(1 year, 10 months ago)Commons Chamber
I beg to move,
That the draft Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, which was laid before this House on 12 June, be approved.
It is an honour to be in the House debating this order less than two weeks after this seminal legislation was laid in Parliament. I should say that I stand here as the interim Minister for Energy and Clean Growth—as an understudy to my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry). It is a tribute to her efforts that we are debating this measure today. I am sure that she would have dearly loved to be at the Dispatch Box speaking to it herself. I pay tribute to her work, her industry, and, above all, her passion, which is testament to the legislation that is being taken through today.
The draft order would amend the 2050 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target in the Climate Change Act 2008 from at least 80% to at least 100%. That target, otherwise known as net zero, would constitute a legally binding commitment to end the United Kingdom’s contribution to climate change.
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a sobering report on the impact of global warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. In that report, it made clear that a target set to limit global warming at 2°C above pre-industrial levels was no longer enough. It made clear that by limiting warming to 1.5°C, we may be able to mitigate some of the effects on health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth. It made clear that countries across the world, including the United Kingdom, would need to do more. The House has heard of the great progress we have made in tackling climate change together, cross-party, and how we have cut emissions by 42% since 1990 while growing the economy by 72%.
When Greta Thunberg was in Parliament a few weeks ago, she called on politicians to be honest at all times. Does the Minister agree that it is a bit misleading to suggest that we deserve great credit because we have reduced emissions by 42% since 1990, since we have done that primarily by outsourcing a huge amount of our manufacturing emissions to other countries? We do not account for our consumption emissions, and if we did, our success would look rather less rosy than he has just presented.
The draft order builds on a framework of legislation set in 2008; I see the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) in his place, who introduced that legislation. We have always recognised as a country that we are on a journey towards reducing our carbon emissions. That journey includes ensuring that we show global leadership and demonstrate to other countries that are not cutting their carbon emissions the need to do so. Above all, we recognise the need to do so sustainably and to ensure that we can continue to grow our economy. The last thing we want to do is reduce our carbon emissions at the risk of increasing unemployment and shrinking the economy. We have taken the independent advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which has demonstrated how we can do so not only sustainably but, importantly, in a just transition. It is important for some of the poorest in society that we have a just transition towards net zero.
Does the Minister agree that the Government, as the largest purchaser of goods and services in the country, should also be a net zero purchaser and provider of services? That means a root-and-branch change of the way that government— local, national and quangos—procure what they buy for taxpayers.
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and for the leadership she has shown on the Environmental Audit Committee. I will come on to how the independent Committee on Climate Change produced its response, but it set out clearly a range of scenarios involving a net zero transition and what action would be needed in industry, within society and among individuals to go from 80% to 100%.
We have set carbon budgets 1 to 5 to take us to 2032. Carbon budget 6, which will lead to 2037, will be set by June 2021 at the latest. It is important to recognise that we all have a role. Government especially have a role not only in legislating today, to ensure that we set the policy framework for achieving net zero, but in demonstrating each and every one of its Departments’ commitment to net zero. Her Majesty’s Treasury will conduct a review over the summer, as we move towards the spending review, of the impacts on business, society and across the public sector of the need to decarbonise swiftly and securely.
As part of that progress and the pathway towards net zero, we will be publishing an energy White Paper in the summer. A variety of different documents will be published, but I take the hon. Lady’s point; when it comes to the public sector, we will need to show leadership. We will need to be able to explain or change and to set out how all different areas of society will meet future carbon budgets—whether that is carbon budget 6, 7 or 8—on the road towards net zero.
We have obviously taken advice on the 2050 target from the independent Committee on Climate Change, which has suggested that at the moment 2050 is the earliest possible date for reaching net zero. Obviously, we are the first G7 country to make that commitment to 2050. Other economies, such as Norway, have committed to 2038. As part of the Government’s local industrial strategy, the Greater Manchester area committed, just last week, to a net zero target by 2038. I welcome the NFU’s commitment, but what we are saying as a Government is that all agencies across society will need to take action.
We welcome the NFU’s leadership on agricultural emissions and looking at how the agricultural sector can be decarbonised. However, when it comes to the framework of the Climate Change Act, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North highlighted during the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the review mechanism is built into the legislation to allow us the opportunity to review the target in five years. When it comes to the overall cost—and some hon. Members may wish to reflect on the costs of going from 80% to 100%—the review mechanism is important. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the overall cost envelope of reaching net zero be the same as the 80% envelope, because since the original 80% target was set out, the costs of renewables and other technology have come down.
My hon. Friend is making a hugely important point. Earlier he talked about the need to balance the need to reduce emissions with concerns about jobs. Does he agree that we have already seen the creation of 400,000 low-carbon jobs in this country, and that by leading the transition to a clean economy—which will happen whether we like it or not—there will be even more opportunities for job creation in the future?
I thank my hon. Friend for making that excellent point, and he is right. When we consider any impact on wider society of introducing this legislation over the next few decades, while we may see short-term costs from the transformation, we need to look at the investment opportunities that will be created by new green jobs, which are expected to rise from the 400,000 figure he mentions to 2 million by 2030, potentially creating an economy worth over £150 billion in the longer term. It is important that that investment is recognised, because we want the UK to lead the world in future technologies such as carbon capture and storage. The legislation today provides a catalytic moment for us to look at how we can achieve this target and to invest for the future. The Treasury review will lead into the spending review and we will wish to look at how we can continue to invest in clean growth as a technology.
I congratulate the Government on bringing this proposal forward and assure him of my party’s support. I want to put that on record today. This issue is a topic of conversation every day in my office: it has become that sort of issue. Will the Minister outline how he intends to bring businesses along on the climate change agenda and ensure that they are encouraged, rather than forced, to make small changes that could make lasting changes globally? It would be great to bring small businesses along, as it would be a step in the right direction.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his leadership on the issue. We have had several conversations in the past few weeks on the legislation, but he is right that we have to take a whole of the United Kingdom approach to this. I know that it is more difficult for certain industries to make the changes that are needed, but for small businesses and those groups that we know will have questions or difficulties in making the transition, we will want to be able to set that out clearly. The energy White Paper will be published shortly, as the first in a series of documents to demonstrate the changes and consultations that we need. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that those consultations will allow the voice of small business to be heard in this debate. It is possible to achieve the changes, and we want to make sure that small businesses feel reassured of that.
Does my hon. Friend welcome the support of the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, the NFU, the Royal Academy of Engineering and many household-name companies, because the legislation will give them certainty about investment so that they can benefit from the growth in our economy? It really is not only achievable to reach net zero by 2050, but affordable.
