With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on COP27, which I attended in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday.
When the United Kingdom took on the presidency of COP, just one third of the global economy was committed to net zero. Today, that figure is 90%, and the reduction in global emissions pledged during our presidency is equivalent to the entire annual emissions of America. There is still a long way to go to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°, but the historic Glasgow climate pact kept that goal within reach. I know that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) for his inspirational leadership as COP President.
The question at this summit was whether countries would deliver on their promises. I am pleased to say that our nation will. We have already cut our carbon emissions faster than anyone else in the G7, and we will fulfil our ambitious commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% by the end of the decade.
I know that some have feared that Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine could distract from global efforts to tackle climate change, but I believe it should catalyse them. Climate security and energy security go hand in hand. Putin’s contemptible manipulation of energy prices has only reinforced the importance of ending our dependence on fossil fuels, so we will make this country a clean energy superpower. We will accelerate our transition to renewables, which have already grown fourfold as a proportion of our electricity supply over the last decade; we will invest in building new nuclear power stations for the first time since the 1990s; and, by committing £30 billion to support our green industrial revolution, we will leverage up to £100 billion of private investment to support almost half a million high-wage, high-skilled green jobs.
There is no solution to climate change without protecting and restoring nature, so at COP27 the UK committed £90 million to the Congo basin as part of £1.5 billion we are investing in protecting the world’s forests, and I co-hosted the first meeting of our forests and climate leaders’ partnership, which will deliver on the historic commitment to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
Central to all our efforts is keeping our promises on climate finance, so the UK is delivering on our commitment of £11.6 billion. To support the most vulnerable who are experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, we will triple our funding on adaptation to reach £1.5 billion a year in 2025.
In Glasgow, the UK pioneered a new global approach, using aid funding to unlock billions of pounds of private finance for new green infrastructure, so I was delighted to join President Ramaphosa to mark the publication of his investment plan, which delivers on this new model. South Africa will benefit from cheaper, cleaner power, cutting emissions while simultaneously creating new green jobs for his people. We will look to support other international partners in taking a similar approach.
We also made further commitments to support clean power in developing countries. This included investing a further £65 million in commercialising innovative clean technologies and working with the private sector to deliver a raft of green investment projects in Kenya.
The summit also allowed me to meet many of my counterparts for the first time. With the Egyptian President, I raised the case of the British-Egyptian citizen Alaa Abd el-Fattah. I know the whole House will share my deep concern about his case, which grows more urgent by the day. We will continue to press the Egyptian Government to resolve the situation. We want to see Alaa freed and reunited with his family as soon as possible.
President Macron and I discussed our shared determination to crack down on criminal smuggling gangs, and I discussed illegal migration with other European leaders too. We are all facing the same shared challenge, and we agreed to solve it together. I had good meetings with the new Prime Minister of Italy, the German Chancellor, the President of the EU, the President of Israel, and the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and Norway, as well as the UN Secretary-General.
In all these discussions, the United Kingdom is acting with our friends to stand up for our values around the world, to deliver stability and security at home. Tackling climate change and securing our energy independence is central to these objectives. Even though we may now have handed over the presidency of COP, the United Kingdom will proudly continue to lead the global effort to deliver net zero, because this is the way to ensure the security and prosperity of our country today and for generations to come. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance copy of his statement. May I start by raising the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah? As the Prime Minister knows and has said, he is a British citizen jailed for the crime of posting on social media and has been imprisoned in Egypt for most of the last nine years; he has been on hunger strike for the last six months. The Prime Minister just said that he raised this case with President Sisi; what progress did he make in securing Alaa’s release?
It is right that the Prime Minister eventually went to COP27. Remember the stakes: the world is heading for 2.8°C of warming—that is mass flooding, habitats destroyed, untold damage to lives and livelihoods. We must prevent that, for security, for the public finances and for the next generation. That is why it was inexplicable that he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to even get on the plane. Britain should be leading on the world stage, helping the world confront the greatest challenge of our time, but his snub, one of the first decisions of his premiership, was a terrible error of judgment and sent a clear message that if you’re looking for leadership from this Prime Minister, look elsewhere, and that if you want to get this Prime Minister to go somewhere, get the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) first—get him to come along, then the Prime Minister will follow.
And the Prime Minister’s reluctance is so bizarre because climate action is not just a once-in-a-generation responsibility, it is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity: an opportunity to lower energy bills for good; an opportunity to ensure Britain’s security is never again at the mercy of tyrants like Putin; an opportunity to create millions of jobs and break out of the Tory cycle of low growth and high taxes. They are opportunities that he is passing by.
The Prime Minister said in his speech at COP27 that we need to “act faster” on renewables, so why is he the roadblock at home? As he was flying to Egypt, his Minister was reaffirming the ban on onshore wind—the cheapest, cleanest form of power we have.
