I beg to move,
That this House applauds the courage and tirelessness of the UK’s emergency services, Armed Forces and volunteers who are working day and night to protect people from the damaging floods; condemns the reckless cuts to flood defence funding made by the Government, which have left communities more vulnerable to extreme weather; notes that 600 people were evacuated from their homes in Hawick due to flooding, and hopes the Scottish Government will urgently invest additional funds to enhance flood protection schemes in Scotland; further notes the increasing frequency and intensity of storms in recent years and their consistency with the warnings of Britain’s leading climate scientists regarding the impact of climate change; supports the outcome of the UN COP21 conference in Paris, but recognises that international cooperation and ambition to reduce greenhouse gases and invest in clean energy technologies must be increased if global temperature rises are to be limited and the goal of climate safety kept within reach; expresses concern at the Government’s decisions to cut investment in carbon capture and storage technology, privatise the Green Investment Bank without protecting its green mandate, reduce funding for energy efficiency and solar energy and block the growth of wind energy, which all jeopardise the future of Britain’s important low-carbon industries; and calls on the Government to institute a thorough climate risk assessment that considers the implications of the Paris Summit for future flood risk.
Although the climate deal reached in Paris at the weekend gives cause for optimism that the world is facing up to the global threat of climate change, the recent floods have brought home to us the urgency of the situation here in the UK. Climate change is already happening here, and people need not just warm words from the Government, but action.
May I get into my stride a little bit, and then give way? That was a premature intervention.
For the people of Cumbria, these were the third major floods in a decade. In 2009, they were told that the rainfall was unprecedented and that it was a once-in-a-century event, and yet just six years later, rainfall records in the county were again broken, causing devastation and heartbreak in the run-up to Christmas.
Flooding is already rated as the greatest climate change risk to the UK, and the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change has warned that the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding across the UK is only going to increase. Periods of intense rainfall are projected to increase in frequency by a factor of five in this century. Indeed, the most recent Met Office analysis suggests that global warming of 2°—bear in mind that Paris does not limit us to 2°—would increase the risks of extreme flood events in the UK by a factor of seven. It is not enough to respond to the flood risk simply by focusing on building more flood defences. We need to look at how we can reduce the risk through improved land and river management, and we need to minimise the future risk of floods and other extreme weather events by tackling climate change.
We welcome the Paris accord. Nearly every country around the globe has committed to: reducing carbon emissions, building a carbon-neutral global economy, trying to limit temperature rises to 1.5°, and to reviewing our ambitions every five years. Richer nations are recognising their responsibilities to developing countries with the climate finance provisions. That is all very welcome and will make a positive difference to climate safety, but it would be complacent to suggest that the Paris accord on its own is enough.
The hon. Lady is making a strong case. As she will have heard from Paris, from civil society and from the countries that are most vulnerable to climate impacts, about 80% of known fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground if we are to have a hope of avoiding dangerous climate change. We need a global transition to 100% renewables by 2050. I wonder if she could say whether she agrees with that.
It is very important that we make progress on that. As I will come on to later in my speech, the fact that the Government’s policies seem to be moving away from encouraging renewables—indeed, harming the renewables sector to a very high degree—makes it very difficult for us to make the transition from fossil fuels, which is something we very much want to see.
Does my hon. Friend agree that cuts to renewable energy threaten both our environment and the economy? In my constituency, Energy Gain UK is a successful local renewables business, which has grown from nothing in four years to having 10 staff and apprenticeships. The drastic cuts to feed-in tariffs mean it may be forced to close, which makes no sense either to the environment or to the economy.
I entirely agree. The renewables sector needs certainty and it has had the rug whisked away from underneath it. There is some incredibly innovative work being done. I visited Ecotricity in Stroud yesterday, to hear about Dale Vince’s proposals not just for building on his excellent work in the renewables sector but for going far beyond that. We must encourage the sector. This is where the high-tech, high-skilled, well-paid jobs of the future are and the Government ought to be doing more to encourage them.
We must acknowledge that the individual pledges made at Paris do not add up to a commitment to keep temperature rises below 2°. We must keep asking what more we can do by way of mitigation and consider what further adaptation to climate change is needed. Domestically, it is clear that the UK is not doing enough. Contributing to the global climate fund does not mean the UK can absolve itself of all responsibility, or pass the buck to developing nations.
While the international community is moving forward, the UK has gone backwards. The Government have axed the carbon capture and storage fund, worth billions of pounds. They have blocked new wind farms and cut energy efficiency programmes drastically by 80% and they propose cutting support for solar power by 90%. They are also selling off the UK Green Investment Bank without protecting its green mandate. They are increasing taxes on our more efficient cars and they are scrapping the zero-carbon standard for new homes. Their preoccupation with fossil fuels and fracking, as I mentioned, means they have threatened the future of our renewable energy industry and we have lost thousands of green jobs.
As the hon. Gentleman says, the UK has a proud record on tackling climate change, not least due to the leadership shown by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) with the groundbreaking Climate Change Act 2008. However, we are now coasting on that historical record and we need to do much more. We are not on course to meet our targets, so we need to do more.
The chairman of the Committee on Climate Change had no alternative but to conclude last month that the Government’s existing energy policy was clearly failing, and the CBI has said that British businesses need clarity. Businesses need to know that the Government are serious about climate change and will not make superficial claims about being green, only to U-turn on key environmental policies.
On clarity of Government direction and jobs, I understand we have to work together on renewables, but we are setting such a good example with Hinkley Point, on the border with my constituency, which is a low-carbon energy commitment that will generate 25,000 jobs, which will be terrific for the economy and energy production.
Whatever the solutions, one of the key conclusions from COP 21 is that, in order to drive down from 3.5° to 2.7°, 2° or 1.5°, the UK will have to reset its rest—as it has been phrased. We need to do more faster and with greater urgency, and that is exactly what Lord Deben and the CCC have said. Does she agree that, whatever the solutions, one of the most important things is for the Government to accept the fifth carbon budget and narrow the gap with the fourth carbon budget?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. There is almost a consensus that the UK needs to do more, go faster and introduce stronger targets.
Business needs certainty, but people in Cumbria and other flood zones need it too. Last week, I visited Carlisle and Cockermouth with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. We are grateful to the councillors, business owners and residents who showed us around their communities and homes, and we left impressed by their resilience and determined that the Government must do all they can to rebuild their communities and reduce their future flood risk. They should never have to go through this again.
My hon. Friend, who is right about the need for certainty, will understand the concerns of many of the flood-affected communities that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs cannot provide any certainty over future spending on flooding. Was she as shocked as I was to learn that this year’s flooding budget was £115 million less than last year’s? Is that not short-sighted of the Government?
I agree with my hon. Friend, as I often do. I want to say a little more about what I saw in the constituencies, and then I will answer his point.
Anyone who has been to Carlisle and Cockermouth or seen the television coverage will have been dismayed at the horrific scenes. We have seen people out on the pavements with their entire belongings, people’s homes saturated, people in temporary accommodation. There is an issue with the availability of temporary accommodation in the area. Some have been lucky enough to move into holiday cottages, but there is not much in the way of private rented accommodation to move into. We spoke to people about their massive flood insurance bills, and the thing they raised with us time and again was the excess on their policies. Now that more floods have happened, their premiums are going to go up, or they might not be able to insure their homes at all.
I agree with my hon. Friend. Small businesses mentioned that to us. The Government’s logic was that businesses could shop around in the market, but those that were hit by flooding in 2005 and 2009 and have been again now will struggle to find insurers. It is enough to put them out of business or at least force them to close for renewal and refurbishment for several months at a time.
Does the hon. Lady agree that it would be incorrect to try to link these tragic instances of flooding to global warming because, as the Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change says in its fourth assessment report 2007, it is impossible to link individual examples of bad weather with climate change?
I am not sure that was worth waiting for. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman needs to talk to the Environment Secretary, who acknowledged in last week’s statement that there was a risk. Obviously, individual episodes do not make a pattern, but a clear pattern is emerging of extreme weather events in the UK and abroad.
Between 1997 and 2010, flood defence spending increased by three quarters in real terms, but in the 2010 spending review, the coalition Government announced a 20% real-terms cut. Flood spending was slashed by £116 million in 2011-12 and again the next year, and it was lined up for further cuts in 2013-14, before floods in the Somerset levels forced on the Government the realisation that they had gone too far. After those floods, the Prime Minister assured us that
“there will always be lessons to learn and I’ll make sure they are learned.”
But he has not shown many signs of having learned those lessons. Last year, flood and coastal erosion risk management expenditure was above £800 million, but this year it has been cut to less than £700 million—a 14% real-terms cut of £115 million. How quickly those images of the Somerset levels faded from his mind.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent point. Does she share my regret that, although the Prime Minister said money was no object, as soon as the television images of the Great Western main line under water had faded from public consciousness, money actually was an object?
I entirely agree. It seemed that money was no object in the short-term clear-up exercise, although there were delays in people getting the money promised to them. The Government are trying to speed up that process this time, by giving the money to local authorities, but council leaders have raised concerns that they simply do not have the resources and staff for that administration. I hope the Environment Secretary will provide some clarity on that.
Last week, the Environment Secretary was still assuring the people of Cumbria that the Government would learn the lessons, and the Prime Minister, on a fleeting visit up north, told them:
“After every flood, the thing to do is sit down, look at the money you are spending, look at what you are building, look at what you are planning to build in the future and ask: ‘Is it enough?’”
I am not convinced that it is enough. In June, the Committee on Climate Change gave flood adaptation a double-red warning, and the Environmental Audit Committee gave the Government a red card for climate adaptation. The Prime Minister did not have to wait for the floods to ask, “Are we doing enough?” The experts had already provided the evidence that we were not.
On learning the lessons, is my hon. Friend as surprised as I am that about half of the Chancellor’s fast-track zones to build houses are on floodplains? It is estimated that 9,000 new houses built on these floodplains might not be insurable because of the risk of flooding.
That is certainly an issue. Cockermouth has had planning permission approved for new houses, yet we have seen from the recent floods that the defences, which people thought were safe enough to withstand what was described in 2009 as a once in a lifetime or a once in a century event, were not good enough. The Government need to reassure me, therefore, that any defences around new housing in those areas would be sufficient to protect people and deal with the issue of insurance.
The hon. Lady is making an eloquent case about Cumbria, but did she take any time to visit Lancashire, because we have had really bad floods as well? In the same year that Labour-run Lancashire County Council has voted to increase councillors’ allowances—they now cost the taxpayer more than £1.2 million a year—it has admitted that the timescale for regular inspections of storm drains has been increased from every 12 months to every 18 months, which undoubtedly contributed to the flooding. Do local councillors not need to get their priorities right?
I have not yet had the opportunity to visit Lancashire, although during the floods I spoke to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) about the situation there. It is a bit cheap to bring in details of councillors’ allowances, when we are talking about people’s homes being under water and their perhaps being homeless for the next 12 months. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman needs to speak to his Front-Bench team about the massive cuts they are imposing on local government before he starts raising such details.
That is probably a question for the Environment Secretary to answer when she responds in a few moments.
The Government have announced and re-announced that they will invest £2.3 billion in flood defences over the next six years. As the EFRA Select Committee has today highlighted, that investment relies on £600 million-worth of external contributions, less than half of which have so far been secured. With the private sector providing just £61 million, DEFRA is looking to local authorities for the additional funding. Clearly, the Government do not get just how hard local councils have already been hit by the cuts. At the moment, just one of the 27 flood and infrastructure projects is currently in construction, and there has been no progress in the past year, while schemes in Cumbria have been delayed.
On maintenance, we have been told that the budget will only be protected, so I ask the Environment Secretary whether she believes that that budget is sufficient, especially given the years of neglect? The Government spent £171 million on maintenance last year. The Environment Agency has recommended that £417 million a year should be spent. It is no wonder that experts at Friends of the Earth are warning that there is a £2.5 billion hole in the Government’s flood defence plans.
I want to make some progress now so that Back Benchers who want to speak about what happened in their constituencies will be able to do so.
Last week, the Environment Secretary agreed with me about the extreme weather patterns and the link with climate change. The Government have conceded that the risks might have been underestimated, yet it has now emerged that they are not even using the most up-to-date information. I hope that the Environment Secretary will be able to tell us why the Environment Agency’s flood risk guidance, published in 2013, is based on forecasts from 2006—despite new research in 2011 indicating that river flows could be much greater due to climate change. Flood defence plans are modelled on the medium climate scenarios rather than the high climate change pathway.
Perhaps the Government want to ignore the high emission scenarios because that would mean spending £300 million more, but the costs associated with ignoring the evidence are potentially so much greater. The national security risk assessment cites flood risk to the UK as a tier 1 priority risk, alongside terrorism and cyberattacks. By focusing on the more optimistic projections, the Government are wilfully neglecting their responsibilities on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
As the rest of the work acknowledged this weekend, simply ignoring climate change will not make it go away, yet for two years the UK was hampered by having a climate change denier as Environment Secretary. It is even rumoured that he sought to replace the words “climate change” with the word “weather” in every single DEFRA document, and that he had to have it explained to him that they were not quite the same thing. What is certainly true is that under his stewardship spending on climate change adaptation halved, even after DEFRA’s climate change staffing had dropped from 38 to six people.
Thankfully, the current Environment Secretary is less hostile on this issue, although perhaps not very interested until now, and she will have our full support if her adaptation policies are guided by the scientific evidence and by expert advice. As such, we look forward to hearing more details on the national flood resilience review. I welcome the confirmation that the Cumbrian floods partnership will be looking at upstream options, and I hope these will be included in the resilience review.
A focus on the role of the natural environment in reducing flood risk is, unfortunately, long overdue. I see in his place the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart). His constituency was badly affected, and he did a huge amount of work on the ground in Cumbria over the past few weeks, so I am sure he has very much taken that point on board.
Talking of national resilience, does the hon. Lady think it was a failure of the last Labour Government not to have done exactly the same in 2005? In Carlisle, for example, we have a sub-station in a floodplain area that was flooded in 2005. Fortunately, due to the hard work of the emergency services, it was not flooded in 2015, but should it not have been looked at after 2005 with a view to possibly moving it?
We commissioned the Pitt review. The hon. Gentleman mentions the work of the emergency services, and I would like to take the opportunity to say that when I was in Cumbria I met the Fire Brigades Union and Mountain Rescue, which have done fantastic work. There are calls for the fire brigade’s response to flood risk to be put on a statutory footing, rather than just an add-on to its other duties. Mountain rescue teams do wonderful work based on the voluntary contributions and the work of volunteers. I hope that that will be looked at as part of the review.
On that point, does my hon. Friend agree that this is a timely opportunity to look again at the funding of fire services up and down the country? On Merseyside, we have certainly seen extreme cuts, and the whole model needs revisiting.
That issue was raised with me. I believe that five fire stations in Cumbria are due for closure. The control centre is in Warrington, but the point was made to me that local firefighters have the best local knowledge. People in Warrington were sending firefighters to places where people’s fire alarms had gone off because of rising water, but those firefighters knew that the towns and villages were already underwater and that the roads were impassable. A lot can be said for retaining local knowledge and for keeping the local fire stations open. I am sure that constituency MPs would have something to say about that.