I thank my hon. Friend for putting on record the wide range of support from many companies that have written to the Prime Minister and set out their own ambitious targets. I feel a bit like the BBC when it comes to whether I should name certain companies rather than others, but I know that many food manufacturers and retail corporations—big names on the high street—have already made the commitment to 2050. We are following in their footsteps as a Government and Parliament to provide the legislation today. My hon. Friend is right: the legislative framework will provide long-term security for those companies to begin their transitions.
Within the Government, there are many different estimates of the impact on jobs and the cost to the Treasury. Why do we not have an impact assessment for this statutory instrument? That would be good regulatory and legislative practice.
The way that the legislation from the Climate Change Act 2008 has been framed means that impact assessments are not needed specifically for the SI. We did not have an impact assessment when we moved from 60% to 80%, because the risk is incumbent on Government in making the legislation. The impact assessments that are needed under the framework of the Act arise through the carbon budgets themselves. We have already legislated for carbon budgets 1 to 5, to 2032. The framework for carbon budget 6 will be recommended by the independent Committee on Climate Change ready for next year: it needs to be implemented by June 2020. There will be a full impact assessment on the next period, 2032 to 2037.
Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), it is the carbon budget process that needs the certainty in place for businesses and society to plan ahead. Any impact assessments that are made will reflect carbon budgets 6, 7 and 8. The Treasury is also taking forward its own independent impact assessment of the wider costs to business and society. That work is ongoing and will be presented at the time of the spending review.
Many of my constituents, especially schoolchildren, will be delighted by this announcement, but others are rightly sceptical about the costs. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that the plan will be achievable and affordable?
My hon. Friend is right that the legislation today is not simply about warm words or passing a law. We need to be able to demonstrate the action that lies beneath it. Action will come relatively quickly with the publication of an energy White Paper in the summer that will look at the future of our energy supply, at a household level and an industrial level, and the energy network itself. The White Paper will demonstrate the action that the Government are taking and it will lead to a series of future consultations.
In order to lead the debate on climate change and demonstrate the global leadership that the UK wishes to have, it is right that the process highlights the need for clean growth. That is not oxymoronic: we can grow the economy at the same time as removing greenhouse gases from our atmosphere and ensuring that new, greener technologies and more renewable forms of energy come on board. It is right that we lead that conversation, that we reassure those who may be concerned about the future, and that we take action to demonstrate to those businesses worried about any economic impact that this transition is both just and sustainable.
This measure is not long overdue but it is welcome, and I believe it will be very popular right across the country. Has my hon. Friend looked at the interim report of the all-party parliamentary group on British bioethanol, which proposes that E10 petrol should be introduced as standard in the UK, as it is in most parts of Europe, America and Australia? That would reduce carbon emissions from standard petrol by the equivalent of 700,000 cars; it would save jobs in the north-east of England, where the two British bioethanol plants are based; and it would be cleaner in terms of pollution. It would, of course, be a temporary measure while we introduce more electric cars, but is it not overdue?
My right hon. and learned Friend has also raised that point with me in private, and I am happy to raise the issue of bioethanol with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has responsibility for agriculture. It is important to reflect that, as part of a grand challenge in our industrial strategy, we have set out a number of missions on the future of mobility and transport in our cities, including the reduction of congestion, the introduction of electric vehicles and the adaptation of battery technology. I was delighted to visit Warwick Manufacturing Group on Friday, to discuss the advances it has made with lithium batteries. We must do that because of the need to reduce not just carbon emissions but air pollution; we know that tens of thousands of people are literally dying as a result of air pollution in our streets and cities, so the impact we make today is not just for 2050 but for now.
The Government have committed to phasing out new sales of the internal combustion engine by 2040. My Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has recommended that the date be brought forward by almost a decade, if there is to be any chance of meeting the commitment of net zero by 2050. Will the Minister look again at the phasing out of the internal combustion engine, so that we can get more electric vehicles on our roads and bring down carbon emissions?
I could not agree more with the hon. Lady: we want to see the greatest possible transition, as fast as possible, to electric and hybrid vehicles for the future, but we have to be able to do it in a sustainable way. We have to ensure that electric vehicle technology, including batteries and other opportunities, moves with us at the same time. Other countries have moved faster than us, and I recognise the points the hon. Lady makes, but what is important is that we begin this discussion about how we can achieve that. There are a number of policy measures by which we can do it. There is also a supply-side as well as a demand-side issue when it comes to electric vehicle technology, and we need to be able to work on both sides of that economic argument in order to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads. There are issues about charging points, which I also recognise. We need to do it in a sustainable and affordable way that ensures that we can continue a transformation of the economy.
I would really welcome an earlier shift towards electric cars and electric bikes, but is it not the case that, where possible, we really need to be getting people out of their cars altogether and encouraging greater use of cycling and walking? Will the Minister assure me that there will be increased investment in cycling and walking?
I will get back to my speech in a moment. It is important that the Government are able to set out a pathway for considering the range of responsibilities across society, and that will encourage a range of individual actions. The Committee on Climate Change is the lead independent committee whose advice the Government have taken in order to legislate today. It has set out a range of future possibilities to reach net zero, many of which include individual actions for reaching the final 4%, but this is about system change and decarbonising our energy and heating systems, both domestically and industrially. There are a large number of areas where we will need to take action across society, and we need to be able to take that action now.
Order. If I might help the Minister and, indeed, the House, the Minister has been very generous in giving way and a great many Members have intervened on him. Perhaps the House is not aware that this debate has been allocated 90 minutes. That means that we will stop at 13 minutes past 7, which is only just over an hour away. Every time somebody intervenes, they take away the time of Members who have been sitting patiently, waiting to make speeches. Please do not be angry with the Minister for not giving way. He has been very generous and I am going to encourage him not to extend his generosity much further.
The Committee on Climate Change has told us quite clearly that ending the UK’s contribution to global warming is now within reach. It has advised that a net zero emissions target is necessary, because climate change is the single most important issue facing us; that it is feasible, because we can get there using technologies and approaches that exist, enabling us to continue to grow our economy and to maintain and improve our quality of life; and that it is affordable, because it can be achieved at a cost equivalent of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. As I have said, owing to falling costs, that is the same cost envelope that this Parliament accepted for an 80% target. That is before taking into account the many benefits for households and businesses—from improved air quality, to new green-collar jobs. I applaud the committee for the quality, breadth and analytical rigour of its advice.
Recent months and weeks have been a time of huge and growing interest in how we tackle the defining challenge of climate change. Calls for action have come from all generations and all parts of society—from Greta Thunberg to David Attenborough, from schoolchildren to women’s institutes. My message today is, “As a Parliament we hear you, and we are taking action.”
This country has long been a leader in tackling climate change. Thirty years ago, Mrs Thatcher was the first global leader to acknowledge at the United Nations
“what may be early signs of man-induced climatic change.”