The Prime Minister also said at COP27 that he realises
“the importance of ending our dependence on fossil fuels”,
but he inserted a massive oil and gas giveaway when Labour forced him into a windfall tax: taxpayers cash handed over for digging up fossil fuels. Shell has made £26 billion in profits so far this year, but not a penny paid in windfall taxes; he has completely let it off the hook.
And what about the industries of the future? Manufacturers of batteries for cars in Britain: struggling. Green hydrogen producers: struggling. Yet in other countries, these industries are taking off: jobs going abroad because we have no industrial strategy here at home.
The Prime Minister also said at COP27 that it was
“right to honour our promises”
to developing countries. So why is he cutting the aid budget? It is always the same message, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and because of that, it will always fall on deaf ears.
It is time for a fresh start. A Labour Government would make Britain the first major economy to reach 100% clean power by 2030. That would cut bills, strengthen our energy security, create jobs, and make Britain a clean energy superpower. And our green prosperity plan would establish GB Energy, a publicly owned energy company, to invest in the technologies and the jobs of the future here in the UK.
As we attempt this endeavour, we have a fair wind at our back: not just the ingenuity and the brilliance of people and businesses in this country but the natural resources of our island nation. Wealth lies in our seas and in our skies, and it is an act of national self-harm not to prioritise them over expensive gas. That is the choice at the next general election, whenever it comes: more of the same with the Tories or a fairer, greener future with Labour.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman raised the matter of my attendance at COP. I gently point out to him that Labour Prime Ministers failed to attend, I think, 12 of the 13 COPs held during their time in office. As Chancellor, I hosted the finance day on COP last year, where we had landmark agreements to rewire the financial system to unlock the trillions of dollars that we need in private finance to flow to help us with the transition. It is a record that I am proud of and one, by the way, that is recognised around the world.
Let me deal with the right hon. and learned Gentleman‘s brief substantive questions. He asked about renewable power. Forty per cent. of our electricity now comes from renewable power. That is up fourfold since 2010. What did we inherit? A Labour Government who believed there was no economic case for new nuclear power. He talked about oil and gas. Again, he needs to live in the real world. Oil and gas are going to be a part of our energy mix in the transition for several years ahead. It is simply pie in the sky to pretend otherwise. The independent Climate Change Committee has even recognised that. The carbon footprint of homegrown gas is half the footprint of importing gas from abroad, so it is a sensible thing to do.
Our plan is the right plan. It is realistic, it is credible, it is delivering for the British people, as well as delivering on our climate commitments. The right hon. and learned Gentleman’s own shadow Chief Secretary described his climate plan as a “borrowing plan”. We know where that leads us. It is not the right thing for the British people. [Interruption.] I know the British people trust me to manage the economy and they will not trust the Labour party. The right hon. and learned Gentleman might be focused on reparations around the world. We are focused on creating a strong economy here at home and that is what we will do.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I also welcome the continued commitment that he and the Government are showing to net zero by 2050 to tackle climate change. He is absolutely right to talk about the creation of high-skilled, high-wage green jobs as we green our economy, but people need the training, skills and education to be able to take on those jobs. What are the Government’s plans on education and training for green skills?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right and I thank her for her warm comments. I point her to our record investment in apprenticeships in particular, but also to the new lifelong learning entitlement, which acknowledges that people will have to retrain at any point during their life to take advantage of the new economic opportunities that are coming our way. I am pleased that we will be rolling out that programme over the coming years.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. Let me also welcome his last-minute change of heart to attend COP27. But I am afraid that, whether he likes it or not, his initial instinct not to attend will be long remembered, and rightly so. It means that he now has a major job to convince people that he is truly committed to the challenge of climate change.
That commitment starts with our own domestic targets, but it is vital that our collective commitment extends to those in the global south. Nations and peoples are being damaged the most by a climate crisis that they have contributed the least to. These are the poorest people on this planet and they always seem to pay the highest price. That is why it is so right and necessary that loss and damage were on the formal COP agenda for the first time.
I am proud to say that, through the leadership of our First Minister, Scotland has become the first developed nation to pledge finance to address loss and damage. Our country is now committed to a total of £7 million—a small sum on the scale of what is needed, but a powerful message to larger nations that need to follow that lead. We do not need to wait for consensus and a decision at COP. We can start funding loss and damage programmes straightaway.
Will the Prime Minister guarantee that UK overseas aid earmarked for climate finance will be spent within the five-year timeframe, as originally promised? Will he also guarantee that the total aid budget will not be slashed further in the autumn statement next week? Finally, in terms of the new Prime Minister’s domestic targets on climate, will he honour the promises made to the north-east of Scotland on carbon capture and storage? Will he commit to taking the Scottish cluster off the Government’s reserve list and to fund it right now?
