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Net Zero Targets: Businesses

Volume 741: debated on Tuesday 28 November 2023

16. What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the contribution of businesses to helping meet the UK's net zero targets. (900346)

As a Yorkshire MP, I resent that remark. [Laughter.]

I meet regularly with business leaders and organisations. I chair or co-chair, among others: the Offshore Wind Industry Council, which I will be going straight to after questions; the solar taskforce; the green jobs delivery group, which met yesterday; the North sea transition forum, which I will attend tomorrow; and, from a strategic cross-cutting point of view, the Net Zero Council. Of course, the Secretary of State and I met global leaders yesterday.

Well, as the Minister seems to meet so many business leaders, he must have heard their shock and horror about the Government’s roll-backs on net zero. Earlier this month, the Aviva chief executive officer Amanda Blanc said that the Government were putting our climate goals as a country “under threat”, putting at risk

“jobs, growth and the additional investment the UK requires”.

She is not wrong, is she?

The hon. Gentleman has a well-founded and highly esteemed reputation for anger. Under this Government, this country has cut its emissions more than any other major economy on the planet, and we have the most ambitious plans for 2030. When I attend COP28 next week, we will be inviting and supporting others to join the UK, which under this Conservative Government has led the way on a pathway to net zero.

The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre based at Heriot-Watt University in my constituency is doing incredible work on the green transformation across the UK’s industrial heartlands. It is working with all the biggest industrial clusters and is supporting more than 30 universities and research initiatives, looking at all aspects of the Government’s decarbonisation challenge. As such, it is well placed to assist business to meet our net zero targets. The problem is that its funding is coming to an end next March, and at present there is nothing to replace it. The science Minister promised me a meeting about this urgent issue several months ago, but it has been cancelled a number of times. Will the Minister advocate with his colleague so that I can get this meeting arranged and get funding in place for IDRIC to continue its fantastic work?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for championing vital research, not least in Scotland. I am looking forward to meeting scientists when I am in Scotland over the next couple of days. We have all heard her request, and it will be noted.

My right hon. Friend mentioned that he will go to COP28 next week. Could he remind Members of the House, particularly those on the Opposition Benches, of the measures taken in last week’s autumn statement to help to promote the green energy agenda in this country?

My hon. Friend is quite right. We must never forget the parlous state of this country in 2010. Less than 7% of our electricity came from renewables—that was the legacy of the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband). In the first quarter of this year, that was nearly 48%. Opposition Members raised the issue of people being cold and unable to pay their bills, but just 14% of homes were insulated properly; now, it is 50%. In last week’s autumn statement we heard announcements about the grid and—

My constituents put in 10% of the energy into the national grid from two nuclear power stations. We are No. 7 on the template for new builds, so I would like to invite the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) to come to Heysham to see for himself the good work of EDF and the new nuclear power programme that is coming to my constituency.

My hon. Friend is a stout champion not only of the pathway to net zero but of the jobs and prosperity that come with it. It is with great alacrity that I accept on behalf of my hon. Friend the Minister.