Eleven years ago, this House passed the ground-breaking Climate Change Act, the first legislation in the world to set legally binding, long-term targets for reducing emissions. The Act, passed with strong cross-party support, created a vital precedent on climate: listen to the science, focus on the evidence, and pursue deliverable solutions.
Today we can make history again, as the first major economy in the world to commit to ending our contribution to global warming forever. I ask Members on both sides of the House to come together today in the same spirit and to support this draft legislation, which I commend to the House.
I rise to emphasise just how strongly we support this order. As you have said, Madam Deputy Speaker, we have 90 minutes to debate it, but I for one think that that is miserably insufficient time for what we need to talk about. I hope that the parliamentary authorities will arrange a whole day’s debate as soon as possible on the order and its implications. I of course accept that this is how orders work, but I know that hon. Members across the House are itching to talk about the consequences of this momentous change and to review what it means for how we go about tackling climate change, the measures we will have to take and, indeed, the commitments we will have to make over the next few years to make sure that the order does not fall dead from a legislative press but instead really works in our war on climate change.
The Labour party has long called for that change. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) called in the House for net zero as long as a year ago, as indeed did the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). The change has, of course, been widely called for by climate strikers and green activists across the country. This first step in the right direction is for them as much as for the Members debating it today. It is also a tribute to the sagacity and draftsmanship of the original Climate Change Act 2008.
The 2008 Act was taken through this House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who is in his place. The fact is that such a momentous and far reaching change in the UK’s target horizon, on the removal of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the move to a permanent net zero carbon economy, can be effected by an order consisting, effectively, of one article and the substitution of one figure in one subsection in the Act. It is possible to do that, because, as the Minister mentioned, section 2 of the Act states that the Secretary of State may, by order, amend the percentage specified in section 1(1)—the current 80% target—if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change.
I am sure the Minister agrees that that is precisely what has happened since the passing of the Act. What we thought might be a sustainable emissions reduction target to keep the global temperature rise to below 2°C by 2050 already looks insufficiently robust. The UK’s contribution to a global effort seeking to arrive at a 2°C outcome—a commitment to reduce the UK’s emission load of carbon dioxide by 80% from a baseline of 1990 levels—is no longer sufficient. We need to aim for global temperature rises of no more than 1.5°C by 2050. The Minister mentioned the recent seminal Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which shows us why the target is so important and why even limiting temperature change to 2° will not get us to a tolerable safe place as far as the effects of global warming on the planet are concerned. That does indeed count as the “developments in scientific knowledge” specified in the Act.
The UK’s contribution to the global effort has to ensure that we can achieve net zero emissions by 2050—or, I would hope, before 2050. That has to be our new target and it has to be enshrined in our legislation. I say before 2050, because it may well be that further scientific advances indicate that we need to achieve the target before then. I think that that will be the case and the Act could be amended further, if necessary, to take that into account.
That is one of many things we will have to do in the very near future as we address how properly to sort out the new target. As I will come on to say, there is a big list of challenging things we need to do, and that is just one of them. There are many, many new policy guidelines that we need to get into place to get us to that target.
The Committee on Climate Change, established under the Act as the guardian of science in our proceedings on climate change in the UK, reported strongly, as has been outlined, that we need to move to net zero and that we could do it by 2050, within the cost parameters established in the original target, if we put in place the very challenging policies it outlined. We strongly support that small change that means so much.
As the Minister will know, however, that is not the end of the matter. In fact, it is barely the beginning. I therefore want to ask the Minister for some points of clarification and some further information when he comes to respond to this short debate. There are, essentially, four points to consider.
First, the Minister will know all about the carbon budgets, which were admirably and clearly established under the Climate Change Act. They are designed to keep us on track for a steady reduction in emissions and to put in place measures to keep emissions decline on track. It set out three budgets from the 2008 start date, established in total size by the Committee on Climate Change, and required a Government plan to be put into place on how to meet each budget. The Minister will know that while we have done well by international standards in reducing our emissions by 47%—it is much less in consumption emissions, if we look at it that way—that is not a sufficient trajectory for net zero carbon targets. Our current performance, and likely achievements on known policies right now, place us in a disadvantageous position as we seek to adhere to the budgets that will drive emissions down to net zero by 2050.
The carbon budgets are designed—all five of them, to date—to put us on a path for an 80% reduction and 2°, not net zero 1.5°. It is shocking that we are currently failing to get to grips with the later budgets, budgets four and five, even under the circumstances of 2°. We have exceeded our earlier budgets only partially because of policy and partially because of economic circumstances, meeting or exceeding the first two budgets and probably the third.
After that, however, it gets very sketchy. Indeed, the latest updated emissions projections from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show us badly off target: over by 139 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent for the fourth carbon budget, or 7% over on central estimates; and 245 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 13% over the central estimate for the fifth carbon budget. This is at a time when we will need to introduce a radically reduced sixth carbon budget, and subsequent budgets, to meet our new challenges. We are failing even to get to grips with the old targets, which will make our work so much harder when the later budgets come upon us.
What urgent steps are the Minister and the Government taking to get us back on track for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, on which we are currently failing so badly? I can make an offer to the Minister: if he wants to sit down and sort out a raft of new policies, extended commitments to policy programmes, and extensions of the urgency of existing programmes, we will happily jointly draft those with him, so that there is solid buy-in across the House for that vital initial effort.
Secondly, we received the alarming news recently that the Government seemingly intend to roll over historical surpluses—some 88 megatonnes of carbon dioxide saved from the second carbon budget—to ease the passage of the third carbon budget, thus creating a higher starting point for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. That move is not completely illegitimate in terms of the construction of the Act, but the Committee on Climate change has always recommended that that should not be done, and that banking and borrowing on future budgets would gravely distort the safe progression downwards of carbon dioxide emissions. Similarly, we should not seek to offset our own account through international emissions allowances, as the Government seem intent on doing.
Will the Minister explain why the Government have moved to set aside emission surpluses from earlier budgets? Will he say now that he will unwind that intention and not use them to inflate future budgets? Will he confirm that international offsets will have no place in future budget setting? We note in the explanatory memorandum to the order that despite the committee’s recommendation in the report that the UK legislate as soon as possible to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with the target of a 100% reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 covering all sectors of the economy including aviation and shipping, the Government have, for the time being, merely left headroom in the budgets for international aviation and shipping. Shipping and aviation currently make up 3.2% and 2.1% of global emissions, but this could rise to over 30% if action is not taken alongside other greenhouse gas reductions. What is the Government’s intention with regard to aviation and shipping coming properly and fully into carbon budgets, and why are they continuing to delay what we all know is an essential inclusion if those targets are to be meaningful for the future?