I am pleased that it was the UK that established a new Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage to discuss arrangements for funding activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage, and those conversations are ongoing. With regard to our international climate finance pledges, as I say, we remain committed to the £11.6 billion, and it is our intention to deliver it over the timeframe that was originally envisaged. With regard to targets, again, it should be a source of enormous pride for everyone in this House that we have decarbonised in this country faster than any other G7 country. Our targets are among the most ambitious in the world and we have a credible plan to get on and deliver them.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his crystal clear commitment both in Sharm el-Sheikh and in this Chamber here today to delivering net zero Britain. There is no doubt about that under his prime ministership. Now we no longer have the presidency of COP, which has been acting as a forcing mechanism across Government, can he clarify how he intends that his Government will deliver our ambitious nationally determined contribution to reduce emissions across the disparate strands of Government Departments?
My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I can assure him that, although we are no longer formally the president of COP, our leadership on this issue internationally will not waver, and he has my commitment on that. I personally will drive this through Government—in conjunction with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and with our climate change Minister—but this is something that pervades all aspects of Government now, and we have to change our thinking on this. It is not the work of any one Department or any one Minister; if we are going to make this commitment work, we are all going to have to play our part.
Given the scale of what is about to happen to our planet, every single one of us must do what we can to alleviate the problems that we are facing, but the richest 1% of people on our planet are responsible for the same amount of global emissions as the poorest 50%. Does the Prime Minister accept that, unless we tackle the issues of social justice, we will not resolve the problems of climate change, and was he comfortable that one of the worst polluters on the planet, Coca-Cola, sponsored the recent meeting of COP?
As we have been discussing, I believe we have a moral obligation to help those countries with the transition to net zero and I am proud to say that we are playing our part in doing that. It was great at COP to sit down with leaders from many of those emerging market countries that are benefiting from the investments from our country to help them with the transition. They recognise the leadership role that we are playing.
We need to create jobs and prosperity as we transition to net zero. In battery technology, we are world leading in the research, but we need to manufacture batteries here. Given the concerning news about Britishvolt, will the Prime Minister and his colleagues commission an urgent review of how we can deliver the gigafactories that are necessary in this country in the short term to make sure that we have a continuing vibrant car manufacturing industry?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. I think it may have been his idea to create the Faraday battery challenge, but I was pleased to support that, as Chancellor, with £200 million of funding. He is right about the importance of building a domestic gigafactory capability. I was pleased with the announcement from Envision and Nissan in Sunderland. There is more in the pipeline, and we have the automotive transformation fund available to support those projects to build the vibrant ecosystem that he and I both want to see.
I welcome what the Prime Minister said at COP—that tackling climate change goes hand in hand with lowering energy bills, improving our energy security and hurting Putin in his illegal war in Ukraine. However, I am alarmed that at home the Prime Minister has banned onshore wind, one of the cheapest and most popular forms of renewable energy. Will he confirm whether his priority is cutting people’s energy bills, improving Britain’s energy security and tackling global climate change, or keeping the dinosaurs on his Back Benches happy? Why will he not get rid of the ban on onshore wind?
It started so well. We are committed to reducing people’s bills and to having more forms of renewable energy. Our track record on this is superb: the amount of renewable energy is four times more than in 2010 and zero carbon energy now accounts for half of our electricity needs. We are poised to do more. Offshore wind is the thing we are focusing on, along with nuclear. We are now a world leader in offshore wind, which is providing cheap forms of electricity and energy for households up and down the country. Alongside nuclear, that is how we will transition to a cleaner grid.
I thank my right hon. Friend for getting our environmental strategies back on track. We clearly have a major issue not simply about carbon, but about the loss of biodiversity both on land and at sea. I welcome what he says about our support for the Congo basin. We have, in a month’s time, another crucial summit in Montreal—the convention on biological diversity summit—where further decisions will be taken about how we tackle the loss of biodiversity internationally. Can I ask him to ensure that the United Kingdom plays the fullest possible part in those discussions and a leadership role in tackling that issue?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. There were many moving statements from leaders across the globe at COP on that particular topic, and I can confirm to him that it is something we are widely acknowledged around the world to be a leader on: we put it on the agenda last year in Glasgow. The Secretary of State for the Environment will be attending that COP in Montreal. Our world-leading Environment Act 2021 commits us to reducing the decline in biodiversity and species loss, and I look forward to working with him to deliver on it.
Of course, I welcome any investment for the global south to mitigate the horrific damages of climate change, but is this new money, is it coming out of the existing official development assistance budget and what is being cut if it is coming out of the existing ODA budget? As Chancellor, the right hon. Member made savage cuts to climate mitigation programmes. Is he going to replace those?
As Chancellor, yes, I did make difficult decisions to ensure that our public finances were on a sustainable trajectory. That is not something I am going to shy away from, because I think we have all seen what happens when the Government do not command the confidence of international markets when it comes to borrowing and debt issues. I thought, in that context, it was reasonable to temporarily reduce our ODA budget until our public finances are in a better place, and that is a commitment that I stand by, but we remain committed to the £11.6 billion in international climate finance that we committed at the time. Those announcements have come from that budget. It is very welcome that we are able to continue delivering that, even though we are facing some other difficult decisions on other topics.
