Letter from Westminster - November 2019

1st November 2019

Last month Extinction Rebellion climate change protestors attempted to shut down parts of the capital due to perceived inaction from the government around climate change. So as a passionate believer in preserving our environment and as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I have been examining what the government is doing – but also what more it can do to tackle climate change.

I was helped in this task last month by release of new figures, showing in July, August and September, the UK generated more energy from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. This is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the UK’s first public electricity generating station opened in 1882.

This shows the rate of change currently taking place in this country through technology. 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 – soon to be boosted from the next round of auctions from the Crown Estate to establish new off shore wind farms. The latest round of new wind farms will deliver clean electricity developed at effectively zero subsidy, as the cost of wind power comes down significantly. 

Since 2010, the UK has been by far the most successful major economy at reducing CO2 emissions: 50% more than any other G20 country. But it is clear the government does not intend to rest on its laurels – there is much more we can achieve.

I am keen to play my part, and spoke last month in a Commons debate on net zero emissions in the House of Commons. I have recently met NFU leaders, and local NFU members here in Shropshire, to learn what more the farming sector intends to do to combat greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon capture and storage through changing land use, while retaining a productive viable British farming industry. The NFU have endorsed an ambitious plan to ensure farming reaches net zero by 2040, which as a farmer myself, I fully support.

Technology and productivity will play a key role. For example, UK dairy cattle numbers are now around 1 million, down from 2 million 20 years ago, producing 30% more milk yield. So greater productivity, from fewer cattle, but also looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation estimate there are some 278 million dairy cattle worldwide. If they were all as productive as the UK, it would take only 70 million cows to produce the same amount of milk. So agritech can make a huge difference – with specialist feed additions reducing methane emissions, or precision fertiliser applications that increase yields with fewer chemicals.

In showing we can reduce emissions while feeding the growing global population and growing our economy we can show developing nations, where the battle against climate change needs to be won, that clean growth is possible. Leading by example is also why the UK committed, as one of Boris Johnson’s first acts as PM, to double to £11.6bn the UK’s contribution to the International Climate Fund.

I have been engaging with local groups concerned about climate change, and later this month am helping organise a public meeting on Climate Crisis – Time is Now. This event will be on 28th November at Craven Arms Community Centre from 6-9pm, and I encourage people to register to attend, (details of which will be available on my website www.philipdunne.com near the time) to learn more about climate change, to raise your concerns and discuss how you can get involved in helping your local community make a difference.

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