon storage capacity in the UK continental shelf—one of the largest potential carbon storage capacities in Europe.

We also have the largest operational offshore wind farm in the world, and the second largest, the third largest, the fourth largest and now the fifth largest, too—all delivered under a Conservative Government. We will have enough wind to power the equivalent of every home in Britain by 2030. We will generate enough solar energy to power the equivalent of over 25 million electric vehicle miles every hour by 2035. We are world leading in our fusion technology and space-based solar projects.

Britain’s nuclear revival is well under way. Hinkley Point C in Somerset will provide enough secure, low-carbon electricity to power around 6 million homes. Sizewell C in Suffolk features the most powerful electricity generators in the world, to power another 6 million homes. We have launched Great British Nuclear to deliver our programme and we have accelerated the development of small modular reactors. Bringing all our work together is the Energy Bill—the vehicle for delivering the energy strategy to turbocharge British technology. It will liberate £100 billion-worth of private investment, scaling up green jobs and growth, and make Britain the best place in the world to invest in clean energy.

The most important announcement made during my tenure has been about the grid. We must make sure that the grid infrastructure is in place to bring new clean, secure and low-cost power to homes and businesses. Four times as much new transmission network will be needed in the next seven years as was built since 1990, so we are bringing forward comprehensive new reforms to help green energy expand faster. We will speed up planning for the most nationally significant projects and accelerate grid connections so that those who are ready can connect first.

Later this autumn we will set out our response to the work of electricity networks commissioner Nick Winser, demonstrating how we are going further and faster on grid, informed by his recommendations on reducing the time taken to develop this critical infrastructure for lower bills, energy security, decarbonisation and economic growth. We will also set out our plans to reform the connections process so that new electricity generators and electricity users can be connected faster, bringing more low-cost, low-carbon energy into the system and connecting up new economic investment quicker. We will set out the UK’s first ever spatial plan for energy infrastructure, to give industry certainty and every community a say.

We have so much to be proud of in what we have achieved so far, particularly the international leadership that we have shown in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Committee has assessed that there is no material difference in our progress to cut emissions by 2030 since its last report in June, yet the changes we have made will make a real difference to the finances of many households up and down the country. The Prime Minister’s intervention means that we are now on a more secure path, because it can command public support, taking the people of Britain with us and delivering net zero in a practical, proportionate and pragmatic way. I commend this statement to the House.

I thank the Secretary of State for advanced sight of her statement. My only disappointment was that she did not read out the multiple paragraphs defending the Prime Minister’s claim about seven bins, which was in the copy sent to me. Obviously, she was too embarrassed to defend it, because it was made-up nonsense.

We profoundly disagree with the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister when they suggest that the answer to the cost of living crisis in our country is dither and delay on building a clean energy future for Britain. It will not work and their approach will make it worse. If you want the evidence, Madam Deputy Speaker, just look at their previous failures. The ban on onshore wind did not cut bills; it raised them. The slashing of home energy efficiency—cutting the “green crap”, as they called it—did not cut bills; it raised them. The fiasco of the offshore wind auction last month did not cut bills; it will raise them. It is not going too fast on climate that has caused the cost of living crisis; it is the Conservatives’ failures that have left us exposed to the worst energy bills crisis in generations. Rather than learning the lessons, they are doubling down.

The definitive analysis of the recent announcements came last Thursday from the Government’s own watchdog, the Climate Change Committee. It said this:

“The cancellation of some Net Zero measures is likely to increase both energy bills and motoring costs for households”.

Why did it say that? Let me explain. The Government now say that landlords will not have to insulate homes, but as the CCC points out, these regulations

“would have reduced renters’ energy bills significantly.”

Moreover, the cost savings would have outweighed any changes in rent. Therefore, they are not lowering costs; they are raising them.

On electric vehicles, the CCC says that

“any undermining of their roll-out will ultimately increase costs.”

