I understand that this Presentation Bill has been developed by campaign members of Extinction Rebellion, Big Ask and Power for the People. I am also aware that Caroline Lucas MP has tabled this Bill in her name as a Private Member's Bill.
Let me be clear: tackling climate change is a priority for me and my ministerial colleagues. I am proud that the UK was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. While I can understand that many want this target to be achieved sooner, and I share this desire, getting to net zero by 2050 is feasible and consistent with avoiding most damaging climate change. Aiming for zero emissions by 2030 is almost certainly impossible, hugely disruptive and risks undermining consensus. However, I welcome that the UK Government has announced the interim target of reducing emissions by 68 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030. This target is faster than any other major economy. Climate change is an emotive issue, but a cross-community consensus will be required to ensure the UK achieves a transition that works for all.
I note that the Bill seeks to examine the UK’s global carbon footprint, such as indirect UK emissions in our supply chain which may affect developing countries. I am encouraged that the UK remains committed to environmentally sustainable development as set out in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. In January 2021, the Prime Minister announced that the UK will spend at least £3 billion of international climate finance on nature and biodiversity over five years. The funding will deliver transformational change in protecting biodiversity-rich land and ocean, shifting to sustainable food production and supply, and supporting the livelihoods of the world’s poorest.
In addition, I was encouraged that on 31 March 2021, the UK Government implemented its new, world leading policy to no longer provide new direct financial or promotional support for the fossil fuel energy sector overseas. At the G7 Leader’s Summit in June, leaders agreed to phase out new direct government support for international carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy as soon as possible, and to end new direct government support for unabated international thermal coal power generation by the end of 2021. At COP26, the Glasgow Climate Pact secured further agreements with 65 countries committed to phasing out the use of coal power. All major coal financing countries have committed to end international coal finance by the end of 2021, with $20 billion in funding to support the transition to clean power.
Furthermore, the UK is on course to protect over half of our waters. We now have 357 Marine Protected Areas of different types and no activities deemed damaging to designated features will be allowed to take place in these areas.
The UK is leading coalitions of ambitious countries to protect at least 30 per cent of the world’s land and water by 2030, to redirect land use subsidies globally to support sustainability and renewal, and to breaking the link between commodity production and illegal deforestation.
I was strongly encouraged that, at COP26, more than 130 leaders, representing over 90 per cent of the world’s forests, pledged to end deforestation by 2030, backed by almost £14 billion of public and private funding.
I do not believe citizens' assemblies have advantages over conventional policy making in this context. Previous experiences in Canada, for instance, included citizens in the decision-making process but they failed to produce impactful or long-lasting results. I know that a Climate Assembly UK was formed as a result of work conducted by Parliamentary Select Committees. The Government responded to the Climate Assembly's report, noting that the findings from the Assembly form an important addition to the Government’s evidence base on assessing the UK public’s understanding, attitudes and perceptions around net zero.
While I welcome the increased awareness and debate that this Bill brings, I do not believe that it is required as work is already underway. The Government is clear that there is still a huge amount more to do, but with the agreement achieved at in the Glasgow Climate Pact, we will look back to COP26 as the beginning of the end of climate change.