Flooding has had a devastating impact on farmers and many in Cumbria have, as the National Farmers Union highlighted, been hit by a double whammy, after being informed that they will not receive their basic payments until February. Given the losses they suffer as a result of flooding and the positive contribution farmers can make to land management, I hope that DEFRA will work closely with farmers to involve them in a long-term strategic approach to flood risk, looking at surface run-off and soil management to maximise absorbency and how the Government can promote agroforestry. Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that reforesting 5% of land reduces flood peaks downstream by 29%. The Government could be looking at sediment management and river restoration, as well as woodland development more generally.
In urban and developed areas, sustainable drainage systems could make a positive difference, but progress has been slow and the scope for local authorities to make progress on flood risk management strategies seems limited, especially given the additional budget cuts. As the Climate Change Committee reported, many authorities are yet to finalise their strategies, despite its having been a legal requirement for the past five years. I hope that the Environment Secretary is co-ordinating cross-departmental work to manage the flood risk and ensure that it is factored into plans, including plans for new house building in areas of high flood risk, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) mentioned.
In light of the agreements reached in Paris, I would urge the Environment Secretary to bring forward the climate change risk assessment and consider whether the national adaptation programme is fit for purpose. As the Committee on Climate Change has said, the next programme needs a “clearer sense of priorities” and “measurable objectives”. Even if commitments are met, the Paris agreement means that the Government must prepare for temperature rises of nearly 3°. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the announced national resilience review is only the first step in tackling the problem? It must lead to a realistic resilience plan—and, most importantly, action.
As yet, we do not know what DEFRA needs to adapt to, because we do not know what the Energy and Climate Change Secretary is proposing in order to implement the Paris agreement in the UK. In her statement on Paris yesterday, there was little sense that the Government had any strategy—let alone a coherent, fully-funded one—to meet the UK’s climate change commitments and help the global community to keep temperature rises below 2°.
The UN’s chief environment scientist has even had to intervene to challenge this Government’s policies on renewable energy. While the rest of the world is investing in renewables, she said:
“What’s disappointing is when we see countries such as the United Kingdom that have really been in the lead in terms of getting their renewable energy up and going”
withdrawing subsidies and enhancing the fossil fuel industry. We can only agree with her conclusion:
“It’s a very serious signal—a very perverse signal that we do not want to create.”
Under the last Labour Administration, the UK had a proud record on climate change—from Lord Prescott’s role with the Kyoto protocol and Gordon Brown’s work in establishing the Global Climate Fund to the role of my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), and indeed that of his brother before him, in the Climate Change Act 2008, which has now been emulated by about 100 other countries. It was ground-breaking at the time; we were the first.
That legacy is slipping away and future generations will pay the price. Given that the right hon. Lady failed to answer the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) yesterday, I hope the Energy and Climate Change Secretary will, when winding up the debate this afternoon, be able to confirm the Government will review the recently abandoned green policies and that the UK will continue to support raising European targets on reducing carbon pollution by 2030.
It is not just on energy where we need leadership. Will the right hon. Lady ensure that there is more co-ordination with the Department for Transport, that BIS prioritises green jobs and that our financial services do not keep promoting and investing in fossil fuels? And will she stop the Chancellor from making short-term cuts to energy efficiency and renewables, ignoring the longer-term environmental, financial and human costs?
Expert after expert is warning that the Government are failing on climate change, and failing to protect people from flooding. They are letting down communities who are dreading the next heavy rainfall, and they are letting down future generations who will bear the brunt of climate change. I hope that both Secretaries of State will agree that the Government have run out of excuses, and that now is the time to act.
The exceptional rainfall that we have seen over the past couple of weeks has led to some very distressing situations for families and businesses in the north of England, where serious flooding has occurred. It is right that we in the House use every opportunity we are offered to express our sympathy for those who are most deeply affected. It is also right that we pay tribute to the work of emergency responders—the Environment Agency, and volunteers from around the country—who have worked tirelessly to help to get people to safety, and to clean up quickly so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.
The Government mobilised a full national emergency response. We deployed the military from day one to protect people’s lives. The Cobra civil contingencies committee has met daily to co-ordinate the best possible deployment of resources for affected communities, and the recovery effort continues.
Of course that is one of the options that we are considering, but it would take seven months for the money to arrive. What we have done, within a week of these terrible floods occurring, is make £51 million available to give immediate relief to households and businesses in Cumbria and across the north that have been affected. The Chancellor announced last week that we were supporting households and businesses in affected areas.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) asked about accommodation. We are anxious to ensure that accommodation is available to those who have had to leave their homes, and we are working closely with local councils to ensure that they have every resource that they need for that purpose. Divers are assessing the bridges so that they can be opened as soon as possible, and diggers are clearing roads. We are doing all we can to ensure that Cumbria is up and running as soon as possible, and is open for business as soon as possible.
The Secretary of State has rightly pointed out that great efforts have been made to clear the roads. As she will know, the A591 connects the north and south lakes at Grasmere and Keswick, and its closure has effectively ruined the tourist industry on both sides of that divide. The Royal Engineers did a great job in clearing up the mess, but they left yesterday. Would the Secretary of State be able to invite them back to rebuild the road quickly?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The A591 is a critical artery for tourism and for local residents to get about. It is now passable in a 4x4 vehicle, but we are working on getting it fully up and running as soon as possible, and the Department for Transport is working closely with the Cobra team to ensure that that happens, because it is a priority. I am pleased to say that the west coast main line was up and running as quickly as possible. Nearly all the 169,000 households and businesses whose power was cut off have been reconnected, although a small group of fewer than 50 need extra work at flooded properties. The Environment Agency has been assessing what more can be done, and has been moving in heavy equipment to clear rivers.
Our priority must continue to be public safety. Although 84 flood warnings have been removed in the last day or so, further flooding could occur as a result of rain falling on saturated ground. I urge people to keep up to date with the latest situation through the Environment Agency’s website and other news sources.
I know that this is of no comfort to those who have suffered, but the flood defences in Carlisle and Kendal successfully defended more than 100,000 households and businesses and prevented them from losing their power supplies. It is important for us now to consider how we can further improve resilience in our country.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is working to ensure that we have long-term energy security, and that we tackle dangerous emissions. I think that she has shown massive leadership over the past week. Hers was an historic achievement in Paris, and I think that Opposition Members should applaud her for showing such leadership at an international level. I see that some of them are acknowledging her leadership; that acknowledgement is particularly welcome from the former Climate Change Secretary, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband).
I apologise to my right hon. Friend for returning to the subject of flooding when she has—rightly—just moved on to the subject of climate change, but does she agree that it is now time for a radical change in the way in which we fund our flood infrastructure and maintenance? The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) pointed out that when floods occur, there is investment, there are promises, but the investment then fades. That happened under the Labour Government, and it tends to happen under all Governments. Should we not hand responsibility for a regulated standard to, for instance, the water companies?
We have already made a major change. Rather than allowing a stop-start in flood defence spending, we have, for the first time, laid out a fully funded six-year programme to give communities the certainty they need. I shall say more about that later, but I was in the middle of praising my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. She has done a fantastic job, and I think that that needs to be acknowledged. She has achieved an international climate change deal that will bring about a level playing field—it is very important for countries across the world to contribute—but she is also making sure that we deal with customers’ bills at home. It is right for us to improve our economy, achieve economic growth and reduce carbon, and my right hon. Friend is showing how that can be done.
I have already given the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to contribute. I want to make a bit of progress now.
Under this Government, there is a long term-plan for economic and energy security, part of which involves improving our resilience and investing in flood defences. Extreme weather events are becoming more common. There have been devastating floods in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and elsewhere, and there has been record rainfall. Water levels in our rivers have been more than half a metre higher than they have ever been before. Yesterday, during my second visit to Cumbria in a week, I went to Appleby and Threlkeld, where I met residents, Army volunteers, and others whose work has been tremendous during this rescue effort. I saw the sheer power of the water, which had washed bridges downstream, but I also saw a huge amount of spirit and resilience among the Cumbrian people.
May I invite the Secretary of State to return to the question asked by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) about maintenance grants, and the amount that will be spent on maintaining existing flood defences? Does she accept that there is a shortfall of £2.5 billion between that amount and what the Environment Agency says is needed, and, if so, is she going to fill the gap?
I can confirm that, as the Chancellor said in the autumn statement, we will increase our current maintenance expenditure of £171 million a year in real terms. In a climate in which we are having to reduce Government budgets, we are increasing, in real terms, both flood capital spending and flood maintenance spending. That shows where our priority lies.
In his report following the devastating 2007 floods, Sir Michael Pitt said that flooding was the greatest risk that our country faced from climate change, and that flood defence spending needed to rise by more than inflation each and every year. Can the Secretary of State explain why, in real terms, we will be spending exactly the same in 2015-16 as we were spending in 2009-10?
The reality is that between 2005 and 2010 Labour spent £1.5 billion on flood capital, whereas between 2010 and 2015 we spent £1.7 billion, which is a real-terms increase and not a cut. In this Parliament, we are investing £2 billion, which is a real-terms increase and not a cut.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The additional funding we are putting into flood defences will mean a reduction in flood risk over the next six years. That is not an elimination of risk, and we also need to make sure that we have the right emergency response in place, but flood risk will be reduced.
I just want to answer the point raised by Opposition Members about the spending in recent years. Following the 2013-14 floods, we put in an extra £270 million to repair and rebuild the defences that were destroyed. That is the money that Opposition Members are talking about, but even if we take account of that extra funding, which rebuilt and repaired defences after the winter floods, we are still spending more in real terms in this Parliament on flood defences, and we are laying it out in a six-year programme for the first time ever. When Labour was in power it never laid out plans for more than one year at a time, whereas we are laying out a six-year plan.
The Secretary of State will remember not only the floods in Cumbria, but the awful flooding in Somerset. The Government have committed £35 million to Somerset until 2021, but will she comment on the arrangement we are putting in place through the Somerset Rivers Authority, which may become a model for dealing with flooding, funding and the wider catchment area?
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. She is absolutely right to say that Somerset Rivers Authority, which is now established, forms a model that we can use in other parts of the country. It gives local people, who understand the area and the local catchment, the power to make decisions—
I have already given way to the right hon. Lady once and I want to make progress, in order to give the many constituency MPs who are part of the debate an opportunity to speak.
I want to respond to the Opposition’s point about local farmers, some of whom I met yesterday. We are helping them to get their land sorted out, as much of it is covered with rubble. We are putting in place a special scheme to help farmers, which will be open from this Friday, and we are also seeing what we can do to prioritise basic farm payments for the worst affected farmers.
I have talked about our £2.3 billion programme—this is the first time ever that a Government have laid out their future flood defence spending. The private sector partnership money that the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) has been talking about is in addition to the real-terms increase—extra money so that even more flood defence schemes can go ahead. We have already secured £250 million of that money and we have a further £350 million earmarked. We are only six months into the scheme. Let us remember what happened between 2005 and 2010: only £13 million was raised. We raised £134 million in the last Parliament—10 times that raised under the previous Government.
The money we are putting in represents real flood defences across the country. It means that in Boston we are building a new £90 million barrier; in Rossall, Lancashire, we are investing £63 million for a new 2 km sea wall; in Exeter, we are investing £30 million in new flood defences; and on the Thames we are investing £220 million in a 17 km flood relief channel. I am pleased to say that in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bristol East we will invest £1 million in a scheme for Brislington, and that in Stockton North we are investing £8 million in a scheme at Port Clarence and Greatham South. What this money—this real-terms increase in spending—means is real protection for real families and real businesses across the country, in addition to protection for 420,000 acres of farmland.
My right hon. Friend knows that local MPs supported a proposal to the Department seeking about £1 billion to help the Humber area, which faces the second greatest strategic risk in the country, after London. What plans does the Department have to work on coming up with a viable programme for our area?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are investing £80 million in flood defences for that area, but I am happy to meet him and his colleagues to talk about what more we can do to increase resilience there.
It is very important to note that we are not complacent about our flood defences. We will look at what has happened in recent weeks to make sure we learn lessons and act upon the new evidence that has come to light. We have committed ourselves to two reviews: first, the Cumbria flooding partnership, led by the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), who has responsibility for flooding, will look at how we can improve downstream defences, do more to look at the overall catchment and slow the flow upstream, and more fully involve the community. I saw a fantastic project last week at Stockdalewath, where upstream mitigation is being used to reduce the peaks in river flow. This is already happening, but I want to see more of it, which is why we are launching this new workstream. Secondly, we are putting in place a national resilience review to look at how we model and plan for extreme weather, how we protect our critical assets and how we make future investment decisions—my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) asked about that. With the £2.3 billion programme that we have laid out, we want communities to have certainty that their projects are going ahead, so this review will look at future flooding investment to make sure that the formula is adapted to what we now know.
Let me be clear with Opposition Members that we already have some of the most sophisticated flood modelling in the world. For the first time in Cumbria, during this flooding we used ResilienceDirect, which meant that all the emergency services could communicate with each other in real time and with the Environment Agency, which was very effective at getting early action. We are working to make sure that we keep up to date with the latest trends in climate and in extreme weather, which the hon. Member for Bristol East was talking about.
The Government are completely committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure Cumbria and the other flood affected areas are up and running and more resilient for the future. But the reality is that without a strong economy, under a Conservative Government, we would not have money for these crucial schemes. It is our party that is investing in new power stations and making sure we have energy supplies, while reducing carbon emissions. It is our party that is investing to make this country more resilient and adapt to climate change and extreme weather. The Labour party has no plan, having shirked these decisions when it was in office and wasted our money. Let us all remember what the then Chief Secretary to the Treasury said:
“I’m afraid there is no money”.
That was the Labour Government’s legacy. The fact is that it is the Conservative party that is protecting our economy, and safeguarding our security and our future.
Mr Speaker, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to take part in this debate. I should like to urge Opposition Members in particular to pay close attention to what I have to say. Unfortunately, the motion shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the reality on the ground in Hawick and the Scottish borders, which is my constituency and which suffered serious flooding earlier this month.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in my constituency in Northern Ireland there has been serious flooding in the past 10 days, and the motion makes no reference to that? Even today, at least 16 roads are still closed in the constituency.
That is an excellent point. My constituency is mentioned in the motion, yet it has not been mentioned once in the debate so far, and the hon. Gentleman has had the same experience. It is extremely disappointing that the motion makes a fundamental error in terms of the funding process for flood defences in Scotland. I hope to explain this and say why I make this statement up front.
On 5 December the River Teviot broke its banks and it is true that some 600 people had to be evacuated in Hawick. A total of 333 homes were impacted, as well as 45 local businesses. However, the town reacted magnificently to the crisis. I was among the volunteers, along with the Scottish Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, putting down sandbags under the direction of Hawick flood group, with the police and emergency services, who all did a fantastic job. The reality is that, had it not been for their help and intervention, things would have been a lot worse. I pay tribute to all their efforts, including Scottish Borders Council. We all know that our councils tend to be the whipping boys on occasion, so I pay particular tribute to it for co-ordinating the effort.
