VoteClimate: Wera Hobhouse MP: Climate-Related Speeches In Parliament

Wera Hobhouse MP: Climate-Related Speeches In Parliament

Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath.

At the next election Wera Hobhouse is standing in the new Bath constituency.

We have identified 11 Parliamentary Votes Related to Climate since 2017 in which Wera Hobhouse could have voted.

Wera Hobhouse is rated Very Good for votes supporting action on climate. (Rating Methodology)

  • In favour of action on climate: 11
  • Against: 0
  • Did not vote: 0

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Wera Hobhouse's Speeches In Parliament Related to Climate

We've found 101 Parliamentary debates in which Wera Hobhouse has spoken about climate-related matters.

Here are the relevant sections of their speeches.

  • 16 Apr 2024: Oral Answers to Questions

    May I also welcome the Minister to his new role? According to National Grid, £58 billion of investment is needed to meet our 2035 decarbonising target. British electricity demand is expected to rise by 64% in the next 10 years, and the current system is still designed around electricity sources of the past, such as coal. New cables need to be built to bring electricity from renewable energy sources, as we have already heard. What assessment has the Department made of the impact this problem is having on green investment?


  • 16 Apr 2024: Food Waste and Food Distribution


    The contribution that food waste makes to carbon emissions is well documented. More than 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the UK alone, producing 18 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, which is a most potent greenhouse gas. It degrades more quickly, but it is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases. Let us not forget that. The food waste index report indicates that 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are due to food waste—five times more than the aviation sector, as has been mentioned. We mention the aviation sector a lot, but food waste is one of the main contributors to global warming.


  • 5 Mar 2024: Automated Vehicles Bill [Lords]


    The Liberal Democrats welcome the Bill because it takes the first step towards the creation of a framework within which automated vehicles can operate safely. The future of sustainable travel lies in such vehicles, and the UK now has a good opportunity to join the growing number of countries that are embracing this new technology. The tech sector in the UK is particularly strong, and the Bill should give confidence to investors if we are to develop a self-driving vehicle industry and take full advantage of its potential. A large part of that potential relates to road safety: there are still too many road accident victims, and I believe that automated vehicles can contribute significantly to reducing that number if we get this right. The Bill also has the potential to help us reach net zero. We may need to question, and reduce, individual car ownership in future if we want to hit our net zero targets, and automated vehicles may help us to do that.


  • 20 Feb 2024: Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill


    It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who has made a powerful case in explaining why the Bill should never have reached the House. This month is on course to break an unprecedented number of heat records, and the dangers of failing to reach net zero are staring us in the face. I say this again and again, and the hon. Lady has made a very powerful point. This Government, in the name of “protecting jobs”, are turning their back on their net zero commitments, and I find that, and the way in which this debate is being run, incredibly dishonest. If the debate were honest, it would reflect the fact that the Government have shown their true face, and are delaying the climate action that is so necessary.

    I have heard repeatedly, throughout the debate, “We are responding to demand.” Of course there will be demand for as long as we provide unlimited supply, and of course the oil and gas industry itself will want to drill for every last drop of oil for as long as it can, but it is for a responsible Government to make a responsible decision, and to look the dangers that confront us in the face. The tobacco industry says that there is demand for smoking materials, and the Government have understood their responsibility to stop that demand because smoking is dangerous, but they fail to see or understand the dangers of climate change. We need a Government who will guide the economy into the net zero future, because we need to secure a prosperous future, in the long term, for all people, rather than concentrating on a short-term election issue that may divide Members after such a long period of consensus on the need to reach net zero.

    While the Government claim that new licences will improve energy security, the reality is very different. Between now and 2050, new licences are expected to provide an average of only four days of gas per annum. All that the Bill does is send a symbolic signal. It does not even meet the requirement that the Government have set themselves—securing energy for the future of this country. That is why I think the Bill is so dangerous. As I said on Second Reading, it was introduced for political reasons, not because the Government are genuinely intent on any outcome except electoral gain. That is why we should oppose the Bill and make it very clear to our citizens that it does nothing for energy security, nothing to get us to net zero, and nothing to curb energy bills. All Members of the House in their right mind should oppose this Bill.


  • 19 Feb 2024: Emissions: Armed Forces

    It was a pleasure to attend the Global Charge dinner last October, and to see so many members of the armed forces, from all ranks, committed to tackling the climate crisis. However, the Defence Committee has described the MOD’s current reduction targets as “insufficiently demanding” under the greening government commitments—they are the lowest across all Departments. Will the Minister ensure that the next round of CC commitments will contain more demanding targets, not least to reflect the real ambitions and for members of the armed forces on the ground to see the devastation of climate change?


  • 8 Feb 2024: Support for Motorists

    We need to incentivise people from all incomes to participate in the green transition. However, electric vehicles are totally out of reach for most car owners, especially those on low incomes. In addition, people who rely on public charging points are still paying a lot more than those who can charge from home. Will the Government close this gap to ensure that everybody is getting a fair deal, including those on low incomes, to make sure that we get to net zero? Those on low incomes also want to help the country get to net zero.


  • 31 Jan 2024: Hospitality Sector: Fiscal Support


    It is impossible to talk about energy without discussing the role of the green transition. The Government must accelerate the review of electricity market arrangements so that households and businesses alike can benefit from lower-cost renewables. That should involve decoupling electricity from wholesale gas prices. Renewables are now the cheapest source of energy, but their price is artificially linked to expensive natural gas. The Federation of Small Businesses has suggested a help-to-green scheme, which would provide direct financial support and advice to companies. That would include a grant to allow small businesses to invest in energy efficiency or microgeneration. The independent review of net zero also championed that idea. Have the Government looked at that?


  • 30 Jan 2024: Oral Answers to Questions

    4. What steps his Department is taking to support developing countries with climate change adaptation. ( 901236 )


    Extreme weather is already causing huge devastation, especially in the poorest communities across the world, who are also the least likely to find investors or to borrow from global financial institutions. At COP28 there was a breakthrough, and a loss and damage fund has finally been established. However, the money for the UK’s contribution will come from pre-existing climate finance commitments and the development budget. Should the Government, in the spirit of what the loss and damage fund represents, not establish a new, ringfenced loss and damage budget that is not taken from other budgets?


  • 22 Jan 2024: Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill


    New licences for new oil and gas fields in the North sea are in direct conflict with our national and international net zero commitments. We must get away from our dependence on fossil fuels, not extend it. At COP28 the Government signed an international agreement to phase out fossil fuels, but we are doing the opposite in this country. It is just not acceptable for us to do one thing abroad and another at home. As has already been said so many times this afternoon, this is losing us our reputation for good leadership, and losing any credibility that the Government could have at home or abroad.

    The Government’s claim that the Bill ensures our energy security is complete fiction. Recent analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit found that oil from new licences sent to UK refineries would account for less than 1% of fuels used in the UK in 2030. The Bill would make little or no difference to UK energy security, and the Secretary of State herself admits that it would do little to cut bills. Furthermore, on the basis of past records, new licences issued since 2010 have produced only 16 days of extra gas supplies. Between now and 2050, new licences are expected to provide an average of only four days of gas per annum. Is it really worth it to lose our reputation, our commitments and our path to net zero for that? The vast majority of this new oil and gas production would not stay in the UK; it would be sold on global markets for consumption abroad. No government should want a repeat of the energy crisis of last year, which was brought on by the crisis in global fossil fuel supplies and soaring prices on the global oil and gas market. Only by moving away from fossil fuels can it be guaranteed that such a crisis will not be repeated.

    However, this legislation is not just stupid and unnecessary, but dangerous. It breaks down a decade-long cross-party consensus that every Government must be seriously committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and must provide strong, unflinching leadership to help people, organisations and businesses along the road to a successful energy transition. As we have heard today, there is a fair amount of consensus, so why should it be broken? That is really not understandable. Undermining this consensus is hugely irresponsible and sends entirely the wrong signals to the international community. The latest COP28 negotiations have shown how rocky the path to net zero is and how important the leadership of the developed nations remains. I was at COP28, and it is really sad to see how that leadership has been lost and how many nations look at us and shake their heads. They cannot understand what has happened to the UK in the last year or two.

    It is not just at COP28, the climate COP, that there is an issue. I was at Montreal at the nature COP, and we were in the vanguard of agreeing that 30% of waters should be protected for nature. These additional drilling rigs cause havoc in our inland waters, but 15 % of new licences were declared in marine protected areas, so we are seeing a nature crisis being caused by this as well as a climate crisis.

