I beg to move,
That this House has considered the UK’s Climate Progress: the Committee on Climate Change’s 2021 Progress Report.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. It is slightly regrettable that a similar debate is taking place in the main Chamber as we speak; it would have been nice to be able to speak in both, but this is one of the scheduling things that happens.
I think we all agree that tackling climate change is the biggest challenge facing humankind at present. Global temperatures have so far risen by 1.2° centigrade over the last century, and they are currently rising at about 0.25° per decade. That is being driven by the rise in greenhouse gas emissions—most significantly, carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is now 429 parts per million in the atmosphere, which is 50% higher than before the industrial revolution. Human civilisation is destroying the benign climate that our planet has enjoyed for the last 20,000 years and that enabled human civilisation to flourish in the first place. Our generation has a moral duty to pass on to future generations a planet that is sustainable, but it is also in our generation’s self-interest to achieve that.
I am not a natural doom-monger but an optimist at heart. We have had far more than our share of dark times over the last couple of years, so I want to highlight some good news. According to Our World in Data, a fantastic source of information, the UK emitted less carbon dioxide per capita in 2019 than in any year since 1859, when the industrial revolution was just gathering pace—with the one exception of 1926, which was the year of the general strike. Our per-capita CO2 emissions are the lowest they have been for a century and a half. In total, our CO2 emissions have declined by almost a half since the benchmark year of 1990. That is not just a bigger decline than in any other G7 country; it is actually a bigger decline than in any G20 country.
“World-leading” may be a much-abused phrase, but it really is true that the UK is world-leading on reaching towards net zero. Our emissions per capita are now less than those of China, and they are one third of the levels in US, Canada and Australia. We emit less per capita than the EU average, less per person than Germany and less even than the eco-leaders Norway and Denmark. When I meet parliamentarians from other countries who are interested in environmental issues, the most frequent question they ask is: what is the UK’s secret to doing so well in reaching towards net zero?
At the beginning of the industrial revolution, the UK was responsible for almost exactly 100% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We are now responsible for just 1%. That is a tribute to the hard work and leadership of this and past UK Governments, and I welcome the announcements that we had this week, which I will refer to later. It is also a tribute to those in environment groups and industry who have worked so hard to raise awareness of climate change and help tackle it. Their efforts are bearing fruit.
In its 2021 report to Parliament on reducing emissions, the Climate Change Committee recognises the UK’s achievements. It says:
“The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions”.
That leadership role really matters as we head off to Glasgow for COP26, which the UK is obviously leading. We have enshrined in law not just reaching net zero by 2050, but a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035. That is the most ambitious nationally determined contribution that any country in the world is bringing to COP26—I hope that point is being made in the debate taking place in the main Chamber. Fingers crossed, such leadership will help us achieve more ambitious contributions from other countries. In turn, that will hopefully keep global warming down to a maximum of 1.5° centigrade—we need to keep 1.5 alive.
When it comes to net zero, we as a country can be justifiably be proud of what we have achieved so far. That is absolutely no excuse for complacency, but it means that our efforts so far have been worth while—they are paying off. But now the bad news: we are still not doing enough. That is the overriding message from the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 progress report. If we are to get to net zero by 2050, the hard work has yet to come. We have reduced emissions by around a half over the past three decades, as I said, but it will be far more difficult to do the same over the next three decades. The CCC says:
“UK emissions are nearly 50% below 1990 levels, but the journey to Net Zero is far from half done.”
In policy terms, we have cut the fat but we are now down to the bone.
Most of our cuts in emissions have come from decarbonising the power sector. We are on the brink of phasing out coal, and wind power is now our main source of electricity—that was unthinkable when I was environment editor of The Observer and The Times 20 years ago. Other sectors have done well: emissions from industry have fallen by 53% since 1990 and emissions from waste are down by 69% as a result of sending less biodegradable matter to landfills. More topically, the CCC has reported that we had the biggest ever drop in emissions last year; as a result of the pandemic, they fell by 13%. Unsurprisingly, the biggest fall was in aviation emissions, which were down 60% last year alone. However, clearly that is a one-off and already bouncing back.
The good news is that our reductions in emissions mean that, in purely numerical terms, as of now we are on track to meet net zero by 2050. Our reductions have been big enough to get there. The CCC said that the rate of the reduction since 2012—over the last nine years—is enough to get us to net zero by 2050 if we carry on reducing at that rate. This is a very big “if”. The CCC report, using charts and graphs, said that we do not have the policies in place to keep reducing at that rate. The key message was that
“The Government has made historic climate promises in the past year, for which it deserves credit. However, it has been too slow to follow these with delivery.”
It warned that we will not meet our emission targets for 2028 to 2032—the so-called fifth carbon budget—let alone the sixth carbon budget of 2033 to 2037. At the time of its publication in June, it estimated that the credible policies covered only about 20% of the reductions to meet the sixth carbon budget.
This is all very perplexing: how can we be both on track, as I said earlier, but also off track? The best analogy that I can come up with is the 2010 film “Unstoppable”, about a runaway train—a very good film for those who want to pass a couple of hours. Our heroes, Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, keep the speeding, out-of-control train on track, but they know there is a sharp bend ahead. It is inevitable that when the train reaches that bend it will fly off the track and kill lots of people in houses, unless they do something dramatic. Likewise, we need to do something dramatic to stay on track for net zero by 2050. That means we cannot just keep on with the policies that have served us so far.
The decarbonisation of power generation is a one-off that cannot be done forever: once we have phased out coal, we cannot phase it out again. The Government have just committed to making all power generation net zero by 2035—something that I have publicly called for and welcome. However, that means that power, the sector that has done most of the heavy lifting to net zero, will not be able to do any more from 2035. Other sectors will have to make up the difference.
I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate today and for making a very thoughtful speech. In his remarks, will he address the point about energy usage and not just energy production? What more would he suggest to the Government that we could do to minimise energy usage and therefore reduce carbon emissions?
That is a very good point and I will come to it briefly. We need absolutely to try and get to net zero, but also to promote measures such as insulation and energy efficiency in housing and industry to reduce consumption.
We need other measures, rather than just decarbonising power. These other measures are where the potential political pain comes. Decarbonising electricity production did not really require consumers to change anything. The electricity supply to their homes and their sockets was the same as before, but produced in a climate-friendly way. They had the same cars and same central heating systems. However, with other sectors needing to decarbonise, future policies will inevitably have a more direct impact on consumers. That is why we need more political will in the coming decades, not less. This should be doable. The public are very supportive; a large majority say they want stronger action on climate change.
The CCC did welcome the advances in policy that have already been made. In last year’s report they made 92 different recommendations; this year’s report says that 72—over 75% of them—have either been achieved, partly achieved or are underway. That is a good record. However, it thought that things were going too slowly. It concluded that clearly policy progress is being made, but it is not yet happening at the necessary pace. Only 11 of the 72 recommendations have been achieved in full.
The report states that in 21 areas of abatement—places where we can make real changes—sufficient ambition is being maintained in only four. The report welcomes the Government’s ambitions until 2025 on electric cars and vans, off-shore wind and tree planting. I very much welcome that here the Government are in line with the committee’s recommendations. In last year’s 10-point plan for climate change, the Government committed to 40 GW of offshore wind power by 2030, which is what the CCC is calling for—tick! They also committed to 30,000 hectares of tree planting a year by 2025, which again is what the CCC is calling for—tick!
In some ways, the Government have arguably gone further than the CCC wanted. It wanted to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032, but the Government are bringing in the ban from 2030—two years earlier. That really is a world-leading ambition. Sales of electric vehicles are already escalating rapidly, and although the charging point infrastructure is not being rolled out quite fast enough for some electric car drivers, it is going at pace. Industry is taking the lead from the Government, with Jaguar having committed to selling only electric vehicles from 2025, and Ford has just announced that it will make parts for electric cars at its Halewood plant in Liverpool, giving it a new lease of life.
I am delighted to say that there has been significant progress since the CCC published its report in June and since this debate was applied for. In particular, the CCC was critical of the Government for not having published their transport decarbonisation plan, their hydrogen strategy, their heat and building strategy and their overall net zero strategy—it criticised them for the uncertainty and delay. To their credit, the Government published the first two, on transport and hydrogen, in the summer, and the heat and building strategy and the net zero strategy were published just a couple of days ago. Those included measures such as: a £5,000 grant to make clean-heat heat pumps affordable for homeowners; working with industry to ensure that clean heat is as cheap as gas-fired central heating by 2030; and a target to stop any new gas boilers from being installed by 2035—another world-first commitment.
The CCC has also chastised the Government for a lack of ambition on carbon capture and storage, which was the subject of a debate in this Chamber yesterday. It has said that we need to capture 22 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2030 while the Government were targeting only 10 million tonnes a year by then. It noted that that was the biggest single gap between what it had called for and what the Government were planning. When I drafted my speech at the beginning of the week, I was going to call on the Government to be more ambitious on CCS. Then, on Tuesday, they were: they announced two new clusters and a target of between 20 million and 30 million tonnes a year by 2030, which is potentially more than the CCC asked for. Hurrah! Those targets must be turned into reality, but the announcement is a big step forward.
The more ambitious the Government are, the happier I will be, but I totally bow to the Government’s metrics. The first two projects are right for the first phase, and the Acorn project is in reserve. I think the Minister said yesterday that being the reserve puts the project in a more advanced position for the second phase of the next two that will come—I am not sure whether anyone picked that up.
Hopefully it will get there in the second phase.
In my draft speech, I was also going to echo the Climate Change Committee’s call on the Government to commit to greenhouse gas removal targets, for which they had no target at all. The CCC said that the UK Government need to target 5 million tonnes of removal by 2030. In the net zero strategy this week, I discovered as I read through it that the Government committed to do exactly that—I did not see that reported anywhere, however. They also committed to a robust monitoring, reporting and verification process for greenhouse gas removal, which the CCC called for and which I was going to call for. In short, many of the policy gaps between the CCC’s report and Government policy have been closed since the report was published. Four months is an extremely long time in politics.
I strongly welcome this week’s announcements, even though it meant I had to rewrite my speech. Yes, the strategies have been delayed, but I am sympathetic to how the Government’s machinery has been distracted by the worst pandemic for 100 years. It is much better to have a good strategy late than a bad strategy early. However, there are still a few areas where more progress would be good. One of our biggest carbon sinks is peatland, and the Government are aiming for 32,000 hectares of peatland to be restored each year by the middle of the decade, but the CCC would like to see 67,000 hectares restored. That is quite a big difference. The CCC also says that the Government need to do more on consumer choice and behaviour: in particular, diet change—eating less meat, presumably—and reducing demand for flights. Those are indeed sensitive areas. I am hopeful that new technologies such as cultured meat and synthetic aviation fuels will help bridge that gap.