The damage and disruption caused by the Hawick flood has been significant. The Scottish Government made it clear from the start that the Bellwin scheme would be implemented to fund repair work. They also emphasised that money was available to fund a full flood prevention scheme. A preferred scheme has been chosen, and we are now moving to detailed design. It is critical to get this right, as a wrongly built scheme can fail or even make things worse. This swift response has eased the worries of people in the town and shown the Scottish Government to be empathetic and fast acting.
That is a wonderfully glowing tribute to everyone in my constituency. I thank the hon. Gentleman. If he would like to listen a bit more, I will go on to explain the process in more detail. If anyone says that nothing can be learned, they are mistaken. There is always potential to improve the response and do better next time. The flooding that took place will be examined in detail, and will inform the flood defences that are put in place.
Right across Scotland, there was a first-class and highly impressive multi-agency response. However, the stark truth is that we will never be able to stop flooding fully. It has been with us throughout history. Both the Old Testament and the Koran tell us the story of Noah and the Ark. I am afraid that there must have been people in Scotland and indeed in the constituency of the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) who thought they were extras in the sequel. As we cannot prevent water flows, we must do our best in redirecting them. In Scotland, all the flood defences we had in place held. In Galashiels in my constituency, they stayed in place, and in Selkirk, although only half built, they did their job. This highlights how well-designed schemes can make all the difference.
The Scottish Government regard reduced flood risk as a priority and provide annual funding of £42 million for councils to add to and invest in major flood prevention schemes.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is also an issue of urban flooding, which has perhaps been slightly less reported? Summerston in my constituency has been renamed an island because all the major access roads were blocked by sudden flooding and overflowing drains. It is important that local authorities are able to invest the money appropriately.
I was in charge of flood risk management for Wales, so I know how important devolved Administration is in this respect. Has the hon. Gentleman considered the capture of water on buildings in butts to reduce the amount that goes into sewers or investing in the resilience of particular properties by putting plugs up walls, waterproofing and so on? No defence is 100% reliable.
The hon. Gentleman displays an admirable knowledge of the subject. If I ever live in a house built on a floodplain by the Conservatives, I will know where to go for advice.
It is important to consider all aspects. The debate is about climate change and flooding, but many other issues such as land use and planning could be covered in a lot more detail. We must always plan to prevent flooding at a local level and mitigate where we can. The hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point, and I thank him.
The Scottish Government enacted their Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act in 2009. This introduces a sustainable and modern approach to flood risk development which considers the problems of climate change. For instance, it creates a revised and streamlined process for protection schemes as well as a framework for co-ordination between organisations involved in flood risk management. New methods have also been put in place to ensure that stakeholders and the public have an input into this process, as is happening in Hawick now.
Another hugely important piece of legislation is the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, again enacted in 2009. This sets some of the toughest climate change targets in the world, with an interim 42% reduction by 2020 and an 80% reduction target by 2050. Ministers are required to report regularly to the Scottish Parliament on progress and emissions. Earlier this year, the Committee on Climate Change concluded that Scotland had continued to make good progress towards meeting these ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets. We are on track to meet that 42% target ahead of schedule. In fact, we continue to outperform the UK as a whole.
In western Europe, only one of the EU15 states, Sweden, has achieved greater reductions. The Scottish Government have not hit all their targets, partly because of data format revisions, but they should be applauded for their ambitious vision and for seeking to lead the way. The determination is that Scotland should continue to be a world leader in this area. That, surely, is the right approach. We should acknowledge their ambition and successes so far. I hope that in this Chamber we will recognise that there is a lot to learn from them in terms of best practice. For instance, the Scottish Government have pledged some £1 billion of funding over two years for climate change action and have plenty of reason for optimism.
Last year, renewables overtook nuclear as Scotland’s largest source of electricity. Only last month, wind turbines produced 131% of the electrical needs of Scottish households. These are highly encouraging figures. However, no nation can operate in isolation in this area. Only by working together can world leaders properly address this, the greatest global environmental threat of our age. At last week’s Paris summit, we finally managed to achieve a universal agreement—one that has been signed up to by rich and poor countries alike. I congratulate the Secretary of State on her role and hard work in securing success at that historic event, which was also attended by Scotland’s Environment Minister and First Minister. The deal reached will not by itself solve global warming. It is not a panacea. But Paris finally showed that the will, along with a firm commitment, is there.
The hon. Gentleman will know that emissions from aviation and shipping were left out of the Paris agreement. Does he agree that that is a fatal omission and, similarly, that airport expansion, be it at Heathrow, Gatwick or anywhere else, would fatally undermine the UK’s ability to make a fair contribution to keep global warming well below 2 °C, let alone the 1.5 °C goal that is a matter of survival for many vulnerable countries?
The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. It is notable that the recent carbon report made the same point about excluding the contribution of air quality in this regard. We must start looking at the whole picture.
Paris did, however, show that the will exists, along with a firm commitment. As long as the 196 nations which signed up to the declaration are prepared to prove that their word is truly their bond, we can look forward to a future that is bright and a future that is green. In Scotland, as in so many other countries, this agreement could literally reshape our landscape. At present, increasing rainfall and changes in patterns mean that our 50,000 kilometres of rivers are likely to flood more often. That could affect most of our major airports, which are on low-lying land, as well as places such as the petrochemical complex at Grangemouth. Rising sea levels also mean that some of our coastal habitats could be lost entirely.
There is another effect. Climate change affects lungworm, a disease which affects sheep and renders their lungs unusable as food. I hope not to disturb my colleagues but sheep lungs are, of course, a key ingredient in haggis, which is central to Scottish culture. What would Burns night be without haggis? There could be a threat to our very nationhood! Hopefully, though, we can now avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change and the consequent risk to one of our finest native foods.
Since the election in May, the SNP has argued strongly against UK Government moves to roll back support for renewable energy. Subsidies to onshore wind, solar and power station conversion to wood or biomass are being reversed, and green deal funding scrapped. I know that some of my colleagues plan to talk about this in more detail and about the Treasury’s decision to cut investment in carbon capture and storage technology, which is unwise and short-sighted.
Some environmentalists say that we are now going through the worst period in green policy for 30 years. The need for positive and dramatic action stares us in the face. Climate change can no longer be denied. After Paris, every nation will have to be bolder. This offers us a real opportunity to change the direction of travel. It is the perfect time for Ministers to reverse their recent negative attitude towards renewables and, like Scotland, turn the UK into a leader. They must walk the walk. This is our moment of choice. We can, literally, turn back the tide. For us, and for our children and grandchildren, while there is still time, I implore this Government to help to do so.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, following as it does the excellent news from Paris and the rather more depressing news of recent flooding.
I have just lost two of my favourite Ministers from the Front Bench—although they are staying for a moment—but I have another still on the Front Bench. I am delighted to have their temporary audience. Like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I congratulate our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on her part in helping to deliver a deal in Paris. Colleagues across the Chamber will doubtless debate how important and how effective that deal is and how it contrasts with Copenhagen, from which the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) bears such scars. Despite much of the detail being left for future work, I think we have a framework from Paris which can give us hope for the future. The intended nationally determined contributions provide the building blocks with which we can go forward. We have in place in the agreement the promise of not only a stocktake, but a review and, we hope, a growth in ambition over time.
Following Paris, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has two things to do. One is to ensure that UK decarbonisation proceeds within the framework provided by the Climate Change Act 2008 and the fourth and fifth carbon budgets—our most current—which have been produced by the Climate Change Committee. We have not always got it all right. For instance, in the case of onshore wind, which is the lowest cost form of renewable energy that we have, there was a misdiagnosis of the problem.
The diagnosis of the problem, which people like me helped to provide over many years on behalf of our constituents, was that our constituents did not like having onshore wind turbines foisted on them, their local councillors ignored and a distant inspectorate insisting on them being built, resulting in our constituents losing any sense of control over the local environment. What local people wanted was to have control over their local environment. In those areas where there was least opposition, or where the recompense was adequate, onshore wind turbines should be allowed, but where local people were set on not having them, they should not go ahead.
That was a mistake that Labour made in government. With various Ministers in place I tried to get them to see that we would ultimately end up with more if we went with the grain of local opinion rather than trying to fight against it, but inevitably those whose local environment would be dominated by those constructions and who had had no say on it would find a political voice and eventually bring the scheme to a halt. We would end up with fewer, rather than more, wind turbines. So it has proved.
The misdiagnosis lay in the fact that my party came to the conclusion that the difficulty was not the planning, but the subsidy, even though it is the lowest subsidy of any form of renewable energy. So we got to the bizarre situation where there is no subsidy for the cheapest form of renewable energy, at the same time as we talk about lowering costs to consumers. We should have removed the right to appeal to the inspectorate and allowed the developers to provide packages which won support in certain parts of the country. Personally, I felt that we would have ended up with more, but somehow we have ended up with the cheapest form of renewable energy in effect receiving no support, which is a bizarre outcome. We do not want to make further such mis-steps.
On the positive side, in my local area we have offshore wind. By next year we should have 6 GW of offshore wind in this country, more than the rest of the world combined. By 2020 we should have 10 GW and, as the Secretary of State laid out recently, as did the Chancellor in the autumn statement, there is every hope that we will see a doubling of that between 2020 and 2030. So we are making significant progress in offshore wind, and it is only because of the pipeline that we have seen the supply chain and manufacturers able to invest and lower cost.
The big task for the Secretary of State is to work out how we are going to deliver decarbonisation of the UK economy at the lowest possible cost. It became apparent to me 10 years ago at the Montreal COP—conference of the parties—that we had to get the costs down. Sadly, hand-wringing environmental concern is not widely shared among the general populace of this country, among parliamentarians or across the world. We need to get the costs down so that it becomes more politically acceptable to people to do that which is compatible with tackling the risks suggested by the science.
My advice to the Secretary of State is that in every decision she makes in this area, she needs to think about creating a framework which encourages that investment. The state is only a relatively small player. Sometimes Ministers of successive Governments in this country talk as if the state is the key driver. The state is not the key driver; it is a small player. We create the framework, then we get the investment. It is that investment in solar by private companies in China and elsewhere, partly driven by the German market, that has led to the massive reduction in costs for solar. It has been the private sector investment, with the help of the Green Investment Bank, which has helped accelerate the cost curve downwards for offshore wind. That is what we must do—create a consistent environment.
There was a lot of positive rhetoric under the Labour Government about tackling climate change, but remarkably little action. In the end, in 2010, there had not been the progress that we should have seen. In the United States, by comparison, the rhetoric has always been negative but the policy environment for investment has been more positive. That is why there has been a great deal of investment in the United States, as well as more innovation and more jobs created than in this country, even though we, through the Climate Change Act and other things, have tried to be, and appeared to be, world leaders.
I cannot let the hon. Gentleman’s comments pass without intervening, but I will try to say this on a cross-party basis. The success in offshore wind, which is now quite remarkable and we need to keep it going, was built on the back of the pipeline that was set up during the period of a Labour Government. That Government—I was an Environment Minister at the time—put in place things such as the £60 million investment in the ports facilities that is now allowing Siemens to carry out manufacturing in this country, and gave the go-ahead for the licensing.
The hon. Gentleman is right to make those points. Quite a lot of the progress that has been made in the past five or six years was built on that, but in the 13 years of Labour Government remarkably little progress was made. If we compare the investment environment in renewable and other green technologies in the United States, despite all the negative rhetoric, with the investment there has been in this country, we do not come out all that strongly.
The second challenge that faces the Government, after UK decarbonisation, is helping others to fulfil their national contributions to the INDCs and to build confidence at each national level to go further. Thus, when we have the review in five years’ time, we will be able to raise the ambition so that we are not heading, as now, for under 3°, but are genuinely able to head for a sub-2° world. There is a tremendous amount to be done in engaging with parliamentarians. I should declare an interest as the chair of GLOBE International. Colleagues from across the Chamber attended the summit of legislators in Paris the weekend before last. We need to engage more with parliamentarians. That is equally true in Parliaments such as ours where, despite today’s attendance, there are remarkably few colleagues with much interest in or knowledge of the subject matter. We have to engage more people so that they take more interest and ensure that we get the frameworks that deliver the investment. There is a huge role for the UK to play in developing countries through climate diplomacy and work with GLOBE and others to make sure that we engage with these parliamentarians, who, after all, pass the laws, set the budgets, and hold Governments to account. That is certainly what GLOBE aims to do through its chapters around the world.
I want briefly to say something about flooding, following my earlier intervention on the Environment Secretary. The threat to the Humber is real and growing, with rising sea levels. Last December, we saw a bigger surge than in 1953. If the wind direction and other factors had been slightly different, there would almost certainly have been loss of life. This is a growing issue and we need to find a long-term solution. My personal thought is if we leave it to Governments, who have to decide between investment in schools, hospitals and so on, and long-term investment in flooding, they always have a tendency, when not under the shadow of a recent flooding disaster, to cut back that long-term investment. Would it not be better to set a regulatory standard on which we could rely by handing it over to water companies, whose job is to borrow money from the international markets and invest for the long term at the lowest possible cost, to deliver an agreed standard? If we had a statutory standard with a duty placed on those bodies to deliver, and all the water tax payers of the country picking it up, we would not only save the Chancellor from the cost hitting the Exchequer directly, but could have in place lower-cost intervention, to an agreed standard, for the long term, and stop having these fervent and heated debates every time we have a flood disaster, which, given climate change, is likely to happen more often in future.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), who plays a very important role in the GLOBE organisation of parliamentarians. This debate comes at a timely moment after the Paris agreement, and after the tragedy of the floods that we have seen. I know that many hon. Friends want to talk about the effects on their constituencies, so I will try to keep my remarks reasonably brief.
I want to focus on the question of what the Paris agreement means for UK domestic policy. In doing so, I praise the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who played an important role in the talks. She was the host of the high ambition coalition between developed and vulnerable countries, and her office was its headquarters. She deserves credit for the very constructive role that she played. Having said that, when I listened to her statement yesterday, I felt, while I do not want to be unfair to her, that her position was somewhat to say, “Everything has changed and nothing has changed.” In other words, internationally everything has changed, with high ambitions, zero emissions and all that stuff, but for the UK things are the same as before. I want to make the case that that cannot be right, for four reasons, three of which are to do with the agreement itself.
First, on 1.5°, no previous agreement has enshrined a commitment to try to commit to
“efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 C.”
This is a higher ambition than there has been in any agreement before. The Secretary of State knows that, because she was one of the people who helped broker the agreement. The reason it was brokered is very interesting: it was because of the case put forward by countries like the Marshall Islands that will disappear with warming of more than 1.5°. Some people fear that the high ambition coalition was a ruse to break up the G77 and China grouping in order to put pressure on the Chinese to get an agreement. I do not believe that it was a ruse. However, we cannot just say, “Our domestic policy will not change,” because if we suggest that our attitude to a 1.5° agreement is the same as to a 2° agreement, countries like the Marshall Islands will conclude, “Hang on a minute—were these people serious after all?”