The Prime Minister has emphasised the very substantial investment being made in climate-related measures both at home and overseas, but does he share my reservations about the idea of spending trillions more pounds on so-called reparations payments, as advocated by the Opposition, at a time when the public finances are already under strain?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is not the right approach, and it is worrying to hear Members of the Labour party suggesting that it is. What we are doing is fulfilling our obligations to help those emerging markets transition to a cleaner future, and we are doing that in a way that supports them, but also supports British companies that are able to provide those investments and create jobs at home as well.
I am grateful for my continued rent-free tenancy in the Prime Minister’s head, but if in future he could just let me know when he intends to speak about me, that would be helpful. That is the norm in the House.
Could I ask the Prime Minister if he would take this opportunity to welcome the election of President Lula in Brazil, and his commitment to both social justice and environmental justice, and to confirm what the previous Prime Minister told this House, which is that no British bank, financial institution or company will henceforth be allowed to invest in fossil fuel extraction anywhere in the world as part of our contribution to bringing about net zero globally?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. If he could ask the Leader of the Opposition to give me advance sight of his questions, I would be happy to let him know if I need to bring him up on questions of security.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the importance of ending international finance for coal-fired power plants. It was a landmark agreement that the COP President and the UK presidency achieved at COP. Ninety other countries have signed up to it, at a minimum, and I am keen to make sure that we deliver on those commitments and we push them through the international financial system.
My Essex constituents absolutely get the impact of climate change, because they saw it at first hand in those awful fires last summer. Many of them also get that, unless we help other countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, we will see even more unsustainable migration, and that will impact us at home. So it is great that my right hon. Friend has reconfirmed our commitment to the investment amounts that we promised in Glasgow and that he has reconfirmed our commitment to deliver those on time. Can he confirm that we will continue to work with other countries to make sure those investments are made on time?
I thank my right hon. Friend for all her work in this area, which she is rightly passionate about and where she has made an enormous difference. I look forward to receiving her continued advice on how we can deliver on our commitments. I am pleased to give her that reassurance. Actually, as she knows, the doubling of our international climate finance commitment was a catalyst for many other countries around the world doing the same. We want to ensure that all that money is spent, and spent well. That is what we will do.
The Prime Minister just said how important it is to keep our promises on climate finance, and I agree. Will he explain why he does not seem to agree with himself? His Government have not kept their climate promises. He has not delivered the $300 million that we still owe to the green climate and adaptation funds—when will we see that? Will he ensure that all new climate finance is new and additional and not being raided from an ever diminishing aid budget? Does he recognise that the moral obligation that he talks about must extend beyond mitigation and adaptation to address loss and damage? Will he support the establishment of a finance facility for loss and damage at COP27?
On loss and damage, I have already made the point that we established the Glasgow dialogue to see how best to take forward those discussions. I will not pre-empt the discussions happening at COP, but that is not the same as reparations—I think the hon. Lady understands that—which is not what is on the table. That is clear in the language that is being debated at COP.
At COP26, the Prime Minister was successful in mobilising hundreds of billions in international private capital to support the challenge of net zero, which seems a much better deal than Labour’s plan, which would place a huge burden on British taxpayers. What further steps will my right hon. Friend take to consolidate London’s leadership as a centre for green finance?
My hon. Friend knows this well. Indeed, he was responsible for the retail green sovereign bond that we issued here—we were the first country in the world to do so—and he deserves credit for that. I am pleased that for, I think, the second or third year in a row, London has been named the world’s leading place for green finance. We are taking forward a range of initiatives around disclosures to make that even more of an advantage for us, including more carbon trading. I look forward to getting his advice on how we can make that aspiration a reality.
The Welsh Labour Government are setting up a publicly owned company to accelerate investment in onshore wind and other renewables, thus reducing emissions, increasing energy security and using profit for the public good. Given that onshore wind is the cheapest form of renewable energy, when will the Prime Minister step up to the mark, match the Welsh Government and bring forward an accelerated investment programme for onshore wind across England?
There has been a slightly chequered history of Labour councils and publicly owned energy companies—in Nottingham, from memory—and that is not a model that we want to emulate. However, we are supporting Wales with the transition. We invested in the Holyhead hydrogen hub, which is a potential future opportunity, and we are looking at nuclear sites and, as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb), at the huge potential of floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea, which will also all be good for Wales.
It is so obvious that we have a Prime Minister who is personally committed to this agenda. My constituents really appreciate that, as does their MP. The Prime Minister knows how important the Solent freeport in his old neck of the woods could be to my constituents and those much further afield. Will he and his Government work with us—not least because part of the freeport is based at and around Southampton airport—on sustainable aviation fuels? This country has a really good lead in this area already, and that could be to our advantage as well as lead to a whole new future of clean air travel.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments. He is right about the potential of the freeport, which I am pleased to champion, not least as a Southampton boy, as well as the opportunity for sustainable aviation fuel. It is clear from conversations with industry that we are in a position of world leadership on that. I was pleased to invest about £200 million to help commercialise two sustainable aviation fuel plants and I am encouraged that the private sector is taking that and investing far more to bring it to reality. That is an exciting development for the UK.