Picking up on the issue of diet change, concerns about meat eating always strike me as a contradiction in this discussion, when quinoa and other products are imported from overseas with huge numbers of food miles. Does my hon. Friend agree? Will he elaborate on his thoughts on how the British farming industry can contribute to the carbon reduction debate?
I welcome that intervention. I believe that any change in diet to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be, first, voluntary for consumers and, secondly, based on science. I do not know anything about the carbon dioxide emissions of quinoa flown in from other parts of the world. It clearly makes absolutely no sense for people to change their diet to eat food that increases carbon dioxide production. There is no point in doing things for tokenistic reasons to appear good or for someone to be able to claim that they are doing something good, when it is not actually good. I would certainly like to see more science. We cannot go into it now, but there is quite a lot of debate about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from livestock farming.
The other technologies are not yet commercially available. It might be that changes in behaviour might be needed at some point in the future, as well as new technologies.
I am also a supporter of nuclear power, which is one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy in the world. As many leading environmental thinkers such as George Monbiot now recognise, the green movement’s long campaign against nuclear was a major strategic error. The reason why France’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower than ours is that it properly embraced nuclear power. As a country, we have been wavering on nuclear for decades. I welcome the Government’s new-found commitment to nuclear power and I look forward to future announcements. As I said in yesterday’s debate on carbon capture and storage, I ask the Government to have the courage of their convictions.
We clearly need to do more to tackle climate change. Having ambition is not enough. We need plans to achieve those ambitions, and we need to implement those plans. The CCC report had some valid criticisms of the Government’s plans at the time it was published, but the Government’s plans have now largely caught up. For next year’s CCC report, we should be well placed to get an A for effort. We will see.
I get frustrated when the more extreme environment campaigners often write to me and attack the UK Government for doing nothing about climate change. Where have they been? A huge amount is being done. Cutting emissions by nearly half in the last 30 years is not doing nothing. Closing down all coal-fired power stations was unthinkable when I was an environment editor—so was banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars; so was phasing out new gas boilers in people’s homes. These are deep and wide-ranging changes that will directly affect us all and are genuinely world-leading, but we need to keep up the pace of progress. There is no room for complacency. We need to deliver. The CCC said that this is the decade of delivery. Let that decade of delivery begin.
It is a pleasure, as ever, to serve with you as Chair, Sir Christopher. I thank the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne). In fairness, he tried to deliver a balanced approach and has succeeded, to a degree. I hope the Minister will take those rather sharp raps on the knuckles seriously—they are all the more important when they are from friendly fire. As the hon. Member points out, we have some real issues to face.
I was interested in the hon. Member’s views on the benefits of the 1926 general strike. I grew up in a household where we always applauded the 1926 general strike and it is good to know that he is now a convert to that view of the world. The only doubt I have is that there was something slightly Pollyanna-ish, for those who are old enough to remember Pollyanna. The world is not quite as good as it might seem. Certainly, our world—the world of which we have control—has some long way to go. Yes, we have a good record on the reduction of carbon dioxide and so on, but it is not an excellent record. Some of it, frankly, is because we saw some types of de-industrialisation during that time period, which has allowed us to transfer the production of offending CO2 to other countries, from which we now import. That is not necessarily a criticism per se, but it is something that we have to take into consideration.
The Climate Change Committee’s report is tremendously important. It has established a baseline against which we need to measure ourselves. The overall message is that whether or not we have great plans, they are not being delivered. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) said to me a few moments ago, it may be an A for effort, but it is a D for delivery. I hope that the Minister will tell us seriously what we intend to do about that. We should look at the commentary and criticism in that report, such as the legitimate point that although we have done well on decarbonising electricity supply, we have a long way to go on agriculture, parts of industry, buildings and, of course, transport.
Hon. Members have complained that we have two debates on this subject today—one in the Chamber and one in Westminster Hall—rather like two buses coming along at once. I can guarantee that those would not be electric buses, because we are not yet there in terms of transport. There has been radical change, but even where I live, in the middle of the very busy, relatively modern city of Manchester, it is still difficult to find the electric charging points that would allow someone to make the transfer from conventional or even hybrid vehicles to an electric vehicle at this stage. There is a long way to go to make sure that the investment is there and to guarantee that the changes recommended by the Climate Change Committee are delivered and not simply planned.
Looking at other areas, I have long been preoccupied by the question of what we should do with our buildings, both domestic and industrial. We have something like 30 million homes across the United Kingdom, as a reference point—we can argue about that number, but it is not a million miles out. The overwhelming majority of those buildings—more than 80%—will still be around in 2050. That is around 25 million old properties that we have to bring up to a modern standard. That is fraught with difficulty at the moment because we do not have the delivery mechanisms to make it happen. I am sure that other colleagues will talk about the ambition around heat pumps; I would simply say that it really matters that there is ambition, and that the capacity to deliver heat pumps goes way beyond what we saw in this week’s announcement. We have to see a radical, seismic change in terms of delivery.
Although even the very basic changes we need for our homes—such as cavity wall insulation and the capacity to properly insulate our roofs—are not difficult, they are difficult for an 80-year-old pensioner living on his or her own. I have experience of that in the past, when we have had improvement systems of different kinds and we are faced with the possibility of licensing cowboy builders to do work that rips off the public and does not deliver the social good that we all want. We need skills training that simply is not there at the moment, even for those relatively straightforward tasks.
On home insulation measures, does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a particular challenge in the private rented sector with poor home insulation and, indeed, poor maintenance of those buildings, which often affects people on lower incomes? Does he agree that the Government need to do more to address that issue and to force, coerce and compel landlords to improve home energy efficiency in that sector?
I am genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I was going to come to that point. He is right. Of course, as a homeowner, I have an incentive to make improvements in my own home; I get the benefit of the more comfortable home and the lower fuel costs. However, a private landlord has no such incentive and a private tenant has no such ability to bring about those changes. The hon. Gentleman makes a very real point, particularly because we have an increasing number of private lets. As someone who, by force of occupation, has needed to rent privately in London, I have lived in places that I wish the landlord had had an incentive to improve, because very little effort was put in. It is a serious and important point, which I hope the Minister will pick up on.
The point I am making about buildings is that we lack the skills, and we are not delivering the training packages to introduce those skills. We also lack the confidence of the would-be consumer—whether a private landlord, an owner-occupier or whatever—to know that what is on the market is valid and can be trusted. If I were to ask Conservative MPs, even the esteemed former journalist, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire, which heat pump they would recommend for my home—
The hon. Gentleman has the good grace to admit that, like me, he has not got a clue. However, we need to have an educated consumer and we need to change the way people see this matter. These issues are not trivial if we are to make a real difference.
Similarly, in the industrial sectors, some of the same kinds of issues arise. Asking huge organisations around the world, such as Amazon or Manchester United football club, that have the intellectual and surplus capacity to decarbonise is one thing, but for a small firm, which focuses just on its core business, being informed about how they can and ought to make a difference is much more difficult unless we begin to look seriously at the issue of consumer education.
The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire mentioned the need to change our diets, and possibly our attitudes to air travel. We have to take the country with us, and frankly we are not yet in a position to do so. This week there was a statement about the Government’s net zero ambitions, but the media did not seem to pick up that issue and say, “This is the one we have got to go with.” Education and taking the public with us was mentioned in the report, but we are still in the foothills of such a debate.
I agree with the points that the hon. Gentleman is making about consumer education and the fact that more information should be available. In Scotland, the Scottish Government fund Home Energy Scotland, which is an independent, impartial body to give advice to people. Does he agree that the UK Government should consider that as a recommendation, so that consumers in England and Wales can access that impartial, independent advice?
That is another important point. I think the Minister will accept my saying: I have been a Minister; never trust a Minister—partly because one day they will not be, and it will be someone else in the seat. Government should set the standards, but the delivery of that sort of information must be seen to be independent and to have sound validity for those involved.
When we look at delivery, one thing that is often missing from the conversation is the fact that central Government cannot deliver on many of these things. Central Government has to work through other agencies. That can be the private sector, but we need the strategic planning to take place at local, and sometimes sub-local, level. If we are going to not simply change attitudes but introduce the necessary infrastructure—the infrastructure of skilled training for the capacity to make the changes that we need—we must deliver locally. That does mean a much stronger partnership. Again, that is a recommendation in the report between central Government and local government. I say to the Minister that if that partnership does not include the proper transfer of funding so that local government can do this job, then we will be gifting the ambition but not delivering the tools with which to achieve it.
This is a very important report. Once again I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. He is trying to deliver a balanced judgment. He is probably a little more optimistic than I, but he did emphasise that the crisis is not looming; it is with us. This is a call now to move beyond planning. Words can be good in setting ambition, but it has got to be now about serious delivery on the ground. We have had so many wake-up calls. This call says, “Now is the time for action.”
This is a very interesting debate. There is a parallel debate taking place in the main Chamber, where there is a three-minute time limit on speeches, I suspect. Before calling the last Back-Bench speaker in this debate, if anybody in the main Chamber is following what is going on in Westminster Hall, I am happy to accept additional Back-Bench speeches if Members show up, notwithstanding the fact that they were not here at the beginning for the initial remarks.
It is a pleasure to see you in the chair, Sir Christopher. I think we may have another Back-Bench speaker whose name somehow did not make it on to the list. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) stole my gag about climate debates being like buses—two turn up at once but they are not electric buses.
I was one of the MPs who went outside yesterday to see the people who are pressing for more zero-emission buses. They had buses there from Ballymena, Falkirk, and Selby near Leeds to highlight the fact that, while the Government have pledged 4,000 zero-emission buses, only a small handful have appeared on the roads. Although the Transport Secretary responded to questions from one of my colleagues in the shadow Transport team to say that 900 were in production, we have pressed him on that since, asking where they are in production and when they are appearing, and he seems to have gone very quiet.
I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) on securing the debate, and I congratulate him on his optimism. We do need optimism when it comes to the fight against climate change. It can seem like a pessimistic environment. The zero-emission buses are an example of where the Government’s actions do not match their announcements. Unless we see an acceleration of action, not just warm words, we shall be nowhere near meeting the targets, which are good and ambitious. They set an example to the rest of the world, but if we cannot go to COP and demonstrate the real things that are happening on the ground, it all becomes greenwash, to put it mildly.
The Committee on Climate Change report is huge, but one recommendation goes to the heart of everything. There is a recommendation for No. 10 and the Cabinet Office that says:
“Ensure all departmental policy decisions…are consistent with the Net Zero goal and reflect the latest understanding of climate risks.”
