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 addition, climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face, and I can assure you that I recognise the importance and urgency of action on this issue.
The recent report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world is warming faster than previously anticipated and climate change is already affecting every single region of our planet. This stark report must be met with immediate global action to limit warming, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and loss of Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.
I am pleased that the UK, which is continuing to play a world-leading role in tackling climate change, was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050, and we are decarbonising faster than any G20 country. In addition, we have set ambitious climate targets in law, such as a commitment to reduce emissions by 68 per cent by 2030, and also to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, both compared to 1990 levels.
This does not come at the expense of economic growth. The UK has grown its economy by 75 per cent while cutting emissions by 43 per cent since 1990.
The UK accounts for approximately 1.2 per cent of global emissions and the Government and COP26 Presidency is working to ensure other countries, particularly other G20 countries which account together for 80 per cent of global emissions, to urgently submit new or updated 2030 targets (Nationally Determined Contributions) with their plans for ambitious climate action ahead of the vital COP26 summit later this year in Glasgow.
Ultimately, I am assured that under this Government’s leadership, action will be taken so that future generations will look back on climate change as a problem that was solved with the UK leading from the front, protecting our planet for centuries to come.
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, disruptive, not required by the science, economically unfeasible and risks undermining consensus.
The UK is the first G7 country to agree a landmark North Sea Transition Deal to support the oil and gas industry’s transition to clean, green energy while supporting 40,000 jobs. Through the deal, the sector has committed to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, while the Government, sector and trade unions will work together over the next decade and beyond to deliver the skills, innovation and new infrastructure required to decarbonise North Sea production.
After reviewing the Oil and Gas Authority’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, unacceptable impacts on the local community cannot be ruled out. Therefore, the Government has immediately announced a moratorium and no more fracking will take place in England.
At a local level, the Government has launched a Local Energy Programme which will provide support to Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to help them implement energy projects which reduce carbon emissions and benefit their communities. Substantial funding has also been provided to support Heat Networks and other low carbon projects, while the National Planning Policy Framework includes guidance on how local authorities can meet the challenge of climate change.
Nearly 400,000 people are working in the low-carbon economy and the Government is committed to creating thousands of highly skilled, well paid jobs up and down the country. For instance, I welcome that the Offshore Wind Sector Deal could see the number of jobs triple in this sector to 27,000 by 2030.
The Government also delivers the Rural Community Energy Fund, a £15 million programme, to support rural communities in England to develop renewable energy projects which provide economic and social benefits to the community.
The Government is introducing a mandatory supplier-led route to market, the Smart Export Guarantee. This new scheme will create a whole new market, encouraging suppliers to competitively bid for this electricity, giving exporters the best market price while providing the local grid with more clean, green energy, unlocking greater choice and control for solar households over buying and selling their electricity. This could also reduce strain on energy networks with a more decentralised and smarter local network delivering resilience much more cost effectively.
The UK is a world leader in clean growth and with Government support, £92 billion has been invested by businesses in clean energy since 2010. Our renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010 and the UK has the largest installed offshore wind capacity in the world thanks to our sustained investment in this crucial technology.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that the UK will be a world leader in offshore wind as we boost our previous target to deliver up to 30GW of offshore wind, to delivering 40GW by 2030. There is also a new ambition for 1GW of the new 40GW by 2030 target to come from floating offshore wind which is a brand new technology allowing wind farms to be built further out to sea in deeper waters, boosting capacity even further.
I do not believe that, to tackle climate change, rules should be put in place to infringe on our human rights and thereby limit population growth. Even with a growing global population, by decarbonising industry, decarbonising transport, making buildings more energy efficient, using renewable green energy, and by making small responsible changes to our lives it is possible to achieve net zero emissions and thereby eliminate our contribution to climate change.
I appreciate the concerns raised on the future energy supply. Rest assured, the National Grid has said that there is no issue with the future security of supply. Plans for new nuclear projects are long-term and the UK’s energy security is in a strong position as we have one of the largest and most diverse gas markets in Europe. In addition, the UK's first new nuclear power plant in a generation, Hinkley Point C will provide 7 per cent of the country's energy needs, while renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010, with capacity in offshore wind set to double throughout the 2020s.
I am encouraged that the UK will spend at least £3 billion of international climate finance on nature and biodiversity over five years.