Thirdly, does the Minister recognise, as I am sure he does, that net zero is the practical outcome of the legislation to require a 100% reduction in the UK’s net carbon account? Net zero means that in addition to developing low carbon policies, as we were for the 80% target, we have to develop policies that are essentially carbon negative—that put carbon back into the ground in one way or another to compensate for the remaining positive carbon elements of our overall account. This means that techniques such as BECCS—bio-energy with carbon capture and storage—extended carbon capture and storage, carbon capture from the air and radical afforestation are all important policies for the future target. What plans do the Government have—[Interruption.]
Indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker. I assure you that I have about half a page to go, so I hope that that will keep the timetable intact.
What plans do the Government have to proceed urgently with negative carbon policies? We will be on hand to help them if they want to bring in those policies at an early stage.
Finally, the Minister will no doubt have been copied into the recent letter from the Chancellor concerning legislating for net zero, in which he urged that there should not be legislation until a review of the costs had been carried out by the Treasury. The letter was widely regarded as being somewhat climate economic illiterate, in that it set out only the costs and not the benefits of moving forward in this way. As I said, the Committee on Climate Change indicated that in its opinion the GDP cost of 1% to 2% was unchanged from when the 80% target was set—this was presumably approved by the Treasury. Indeed, as Lord Stern reminded us in his seminal report of 2006, which seems a long time ago, the GDP costs of doing nothing might be several times as much.
Will the Minister provide assurance on that point? Indeed, I take it from the fact that we have this legislation, and that it has not been put off to some time in the future, that the Treasury’s rather insidious advice has not been taken on board. Might it not be a good idea to set out in the round and well in advance what the overall costs and benefits of moving to this target will be? I look forward to the jobs in the low-carbon industries that we will set to work replacing our infrastructure, so that it works for a green future; the immense improvements in the quality of our environment that the measure will bring; and the assurance that we will leave a world fit for our children and grandchildren to live in. That surely does not have a price, but, if it does, it is well worth paying.
I give a warm welcome to today’s legislation and to the Minister, who has taken this brief by the scruff of the neck since he was appointed, for which we are all grateful.
This is a moment to give sincere thanks to the Government and the Committee on Climate Change for acting and allowing us to act in the way we are set to, because the IPCC report, which the Minister referred to, is really devastating. If we do not manage to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C, we will find that sea levels keep rising to an unsustainable degree and that the impact on biodiversity is completely unsustainable. The difference between a 1.5°C and 2°C rise is clearly illustrated in that report. At 1.5°C, we will lose 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates. That is devastating enough by any measure. At 2°C, the IPCC forecasts that we would lose 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates.
Limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared with 2°C has other consequences, most notably for us as a species. Keeping it to 1.5°C may reduce the proportion of the world’s population who are exposed to climate-induced water stress by 50%. The impact on an increasingly volatile and dangerous world can scarcely be overstated. We need to do this—the science is clear—and we need to rebut the notion that the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), referred to. I agree with him that we need to fight back against the idea that the costs exceed the benefits, because doing the right thing for the environment is not at odds with doing the right thing for our economy. The UK’s performance since the 1992 Rio summit—we have decarbonised the most of any G7 nation at the same time as growing our economy the most—only goes to prove that.
The committee’s report was crystal clear that we can deliver net zero at no additional cost relative to the 2008 commitment to an 80% reduction in CO2 by 2050, owing to the pace of technological change. That needs to be factored into all our calculations when it comes to the achievability and costs of the commitment. Anyone who has listened to Lord Adair Turner talking about this, as he has done so well, and seen the work of the Energy Transitions Commission can be well assured that we are on track to deliver this in a cost-effective fashion.
This goes to the point that the coalition Government’s energy policy, under David Cameron, was a huge success. The contracts for difference mechanism, which enabled huge reductions in the cost of offshore wind in particular, goes to show that we can achieve massive economic and technological change if we incentivise markets to deliver the outcomes that we all need. Anyone who looks at the proportion of the UK’s energy generated by renewables—it stood at just over 6% in 2010 and is now 33%—will see that we can deliver far-reaching change in a very short period.
My hon. Friend is making a very important point about the good that Government can do and the change that they can bring about. Does he agree that to reach this ambitious target, we will need every level of government, including local government, the devolved Administrations and central Government, to work together to make sure that we can deliver this ambitious target for 2050?
I absolutely agree. No one can regard this as somebody else’s challenge, and that goes for the private sector as well as the public sector. Everyone will have to realign their expectations in the light of this commitment because it is genuinely groundbreaking. It is easy to underestimate the significance of what we are gathered to legislate for. This is a world-leading initiative by a developed nation. It is a profound statement of our commitment to a cleaner and greener world.
My hon. Friend has campaigned so vigorously on this issue. He is right to say that this is world-leading legislation and that the UK is taking the lead, but does he agree that China, whose carbon emissions are something like 25 times that of the UK, really needs to play its part?
I do. That is not a counsel of despair. In many ways, we are setting a powerful example that other countries will be inspired to follow. By legislating for net zero, we start to create some of the economic opportunities that other countries will, in turn, be keen to seize. We can set a powerful moral and economic example for other countries to follow. I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. He, too, has fought long and hard to make this happen, and I thank him for that.
On the economic opportunity, I will briefly bang the drum for carbon capture and storage. The CCC is absolutely clear in its report that we need to deliver CCS—[Interruption.] Contrary to what the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) said from a sedentary position, the Government are now taking CCS as an integral part of their green industrial strategy. We need to make sure that we get a number of clusters rolled out as quickly as possible, and one of those should be Teesside. I praise the work of the Teesside Collective, which is a pioneering group of industrial companies, all of whom want to see this happen, not least because there are certain industries such as steel, cement, plastics and fertilisers that emit CO2 as an inextricable part of their production techniques. Even if we fully decarbonised our energy mix, those sectors would still need CCS to avoid contributing to our carbon emissions.
Finally, this is a wonderful example of how the UK can take a moral lead in the world after Brexit, and I praise how we are fighting to deliver the COP 26, alongside Italy, as part of our efforts. If we secure that, I hope we will make the drive for net zero an integral part of our prospectus for the conference.
Like everyone in the Chamber, I found the results from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change according to which we need to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5° very sobering. Its findings should if anything spur us all into very determined action. The results of such a rise would be an increased likelihood of food scarcity, disease and poverty, which we cannot just stand by and watch. I am pleased to say that the findings have refocused minds, and I am glad to have this debate today—it is only a pity it is so short. Just last Friday, we saw another UK-wide school strike outside Parliament and across schools. That is particularly important given that we had a visit from the world’s most powerful leader, who is a climate change denier, just a few weeks previously.