That is because the lifetime costs of EVs are already cheaper than those of petrol and diesel vehicles. By 2030, the up-front costs of EVs are forecast to be at parity with petrol or diesel cars. Again, the Government are not lowering costs for families; they are raising them.

When the Secretary of State dumps other targets, I have to ask: who set these targets and then failed to take the action to meet them? The Government did. Laughably, they say that this is about long-term decisions. The biggest long-term cost that the British people face is failure to act at the scale required to tackle the climate crisis. The Secretary of State says again that the Government are on track to meet their 2030 target, but their own watchdog said in June that they were “significantly off track”. It says—this is from last Thursday—that the Government have not offered evidence to back their assurance

“that the UK’s targets will still be met.”

There is no evidence that they are on track to meet their targets.

Perhaps worst of all, imagine being a business trying to make decisions and invest in our country when they literally do not know from one day to the next what the Government policy is. Since the Prime Minister’s announcements, businesses from around the world have said that, by backing off climate action, the Prime Minister is turning his back on the greatest economic opportunity of the 21st century. Meanwhile, the UK heads into yet another winter where people cannot afford their energy bills. There are still no proper plans for a roll-out of energy efficiency, no plans to properly lift the onshore wind ban, and no proper plan to get the offshore wind market back on track.

Finally, let me say to the Secretary of State that the consensus on net zero has been hard-won over two decades. We have a duty to debate it on the basis of facts, not falsehoods. I have to say to her that it is deeply regrettable that she used her first major public appearance—two weeks ago at her conference—literally to make up complete nonsense about meat taxes, which I notice she did not defend today, and for which frankly she was exposed on national television. I say to her that it demeans her, it demeans her office and it demeans public debate. The Government said that they were going to move on from the premiership of Boris Johnson, but people will be deeply disturbed to find that that appears to mean dumping commitments to net zero and keeping his peculiar relationship to the truth.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his response to my statement. He raises a number of questions that I wish to address. He mentions the prospect of the seven bins policy. He has forgotten that he voted for it. The Conservatives, by contrast, came to the good sense to course correct. He has taken leave of his senses and forgotten what he has voted for in the past.

On the question of dietary changes, the right hon. Gentleman might like to speak to his shadow climate change Minister and shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who both have pushed to treat meat like tobacco in the past. The substantial point that I would make is that we need to be practical about our net zero policy and to make sure that we are having honest debates. We on the Conservative Benches stand by our record. We are proud to be the party that has decarbonised faster than any G7 country, and it is regrettable that the Opposition cannot acknowledge that achievement. We are proud that we have secured almost £200 billion of investment in low-carbon energy projects since 2010 and that we have helped to secure this country’s energy independence by backing North sea oil and gas, protecting 200,000 jobs.

Can the right hon. Gentleman be proud of his record? He said that we should sacrifice our growth to cut emissions and that we should borrow £28 billion in his blind ambition for 2030. He supported coal, before he changed his mind and is now against it. He also said that growing our renewables sector to 40% was pie in the sky, but in the first quarter of 2023, 48% of our power came from renewable energy. He spent years at Gordon Brown’s side and as Energy Secretary but did nothing to boost British nuclear in his time in government, whereas we are forging a new path, with every operational nuclear power station in this country having started life under a Conservative Government. Members do not need to take my word for it that our energy security is safer with us, because just this weekend the owners of Grangemouth made it clear that the threat Labour’s plans pose to the future of the refinery, potentially putting thousands of jobs at risk, would be a danger for energy security. Furthermore, we cannot allow oil and gas workers to become the coalminers of our generation. It has been said that Labour

“does not properly understand energy”,

with it being “self-defeating” and “naive”. Those are not my words but those of the general secretary of the Unite union and the head of the GMB.

Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman talks about uncertainty. If he would like to give the business and industry certainty, he and the shadow Chancellor need to sit down and agree how much money they will actually spend—is it £28 billion or £8 billion? Is it no new money, or is it what we heard over the weekend, which is as much as £100 billion of new borrowing for GB Energy? Conservatives will prioritise energy security. We are set on delivering the most ambitious net zero targets of any major economy, and we will do this all without forcing families to choose between protecting their family finances and protecting the planet.