The funding will be allocated from the UK’s existing commitment of £11.6 billion for international climate finance and 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.
Programmes supported by the funding will include the flagship Blue Planet Fund for marine conservation; projects to maintain forests and tackle the illegal timber trade and deforestation; and initiatives to conserve habitats such as mangroves that protect communities from the impacts of climate change.
Furthermore, I am also aware of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. I understand that it was written with input from some scientists and developed with campaign members of Extinction Rebellion, Power for the People and Big Ask, and seeks further action on climate change. While I agree with highlighting the urgent need to tackle climate change, and welcome the broader debate and awareness on this issue, I am pleased that the Government is already taking this issue incredibly seriously and tackling climate change is a priority to me and my Ministerial colleagues.
Moreover, Sir David Attenborough is a tireless and formidable campaigner for climate action.
I note that he strongly argues in favour of rewilding as a solution to reverse some of the damaging effects of climate change. I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that 30 per cent of the UK will be restored to nature by 2030. Of course, this needs to be a global effort and I know UK Ministers will use the run up to the postponed COP26 summit to call for further global efforts to tackle climate change.
I was interested to read of the suggestion to call a COBR meeting to tackle climate change. While I agree that this is an urgent and pressing issue, and that the cost of inaction is too high, I do not believe that a COBR meeting is needed as the Government is already working hard to achieve net zero. The Government's ambitious Ten Point Plan, Energy White Paper, interim targets and other steps which have already been taken show the strong revolve and determination to tackle this issue and build back greener.
In relation to oceans, you will be pleased to know that the Government is also taking world-leading steps to protect our oceans. Protecting, restoring and managing the marine environment are key objectives in the 25 Year Environment Plan. I am encouraged that 38 per cent of British waters in Marine Protected Areas have already been protected. The UK is also committed to the ‘30x30’ project that aims to protect at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030. This project was established by the Global Ocean Alliance which is led by the UK. Through the successful Blue Belt programme, the UK have already protected 60 per cent of British waters, including 4.3 million square kilometres around Overseas Territories.
Alongside these commitments, the Government has its 25 Year Environment Plan which aims to improve the environment within a generation. This sets out how Ministers will work with communities and businesses to leave our planet in a better state than we found it through initiatives such as managing land sustainability, increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste.
The Resources and Waste Strategy is a significant part of the promise made in the 25 Year Environment Plan to leave our planet in a better state than we found it. The strategy has seven key areas of focus, these are: sustainable production; helping consumers take more considered actions; recovering resources and managing waste; tackling waste crime; cutting down on food waste; international leadership; and cutting-edge research and innovation. This plan will help deliver other Government initiatives such as the Clean Growth Strategy, the Industrial Strategy and the Litter Strategy.
I also appreciate the concerns raised about the Cambo oil field and I will ensure my Ministerial colleagues are aware. I understand that the original licensing consent for the Cambo oil field dates back to 2001 and the project is going through normal regulatory processes. The decision on whether to grant consent to Cambo oil field will be taken by the Oil and Gas Authority, who are ultimately responsible, rather than the Secretary of State.
While I am pleased that the Government is working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, I do also appreciate that there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee.
Nevertheless, to continue momentum, the Prime Minister established the Cabinet Committee on Climate Change to ensure all arms of Government are focussed on tackling this challenge.
The 2021 Budget also reinforced the UK’s strong track record in this area, with announcements including £640 million for tree planting and peatland restoration, over £1 billion to support the transition to electric vehicles, at least doubling funding for energy innovation, and tax measures to reduce plastic waste, among other measures. The Chancellor also announced £15 billion of green gilt issuance to help support vital projects to tackle climate change, to fund critical infrastructure investment, and create green jobs across the UK.
In addition, the Prime Minister's Ten Point Plan lays the blueprint for how we will achieve net zero. The plan will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs in the UK, and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030. Included in the plan is £160 million investment into offshore wind which will create 60,000 jobs, a commitment to produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much the UK produces to 40GW by 2030.
At the same time, the Environment Bill has been introduced to protect and improve the environment for future generations, enshrining in law environmental principles and legally binding targets.
The next decade will be decisive and every country, government, business and citizen must come together to tackle this huge threat to our planet and humanity.