The Prime Minister has a challenge in getting money out of the door. The BioYorkshire project, which will bring transformation—it is the biggest green new deal before the Government—needs funding, which has been committed but, two years down the line, not released. When will he bring that funding forward for the transition to the technologies of the future that we need to address climate change?
I agree with the hon. Lady that we need to invest in innovation. That is why we have a £1 billion net zero innovation portfolio, because ultimately it will be the technologies of the future that will help us solve this problem. If she writes to me, I will be happy to look into that specific bid.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s attendance at COP27 and our commitment on climate change, which is the biggest long-term strategic challenge that the globe faces as we test the limits of our fragile planet. With net zero a long way off, we face problems today from extreme weather patterns including floods and increased crop failures. Their scale will further erode global security, with vulnerable states subject to desertification, food shortages and rising sea levels. Will the Prime Minister recognise that the burden in meeting some of those challenges will fall on our armed forces both domestically and internationally and, therefore, this is not the time to cut the defence or international aid budgets?
My right hon. Friend is right about the devastation that climate change is causing, not least in Pakistan where 30 million are impacted as an area the size of the entire United Kingdom is now under water, with disease rife through the water. He knows that I remain committed to supporting our armed forces, and that will always be the case.
The Prime Minister gives oil companies who are already making billions in excess profits 90p in tax breaks for every £1 they invest in oil and gas, literally fuelling the climate change that will bring more flooding to the north-east, destroying our agriculture, lives and livelihoods, prospects and prosperity. Yet he refuses to invest in the north-east’s transport infrastructure, industry, green technologies, people and skills to combat climate change. Why does he treat the oil companies with such largesse and leave the north-east with nothing?
The hon. Lady is simply not right. It is not realistic or practical to think that we do not need to use oil and gas for the foreseeable future as a transition fuel. The choice for Opposition Members is: would they rather have that from here at home or import it at almost double the carbon footprint? It seems to me relatively straightforward that we should support domestic oil and gas production in the short term.
The hon. Lady talks about new investments in renewable energy in the north-east as if they are not happening. She might want to visit Teesside. Whether it is offshore wind, hydrogen or carbon capture and storage, that is where the future is, and it is happening in the north-east.
We have all seen the impact of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on energy and food security. Will the Prime Minister join me in addressing Russia’s false narrative about the impact of the United Kingdom’s sanctions? I was the United Kingdom’s Minister for sanctions, and it is crucial that we address the false narrative. The United Kingdom’s sanctions against Russia do not target exports or food supplies for developing countries. That is squarely the responsibility of Putin and his Administration.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. It was very disappointing to see Russia remove itself from the Black sea grain deal—I am pleased that there is now forward progress on that—because, as he knows, almost two thirds of the wheat that passes through the Black sea is destined for developing countries and emerging markets. It is vital that that food flows and we will do everything we can to put pressure on Russia to ensure that it continues to happen.
At COP27, the Prime Minister boasted about the UK’s investment in renewables, yet a recent report by the Welsh Affairs Committee warned that Wales’s renewable energy potential is
“threatened by a lack of UK Government leadership on improving grid connectivity”.
The Prime Minister mentioned a number of worthwhile, good projects in the pipeline in Wales, but, without that connectivity, many of them are under threat. Will he set out an accelerated timetable for improving grid capacity so that Wales can realise its full potential in energy generation and, in so doing, slash bills for communities throughout Wales?
The right hon. Lady is right that we need to ensure that we invest in our grid to enable the transition. That is an absolutely fair point and I know it is something the National Grid is focused on. I would be happy to get more into it and discuss it with her in the future.
The UK is proof that one can achieve growth and slash emissions at the same time. Does the Prime Minister agree that we have an enduring commitment to go for clean and sustainable growth?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our record on this is a 44% reduction in climate emissions and 76% GDP growth. That shows it is possible and that is what Britain is delivering.
What exactly is the Prime Minister’s problem with onshore wind?
It is right that we bring people with us as we transition to net zero. The worst thing we can do is alienate communities if we want to actually deliver on our climate commitments. As it turns out, we are very lucky to have a very reliable and very affordable form of energy in offshore wind, which is also creating jobs domestically in the UK. It is right that that is our priority.
After two wonderful weeks last November in Glasgow, with the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), what became really clear was how far ahead of Governments industry and businesses are in addressing these issues and challenges. For example, on electric vehicles, range anxiety is an issue for those of us who live in the north-west of England and have to try to get to London. Can I have the Prime Minister’s commitment that we will do everything we can to get government out of the way of private industry, for example in EV charging infrastructure roll-out?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We will not solve this problem without the investment and co-operation of the private sector. Governments simply cannot do it alone. When it comes to electric charging infrastructure, we have helped with seed funding of around £2 billion. We have one of the most developed charging infrastructures in Europe, but she is right that, ultimately, it has to be the private sector that delivers the investment required.