The Committee on Climate Change picked up on this point in its release yesterday, saying that it would make it even more important—I am paraphrasing somewhat but I do not think I am misrepresenting it—that we met its recommendations on carbon budgets, and that it might be the case that further steps should be taken. It said that it would come back to the Secretary of State on that in early 2016. I would be interested to hear what she thinks are the implications of this more exacting target—because it definitely is more exacting.
The right hon. Gentleman is making a very strong case, which I appreciate. Surely the difference that 1.5° makes means that we need to think again about aviation expansion. In yesterday’s aviation statement, which came right after the climate statement, nobody even mentioned climate, and yet aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
When we were in government, I played one part in the rather unhappy saga that is Heathrow. In response to the demand that we should approve Heathrow, I pushed for a separate target for aviation emissions. Of course that must also be looked at as part of the 1.5° target. There cannot simply be unconstrained expansion of aviation. The hon. Lady makes a good point.
Secondly, the agreement contains not just the 1.5° aim but a long-term goal of zero emissions. When I asked the Secretary of State about this yesterday, she said that she was happy pursuing the existing targets in the Climate Change Act. I think that those targets are very important, because I helped legislate for them, and I am very happy that she wants to make sure that we meet them. However, when I was Climate Change Secretary we had not had a global agreement for net zero emissions. We cannot possibly say, “We’ve got this global commitment to zero emissions in the second half of the century but it has no implications for UK domestic policy.” Of course we have to look at what it means for the UK.
My case to the Secretary of State, which I hope she will consider—I am not asking for an answer today—is that when the Energy Bill comes back to this House in the new year she amends it to ask the Committee on Climate Change to do something very simple, which is to look at this issue and make a recommendation to Government about when we should achieve zero emissions. That would do a number of things. It would send a cross-party message that Britain is determined to be a climate leader; the Secretary of State has talked eloquently about the impact that the Climate Change Act had, with cross-party support. It would also reduce, not increase, the costs of transition, because it would provide a clear trajectory to business and, indeed, to future Governments.
I say to Conservative Members, who have understandable concerns, that it would be supported by business. I am not the most radical person on this issue. The most radical people are, believe it or not, Richard Branson, Paul Polman of Unilever and Ratan Tata. They want not just what I am suggesting, but something much more radical—they want zero emissions by 2050. Perhaps that is what the Committee on Climate Change will concede, but my approach is much more pragmatic, as is that of the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart). Let us not pluck a figure out of the air—such as 2050—without having the experts look at it; let us look at what the implications of the global goal of zero emissions are for the UK. That is a very reasonable suggestion.
I agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman has just said about aiming for zero carbon. Does not the involvement of Unilever, Virgin and other businesses show that, if leadership and certainty is given, the investment conditions will be such that we will be able to get the money flowing, as I said in my speech, and jobs will be created here? If we lag behind with uncertainty, we will not have those jobs, and pioneering businesses will not establish themselves, invest or provide jobs here. If we are going to do it, it must benefit this country to the greatest extent possible.
The hon. Gentleman makes an eloquent point. Every extra ounce of uncertainty raises the cost of capital. He and I have discussed that many times and that is what business people are saying, because they want that certainty. They are asking, “What are we working towards?” That is why all those leading businesses are putting it forward.
I do not want to say to the Secretary of State that this is easy, because it is a long way off, but it is an easy win for her. She would go down in history as the person who helped legislate for zero emissions, which is the ultimate backstop. When I was Secretary of State, the ultimate backstop was 80% reductions. Now we know from the global agreement that the ultimate backstop must be zero emissions at some point.
I am interested in the right hon. Gentleman’s specific policies to tackle CO2 emissions. In the US, fracking is credited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as being the principal reason for the reduction in greenhouse gases. Does he support shale gas exploration in the UK?
I am sceptical that it is the solution, because we have to get to zero carbon. It is true that replacing coal with gas has helped us reduce emissions. One of the reasons that our emissions have fallen as they have is the replacement of coal with gas, and I welcome the Secretary of State saying that she is going to phase out coal, but that is not a long-term solution. This agreement is about the end of fossil fuels. Carbon capture and storage can make a difference, but essentially we are transitioning to a world after fossil fuels.
Certainly. While we are on the subject of sorry sagas, I am afraid that one of the other sorry sagas is the CCS competition, which is a recipe for how not to make policy. It was started, believe it or not, nearly 10 years ago by the Labour Government. I think it was started under Alistair Darling. I then pushed it forward before this Government cancelled the competition, then restarted it and then cancelled it again.
I am not saying it is glorious from anyone’s point of view. What I put in place was a mechanism to provide four projects. At the time, the Conservative Opposition said, as Oppositions do, that four was not enough and that there should have been six. Then they cancelled the mechanism, then they said there would be public funding, then they cancelled that competition and then they restarted it. I think we can all agree that it has not been a glorious episode.
The third reason that I think the world has changed is the five-year ratchet mechanism in the agreement. It is a mechanism to ratchet up ambition so that the pledges that countries make meet the aspiration. At the moment, we are saying 1.5 °C, but the pledges add up to 3 °C. We argued for the mechanism and the EU said before the summit that it wanted its emissions to be reduced by at least 40% by 2030. As I understand it, “at least” meant that if there was a stronger agreement, we would ratchet up the EU ambition. I ask the Secretary of State and the Government: what is the mechanism to make that happen? The world has changed, because we have a strong agreement, and the EU said at least 40%, so how are we going to ratchet it up? In his closing remarks at the summit, President Hollande said that he wanted to raise French ambition. I would be interested to hear the Secretary of State say, either today or in the future, how she thinks we can raise that ambition.
A fourth and final thing has changed since Paris, and it relates to the Secretary of State and her role in Government. I want to say something personal to her about that. I think that the thing that has changed after Paris is her negotiating power. Anyone who has been a Secretary of State knows that not all the decisions go their way—that was certainly true when I was Secretary of State. I am sure there have been a number of times over the past few months—obviously, the Secretary of State is not going to say this at the Dispatch Box—when she wanted a decision to go one way but it went another way. Successful Secretaries of State, however, recognise their power, and I say to her that she is empowered by the Paris agreement. She is empowered by it to tell the Prime Minister that he cannot just use warm words abroad and then not follow them through with deeds at home. She is empowered to tell the Chancellor that British business is, frankly, furious at the neglect of a crucial and growing sector of the economy. Above all, she is empowered to be the Cabinet champion for tackling climate change. If the Secretary of State does that—if she is that champion—she will get support from those Members on both sides of the House who believe in this cause, as I know that she does, too. They will support her in her endeavours.
In conclusion, whatever the Secretary of State does, we need to match the high ambition coalition in Paris with a high ambition coalition at home. That high ambition coalition has to combine trade unions, business and civil society. I do not see Paris as the end in any sense; it is merely the beginning—it gives us a new beginning on climate change. In the interests of future generations, we have to seize that moment.
The motion conflates two hugely important issues, both of which are worthy of debate in their own right. I will speak initially about flooding and if time allows I will move on to climate change.
Somerset is affected by both elements. We have very recent and painful experience of flooding, and we have a well developed energy industry, with everything from Hinkley Point to widespread deployment of solar and anaerobic digestion. We also have the opportunity for much more, if we can harness the power of the Severn estuary.
On flooding, after speaking about our experience in Somerset at this year’s Flood Expo, I have been visited in Parliament by representatives of the Lincolnshire drainage board and the National Farmers Union, who were keen to discourage a one-size-fits-all approach to flood risk management and its funding. Cumbria has its own circumstances, just as Somerset is different from Lincolnshire, so I stress that, while I fully support the measures being delivered in Somerset, some—perhaps all—will not be applicable elsewhere. That said, the speed of the full spectrum response in Cumbria indicates that lessons have clearly been learned since our floods in 2013-14. I congratulate those on the Government Front Bench on the speed of that response and commend the emergency services, armed forces and volunteer groups that answered the call.
I was disappointed to hear the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) reflect in her opening speech that the Government have not delivered on their commitment to Somerset after the floods. Labour does not have many south-west MPs, but she is one, so surely she must know that huge improvements have been made in our region since those floods. Work on the great western mainline at Dawlish was completed within months of the floods, and the peninsula rail taskforce has since made clear, as I am sure she well knows, its plans to improve resilience both on the Somerset levels and with a new line to open north of Dartmoor.
On roads, work to improve culverts underneath the M5 has been completed, and Somerset County Council has also completed widespread improvements to the county’s road network. There has also been significant investment in pumping infrastructure, dredging and the sluice network, and Sedgemoor District Council and the county council are pushing on with advanced plans for a Parrett tidal barrier. There was public money for flood relief for the villages impacted, and most importantly, there is the Flood Re scheme, which will provide real peace of mind for those who can now insure their homes. Above all, there is the support for the Somerset Rivers Authority, a very welcome strategic authority which looks after the interests of the county when it comes to flood defences.
All of that is happening just four junctions down the M5 from Bristol East. I am sure that if the shadow Secretary of State would like to come and see me, my fellow Somerset MPs and the leadership of Somerset County Council, we would be delighted to show her how much the Government have achieved in Somerset and how much more they are yet to deliver. None of that has been cheap, so I very much welcome the £2.3 billion that will be invested in flood defences over the next six years.
In the very short time remaining, I want to say that I very much welcome the Paris deal. The Energy and Climate Change Committee, of which I am a member, looks forward to discussing it with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change tomorrow. The deal is not perfect, but it is a remarkable feat, and I congratulate the Government on the leading role they played in brokering the deal. Meeting the Paris targets will be challenging, especially as we must concurrently ensure the security of supply and the affordability of bills.
The programme for new nuclear power is very welcome, but I also congratulate the Government on their enthusiasm for offshore wind and on their success in growing the solar industry in recent years, although I appreciate that changes in the subsidy later this week may challenge that industry. The solar industry is protesting very loudly, but the Government say that the subsidy has become a crutch and the industry is now ready to go it alone. I very much hope that the Government are right, because there are a great many jobs in the solar industry in the south-west that I want to continue.
Finally, I very much welcome the Paris announcement. The Government have a real challenge in ensuring that we achieve the right domestic policies to achieve the aims, while maintaining our security of supply and keeping bills down. There are plenty of opportunities, not least on generation, but my personal interest is very much in achieving greater management of demand, which I hope the Government will pursue.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wells (James Heappey), although it is saddening how often during the past few years so many Conservative Members have had to stand up to speak about the terrible floods that have impacted on the communities they represent. It would be remiss of us if our discussion did not begin with a thought for the people of Cumbria and for others across the UK who are facing a second flooding in just six years, many of whom will spend Christmas away from their own homes.
In its latest report on adaptation progress, the Committee on Climate Change rated planning for residual flood risk to existing properties at red, both in terms of the plans in place and actual progress. As the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admitted during her response last week, the models that we currently use need updating. I will make two points about that.
First, many people are sick and tired of being told that the floods that have wrecked their homes are one-in-100-year events, given that the severe floods we have seen during the past 10 years suggest that such erratic weather will be far more frequent than once every century. If the Government and all of us are to learn anything from that—I hope we can work on a cross-party basis on these issues—it is that the patterns of weather in the past century are a poor guide to future risk, so we must ensure that the new models we need take that into account or the public will gain false comfort about their own security.
Secondly, the Government must work across Departments. It is very worrying that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs failed to answer what I thought was a very common-sense question: “Have you had a discussion with the Chancellor about the zones that Ministers are fast-tracking for housing development?” I believe we need more homes—do not get me wrong on that—but we really must have a joined-up policy across the Government if we are to make progress both on housing and on limiting the risk to our communities. I found it very worrying that she failed to answer that question, but perhaps the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change will return to that point in her summing up. On that area, as on climate change, if we can find a better way to work together—this is not to say there should not be scrutiny—I know that Labour Members would want to work not only to make the future better, more secure and brighter for ourselves, but to show leadership in the world.
That brings me to Paris. Many positive things have come out of the Paris agreement. Whatever the importance of using “should” rather than “shall” or “shall” rather than “should”, we still have an unprecedented, universally binding deal that aims to limit the temperature rise to beneath 2 °C degrees and to make efforts to stay below a 1.5 °C rise, which is very welcome. Progress has been impressive. I have to commend the Energy and Climate Change Secretary for her work on this; I must also commend our French colleagues, who despite everything that has happened in France recently, managed to hold a vital conference for the world and to produce such a good result.
As we stand, however, the UK does not have the policies in place to deliver either the UK’s 2020 renewables target or its fourth carbon budget. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) said, the Government’s recent “reset” contained little to help us get there. I want the UK to develop a credible plan to deliver the 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 that our groundbreaking Climate Change Act 2008 requires. That is important in itself, but it is also a stepping stone or a foundation for moving towards net zero emissions.
In the limited time I have left, I want to say this: net zero is a huge ask. As Paris demonstrated, the world is a long way from that 2050 aspiration of 80%, and even further from that of net zero. We must therefore begin work on what a net zero carbon society should require. We must look at the research and engage scientists and engineers to make this a reality. If I learned one thing during my time as shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change it was that my job was not just to talk to the converted, but to convince those for whom this is not top of their agenda that it is the reality for them, and is something of which they can be a part and from which they can benefit. Let us get down to the practicalities and, across the House, make this happen.
I do not have a direct constituency interest in this subject, but I want to talk about Paris. It is a pleasure to follow the last two Labour speakers, the right hon. Members for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and for Don Valley (Caroline Flint). Much as I commend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for the work she has done, I am afraid that my analysis of Paris is not quite so sanguine as the opinions we have so far heard.
It is not true that the INDCs add up to a 2.7 °C limit. That analysis is somewhat dishonest because it is based only on contributions continuing further on a basis to which countries have not committed themselves. The right hon. Member for Don Valley called Paris a “universally binding” agreement, but it is not binding on anybody. That does not mean it is not a good start, and we have to start somewhere, but the fundamental point is that if the world had adopted the Climate Change Act in the way the shadow Secretary of State said, we would be on track for a rise of 1.5 °C. The United Nations framework convention on climate change says that to get to the limit of a 1.5 °C rise the world must reduce carbon emissions by between 75% and 90%, while the Climate Change Act states 80%. A fair challenge would be that developing countries find it much harder to do than developed countries. I accept that China, India and such countries need more slack, so the implication is that we perhaps need to go further, which is where some of the right hon. Lady’s numbers come from.
I want to spend the minutes available to me in analysing the performance of the developed countries at Paris, and particularly of the EU. One of the most startling factors about the INDCs that were put into the mix in Paris is that the EU submission for a 40% reduction over 40 years—1% a year, as it were—is 33% slower than the reduction demanded by the Climate Change Act and its resulting budgets. That is not all, however, because if we take out the UK bit of that EU INDC, the implication is that the rate of reduction will be between 40% and 45% slower than that for the UK. That is odd: what do other EU countries find so difficult about reducing emissions that we apparently do not find difficult? Parts of the EU are developing, relatively speaking, because they are catching up in terms of GDP. It might be reasonable for countries such as Poland and Romania to be given more slack. However, the truth is that countries such as Romania have made the most rapid reductions, so that is not the issue. Romania has made big reductions, because the 1990 baseline coincided with a period when its industry needed to be sorted out.