I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend has just said about the focus on the grid and accelerating grid access. I hope she will be able to pick up on the report that my Committee is undertaking on that subject and that we can contribute to her deliberations. As she will be aware, I wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of the Committee in the week following his speech, offering him an opportunity to put some flesh on the bones of what his more pragmatic approach to achieving net zero ambitions actually means. Will she confirm when my Committee can expect to receive a reply to that letter? Will it include an analysis of the impact of the trajectory of delivering net zero on the five-yearly carbon budgets and, in particular, how the announcement we have just had confirmed by the Transport Secretary, who is sitting next to her, on maintaining the zero-emission vehicle mandate will impact on that trajectory?

I thank my right hon. Friend and commend his long-standing work on environmentalism; I have been privileged to work with him on this before. I will be responding to him and I look forward to coming to speak to his Committee in due course. We set out unprecedented levels of detail in the analysis of how we are going to meet the targets earlier this year. I also accept the Climate Change Committee’s analysis, which is that the changes we have made are not materially different in terms of achieving our targets—we are absolutely committed to making sure that we do so. As he rightly points out, the biggest announcement we have made on achieving those targets is the one relating to the grid, which will allow for much greater and quicker electrification of society when it comes to the impacts of other proposals.

There seems to be no level to which this Prime Minister will not stoop in his pursuit of a culture war. Apart from the reactionary brigade on his own Benches and the flat earthers, he has angered many across the UK, from environmental groups to Tory donors and even Boris Johnson. These legal targets and deadlines have been in place for some time and, accordingly, businesses active in all these sectors will have had investment and disinvestment plans in place for years. Reducing the UK’s energy use by 15% by 2030 was a tough target, but we need tough targets if we are to rise to the situation the planet faces.

What does the Prime Minister do when faced with difficulty? He scraps the energy efficiency taskforce after just six months—it is utterly embarrassing. If this Government were so worried about the affordability of climate measures, why were they offering less support than the Scottish Government for heat pump installation, and why do they keep cancelling successive home insulation schemes? Of course, all this follows the Tories permitting a new coal mine, along with the Cambo and Rosebank oilfields. Is the Secretary of State at all surprised that two thirds of UK voters say that the Tories cannot be trusted on climate change?

Scotland’s ambitions in this area are far greater and faster. Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary, Màiri McAllan, said that the Scottish Government had been

“blindsided by these announcements, with zero consultation in advance”

and that it was an

“unforgivable betrayal of current and future generations”.

The Prime Minister’s reckless decision, combined with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, makes it extremely difficult for Scotland to hit our targets. Last week, Scotland transferred—it would be an export, post-independence—more than 400 GWh of renewable electricity to England. Many other wind power schemes are in development, including the world’s biggest at Berwick Bank, which will ensure that Scotland is one of the world’s biggest exporters of clean green energy. We also have two hydro schemes ready to go, if the Government were to put the contractual agreements in place.

Scots often ask about the costs and benefits of this unequal Union of ours. Many will now wonder if watering down our climate ambitions or the obligations we committed to at COP26 is too high a price to pay.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. Let me be clear: there has been no watering down of our targets. We have the most ambitious decarbonising targets of any major economy, and we have not changed those at all. We are resolutely committed to them. By 2030, we will have cut emissions by 68%; the US is planning to cut its emissions by 40% and the EU its emissions by 55%. The people of Scotland will be very proud that we are the most ambitious major economy in the world, and we will work towards that together.

We have worked with the devolved Administrations since the announcement, and I am due to speak to my counterpart in due course—I have been in correspondence with him. One of the biggest things that we will do that will be helpful for the Scottish people particularly, and that will bring benefits to the renewable energy sector, is to improve the grid. Having spoken to more than 100 investors, I know it is their biggest ask, and it will be very positive, not just for Scotland but for the whole of the UK.