That is where we need to be. Everything the Government do should be through the prism of trying to achieve net zero. We have the announcement of new fossil fuel projects—the Cambo oilfield and the Cumbrian coal mine. Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, has written to the Government to say that it is simply incompatible with our stated ambitions to allow those new fossil fuel projects to go ahead. Compare what is happening with airport expansion with the recommendations of the Committee that there should be no net airport expansion. The word “net” is important. Although it does not work in the current context, where Heathrow and everywhere else is pressing for expansion, there is an argument that, if capacity declined at Heathrow, regional airports such as Bristol would be able to expand, creating regional jobs and economic growth as part of that net calculation.
Take the Transport Secretary and the road-building programme, in which billions of pounds are going towards the construction of new roads. He was advised by his civil servants that that needed to be subject to an environmental impact assessment to see whether it was compatible with the Government meeting their climate change ambitions, and he refused to do so. I know that the Minister answering today is not from the Department for Transport, but that is another example of the actions of the Government just not squaring up with this recommendation in the Committee on Climate Change’s report.
The Australian trade agreement is another example. How can we claim to be serious about climate change and protecting the environment when we are more than willing to trade away environmental protections as part of a trade agreement? When the Minister was in his previous post, I asked him about potential trade agreements with Brazil and the relationship with that country in general. On one of his overseas jaunts, the Prime Minister congratulated President Bolsonaro on being an environmental champion. This guy is almost single-handedly destroying the Amazon by allowing huge numbers of people to be displaced from their land, and allowing swathes of forest to be burned and used for cattle ranching or the growing of various commodities—soya for livestock feed, palm oil, and so on.
It was sad how little attention was paid to that issue when we debated the Lords amendments to the Environment Bill yesterday. On the one hand, we have a Government who like to boast about how many more trees they are going to plant—at the last election, every party was trying to outbid the others as to how many millions of trees they would be able to plant—but that means absolutely nothing in terms of the net number of trees across the planet if we are allowing Bolsonaro to burn the Amazon to the ground.
One of the Minister’s colleagues in the Trade team once answered a question that I asked them about this issue by pointing to the UK Government’s giving money to Brazil for certain forest protection programmes, conserving parts of the rainforest or even planting new trees there, but if we look at how those numbers stack up against the proportion that is being destroyed, they are nowhere close. It is a token effort; it is well-meaning, but unless we do something through pressure in trade negotiations and at COP to stop Bolsonaro and others in their tracks, we will be destroying a huge carbon sink. We are now in a position where the Amazon is a net emitter of carbon: we used to talk about the Amazon as being the lungs of the world, but that is no longer the case, and that is something that the UK Government could do something about.
We now have the 1.5° target that we agreed at Paris, so COP should be about how we go about achieving that target, and we do need a lot of countries to set more ambitious nationally determined contributions. We are very concerned that China and now Russia will not be sending their leaders, so can the Minister advise us on what impact he thinks that will have on the negotiations? Will Brazil come to the table, and what pressure will it be put under at COP? Finance is incredibly important—trying to secure that $100 billion a year—but as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on small island developing states, I would make the point that whenever I talk to those states, they say that this is not just about how much money is committed, but how they can access it. These are tiny countries with very small levels of resources.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. This is not just about money, but about the transfer of technologies. One of the things we saw during the covid crisis was that we were unfortunately quite reluctant to transfer technology, even in our self-interest. We have to allow the small countries that she has described to have access to the technology, as well as the finance, that makes the difference.
My hon. Friend is entirely right. In some cases, the populations of those countries are smaller than the population of our constituencies, so it would not be a huge effort on the part of the UK Government to prioritise them and help them make the transition to renewable energy. In some cases, it involves getting out of very difficult contracts, sometimes with companies that are based in the developing world and are tied into electricity supplies based on fossil fuels. There is a lot that we could do to help them. The main plea is that we have to simplify the process. We all know of small organisations in our constituencies trying to apply for, say, lottery funding, or bidding for other funds. They face a similar situation; the paperwork and bureaucracy are immense.
I was concerned to read today in The Guardian that a third of Pacific islands have said that they are unable to attend COP, partly because of covid. That goes back to the size issue. The people who would be coming over from those islands cannot afford to take a fortnight off work to quarantine at the end of the conference. When I asked the COP26 President, the right hon. Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), about that, he told me two things: that the UK would ensure that all people from small and developing states could be vaccinated, and that there would be funds available to bring them over. The reason that delegates at Paris moved from 2° to 1.5° was partly because of the personal testimony and presence of the Pacific leaders in particular, and leaders of small island developing states in general. That really made the change. Their presence and their voices at Paris shamed the world and highlighted the fact that in some cases those countries will literally disappear underwater if we do not keep 1.5 alive.
I would be interested to hear the Minister’s views on another of the recommendations in the committee’s report. It came up briefly at International Trade questions today, but the Minister did not have much time to outline the Government’s position. The report lists as a priority recommendation that the Government should
“Develop the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels.”
Hon. Members can see why I had to write that down; it is quite a long phrase. As I understand it, we need to measure the embedded carbon in the products that we are importing into the country and find a way of dealing with it, and border tariffs may be one way of doing that. The report recommends that that should be discussed at the G7 and at COP, which is why I wanted to flag it up today. We should have those discussions.
I am aware that I have been speaking for quite some time, although I am also aware that, given that this is a three-hour debate, I could probably go on a lot longer. I am sure that people do not want to be detained, so I will just mention one more thing. It was reported this week that a nudge unit report on behaviour change, which recommended reductions in meat eating and measures to curb aviation demand, was buried. Can the Minister explain why that report has not been published and is not being discussed? We can talk forever about technological change, what the Government need to do and what needs to be financed, but behavioural change is a significant part of how we will meet our climate objectives.
In previous conversations, Ministers have suggested to me that they are quite reluctant to intervene in issues around the food agenda, plastic use and anything involving an element of personal choice. Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said to me that individuals could choose to bring their keep cup with them—like I have done today—so that they do not use single-use plastic, or that they could choose to eat less meat, but that this is very much a matter of personal choice: the market will respond if the public want it.
Particularly with meat eating, the market has responded, but some Ministers, from an ideological point of view, do not see a role for the Government in nudging it along. There is a real debate about whether it is acceptable to nudge things along rather than wielding the stick to make people do things. That is the crux of the issue of whether we act upon the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations. For example, they recommended a
“20% shift away from all meat by 2030”.
That is pretty unambitious, but there is an ideological debate about whether the Government’s role is to encourage people to make the shift or to make them make the shift—using all the levers, whether they be carrots or sticks.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, but on that point, is it not true that people have a choice in the supermarket between buying a meat product or an equivalent plant protein alternative, but that nearly always—particularly at the bottom end of the price scale—the plant protein equivalent is much more expensive? The Government could introduce fiscal measures to level that up or even make the plant protein choice cheaper, given the climate benefit to that, but they are choosing not to do so. That would make personal choice easier. At the moment, the choice for people who cannot afford it is to buy the meat every time.
I agree with my hon. Friend. We had this discussion during the Agriculture Bill Committee, and I know that organisations such as Sustain were very keen on the idea that we could use agricultural subsidies to bring down the price of healthy food. However, we get into a difficult discussion about rewarding farmers for producing so-called healthy food. We could say that a potato is a healthy food, but if it gets turned into a bag of crisps it is not. If a tomato gets put in a ready meal with all sorts of other junk, it is not healthy. It is quite a difficult thing to grapple with, but I do not think that the idea of a meat tax is the way to go. I know that some people suggest that, but I think we need to look at how we can make healthy choices, and more sustainable choices, more affordable for people.
The same goes for electric vehicles. I very much welcome the zero-emission vehicles mandate that was announced this week, but the Government have been cutting the plug-in grants for electric vehicles year on year, and there are rumours that they will be axed entirely. From what I hear from the Chancellor, I think we are okay for the next financial year, but not beyond that. It almost feels as if the Government have decided that the grants that have been given out so far have done their job. They have stimulated the market, but if we are to get to where we want to be and have a vibrant second-hand market by the time that the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles comes in, a lot more has to be done. At the moment, EVs are simply not affordable and accessible for many people, and that is partly because of the charging infrastructure points as well.
I have spoken far too many times about EVs in this place as it is, so I will draw my speech to a conclusion—as I am sure you will be very pleased to hear, Sir Christopher. As it stands, I do not think that what the Government are doing will get us to net zero by 2050, I do not think that we are on track to achieve the pledged 78% emissions reduction by 2035, and very sadly I do not think that we are on track to keep 1.5 alive.
It is a real pleasure to be back in Westminster Hall in person and to serve under you chairship, Sir Christopher. I thank the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) for securing the debate. He said that a similar debate is taking place in the main Chamber, which means that so many Members from across the House will be talking about the most important issue facing humanity: the climate.
I know we are talking about the Climate Change Committee, and I could quote Lord Deben at length, but I will start by quoting Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific officer, whom we have seen many times during covid:
“Only rapid and drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in this decade can prevent…climate breakdown”.
He is obviously the chief adviser to the Government in this area, aside from the Climate Change Committee.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and as we found out from “The Great British Bake Off”, baked goods that look great do not always taste great. That is the test for the Government. This week they have published their net zero strategy, with so many accompanying documents and reports that I have not had time to read them, so the Minister might be correcting me and others at the end of the debate because there is an answer to our questions. However, while things have looked good for a while, they have not tasted good, because the delivery is not there.
I will talk about the role of local government. Before I was elected to this place, I was the lead on climate change sustainability for Leeds City Council for a number of years. We started doing some great, groundbreaking work, but we could not complete some of those initiatives, because of Government policy and intervention, which stopped us in our tracks. Let me give two examples.
First, we installed 1,000 solar roofs on the homes of council tenants who could not afford to put solar panels on their roofs. We took those 1,000 households out of fuel poverty. We were able to do that because of the feed-in tariff. The cost of those solar roofs would be repaid in nine years because of the benefit of that feed-in tariff. When we were installing the solar roofs, the Government announced a reduction in the feed-in tariff and then another reduction, and it became uneconomic to complete the programme. We had an aim of 7,000 roofs. Interestingly, at the beginning of the programme, people did not want them. They said they looked ugly, but as soon as the first person in the street got them and reported how much they were paying for electricity, everybody wanted solar roofs, but we could not fill the demand because of Government intervention.
There is a real issue in my constituency. On one side of the main road we have a social housing estate where external wall insulation was provided because the eco-funding provided for that, and we managed to complete it after the eco-funding was cut, because we got a European regional development fund grant, which again is something that is no longer available to us. On the other side of the road, there is no external wall insulation, because there was no funding to complete the programme, and the people live in fuel poverty. That is an example of where Government interventions restricted a local authority’s ability to deliver on climate action. It is important that the Government give local authorities the tools, funding and support to complete the work.
