Westminster Column - Climate Change

3rd May 2019

Today the Committee on Climate Change reports on progress in reducing carbon emissions, and yesterday I sought to speak on this issue in the Commons, although I write before either event.

There have been well publicised demonstrations over climate change in recent weeks. While I do not agree with missing school or disrupting others, I share concern that climate change is a pressing threat and more needs to be done to tackle it.

Yet demands of activists for a net carbon neutral economy by 2025 are not realistic. This would require forsaking air travel, high speed rail, most meat and dairy, massively reducing consumption of goods, totally overhauling the energy efficiency of our homes, building thousands of new onshore and offshore wind turbines (covering an area twice the size of Wales according to some estimates), and cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs from non-renewable energy sector.

In fact, the UK is already performing better than others in facing up to climate change. We have reduced our carbon emissions by 25% since 2010, the largest reduction of any G7 country.

Generation of renewable energy capacity has quadrupled since 2010, and over Easter the UK went 90 hours and 45 minutes without burning any coal – a modern record, thanks to our increasingly diverse and renewable energy mix. The UK now produces enough solar energy to power almost 2 million homes. Ours is the most attractive market in the world for offshore wind investment. 99 per cent of all solar deployment in the UK has taken place since 2010.

But not everyone is on board. The Opposition is led by a man who has called for the reopening of coal mines. Indeed, just last week a Labour Council in Cumbria approved the first deep coal mine in this country for decades.

But there is clearly much more we do need to do. As a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, I joined MPs calling for a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target before 2050. We can all play our part, through small changes to our own lives, to reduce our carbon footprint. Ultimately there needs to be a global consensus to make effective reductions. So I am backing the UK’s bid to host the next climate change conference in London next year. 

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