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Topical Questions

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2022

Let me take this opportunity to put on record my thanks, and I know that of the whole House, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) for his absolute and unwavering commitment as COP26 President on behalf of the United Kingdom. His team, led by Peter Hill, have worked tirelessly alongside him and deserve great praise. My right hon. Friend has brought the world together, not only raising ambition across the board for net zero strategies, nation by nation, but building trust and confidence that that can be achieved by driving the global change in the private sector’s view of money. In turning investment green, he has been able to drive the commitments of Governments and business to make decisions with net zero at their heart. If Paris set the mitigation goal, Glasgow—under his leadership—turned that into real commitments. He has now challenged the world to put adaptation for resilience at the heart of all we do, and the Egyptians will continue that work.

I welcome the Minister to her new role. As we all know, Shell is making windfall profits—more than double those last year. Despite that, it is not paying a penny of the UK’s windfall tax, because of a get-out clause that obscenely incentivises new oil and gas extraction in the UK. Given that we know that drilling for more fossil fuels is incompatible with the target of 1.5°C to avert climate catastrophe, will the Government now remove that loophole?

All matters of tax are for His Majesty’s Treasury, but it is clear that all our formerly fossil fuel companies are indeed energy companies, and they are investing incredibly heavily across the piece in renewables as well. We will continue to work with them to ensure that they invest their profits wisely.

T4. When Ministers go to the COP27 conference, will they give the cold shoulder to Germany to show our country’s disapproval and disgust at it continuing a massive expansion in its use of lignite, which is the dirtiest way of generating electricity? (901998)

After the COP presidency is handed over to Egypt, we will ensure that we continue to work with all our international partners to find solutions that move to renewables and clean energy.

T2. Will the Secretary of State update us on what steps are being taken to reduce methane gas emissions by 2030, in accordance with the global methane pledge set at COP26? (901996)

As I just said to the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), I will have to get the detail and write to him. I will share the same letter.

T5. This year, I have met pupils at Sayes Court and Manorcroft primary schools who wrote to me about the environment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that alongside the big—the Glasgow pact—the small such as local environmental activism is critical to protecting our environment and join me in being proud of the pupils we have in Runnymede and Weybridge? (901999)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to commend the children at Sayes Court and Manorcroft schools. It is the children who are genuinely the future, and leading by example in what they do is an element in reducing waste. Nature-based solutions are fundamental to tackling climate change and, as we embrace them through programmes such as Eco-Schools, they must be the way forward for his schoolchildren and indeed our country.

T3. What recent discussions has the Minister had with the incoming Administration in Brazil in seeking to tackle deforestation and the clearing of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the planet? What consideration has she given to an international preservation alliance where richer countries pay for carbon credits to keep rainforests alive? (901997)

If I may, I will write to the hon. Lady with more detailed information, but the work that Lord Goldsmith in the other place has been doing as part of the COP26 team over the last two years, as was set out, has driven work on deforestation and commodities. We continue to do that. I will ensure that she gets a fuller answer.

T6. While it is admirable to assist other countries in meeting their net zero goals, closer to home, the planning laws mean that polluting companies gain planning permission to build waste transfer plants such as the one in Cwmfelinfach in my constituency. Will the Government reform the planning laws to be mindful of net zero as well as granting permission against the wishes of the community? (902000)

I think that planning is devolved to the Welsh Administration, so the hon. Member may wish take that up with the Welsh Government directly. Of course, we will always ensure that our obligations on improving the environment are honoured as we take forward any potential reforms to planning.

T7. Coventry is leading the way in the manufacture of electric cars. Despite that, our Conservative Government continue to flip-flop both on attending the COP27 climate summit and on investing in green technologies. When will the Government step up and sign off the gigafactory for Coventry? (902001)

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We are absolutely committed to having zero-emission vehicles and I am pleased to say that we have led on that, with our 2030 and 2035 targets now, I notice, being copied by our European neighbours. We remain committed under the Prime Minister to continuing our leadership. We have reduced our emissions by more than any other major economy and we will continue to do so.

T8. Shell and BP have announced bumper profits while they have also benefited from a loophole put in place by the now Prime Minister which means they secure taxpayer support for drilling oil in our North sea. Does the Minister think that that is a good decision or a bad decision ahead of the COP27 summit? (902002)

I have said repeatedly that it is absurd to suggest that bringing in gas from abroad, for instance, with higher emissions attached to that and paying billions of pounds for it, is sensible when we can produce it at home. That is why we incentivise investment in the North sea. It is declining, it is a managed decline, and it is compatible with net zero. It is about time that the hon. Lady backed the British economy and British jobs, and did not play politics with this issue.

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I would like to point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on