    The UK is in a strong position geographically to cover its future energy needs from renewables and from cutting energy consumption. The Minister well knows my position on this: diverse, home-grown renewable energy and a significant home insulation programme are key to the solution. The energy efficiency of our homes is among the worst in Europe, and yes, if we are talking about jobs, we are lacking so many of the jobs that we need in the retrofitting and upgrading sector. We need a new workforce in the new technology for the net zero future of our UK economy. That is not looking back at past fuels. They have powered the world, yes, but we need to transition and we cannot keep on with business as usual. That is the problem and the opportunity. It is deplorable that the Government have finished embracing this new future and broken the consensus that we had across the House.

    Last year the Government’s predictable failure to contract new offshore wind lost 5 GW of renewable energy and the opportunity to save consumers £2 billion a year. Renewables developers still face a planning system that is stacked against onshore wind, and community energy providers still face enormous start-up costs. Rather than a petroleum Bill, why are we not debating a marine energy Bill today to incentivise investment in the various new technologies in marine energy and facilitate the fast roll-out of installations? The Government are wasting time and money on the fuels of the past. Instead, they should champion UK technology and innovation.

    So, why this Bill? My suspicion is that it is an election year Bill to drive division and fuel the culture wars. For too long, working people have been made to worry that the green energy transition is a punishment for them and that it will cost them prosperity, livelihoods and the way of life that they are used to. But there are countries who have successfully turned the negative narrative into a prospect of hope and major opportunities. The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s green industrial plan will together see over $600 billion of green investment creating new and exciting jobs and careers. Even Canada, an economy smaller than ours, has announced a package that offers nearly £50 billion-worth of tax credits for green technologies. Green investment will be worth a potential £1 trillion by 2030. Uncertainty over this Government’s commitment to reach net zero means that investors are looking the other way.

    Oil and gas are energy sources of the past. Putting our political future towards them only amplifies how seriously out of touch and out of ideas this current Government are. The Bill is misleading and counterproductive. It flies in the face of our net zero commitments and will do nothing to ensure our energy security. Indeed, it will do the opposite. We Liberal Democrats will support the Labour reasoned amendment and oppose this Government Bill, and I call on all colleagues across the House with an ounce of honesty and integrity to do the same.


  • 17 Jan 2024: HS2 Cancellation and Network North


    Public transport will be crucial to our meeting our net zero targets. It is a clean, green alternative to cars, and it showcases the benefits of net zero to our communities. Transport is the largest emitting sector in the UK. Rail produces over 70% less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey. We must encourage a modal shift away from polluting transport modes towards greener public transport such as trains. The Government know that, yet Network North contains plans to move £8 billion meant for the railway to supporting road use. We need to win hearts and minds for net zero, and demonstrate to people that the green transition brings opportunities. However, at no point have the Government attempted to bring the public with them. Before cancelling the northern leg of HS2, they put a huge amount of doubt in people’s minds about cost and impact.


  • 9 Jan 2024: Great Western Main Line


    It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Ms Vaz. I congratulate the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) on bringing the debate to this Chamber. I will concentrate on green transport because I am the climate change spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. Talking about transport and climate change together is what I always do. To meet our net zero targets, we must make it easier to travel by train. Rail should be a lifeline for our communities that connects every part of the country through green public transport.

    However, public confidence in the railways and our net zero targets are linked. Transport is the larger emitting sector in the UK. Rail produces over 70% fewer carbon dioxide omissions than the equivalent road journeys, yet the current state of our railways is having the opposite effect because people have been dissatisfied with the service for a very long time.

    We also need to make our trains greener, and electrifying our railways is an essential step. I know that this is not GWR’s problem; it is basically about having a commitment from the Government, and I would like to hear more on that. However, the overall pace of electrification is lagging. Bath has a big air pollution problem. The electrification of the line through Bath has been on hold for years, and dirty diesel trains are still going through the city. Air pollution kills. Not getting on with electrification is a complete dereliction of duty not just to our net zero plans, but to public health.

    Strong public transport will take us to net zero and connect our country. Passengers deserve to feel confident in their railways, and people need access to clean, green and affordable trains. Only then will we build the sustainable, modern and affordable railway that we are all looking forward to.


  • 23 Nov 2023: Autumn Statement Resolutions


    The United Nations has warned that we are on track for 3°C of global warming. That is unacceptable and would be a catastrophe. We urgently need to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C. We cannot pretend that the UK is safe from climate change. Last year, the UK suffered the most intense heatwave it has ever faced. Hospitals struggled to cope, there were around 3,000 more deaths among people aged over 65 and 20 % of operations were cancelled. These impacts will only get worse.

    Sadly, our Government are in denial. The Chancellor speaks about economic growth, yet fails to understand that reaching net zero is an opportunity as well as a necessity. The green transition can encourage billions of pounds’ worth of investment, yet this Government are ignoring that unprecedented opportunity. The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s green industrial plan will see a combined $670 billion of green investment. Even Canada, an economy smaller than ours, announced a package that offers nearly £50 billion-worth of tax credits for clean technologies. This autumn statement was an opportunity to equal the ambition of our international partners, but the Chancellor is explicit that the UK will not match the ambitions of other countries

    All the dither and delay gives the Government time to U-turn on their commitments. Their record speaks for itself, including on transport. After months and years of defending HS2 and spending millions of pounds preparing for it to go ahead, the Government are now in chaos and without a vision. Transport is the largest emitting sector in the UK. Rail produces 76% less carbon dioxide emissions than the equivalent road journey. We must encourage a move away from polluting transport modes, towards greener public transport, such as trains.

    I hear what the hon. Lady is saying, but instead of building the extra bit of HS2, the money will be used in a variety of ways, mostly on roads and the electrification of train lines. That is an important way of decarbonising our existing rail industry. Between 2010 and 2015, both Secretaries of State, including the current leader of the Liberal Democrat party, were Secretaries of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, so they were there when that policy was being developed in a variety of ways, early on in the lifetime of the Government.

    The Government also want to increase aviation. I was shocked to hear that Luton Airport has called for an expansion in passenger numbers to 32 million a year. Hertfordshire’s skies would become polluted with endless planes and noise. The plans directly contradict the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation of no net expansion in airport capacity. I urge the Government to do the right thing: listen to local people from Harpenden and Berkhamsted and block the Luton Airport expansion, which flies in the face of our climate commitments.

    The green transition is a huge opportunity. We need a Government with the political courage to treat climate change with the urgency it demands. The country needs a bold Government with a bold plan. This autumn statement is simply another missed opportunity.


  • 8 Nov 2023: Breaking Down Barriers to Opportunity


    The Government are out of ideas and without direction, either unwilling or unable to make the big decisions to give us a brighter future. What a wasted opportunity, especially when it comes to action to tackle the nature and climate crisis. What better opportunity was there to empower communities and businesses to break down barriers to tackle the biggest issue of our generation? I am pleased that the Government announced recently that they will introduce a nature GCSE, but considering the abysmal nature of what was in the King’s Speech on tackling the climate crisis, it seems to me that the Prime Minister should be the first person to take it.

    Climate education should not stop with schools; local authorities could organise citizens’ assemblies, as we have proposed many times. There are so many opportunities to educate people about the dangers of our not getting this right and failing to reach our 1.5° target by 2050, but those on the Government Front Bench continue to ignore them. They continue, too, to ignore the opportunities that would arise from a green transition. A nature or climate GCSE could grow the careers and skills we need to tackle the climate emergency and get to net zero, but this Government’s attitude is that everyone except them must meet their commitments.

    Rather than protecting our children’s future, the Government are protecting the interests of the fossil fuel giants. How can they seriously claim to be leaders on net zero action while introducing legislation to hold annual oil and gas licensing rounds? That is particularly shocking when compared with their unforgivable failure to allocate a single new contract for difference for onshore wind farms in the recent auction round. I would like to hear how the new legislation will bring down energy bills for a single one of my constituents. Research from Uplift confirms that most of the oil produced at Rosebank will be shipped abroad and sold on the global market to the highest bidder; it will secure the future of the oil and gas giants, but not the UK’s energy supply.

    When will this Tory Government embrace the clean, green energy of the future and stop delaying our path to net zero? We need more grid capacity and more Government action to capitalise on green jobs and technology. New green jobs do not fall out of the sky; they start with proper career options for young people that they can start now so that we can see the energy transformation we need.