Will the Prime Minister say what view he takes of the role of local authorities in the climate emergency? In 2010, there were some fantastic programmes. Had they continued to 2022, we would have a third of our homes in which people—homeowners or renters-—would be paying a third of the bills they are paying now. What view does he take of local authorities getting stuck in to retrofit, particularly in the private rented sector, which is very draughty and leaky?
I am pleased that, in the spending review I conducted as Chancellor, we put aside almost £5 billion to support energy efficiency, including several programmes that support local authorities to upgrade the energy efficiency of both low-income private rented tenants and those in the social housing sector. Those programmes are up and running. They are well funded and local authorities can benefit from them.
I am delighted that the Government see nuclear power as part of the low-carbon future and that its skills are part of the green economy, but does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment that the First Minister of Scotland and her SNP-Green coalition Government continue to block nuclear development in Scotland, depriving constituencies like mine of important potential jobs? Perhaps it is an issue he might raise with her when he meets her tomorrow.
My right hon. Friend is right about the importance of nuclear power. We believe it can provide around a quarter of our energy mix by 2050. It is a zero carbon, secure and baseload source of power. That is why we have enabled more funding for advanced forms of nuclear technology, such as advanced modular reactors and small modular reactors, and it would be good if we could spread the benefits across the whole United Kingdom.
In the relentless and obsessive pursuit of net zero, the Government are now adopting policies that are contradictory and, in some cases, dangerous. We are going to import billions of pounds-worth of natural gas from countries who frack that gas, yet we are turning our back on the natural resources we have in our own country, sacrificing revenue, jobs and energy security. We are going to rely more on wind and solar power, the earth metals for which are in the hands of autocratic regimes, especially China. We are importing wood from America to burn in a power station in the United Kingdom at a cost of billions to electricity consumers. Those policies might be welcomed by the chattering classes, but does the Prime Minister understand the bewilderment, frustration and anger of those who struggle to pay their electricity bills and worry about energy security?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about importing liquified natural gas, which is why I am keen to encourage more exploitation of our domestic oil and gas resources in the North sea. He and I are aligned on that. We have conducted a new North sea licensing round, leading to about 100 new licensing applications. That will increase jobs in the UK and our energy security, and that is the right thing to do.
The intervention and leadership of the Government is of course welcome, as is the focus on helping developing and climate change-vulnerable countries. What initiatives are being considered, or could be considered, for businesses to share their technologies, intellectual property and so on with expertise to help those countries move forward far more quickly than we have been able to do? It is, after all, business that will need the research and development in this field which will solve the global problem we all face.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. That is the type of leadership and contribution that Britain can make to solving the problem globally. We are fortunate to have some of the world’s best researchers and companies tackling this problem. On Monday, I was pleased to announce about half a dozen investment opportunities in Kenya, which do exactly what he describes: British expertise helping a country with its transition in areas such as solar and geothermal. That is an exciting template for the future.
Why is the Prime Minister banning onshore wind, the best renewable energy?
We are providing four times as much renewable electricity today as we did in 2010. We have plans to go even further as we roll out offshore wind, which is a competitive strength for the UK. We will complement that energy mix with new nuclear, a source of energy that we all recognise we need, but for which the previous Labour Government said there was no economic case at all.
I am trying to get everybody in. I ask Members to start with a question, and then stop. [Laughter.]
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement on COP27 and in particular for highlighting his discussions on migration with other European leaders. Does he agree with me that if we are to sort out the migration crisis, we must all work together to help developing countries with their climate change challenges, so that we can also deal with the migration crisis?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I was pleased to discuss the migration issue with several European leaders in particular, because we cannot solve this problem alone. As she said, it is far better to solve it at source before it arrives on our shores. That is the approach we are going to take.
The Prime Minister said that he and his party are more trusted by the British public on the economy. Well, there is one way of testing that, isn’t there? It is with a general election and we would be happy to have that.
Let me ask the Prime Minister whether he would like to visit the Rhondda to see the problems that climate change is already bringing to one of the poorer constituencies in the land: flooding, run-off from the mountains, housing stock that is very elderly and difficult to insulate, and a local authority that already has £12 million of extra budget next year just to keep the lights on and the schools and leisure facilities running. Will he visit the Rhondda, and try to sort out some of those problems?
One of the things the hon. Gentleman mentioned was energy efficiency. As I said, we have billions of pounds in programmes to support local authorities to improve the energy efficiency of homes, particularly in deprived communities and for those on low incomes. Those adaptations can save them hundreds of pounds on their energy bill. I urge his local authority and others to engage with us to deliver them.
As we have heard today, energy security has never been more vital. The journey to net zero is also our journey to energy sovereignty. It will also mean lower bills and more reliable, less volatile prices for our domestic market. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Cornwall will play a vital role, offering lithium, floating offshore wind and deep geothermal energy? Can I extend an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit my businesses and see the work going on in the south-west?
