UK's Progress toward Net-Zero Carbon Emissions Debate

I add my congratulations to the hon. Members for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) on securing this vital debate.

Climate change is not a new concept. For millennia the earth has oscillated through periods of warmth and of cold, but for the first time in Earth’s history natural trends are changing. Unlike in times gone by, however, human beings have their finger on the scale: we have tipped the balance. Our impact on the environment is often hidden, out of sight and out of mind, but international scientists are clearly telling us that our actions have dire consequences—consequences that we are starting to see and feel. Heatwaves, hurricanes, wildfires and flooding are just some of the realities we now face. The positive news is that we know it is happening. We know a key driver of this change is our relentless production of greenhouse gases, so we have to take action to change that and work towards a net zero carbon economy.

I am proud that the UK is leading the way in tackling this issue, and I do think that we are leading the way. Since 1990, we have cut emissions by more than 40%, and we have done so faster than any other G7 nation, all at the same time as our economy has grown by two thirds. Our emissions will continue to fall as we generate more of our power from clean sources, and we are on track to deliver 35% of energy from renewables by 2020-21.


Intervention - Stephen Kerr

Another way in which the United Kingdom can take a first mover advantage is in relation to using carbon capture and storage. If we were to make a commitment as a Government and as an economy to implement it, that is an area in which we could really make a startling difference to what we are achieving in carbon emissions in this country and in exporting such technology across the earth.


I completely agree. That is certainly much-needed technology, and technology with which the world leader, which I hope we will be, would certainly be able to make a massive difference, as well as a huge economic difference for businesses here as well.

This change is often being driven from the ground up by businesses, as my hon. Friend says, and by local councils, supported by Government initiatives, and I have seen this in Chichester. Covers timber merchants in my constituency has transformed its business to incorporate sustainable business practices. It has installed solar panels across its sites, which has allowed it to save 810 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being emitted in 2017 alone. On my last visit there I saw its newest introduction of electric forklift trucks, which were operating in the yard silently loading lorries. That business, and many others, are doing what they can to minimise their ​environmental impacts, and West Sussex County Council has been developing its renewable assets, with solar panels now on more than 30 schools, as well as on council buildings and fire stations. Today the council produces an average of 23,350 MWh of renewable energy per year, which significantly exceeds the 14,000 MWh consumed in delivering services across its core estate. Such innovative efforts are slowly but surely changing the way we operate our businesses and services in this country, together with our individual actions as consumers.

As many Members have said, this is a global issue and we need a global solution. Our role in that is becoming increasingly important, and reports of international underachievement and key players pulling out of international agreements make the need for us to remain steadfast and show continued leadership all the more important. We need international collaboration and to support developing economies to grow in a more sustainable way than we did. The Government have committed £5.8 billion of international climate finance from 2016-20 to help developing countries mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change.

We must consider best practice adopted in other countries, and support the development of new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) referred to. As an island nation we should continue to develop and support growth in marine energy. I welcome the Government’s ambition to become a world leader in clean technology and services, and I look forward to them further developing those opportunities with our world-class universities. Sustainable growth can ultimately be more profitable in every respect.

We owe it to the next generation to make every effort to mitigate climate change. Several Members have referred to the 15,000 schoolchildren who came here to tell us that they care, and we are here today to say that we care too! Their voices are being, and will be heard by every one of us.

As MPs we cannot fail to be impressed by the knowledge of the younger generation in every school we visit, as well as by their knowledge of the impact on the environment, and their passion to take action and combat climate change and create a more sustainable world for their future. I promise—I am sure we all do—that we will continue to support every effort to improve our environmental plan and support our 25-year strategy, our clean growth strategy, and the forthcoming environmental Bill, which shifts focus on to the environment and should therefore be welcomed.

On a personal level, we will all give up something for Lent—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) has been on to us all. I gave up plastic this year, and I think this year I am picking up litter and might even try lentils as well. Tolstoy famously said:

“Everybody thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.”

We need to do both.