Even before Dogger Bank comes on stream, the UK is leading the world in offshore wind generation. I hope that in due course we will also lead the world in nuclear generation. If we are to charge up all those electric cars and power all those air source heat pumps, we will need an awful lot of electricity at peak times. We will also be producing a lot of electricity at off-peak times. Does the Secretary of State agree that hydrogen will have an important part to play in powering heavy vehicles and heating homes? If we are to do that, we need to make sure that our gas grid does not become a stranded asset, because we might need to press it into service.

I thank my right hon. Friend and he makes an excellent and correct point. While making sure that we grow our intermittent energy sources such as solar and wind, we must also have a stable baseload underneath that. He is right that hydrogen will play an interesting role, and I am speaking to the sector about how we can move forward. It is an exciting policy area and I will explore it in many ways. We also have a trial on heating homes. I pick him up on one point: we will be using gas for a long time. Even the independent Climate Change Committee acknowledges that we will still be using gas in 2050.

We have another debate to follow. I will try to get everybody in, but I will prioritise those Members who have not already asked questions in previous statements or who did not get in. Brevity would be much appreciated in both questions and answers.

I value the cross-party consensus that this country has enjoyed for the past 20 years, which is responsible for some of the strenuous targets that the Secretary of State has outlined. However, I was disappointed by the Prime Minister’s statement and, indeed, the tone of the Secretary of State’s remarks today. In the spirit of cross-party consensus, will she set out a hierarchy for the utilisation of the 10 MW of low-carbon hydrogen that the Government have now committed to, so that the limited supply of hydrogen power is delivered first to high-energy users such as those in the steel, ceramics, glass and cement sectors who need the extra heat that electricity cannot provide?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that hydrogen possesses enormous potential when it comes to our industrial sectors. I will be meeting many people from the sector tomorrow and will be looking at that point very carefully, and I would be happy to speak further with him about it.

When the new Select Committee on Energy Security and Net Zero first met, the first thing we did was to have huge roundtable days with over 50 different stakeholders from the sector. Time and again, those stakeholders talked about the tardiness of getting planning approval and access to the grid, so I absolutely welcome action that will deliver cleaner, cheaper and more secure energy. I also get the point about needing carrots, not sticks, for electric vehicles. In my constituency, those with driveways pay only 5% tax on their electricity, but those who do not have a driveway have to pay 20% tax. That is true all across the country, so will the Secretary of State join me in pushing the Chancellor for those carrots to be fair carrots?

My right hon. Friend is a huge champion of all environmental issues, and I look forward to speaking to her Committee in due course. It is really important that we have a just and fair transition—that is exactly what the proposals we have set out aim to do. She will know that tax matters are for the Chancellor but, again, I would be happy to speak to her further about those issues.

Honestly, this statement takes Orwellian doublespeak to new levels. It must have set some record for the largest number of misleading statements in the smallest amount of space. I do not know how the Secretary of State has the gall to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that this is about easing the burden on hard-working people, when she knows that all the evidence shows that what has been announced will increase costs for ordinary people.

For example, we have heard from the Climate Change Committee that the changes when it comes to landlords and efficiency standards in homes will cost renters an extra £300 a year. The Office for Budget Responsibility is clear that, as a result of the changes that are going to be made, our dependence on gas will cost us more. If the Government really cared about hard-working families, they would not be handing Equinor £3 billion to develop the climate-wrecking Rosebank oilfield; they would be admitting that what the Secretary of State is doing is ripping up the climate consensus for short-term electoral calculation and populist right-wing propaganda.

I thank the hon. Lady for that question, but if she had any constituents living in properties off the gas grid, it would be clear to her how worried people were about those policies. We have given them this reprieve because we understand that putting in some of those technologies, such as heat pumps, would have cost them thousands of pounds—making sure that they had the right insulation in place, for example.

Turning to Equinor, far from us paying that company money, that is something that will pay tax into the Exchequer, unlocking green investment and allowing people in the wider sector to continue in 200,000 jobs across the economy. Those are jobs, people and communities that we will need in the transition to renewable energy, because they are the same people with the same skills that will be used. It would be right for the hon. Lady to talk to the people of those communities about this issue.