    There are so many untapped opportunities. UK solar power deployment is already significantly behind target. The smart export guarantee should incentivise households to invest in solar panels by allowing them to sell the excess electricity they produce back to the grid at a better price and recover the cost of their investment much faster. Again, educating householders in how they can invest in the net zero transition is an important part of the puzzle. If we do not communicate properly with our citizens about what they can do to tackle the climate crisis, where will we be?

    Under the current system, it takes decades for householders to break even. Householders are confused, and we need to ensure that there are trusted sources where they can obtain information about how to tackle the climate crisis and break down the barriers that we are discussing today. There must be that change to bring about the revolution in rooftop solar that carries so many benefits for people and the planet. The cheapest energy is the energy that we do not use, and reducing energy waste will lower bills and cut carbon emissions. We urgently need to upgrade our housing stock to guarantee warm and comfortable homes for everyone, long into the future.


  • 25 Oct 2023: Renewable Energy Providers: Planning Considerations


    It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) on introducing this important subject with such knowledge. She will not be surprised to hear that I too face a lot of abuse online, but for sometimes taking the opposite position. We on the Opposition Benches are concerned that what the Government call a pragmatic approach to net zero means further delay, which is the one thing we cannot afford.

    Net zero should be non-negotiable. At a time when we should be strengthening our climate commitments, it is folly to weaken them. The UK has done well to lead the way on climate change, but recently this Government sadly seem to have given up on the country’s leadership position. How unnecessary! Renewables are the cheapest form of energy and would secure our energy supply. Moving rapidly towards renewables is central to reaching net zero by 2050, and will help to limit the devastating impacts of climate change. The Climate Change Committee has said that we are not moving fast enough towards renewables. Offshore and onshore wind development has been slow, and solar is particularly off-track. It is just not good enough.

    The proportion of renewable projects being delayed is on the rise. Grid capacity, which the hon. Member for Stroud mentioned, is the obvious issue. However, the planning process must also be improved. My region of the south-west built the UK’s first transmission-connected solar farm. Despite its success, the developers said that planning was one of the most significant hurdles to delivering renewable energy at scale. Speeding up the planning process is vital; it takes up to five years to gain approval for an offshore wind farm after the application has been submitted to the planning system. We do not have the time for that in this race to net zero.

    Resourcing needs to improve. The Planning Inspectorate and statutory consultees do not have enough resources to carry out timely and accurate reviews. It is all well and good saying that there is a debate, and ping-pong about what or who is responsible—is it the national planning framework, or is it local planners? However, if we do not have enough local planners to make these decisions, all these things get desperately delayed. Local government needs more resources and funding to make sure that planning decisions are made in a timely manner; otherwise, there are delayed projects, and delayed progress towards net zero.

    The Government must also do more to remove the barriers to renewable energy. Renewables developers still face a planning system that is stacked against onshore wind. It is treated differently from every other energy source or infrastructure project. If that persists, we will not get the new onshore wind investment we need to rapidly cut bills and boost energy security. Onshore wind farms are actually popular: 74% of voters are supportive of onshore wind, and 76% of people would support a renewable energy project in their area. That support holds strong in places that already have an onshore wind farm; 72% of people who live within five miles of one support building more. That addresses a problem that we have: people are anxious about things that they do not know, and a lot of political hay can be made with that, but when people actually have a wind farm development nearby, they support it. That is not surprising: communities benefit massively from onshore wind, both directly—for example, from developers, through bill reductions—and indirectly, through the wider socioeconomic benefits that such investment can bring.

    Carbon Brief calculated that the de facto ban on onshore wind cost consumers £5.1 billion last year. That is unforgivable during a cost of living crisis. Planning rules must not block the benefits of renewable energy. The Government must bring the planning rules for onshore wind in England back in line with those for any other type of energy infrastructure, so that it can compete on a level playing field, and so that each application is determined on its own merits.

    We Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of community buy-in. We need to win hearts and minds, and to persuade people that renewable projects are good for their communities. Yes, good consultation is part of that; if local communities feel that they have not been properly consulted, they will get their backs up. I absolutely believe in proper consultation. Only with consent from our communities can we deliver the path to net zero. That is why empowering local communities is so vital. More and more power and decision making has been eroded from local government—I can say that, because I was a councillor between 2004 and 2014. We still had a lot of decision-making powers, but they have been eroded in the last 10 years.

    Of course, it is clear that people are always worried about change. We are building something new and taking away something that was there, but if we are doing so for something that is so important, why can we not make the case that a wind turbine might be a much nicer thing to look at than, for example, a coal-fired power station, which we also need to put somewhere if we need energy? What we do as humans creates some disruption to our local environment, and it has done so forever, so what do we want? We need to get to net zero, build this infrastructure and build wind turbines, including in places where we can see them. As responsible politicians, it is up to us to make the case for that. We have no time to waste: it is a race to net zero, and it is difficult. Yes, some people do not like to look at wind farms.

    I commend the Liberal Democrats on Bath and North East Somerset Council, which has become the first council in England to adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy. That requires that all new major non-residential buildings must achieve net zero in operational energy. Research from the University of Bath indicates that the policy is likely to establish significant carbon savings in new buildings and reduce energy bills for occupants. Again, did my local council sometimes have difficulty persuading people? Yes, it did, but our local election results show persuasively that where we go out and make the case, we win—even as local councillors. Let us ensure that we persuade people and take them with us. I absolutely believe in that, but I also passionately believe that it is possible to take people with us if we confront people with the alternatives.

    Unfortunately, Government funding cuts have forced many local authorities to make sacrifices on climate change policy, as climate change does not come under their statutory duties. That must change. Planning legislation must be bound to our climate change legislation, so that climate change takes greater weight in planning decisions. A major reason why renewable projects are waiting up to 15 years to connect to the grid is that the planning approval process is not adequately focused on the urgency of delivering net zero. The Royal Town Planning Institute argues that nothing should be planned unless the idea has first been demonstrated to be fit for net zero. The Government should certainly consider the institute’s proposals further.


  • 18 Oct 2023: Energy Bill [Lords]


    We are in the middle of an energy crisis. Bills have skyrocketed. Access to cheap, clean, home-produced energy has never been more vital. We need to secure our energy supply, protect consumers and reach net zero. As we have always said in the debate about reaching net zero, we need to take people with us. That is not about delaying targets, as the Government have just done, but about encouraging people to walk the difficult journey to net zero. Community energy does exactly that. Why are the Government not supporting it with all their might? Why are the Government not even supporting the Lords amendment? It is the bare minimum.

    Community energy has the potential to power 2.2 million homes and save 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. All it needs is a Government who give it the support that it deserves. I have seen at first hand the benefits that community energy can bring. In my Bath constituency, Bath and West Community Energy has installed enough renewables to power 4,500 homes. It has invested the money that it has earned back into my local community, donating nearly £330,000 to support environmental and fuel poverty schemes. That is what community energy can do. What is there not to support? Why are the Government not committed to doing all that they can to ensure that community energy projects can be delivered?

    Community energy schemes are ready to provide clean, green energy that helps local communities. They are not asking for a huge amount of public money, just for the Government to stop blocking the system. In this time of energy uncertainty, having a reliable local supplier can only be positive. I fully support Lords amendment 274B to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on community energy. I urge everyone in this House to do the same.

    The Government support our route to net zero. The Government are taking action to ensure that we are more energy secure and energy independent, and the Government are supporting community energy projects the length and breadth of the country. For that reason, we should disagree to the Lords amendment before us.


  • 19 Sep 2023: Topical Questions

    The Energy Minister got his facts wrong in his earlier response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), so he might want to correct the record. The Liberal Democrat amendment to the Energy Bill to tackle flaring, venting and leaking of methane was selected for a separate vote. It would have reduced methane emissions by 72 %. Why did his Government vote it down?


  • 18 Sep 2023: UK Automotive Industry


    The climate emergency will not go away. Surface transport is responsible for nearly a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, and more than half of surface transport emissions come from private cars and taxis. The electric vehicle transition is therefore vital. The 2030 target to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is an important tool to bring us towards decarbonisation. It gives the industry the certainty for which it so often asks, and it has worked: sales of EVs in the UK are exceeding expectations, according to Chris Stark of the Climate Change Committee. That gives us confidence that the 2030 target is achievable, proving all the naysayers wrong. Reports suggest, however, that the Government have been tempted to cut the “green crap” and that they will water down this important target. The permanent fear that the UK Government will go back on their word weakens our automotive industry. A tough target is better than persistent U-turns.