The issue is in the developed countries such as Austria, which has increased its emissions by 20% since 1990, and Ireland, Holland, Spain and Portugal, none of which have reduced their emissions since 1990. The House has criticised the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for a lack of ambition, yet we are part of an EU submission to a global conference that puts up with that kind of thing. I ask her to address why that can happen and what sanctions there are on those countries within the EU aegis that can stop it happening.
There are reasons why it is happening. Some countries have banned nuclear power. Some have banned carbon capture and storage. It is not that they have just not invested in it—it is illegal in some countries. CCS is illegal in Germany and it is building brand new unabated coal power stations. Its emissions are a third higher than ours per capita and per unit of GDP.
My hon. Friend is always a team player. The extra minute will be put to great use.
The EU, taken collectively and not including us, failed abysmally to put forward at Paris anything close to what the right hon. Member for Doncaster North said, probably rightly, would need to be delivered to achieve 1.5°. We have to understand what the sanctions are for that, but the reasons are many and varied.
The EU got completely bogged down, as Members of this House sometimes do, in a fixation with renewables and renewables targets, rather than thinking about a carbon reduction target. Countries have put in place considerable renewables, but continue to burn coal at scale. The truth is that if we replaced coal with gas globally, it would be equivalent to increasing the renewables in the world by a factor of five. There are many points like that.
The fundamental point, which the Secretary of State will have to address in her high ambition coalition, which presumably does not contain Austria, is that we must ensure some fairness. Otherwise, places such as Redcar and Motherwell will have to get used to what has happened to those places, and that really is not right.
Colleagues from all parts of the House are rightly praising the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for her role in Paris. I do not have time to go into that at great length, except to say that she did indeed play a blinder, as did this country as a whole. However, it is very difficult to stack up her signing the agreement in Paris with her slashing subsidies for renewables, ending the green deal and privatising the green investment bank. The Secretary of State is perhaps, if she will forgive me, the José Mourinho of environmental politics—impressive on the international stage, woeful domestically.
Climate change is clearly not an esoteric matter, although some would consider it to be so. The impact on my constituency, throughout my county and on other places is very real. The impact on the families who will be out of their homes at Christmas—the hundreds upon hundreds of children who are not able to look forward to Christmas at home—is utterly heart-breaking. I want us to think, first and foremost, about the human cost. Among the things that I am seeking from the Government is additional support for Cumbria’s health and social services to support mental health provision and counselling for people in desperate, desperate need.
I praise the response not just of the emergency services, which have been absolutely fantastic, but of organisations such as Kendal Cares and the churches in the south Lakeland area. The response can absolutely reassure us about human nature, as people who had lost almost everything went next door to help people who had lost absolutely everything.
The scale of the floods needs to be put in a numerical sense. PricewaterhouseCoopers reckons that the cost of the floods to Cumbria is £500 million. Therefore, the Government support of £50 million, although welcome, is clearly nowhere near enough. In the few moments available to me, I will set out why we need additional support and ask for it.
There are some who will dismiss people who are uninsured or underinsured as feckless. They are not feckless; they are penniless. Very often, these are people who could not afford insurance in the first place or who could afford only insurance that was cheap and, therefore, inadequate. There are many people who live in areas that flood regularly and who, therefore, could not get coverage in the first place.
The £500 grants from the Cumbria Community Foundation are utterly welcome and I praise it, but £500 will not get people far if we consider what we would lose if the ground floor of our homes flooded—all the white goods and all the other things we need to make life possible. We need support so that the £500 can be increased significantly.
We need to recognise that the £5,000 per household that the Government are promising is for flood prevention in the future, not to help people who have lost significant amounts of money right now. That money should be delivered to people in Cumbria right away and directly.
I reiterate my comment about the A591. To those who heard the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs say earlier that it was passable in a 4x4, I say that I was there yesterday and it could just about be passed on a bicycle. It is not true.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. He is doing an excellent job for his constituents in Carlisle. He is right that the investment now will help the county in the long run. I ask the Government to invest in making sure that the A591 is rebuilt and reopened in a matter of weeks, not months, because the current situation is devastating for the local economy.
There is also a plan on the table from Cumbria Tourism that the Government need to provide funding for right now. There is a short-term, immediate strategy—as in, today—to boost the economy up to Christmas through a marketing campaign and a medium-term campaign to make sure we get back on our feet.
Other parts of the Lake district have been hugely hit. The village of Staveley has been cut in two by the closure of its bridge. Again, we need support for that in weeks, not months. Likewise, the bridge that connects the two communities at Backbarrow, which was lost six years ago in 2009, is closed again and needs investment straight away to make sure it is reopened.
It is important that people get the message, and that the Government get out the message that Cumbria is open for business. I was in Grasmere yesterday. I cannot think of a more Christmassy place to be at this moment, but equally I cannot think of a quieter place. People are not going there because they think the place is closed. It is not. Please go there. Please will the Government get the message out that that is what people need to do?
I have a quick note about farmers. I am very concerned that the Government are planning to close the Lyth valley pumps in June. I was there yesterday and we cannot allow that to happen. Will the Government commit to funding the pumps beyond the end of June? Will they also commit to help farmers who have lost stock in tragic circumstances up and down the county? They must recognise that much of the money that goes into keeping the Lyth valley dry is about protecting infrastructure, which the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) mentioned. The A590 is often flooded as a consequence of that farmland not being drained, so the pumps are important for infrastructure too.
I want to make a final point about the long-termism that is needed. We often hear the phrase “long-term economic plan”. The problem is that we had an autumn statement recently in which the Chancellor pulled out of his hat lots of white rabbits, but none of those white rabbits were for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Department for Communities and Local Government. The three Departments that we desperately need to be on the frontline to protect people in Cumbria are massively denuded. We have local authorities—South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria County Council and others—working very hard and doing a very good job, but with about 20% less people and resources than they had six years ago. It is therefore vital that the Government commit to providing the £500 million that PricewaterhouseCoopers has identified so that we can rebuild our communities, support our damaged people and communities, get people back in their homes, and do so quickly.
I am speaking today, first, because we have to praise the historic agreement that was made in Paris. I commend not only my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, but the whole team and Labour Members for all the work they did in the past. We also have to send commiserations to all those poor people suffering from flooding. We are dealing with both those things in today’s motion.
I felt I had to speak, coming as I do from Somerset, like my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey). Taunton Deane was, sadly, at the heart of the terrible flooding of 11,500 hectares of land from December 2012 right up, really, until January 2014. So I really can sympathise with the poor folk of Cumbria.
In Somerset the impact was enormous. The cost for businesses, with all the knock-on effects, was estimated at £147 million, and it affected half of all the businesses in Somerset, even the ones that were not flooded, because of the road closures and things like that.
It was a once-in-a-hundred-year event, so it was not exactly expected, and it was not just a result of not dredging rivers, although that was one of the things that made a difference. The rivers Parrett and Tone had not been dredged during the 1990s—and I am afraid I level that at our friends in the Labour party because it was under their Government that the dredging stopped.
The flooding was also caused by a combination of many other things, including increased run-off from the urban areas around Taunton. But whether this extreme flooding was to do with climate change—that is still debateable—we clearly do have to be prepared for these events. In Somerset I am very pleased at the programme that has been put in place to set up the Somerset Rivers Authority. This has come with general agreement and much debate. A precept is to be set on everyone in Somerset and legislation will be passed to introduce it. That will then deal with the wider programme of tackling flooding in the future.
I commend the Government. They have spent £15.5 million on flood defences in Somerset, protecting thousands of properties, and have made an overall commitment of £35 million until 2021. They are taking flooding extremely seriously.
I thank my hon. Friend, and I know he was at Paris. I was going to mention that at the end of my speech, but I will mention it now. Nobody has so far mentioned one of the crucial aspects of this debate: the investment in science and technology to enable us to meet all these commitments so that we can get to our zero rating. With our brains and our scientists, I am absolutely sure we can do it.
The investment in flooding is money well spent, because every £1 spent on flood defences gives between £4 and £9 of benefit to the economy. So it is well worth doing.
With my environmental-agricultural hat on, and as the new chairman of the all-party group on ancient woodland and veteran trees, I want to highlight a few areas, and here I have some agreement with the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). There are many other things we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather in our environment. There is the wider catchment approach. There is working with farmers and landowners to slow the flow of water into the river basins, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) will agree with me on that. There is more tree planting; I applaud the Government’s commitment to plant 11 million trees—that is one for every five people. Perhaps we could plant a few more. Those trees will also help to slow the flow of water. Re-wilding is another area we could be looking at, as well as silt traps, ponds, and storage areas higher up in the valley to stop the water coming down quite so quickly.
All of those things can be, and ought to be, included, and I will put in my usual call for more grass. Grass and mixed farming economies are the way forward. Grass holds in the water as well, and sequesters the carbon. I hope that the forestry Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), will look more closely at including grass in our policies. [Interruption.] We may laugh at that, but this is a serious way forward and it is great for the management of the countryside.
On climate change, I commend the Government on everything they are doing. We have taken immense steps forward in securing this ambitious global deal, and we are moving in the right direction, but there is much still to do. Zero carbon emissions is a testing ambition.
The Opposition are saying that we have not made great progress on renewables, but we only have to see that in Devon and Somerset and across the west country there are huge amounts of solar panels in the fields. That did not happen under the last Government—and in fact many of our constituents complain that there are too many.
My hon. Friend raises an extremely good point and we have seen the roll-out of solar renewables. We have made immense progress. Some 16% of our energy is from renewables and that is because of the steps this Government have taken. People are still buying into renewables and it has got cheaper. The cost of the panels has come down, which is why we need to remove the subsidies and put the subsidies where we can have more energy from other sources that need a bit of a boost. So I am right with the Secretary of State on her policy here.
We need to lead by example. We have been doing it, but we need to continue to do so. I am a great environmentalist, but we have to do this within the constraints of the economy, which is something this Government are dealing with at all costs. We have had a debt to deal with. We are still paying off the legacy left over. We have to be realistic about what we are doing, and we have to provide security of energy at the lowest cost to the taxpayer, so whatever we do, there has got to be a balance.
Big applause for the Government for their big step in getting rid of coal-fired power stations. If there was one single thing we could do for low-carbon energy, it was that. Applause also for Hinkley Point, obviously, which is very near my constituency. It is the biggest commitment to low-carbon energy we could possibly think of.
I shall wind up by saying we can all do our own bit at home as well. We can all buy in, like Quantock Eco, Transition Taunton, Transition Athelney, and the Somerset Wildlife Trust. We can cut our air miles, make fewer car journeys, grow our own food. We can buy into it, and we need to buy into this whole situation. We need to do it through every Government Department. We need to do it across the world. We need to do it in our own homes.
First, may I apologise for my absence from my place last week? I am sure hon. Members are aware of the devastating floods we have had in Cumbria—it has been discussed during this debate. As my constituency is in Workington in Cumbria, I felt I should stay there to visit and support as many people and businesses as possible who had been affected by the floods. I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement during Question Time that she intends to visit Cockermouth on Tuesday.
I hope Members will indulge me for speaking from the heart about the events of the past 10 days or so. On the Sunday morning—nine days ago—I stood with shopkeepers and residents, shocked and horrified at seeing Cockermouth main street under water again after only six years. Every Member here will have a high street. I ask them to imagine standing at the end of that high street with the shopkeepers, with that whole high street, from top to bottom, under water. It is shocking. After the water subsided over the coming days, we were able to assess the damage.
Flooding is not just about water. There is a lot talked about water, but water is incredibly powerful and in Cumbria it roars down the fells in the overloaded becks. It carries everything in its path. Drains back up and overflow, and oil tanks get swept away.
Last week in the village of Flimby I stood with a family on their effluent-soaked carpet. I stood inside homes in Cockermouth that stank of diesel oil. I watched families in Workington throw decorated Christmas trees into skips. I visited the flooded village school in Brigham and went to the town of Aspatria to see more damage.
Parents are now telling me that their children are too frightened to go to sleep in case it happens again. They are frightened of the rain. It is heart-breaking.
Our community is resilient and has pulled together in an extraordinary way. I pay tribute to the local councils, the emergency services, the coastguard, mountain rescue, supermarkets that gave free food, the nuclear industry, the Kirkgate centre and so many volunteers, from Churches Together to Muslims 4 Humanity. I thank everybody throughout the country who has given money to the Cumbria Community Foundation for their generosity.
I want to pay particular tribute to Neil Banks, who works for Allerdale Borough Council. We have some flats where 34 elderly residents were trapped. They could not get out and they had no power, water or food. Neil crawled through with water and torches and gave them the help and support they needed.
One young family told me that they had bought their home because they were reassured that the floods of 2009 were a once in a 100-year or a once in a 1,000-year event. They believed that the floods were unprecedented. We have to stop using that language. The Environment Agency told me that the flood defences worked—that they did what they were designed to do. They made a big difference in some areas and to some families, but that is little comfort to the many people who have been made homeless just before Christmas.
What do we need to do? I welcome the Government’s announcement about the Cumbrian floods partnership group. I urge the group to invite Cockermouth and district chamber of trade to be a member, because it has invaluable experience to offer. I am pleased that the group is to be chaired by the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whom I thank for coming to Cockermouth on Sunday.
I thank my right hon. Friend.
The Government have said that they will fund more defences, but the costs for Cumbria alone are estimated to be £500 million, and the solutions are about so much more than building higher and higher walls. The water has to go somewhere, and if we are not careful, we will build flood defences in one place with the result that protecting one area means that another takes the water and is damaged.
We must look at our design of bridges. The bridge in Cockermouth ended up being a dam as it became more and more clogged with debris. We need to look at planning—it has already been said that there is simply too much building on floodplains. I fully endorse the appeal that my predecessor, Lord Campbell-Savours, made last week in the other place for a complete ban on housing development on the West Cumbria flood plain.
I want to end by talking about insurance. Time and again, residents told me that, after the floods of 2009, they were either unable to get household insurance or it was offered with huge excesses—most commonly, £10,000. Now they cannot sell their homes.
I thank my hon. Friend for making such a powerful speech. Does she share my concern that insurance problems also affect many small local businesses, which are struggling to make ends meet and often cannot afford the premiums?
I thank my hon. Friend for making that important point. We are concerned in my constituency that, if we do not do something about the problem of insurance, we will end up with abandoned streets that might as well be demolished. In fact, some local residents are so distressed that they have asked whether the Government would consider buying their houses and knocking them down because it would be cheaper and less stressful than building a flood barrier.
What help will the Government give my constituents in this position? They are honest, hard-working, decent people. Many have lost not just the contents of their homes, but their cars, and some have lost their livelihoods.
We were told that Flood Re was the answer after the previous floods, but it has been a fat lot of good to my constituents today. It is late—it is not expected to come in until next year; it is arbitrary and does not cover properties built after 2009, despite houses continuing to be built on floodplains, and it does not cover businesses. When people have insurance, the insurance companies are refusing to pay for resilience measures.