I would be delighted to do so. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of building resilience in supply chains such as lithium. The Minister for Science and Investment Security, my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani) is focused on our critical mineral strategy, which was raised earlier. That is right, and Cornwall can play a key part in improving our resilience and security.
António Guterres said:
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.
The Prime Minister’s Government are good at making plans and promises and setting targets, but they are poor at delivery. Will he therefore re-establish the Department of Energy and Climate Change to co-ordinate a whole-Government approach, given that the delivery of net zero is fragmented and not on track?
Actually, we are on track to meet all the climate targets that we have set. Our track record is that we have met them all. They are the most ambitious in the world and I reassure the hon. Lady that this is a whole-Government effort. Every Minister in the Government is committed to doing what they need to do to deliver on our ambitions.
In expertise terms, Stroud is the greenest constituency in the greenest county of Gloucestershire, so I welcome the important challenge about what net zero means to everyday people, because we are providing the solutions. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Government programmes such as Jet Zero and expert green tech businesses such as those in Stroud will be pivotal to the UK’s meeting its targets here affordably for our constituents and to helping other countries with climate challenges?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why this can be a win-win. There are already hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK involved in our transition to net zero. Not only is that good for our economy, but that expertise is helping other countries to make the transition. We need to make sure that all our funding and all our policies are geared towards supporting her fantastic businesses in Stroud, because that is the right thing to do not just for us, but for the world.
I wrote to the Prime Minister to ask him to make representations to the Egyptian President about the case of my constituent Jessica Kelly’s husband, Karim Ennarah, an Egyptian human rights activist who was imprisoned. We campaigned and managed to get him released, but he is the subject of a travel ban and an asset freeze. First, did the Prime Minister raise that case, along with that of Alaa Abd el-Fattah? Secondly, does the Prime Minister think that it is right that his Government should divert billions of pounds of aid funding away from those who are most vulnerable to climate change and other risks when he has already made aid budget cuts?
We are not diverting funding; we remain committed to the £11.6 billion of climate finance that we outlined last year. I raised in general the topic of human rights with the President. I am keen to see the release of the detainees, as are other countries, and we will continue to press on all those matters.
Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking Lord Goldsmith for his work at COP27 to persuade Indonesia—home to globally important forests—to play a key role in the new forests and climate leaders’ partnership? When the Prime Minister goes to Indonesia for the G20 summit, will he discuss with President Jokowi opportunities for energy transition finance, marine energy co-operation and our starting to work together on a green-tinted free trade agreement?
Not only will I pay tribute to the work of Lord Goldsmith on that particular issue, but I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his knowledge of and engagement in the region. He deserves praise and credit for that. He is right about the exciting opportunity to have what is called a “country platform” with Indonesia to bring together public and private finance to help it with its energy transition. I am hopeful that we can play a big part in that.
Is the Prime Minister’s refusal to approve onshore wind generation the reason why he cannot commit to 100% clean energy by 2030?
I think the Labour party’s plans on climate change were called “incredible” and “unrealistic” at the last election. Our plans are practical and credible and they are the most ambitious in the developed world. I feel very good about them, but we need to do this in a realistic way that actually brings people along with us. That is what our targets do.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. Today, Just Stop Oil protesters have been on the M25 causing disruption and misery to my constituents; that includes causing problems with access to my local hospital. Does he agree that rather than engaging in illegal stunts and endangering lives, those protesters should look at our record of delivery on net zero—from renewables to the Glasgow climate pact—and work with us constructively to deliver on our environmental ambitions?
I completely agree, and I sympathise with my hon. Friend’s hard-working constituents who are having to deal with that kind of disruption. That is why we are moving ahead with legislation to give the police the powers that they need to stop that type of extremist protesting disrupting the lives of working people. I very much hope that the Labour party joins us in supporting those changes.
Will the Prime Minister urgently press ahead with carbon capture and storage in the Humber, which is the largest industrial emitter of carbon? It is not right that the British taxpayer alone should pay for that. Should multinational companies that emit carbon not also have a role to play in financing carbon capture and storage?
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right about the importance of carbon capture and storage, which is why we have committed to investing £1 billion to develop a couple of clusters over the next several years. She will know about the announcement that has been made on those. She is also right that this cannot be just about what the Government do. Our money is designed to catalyse the investment necessary from private companies, and I hope to see that happen.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s speech at COP27 and especially his commitment to supporting green private finance projects, but does he agree that we should support private firms who back all sustainable environmental, social and governance principles, not just those exclusively pursuing net zero?
Yes; my hon. Friend makes a very good point. We need a broader approach, and that is what we will take as a Government. The UK is leading on a broad range of things when it comes to sustainability standards, and I look forward to getting his input on how best we can take that agenda forward.