    We now need a longer-term strategy to truly grow the industry. Transport & Environment UK is worried about how much of the more than £800 million in the automotive transformation fund has been spent. It is concerned that wider investment cannot be maintained without expensive subsidies. Uncertainty around the zero-emission vehicle mandate and the lack of an overall industrial strategy add to those concerns.

    I share the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns, which is why we consistently make the case for upgrading the grid. That is one of the most important things for getting to net zero in the UK, not just for vehicle charging, but for the roll-out of all the electric infrastructure we need for our many renewable energy installations. I share his concern, but the solution is not to stop the roll-out of electric vehicles; it is to improve the grid and get things sped up as quickly as possible.

    Electric vehicles will drive us down the road to net zero. Infrastructure and incentives will be vital. What we need is a Government who are willing to fuel this transition, rather than being content to trundle along in the slow lane.


  • 13 Sep 2023: Energy Supply Market: Small Businesses


    Additionally, the Government must accelerate the review of electricity market arrangements to ensure that households and businesses benefit from lower-cost renewables. That should involve decoupling electricity from wholesale gas prices. Renewables are now the cheapest source of energy, but their price is artificially linked to expensive natural gas. It is incomprehensible that businesses were unable to benefit from the lower cost of renewable energy last winter.

    The Federation of Small Businesses suggests a Help to Green scheme to provide direct financial support and advice to companies. That would include a grant of up to £5,000 to allow SMEs to invest in energy efficiency or microgeneration. The independent review of net zero also championed the idea. It would be interesting to know whether the Government have considered it.


  • 5 Sep 2023: Climate Change: Economic Impact

    16. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of climate change on the economy. ( 906208 )


  • 5 Jul 2023: Energy Infrastructure


    It has been an interesting debate so far, but there is no doubt that the pace at which we are getting to net zero is too slow. The recent report from the Climate Change Committee is very clear: it describes the Government’s efforts to scale up climate action as “worryingly slow”. The committee has lost confidence that the UK will reach its targets for cutting carbon emissions. That is an unacceptable dereliction of duty, and I worry that it is becoming increasingly normal to accept that we will not meet our climate change target of limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C by 2050. Let us remind ourselves why that target is very important: if we do not stay within the 1.5°C limit, the permafrost will melt, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere. That would be irreversible—no amount of human effort would be able to stop it.

    Let us not make the 2050 target something that we cannot reach. We must reach it—it is an absolute necessity that we do. I will not give way to people who will not follow the science, and who deny that evidence.

    To reduce territorial emissions by 68% from 1990 levels, the UK must now quadruple its rate of emissions reductions outside the power sector. The CCC uses a variety of indicators to measure the UK’s progress in reducing emissions, and we are only on track on nine out of 50. Today’s debate focuses on energy infrastructure; even power, which has been the only success story so far when it comes to net zero, is now falling behind. We will miss the target of decarbonising the power system by 2035, which the Government should be very worried about. The CCC says that renewable electricity capacity is not increasing at the required rate. One of the biggest barriers is grid capacity: our unprepared infrastructure has left ready-to-make renewable projects waiting up to 15 years to connect to the grid. It is high time that the Government put their mind to those huge delays and create a regulatory system fit for the net zero challenge.

    At times like this, we need more Government, not less. The prevailing laissez-faire attitude of hoping for the market to settle all our net zero challenges is no longer fit for purpose. The CCC has said that we could have mitigated the energy crisis if the Government had rapidly deployed onshore wind and solar power—here lies the hypocrisy. On the one hand, the Government say that they do not want to interfere with the market; on the other, they actively limit the onshore wind and solar industries. The de facto ban on onshore wind and a framework that does not create enough incentives for the solar industry have meant that people in the UK have paid far higher prices for the energy crisis than would otherwise have been necessary.

    Offshore and onshore wind deployment has been slow, and solar is particularly off track. We need to deploy 4.3 GW of solar per year to meet our target of 70 GW by 2035, but last year only 0.7 GW of solar was deployed. On estimates days, we discuss Government spending, and the UK is clearly not spending enough on net zero. As Lord Goldsmith detailed in his resignation letter, the problem is that the Prime Minister is “simply uninterested”. [ Interruption. ] The Minister says “rubbish”. He will have the opportunity to respond in his speech, but I am very much talking about the facts.

    The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act will be transformative, and will incentivise huge investment in new renewable technologies and crucial net zero infrastructure.

    The US plan will see nearly $400 billion provided in subsidies and tax credits to boost green infrastructure and manufacturing. The EU has announced a green industrial plan worth $270 billion. Even Canada, an economy smaller than ours, announced a package in March offering nearly £50 billion-worth of tax credits for clean technologies. What is the UK Government’s response? No meaningful new funding was announced on Energy Security Day, and the Chancellor has refused to match the ambition set out in the Inflation Reduction Act. In March, the Government cut £80 million for vital renewable projects from the contracts for difference budget. The UK’s budget for net zero does not come close to matching the ambition of our partners: we need to spend now to save money in the future. The country’s finances are already straining under the weight of Conservative Government incompetence, and the London School of Economics predicts that UK banks and insurers will end up shouldering nearly £340 billion-worth of climate-related losses by 2050 unless action is taken to curb rising temperatures and sea levels.

    I have already said why it is so very important to get to net zero by 2050, not just for us in this Parliament but for future generations. If the Government continue to deny reality, we will miss out on the huge economic opportunities that net zero presents. The Government-commissioned review of net zero recognised that their tepid approach means that the UK risks losing out on green investment, and as we heard from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), there are many projects that could benefit from that investment. Employment could benefit, as could our tax revenues, yet the Government’s dither and delay and their tepid response to the climate emergency means that we are not only losing out on stopping carbon emissions, but losing out economically. If the public and private sectors do not invest now, we will turn our backs on investment that is potentially worth £1 trillion by 2030, as well as up to 480,000 new jobs by 2035.

    We Liberal Democrats call on the Government to announce a £150-billion public investment programme to fire up progress towards net zero. Much of that money should be invested to support renewable projects such as solar and wind, as well as marine energy, about which we have not heard anything today. Our target is for at least 80% of the UK’s electricity to be generated from renewables by 2030, which is possible with the right investment and the right frameworks. We Liberal Democrats believe in incentivising not only businesses, but households, to invest in the green transition. That could and should include increasing the pitiful amount people are paid from the smart export guarantee, ensuring that those who invest in solar panels on their roofs get a fair return.

    The climate crisis cannot wait. Penny-pinching now will lose us fortunes in the future: Government investment and the right Government policies and frameworks are needed to meet the climate change challenge. We need a Government led by a Prime Minister who is very much interested, rather than “simply uninterested”.


  • 27 Jun 2023: Energy Company Obligation Schemes


    We are also in the middle of a climate emergency. The UK has some of the leakiest homes in Europe. Insulating our homes would push down energy demand and cut our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. For the past decade, the energy company obligation schemes have delivered warmer homes, cheaper bills and greener buildings for millions of vulnerable households. The ECO4 scheme is the latest iteration. It provides grants to fund energy-efficient upgrades to homes, and pays for loft or cavity wall insulation, new heating systems such as boilers, and other measures designed to increase energy efficiency, as we have already heard.

    When it comes to tackling the climate and cost of living crises, every little helps, so why is the ECO4 scheme making perfection the enemy of the good? The Government should relax the minimum requirements when all reasonable measures have been installed in an eligible household. That would ensure that vulnerable households could still receive much-needed support. To tackle the cost of living and climate crises, we must improve the energy efficiency of our homes. We must do all that we can to ensure that the ECO scheme benefits as many people as possible, as soon as possible.

    Absolutely; I could not agree more. In Bath, we have a lot of old, leaky homes. They are very beautiful, but they are not particularly energy efficient. People really want to do something, but ECO4 does not work for a very large number of households. If we really want to help vulnerable people and tackle the climate emergency, we must look at how the scheme has been designed and make some improvements to it. The two-jump requirement is particularly difficult in old properties.

    The Government must take urgent action and improve ECO4, in order to protect the most vulnerable from cold winters and tackle the climate emergency as soon and as effectively as possible.


  • 8 Jun 2023: Active Travel

    People walking, wheeling and cycling saved 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and avoided more than 29,000 early deaths in 2021. However, only a fifth of total active travel spending comes from dedicated funding, with the rest coming from various funding pots that are not guaranteed. With such a low proportion of ringfenced funding, how can the Government guarantee that this money is really spent on active travel, which is good for our health, economy and environment?


