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Carbon Emissions

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 19 March 2019

10. What assessment he has made of the reasons for recent trends in the rate at which the UK’s carbon emissions are falling. (909874)

The right measure is to look at carbon dioxide reduction as a unit of national income—the carbon intensity measure—and BEIS will publish its own numbers at the end of May and then make the assessment. I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman welcomes the fact that we have been decarbonising faster than any other G7 or G20 economy and that in the last year for which we have data our decarbonisation rate—on the intensity measure—was minus 4.7%. We know we have to do more, but I hope he welcomes the measures on hard-to-reach sectors, such as decarbonising the heating grid. We should be proud of what we have achieved.

The UN says that we have less than 12 years to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and on Friday thousands of schoolchildren marched for their futures. Given that emissions fell last year by only 1.5%—less than half the 3.2% fall recorded the year before—does the Minister agree with the Environmental Audit Committee that the Government are “coasting” on climate change?

Far from it. I do not recognise those numbers. I have got into trouble before for saying I probably would have been out there with those kids several years ago—I recognise the admirable passion and urgency with which they have raised this matter, although we need their skills to solve this problem. The best way to solve the climate problem is to create a generation of geo-engineers, climate scientists and technologists, and they have to learn those skills in the classroom.

We are absolutely not coasting, but we need strong cross-party support to deliver this change. It is striking that when we debate our relationship with the earth’s climate for the next 40 years, this place is half empty, but when we debate our relationship with the EU for the next three years, it is jam-crammed. We need to get beyond Brexit and start focusing on the future.

The Minister is rightly encouraging the use of electric vehicles, but, as she will appreciate, in the commercial sector there is, on occasion, inadequate supply in the grid. Will she recognise the valuable role played by Off Grid Energy in my constituency, which has storage technology, and whose latest project for the Oxford Bus Company involves capturing energy from solar panels and storing it so that the buses can be charged up overnight?

My hon. Friend—whose constituency is known for its engineering excellence—is absolutely right. As is clear from the smart systems plan for the future and the smart export guarantee, decentralised energy generation storage is one of the ways in which we can maximise the value of electric vehicle roll-out and its contribution to solving the generation and storage problem.