There are big gaps. First, local authorities do not have the staff to do the work because of year-on-year Government cuts. We are not talking about local authorities’ statutory duties; we are talking about local authorities having set net zero dates themselves. The earliest one I heard was Nottingham’s, which was 2028. Leeds’s was 2030, and I think Manchester’s and Bristol’s were the same.
Yes. So a lot of local authorities have quite short time periods to deliver net zero. They are not hamstrung by their own actions, but by Government actions. I hope that in the documents released this week there will be answers to local authorities’ questions.
Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the Government have not reached out to leaders in the city regions ahead of COP? We know that on day 11 of COP there is a city regions day, but the Mayor of Bristol told me that there has been no discussion with Bristol, which is at the forefront of trying to introduce measures to get us to net zero. There seems to be a lack of communication between the Government and the people in charge of delivering the policies on the ground.
The Mayor of Bristol is going to COP and has blue zone accreditation, but he says there have been no conversations about all the documents the Government are publishing, and no discussions with city regions about what will be raised at COP and how things will go, and they are being left to the last day, on day 11.
I completely agree that metro Mayors have been an afterthought in terms of COP. My first COP was in Paris and I went, before we had a metro Mayor, as the lead representative. The French Government and the Mayor of Paris put on a huge set of events and incorporated cities from around the world. Given the issues that were emerging in the United States at that point, it was decided that the real deliverers of climate change measures on the ground would be cities and regions. The Paris COP was just after the election of Donald Trump. Thankfully, we are through that period now and we have a President of the United States who wants to take serious climate action.
On support for local authorities, they have their own internal staff to be able to deliver, but there is a huge skills gap across all the different areas. I would like to see the Government step up and fund skills training in all areas. We now have a situation where we have shortages of workers in a whole range of areas. It is really important for the country that we retrain workers in fossil fuel industries into these new industries and that we train young people into these jobs.
The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire mentioned the ambition around heat pumps. Apparently, 7 million to 11 million heat pumps are required by 2035. How many air and ground source heat pump installers have been trained in the UK so far? Not many. The number is in the low thousands—I am sure that the Minister will have the exact number. That is woefully insufficient to deliver the ambition of the Government’s programme. There are university technical colleges and building colleges all around the country that could be funded to train tens of thousands of people in these industries, which is what we will need, and not just in those industries.
To digress slightly, my next point is about the supply chain. I recently went to ITM Power in Sheffield, which is a manufacturer of electrolysers. Those are what we need to convert off-peak renewable electricity into hydrogen for use in buses and heavy goods vehicles, potentially in heating, in making steel, and in other industrial processes. ITM Power has 320 people in its plant and is training people, but it says that its big issues are support for skills training and demand for electrolysers in the hydrogen sector, because there is a lack of skills training for the industries that would use electrolysers. So the supply chain issues are huge, and I will come back to them. However, I have digressed a little from local authorities.
What do the Government need to do to support local authorities? For a start, what we are seeing now, in terms of the Climate Change Committee, is five-year carbon budgets. As we have seen, we are not on track to meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. We will wait until the Climate Change Committee reports to see whether it says that, with the new plans, we will now meet those budgets; I still think that we will fall short of meeting them, because we have lost so much time. Because time is so acute—for local authorities, we are talking about timeframes of seven, eight, nine or 10 years to get to net zero—we need a practical framework for annual carbon budgeting, and we need to have shorter periods for measuring it.
Planning is a huge area; it is a really difficult area for local authorities. Time and time again, we see planning committees in local authorities—I know that it happens in my local authority in Leeds—where councillors want to turn down volume planning applications. I am not talking about somebody’s extension on their house; I am talking about big developments. They want to turn them down on climate and environmental grounds, but the legal advice and planning officers say that they cannot turn them down, because they will lose on appeal.
We do not have a good enough planning framework to meet our net zero obligations, and those need to become non-negotiable. When the planning Bill is brought forward, I hope that that is where the Government will take it and that they will not, once again, lean in to the volume property developer community, which wants to do the absolute minimum. That community has really influenced the Government twice already: once when we had the code for sustainable homes, which was introduced in 2009-10 but scrapped as soon as the coalition Government came in; and then towards the end of the coalition Government, when the zero carbon homes initiative was also scrapped after the 2015 general election. We have lost 11 years on this issue; we cannot afford to lose any more time just because volume house builders cannot meet their climate obligations. They have had 11 years; they should have caught up. In every other European country, such developers have caught up, including in Holland, Belgium, Germany and Denmark. They need to catch up in the UK.
It is not good enough that we are still building homes without alternative fuel systems and saying that we will retrofit them in 2035. How much more will it cost us to retrofit those houses, rather than building them now with an adequate low-carbon heating system? Local authorities also need access to net zero funding streams to meet their own obligations, or the Government’s obligations, around net zero.
I will just talk a little about the supply chain, because I realise that I have already talked for a considerable length of time, although I know that we have a little bit of time left in the debate. I keep speaking to people who are quite early in the supply chain; I just mentioned ITM Power. Yesterday, I spoke to people who provide the ships and the construction crew for offshore wind. I speak to people in the early stages of the supply chain for low-carbon solutions in every area. They raise the same issues every time. One issue that generally does not exist is lack of access to finance. The finance exists, but the problems are, first, the very short timescales for contracts and contracting. The Government need to provide confidence in long-term contracting.
Secondly, there are real issues around manufacturing capabilities. We do not have the shipyards and we do not have the number of buses being produced. Can somebody point me to a hydrogen heavy goods vehicle that has been produced in the UK? Not a single HGV has been produced in this country that will take hydrogen fuel. There are a few in other countries, so we are behind that curve. We need to be in a position to provide the confidence and the demand for low-carbon manufacturing and construction. Otherwise, we will be left behind once again, as we were on manufacturing wind turbines, where Denmark and Germany took a clear lead, and a number of other areas we could talk about, such as district heat and power and so on. Those are two areas.
The other area, and the most important thing, is that we do not have an end-to-end green industrial strategy, which means that people do not know exactly where they fit into the net zero pathway and the roadmap. All the Government’s ambitions and targets need to fit into an industrial strategy so people know how everything works. Germany has an industrial strategy; the UK does not seemingly have one now. If the Government have published a really good one this week, I apologise to the Minister and he will tell us all about it at the end.
I will finish on this: my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) referred to the fact that a report came out from the nudge unit but was then withdrawn. It can still be found if people know where to look on the internet. That was the one I read in quite a lot of detail, because it is always interesting to know why the Government have withdrawn something after putting it out. There is one thing in there that was interesting.
One of the big challenges at COP26—it will be a success and I will give praise to the Government if their COP presidency stands out from that of every previous COP from Paris onwards—will be getting an international agreement on aviation and shipping emissions. There is a lot of talk about technological solutions to both aviation and shipping, but I am afraid that they are a long way away. If we talk to anybody in the industry, it is clear that we are still at a very early research and development phase. As to having this at scale, it is probably past the point of no return in terms of the climate.
We are going to have to manage demand, and on aviation the nudge report suggested that the Government should consider looking at a frequent flyer levy. The reason for that is that 70% of flights in this country, pre-covid, were taken by 15% of people. Demand for aviation is not evenly spread, whereas it is much more so with car travel. It is a small group of people, whether because they are involved in business travel or because they are individually well off. There are not many ways to change that behaviour, but the frequent flyer levy is one. I am interested to know why that report was withdrawn, why that is not being considered and where we are on managing demand if we are to have no net increase in aviation emissions in this country.
I thank the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire again. I hope we can get this right and we can get an international agreement right at COP26. The climate and climate science will not compromise with us. This is not a political problem that we can negotiate with another country; this is a problem that is based on science, and science will not wait.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Christopher. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) on bringing forward the debate. I was trying to make the point earlier that when he secured a debate on carbon capture and storage the Government, in a remarkable coincidence, decided what carbon clusters were going to go forward. He has secured this debate and the Government have printed their response to the Climate Change Committee’s progress report and produced strategies. He must be feeling very productive. I wonder what is on the go for next week.
As others have said, the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire made a thoughtful and balanced speech. There was a lot to be agreed on. He could have been a bit harder on the Government, but he did acknowledge that there is more work to be done from the Government and, critically, that we are not on track to meet the fifth carbon budget, let alone the final net zero target of 2050.
I disagree profoundly with a small part of the hon. Gentleman’s speech, about nuclear energy. He said that nuclear energy is safe and clean. The existing nuclear waste legacy is going to cost £132 billion to clean up and dispose of. We still do not have a means of disposing of nuclear waste other than burying it for a thousand years. I take umbrage at that. The Government need to think again about nuclear energy.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) made a thoughtful contribution. He made an important point about housing and private landlords. He spoke about the need to involve local government, which is obviously a big theme for the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel), who I congratulate on rising to the challenge of making this debate last longer. He did really well.
There was a thoughtful contribution from the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), who mentioned the key Climate Change Committee recommendation that all decisions have to be looked at through the net zero prism and to be compliant with net zero. She correctly highlighted the £27 billion roads programme and the decision on Cambo, which needs to be looked at, and other matters. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response to that.
The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire was more optimistic than the speakers on this side of the Chamber, which is understandable. He is certainly more optimistic than I am. That said, we must acknowledge the progress that has been made, which he rightly pointed out, such as the 40% decrease in emissions by 2019 from the 1990 baseline—the biggest emission reductions in the G20. We welcome that; it is a fantastic start.
The reality is that, despite the publication of the heat and buildings strategy this week and the net zero strategy, there are still huge policy gaps that mean that we will not achieve the intended target of 68% reduction in emissions by 2030. The Government need to address this quickly, but we are still waiting for the Treasury’s net zero spending review. We know that the Treasury is, unfortunately, where the power lies, and it is the Treasury that will dictate how quickly the policies can be implemented. There is no clear plan on how to pay for the decarbonisation of our heating system. The UK Government have acknowledged that continually adding levies to our electricity bill is unsustainable, given that nearly a quarter of our bill is already made up of levies; and they still do not have a plan in place on how to fund the decarbonisation of our 24 million or so homes that are connected to the gas grid. There is no coherent plan for increasing the number of heat pump installations from 30,000 per year now to the stated target of 600,000 per year by 2028. The Climate Change Committee is clear about the extent of electric heating that is required, but at the moment the Government do not have the plans to match that ambition, and if they fall short there they will fall short of the 2030 nationally determined target.
The UK Government and the Minister seem to be putting all their faith in an announcement by Octopus Energy that it can make air-source heat pumps for the equivalent of the price of a gas boiler by April 2022. I really hope that Octopus Energy is successful, as it would be fantastic for industry and for enabling us to move forward much more quickly in decarbonising our homes, but a quick look on the internet today shows that a decent gas boiler can be purchased for £1,000, while air-source heat pumps are still in the order of £6,000 to £10,000. It is clear that the prices are not going to come down that quickly by next year. Air-source heat pumps are not a new technology. Other countries install many more heat pumps than we do in the UK, so there is no way that we could get such an exponential price drop, unfortunately.