The Secretary of State is right that, in order for this to work, green products need to be affordable and attractive. What study has her Department made of the attractions of synthetic and sustainable fuels as another option, compared with batteries? They may be easier for many of these users.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that question—we have spoken about this issue before. We will be consulting on synthetic fuels, in particular for aviation, and we are looking at alternative fuels more widely, for example for rural homes. I would be happy to keep up the conversation with him about our progress.

In the words of my constituent Adam:

“In Vauxhall these climate policies would help local parents like us to pay our energy bills this winter and keep our children safe and warm. Without these policies children in London face a bleak future as the climate crisis does irreparable damage to the world around them.”

Like many other Vauxhall residents, Adam is deeply concerned about the impact of the Government’s delays and about the world we are leaving for our children. Does the Secretary of State not understand that these delays run contrary to the aim of making the lives of the next generation better than the lives that we all enjoy today?

We do understand the importance of energy efficiency. In fact, during our tenure we have raised the proportion of energy-efficient homes from 14%, when we came to office, to 50%. We are also spending £6 billion in this Parliament and a further £6 billion up to 2028, in addition to the £5 billion that will be delivered through the energy company obligation and the great British insulation scheme. This is something that we are taking seriously, and the hon. Lady can give her constituent that assurance.

Given that our total emissions are less than the increment in Chinese emissions every year, my right hon. Friend is right to be pragmatic about this. At present there are planning applications for solar farms ringing Gainsborough totalling 15,000 acres—enough to feed the city of Hull every year—all based on a fiddled application for a national infrastructure project. There is currently a planning presumption against building solar farms on land graded 1, 2 or 3a, but not 3b. But for a farmer there is no difference between 3a and 3b land. Can we change that planning presumption and build solar farms on top of factories and on grey land, rather than taking good farming land?

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend about the need to build solar farms in more appropriate places, which is why I announced, in the last couple of weeks, that it would be easier to build them on industrial rooftops, car parks and warehouses in the way that he has described.

The Secretary of State has suggested that many people have not bought into the concept of net zero. Instead of seeing that as an opportunity for leadership, the Government play into misinformation about made-up taxes and the seven deadly bins. She will be aware that Northern Ireland is already a laggard on climate issues because the Assembly was collapsed just after it had finally passed binding targets, and before it had taken any meaningful action on issues such as retrofitting, planning for renewables and transforming agrifood. Is she also aware that Northern Ireland relies largely on the all-island single energy market for our energy needs, and is she confident that her Government are keeping up with their responsibility to ensure that we match the standards of that market?

We care about climate change, which is why we have the most ambitious targets of any major economy. That is what we have delivered on to date, and that is what we will be delivering on when we get to 2030 as well. As for the single electricity market, I am familiar with that, and we talk to our Northern Ireland counterparts regularly to make sure that it is working in a way that benefits the Northern Irish people.

The Secretary of State is right: we must take people with us on this journey to net zero. When it comes to incentivising people in the take-up of electric vehicles, what more can the Government do to broaden—or turbocharge—the provision of public EV charging points by companies and councils?

The most important thing that we can do to turbocharge that is get the grid working and look at both transition and distribution, which is exactly what we are planning to do in our responses to the Winser report. I would say to anyone who wants to buy an electric vehicle that if that works for them they will be able to do it, and nothing in our plans will change that.

The cheapest energy is the energy that we do not use. It is unforgivable that the Government have cancelled the obligation for landlords to upgrade homes to an EPC grade C rating by 2028 at the latest. A comprehensive home insulation scheme would reduce bills and carbon emissions this winter. I am going to make a proposal that might sound quite attractive to Conservative ears, because it is about incentivising and tax breaks. Will the Secretary of State consider allowing landlords to offset spending on insulation against their income tax bills? That would benefit tenants by enabling them to live in warm and comfortable homes.

