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Carbon Reduction Targets

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 13 March 2018

We should all be proud of the progress the UK has made in meeting its carbon reduction targets. The current statistics show that we have met our first budget, are on track to exceed our second and third budgets and are 97% and 95% of where we need to be to meet our fourth and fifth budgets—[Interruption.] I hear groaning, but I think those are decent numbers, given that we are 10 and 15 years away from achieving those budgets.

The lack of commitment, focus and ambition from this Tory Government mean that we are set to miss our legally binding carbon targets. Three easy wins could be to repeal the ban on onshore wind, prioritise energy efficiency measures and zero-carbon homes and commit to the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. When are this Government going to get their act together, demonstrate their commitment to future generations and get on with it?

I think the hon. Lady perhaps wrote that before hearing my answer. Let me share two facts with her. First, Britain has led the world in decarbonising our economy while growing it at the same time, not delivering carbon cuts with recessions, as other parties would like. Secondly, there are two countries in the world considered to be doing enough to meet even a 2° C target, and those are China and the UK. We have set out what has been described as the most ambitious set of policies and proposals ever seen from a Government in the clean growth strategy. We are bringing that forward, and it would be nice to feel we had a cross-party consensus on doing something that is so vital for both this country’s future and the future of the world.

I was interested to hear the Minister say that we are on target for three carbon budgets but will miss the fourth. The Committee on Climate Change said that the fourth carbon budget will not be met unless policies are supplemented by “more challenging measures”. She spoke about ambition. Can she tell us what those challenging measures will be?

As I answered before, the calculations for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets—which, I repeat, end in 10 and 15 years’ time and which we are 97% and 95% of the way to meeting—are based on an analysis of only 30% of the policies and proposals in the clean growth strategy. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says he thinks that that is quite good; I agree.

We are bringing forward further work on those policies and proposals and also spending an unprecedented amount on research and development in this space—more than £2.5 billion over this Parliament. I am extremely confident that we will meet our budgets, with our ambitious policy, the ingenuity of British businesses and the science base, the strong campaigning and the structure of the Climate Change Act 2008—the Act that we were the first country in the world to pass.

Does the Minister agree that improving home energy efficiency measures would help us to meet our carbon budgets?

My hon. Friend led an excellent debate on this in Westminster Hall, where we had a very strong outbreak of cross-party consensus. I entirely agree, and that is why we have set our home efficiency targets at band C for 2035. We are keen to do that in a cost-effective way, and I will shortly be bringing forward the consultation on ECO—the energy company obligation—and how to target it at fuel-poor households. In addition, we need to create a route to market for some of our best British technology to solve that problem.

Nuclear power will clearly be central to us reaching our carbon targets. Is the Minister confident that enough progress is being made to see the construction of nuclear plants in Anglesey and Cumbria?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, making these long-term decisions and creating costs for consumers over decades—whether in tidal lagoons or in nuclear—are matters that we have to take extremely seriously. We have to reduce the carbon emissions of our power supply, cut costs for consumers and create innovation that we can export around the world, and all of those considerations are being taken into account.

To meet carbon reduction targets, the Government will need to support, among other technology, offshore wind projects. In Scottish waters, Dounreay Tri, Kincardine and Forthwind are working to deliver first generation projects with an immediate value of £200 million for jobs and the supply chain, yet due to factors outwith their control, they will struggle to hit the UK Government’s October deadline. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we might support these projects in making their contribution to carbon reduction?

We have worked very hard on the wind industry in Scotland—the hon. Gentleman and I both welcome the recent announcement about remote island wind, which is a really positive step forward—but the challenge is that the phasing out of the renewables obligations was set over four years ago. People have been fully aware of them, and we are currently not intending to extend the length of the grace periods. However, as he knows, I am always happy to try to build cross-party consensus on this vital agenda for this country.

I am sure it is absolutely not the intention of the Minister to mislead the House in any way, but her statements about our being 96% of our way towards meeting our fourth and fifth carbon budgets need to be put in the context of the fact that we are committed to reducing CO2 emissions by 225 million tonnes, but the Government proposals will reduce the amount by only 116 million tonnes, which is only just over half the requirement between the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. What are the Minister’s proposals under the clean growth plan to make sure that we reduce the amount by the outstanding 109 million tonnes?

The hon. Gentleman is a clever scientific fellow, and he knows that those numbers refer to the baseline numbers of 1990. I would be very happy to sit down with him and go line by line through the carbon budgets and the policy proposals. Again, he and I both need to be absolutely clear that regardless—[Interruption.] There is an awful lot of shouting from the hon. Member for Blyth Valley (Mr Campbell), who wants to bring back coal. Regardless of what this and future Governments do, those budgets must be fit for purpose, and we have to be absolutely clear and transparent about how we are going to meet them, and that is exactly what the clean growth strategy has done.