Regarding climate change, I completely agree that the need for global action is extremely urgent and we have no time to waste. While there is more to do in the UK, our Nationally Determined Contribution to greenhouse gas emissions are world leading in their ambition and we need other nations to show similar ambition.
Therefore, have you written to the Chinese Ambassador, Russian Ambassador, and Indian High Commissioner about the actions they need to take to get the planet back on the right trajectory?
Furthermore, I have frequently pushed our own Government to do more in respect of the new houses we build, increasing electric vehicle charging points, and in the area of regenerative agriculture as the soil can sequester more carbon than all the trees and plants on the planet. Did you know, for example, that agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions in sub-Saharan Africa than the energy sector, notwithstanding the fact that the coal being burnt in South Africa alone means that their greenhouse gas emissions are higher than the UK and we are a significantly larger economy.
If you have not seen the Netflix documentary ‘Kiss the Ground’, I would very strongly recommend it.
In relation to the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, 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 and its Second Reading is scheduled to take place on a date to be announced.
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 some individuals 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 the Prime Minister announced as he opened the Climate Ambition Summit that the UK will end support for fossil fuel exports overseas as soon as possible. This is a significant change, as in the last four years, the Government supported £21 billion of UK oil and gas exports through trade promotion and export finance. I understand that this new policy will be implemented after a short period of consultation and is intended to come into force as soon as possible, and before COP26 in November.
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.
However, 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. Ministers have assured me the Government will be looking closely at the findings. However, I am reassured that many of their recommendations, published in their report, are already in place or in progress as a result of the Government’s net zero strategy. Achieving net zero will benefit everyone and it is important that we work together to achieve it.
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.