By contrast, last week, Glasgow Caledonian University hosted the world forum on climate justice, at which Nicola Sturgeon spoke about the big climate conversation —a nationwide conversation to discuss action to tackle the global climate emergency. We rightly realise that climate change is the challenge of a generation. Whether we are academics, activists or politicians, we have not only a duty to raise awareness of climate change, but an urgent obligation to take action and seek solutions.
I therefore welcome the UK Government’s decision to legislate for a net zero target by 2050. Since the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s report last month, the Scottish Government have been calling for this, given that the Committee was explicit in its advice that Scotland could not achieve net zero emissions by 2045 unless the UK Government did so by 2050. Will the UK Government respond to the Scottish Government’s request for an urgent meeting to discuss how reserved levers can be applied to help achieve net zero emissions in Scotland and the rest of the UK?
This is an important moment to take stock of what has been achieved so far, to examine our future plans and to set out what needs to be done imminently now that these new targets have been set. I am proud to say that Scotland is already world leading in its approach to climate change. We are committed to setting and meeting the most ambitious targets possible. We have already halved emissions since 1990 while growing the economy and increasing employment and productivity. Scotland continues to outperform the UK in delivering long-term emissions reductions, with statutory annual targets for 2014, 2015 and 2016 all met, and progress remains consistent with meeting the current interim target for 2020. The only country in the EU15 to do better is Sweden.
The Scottish Government declared a climate emergency last month and acted immediately on the Committee on Climate Change advice by lodging amendments to our Climate Change Bill to set a net zero target for 2045 and increase the target for 2030 to 70% and for 2040 to 90%. These are the most ambitious statutory targets in the world for these years and this immediate response has been welcomed by the committee, which said:
“Scotland has been a leader within the UK with many of its policies to tackle climate change. By setting a strong net-zero target for 2045 it can continue that leadership on the world stage.”
That said, simply discussing climate change, setting targets and reflecting on achievements will not solve climate change. Progress to date has been achieved with little impact on most people, and few of us have had to make any real radical lifestyle changes. As the committee pointed out, to achieve these new targets we will require
“extensive changes across the economy”.
The next phase will require much more noticeable changes and tougher decisions, with people having to embrace significant lifestyle change in order to achieve our collective ambition. The sooner we start, the easier it will be to achieve.
Scotland has already made progress with efforts to ensure a just transition—I was pleased to hear the Minister mention that in his speech in relation to the UK Government’s own ambitions—and has set up a Just Transition Commission specifically to provide advice on how to transition to a low-carbon economy that is fair for everyone. I hope he will pay close attention to its progress. It will advise Scottish Ministers on how to apply the International Labour Organisation’s just transition principles to Scotland—for example, by examining the economic and social opportunities that the move to a carbon-neutral economy will bring; the impact on a sustainable and inclusive labour market; and lastly, issues that could arise in relation to cohesion, equalities and poverty.
Furthermore, climate change will be at the heart of the next SNP programme for government and spending review. Last year, the Scottish Government published their climate change plan 2018-32, which set out how we would continue to drive down emissions over the period. This is due to be updated within six months of the Climate Change Bill receiving Royal Assent to reflect these new targets. We are announcing new and ambitious action on deposit return, on the way we farm and on renewables. For example, a new part of the Scottish strategy for achieving 100% reduction in emissions is through establishing a publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company to deliver renewable energy to Scottish customers
“as close to cost price as possible”.
The UK Government should pay close attention to that.
Looking ahead, for the UK Government to be serious about meeting their new target, they must heed the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which set out five scenarios for the UK to reach net zero emissions by 2050, based on known technologies. These included resource and energy efficiency, and societal choices that cut demand for carbon intensive activities; extensive electrification supported by a major expansion of renewable and other low-carbon power generation; the development of a hydrogen economy to service demands for some industrial processes; and changes in how we farm and use our land.
None the less, the recommended scenario that sticks out for me is carbon capture, usage and storage. The committee’s report states that it is a “necessity not an option”. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee report on carbon capture, usage and storage concludes that the UK will not be able to meet its Paris agreement climate change targets without deploying carbon capture. In spite of all this, the Conservative UK Government shamefully reneged on their promised £1 billion of investment in carbon capture and storage technology, which was expected to create 600 jobs in Peterhead, in a deal signed by David Cameron in the months leading up to the 2014 independence referendum.
Earlier this month, my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) pointed out to the Secretary of State that St Fergus near Aberdeen could at a minimum capture 5.7 gigatonnes—equivalent to 150 years of all Scotland’s 2016 gas emissions. With the right investment and commitment, this could be operational by 2023. I remind the Minister of the huge potential of carbon capture, usage and storage and encourage him to do all he can to support its development in Scotland. Will he please announce what further plans he has?
Finally, the Committee on Climate Change outlined the obstacles that needed to be overcome to achieve net zero emissions as well as a number of priorities for the Government, such as ensuring that businesses respond, engaging the public to act, developing the infrastructure, providing the skills and ensuring a just transition. Crucially, the report recommended that the net zero challenge be embedded and integrated across all Departments, at all levels of government and in all major decisions that impact on emissions. This would be the right course of action and one that I hope is followed through on.
Like the Scottish Government, the next Prime Minister must put tackling this climate emergency at the heart of what the Government do. It is something that each and every one of us must keep at the forefront of our minds every day. Make no mistake: climate change is a global problem and responsibility and its consequences will not respect national borders. Let us ensure that this target is delivered upon with no room for complacency and help to set the agenda for other nations to aspire to.
I very much support this motion and I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this legislation so quickly after the passing of the motion on 1 May accepting that there was a climate change emergency.
I hope that the motion will be approved this evening. If it is, we must not rest on our laurels but move immediately to provide the full policy framework so we can deliver what is an ambitious target. The good news is that much of the framework is already there: the Climate Change Act 2008, the industrial strategy, the clean growth strategy and the sector deals. Some pieces of the jigsaw have been put in place, such as the offshore wind sector deal—the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), launched it in Lowestoft in March—which will help to revitalise the local economy.
Other pieces of the jigsaw are missing, however, such as a route map for decarbonising transport, a flexible policy framework for promoting local bespoke heating schemes and a comprehensive plan for meeting the domestic energy efficiency targets in the clean growth strategy, as put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) in her ten-minute rule Bill last week. The UK has made significant strides in decarbonising the nation’s power supply, with offshore wind providing a means of regenerating coastal communities such as Lowestoft, but more work needs to be done, including providing a clear route to market for other clean energy technologies and getting on with delivering those big-ticket items of nuclear power and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, which are absolutely vital to delivering on the zero carbon goal. It is important for us not to be not a one-trick pony and concentrate only on power. We must immediately set about making significant strides in decarbonising transport and heat, as well as improving our performance in relation to energy efficiency.