The Government have tried to tackle the price differential with the announcement of a £5,000 grant. I suppose that is a start for the market and helps to close the gap slightly, but I am not sure that the Government or Ministers actually understand the amount of work required to install an air-source heat pump and the total cost. For a start, the home needs to be made energy efficient. That is good, but it adds cost and disruption. Generally, a new hot water tank will need to be installed in the property, which also adds further cost and disruption by requiring additional plumbing and possibly joinery work—adapting a cupboard or creating a space for the hot water tank. Radiators and pipework might need upgrading, the existing boiler will need to be decommissioned—needing further gas engineer and plumbing work—and redecorating might be needed after the boiler is taken out. Considering all that work, that £5,000 grant does not get anywhere close to closing the gap between replacing a gas boiler and the total amount of work needed to install an air-source heat pump. The Minister will need to review that and his Department’s strategy, or there is no way that they will meet that target of 600,000 installs per year by 2028.
The Government also need to understand, in general, how people replace their gas boilers. It is called a distress purchase because usually it is made when the boiler reaches the end of its life. If my gas boiler breaks down this winter, I might make inquiries about replacing it with an air-source heat pump, but if I find out that the pump and all the install has a two to three month lead-in time, I am not waiting the rest of the winter to get an air-source heat pump. I am going to buy a new gas boiler and pledge to myself that, some time in the future, I will get that energy-efficient air-source heat pump. That is the reality. As the hon. Member for Leeds North West said, we have a skills gap and a shortage of people with the knowledge and availability to do these types of installs. If that is not tackled by Government and planned for in policy, everything will fall short.
On heating in general, and decarbonisation, the UK Government remain open to the use of hydrogen. That is fine if they think it is a large-scale option that could progress, but if we are keeping hydrogen as an option and still want to progress ventilation air-source heat pumps, I suggest that the right place for them to start is with off-gas-grid homes. They should have a coherent programme that matches energy-efficient installation and air-source heat pumps in off-gas-grid homes, where people are more likely to be fuel-poor. That would scale up industry, reduce emissions, and help to tackle fuel poverty. That is where I would ask the Government to start.
The new heating grant announced by the Minister yesterday replaces the UK-wide renewable heat incentive scheme, but he has confirmed that the £5,000 grant is only for people in England and Wales, so Scotland has been completely excluded. Could the Minister explain why Scotland is excluded, and whether the Scottish Government will get Barnett consequentials so they can implement their own scheme? It seems ironic that page 27 of the heating building strategy states that
“Decarbonising our heat and buildings is a joint endeavour across the United Kingdom”,
because that is clearly not the case. What discussions did the Minister have with the Scottish Government before announcing the £5,000 grant scheme to replace the RHI?
On one last aspect of heating, the UK Government have clearly failed to meet the recommendation of providing a
“long-term policy framework to support sustained energy efficiency and heat pump growth at…scale.”
They have ignored the recommendation about bringing forward the target date for all homes to be EPC band C-compliant by 2028, and are instead sticking with the 2035 date. They have not set a date for mandatory hydrogen-ready boilers, and they need to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure programme, in the way that the Scottish Government have. As another hon. Member said, 2035 is far too late for the phase-out of new gas boilers. That date needs to really to be brought forward.
Excluding Scotland seems to be the theme of the week for the UK Government. I need to say again that the decision to not include the Scottish cluster as a track 1 CCS project is disgraceful. It has been classed as a snub in the north-east of Scotland, and has in turn been widely reported in the press. It is not just Scottish National party politicians saying that; that is the feeling. It is a real snub to Scotland, and I urge the Minister to think again about that decision. He has still not been able to explain why the Scottish cluster has been tagged as a reserve, or even why he thinks he needs a reserve. Is it because he is not sure about the deliverability of the two clusters that the Government propose to take forward? It seems illogical, but hopefully we will get a bit more information about that.
On carbon capture and storage, although the Government have announced that they hope to progress to clusters, they have yet to agree a pricing model for the storage of carbon dioxide. We need to get that in place if we are going to progress carbon capture and storage, which the Committee on Climate Change has said is really important.
An important point in the debate about carbon capture is a recognition that yes, planting trees is excellent, and the Government’s ambitions will be really important if they are delivered, but we in England are destroying our peat bogs, which are a bigger carbon sink than the trees we will plant, and as we destroy those bogs, they become a source of carbon emissions. I congratulate the hon. Member, because Scotland is way ahead of England in restoring its peat bogs. It is a really important issue, and I congratulate Scotland on the approach it has taken. I hope the Minister will take it up with his colleagues in other Departments.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and clearly I agree with him. It is great that he has recognised the work that is going on to restore peat bogs in Scotland. As he said, the UK Government’s tree-planting target is welcome, but I am sceptical that they have a plan in place to meet that target. They have never met any target for tree planting to date, so the idea that they can scale up massively in a couple of years is beyond belief. I was going to mention tree planting in Scotland later on, but in 2019, 85% of trees planted in the UK were planted in Scotland via the Scottish Government’s scheme. The Scottish Government have aggressively pursued tree planting—they have led the way on it—while the UK Government have not yet put plans in place to meet their ambitions.
There are too many policy gaps to mention, even though we have a lot more time today than we expected. We need to see an impact from the net zero aviation strategy, for example. I am not convinced by the plans that are in place. As the hon. Member for Leeds North West said, there is a transport decarbonisation plan in place, but when it comes to hydrogen and conversion of HGVs, we have heard the hon. Member for Bristol East say that not enough zero-emission buses are being produced. We really need to move quickly on these matters.
The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire complimented the work that is being done on decarbonising the electricity system. That work is truly welcome, but there is still not a proper plan for ending unabated gas-fired electricity generation by 2035, nor a proper structured plan for the decarbonisation of the electricity grid to meet the 2035 target set by the Government. If they are going to meet the target of a net zero electricity grid by 2030, there are some things that I suggest the Minister needs to be cognisant of. The Government need to review the grid charging system, which will end the farce of Scotland having the highest grid charges in Europe. That system disincentivises the construction of renewable energy production in Scotland—puts it at a disadvantage compared with projects in England—but it does not help the UK to meet its net zero target, either. We need to make net zero a statutory consideration for Ofgem, and the Government need to review the capacity market to address its reliance on fossil fuels, and allow storage that is co-located with renewable energy to be able to bid into the capacity market. Bizarrely, that is blocked at the moment.
As I touched on earlier, the Government need to end their nuclear obsession. Instead of spending another £20 billion on a new station at Sizewell, not to mention the billions they want to invest in small modular reactors and the mythical advanced nuclear reactors, they should be investing that money in renewable energy—in green hydrogen production and storage. The UK has now fallen behind France, the Netherlands and Germany in terms of hydrogen production proposals, so an urgent rethink of policy development is required. The 5 GW hydrogen target is not ambitious enough. The Scottish Government have a 5 GW hydrogen production target, so surely the UK Government need to up their game.
The UK Government should be investing in pumped storage hydropower—a proven technology that allows dispatchable energy to be added to the grid when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. This is something that can progress quickly. SSE is ready to progress with the Coire Glas scheme, and Drax is advancing plans to double output from the existing Cruachan dam pumped storage hydro plant. What is needed is a pricing mechanism to be agreed with the Government, like a carbon floor mechanism. I raised this with the previous Minister. Will the current Minister look at a pricing mechanism to allow pumped storage hydro to progress? It is a good use of renewable energy.
Wave and tidal turbine power—technology Scotland literally leads the world in— needs help to get to the next phase of scaling up. The industry requested a ringfenced sum of money in part 2 of the contracts for difference—round 4 is coming up shortly. Ringfencing money in part 2 has been done for floating offshore wind; all that the wave and tidal industry are asking for is the same ringfencing to allow them to compete and get a slice of the pie. It is believed that the Treasury blocked this ringfencing, which is ridiculous, considering that it would not have cost the Government any money. There is a risk that this technology will lose out and move abroad, and as happened with onshore wind, we will lose the opportunity to have the manufacturing set up in the UK and lose the export opportunities and growth that comes with that. Hopefully the Minister will listen the arguments. I would be more than happy to meet and discuss it, and he would be very welcome to meet industry representatives. Small changes could be made that will not cost the Government money, but could generate fantastic growth opportunities.
In Scotland’s commitments to the Paris climate change targets and net zero, we are genuinely leading the way. We were the first Government to set a net zero target with a date of 2045, the first to declare a climate emergency, and we have set up the Just Transition commission. Admittedly, we also did not meet our emissions target of a 55% reduction by 2020, a 51.5% reduction is still fantastic progress. In Europe, Scotland is second only to Sweden in terms of the scale of reduction achieved. Interestingly, one of the reasons Scotland missed its latest target is that the process under way of rewetting peatlands necessitates the removal of some trees. As the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) pointed out, Scotland is doing fantastically with peat bog and wetland restoration, as well as having a fantastic tree-planting operation.
When it comes to energy production, Scotland has led the way in decarbonisation; last year, 97% of equivalent electricity demand was produced by renewable energy—this is absolutely tremendous. We have ambitious plans and we are making them happen; they cannot nor should not be blocked by decisions made in Westminster. I appreciate the UK Government does have ambitious targets, but as the report from the CCC shows, more policy and further intervention from Government are required—and they are required sooner rather than later.
Thank you, Sir Christopher. I am always guided by your wisdom. I will attempt to restrain my remarks as much as possible, although, I am not sure whether I can get them done in 45 minutes. I hope I will be much briefer than that, because quite a lot of what I wanted to say this afternoon has already been said. That is a reflection of the very high quality debate that we have had.
I do not want to go overboard about this and start saying things such as, “Better fewer, but better”—better being the watchword for these sorts of occasions—which is actually a quote from Lenin, but it reflects very well on the Members present. I could not have asked for a better group of parliamentarians to debate this issue. Between us, we have addressed in a sober manner both the pluses and the minuses of where we stand on emissions. For the second day running, I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) not only on securing the debate, but on the quality and content of what he had to say. I know that is probably a career-limiting move on the part of an Opposition Front-Bench spokesperson, but I really think that the hon. Gentleman did ample justice to his brief, albeit perhaps he pulled some punches a little because of his party political position. Overall, his speech was a sound and good exposition of both the pluses and minuses of our progress on climate change.
[Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]
I will come back to one or two things that the hon. Gentleman said, but I also want to say that valuable additional points were made by Members from my party and the Scottish National party. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) emphasised the importance of buildings, heat pumps and the seismic change in delivery that we have to get into over the next period. Those were well made points, which reflected how we talk about what we have achieved so far and what we have to do in the future. That is a central point in our discussions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) made some important points about transport and the difference between what we think we have achieved by putting something down on a piece of paper, and, when we follow it through, where we think that has got to. That was exemplified in her comments on the 900 buses that have allegedly been procured. Indeed, I was present at the visit to the buses yesterday, along with her and other hon. Members. That exemplified that we have some things that are an obvious next step in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. If it is possible to embrace an entire bus, we should be running off with those examples and planting them everywhere in the country as quickly as possible, yet we appear to be falling down badly in terms of how we roll out that fine ambition over a period of time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) emphasised the role that local government and a cross-departmental approach can play in the fight to reduce emissions across the board. He made a number of very telling points about what local government can and cannot do, and how much needs to be entrusted to local government in order to bring about emissions reductions.
I return to one or two of the comments made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. He made the important point that if we are to have a balanced assessment of where we have come from and what we are trying to get to, we should neither condemn a Government—or, in this case, the two Governments we have had from the turn of the century to today, or three if we count the coalition—for doing nothing, nor praise them for doing everything. We have to have a clear line between those two positions to make a sober assessment of just how much we have to do, and to place our successes and failures so far in context.
As the hon. Member also said, it is only possible to decarbonise our power sector once, which is an important observation for our record so far. Some people, talking about where we have got to, might say that we have done better than a number of other countries in the world, that we have reduced emissions substantially while expanding our economy, and then stand back with folded arms and say, “There we are—it is pretty much done, isn’t it?” The Climate Change Committee’s report gives a telling antidote to that stance. It draws our attention to not just changes in UK emissions over the period 2000 to 2020, but changes by sector.
A useful chart appears on page 20 of the report—I see hon. Members flicking through their copies to find it—which shows that there has been a stupendous change in emissions from electricity supply. We have done a fantastic job of decarbonising our emissions from electricity supply, which have plummeted from annual emissions of about 160 megatonnes of CO2 in 2000 to less than 45 megatonnes of CO2. We see the wisdom of the point made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire—we can only decarbonise these things once. Although we should go much further, and it is good that we have seen a proposal for the complete decarbonisation of the power sector by 2035, we will not be able to repeat that reduction in emissions in that sector, so we cannot set that achievement against what we need to do next in the areas we need to concentrate on for the future.
That same chart is alarming in a number of areas. We must enter a caveat about the deep reduction in emissions from aviation and surface transport during the pandemic, because all the evidence already suggests that they will pretty quickly return to their previous levels. In general, despite some reduction in emissions from manufacturing and construction over the period and a smaller reduction in buildings—albeit a flat line in recent years—emissions in most other sectors are flat or increasing. That means that, in effect, measures in those sectors either have not started or have been completely ineffective in reducing emissions. As we look at the overall picture, it is important to be able to say, “We have done well here and we have done badly there,” and, when we are judging the totals, we must carefully take that into account.
We must also carefully consider the proportion of emissions in those sectors. For example, electricity supply—power stations—currently accounts for 15% of emissions. Yes, we can achieve a reduction in emissions there, but those emissions as a percentage of total emissions are now about the same as those from agriculture and land use, yet emissions from that area have stayed static in the period. Therefore, among other things, if we continue to make progress in particular areas, as has been described, but others stay static, they will represent an increasing, and increasingly intractable, part of our emissions over the next period. To do nothing about aviation, shipping, surface transport and, certainly, agriculture and land use, or to ignore them or put them in the background, is nearing criminal. If we leave them out, they will be impossible to pull back later.
We need to look at the progress made under the plans in those areas and how well they are getting us towards the same emissions curve as we see in the power sector, and as soon as possible. In that context, the Climate Change Committee’s report to Parliament is telling. The committee is the most polite organisation that one could come across. Not only is it unfailingly courteous in personal dealings with Members but all its reports have “courteous” written through them, like a stick of rock. It does not jump up and down and scream, and it does not over-hype its statements; quite the opposite. Where necessary, it is careful to caveat them as far as possible. In those circumstances, it is sometimes accused of being a bit soft. I do not think it is, but it is rigorously careful and accurate in what it tries to do.
However, in reading between the lines, the progress report is a pretty coruscating condemnation of progress, particularly in the areas that I have represented to hon. Members. As hon. Members have mentioned, page 24 of the summary report shows the areas where progress falls far short of the Government’s stated ambition and commitments. In some areas the Government’s commitment meets what the Climate Change Committee said should be the pathway. However, in a number of other areas their commitment is failing very badly, and those areas represent a large chunk of the overall emissions coming down the road, while those where they are succeeding often account for relatively small amounts of emissions. We need to try to get that into proportion as well.
Looking at what the Climate Change Committee said, something that we ought to think carefully about, which we have not done particularly this afternoon, is that the progress report is about not only mitigation but adaptation. Although there is a separate adaptation report, it comes under the overall ambit of the general report to Parliament. On adaptation, the committee says:
“A robust plan is needed for adaptation. The UK does not yet have a vision for successful adaptation to climate change, nor measurable targets to assess progress. Not one of the 34 priority areas assessed in this year’s progress report on adaptation is yet demonstrating strong progress in adapting to climate risk. Policies are being developed without sufficient recognition of the need to adapt to the changing climate. This undermines their goals, locks in climate risks, and stores up costs for the future.”
That almost sounds not terribly polite. It is waving a red flag about the disgraceful complete lack of any plan for serious Government action in this country on adaptation, which will really turn around to bite us in the near future if we do not get our act together. If the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire is minded to apply for a further debate in this Chamber, I would suggest a specific debate on adaptation. It is a very important area, which we have largely missed out on, and we do so at our peril.
The committee’s report also reflected on the fact that, at the time it was written, the Government were in the process of producing a number of reports that had been promised for quite a while but had not arisen, such as the net zero plan, the transport plan, the hydrogen plan, and the heat and buildings strategy, which the Climate Change Committee was unable to incorporate into its report to Parliament because they were still anticipated. Just this week, no fewer than 1,800 pages of material finally came tumbling out of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Treasury and so on, with 10 days to go to COP26, rectifying a number of those emissions. I am afraid that, try as I might, I have not been able to get through all 1,800 pages by any means. It is apparent from reading those just how far off we are from getting to grips with things that the Climate Change Committee mentioned in its report.
Let me take the “Heat and Buildings Strategy”, which has just come out, as an example. I do not particularly blame the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for this, and hon. Members will have to take it from me, but the “Heat and Buildings Strategy”, which is an interesting report, has been written, in what we might call Shakespearean authorship analysis, by several different hands—I do not include the Minister in that. Broadly, I can say that the right questions have been written by one series of hands, and the wrong answers have been written by another series of hands, so the report does not cohere.
The answers to the ambition that the Climate Change Committee was concerned to underpin in its report to Parliament are not very ambitious at all. There is a really lame response to the question of how we go about the insulation and energy efficiency uprating of our homes, which, as everybody knows by now, is a sine qua non of a load of actions in other areas, as we have mentioned already.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) unpacked some of the issues on heat pumps. We know that they will not work in badly insulated homes. We have an ambition for heat pumps, but there are all sorts of issues even within the report about the difference between the ambition of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2030 and the practical issue of who will be trained up to install them, whether they will be manufactured in this country, and which sectors will have heat pumps in them. I note, for example, on the Government’s ambition for 300,000 homes a year, that it is suggested that heat pumps will go into only about 60% of them, so we have the prospect of new homes being built with gas boilers in them, which will have to be retrofitted pretty shortly afterwards, but we will perhaps let that pass us by.
On how the paper addresses our overall ambitions, the sector, as the strategy sets out, occupies 23% of emissions just on heat. So when we talk about the energy sector, we are talking about heat being much more important in terms of emissions than power, and it is heat that we have made virtually no progress on at all. The overwhelming majority of our homes are still heated by gas, and that figure has remained fairly static for a fairly long time. A strategy that proposes more heat pumps only works if we deal with other heat factors, particularly how much heat we lose from our buildings, how meaner we could be in our use of heat in buildings in future, and what sort of win-wins we might have in insulating our homes, and we must deal with fuel poverty and various other such things.
One would think that a strategy of energy efficiency should run alongside everything else that we do on heat generation. That one thing, with the exception of some short-term, fairly small amounts of funding for particular projects in the strategy, is sorely missing. I do not know, but I would speculate, bearing in mind the different authors of the report, that perhaps a much more ambitious strategy was in the minds of BEIS, and certain other people came along and crossed a nought off the end of each of the amounts of money in the strategy. It woefully misses the opportunity to really go forward on getting heat firmly in our sights as far as decarbonisation is concerned.
The hydrogen strategy that has come out is interesting, premised on the progress report to Parliament. It does not have any path by which we can develop green hydrogen, which of course is the element of hydrogen that will do the work of decarbonisation. Unless we have a decent path for developing green hydrogen over the period, we will not make the progress that we should on climate change and emission reductions.
As I said, I have yet to go through all of this, but I think we are simply not articulating our own ambition on carbon reduction and getting the details of how we do it right. Indeed, not only are we a long way from that in some instances, but in others we are not even addressing it. I am interested to reflect on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West about the nudge unit report that came out recently. It was nudged into public view and pretty immediately nudged out again, within I think a day of being published. One of the reasons for that is because the nudge unit drew our attention to some very difficult areas that we have to get to grips with, but we have hitherto walked on by on the other side of the street.
I know that to my cost. Recently, I think at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference, I ventured the opinion that we will have far fewer livestock farmers in our country in 20 years’ time. That is a straightforward statement of understanding of what we have to do in the agricultural and land use sector, what we have to do about our diets and how we deal with emissions in our food chain, and many such things. I got absolute grief. Indeed, I got a number of angry invitations in my in-tray to visit some farms and see what is really happening, and so on. I know it is a really difficult issue, and that we will have to do a lot of just transition-type work in getting it right, but it is an issue that we have to face. I am afraid that the Government are not doing that in a number of areas as far as emission reductions are concerned.
My conclusion, which I hope will be pretty widely shared across the Chamber, is that although we have done well so far in our emission reductions process, we need to unpack that to understand where we have done quite well and where we have done badly, so that we have better pointers for the future. As things stand, we appear to be nowhere near meeting the challenges ahead of us on climate change reduction. A lot more new policies and new thinking will be needed to get us anywhere near those targets. Regrettably, as the strategies come out they do not appear to rise to that challenge. I hope that this afternoon the Minister will be able to respond to the debate in that vein, because I hope that I have given a reasonably accurate picture of what the Climate Change Committee says and what hon. Members have said in this Chamber today.
I have not quite taken my 45 minutes, Sir Christopher—[Interruption.] Sorry, Mrs Murray; while I was talking, you snuck into the Chair.