  • 5 Jun 2023: Reaching Net Zero: Local Government Role


    That this House has considered the role of local government in reaching Net Zero.

    The Government ignore at their peril the vital role of local authorities in delivering net zero. The Committee on Climate Change, the National Audit Office and the independent review of net zero all agree that the UK cannot meet its net zero targets without local authorities. The CCC shows that local authorities have influence over a third of UK emissions. The net zero strategy puts the figure at 82%.

    Local authorities determine what is built in our communities, how we get from place to place, how we reduce our waste, and much more. They are best placed to understand their communities and deliver policies that fit their place. Those communities are let down by a Westminster Government who prevent local authorities from decarbonising their areas according to their need. Forty per cent of people most trust their local authority to act on climate change. That is much higher than the faith they place in central Government or in business. It is time that the Government treated local authorities as equal partners and gave them the funding and powers that they need to reach net zero.

    More than 300 local authorities have set a net zero target and declared a climate emergency, and 132 councils have net zero targets of 2030 or sooner. Liberal Democrat-run councils have had remarkable successes in implementing sustainable, green policies against a backdrop of substantial barriers; they could do so much more. My Bath and North East Somerset Council has become the first in England to adopt an energy-based net zero housing policy. That ensures that any new housing development is energy self-sufficient and puts a limit on building emissions. My council is also the first in the west of England to adopt a biodiversity net gain policy. But such brave initiatives cannot survive unless central Government are truly behind such progressive policies and support rather than undermine local authorities, particularly when it comes to planning applications that go to appeal where developers get their way and do not build the green buildings that we need.

    I congratulate the hon. Member on securing the debate. Manchester City Council has prioritised reducing its impact on the climate with the ambitious target of zero carbon by 2038. Even though that great work is happening, local authorities require more support. Does she agree that, for effective and efficient net zero plans to be met, the Government must make funding more certain and long term?

    We Liberal Democrats recognise the importance of community buy-in: we need to win hearts and minds to persuade people that net zero projects are good for their communities. Only with consent from our communities can we deliver the path to net zero. That is why empowering local authorities as much as possible is so vital. More and more power and decision making has been eroded away from local government during the last decade—that must stop and be reversed.

    Local authority spending power has fallen dramatically since 2015, largely because of central Government grants being cut by more than 40% over that period. Spending per person decreased in real terms for 79% of local authorities between 2015 and 2022. The less money local authorities have to spend, the less climate action they can take. Although I welcome the Government’s recent increase in local authority funding, it is far too late. UK100 has pointed out that the funding process from central Government for net zero projects is “opaque, sparse, and competitive”. Even the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has admitted that it does not know how many grants there are. The competitive tendering process whereby every local council rushes for a small amount of money is completely inadequate when it comes to the enormous task to deliver net zero.

    In the updated net zero strategy, the Government agreed to simplify the funding process. Local authorities have spent £130 million since 2019 simply on applying for competitive funding pots—£130 million that could have gone into the projects.

    Large-scale funding is required to address the scale of the challenge facing local areas when it comes to housing and bringing homes up to decent standards, and the hon. Lady is absolutely right about ensuring that that is provided equitably across the country. If we are serious about net zero, the Government need to provide the appropriate funds to retrofit 19 million homes across the country, so that they can be up to the necessary energy performance certificate standard and provide the benefit of reduced energy costs to millions of households. That is the kind of ambition we need, but it is lacking from this Government. Does she agree that that is what the Government need urgently to do?

    Let me return to the grants, which are currently rigid and tied to certain areas, meaning that councils can end up with money for projects that are not right for their communities. Not only have we not got enough money; when we do have it, it is often not the right sort of money, nor what our communities need. For example, a council could receive money for additional bus lanes when increased bus services would be preferred, or they might receive money designated for e-bikes when such provision is not really right for the needs of the community. Net zero grants must be made more flexible to help local authorities to spend the money on projects that work in their area.

    The Government have spent more time blocking local authorities than they have empowering them. Many councils I have spoken to said the biggest barrier they face in implementing net zero policies is central Government. Onshore wind is an example. Some 77% of people would support a new onshore wind farm in their area—people know that renewables are the solution to our energy crisis—but the Government’s effective ban on onshore wind has denied communities this investment. Housing is another example that has already been mentioned. The UK has some of the leakiest homes in Europe. Net zero will remain a pipe dream in the absence of a huge and comprehensive retrofit programme; we need to understand the scale and we need the money to retrofit.

    I am grateful that the hon. Lady is recognising the problems around funding, but also around regulatory frameworks. She will know that a report by UK100 has said that local authorities face what they call “Kafkaesque” barriers to pursuing net zero, one of which is in the area of transport. As she knows, the all-party parliamentary group on the green new deal undertook an inquiry on transport, concluding that we need local authorities to have the powers and the funding to modernise their own local public transport networks. Does she agree?

    Let me return to housing. We Liberal Democrats have campaigned relentlessly to get the Government to introduce higher efficiency standards for new builds and not wait until 2025. It is irresponsible to delay further and to hamstring local authorities’ ability to raise standards, and it is ridiculous that we are building homes now that will need to be retrofitted in five or 10 years’ time. That is such a waste of time. Why not regulate now to build the houses for the future? The chair of the national Climate Change Committee has called this a “stunning failure” by the Government to decarbonise homes, and I fully agree.

    In designing future planning policy, we need central Government to give more weight to climate concerns so that local authorities can make our beautiful buildings habitable and fit for purpose. Planning legislation must also be bound to our climate change legislation, so that climate change can take greater weight in planning decisions. The Royal Town Planning Institute argues that nothing should be planned without the idea first having been demonstrated to be fit for a net zero future. This would solve some other issues. For example, a major reason that renewable projects can wait up to 15 years to connect to the grid is that the planning approval process is not adequately focused on the urgency to deliver net zero.

    Local authorities are also constrained when it comes to managing transport. Surface transport is the largest emitting sector in the UK. The benefits of supporting active travel far outweigh the cost. People walking, wheeling and cycling in 2021 took 14.6 million cars off the road, saving 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding more than 29,000 early deaths. Independent modelling suggests that even if 50% of vehicle sales were electric by 2030, car mileage would still have to decrease by more than half if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°. Investment in active and sustainable travel is therefore essential.

    Active travel is not prioritised when the Government decide what infrastructure projects to fund. Instead, the Department for Transport’s web-based transport analysis guidance model provides funding for travel schemes that have a perceived economic benefit, which means schemes that lead to higher volumes of faster traffic. Councils have been told that money for an access road to the city centre would not be awarded if traffic levels decreased due to the reduction in economic activity. They have also been told that a pedestrian crossing could not be implemented due to the cost of delays to traffic. Those decisions fly in the face of the need to really tackle the climate emergency. Active travel schemes are usually built where they do not require such appraisals by the Department for Transport, and local authorities need to have the powers and financial control to build them. Local authorities should have the power to access transport funding using alternative justifications to those of WebTAG, and WebTAG itself must be revised to increase the value assigned to active travel projects.

    Looking at all the examples, it is no surprise that we are on course to overshoot our target level of greenhouse gas emissions by twofold. We need local and national Government to work together to give us the best chance of hitting net zero. We Liberal Democrats propose that the Government establish a net zero delivery authority. That body would oversee the delivery of net zero, co-ordinate cross-departmental working, and facilitate the devolution of powers and resources to local authorities. It would co-ordinate national and local strategies and provide information to central Government about how projects can be delivered on the ground.

    A net zero delivery authority would work with local authorities and communities to engage with them about delivering net zero. That work would primarily be carried out by local actors, with the delivery authority providing leadership and trustworthy information about the national decarbonisation effort. A similar body was proposed in the Government-commissioned independent review of net zero, but unfortunately the Government have not responded positively to say that that is actually a very good idea. I hope that the Government will look at it again—maybe the Minister can give us a different answer from the one we heard a few months ago.

    Local authorities also need a sense of direction. To start with, they need a statutory duty to deliver on climate change; unless and until that happens, the issue will remain at the mercy of local politicians. Climate change is massively underfunded within local government because it is not part of local authorities’ core duties. Giving them that statutory duty would be a game changer.

    National Government and local authorities do not yet have an integrated or systematic way to discuss, support and facilitate local net zero delivery in the short or longer term. That must change, too.