The challenge is a big one, and the UK Government cannot deliver on their own. We need to be working with and leading other countries, and incentivising and encouraging the private sector to step up to the plate and invest. Norway is a country with which we have a great deal in common, as we share the North sea oil and gas basin. We must work with the Norwegians to ensure that oil and gas are produced in a low-carbon, efficient manner in future, and that we realise the full potential of carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Companies that were exclusively oil and gas businesses are responding to the winds of change and are making the transition to low-carbon forms of energy production. The Government must incentivise them to move as quickly as is practically possible, and to ensure that the highly skilled workforce on the United Kingdom continental shelf have every opportunity to move to jobs in the low-carbon economy.
The UK has a record of which we can be proud, but we now need to accelerate our efforts to meet the challenge, and the motion is the first step in that process. It is welcome, so let us now ensure that it is passed, and then get on with the enormous amount of work that is required for that challenge to be properly met.
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous). There is something paradoxical about the fact that this is a low-key debate on a Monday evening, but one thing that it indicates is that there is a great deal of consensus on the need for action, and that is a good thing. The fact that there is not a huge row going on shows that, on both sides of the House, we want to act.
I shall make three substantive points. The first is about the target itself. It is based on the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, and I welcome it, but I believe that it should be regarded as—I hesitate to use this word—a backstop. [Laughter.] I could not think of a better word, although I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) for one.
The reality is that the science is heading in one direction, towards more urgent action. Let me draw the House’s attention to a document that was produced for the Committee on Climate Change by its international advisory group, chaired by Peter Betts, an excellent former civil servant who was responsible for the international negotiations. In that document, the group said that we should set a net zero date no later than 2050, and that there was a case for 2045. As the Minister said, it is good that there is a review clause, and I think that we may well have to bring that point forward.
My second point is this: if you will the end, you have to will the means. I am glad to hear that the energy White Paper is coming, and the Minister has built up my expectations about what it will contain. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West talked about cars. By the mid-2020s, the lifetime costs of electric vehicles will be lower than the lifetime costs of petrol and diesel vehicles. As the Committee on Climate Change says, the economically sensible choice is to make an earlier rather than a later transition. That is not to say that no issues are involved, but that makes a profound point about the benefits of m oving forward.
Thirdly, if we will the means as well as the end, we should think not just about the 1% to 2% of GDP that this will cost—on top of what we already spend—but about the 98% of other economic activity. I raise the issue of the Heathrow third runway gingerly, but if we are so serious about this climate emergency, I do not see how we cannot look at all the things that the Government and the private sector are doing and ask whether they make sense in a net zero world. I hope that the comprehensive spending review will have a net zero carbon budgeting process attached to it.
My final point concerns the international negotiations. It is excellent that we shall be hosting the conference of the parties next year, but let me say to the Minister and to the House that this is a massive challenge. It is an incredibly important moment for the world, when every country has to update its Paris targets. In a way, this is the last chance for us to get on track for what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has described to us as a really dangerous and urgent situation. Let me say this to the Minister. Of course Brexit will be ongoing, at least for a bit, but will he please ensure that all the political and diplomatic muscle of Government will be put into this process? It is a massive thing for the world, and it will require a huge focus from the Government. This is an important moment, and I welcome it, but, in a sense, the hard work is only just beginning for all of us.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who has been one of the world leaders in the debate on this issue.
I welcome the Government’s announcement today. Climate change is without doubt the biggest danger to our planet. The UK has a very good record in this regard, but the planet has a very poor one. All of us will have to up our game massively to meet the challenge. Moreover, the next stages of the decarbonisation of our economy will be much more difficult than the progress that we have already made.
As I have said, the UK has a good record. The climate change performance index, which is collated by the independent organisation Germanwatch, lists it as fifth in the world, behind only Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Morocco. We are ahead of every other country that Members may want to mention, so it is not a question of the Government’s marking their own homework. We are a world leader in this area. Ours is the best performance in the G20. We were the first country to announce that we would abolish coal energy production by 2025, and are now the first to announce a net zero target of 2050.
It has not been mentioned yet in the debate, but we should not forget that all this progress has come not necessarily at a cost to businesses, although they are having to change, but principally at a cost to consumers. All these levies are paid by the consumer. In 2010, we were spending just over £1 billion. Today, consumers are bearing a cost of more than £7 billion a year, and the figure will be more than £9 billion by 2020. When we make more progress—as we will—we must do so in a way that is sensitive to, particularly, those on low incomes, because otherwise the burden will be entirely disproportionate.
Yes, we have made progress. As has been pointed out, 33% of our energy comes from electricity. However, that is only 19% of the total energy that is being produced. The next challenges, particularly those involving heating and transport, will be much more difficult. We need a stable framework. It is great that the Government have made their announcement, because it means that businesses will respond and feel confident that their investments will be supported in the future.
There is plenty of innovation coming down the line that will have nothing to do with Government action. I am thinking of, for example, transport as a service. When we do not own cars any more, but simply dial a number on our iPhones so that they arrive outside our doors, energy requirements for transport will be transformed. Solar energy and batteries will transform them as well. This is more about a technology disruption than about a transition. As the right hon. Member for Doncaster North said, it is about economics. It will be cheaper to run a car that is electric and autonomous than to run one with a diesel engine.
It has been good to hear this issue debated on both sides of the Chamber today, but if we are to deliver these solutions, we need a fact-based debate. We cannot simply say that we need to decarbonise our energy and that therefore we need to stop using gas, and then stop producing gas. Fracking has been mentioned today. Given that 90% of my constituency is covered by petroleum exploration development licences, we will need gas. The Committee on Climate Change says that the widespread deployment of hydrogen is critical to the decarbonisation of our economy. That can only realistically be achieved by stripping the carbon molecule out of methane. We will need gas for many decades to come. Let us talk facts, and not just base what we say on emotions.
I welcome the Government’s actions, and I have been delighted to speak in the debate.
I am proud to speak in this debate, and I am proud that the country that first legislated with the Climate Change Act in 2008 is going a step further today by updating the Act and will be the first G7 economy to legislate for net zero. I think we should all be proud of those achievements. But the role of Parliament, and my role as Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee is, where appropriate, to push the Government to go further in a whole range of areas. Those areas include electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage, on both of which my Select Committee has produced reports. Another is energy efficiency, on which a report is coming shortly looking at energy efficiency in homes and at the building of homes—we must not build homes today that we know are not fit for the future given the new commitments that we are making.
Other such areas are international aviation and shipping, which I am disappointed are not included in the SI we are debating today. The chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, Chris Stark, who gave evidence to our Select Committee, said that it was absolutely imperative to include international aviation and shipping in our climate change commitments, because they contribute 10% of our carbon emissions. I hope the Government will look at that evidence again and update our legislation in light of it.