Obviously, the previous Chair just could not stand the idea of being there for the entirety of my speech and has left.
I hope that this debate will serve as almost a watchword for how we approach our task over the next period. We need to work soberly, carefully and, as far as possible, on a consensual basis, for the future of our climate goals, but also with a clear-eyed recognition of just how far we have to go and how difficult many of the choices will be. We need to face them together, creating solutions that can actually work in our national and, indeed, international interests.
By the way, even though it was very late in the day, I understand just how much work has gone into these documents and how hard people have worked at getting them out, and indeed how they have attempted to address the choices in front of us in a real way. I do not underestimate any of that. My criticisms are based on what we have to do politically to address these issues for the future. I am not in any way attempting to denigrate the people who have put these documents together.
That is the offer from the Opposition, and that is what we want to do—to move us forward in the face of this tremendous challenge and the really daunting task ahead of us. And if we can manage to conduct our future debates as well as we have managed to conduct today’s debate, that will be a great help in this process.
Let me begin by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for nominating this important debate today, and I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) for his very able introduction to it. We were sitting in exactly these seats yesterday during his last Westminster Hall debate, which was on the interesting subject of carbon capture and storage, a subject that has also cropped up in today’s debate.
Of course it is vital that we focus on clean growth and the Government’s vision for transitioning to a net zero economy. This has been a very useful debate, with a very high degree of consensus, which of course the Government welcome.
First, the Government welcome the Climate Change Committee’s 2021 “Progress in reducing emissions” report, which highlights our successes in setting an ambitious climate mitigation agenda while also providing healthy challenge to our progress to net zero by 2050. The point of having this kind of Committee is for it to keep challenging the Government and to ensure that the Government are straining every possible muscle to get to that target and get there in good time.
The report correctly emphasises that the journey to net zero is not yet half-completed and that this decade is the decisive one for tackling climate change, which Britain must take a leading role in. Of course, that is why on Tuesday we published our net zero strategy, which has been referred to many times; I welcome the Opposition’s praise for my officials and my ministerial team for the work that they have put into it. I know that a lot of my team have been working very long hours to get the strategy out there and to do so on time.
The strategy delivers a comprehensive set of measures to support and capitalise on the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050. It outlines measures to transition to a green and sustainable future, and to help businesses and consumers to move to clean power, supporting hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and leveraging up to £90 billion worth of private investment by 2030.
We have already set out a lot about our journey to net zero. Over the past year alone, we have published the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the energy White Paper, the North sea transition deal, the industrial decarbonisation strategy, the transport decarbonisation plan, the hydrogen strategy and, most recently, our heat and buildings strategy.
Would the Minister be able to provide us with some helpful guidance on the production of those documents, and set it against what the Climate Change Committee has been doing with its carbon budgets and so on? Does he consider that as a result of those documents being published and their contents, we are now on course to meet the terms of the sixth carbon budget?
Our position on the sixth carbon budget is unchanged, as the hon. Gentleman knows. However, I am a believer in an active Government, and publishing a set of strategies does not necessarily mean that we have reached the point that we want to reach: it merely lays out the map and sets out the process, which I think is very helpful. In terms of delivery, obviously the onus to fulfil these objectives is on not only the Government, but every citizen of this country and, indeed, the whole world.
We have just unveiled a landmark commitment to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035, to help us build a secure home-grown energy sector that is not reliant on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile wholesale energy prices, which as we know are very much in the news at the moment. However, the science could not be clearer: by the middle of this century, the world needs to reduce emissions to as close to zero as possible, with the small amount remaining sucked up through natural carbon sinks such as forests and relatively new technologies such as carbon capture. We are proud to lead the world in ending our contribution to climate change, not just because it is the right thing to do, but because we are determined to seize the unprecedented economic opportunity it brings. We want to build back better from the pandemic by building back greener and levelling up our country with new high-skilled, high-wage, sustainable jobs in every part of the United Kingdom. Those jobs will be spread across the UK, with specialists in low-carbon fuels in Northern Ireland, low-carbon hydrogen in Sheffield, electric vehicle battery production in the north-east of England, green finance in London, more engineers in Wales, and offshore wind technicians in Scotland.
The strategy builds on all the progress that the UK has already made. In June 2021, the UK Government set the sixth carbon budget at 965 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent, a world-leading target that will mean a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 compared with 1990 levels. This is in line with the latest science, as the level recommended by our expert advisers at the Climate Change Committee, and is consistent with the Paris agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 °C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°. The target would achieve well over half of the required emissions reductions from now to 2050 in the next 15 years.
Turning to the points raised during the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire has pointed out that a parallel debate on COP26 is taking place in the main Chamber, so anybody watching the debate might wonder why there are not more Members here. The overlap has been considerable. He also rightly pointed out the UK’s huge success—in 2015, we emitted the lowest amount of CO2 per annum since 1859—and then he got Opposition Members a little bit excited with his reference to the 1926 general strike. I do not think my hon. Friend thought of the 1926 general strike as something we would wish to emulate, but I noted from interventions and comments made by Opposition Members that they perhaps thought it was. It was very important that my hon. Friend quoted the 2019 figure, because emissions obviously went down quite a bit during the pandemic, so it is important that we look at a more robust figure, such as that from 2019. As he said, it was the biggest decline in the whole of the G20 since 1990: we emit less per person than the EU average, and less than Denmark or Norway. All of those were incredibly strong points.
I was thinking back to the 1990 benchmark for all those emissions. The nearest election to that time was the 1989 European elections, which were not memorable for anything other than the fact that they were the high point in the performance of the UK Green party. It was the year when the Green party got more than 10% of the vote overall. It ran on a manifesto that it was impossible to do anything to reduce emissions while still growing the economy. We had to reduce growth in the economy and reduce its size to do something about emissions.
As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire has pointed out, the incredible success in the 30 years since, during which the UK has grown the economy by 78% while reducing emissions by 44%, demolishes the case that was made at that time by the UK Green party and others. He also makes the good point that the hard work is yet to come. It gets more difficult and the low-hanging fruit has already been picked. Now we have the harder job ahead of us. He talked about carbon capture utilisation and storage and I refer, as in yesterday’s debate, to the fact that the Carbon Capture and Storage Association described Tuesday’s news as “amazing”. I will come back to the Scotland issue in just a moment.
On peatland, my hon. Friend rightly pointed out the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation to restore 67,000 hectares. Currently, only 32,000 hectares have been restored. We are committed to restoring 35,000 hectares by 2025 and 280,000 hectares by 2050. Other points included consumer choice and diet style and those also cropped up later in the debate, as well as the importance of nuclear power. I noticed that two Opposition MPs here today, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd), were first elected in 1997, running on a manifesto of ending new nuclear power plants in this country. It was part of the new Labour manifesto of 1997, which I think did so much damage to the nuclear industry in this country and effectively cost us a lost generation in nuclear capability.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire that the decade of delivery has come.
That is a slightly open-ended question, as the hon. Gentleman knows our commitment is to the existing Hinkley Point C facility. We are committed to bringing forward one further station for its investment case in this Parliament and on Tuesday we also allocated £120 million for a new nuclear innovation fund, which increases the optionality. What are the options for the UK in nuclear capability and capacity going forward? I just wish we had a more positive attitude on nuclear from the SNP. Scotland is part of this country’s nuclear heritage and it disappoints me continuously to see the SNP not seeing the opportunities available for Scotland in so many of our energy and climate change programmes.
I will make some progress.
On transport, the hon. Member for Rochdale makes some good points. Let me tell him what we are doing on transport: the zero-emission vehicle mandate, improving consumer choice; further funding of £620 million for zero-emission vehicle grants; allocating a further £350 million of our up to £1 billion automotive transformation fund to support the electrification of UK vehicles; £3 billion on integrated bus networks; and a £2 billion investment to enable half of journeys in towns and cities to be cycled or walked by 2030. Those are big commitments.
The hon. Gentleman talked about homes and the boiler upgrade scheme. It is exciting, but slightly buried in all the news about net zero overnight, that one of the energy companies—it is Octopus Energy, but I expect others are either there or will follow—said that it is confident that by April next year, the installation price of a new heat pump will be equivalent to the price of a natural gas boiler. This is one of the important points about what the Government can do. The Government will not come round to everybody’s home, across the whole UK, and install a heat pump. That would be impractical and it would potentially be beyond the means of the Government and the taxpayer to do that. What we are doing is kick-starting a market and kick-starting private sector innovation to come along and do it, and we are already having an impact in what we are doing on heat pumps.
The Minister is citing Octopus again, but can he tell me, then, what he thinks the installation price of an air source heat pump will be in a year’s time? Did he listen to the points that I made about all the other installation costs that need to accompany an air source pump? Can he give an estimate of what the total cost of that installation would be?
I will not go further down the road of making price or market predictions. What the Government need to be in the business of doing is kick-starting the market, stimulating the market, and getting it going. I do not think it is in my interest to set out predictions of what I think supply, demand or pricing might be in a year’s time.
I am genuinely grateful to the Minister for giving way. By the way, I was first elected in 1983 on what was euphemistically called “the longest suicide note in history”, so there are many examples that we can quote.
On the issue of heat pumps, I would put it to the Minister that to give the public confidence in the installation of heat pumps, they first need to know the technical specifications, that they are sound and that there are qualified installers. That means training, which we have discussed already today, but it also means something else. Heat pumps do not work very well unless we have well insulated properties. A combination of things are required in order to make that real difference. I hope that the Minister will address not the ’83 question, but the question of how we deliver heat pumps that work.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I will come on to the point about installation. He also makes a very good point about insulation and the importance of well insulated homes, which I think nobody denies. But let me just return to the points that he made in his speech.
Local government and local delivery are incredibly important. It is very important that local leadership is seen on climate change. I see it from Mayors such as Andy Street and Ben Houchen and also some Labour Mayors. I think Andy Burnham, the hon. Gentleman’s local Mayor, has been quite good in this space as well. It is important that we all see climate change and taking action on climate change as a cross-party issue involving all the tiers of government and all the available parts of government across the whole United Kingdom.
On energy usage, the hon. Member for Rochdale asked what more the Government can do to address consumption and reduce emissions. The heat and buildings strategy addresses consumption in homes. For example, we provide increased support for low-income households through the home upgrade grant. We are committed to upgrading fuel-poor homes to energy performance certificate band C by 2030 where reasonably practicable. And there is our social housing decarbonisation fund, with £800 million provided. I think that the hon. Gentleman also asked about hydrogen investment. The net zero strategy confirms the industrial decarbonisation and hydrogen revenue support scheme, supporting blue and green H2 production. It could lead to 1.5 GW of new capacity.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) asked about quite a number of things, some of which are familiar themes. I just remind her that Cambo has already been licensed as a field, in 2001 and 2004.