I set out earlier the amount that we are spending on insulation: £6 billion in this Parliament, with a further £6 billion to 2028 and an additional £5 billion through the energy company obligation and the great British insulation scheme. The real-world reason for why we did not pursue that policy is that it could have cost property owners up to £15,000, and we did not want to put further pressure on rents at a time when families are really struggling. With regard to the hon. Lady’s policy on income tax relief, I suggest that is not necessarily the best response, because a lot of landlords are pensioners and will not necessarily pay income tax. However, we will continue to look at everything we can do to ensure that insulation is properly delivered.

The announcement changed two key dates that were the subject of a lot of work by the previous Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. Does the Secretary of State agree that in terms of the preparedness of the industry affected and the awareness of consumers, there is a contrast between the automotive sector and domestic heating, with far more progress having been made on the former, so there was a stronger case to put back the dates on home heating than on the automotive sector? Does she also agree that if we are to have power available where it is needed for electric vehicles and to heat our homes, we need to speed up the reinforcement of the electricity grid?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend’s points about the grid. Every single person in the sector I have spoken to has said that the announcements we have made about the grid are the most important made to date. In terms of electric vehicles, if the prices get to a point where families want to adopt them, they will do so. Nothing in our policy stops them. On domestic heating, it is right that we have taken some space for households that would not be suitable for such technology. He is right to welcome the uplift on the boiler upgrade grant. I have spoken to providers such as Octopus, which has said that it has seen a fivefold increase in inquiries since we announced the policy.

It was clear from talking to industrialists about net zero and carbon capture last week that they were exasperated with the Government’s start-stop approach to business, the snail’s pace of decisions and, of course, the lack of clarity. The Chemical Industries Association has reported declining production and said that domestic demand remains low. It needs CCUS, its fellow industrialists need CCUS and net zero needs CCUS. When will we get some final decisions, or are those initiatives also under threat?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to articulate the potential of carbon capture and storage. Earlier in the year, we set out the £20 billion package—a large package by international standards. We have set out some progress, and we are working at pace to ensure that we can set out more later in the year. He talks about lack of clarity; if he is worried about that, I gently say that he might want to look at his own party’s position.

Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), synthetic fuels—by that, I mean genuinely synthetic fuels made from green hydrogen and atmospheric carbon capture, rather than biofuels or fuels from waste—are net zero, because the amount of carbon at the tailpipe is the same volume recaptured to make the next lot of fuel, yet the myopic zero-emission vehicle mandate prevents the UK from benefiting from synthetic fuels for our road vehicles. Will my right hon. Friend show the same welcome pragmatism she has shown to the rest of the agenda and revisit the zero-emission vehicle mandate?

We have set out our position on the zero-emission mandate. However, we are also looking at synthetic fuels. As I said, we are consulting on them for aviation, and we can look at them more broadly. However, we have set out the position on the ZEV mandate, which has been widely welcomed.

Given that the rowing back on the commitments towards net zero came on the first day of the parliamentary recess, it looked an awful lot like there was an attempt to avoid democratic scrutiny. The Secretary of State has said that she wants to take people with her. May I put to her a group of people she could take with her by reversing some of these daft decisions: private renters. When I meet families who are renting from private landlords, particularly in the Marsh area of Lancaster, I hear that their energy bills are far higher because of their doors and windows and how their roofs are leaky and not insulated. That rowing back on the standard in the private rented sector is costing families more. Will she please look again at that?

I thank the hon. Lady, but that takes some gall when the Labour party left the proportion of energy-efficient homes in this country at 14% and we have taken it to 50%. I have set out the multiple billions that we will be spending on insulation, which is important to us. But, at the same time, asking families up and down the country to spend £10,000 on updating homes would have been passed on in rents and may have led to more shortages in the private rented sector. That is something we absolutely must not see at a time when families are struggling.

I too welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments on grid connections; that is something I am concerned about and have raised a number of times. Can she reassure businesses that may be making investment decisions right now that, when she brings forward her plans, those timescales will dramatically reduce? I am not talking about reducing from the 10 years we have seen reported to eight, six, four or even two years—I am talking about a really serious reduction in practical timeframes.