My constituents need help now. They need it quickly. Climate change is here—its effects can be seen in Cumbria. We need a Government who are serious about having a long-term strategy to prevent this from happening again. We need the money and resources to make that happen.
Order. Before I call the next speaker, I remind the House that the rules on interventions exist to allow debate to happen. It is right to intervene, and it is great for certain Members to be complimented by extremely senior members of their party—that has happened to some extent on both sides of the House this afternoon—but when the clock adds an extra minute for an intervention, it does not add any more minutes to the day or to the debate. It means that someone less fortunate in their placing on the list will speak for less time. I appreciate that there are many people whom Members would like to speak for less time, and many whom they would prefer to speak for more time, but one has to be careful about how that is managed.
I am not sure into which category I fall, although I suspect that I know.
First, I express my sympathy to all those victims of floods—Monmouthshire has been affected by flooding in the past, of course—and all those who helped with the clean-up. However, I take issue with the idea that man-made climate change has caused all that. It is unfortunate that the two issues have been mixed up.
We have had few debates about global warming and climate change. Climate change has been with us for millions of years, ever since the Earth was created. I urge the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to ask a few hard questions of those who are frankly displaying some hysteria about climate change. In the past 2,000 years, there have been periods of warming and cooling. It was warmer during the Roman period; it got cooler in the dark ages; it was probably warmer during the medieval period than it is now, and it got cooler again until about 1680, during the so-called little ice age.
One of the first questions to which the Secretary of State should find an answer is how much of the small amount of warming that has taken place in the past two centuries—about 0.8°—is down to man-made carbon emissions and how much is due to natural factors, such as the warming that must have taken place as a result of coming out of the little ice age.
Ninety-five per cent. of climate scientists seem to suggest that man-made climate change is the problem. Many of us would like my hon. Friend to be right in his scepticism because that means that everything will be okay. Unfortunately, 95% of climate scientists, such as those we met at the Royal Society, disagree with him.
I take issue with my hon. Friend. The 95% or 97% figure is floated around often, and I have done some research on it. It appears to have come from the Zimmerman/Doran survey, which was sent out to 10,257 potential respondents, who claimed to be climate scientists. Only 77 responded and 75 said, “I’m a climate scientist and it’s all down to man.” [Interruption.] If any other hon. Members know where the figure came from, they are welcome to let me know.
The IPCC’s most recent summary for policy makers has also put out some misleading statements. Page 17 of the “Summary for Policymakers 2013” states that it is extremely likely that more than half of the increase in global average temperatures from 1951 was caused by man. However, of that 0.8° figure, only about 0.5° comes from the second half of the 20th century. That means that, if the IPCC is correct, only just over 0.25° out of 0.8° was caused by man. That means that more than half is due to other, more natural factors.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change may also like to ask about the lack of firm correlation between the increases in temperature and those in carbon emissions. Even in the past 200 years, there has been a sharp increase in carbon dioxide, but there has not been a sharp increase in temperatures. They have gone up and down. They were going up between 1910 and 1940 and they were going down markedly between 1940 and 1977, leading many to believe that we were on the brink of another ice age. From the mid-1970s until 1997, temperatures were rising, as were carbon emissions, but from 1997 or 1998 until now, there has been a sharp increase in CO2 but no increase in temperatures. We may wish to ask why that is.
I have had meetings with the Royal Society and the Met Office, and I recently asked that question of Professor Jim Skea—a lead author on the IPCC—in a public meeting at the House of Commons, chaired by Lord Deben. I asked why there had been no increase in temperatures for the past 17 or 18 years, and he said that that was statistically insignificant. That is a fair comment. He was not trying to say that this is about oceans or because the volcanoes are cooling, or any of the other many theories; he said that it is statistically insignificant, and he may have a point. However, if the past 17 years of no increase in temperature are statistically insignificant, why are the 27 or so years before that when there was an increase in temperature so statistically significant that we have to go ahead with all sorts of policies that will have a massive impact on homeowners and businesses in the UK?
Finally—I do not think anyone will be kind enough to intervene on me, although if someone wishes to, I shall be more than happy—
All Members of the House appreciate scepticism, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s scepticism is sincere. The problem is that if he spreads that kind of nonsense, he provides people with an excuse not to take action, and gives comfort to those who want us to do nothing about the biggest challenge facing humanity.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s kind words—I think—but I am just trying to raise questions. If he wants me to go to my constituents and try to sell policies that will push up their energy bills and make it more likely that some of those in the manufacturing industry will be out of work, I must have answers to questions that have not yet been provided. Why has there been no warming since 1997? Why is there no correlation over the past few hundred years? What percentage of 0.8° is down to natural factors? Those questions are important. Of the CO2 that has gone into the atmosphere, why has nobody queried the fact that less than 5% is man-made? People talk about CO2 as some sort of pollutant, but it is a perfectly natural gas and most of it is generated naturally from the earth and the sea.
We can all talk in different debates about different views on what causes climatic change, but that is no consolation to the people of Cumbria who want to know when their insurance companies will pay up. That is the immediate problem.
The people of Cumberland are right to want to know that, but the flooding should not be blamed on something that is unproven when the impact of changes that we make will affect people across the UK. Opposition Members were the first to complain about policies that have pushed up energy prices and made it more difficult for manufacturers such as those in the steel industry to make a profit. Some manufacturers, such as those in Redcar, have recently closed, partly because of those high energy costs. With all due respect, I say to the Secretary of State that Opposition Members will not support her policies if they lead to an increase in energy prices. She will be attacked by the Opposition when steel and other manufacturing plants close, and she will be attacked for causing fuel poverty.
I cannot at the moment. Aid agencies talk about trying to drive up living standards in the third world, but they are making it harder for African villagers to get access to cheap electricity from coal. Environmentalists talk about the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but they are totally opposed to nuclear power. They talk about wanting more wind power, but they are totally opposed to fracking for gas, which is necessary if we want nuclear energy. There is a great deal of inconsistency and many unanswered questions, and I ask the Secretary of State to respond to them.
Given recent controversies about the way that I have addressed other hon. Members, I will say only that the speech by the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) was enthusiastic, and I will not refer to its content.
On behalf of my constituents, I want to express solidarity with the people of Cumbria and other areas, and across the bay into Lancaster, because of the dreadful situation that they have been in over the past week. I pay my respects to, and thank, the many agencies that have genuinely pulled out all the stops to help people at this difficult time, from national agencies to community organisations and individual members of the community who have pulled together.
I also give my heartfelt thanks to fellow parliamentarians. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) made a magnificent speech and she is doing a wonderful job for her constituents at this difficult time. Despite really challenging conditions, The Bay radio managed to keep broadcasting and effect an emergency service throughout that period, and I am thankful to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) for reminding me of that.
The debate on responsibility and past fault is valid, and it helps us to understand what has gone wrong in public policy and what has worked. However, it only goes so far, and it is important that the House focuses on what has been deficient and what can be done in future to make it better. In that sense, I hope that Ministers will have the courage to assess the issue dispassionately. Where they identify that the current trajectory is insufficient, I hope they will take the difficult steps of arguing with their colleagues to put those things right for the future. They owe it to the people of Cumbria and the north-west who are suffering so badly, but also to the whole country, to ensure that it is recognised that these floods will not happen only once in 100 years. It makes a mockery of Government science if we cling to that description, given the prevalence of such events in recent years.
In the time I have left I want to push for answers and further action on specific issues in my area regarding what happens next. In 2009 Furness was badly hit by floods, and some homes are still suffering from the six-year process to get back on their feet, and the difficulty of getting insurance. This time we were more fortunate, but transport links were affected when the A roads at both ends of my constituency were flooded and became impassable. That occurrence is all too frequent in that area, not simply because of adverse weather conditions, but because of accidents. I urge the Environment Secretary to speak to the Transport Secretary and agree to reassess the A590 and areas that are flooded such as Levens and Lindale, and to make anti-flooding measures investment priorities. Such measures are really needed and could genuinely be a matter of life or death, given the vital health services that we often have to access across Morecambe bay.
I call on South Lakeland District Council to reopen the issue of building on floodplains in Ulverston and other areas. It has set its face against such a reassessment, but surely these events will give them the courage to think again. Finally, let me add to the message from the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron). I have been contacted by Anita Garnett of the Ulverston Brewing Company, who passed on the huge concern from local pubs because people are not visiting at this vital time. South Cumbria and Furness remains open for business, and that message must go out loud and clear.
My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) asked for evidence for his constituents. A quick check on Google shows that the NASA site states that the five-year average for global temperatures is rising by 0.75% a year, and that the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000. That may help.
I do not know Mr Skea, but I do know of NASA. And I have another minute on the back of that intervention, which I appreciate.
There has been a fourfold increase in extreme weather events since the turn of the 19th century, and we have all seen the terrible scenes affecting homes, businesses and farmers and the devastation as the water recedes. In my constituency, the town of Pickering has suffered devastating floods four times in 10 years. The Secretary of State joined me in opening an innovative scheme there called Slow the Flow, which other Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), have mentioned. This involves upstream attenuation measures, bunds, the planting of 60,000 trees, dealing with timber debris and the restoration of wetlands, all of which will help matters upstream. I urge the Secretary of State to look at this as a model for future activity.
Our television screens have been dominated in recent weeks by the flow of migrants across continents. Perhaps this is a warning of the much greater population movements ahead if we do not tackle climate change. It is a threat to our lives and our livelihoods and to national, global and economic security. I welcome the Secretary of State’s efforts in Paris. She showed great leadership in getting together 190 nations in a single unanimous agreement. There are difficult choices ahead, and I do not envy Ministers who have to make tough decisions many years in advance amid the many voices and choices.
Credit where it is due, the UK has a proud record on climate change. In the climate change performance index, the UK is No. 2, behind only Denmark and way ahead of most other western countries. We had the world’s first green investment bank and the world’s first tidal lagoon, and we are a world leader in offshore wind. We have trebled renewable energy production to 19%, but we have much more to do. The energy performance of our housing stock needs to be improved. We need to replace the complex, defunct and ineffective green deal. We also need to invest further in renewables and energy storage.
My hon. Friend talks about the insulation of homes, and we need to do a lot more for solid wall properties. Many of the rural areas in our constituencies have such properties, but a lot of the green deals simply do not stack up as a result of the extra cost involved in the insulation of solid wall properties.
I absolutely agree. We need a new scheme. Owing to the demographic of our housing stock, we have some of the least energy-efficient housing stock in Europe.
We must also be pragmatic. Only 7% of our energy comes from renewables today, and fossil fuels will be part of the mix for the foreseeable future. There is an MI5 maxim that we are only four meals away from anarchy. We are probably only two dark days and nights away from anarchy, too. Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and we have to keep the lights on.
There has to be an understanding that shale gas—natural gas—is a fossil fuel, and that if we continue to burn it in ever-increasing amounts to replace the coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage, we will never hit the limits that we have just agreed in Paris only a week ago.
I will come to that point shortly.
Let us look at the situation in the US, which is the second biggest emitter of carbon dioxide. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US has made great progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and an important reason for that is its production of shale gas. Environmental campaigners such as Stephen Tindale of Climate Answers and the Labour shadow energy Minister, Baroness Worthington, have expressed support for fracking as a way to reduce carbon emissions but, crucially, only in conjunction with investment in carbon capture and storage and low-carbon energy generation, storage and distribution.
There is a shale gas application in my constituency. Having heard both sides of the debate over many months, I decided to visit Pennsylvania, where fracking has happened, to see whether it is possible to do it safely and in a way that does not industrialise the countryside. I believe that that is possible, but we need to paint a picture for local people to show them that. At the moment, we are losing the PR war with those who are simply against fossil fuels per se. Fossil fuels are going to remain part of the mix.
Our regulations are strong—they are certainly much stronger than those in the United States—but I believe that we need a lead agency and independent supervision of the regulations. I also believe that we need a local plan, so that residents can see how their area will change or, as I believe, not change. In my constituency, there are already 10 conventional gas well sites, and most of the residents do not even know where they are. The local producers say they will need another 10 more sites and, crucially, 950 wells. That scares people, but 10 more sites are relatively easy to screen. In my constituency, there are hundreds of pig and poultry farms whose visual impact is much greater than that of a fracked well site.
We must win the argument publicly, so that people can see that fracking will not change the nature of their countryside and that it can be done safely. We must proceed cautiously. We must produce the evidence, and ensure that the public have full access to that evidence, if we are to win the argument. We are in an age of wonderful technology and we can paint a picture through computer-generated images and time-lapse photography to show people how it is possible to move towards a much cleaner source of fossil fuels and to provide an important bridge to a carbon-free future.
Floods are clearly devastating at any time, but never more so than at this time of year. We have heard a number of eloquent speeches about the devastation that the floods have wrought, but we also need to remember that we are in a fortunate position, as a rich advanced nation, in that we can afford to rebuild, to rehouse and to protect those who are affected by flooding. Those who are affected by climate change in other parts of the world will not be so fortunate.
For me, the stand-out aspect of the Paris agreement was the $100 billion for the mitigation of climate change. That will allow the poorest nations access to the finance they need to develop in a way that will allow the planet to be protected. It will also give us the opportunity to lock in low carbon emissions without locking in poverty. That is fundamental to the way in which we deal with what has rightly been described as the greatest threat that humanity is facing.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) mentioned the Scottish Government’s climate justice fund, and we as a party are rightly proud of that. This is not a devolved matter, but we have sought to put our money where our mouth is. That money has to be seen as an additional contribution, however; it cannot be taken out of the pot because of what we have done. That needs to be respected nationally and repeated internationally.
We have had many debates in this place on the changes that have been made to the renewables obligation and to the green economy more widely. It disappoints me to state that our target in Scotland of a 100% renewable electricity generation is under threat because of changes to the renewables obligation and the prevarication over contracts for difference. There has also been much slower progress over heat, which represents a bigger challenge in relation to carbon reduction. It is pleasing that there will still be some form of support through the renewable heat incentive, but in the context of what we are dealing with following Paris, the £700 million that has been taken out seems like yet another short-sighted move.
Speaking of short-sighted approaches, the decision on carbon capture and storage is one of the worst that we have heard, and I will continue to bang the drum about that. There has been prevarication over CCS for a number of years. This process just needs to be done. We are talking about spending billions of pounds to prevent the symptoms, but we are not trying to tackle the cure. If we were to put £1 billion into carbon capture and storage, the reduction in the impact of flooding would be a potential game changer. Using carbon capture and storage is the most straightforward way of dealing with the matter. It also has the least impact on our economic model. It allows us to extract the fossil fuels that we discussed—shale, North sea oil or whatever—without having to invest. We will still have to invest in other technologies, but this gives us an opportunity.
Did the hon. Gentleman share a sense of comedy yesterday when the Secretary of State spoke on this matter? She said:
“I believe that CCS is going to play an important part in decarbonising in the future”.—[Official Report, 14 December 2015; Vol. 603, c. 1297.]
She then went on to say that, just for now, the Government are cutting the £1 billion subsidy towards it.
It was comedy of the blackest sort. It is short-sighted and it does not take into account how we can target the reduction at industry, as has been ably suggested.