There are other things that we need to do. Our Committee took evidence last week, including from the World Wide Fund for Nature, which said that a target of 2045 was eminently possible. We heard other evidence that by 2050 we should be looking not at net zero, but at taking carbon out of the atmosphere, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) said earlier, with a 120% target to do exactly that. I hope that when we have the five-year review we can look at being more radical and going further, so that we achieve net zero before 2050 and continue to be a world leader and ensure that we are at the forefront of creating green jobs and taking the opportunities that meeting this target will offer.
However, achieving all that goes well beyond our debates and the decisions we take in this House, and that is why I am also pleased that, along with five other Select Committees, my Committee announced last week that we will be setting up a series of citizens assemblies to bring the public into this debate. Debates and resolutions in this House are not going to take carbon out of the atmosphere; they are not going to get somebody to buy an electric vehicle, or eat less meat, or farm in a different way, or build houses in a different way. To do that we need to take businesses and everyone with us. I hope that those citizens assemblies will look at the evidence, take evidence from a range of experts and deliberate on how all of us can play our part, and I hope that we collectively find that we have in us, in all our communities, the solution to the challenges we face today so that all of us can play our part in achieving a really important objective. That is what all of us should set out to do.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), the Chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, on which I have the privilege to serve, and I concur with everything she said. I wish there was more time for this debate, because I would like to celebrate the fact that this issue has engaged the imaginations of the young people of this country. I would especially like to thank Sir David Attenborough for the extraordinary work he has done in raising public consciousness on this matter.
I am a grandfather, and I want my grandchildren to have a future in a cleaner and more sustainable world of wonder, and for that to happen—or to be a real prospect—we need to act now. To bring this into stark contrast, reference was made to the speech given nearly 30 years ago by Margaret Thatcher at the United Nations; she is the only Prime Minister, I believe, who was a scientist before assuming office. She said in that speech that it is life itself—human life, and the innumerable species of our planet—that we wantonly destroy. It is life itself that we must battle to preserve; we must never lose sight of the nub of this issue. So I fully support the Government’s ambition to achieve a net zero target in CO2 output by 2050—a target that will set a benchmark for the whole world to follow.
However, while I applaud the objective, a goal is only a wish if we do not have a fully detailed plan complete with milestones, and we need to fully communicate the implications of those details for our current way of life, because we will all need to change certain aspects of our daily lives and adjust the expectations that we have largely assumed. We owe it to the people of this country to have a frank and full discussion with them about the implications of what we are doing in this House this afternoon. It will require the very strongest signals from Government and from this Parliament for the target to be realised, and it must be agreed on a cross-party basis.
I want to say a few words about electric vehicles. Transport, energy-intensive industries, housing and agriculture will all need to be brought firmly under the microscope, but let me talk about transport. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) offered some really interesting ideas when he was a Transport Minister in relation to electric vehicles and charging points. We need more charging points up and down the country, and they need to be visible, recognisable and user-friendly. If we want driver confidence in making the move to EVs to increase, we must make a dramatic extension to the existing network of charging points; it is currently under-deployed. My right hon. Friend said that we would have a national design competition to create something recognisable and pleasing to the eye; I ask the Government where we are with that idea.
I completely agree. We need to upgrade our planning on that—and also, by the way, on broadband. We need charging points to be user-friendly. Why is there not already an app showing where charging points are, whether they are working, how much they will cost and why are there so many different and mutually exclusive ways of paying for the use of a charging point? Why are we not acting in this place to hasten the day when there will be standard connection leads in plug-ins, and what are we doing in government to bring the momentum about?
I apologise, but I really should not give way again; I wish we had more time.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee recommended that we should bring forward our aim of stopping the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040 to 2032, and that would be the prudent thing to do. We have seen the effect of mixed messaging from Government on diesel engine producers, and there must not be mixed messages on the subject of the move to EVs. The Government must give the industry very clear signals, which will lead to an upgrade in investment plans. Are we satisfied that the road to zero is clear or ambitious enough? I am not sure that we should be satisfied about that. Are we satisfied that government is really joined up? Government tends to work in silos: are the BEIS and Transport Departments and the Treasury all aligned in relation to this matter of public policy? I look forward to hearing—maybe not today but at some point—some assurances from Ministers that this really is a joined-up process.
I have already spoken for longer than the time limit, but let me just say that I endorse everything said in this debate on the subject of carbon capture, utilisation and storage. The Government must make an early move so that we can be on the front foot not only in achieving our targets, but in exporting our technological know-how to the rest of the world so that we can truly take a lead on this matter.
I welcome this statutory instrument, but have to say that although it is necessary it is insufficient. The Government lack ambition in this area; an 80% reduction on 1990 levels and a 2050 date are not the levels of ambition that I would expect if we are to avert catastrophic climate change. This is not net zero; this is net zero-lite.
I am also concerned about the Government’s ability to meet even this modest ambition. For instance, the Minister raised the matter of the Leeds and Birmingham city councils’ clean air zones, and those councils do a magnificent job; however, the Government have not stepped up to the plate because they are delaying the implementation of vehicle charging and the payments system, which means that we cannot implement those clean air zones in January 2020 as planned in Leeds.
The Green Alliance has briefed me that the Government will be unable to meet their fourth and fifth carbon budgets, and I am hosting a roundtable on this subject tomorrow. The Minister is welcome to attend. The explanatory notes to this statutory instrument state that the Government
“will continue to leave headroom for emissions from international aviation and shipping”,
but I urge him to take that headroom out. We cannot allow headroom in aviation and shipping to take us even further away from our carbon budget targets.
As others have said, the implementation date for the diesel and petrol car sales ban is far too far into the future and needs to be moved up to 2030 at the latest. In this House, I have raised the need six times for electric vehicle charging points in my constituency, mainly with the right hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry). The Minister will be pleased to hear that we are getting our first vehicle charge points in three weeks’ time, so I will no longer be annoying members of the Government about installing points in Leeds North West. We have achieved that ourselves through Leeds City Council, which has a fleet of more than 100 electric vehicles. When the Environmental Audit Committee raised this same issue with the NHS, it told us that it had no plans to transition to an electric vehicle fleet. Why can the Government’s own fleet not transition to electric vehicles just as local councils are doing?
On housing, the code for sustainable homes was set up by the last Labour Government but scrapped by the coalition. We have had eight wasted years with houses being built to poor standards that will not meet our carbon budget targets under the Paris agreement. And where is the onshore wind? I want the Minister to commit today to returning onshore wind.
However, I will finish on a positive note. I acknowledge that the UK has been a climate leader for the last 25 years or more and that that is reflected in our being awarded the COP 26 conference in 2026, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) referred to earlier. I wrote a letter with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) on this matter, and I welcome the conference coming here, but I want it to be a net zero COP. I want to see Britain having a real net zero strategy and leading the world on net zero, not just this net zero-lite that we have been presented with today.