    There needs to be a regular forum for feedback on the problems that local authorities are facing. A net zero delivery authority can help facilitate that. Local authorities up and down the country stand ready to do more to tackle the climate emergency, but often find themselves constrained by an over-centralised Government. To make the net zero transition as efficient and sustainable as possible, we must all pull in the same direction. The latest research demonstrates that, when compared with a nationally implemented programme, devolved climate action would result in £160 billion of savings and wider returns of over £400 billion.

    It is time that this Government acknowledged the huge potential there is for local authorities up and down the country to deliver net zero. The Government must see local councils as true partners, and provide them with the proper resources and powers they need in our path to net zero.



    I thank all Members across the Chamber for their contributions. Bar one, we are all agreed that the climate emergency is real, and that local councils must become a real partner to the Westminster Government.

    The Minister will not be surprised to hear that I am slightly disappointed by her response. I hope that she takes to heart what has been said this evening and persuades her Government that local authorities need more power and resources. We need a statutory duty for councils to deliver net zero. I hope that the Government will look again at our Liberal Democrat proposals to establish a net zero delivery authority.


  • 18 May 2023: Trade Deals: Environmental Standards

    Trade deals can protect or destroy our natural environment. What the Minister has just said seems to contradict this, but our assessment is that the Government consistently fail to guarantee existing environmental standards in trade deals. For example, they have removed European palm oil tariffs to join the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said that that could devastate forests, destroy orangutan habitats and fuel climate change. Can he explain why the Government are happy to ignore the environment, and will the Government establish core environmental standards for any new trade deals?


  • 9 May 2023: Energy Bill [Lords]


    Our biggest task worldwide is to get to net zero. We must transform our entire energy system. The Liberal Democrats welcome many of the Bill’s proposals. However, it is simply not ambitious enough. We need bold action now to protect consumers from spiralling costs and to put us on the path to net zero.

    The best way to reduce energy bills is to move harder and faster towards renewables. However, a lack of grid capacity is seriously holding back renewable energy projects. Many face delays of up to 15 years. In Wokingham, for example, the Liberal Democrat council has been told that its first ground-mounted solar farm project will only be connected in October 2037, a decade later than originally promised. How can we decarbonise our power system by 2035 when ready-to-go renewable projects cannot get the grid connection they need?

    Britain will have to build seven times more transmission lines in the next seven years than it has built in the last 20. This huge task will require a major change in approach by the regulator. Ofgem is not empowered to consider the benefit of long-term investment, as its remit focuses on short-term costs to consumers. This is a major reason behind the lack of grid investment. In the other place, an amendment was agreed to give Ofgem a specific statutory net zero objective. I urge the Government to keep this provision in place.

    The Bill, as amended, also now contains a ban on opening new coalmines. Less than two years ago, the Government announced that they were leading an international effort to end the use of coal, yet soon afterwards they gave the greenlight to the Cumbria coalmine, a gateway to allowing more fossil fuels in the UK and flying in the face of our net zero commitments. The Government must ensure that this ban on new coalmines remains part of the Bill if they are to retain a shred of credibility on climate action. Huge changes to people’s lives will be required to get to net zero. We must bring people on board, or there is a risk that people will not accept the necessary changes, making our progress to net zero more lengthy, costly and contested.

    Another disappointment is that the Bill does not contain provisions to cut flaring, venting and leakage of methane from gas and oil platforms. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with 80 times the warming effect of CO 2 . It accounts for 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The UK has signed the global pledge to cut methane levels by 30%, and a ban on oil and gas flaring and venting in the North sea would dramatically reduce methane emissions. It is supported by the Environmental Audit Committee and the Government-commissioned independent review of net zero. We must mandate monthly leak detection and repair activities. The North Sea Transition Authority must identify and publish a league table of the best and worst performing companies, so that methane emissions can be publicly monitored. We can reduce methane waste by 72%, but the Bill is currently silent about that and needs amending. We still have much to do to protect consumers and reach net zero. The Bill, although substantially improved in the other place, still does not go far enough. As it passes through this House, we must ensure it does not become a missed opportunity.


  • 3 May 2023: Funding for Major Infrastructure Projects


    Thank you, Mr Sharma—again, it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair. I think I had just got beyond my first sentence, so I will repeat what I finished with. Currently, a long-term, coherent infrastructure strategy is lacking, and the Government are failing to capitalise on the long-term benefits of upgrading our infrastructure. We need an infrastructure strategy now to face the challenges of the future, get to net zero, transform our energy and transport systems and solve our housing crisis. We need vision, not permanent crisis management.

    The Government also fail to deliver for rail electrification. We need to electrify our railway to get to net zero. The Railway Industry Association notes that an electric railway is the cheapest to operate, saving £2 million to £3 million per vehicle. Electric trains are also up to 300% more reliable than diesel trains, and are three times more efficient than diesel or hydrogen trains. Electrifying our railway is a no-brainer. However, the Government cannot see past the short-term cost. Network Rail has said that 278 miles of track must be electrified every year to reach net zero. Last year, the Government added only 1.4 miles of newly electrified track.

    Bath has a big air pollution problem. The council has tried to address the issue by introducing a clean air zone, amid considerable opposition, but the electrification of the line through Bath has been on hold for years, and dirty diesel trains are still going through the city. How can I persuade my constituents that it is reasonable to stop them from driving their diesel cars through Bath when the public transport alternative is still operating on polluting diesel fuel? Air pollution kills. Not getting on with electrification is a complete dereliction of duty, not just to our net zero plans but to public health—and that costs a lot of money if we get it wrong.

    I am a keen cyclist, and I try to do most of my journeys within Bath on my bike. I am fully aware of the benefits of supporting active travel, which far outweigh the costs. People walking, wheeling and cycling in 2021 saved 2.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, prevented 138,000 serious long-term health conditions and avoided more than 29,000 early deaths. Active travel contributed £36.5 billion to the economy in 2021, and with continued investment, that would only increase. I urge the Government to reverse the cut to active travel infrastructure, and help more people to actively walk, wheel or cycle to the places they need to go to. Will the Government support the Liberal Democrat’s plan for a £20 billion community clean air fund that will create new walking and cycle routes, as well as expanding bus routes and creating new council-led clear air zones for congested towns and cities?

    The Government might claim that all those decisions were made to protect the public finances, but that is ironic, given their record of wasting money. Network Rail has spent more than £25 million on the new station at Reading Green Park. Its response to my written question had me wondering whether the decimal point was in the wrong place. The National Infrastructure Commission and the Climate Change Committee wrote a joint letter to the Government last year urging them to produce better plans to improve the resilience of infrastructure to climate change. Record temperatures last summer forced the cancellation of hundreds of train services, and flights were stopped at London Luton airport after heat melted the runway.

    The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, in his former role as Transport Secretary, warned that it will take decades to make the UK transport system resilient to extreme heat, but we do not have decades to wait. If we do not prioritise climate adaptation now, we will pay for it later. A full national-scale economic review of resilience and adaptation, led by the Treasury, is needed to quantify the value of climate adaptation, and therefore to incentivise investment in resilience. Investment in renewables is vital to combat climate change and preserve our energy security. If the Government had supported renewables harder, faster and earlier, my constituents would not be paying the price for Putin’s war now.

    China is currently the biggest investor in renewable energy. It accounts for just under half of global energy transition investment. Cumulative growth in Chinese wind power between 2021 and 2022 was more than three times greater than in the US and more than seven times greater than in Europe. If we fail to prioritise renewable investment now, we risk moving our energy dependence from one autocratic power to another. If we want to be a global competitor, we must get our act together now.

    The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s Net Zero Industry Act will be transformative and will incentivise huge investment in new renewable technologies and crucial net zero infrastructure, but our Government are not following them. There was no new funding on Energy Security Day, and the Chancellor has refused to go toe to toe with the Inflation Reduction Act. The UK’s investment in the energy transition fell by 10% from 2021 to 2022. In contrast, similar investment rose by nearly a quarter in the US and by 17% in countries such as Germany. When will we see a real response from the Government? Global competition over talent and resources is fierce, but the Government seem content to be left behind.

    The UK has huge competitive advantages in renewables such as tidal, yet the Government have failed to give the industry the funding it needs to prosper. We still do not have enough detail about how net zero investment is being defined. I hope the Minister will provide some clarification today. If other countries provide greater certainty for green investment, we will see investors and engineers leave.