I could fill the remaining time on airport expansion. Mrs Murray, you will remember that I resigned from the Government in 2018 over airport expansion at Heathrow. I note that, since I resigned, that airport expansion has not happened and I am not seeing any sign of it happening anytime soon.
The hon. Lady asked about trade agreements.
I will make a bit more progress.
Nothing in a trade agreement prevents our ability to regulate environmentally or prevents the UK fulfilling its climate change obligations. The hon. Lady asked about COP26 leaders, and I can give her an update. We have a stellar array of world leaders coming for COP26, including President Biden and the four Ms—Prime Minister Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, President Macron and Chancellor Merkel. We have leaders of medium-sized economies who will be really important. I spoke earlier today with the Vietnamese Energy Minister Dien and the Vietnamese Prime Minister Chinh is coming. Vietnam is an important player, as well as an important ally and friend to the UK. Its current plans are to double coal usage over the next decade, which will not set the right tone at COP26. We are looking forward to welcoming a wide variety of leaders, some of which are close friends and allies of the UK, and developing economies, of which Vietnam is just one, are also coming.
In terms of the carbon border adjustment mechanism, we watch all the proposals very closely. We need to make sure they are World Trade Organisation compatible, that they are not a disguised form of protectionism and that they do not discriminate unnecessarily against developing countries. Departmental policy decisions are consistent with net zero. We have established two Cabinet Committees dedicated to climate change. The Environment Bill requires the Government to reflect environmental issues in national policy making through consideration of the five environmental principles.
Where are the two EV buses? We have delivered the national bus strategy, investing £12 billion in local transport systems over the current Parliament and delivering 4,000 new zero-emission buses.
The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) spoke of a scenario where one person on a street puts in solar panels and everybody else says, “I want a piece of the action.” That is a great example of the Government simulating demand. It does not mean that the Government should come down the road and install everybody’s solar panels, though. It shows the effectiveness of Government policy in getting people to sit up, take notice and want to take advantage of something. That is what the role of the Government can be. Heat pumps will be exactly the same.
I have already outlined the support we are giving to the housing sector overall. If the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member wants to write to me with a specific proposal, I am happy to look at it. I have to say, I was not entirely sure about his recent history—he mentioned COP21 in relation to the election of Donald Trump, which of course came after that, but I may be misremembering his speech, so I will not go down that road.
How many people have been trained in heat pumps so far? We want more to be trained. The figure is around 3,000 and we require 35,000, so that is definitely a challenging position. We have set out Government policy and the direction of travel on heat pumps very clearly and we are waiting for the market to respond.
I am going to make progress. On Germany’s net-zero strategy, I shared a platform with the German ambassador last night, and both of our countries are very supportive of each other’s policies on net zero and the environment. We consider ourselves to be world leaders in this space. On retrofitting, we are committed to supporting businesses and households to upgrade energy efficiency in buildings.
I am going to make a bit more progress. We intend to upgrade as many homes as possible to energy performance certificate band C by 2035.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) talked about the heat pump grant scheme. I am amazed by that. It is a devolved matter, but there have been discussions with the Scottish Government about the Scottish Government joining up with us and participating in this scheme; but if I understand the situation correctly, they have refused. The irony is that the Ofgem team that will be administering the England and Wales scheme will be based in Glasgow, with more than 100 new members of staff. Unless they have a very long commute, they will not be able to benefit from the scheme that they are helping to administer, due to the fact that the Scottish Government have said that they will not be joining the UK Government in the scheme. That is a great pity.
I have not had time to get on the hotline to them. On the point about the additional members of Ofgem working in Glasgow, that is very welcome and I hope they will not have a long commute—that would not be good for climate change overall. The more serious point is about what funding is coming to the Scottish Government to run their own scheme.
The Barnett consequentials will of course be enacted in the usual way as we would expect, but why not join with a scheme that has been very well received, that I think will be a market leader and that will, ironically, be administered out of Glasgow? It makes perfect sense for the Scottish Government to come on board with us.
We have made huge investments in offshore wind and other renewables in Scotland. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun mentioned the 5 GW target for hydrogen being less than in Germany. It is the same as Germany’s target—they have exactly the same target. On wave and tidal, we have already put down more than £175 million in innovation funding across this country, with 10 MW already deployed. In many senses, they are still pre-commercial technologies, but we are making the investment to increase the optionality that will be available in wave and tidal.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s overall support for the UK’s targets and ambitions. He mentioned reforms to the electricity market. We recently published a call for evidence on actions to align capacity markets with net zero and actions to encourage the participation of more low-carbon capacity. We are committed to accelerating the deployment of low-cost renewable generation through the contracts for difference regime and by undertaking the review of the frequency of CfD options.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test, in a comprehensive speech, congratulated us on our success in decarbonising electricity generation. I go back to the commitment given to complete that process by 2035. He said that we are ignoring other areas. I do not think that is fair and I do not think that is the case. He talked about adaptation. We are currently developing a national adaptation programme, which is due in 2023. DEFRA published the response to the Climate Change Committee’s adaptation report, which goes into more detail on our progress on adapting to climate change.
On fossil fuels and net zero, of course net zero does not necessarily mean zero residual emissions in all sectors of the economy. It is, after all, a net zero figure. In aviation, agriculture and industry it may not be feasible, practical or cost-effective to eliminate all emissions.
I thank the hon. Member for Southampton, Test for his praise for the hard work put in by my officials on producing the reports.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun asked, “Where is the Treasury review of the cost of net zero?” I have news for him—I emailed it to him about 15 minutes ago. It was published on Monday night. It is entitled, “Net Zero Review: Analysis exploring the key issues”. There are 135 pages for him to digest before I see him next, when he can ask me questions about it. It was published at the same time as, or just before, the net zero strategy.
In the past few years, the Government have gone further than ever before to ensure that the climate is at the heart of our decision making. We have taken new approaches to embed net zero in spending decisions, including requiring Departments to include greenhouse gas emissions in their spending review bids and their impact on meeting carbon budgets and net zero. As I already said, we have established two Cabinet Committees. The integrated review reflects that and ensures that it is the Government’s No. 1 international priority. We are also using the Environment Bill to require the Government to reflect all these issues in national policy.
We are committed to taking a whole-system approach to the net zero challenge, ensuring that we understand and can navigate the complex ways that our climate goals will interact with other priorities for the country. As I mentioned, we published the heat and buildings strategy, which sets out the required actions to decarbonise buildings over the next decade, helping meet near-term carbon budgets and getting us on track for net zero by 2050.
I will finish, as I have been speaking for almost half an hour. The net zero strategy sets out clear principles on how we will engage the public and support them to make green choices. We will explore how to enhance public-facing climate content and advice on gov.uk and our Simple Energy Advice service to provide homeowners with advice for decarbonising their homes, including tailored retrofit advice in local areas.
I thank the CCC once again for its expertise and advice in producing its annual report. The Government are committed to delivering a net zero economy, and we welcome the committee’s contribution to this obligation. The net zero strategy sets out a roadmap to cut emissions and create new jobs across the whole country. It comes as the UK prepares to host the UN COP26 summit next week, where the Prime Minister will lead by example and call on other world economies to set out their own domestic plans for cutting emissions. Through the strategy, we are accelerating towards more resilient futures, towards our green recovery and towards protecting our planet for this generation and those to come.
I thank everyone for what has been an excellent debate, as various other Members have commented. We clearly have a shared ambition and this afternoon’s discussion has been 90% policy and only about 10% politics. It has been incredibly civilised—although I am rather worried that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) praising me so much has completely ruined my political career before it has even begun.
I will not go through all the different points because the Minister did it so effectively and he is in charge of the policy, but I want to highlight a few things that people have said. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test rightly pointed out that power had gone down very quickly and had gone down less in other sectors. There is some rationale behind that. I wrote about electric vehicles and I test-drove them about 20 years ago. The common complaint then was that they were transferring pollution from city centres up to the valleys where the power stations were, because electricity was largely produced by coal then.
It is not any greener to drive an electric car if the electricity that powers it comes from coal. Electric vehicles and other aspects of the transportation system, such as electric trains, as well as the heat pumps that we have been talking about, can be far greener if the electricity they use is decarbonised. I do not know whether that is deliberate on the part of the Government, but decarbonising electricity first and then going to the other sectors that are more difficult to decarbonise does make a sort of sense from a climate point of view.
A couple of comments were made about airport expansion, such as by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), and someone mentioned road expansion. The Minister said that any expansion of airports would only be compliant with our commitments to net zero, and that is absolutely right. I get very involved in road conversations in my constituency because it is a big issue locally. When cars reach net zero—when we all have fully electric cars and the production of cars is carbon-neutral as well, which if we decarbonise industry will happen—having more cars driving around will not have any impact on climate change. I realise that that is some way off and that congestion would then be more of an issue, so the different rationales for adjusting cars, airports or whatever will be different. I think net zero aviation is a very long way away.
One thing that I did not touch on, but which the Minister and others did, is the economic opportunity. I have been an economics correspondent, I am on the Treasury Committee, and I used to run the British Bankers Association. I focus very closely on economic issues and I have become more convinced that all the talk about green jobs is not just greenwashing but is actually genuine. There really are economic opportunities for us, particularly if we become a world leader in sectors ahead of other countries. We have been a bit behind on heat pumps so far, but if we make the progress that I hope we will make, it will create an industry that we can start exporting to other countries a lot more. We talked about that when we debated carbon capture, utilisation and storage yesterday. There is a huge economic opportunity in terms of exports.
We have had various discussions on nuclear. There was a bit of disagreement—some of us like nuclear, but some of us do not. I want to share a little observation. I went to Chernobyl village once—again, it was about 20 years ago. I went with the United Nations, which had done an investigation of the long-term health consequences of Chernobyl and concluded that they were absolutely minimal. From memory, I think about 40 people died of acute radiation sickness at the time of the explosion in Chernobyl, but most of the other health consequences were because of other factors. About 30,000 people were moved out of Pripyat, which is the town near Chernobyl. They were moved to other parts of Ukraine, without jobs and communities. A lot of them became alcoholic and depressed, and they died of alcoholism rather than the impacts of Chernobyl.
There have been a lot of scary stories about nuclear, but it is one of the safest forms of power. I will quote some figures—these are measured by deaths per terawatt hours, which is a huge amount of energy produced. Taking into account all factors, such as air pollution, deaths in production and so on, coal is 24.6 deaths per terawatt hour, oil is 18.4, biomass is 4.6, gas is 2.8 and nuclear is 0.07, and that includes all the deaths in Fukushima and Chernobyl.
I will wind up by saying that nuclear is very safe and we do not need to worry about it. It has been an excellent debate.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the UK’s Climate Progress: the Committee on Climate Change’s 2021 Progress Report.