The action here falls very short of the rhetoric, and very, very short of what is required to deliver and protect those people, both at home and abroad, from the impact of climate change. We need to up our game. It is time that we reset the reset button. I am happy if we in the Scottish National party join the high ambition coalition of the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) here in the UK. The SNP is more than ready and willing to play our part in achieving that ambition.
May I associate myself with those who have expressed their condolences to the victims of the floods? I congratulate the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) on such a powerful speech on behalf of her constituents: I can certainly picture myself at the bottom of my high street in such a situation.
I am one of many MPs across the House who regard climate change as one of the most serious long-term economic and environmental threats that this country and our world face, although I had not quite appreciated the threat it posed to haggis, which was mentioned earlier.
Earlier this month, I, along with other Members, attended the GLOBE conference in Paris, where legislators, leading members of the judiciary, policymakers, the scientific and academic community, and business and civil society gathered to discuss the challenges in Paris and the post-2015 agenda.
We heard contributions from Deputy Jean-Paul Chanteguet, president of GLOBE France, Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist on the United Nations environment programme, Helen Clark, former President of New Zealand, Senator Ed Markey, and legislators from around the world. A cross-party delegation of MPs from the UK included members of the Energy and Climate Change Committee and the Environmental Audit Committee. We were ably led by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). When the Secretary of State sums up, perhaps he will mention the contribution of the GLOBE conference to the debate.
The feeling that I gauged during the conference was one of cross-party consensus and support for the ambitious deal in Paris. The presence of such a strong delegation from the UK was vital. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), who chaired the conference so ably.
The commitment by 195 nations to attempt to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature is truly historic. Inaction on climate change would cost us a great deal more than shifting to a decarbonised, climate-friendly way of life. I particularly welcome the legally binding, regular reviews and submissions of emission reduction targets. It is important that those countries will now have to come together regularly to review their climate plans and collectively ensure that the necessary action is taken to tackle climate change.
Countries being legally obliged to make new post-2030 commitments to reduce emissions every five years from 2025 is a welcome step forward. I also welcome the $100 billion fund from developed economies to help emerging and developing nations decarbonise their energy mix, which will provide welcome support to aid the transition from burning fossil fuels to clean energy sources.
Decarbonisation will have to be a key part of the UK’s fiscal policies—lip service will not be enough. I am confident that the Secretary of State agrees with me on that point.
My hon. Friend is making some powerful points about the importance of the climate change deal in Paris. Bringing it down to a local level, where he and I both live, does he agree that it is incredibly important that, this month, the snappily named “Severn River Basin District: flood risk management plan” is published, which will be on top of local flood resilience plans, because he and I both know the devastating impact that climate change has had on the River Severn and on our local areas?
I thank my hon. Friend for that point. I completely agree with him about the importance of that plan. I will do everything I can to help him work on it in the future.
I also thank the Secretary of State for her assurances during that conference that she would do everything possible to secure an ambitious deal. I commend her for playing such an important role in the successful negotiation. The deal sets out a clear long-term goal of near net zero emissions by the end of the century, and it represents a huge step forward in securing the future of our planet.
It is a privilege to speak in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall), who is a fellow member of the Environmental Audit Committee.
I will take leadership as my theme today. I am talking about the leadership that has been shown during the negotiations not just by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change but by the whole team that was out there. I was delighted to meet up with Lord Nick Bourne, an old colleague of mine from Swansea institute, and to urge him to show that leadership. The outcome was good, but I am sure that the Secretary of State and her team will agree when I say that it is as nothing unless we now rise to the challenge that it has set up. We are looking at 3.5° to 3.7° based on our current trajectory of global warming. If all the actions within the current package are delivered, we may be able to achieve 2.5°, or even 1.5° if we ratchet up our actions every year or every five years. The scale of this transition is huge; it is enormous. We cannot base it on our current plans, so the leadership that has been shown should be commended. We now need that leadership to turbo-charge what we do both here within the UK and in our international negotiations.
Once again I applaud the leadership that has been shown on the ground in areas of flooding, including in Hawick in Northern Ireland, in Wales, and in Workington, the scenes from which were described in the remarkable and emotional words of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman). I was in Workington back in 2009, after what we thought was the worst flooding we had ever seen. That came on the back of the 2005 floods, and here we are again. Back in 2009, more than 2,200 properties and 250 farms were affected, 25 bridges were closed, and 40 waste treatment works were closed—again there is that issue of resilience—and here we are again.
In response to the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), whom I love dearly, I have to say that he is completely wrong. We are not talking about this one event being down to climate change. It does not matter whether we are talking about the traumatic incidents in Cumbria, Scotland, north Wales, Ireland, Bangladesh, or the Maldives, it is a pattern of climate change that is unarguable and we must deal with it.
In the short time available, I must say to the UK Government that, if we are to make the Paris commitments work and go further, we really need a step change now. We need to go further on the international stage. I strongly urge the Minister and her team to go back and look at what we are doing at an EU level. I suggest that we are not being ambitious enough to meet that 1.5° or 2° target. In terms of this country, the right hon. Lady has admitted that we have a policy vacuum at the moment, specifically in regard to the closure of various schemes. I will not argue the pros and cons of it, but we have a policy vacuum none the less, whether it relates to energy efficiency in homes, the type of clean green energy that we produce, demand reduction, or residential or commercial properties. We are consistently being told by business people and others that there is a policy vacuum in all those areas.
My admiration for the hon. Gentleman has gone up hugely, because I was not going to be able to get in that point. He is right. We were a little frustrated by the lack of announcements on the Swansea Bay lagoon and strike prices in the autumn statement. Let us now see a commitment that will take forward not only the Swansea Bay lagoon, but the Cardiff Bay lagoon and all the ones that come after it. One of my recommendations to the Secretary of State would be this: let us use this as an opportunity to create jobs and to be a world leader so that we can export that technology, that know-how and those jobs. It is there for the taking. When Stern warned us about the challenges of climate change, he told us to make the early investment to save money down the line. That is what we must now do.
I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Will the hon. Gentleman comment on whether we need more detailed inspection within Government Departments so that we are all doing our bit? We have a green investment strategy in the Department for Transport, but what about all the other Departments? Should we be working together more?
The hon. Lady, who is so committed on these issues, is absolutely right. The approach needs to be cross-departmental and rigorous, and it needs a step change. We have been trying to turn the supertanker around slowly, but Paris says that that is not fast enough. Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has said that we need to do more. We heard recently from the head of the National Audit Office, who said that we need joined-up thinking and leadership in government. The hon. Lady is absolutely right.
One of the biggest commitments the Government could make—the Secretary of State and her team would have my support—is fully to accept what the Committee on Climate Change says about the outcomes of Paris. It said in its June report that we need to go further and faster. We will now need to go faster again and deliver more. There are opportunities with that. I ask the Secretary of State to accept that—I ask her to do it and get on with it, and in fact go beyond it if she can. She should look at how we can do that. What technologies should we invest in? Where will the private sector put its money? What do we do with the green investment bank? How does it play its part?
The Secretary of State should also fill the current gap from the fourth carbon budget. That is to do with leadership. It is great coming back from Paris with excellent commitments—they are better than many people were expecting. The UK played a leadership role there. We now need to take it to a whole other level. Paris means that it is not business as usual for us or for many other nations. Let us keep on leading and let us go further. I look forward to the Secretary of State saying how we will do that.
It has been an interesting debate and it is interesting to follow the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies), who spoke about his views on climate change.
We have talked a lot about the Paris deal. We have that relationship and what will turn out to be an historic agreement. I want to highlight another historic agreement —one made between the Northern Ireland Government and the Republic of Ireland Government back in 1950, which also included the Westminster Government. At that time, there was an agreement between the three Governments to have a hydropower station in the Republic of Ireland using the water that flowed from Lough Erne.
I am disappointed that the motion does not mention Northern Ireland at all. At least 16 roads are closed in my constituency and huge amounts of damage have been done to businesses and homes. Like other constituents in Cumbria, Scotland and other places, a number of my constituents will not be in their homes for Christmas, which is a demoralising situation. Local businesses—family-owned businesses—have lost more than £100,000 of stock and a lot of their Christmas business. That is devastating for them and for me, and it might actually put some of them out of business.
The farmlands, which have been highlighted, are where the agreement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland come into play. The levels of Lough Erne have not been investigated since 1950. We need that historic agreement to move on and we need a review of it. We need to ensure that some of the actions that took place at that time—in other words, dredging Lough Erne and ensuring that the levels were safe and reasonable—need to be carried out once again.
I appreciate that that is a devolved matter, but I am asking the UK Secretary of State to speak to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister in Northern Ireland to see whether there is flexibility and whether another agreement is needed from Westminster, just as there was in 1950. I note that the Secretary of State indicated a special finance scheme or a special scheme for farmers. I wonder whether there will be a knock-on effect, perhaps through the Barnett consequentials, to help farmers in Northern Ireland to clean up. It is important that we get assistance just as people in Cumbria in England and other places in Scotland will get assistance.
My colleagues from Scotland talked about the situation there. Unlike the Departments in Scotland, Departments in Northern Ireland have not dealt with the situation as well. People and staff on the ground have been very effective in helping businesses, domestic homes and farmers, but the Departments have not been effective at the wider aspect of planning. That is a key aspect. We do not want a repeat of what has happened this year. We had the same situation in 2009 that is being repeated six years later. We do not want another repeat in another four or six years.
I am appealing to the Secretary of State and the Government to do all they can to ensure that this does not happen again and, in my case, to liaise with officials and Ministers in the Northern Ireland Departments.
Order. While we had time limits of four or five minutes, several Members spoke for seven or eight minutes. They know who they are. Those who are still to speak can feel aggrieved—they can take it up with them and not with me. I therefore have to reduce the limit to three minutes.
I speak as the Member of Parliament for Lancaster and Fleetwood, a constituency that was affected by Storm Desmond and recent flooding. Although we are not in Cumbria, I urge hon. Members to remember that the effects of the flood went beyond those county boundaries.
I pay tribute to the role of The Bay, our local commercial radio station, which continued broadcasting. For many people, it was their only source of communication with the outside world for four days because we lost power. The station managed to get back online despite being flooded and despite power cuts to keep local people informed.
A lot has been said about the effects of the flooding of the city centre in Lancaster, but I want to say something about the impact on the Lune valley, a beautiful part of Lancashire that has a big farming community. I thank Jenny Walmsley, the chair of the Caton-with-Littledale parish council, who helped to introduce me to many more people I did not already know in that area. I welcome the news from the Government today about the support for farmers and look forward to seeing it go online.
The floods in recent weeks are consistent with what we should expect in a warming world. Met Office data show that annual rainfall has increased in the UK since the 1980s. Five out of the six wettest years on record have occurred since the start of the new millennium. That is a warning that I heed.
Businesses in my constituency have been badly affected. I pay tribute to the business people who stepped up and played a role when the water breached and flooded the city centre, including Mark Cutter, the landlord of the Robert Gillow pub. He opened up his pub and allowed people in when they were unable to return across the river after their Saturday nights out because the bridges had been hit by a shipping container. That reminds us of the force of nature. People enjoying the nightlife in Lancaster were stranded in our city centre.
Small businesses are particularly at risk from flooding and 52% of them do not have flood insurance. My fear is that that will increase in my constituency because insurance premiums will certainly increase. The Environment Agency’s long-term investment scenarios recommend an optimum overall investment of around £470 million a year more than is currently being spent. Therefore, the Government need to spend £2.5 billion in the period from 2015 to 2021. That might sound like a lot of money but, frankly, the cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of investing in protecting our communities from floods. I have seen first hand for the first time the devastation in the area where I live. I call on the Government to support our councils as they do their best to deliver. It should not take another flood for the Government to realise their mistake. I also call on them to take climate change and flood defences seriously.
UK Government analysis shows that global warming is expected to cause more intensive heavy rainfall events and we have to ask ourselves whether we are prepared for the ramifications of the changes in our weather.
The Government have set up a national flood resilience review in England and a report will be published in summer 2016. I hope the review will look far and wide for innovative, sustainable solutions, because it has rained before, it has flooded before and we have had reviews before. A solution will not be found by more parliamentarians navel-gazing. The cry of, “I want to make things right, just not right now” is how we fail to make things better. I hear the Government promising, over the next six years, £2.3 billion in capital funding on flood defences and I acknowledge that in 2014-15 the Government spent £171 million of taxpayers’ money on flood maintenance. But just like the wee boy with his finger stuck in a dam, required as these actions are, they do not solve the problems.
We have two problems facing us. First, we are screwing up our own environment—let us be absolutely clear about that. Turning that around is a massive task that sticking plaster politics will not address, yet the Government have decided to cut investment in carbon capture and storage technology, reduce funding for solar energy and block the growth of wind energy. Secondly, we need to find a way to alleviate the flooding we now see on an annual basis. Every additional instance of flooding means more lost revenue for local businesses or damage to homes. We owe it to our constituents to meet or exceed our targeted timeframes for tackling this issue.
We must also recognise that the way we have changed the environment has left us more exposed to the risks of flooding. We should give serious consideration to reforestation as one method of assisting flood prevention. Trees catch rainfall and take water from the soil. With careful planning, they could be our first line of defence. Managed correctly, trees lead us to the next logical stage: utilising biomass boilers can maintain a closed carbon cycle with no net increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. If all public buildings used biomass boilers and could source their fuel, primarily wood pellets or wood chips, locally, we would start to see a coherent localised industry employing local people as part of an environmentally friendly solution.
Reforestation is just one of many policies we could implement to improve our catchment management in the longer term. Contour ploughing, restoring upland bogs and reintroducing the meanders in straightened rivers are other measures we may wish to consider as we seek more permanent solutions. One change will not fix the problem, but a series of correct adjustments will help in a number of different ways. Whether it is reforestation or tackling climate change, it is time for us to be bold with our policy making and ensure that no more lives, businesses or homes are ruined by flooding.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan). I speak as a former chair of Flood Risk Management Wales, responsible for adapting Wales to climate change in terms of flood defences and investing the Welsh Assembly’s money through the Environment Agency and partners. I will be talking about adaptation.
On Paris, I will simply say that the Secretary of State needs to look carefully at the fact that the environmental imperatives agreed in Paris are not enforceable and binding in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, on which the Government are moving ahead.
On adaptation, we took evidence from Kuala Lumpur, which was drowned in water every year until it put in storage lakes upstream and tunnels underneath. In addition to woodland and so on, we need to consider the option of major capture and diversion of rivers upstream to stop flooding. On urban drainage systems, we need to consider the use of water butts. It is not enough just to have a few bits of grass verge for absorption; all public buildings—and, arguably, all new build—should have butts. Butts store water from the roof, which is then leaked down over a period of days, rather than just swept through the sewerage system all at once. The sewerage system, of course, takes floodwater and sewage. When it all comes up through the drains, everything is ruined. We can stop that happening by capture and storage on roofs. That would save enormous amounts of money.