    The debate has been interesting and I thank all colleagues for being here and sharing their considered thoughts. I think we all agree that long-term infrastructure projects are vital for our four nations. They are complex to deliver and see through; they require a well-resourced Treasury and a vision that survives from one Government to the next; and last but not least—we have not really talked about this—they require an engaged public who share that vision and are prepared to see it through with the Government of the day. If that is true of anything, it is true of getting to net zero. We agree on a lot of things, but I think we disagree about the pace of change, which for me is not fast enough. The Government will of course say, “Yes, we are getting there,” but that is the nature of these debates, and I am glad that we had such a considered debate today.


  • 20 Apr 2023: International Trade and Geopolitics


    People are not only threatened by other countries. Climate change is the biggest risk to people worldwide, and it will only exacerbate the world’s insecurity. Climate change is a threat multiplier. A 27 cm rise in sea levels is now inevitable, and it will be devastating for the 150 million people who live less than 1 metre above sea level. Some 1.2 billion people are set to be displaced due to climate change by 2050. If people are concerned about migration and immigration now, they have not seen anything yet.

    Conflict will worsen as resources disappear. Research has shown that every 1°C increase in temperature increases the chance of a riot or civil war by 11.3%. NASA has said that climate change is making droughts more frequent, more severe and more pervasive. This means less fresh water is available to each country, causing major problems in the middle east and Africa. Observers have warned that conflict over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam could erupt into a water war.

    We need global responses to global threats, so international co-operation is vital. We cannot fight the climate crisis by isolating ourselves from the world. The UK must be a leader and use all available avenues to strengthen global commitments. Trade deals are a crucial avenue to push countries to adopt better environmental standards. Unfortunately, this Government failed to guarantee British standards on environmental protection in the recent trade deals they negotiated.

    It has been reported that the Government have already bowed to Malaysian demands to lower tariffs on palm oil in the CPTPP negotiations. That is terrible for the climate because palm oil-related deforestation and conversion of carbon-rich peat soils is throwing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The trade deals we negotiate have an impact on the climate emergency.

    Prioritising the climate emergency would also improve the UK’s global standing. If the UK is to be a significant actor in the world, it must show far more ambition in its green policies. Putin’s war has shown how long-term dependence on fossil fuels can empower hostile regimes. Russia has used Europe’s dependence on its natural gas as a weapon. If the UK had moved harder, faster and earlier towards renewables, Putin would not have had that leverage and our constituents would not be paying the price for his war.

    China is currently the biggest investor in renewable energy, accounting for just under half of global energy transition investment. We are already seeing the effects on energy supply chains. Cumulative growth in Chinese wind power between 2021 and 2022 was more than three times greater than in the US and more than seven times greater than in Europe. China’s share of manufacturing for solar power already exceeds 80%. If we want to be a global competitor, we have to get our act together.

    There is no investment in renewables, and the Government have slashed their contracts for difference auction budget for renewables by 28%. These are not the actions of a Government who understand the peril we are in. I hope they finally realise that there will be no coming back and no next time if we miss the 1.5°C target to avert climate catastrophe. The Government must show climate leadership in their investment and their dealings with other countries. Our actions now will determine the future of both the UK and the planet.


  • 18 Apr 2023: Topical Questions

    T3. The Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, the hon. Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) has just mentioned the Government’s ambitious plans for CCUS. The Petra Nova carbon capture facility in the US was meant to reduce carbon emissions by 90%, but it achieved only 7% over three years and allowed the continued extraction of fossil fuels. What will he do to ensure that UK Government investment in CCUS goes only to truly net zero projects? ( 904557 )


  • 2 Mar 2023: Oral Answers to Questions

    Network Rail has said that 278 miles of track must be electrified every year to reach net zero. Last year, the Government added only 1.4 miles of newly electrified track, including Bath, and we are still waiting for electrification. To meet our net zero targets, will the Secretary of State commit to electrifying all new railway lines?


  • 28 Feb 2023: Topical Questions

    In its progress report last June, the Climate Change Committee noted that only about 40% of the Government’s plans for getting to net zero were credible. In some areas, including farming and industrial electrification, they had no plans at all. What are the Government doing to develop credible plans in those areas?


  • 23 Feb 2023: Peatlands

    I thank the Minister for that answer. Well-maintained peatlands are a crucial nature resource in fighting the climate crisis. The Somerset levels near Bath contain 231 square miles of peatland, storing nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon, but 80% of the UK’s peatland is so degraded that it is acting as a net source of greenhouse gas emissions, doing the opposite of what it is meant to do. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says that part of the problem is the lack of available contractors with the necessary skills and capacity to allow for rapid restoration work. What is the Secretary of State, or the Minister, doing to increase the number of contractors?


  • 22 Feb 2023: Electric Vehicles: Infrastructure


    Owning a car is a lifeline for many people. We need to encourage people to use their cars less and public transport more, but I am not blind to the need for cars. Car journeys are here to stay, but they need to become net zero. The transition from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles is at the heart of this effort, and it is an important step towards decarbonising the transport system and getting to net zero.

    The Government’s pledge to end the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and hybrids by 2035, has acted as a powerful signal to the car industry and the markets, but the failure to prepare the ground for the transition to EV charging infrastructure is now threatening that target and, indeed, our net zero targets. Like the hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), I am absolutely in favour of the transition to EVs, but we need to prepare the ground. We cannot say, “The target cannot be achieved, so let’s just throw it out altogether.”

    Transport is responsible for nearly a third of the UK’s carbon emissions, with more than half of emissions from domestic transport coming from private cars and taxis. The quicker we get people using EVs, the closer we get to meeting our net zero targets. The benefits of owning an electric vehicle must outweigh the costs. From infrastructure to incentives, the Government need to meet words with actions and drive the electric vehicle revolution forward.


  • 9 Feb 2023: Independent Review of Net Zero


    It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), because it is important to hear where people’s concerns are. The report sets out the fact that we must overcome our concerns because we have no option: we need to reach net zero. The House knows how passionate I am about making sure that this country reaches its net zero targets.

    While recent news has overwhelmed us with the tragedies of war and natural disasters, the climate emergency continues to threaten our global future. We have to act together, in solidarity. I welcome the independent review of net zero. It is uncompromising in its demand that the Government get a grip and actually deliver on the targets they have set themselves. Last year, the Climate Change Committee made a similar point: tangible progress now lags badly behind the country’s net zero ambitions.

    We are on course to overshoot our target level of greenhouse gas emissions twofold. The CCC had previously set the Government several targets for 2022 to stay on course for net zero by 2050; only a fifth of them have been achieved. This is an unforgivable underperformance and shows that the Conservative Government’s commitment to net zero is lukewarm at best. We need to do a lot more persuasion. It is about winning hearts and minds, not just in this House but in our local communities, to persuade people that we need to get to net zero. The commitment has to be more than lukewarm: it has to be hot and passionate. We want to get to net zero.

    Too many people still treat our net zero targets like a bus that we can miss and then catch another. We must understand that there will be no next time if we do not reach net zero by 2050—and that means net zero globally. Climate change is already leading to chaotic consequences in our societies. Since 1950, the global number of floods has increased by a factor of 15 and wildfires have increased by a factor of seven. We have seen droughts and famine across east Africa, floods in Pakistan and a heatwave in the UK. The dangers of missing net zero are staring us right in the face. The difference in limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2° would save around 420 million people from exposure to extreme heatwaves.

    Our Government should be leading by example—I say that for the third time now. We are an advanced economy. We cannot tell economies that are less advanced that they have to get to net zero but our contribution is so tiny that it does not matter. It matters that we lead by example. I am so glad we have a report that says that net zero is not only good for the planet but makes sense economically. We will miss out hugely if we do not really get to grips with this and deliver on the targets. We must set ourselves ambitious targets and be very passionate and hot about them, not just lukewarm. What message does it send to the rest of the world when our advanced economy does not meet its obligations in the global fight to keep temperature rises below 1.5°?

    The independent review recognises that the Government’s tepid approach to net zero means the UK is losing out on green investment. This concern is shared by the Confederation of British Industry and many renewable energy companies, such as Equinor, SSE and Vattenfall. The USA and the EU are developing huge financial packages to encourage green investment, and China is currently the biggest investor in renewable energy, while our Government are still playing to the tune of the oil and gas giants. The UK lags behind all but one of its G7 counterparts in investment in green infrastructure and jobs. It is a massive missed opportunity.

    We are in a cost of living crisis because of our reliance on gas and oil. The Government fail to recognise that the fastest and cheapest way to guarantee energy security is to phase out oil and gas rather than invest in more exploration and extraction. I welcome the fact that we now have the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero—that the two have been put together—because so much of energy security depends on our getting to net zero and phasing out our reliance on gas and oil.