As the Prime Minister will know, 8 million people die every year from air pollution—63,000 die in Britain—and by 2050 there will be as much plastic in the sea as there are fish. First, will he invoke World Health Organisation air quality standards in Britain as legally enforceable and encourage that at COP27? Will he also look at my Plastics (Recycling, Sustainability and Pollution Reduction) Bill, which is on today’s Order Paper? The Bill suggests that we should not export plastics, that manufacturers should pay the cost of recycling and that we should forge ahead with a global plastics treaty in COP27.
I am pleased that air pollution has fallen significantly since 2010, which includes about a 40% reduction in nitrogen dioxide. Our Environment Act 2021 has new targets in place and we have supported local authorities with about £800 million in funding for that. On plastics, that Act means that we will ban more single-use plastics, charge for others and have a new enhanced producer responsibility and a deposit return scheme. It is an incredibly ambitious agenda to reduce the amount of plastic in our system.
I am proud that my Vauxhall constituency is leading the way with so many of my constituents concerned about global warming. My local council, Lambeth Council, was the first local authority in London to declare a climate emergency, leading the way on policies to clean up the air. However, this action needs not just local but national and international leadership, so it was sad that the Prime Minister failed to show that through his reluctance to attend COP27. Will he match the commitment from my constituents by showing his commitment and financing to help to address this important issue?
We have given that commitment, including to £11.6 billion for international climate finance. However, as we have discussed, this is not just about what the Government can do; we need the private sector and private finance to help with the transition. That is why all the changes that we are making to the financial system are equally important, because that is where we will unlock the trillions of dollars required.
Across the world, economies are facing huge challenges caused by Putin’s war in Ukraine. Does the Prime Minister agree that tackling climate change and achieving energy security are aligned and that the war in Ukraine has made progress on domestic, sustainable energy production even more urgent?
My hon. Friend is spot on; those two things go hand in hand. Greater energy security will help us to meet our climate ambitions. We want cheaper, safer and cleaner forms of energy here at home, and that is what our plans are delivering.
I thank the Prime Minister very much for his statement. I welcome the news that climate change remains a priority, but will he further assure the House that heating and eating for our elderly and vulnerable will also be a priority? While the Government seek to be a good steward of the environment—I welcome that—they also need to help our people have the basic quality of life that they deserve in this great nation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to our elderly constituents and citizens. It is right that they get extra help with bills over the winter. That is why I tried to prioritise them with the announcements earlier this year on the cost of living payment, and it is why they receive a winter fuel payment, but they will always be uppermost in our mind because they are particularly vulnerable to cold, and we will make sure that we look after them.
Nature is declining rapidly, with 1 million species at risk of extinction and with deforestation accelerating in the Amazon and around the globe. If we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C, we must urgently halt and reverse that loss. Will the Prime Minister now support Labour’s call for a net zero and nature test to align all public spending and infrastructure decisions with our climate and nature commitments?
That is why I am so pleased that one of our signature achievements last year was to have countries that account for 90% of the world’s forests agreeing to reverse and halt land loss and degradation by 2030. We are playing our part in that. The announcements on Monday supporting the Congo were warmly welcomed not just in that country, but by other countries in Africa, because they know that we are committed to this agenda.
The Prime Minister is very proud of the £11.5 billion that he keeps talking about and that has been pledged, but where will it actually be disbursed? If the aid budget is being cut, surely it will come at the expense of other equally valid and equally important projects. How on earth does slashing the 0.7% budget commitment demonstrate the United Kingdom’s global soft power?
The £11.6 billion is being spent over the period that was outlined at the beginning. It is right that we invest in quality projects that can make a difference, not rush to get money out of the door and waste it. I make no apology for having had to make some difficult decisions as Chancellor to ensure that our borrowing was on a sustainable trajectory. That is the right thing for this country: it is the right way to make sure that we can restrain the rise in interest rates. This country will always continue to play a leading role around the world, and I am proud that we are doing so.
President Zelensky has proposed an initiative for
“a global platform to assess the impact of military actions on climate and environment”,
citing the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine as an example of war driving deforestation and renewed fossil fuel generation. Will the Prime Minister be supporting Ukraine’s initiative at COP27?
I was pleased to speak to President Zelensky on my first day in office. He and I will remain in regular dialogue; I am sure that we will discuss many ways in which we can support Ukraine, first and foremost in repelling the illegal Russian aggression that it is experiencing.
Given the rapid decarbonisation of the steel industry, there is no business case for the west Cumbria coalmine, a proposal that is on the desk of the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. When it comes to protecting our planet, there was never a case for it. We have to keep our fossil fuels in the ground, not dig them up and burn them. The Prime Minister will be aware that, for the third time now, the Government have delayed the decision whether to approve the west Cumbria coalmine. It was delayed until after COP26 and has now been delayed until after COP27. We have been told that 8 December is the hard and fast date for the decision to be made. Will his Government stick to that promise? Will they do the right thing and say no to a new coalmine?
The hon. Gentleman knows that these are quasi-judicial processes and it would not be right for me to comment on them.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement on COP27 and for answering questions for just short of an hour.