On housing, we have heard that not enough is being spent on defences and maintenance, so defences can give a false sense of security. There needs to be investment not only on defence but on common-sense resilience too. Raising plugs on walls, installing steps on entry into houses and waterproofing downstairs would mean that after flooding, people could get back to their normal lives. Many people die from the trauma of flooding.
On insurance, poor people cannot get insurance. There should be local government schemes for insurance. That would also incentivise local authorities not to build on floodplains, which they do. Regardless of what the Environment Agency says, a lot of local authorities just keep on building. We need to ensure that we have sufficient emergency services, including armed services. Finally, we need to ensure the ratio of cost to value—we have heard some of the ratios today, such as 4:9. We need to ensure that poor people in low-value houses are protected. In Wales, we have changed the system, so it is not just those who live in a rich property area who receive flood defence. Those who are poor are protected and can get insurance. It is vital that we invest in adaption and I wish the Secretary of State the best of luck.
I am delighted to speak in this debate as the Scottish National party spokesperson on climate justice.
The flooding caused by Storm Desmond, which affected large areas of north-west England, southern Scotland, north Wales and Northern Ireland, has had devastating effects. At a time when most of us are looking forward to Christmas and trying to be organised for the forthcoming festivities, those most severely affected by the flooding are likely to be facing a more bleaker festive period away from their homes for the imminent future, with a significant clean-up process ahead of them. Our thoughts are first with those affected and we express our gratitude to all the emergency services involved alongside communities and local councils.
This is not an isolated event, however, and over recent years there have been a number of extreme floods in the UK, both during winter and summer months. Some people have experienced floods on multiple occasions. Extreme floods have a substantial human, emotional and financial toll on the individuals and communities affected, both in the immediate aftermath and over the long term. Flooding leads to homes and businesses having to be evacuated, loss of power, and to public amenities and transport links being closed. Most tragically of all, it has resulted in a number of fatalities.
In Scotland, the Scottish Government are very aware of the impact of climate change, both domestically and globally. They have introduced pioneering policies which aim to alleviate the effects of climate change both in Scotland and in developing countries across the world. In this regard, the Scottish Government have been investing in a number of initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and Scotland is well on its way to meeting its world-leading target of a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020. We have also made significant progress on building renewable energy resources, which, as well as providing a sustainable energy supply, promotes jobs and growth.
Does my hon. Friend recognise the contribution the Scottish Government have made, with the announcement of the £12 million climate justice fund to be extended over the next four years? Does she agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) on the importance of climate justice funding, including the $100 billion a year in addition to existing aid flows?
My hon. Friend’s intervention is timely, as I was just moving on to those very points.
The Scottish Government are aware of the importance of supporting developing countries around the world, and have been encouraging investment in their climate justice fund. In the past five years, the climate justice fund has already invested £6 million in 11 projects in four sub-Saharan African countries. In Malawi, for example, about 30,000 people now have access to safe, clean drinking water and over 100 communities have been trained in natural resource rights and management. The Scottish Government have also announced they will double their climate justice fund by pledging a further £12 million for developing countries to help lessen the impacts of climate change. This is important because it is recognised that richer countries have polluted more and for longer, and that we therefore have a responsibility to ensure developing countries can adapt adequately to climate change.
I applaud the hard work that UK Ministers, Scottish Ministers and Governments across the world put into the COP 21 agreement in Paris. I was honoured to play a small role by attending the legislators summit hosted by GLOBE International. I also had the pleasure of visiting the London Natural History Museum during recess. It got me thinking about global climate change and how it hit the dinosaurs of the past and led to their extinction. Climate change is not new, but it is once again reaching crisis point. We must learn the lessons of the past, not be the dinosaurs of the present, and protect this world for future generations.
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this fascinating debate.
As many hon. Members have pointed out, just six years ago Cumbria was hit by unprecedented floods, and once again, this year, it has been hit by unprecedented rainfall. More than a month’s rain fell in one day on Saturday 5 December, and main rivers across Cumbria exceeded the highest levels ever recorded. Storm Desmond led to road closures, rail disruption, school closures and loss of power supply to many homes and businesses owing to unforeseen flood damage at a substation in Lancaster, as a result of which hospitals had to work on emergency generators and Lancaster University had to declare the end of term one week early. I had my own, small experience of this: on Sunday 6 December, we had to drive to Lancaster to rescue our son from the university, which had been without power since Saturday evening. Surely power stations should be protected from flooding to prevent such disruption to our healthcare, education and business institutions. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has announced a national flood resilience review to assess our infrastructure, including electricity substations.
I want to mention the creation of a statutory duty on the fire and rescue service to respond to flooding. The Fire Brigades Union argues that a statutory duty on firefighters to attend floods would help fire and rescue services, other emergency services and the Government to plan effectively and reduce risk to life and property, and indeed such a duty has already been adopted in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The response to the recent floods has shown the emergency services, the military and the British people at their best. Communities have rallied round and helped those in need of shelter, food and clothing—they have been magnificent—but they need action and support from a Government who have failed to take the flood threat seriously.
Not only are better flood defences needed, but cuts to emergency services need to be addressed. Five fire stations in Cumbria are set to close in the latest round of money-saving measures. It sounds like a statement of the obvious, but we cannot go on cutting the fire service, while expecting it to do more and more. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) for quoting the Prime Minister’s words:
“After every flood the thing to do is sit down, look at the money you are spending…and ask is it enough.”
Clearly, it is not enough. The Government’s “cut first, think later” approach is failing communities blighted by flooding.
I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House who have given a voice to communities affected by flooding today. We called this debate to give those communities a voice, and Members who have spoken have done those communities proud.
Members have done something else: they have given a voice to all of us who are deeply concerned about the costs of inaction on climate change and what it will mean for the UK. There is a remarkable degree of consensus—with the exception of the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies)—about the clear link between climate change and the emerging trends in flooding. The Met Office analysis suggests that global warming at or above 2º from 1990 levels will increase the risk of extreme floods by a factor of seven. It is becoming increasingly clear that the sort of rainfall and flooding once seen as rare—as once-in-100-years events perhaps—seem to be happening more frequently. It is right that the Government have acknowledged that.
The Government’s own adviser on climate change, Lord Deben, said that
“if global greenhouse gas emissions do not peak soon and start to fall, 4 or more degrees of warming could take place this century. This would lead to severe and unavoidable…flood risk”
and result in an extra 1 million homes being exposed. The Committee on Climate Change has warned that the annual cost of flood damage to the UK could increase from £1 billion to £5.6 billion by the 2080s.
In her short but moving contribution, my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) made us understand the human consequences, and as her neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), said, this is about the future. The Committee on Climate Change said that the Government’s national adaptation programme lists a range of useful activity, but that it does not amount to a coherent programme. I say to Ministers today that they must urgently rectify that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) said that we need a real plan—a long-term plan, as the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) also pointed out.
We also need to recognise, as the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) made clear in his contribution, that inaction has a cost. These are lives, homes and livelihoods that are on the line. The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) said that we are spending billions tackling the symptoms and not the cause. Quite frankly, we cannot go on like that.
Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and I called for a new flood risk assessment, and I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Environment Secretary for agreeing to that. What that will not be able to do, however—given that we have to wait until 2017 for the national climate risk assessment—is fully account for the latest understanding of climate change impacts on UK flooding. I therefore ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change today whether she will bring that forward. Will there be a new national climate adaptation plan to follow those reviews?
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) said, the leadership shown in Paris must be followed by leadership at home, so I take this opportunity to ask the Secretary of State the following again. Will she take the chance presented by the Paris accord and stop the sell-off of the Green Investment Bank, and stop blocking onshore wind where there is strong local support for it? Will she take this chance to make real progress on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, and will she find the money to fulfil the promise made by successive Governments to coalfield communities to give us carbon capture and storage, so that those communities have the chance to build the future of energy and future jobs? Will she think again, too, about the deep cuts made to the solar industry—just at the moment when it stood on the cusp of becoming economically viable?
Many Members talked about the need to take the public with us on the journey to climate safety. Just as communities such as mine in Wigan helped to build this country’s prosperity through dangerous, difficult and dirty work down the coalmines, so young people in communities such as Wigan and across the country should be given the chance to build and power the future through jobs in solar, wind and CCS.
The UK team—the Department for Energy and Climate Change team and officials, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) as chairman of GLOBE International—showed in Paris this weekend just what is possible if we put our minds to something, raise our ambition and work together to build the future. In so doing, they built on a proud record of leadership shown by the UK—from 1997 and Kyoto to the Climate Change Act 2008, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and David Miliband. Again, in 2015, I was proud to stand with 50 Labour councils around the UK that have pledged to go clean by 2050.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) said, we owe our thanks to the emergency services, the armed forces, the charities, the businesses and the individuals who are doing what they can now to help those families whose homes are under water. We owe it to them to understand the risks and to take action to prevent future flooding.
If the Secretary of State will not listen to me, will she please listen to the powerful and moving speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) about homes under water, children frightened of the rain, shopkeepers devastated and extraordinary acts of courage from members of the public? This is the courage we need now from the Secretary of State. The costs of inaction on climate change are right before us. I ask the right hon. Lady to show the leadership that we so desperately need, because the alternative is unthinkable.
I thank the Labour party for bringing this issue to the House, and I thank all the Members who have taken part in what has been an animated and energetic debate.
The exceptional rainfall that we have seen over the past couple of weeks has led to some very distressing situations for families and businesses in parts of the country where serious flooding has occurred. The hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) did indeed speak movingly about the impact on her constituency, but the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) reminded us that, despite that devastation, communities were open for business. I thank the hon. Members for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) for describing the experience in Scotland. I also thank the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Tom Elliott). He reminded us to liaise closely with our Northern Ireland counterparts, which we will of course do.
Like many other Members, I pay tribute to the work of the emergency responders, including the fire service—especially in view of the example given by the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes)—and the volunteers who have worked tirelessly to return people to safety, to restore power supplies, and to clean up quickly so that people can return to their homes as soon as possible.
It has been said time and again how valuable and heroic the fire and rescue services have been in cases of flood, including those in not just Cumbria but Northumberland this week. Why is there so much resistance to giving them a statutory duty to carry out floodwater rescues?
Several other Members have made the same suggestion. All I can say at this stage is that I hope various Ministers will continue to consider it, because I share the hon. Gentleman’s admiration for all the effort and work that the fire and rescue services have put into helping people.
Over the next six years, we will invest £2.3 billion in flood defence. That is a real-terms increase on the £1.7 billion that was invested during the last Parliament. The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) made some helpful suggestions about future spending on mitigation, while the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) called for more support. I remind the hon. Lady that £60 million has already been invested in flood defences to protect Fleetwood. More than 200 schemes are currently being constructed in England, and we will deliver on our manifesto commitment to provide better protection for 300,000 more homes.
I can help the Secretary of State to find some of the sources of funds that would partly satisfy my requests. Her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said earlier that one reason why a bid might not yet have been made for EU solidarity funds was the fact that they would take seven months to come through. Will she confirm that Commissioner Cretu made clear today that 10% of any award from the solidarity fund could be provided immediately to help us to carry out work such as the rebuilding of the A591?
I am going to make some progress now, because we are very short of time.
There is a link between climate change and an increase in extreme weather events. I do not share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), who always speaks with enthusiasm. Let me say to him that, while we cannot attribute every storm, drought or flood directly to climate change, all the evidence from our scientific understanding of weather systems suggests that our changing climate will lead to more intense and more frequent events. Last month, the Met Office released papers from its study of the exceptional rainfall of 2013-14. It found that, given the same weather pattern—a persistent westerly flow—extreme rainfall over 10 consecutive winter days might be about seven times more likely now than it would be in a world without man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course natural influences will still be an important factor, but it is clear that the impact of climate change is already being felt, especially in vulnerable countries, which is why the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) was right to comment on the need to assist developing countries with additional funds. Unless we limit the rise in the global average temperature, we shall have to live with more extremes. That is why the global agreement that was reached in Paris this week is so important. As we heard from the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), the French played a very important role in ensuring that it all came together.
No single country, acting alone, can hope to limit climate change. Only by acting together can we hope to succeed. With nearly 200 countries coming to an agreement, the Paris conference was a clear turning point towards a sustainable and low-carbon future. If we limit the global average temperature rise, we will limit the intensity and frequency of extreme weather such as the flooding we have seen recently.
On limiting that extreme weather, the Secretary of State will recall that the Chancellor mentioned 300,000 properties whose flood risk was being reduced. Is she aware of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management report, which has said that
“this largely moves properties from a low risk to an even lower one”?
In other words, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has asked officials to achieve the maximum number instead of the most—
I am jealous of the time the hon. Gentleman is taking off me, and I will allow the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to respond on that point. I wish to make some progress, so that I can cover the interesting comments made by other Members.
With a global agreement, we signal to business that this is a definitive turning point. Business is crucial for delivering on our ambitions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) ably set out. He was in Paris over the weekend, leading with GLOBE International, where he was accompanied and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall). We know that in isolation, cuts to Britain’s own greenhouse gas emissions, which comprise just 1.2% of the global total, would do little to limit climate change. Our most important task therefore is to provide a compelling example to the rest of the world on how to cut carbon while controlling costs. The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) has many spending commitments to recommend to us, but no more. In a tight spending review, he should welcome at least the increase in the renewable heat incentive budget. We are committed to meeting the UK’s 2050 target. We are on track for our next two carbon budgets, and we will be setting out our plans for meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets next year. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) questioned the fairness of the EU target of a 40% reduction by 2030, and I share his concern to ensure that it is fair. I can reassure him that we will be addressing that when we approach the effort sharing decisions next year.
We need to get the right balance between supporting new technologies and being tough on subsidies. When costs come down, as they have for wind and solar, so, too, should support. I share the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey) for solar, but we will also always look after the bill payer. That is why I have announced that we will support and accelerate the cost reduction also being seen in offshore wind by making funding available for a further three auctions during this Parliament. That and other measures, such as supporting new nuclear and gas-fired power stations to provide a lower carbon base load, could provide us with the energy security we need to close unabated coal. We have also committed to double spending in clean energy research and development, so that by 2020 we will be spending in excess of £400 million. That is in recognition of the fact that we will tackle climate change only if we find technologies that are both clean and cheap.
I am sorry, but I will not give way. As I was saying, that is the answer to the question put by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) about ambition and to the question highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow). We will reach this ambition—the 2° is operational; the 1.5° is the aspiration—only through our plans to link with other countries in an international low-carbon energy innovation taskforce called Mission Innovation. That goes back to the leadership to which the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) referred, and we believe that we can achieve that.
The last Labour Government left behind in 2010 an energy security black hole: no nuclear power plants built; a legacy of under-investment; and low carbon targets and no plan to meet them. The advice of the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) never considers the consumer. In her endless recommendations to increase subsidies, it is unknown what the Opposition actually have in their plan. It is clear to Conservative Members that a responsible national energy policy demands a willingness to take decisions today for the good of tomorrow. It is this Government who will not take any risks with our energy security, and that is why we agree with the position set out clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) that shale would provide a low-carbon bridge. We will get on with the job of building a system of new energy infrastructure fit for the 21st century.