My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner for all the industries in her area. Our ambition is to tackle the challenge with the grid. We will be setting out for the first time a geo-spatial plan, looking at planning and looking at all the different connection points to make sure we have an overall strategy for the country, which will immeasurably speed up the connection process.

September’s offshore wind auction failed to attract any successful bids, a result that dealt a severe blow to hopes for a floating offshore wind industry based off the south-west coast of Wales. What reassurances can the Secretary of State offer that lessons will be learnt from that auction process and that action will be taken to ensure that investment in this new exciting industry is secured in future?

The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about offshore wind as an exciting industry, which has done incredibly well under our contracts for difference programme. We are looking at floating offshore wind, and he will know the support we have put in place, but I have been speaking to investors and stakeholders and will be making sure that we look at some of the challenges the sector faces.

What role does she see for the concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods in helping the United Kingdom to meet its net zero targets?

The point of our proposals is to make sure that people have choice, that we can bring people with us and that people can live their lives in the way they want to. We can enable them through decarbonising the power grid and giving them alternative options, so we can make sure that we can get to our net zero targets in a way that is practical and achievable for families.

At the Democratic Unionist party conference on Saturday past, the Ulster Farmers Union, of which I declare I am a member, had a leaflet on achieving net zero. Can the Secretary of State outline how we will meet our international obligations in terms of net zero with this rollback and how firms and farmers that have already invested in green policies and procedures will be able to compete with those who can go full steam ahead with older practices and no incentives whatsoever to change?

We are not rolling back from our targets at all; I agree with the Climate Change Committee’s assessment that there is no material difference between the projections in June and the recent assessments it made post the announcements. I welcome a lot of the work that many of our farmers are doing to pursue environmental goals. I have talked to many in my constituency who are doing quite phenomenal things at a local level. They will be supported by our agriculture policy, the landmark Agriculture Act 2020 and the Environment Act 2021 that we have brought forward in recent years.

Last winter the taxpayer covered around half the cost of British people heating their homes. That amounted to exactly £39.3 billion of taxpayers’ money spent between last October and this March. At the end of last year, 33% of properties with a loft did not have loft insulation. How concerned is the Secretary of State about the cost to future taxpayers of rowing back this Government’s previous insulation plans?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that we spent £40 billion last year helping people with their energy bills, paying on average half of people’s energy bills to support them through that difficult time. On insulation, I would say that when we came into power, 14% of homes were energy efficient, and now that figure is 50%. We are spending £6 billion in this Parliament, a further £6 billion to 2028 and £5 billion through the energy company obligation and the Great British Insulation Scheme to make sure that our homes are energy efficient.

I welcome the Government’s belated recognition that net zero policies are costing individuals in their pockets, costing jobs and of course producing huge profits for the eco industry. But is the Secretary of State not concerned that, by maintaining the legal target for 2050, she hands a weapon to those who want to use the judicial review mechanism either to delay or to stop important decisions on airport expansion, new roads and oil and gas licences—delaying even some of the policies that she says today she wants to delay to save people money?

We are confident that we can meet those targets, and we see opportunities in the transition ahead of us—we see jobs, investment and opportunities to export British products around the world. That is what I will focus on in this job to ensure that we make the most of the energy transition and that it benefits all parts of our country. We also want to do that in a sensible way that protects families and household incomes.

The Secretary of State is explaining that she is only slowing the Government’s headlong dash to net zero because of waning public support. When did the Secretary of State think that she was ever going to maintain public support for policies that will make our constituents poorer, colder and less free, while at the same time allowing communist China to increase its emissions by more than our total emissions in every year of this decade?

As I said, the climate transition presents huge opportunities for this country and the people of this country when it comes to jobs, investment and improving our energy security. That will be the focus of my work in this role. However, we will do that in a way that protects finances and families from clunky and clumsy unimplementable policies.