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. I assure you I will expel as little hot air and greenhouse gas as possible, and that I will be very short.
The UK shows no lack of ambition today. The debate has moved on from “why” to “how”, and the UK can be at the forefront of this revolution. Most importantly, the UK has the scientists, engineers, energy companies, natural resources and capital markets to deliver on this target. We must reduce carbon dioxide. Gas has played a massive part in displacing coal, and it could do that throughout the world. It creates half the greenhouse gas emissions that coal creates, and it fits perfectly into the intermittent supply that we need, along with renewable energy. If we could convince India and China to join us in this, we could reduce coal usage from a staggering 4 billion tonnes to under 1 billion tonnes by 2050.
However, it is important that we do not offshore our manufacturing. The UK will require a CO2 main ring to decarbonise manufacturing, and that will involve carbon sequestration, in which the North sea could play a major part, but all of this will be possible only if we back our technology and energy companies. In my constituency, offshore wind goes hand in hand with the offshore oil and gas industry, and we will one day see a hydrogen economy that is based on natural gas. The siren voices telling us to divest ourselves of energy companies put at risk this essential technological revolution. This will be of national importance, and all four nations can play their part. I finish by saying that we should not crush our national economy but liberate it.
This is the most ambitious target for emissions reductions that the UK has ever had, but it is still not enough: 2050 is too late. Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change chief, described the prospect of the net zero target as not even a stretch. The UK is one of the world’s richest countries and has caused more historical emissions than most. We have both the means and the responsibility to go faster, so we need a new kind of mobilisation of the kind that we do not normally see except in wartime. We need a transformation of our economy, with a green new deal bringing secure, cleaner jobs and genuinely sustainable industry. Not only is 2050 too late, but there remain huge loopholes in the target. First, the Government have avoided the chance to include legally in our carbon targets international shipping and aviation, despite advice from the Committee on Climate Change to do so. Warm words about whole economy strategies for net zero are welcome, but they must be given legal backing in order to be taken seriously.
The second door that has been left open is to the offshoring of our remaining emissions using international carbon credits. When I asked the Business Secretary to close that loophole earlier this month, he attempted to reassure me by saying that the Government would not be making use of these credits, but I am not reassured simply by those words. This Government might have no intention of using international carbon credits, but who can say whether a new Administration in five years’ time—or, dare I say it, five weeks’ time—will share such scruples?
Ultimately, Governments are judged by their actions not their words, and behind the warm words on climate leadership, distant targets and reassurances, the actions of this Government tell a different story. It is one of forcing fracking on local communities, blocking onshore wind, flogging off the Green Investment Bank, undermining solar power, building new roads and runways and the Heathrow expansion. We are in a climate emergency, so let’s act like it. No one calls 999 and requests a fire engine for 30 years’ time. We need to drop everything and put the fire out, as Greta Thunberg said. Let us take the far-reaching action now that we need to turn this crisis around, because in doing so we will not only save lives and livelihoods across the world but create a better life for people here in the UK.
There is a message of hope at the heart of this agenda. We can have improved public transport, cleaner air, thriving nature, warmer homes and much cleaner jobs. I welcome the new commitment, but I urge the Government to make their warm words mean something—
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I have been present during this debate, but I had to go to another meeting. I hear what she is saying about onshore wind, but does she agree that 7 TWh of onshore wind power were generated in 2010 and that the figure is now 30.4 TWh? It has increased and it can increase more, but she has used this rhetoric time and again to say that it has not increased. It really has, and much more can be achieved.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention, and I apologise for not hearing him earlier. I was too busy expounding my case. I am glad to take his intervention, but I do not agree with him. Of course, yes, we can say that onshore wind generation has increased from 7 TWh to 30 TWh, or whatever the figures were, but it would have increased an awful lot more if this Government had not effectively blocked its expansion. That is what they have done in recent years. Local communities are being told that they have absolutely every right to block onshore wind, yet they are not being given the right to block fracking. That just seems to be absolutely incoherent, so I rest my case that an awful lot more could have been done on onshore wind, not least because it is now one of the cheapest forms of energy generation, if not the cheapest. We do not have the counterfactual about how much could have been done if we had had an enabling Government for the last few years rather than one who have blocked onshore wind. Immediately post-2010, good work was done, but in the last few years they have been blocking it. The right hon. Gentleman can roll his eyes as often as he likes, but that is the case.
I conclude by saying that this is not the time to be patting ourselves on the back; it is the time for rolling up our sleeves, picking up the fire extinguishers, putting out the fire and treating this as the emergency it undoubtedly is.
The Government’s commitment to the 2050 target is welcome, but we must ensure that that general commitment today is turned into clear interim targets and legislation. There has been a fantastic rise in public awareness of the climate crisis in recent months, and young people have played a vital part in that. It is their future and this is a wake-up call for all of us, with difficult choices ahead. We need to get widespread public buy-in for climate change action. Citizens assemblies are one method that the Liberal Democrats believe could help to achieve that.
Secondly, we need to take a positive co-operative approach when working with the business community, but we must not be complacent. We are relying on business to find innovative solutions to many of the problems we need to solve. We need to replace jet fuel with a carbon-zero fuel, for example. Natural gas, petrol and diesel have no place in our energy future, but we should not be naive about the realities of tackling vested interests. The fossil fuel lobby will probably disagree with our approach.
I totally agree that we need to look at the progress being made by countries, because we have not made the progress that the Government are so complacently spouting about.
The current Government have effectively banned onshore wind which, as we have just heard, is the cheapest form of renewable energy. They slashed subsidies for solar power and scrapped zero carbon homes. They ended the green deal, which was there to improve energy efficiency. They have set meaningless targets for the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars. They continue to support fracking, which involves a fossil fuel, and airport expansion, with no plan for research into jet fuel.
Most importantly, transitioning to net zero risks placing an unfair burden on those who can least afford it. Energy and power is likely to cost more for the next 20 years, so we must ensure that the costs are fairly shared. We do not want to end up slapping punitive costs and taxes on the most vulnerable, so we must not ignore social justice. The transition to carbon zero provides an excellent opportunity to build a fairer society. We need to turn that opportunity into reality, and I wish that Ministers would listen.
The format of this debate prevents me from responding to many of the points made, so I commit to write formally to every Member who has raised matters that require a Government response. I will also seek Government time from the Leader of the House for a debate on this important issue as we work towards hosting COP 26. I thank all Members for their contributions. This debate is an historic moment and will ensure that we can progress the legislation for achieving net zero by 2050 to the other place.
Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, which was laid before this House on 12 June, be approved.