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Carbon Reduction Plan

Volume 626: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2017

13. What the reasons are for the time taken to publish the Government’s carbon reduction plan. (900029)

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new job. I also have a new job, and, since taking on the role I have been incredibly impressed by the progress that the United Kingdom has made, both in meeting its own climate emissions targets and in exercising international leadership in that regard. I want the carbon growth plan to be as ambitious, robust and clear a blueprint as it can be, so that we can continue to deliver on this hugely vital piece of domestic and international policy. I am therefore taking the time to ensure that the draft could be extended to become more ambitious, and I intend to publish the plan when Parliament sits again after the summer recess.

Order. I have been on the edge of my seat while listening to the hon. Lady, as has always been the case, but I think I am right in surmising that she was seeking to group Question 13 with Questions 15 and 19. So carried away was she with the excitement of her new responsibilities that I think she neglected to inform us of that.

I thank the Minister for her words. Will she join me in commending the work of the Moors for the Future partnership in my constituency in the Peak District for the purpose of carbon reduction? It is revegetating the large areas of bare peat that exist there, thus fixing carbon emissions. Will the Minister also please let us know what effect the new timeframe of the carbon reduction plan, which was due in 2016, will have on industries and other partnerships that are relying on seeing the plan?

I am, of course, delighted to welcome that incredibly innovative partnership, which was launched in 2002 and is making real progress in working out how we can naturally store carbon in the peat environment that the hon. Lady now represents. As I have said, I intend to publish the clean growth plan when Parliament returns from the summer recess. I look forward to cross-party discussion and, hopefully, consensus on a document that is hugely important both for Britain’s domestic future and for our international leadership.

The publication date that the Minister mentions is almost a year after the date originally intended by the Government. Does not this reflect a lack of commitment to tackling climate change? What is she doing to engage with other Departments to ensure that they carry out emissions impact assessments so that we can see a real commitment to tackling climate change across the whole of the Government?

May I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that, as the proud MP for the constituency that has Britain’s leading carbon capture and storage research facility, he ought to welcome the progress that successive Governments have made on this agenda? We were the first country in the world to set binding carbon budgets, and we have over-achieved on the first and second ones. Our full intention is to engage the whole of Government and industry in delivering on the upcoming budgets.

Again, we do not seem to have a date for publication. The Minister talks about a date after the recess, but what specific date is that? Does she not agree that this delay is creating considerable uncertainty for the business community, and that it has the potential to increase energy bills?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place. He will know that we are talking about setting a trajectory of budgets from 2022 and beyond. The progress we are making is absolutely exceptional, both domestically and internationally. Perhaps he is new in his place, but he could look in his diary and check when the House returns from the summer recess. My intention is to publish the plan when the House returns from the summer recess.

The Minister spoke of peer-to-peer exchanges of energy. I have no idea what they are, but given the enthusiasm she has brought to her brief I believe that we all deserve a tutorial. Could that be arranged?

It would be a pleasure to educate my right hon. Friend. Let us think of it as a lot of hot air being generated by one particular point and being shared around many other data points. It is part of our future, Mr Speaker.

I am sure the hon. Lady’s ministerial peers in other countries—to whom I think she referred earlier—must have felt keenly conscious of their great privilege in meeting her.

I would like to applaud this Government’s record on tackling carbon emissions. Our carbon reduction plan, alongside investment in new technologies and ratification of the Paris agreement, will make us world leaders in this field and create many more jobs—particularly, I hope, in Taunton Deane, with spin-offs from Hinkley Point, the lowest carbon energy development in Europe. Can the Minister give any further indications of how the Government are responding to the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement?

Even those who do not think that this is a pressing international issue must surely welcome the fact that there are now more than 400,000 people employed in this industry—more than in the aerospace sector. Britain has shown, in the G7 and the Environment Council meetings, that we are absolutely prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with our European and international partners to make up any deficit caused by Mr Trump’s withdrawal.

We were promised the publication of this report in the middle of 2016. In October 2016, the permanent secretary promised that it would be published by February 2017. In January 2017, the then Secretary of State promised that the report would be published in the first three months of this year. Now we hear that it might be published this autumn. A year and a half on from the original promise, we are now clearly defaulting on our commitment under the Climate Change Act 2008, which requires that the plan is published as soon as is reasonably practicable after the order has been laid. Is not the Minister ashamed of this lamentable failure to act on that legislative requirement to produce a report that is important to the future of climate change activity, and will she apologise to the House for the delay?

I would have expected more from the hon. Gentleman. Let me just remind him what has happened since the Committee on Climate Change’s report was produced. We have had Brexit, we have had a general election and we have had the withdrawal of the USA from the Paris climate change agreement. I want to take the time to ensure that this report exceeds his expectations. I will take no lessons from those on the Opposition Front Bench, who have consistently failed to welcome this country’s progress, which the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband)—who is, sadly, not in his place—was sensible enough to kick off in 2009. I believe in delivery, not promises, unlike the Labour party’s manifesto.