    I am pleased that the net zero review recommends that the Government support the Local Electricity Bill. The lack of growth in community energy in the past seven years is a significant missed opportunity. Its major strength is its connection to people and places. It engages people in energy systems and makes that important connection so that we win hearts and minds and people see the advantages of changing. I absolutely agree that change is difficult and we need to get people behind the net zero agenda.

    In my Bath constituency, Bath and West Community Energy has installed enough renewable energy to power nearly 4,500 homes. Many of the projects are installed in local school and community buildings. The energy is net zero and far cheaper than gas and oil, but the huge potential for more community energy cannot be realised because current energy market and licensing rules mean that community energy schemes face high grid-access costs.

    The Local Electricity Bill would reform the energy market to empower community-owned and run schemes to sell local renewable energy directly to households and businesses. It would make new community energy businesses viable, and those businesses would keep significant additional value within local economies by bypassing large utilities. It is incomprehensible to me why the Government are dragging their feet on enacting this vital change to help an industry that has so much potential not only in reaching net zero but in doing exactly as we are doing with this debate—aiming to win hearts and minds and make people and politicians aware of how important net zero is and how deliverable and advantageous for our society it will ultimately be.

    The transition to net zero must be at the heart of every Government policy if we are to hit our targets. The Climate Change Committee has criticised the lack of joined-up thinking on net zero in the Government. Last year, I spoke to a group of sub-national transport bodies that noted the lack of synergy between the Department for Transport and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in the development of sustainable land planning principles. That is just one example of siloed thinking in the Government.

    I agree with the review that there needs to be a group with actual power that can work across Government to ensure that net zero is considered in every policy decision. A net zero delivery authority, as outlined in a recent Policy Connect paper, could do exactly that. Such a public body should be placed on a statutory footing and operate at arm’s length from the Government to provide assurance to business and people about its longevity and clout. It would be tasked with monitoring and accelerating the delivery of key net zero strategies.

    A net zero delivery authority would co-ordinate the delivery of Government strategies between local and national Government. That, too, is incredibly important and has already been mentioned. The delivery of many of our net zero targets should be devolved to local areas, because local people know best, and the delivery of net zero can be so much better achieved through local authorities. The authority would gather information and understanding about local delivery from local government and businesses to inform the national strategy. It would work with partner organisations and national bodies to inform both national and local delivery strategies for decarbonisation.

    However, a net zero delivery authority is not enough, which is why we, as Liberal Democrats, are proposing a net zero action plan, backed by a £150 billion public investment programme to fire up progress to net zero and help the UK become a global leader in future technologies. What a net zero delivery authority could do is avoid policy inconsistency and ensure total focus within Government on the climate emergency.

    The net zero transition will impact every aspect of our lives. The evidence is clear that the costs of combating the climate emergency are dwarfed by the consequences of inaction. We must all work together to deliver the net zero transition as efficiently and sustainably as possible. If we do not do so, we risk losing the battle to preserve our climate, the future of our country and the wellbeing of our people.


  • 7 Feb 2023: Oral Answers to Questions

    Since 2016, the Government have handed out over £10 billion in oil and gas exploration and extraction subsidies. In contrast, major economies such as the US and the EU are putting together huge investment plans to accelerate the renewable energy transformation, and Britain is lagging behind. Is it not time that the UK phased down subsidies for new oil and gas exploration and invested that money in renewables to accelerate the transition? The Minister knows we are not transitioning fast enough and that we are missing many of our net zero targets.


  • 18 Jan 2023: Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill


    Amendment 21 would exempt certain environmental protections from the sunset clause. Nature provides a better chance of mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. Protecting ecosystems that regulate the climate or contain critical carbon stores must be prioritised alongside cutting emissions. This is not just about the EU; it is about a Government not caring about net zero. It is crucial that these protections are not allowed to fall needlessly to prove an ideological point. Amendment 21 would at least protect legislation such as the National Emission Ceilings Regulations 2018. These regulations require the Secretary of State to prepare an annual inventory of emissions and air pollutants, which are killers. It is about our health. The Government are frustrating every step towards a healthier planet and healthier people.

    There is huge public interest in our environmental laws. I have received hundreds of emails about this Bill from my Bath constituents, but I feel my constituents are being ignored. Amendment 36 would also provide much-needed clarity on the legislation that will be affected. Many clauses in this Bill will make settled areas of law uncertain and contested. How can we meet our net zero targets if we do not even know what environmental legislation will be standing this time next year?

    There will be no coming back and no next time if we miss our net zero targets. For that reason alone, it is important to support amendment 36. Shamefully, our Government are satisfied to leave environmental protections to chance. They are intent on getting Brexit done without any idea of the cost to current and future generations.


  • 20 Dec 2022: Christmas Adjournment


    My beautiful constituency is steeped in history, being designated a world heritage site twice over. However, Bath is not just a living museum. The beating heart of Bath is the people and organisations that help to make it a better place. I pay tribute to organisations such as VOICES, a charity supporting victims and survivors of domestic abuse and violence, and the Somerset and Wessex Eating Disorders Association for its important work in helping the growing number of people suffering with eating disorders. We have the wonderful Bath College and our two fantastic universities which, with their thousands of young people, bring energy, fun and new ideas to our city. We have hundreds of new, innovative small businesses, such as S&J Roofing, which I visited last week and which passionate about solar panel installations and how to get to net zero.

    From healthcare to the economy to climate change—I did not have time to talk about net zero this afternoon, which is a subject that I raise time and again—we are in a state of crisis. I hope that Government will return to this place in the new year with the resolve we need to get our country back on track. Radical, progressive change is needed, now more than ever.


  • 7 Dec 2022: Marine Renewables: Government Support


    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. Thank you for allowing me to be absent briefly from the debate. I was at an extraordinary meeting of the net zero all-party parliamentary group—I was needed to make sure that it was quorate.

    Just to set the scene again, climate change is devastating the world. The abnormally hot and cold temperatures across the world contribute to as many as 5 million deaths a year. Limiting global warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C could result in around 420 million fewer people being exposed to extreme heatwaves, yet too many politicians are still treating our vital climate net zero targets like a bus—if we miss one, we can catch another one. There will be no next time if we miss our net zero targets. Our reliance on fossil fuels is not only terrible for the planet, but bad for our energy security. Our constituents would not be paying the price for Putin’s war if the UK had moved towards renewables faster, harder and earlier.

    The UK must rapidly diversify its energy through multiple forms of clean energy sources. Hydropower is a proven green technology. It can provide flexible storage to support the growth of wind and solar at scale. Hydropower is affordable and reliable, and can be ramped up at short notice when needed. Well-developed plans for tidal range projects on the west coast could mobilise and deliver at least 10 GW of net zero energy, with a construction time of five to seven years. The UK also has the potential to develop up to 11.5 GW of tidal stream by 2050, supporting over 14,000 jobs. I agree with everything that has been said today. We should support everything, including what the hon. Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) said about tidal stream and lagoon energy.

    The technologies are all there, but they could be developed much faster and more effectively if they did not always have to compete with fossil fuels or nuclear. The Minister knows that I am not a great supporter of nuclear, simply because it is a very expensive technology. If the nuclear industry had the same requirements for competitiveness as the renewables industry, it would not be able to compete in the same way. The renewable energy sector has to compete in a very competitive environment, which is good for our consumers—I get that—but let us apply the same rules to all energy sources, not just the renewable energy sector.

    Committing to a target of 1 GW of marine energy by 2035 would send a powerful signal to investors that the UK is the best place to invest in tidal power. I continue to worry that the Government rely too much on fossil fuels. We are getting stuck in the transition. We are never getting out of it, and we will never end up in a net zero world. From 2016 to 2020, the Government provided £13.6 billion in support to the UK’s oil and gas industry. The Chancellor’s recent autumn statement confirmed that oil and gas giants will be allowed to continue offsetting taxes, while ordinary taxpayers foot the bill. Britain gives out the largest tax breaks in Europe to the oil and gas industry. Whose side are the Government on?

    When I met the British Hydropower Association recently, it warned that weak grid capacity in some rural areas meant that not even one electric vehicle charging point could be installed. I agree that grid infrastructure is now the biggest issue holding back renewable energy developments in the UK. It must be prioritised. Where is the long-awaited reform of Ofgem’s remit?

    I absolutely agree, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that exact point. How can we make sure that renewable energy technologies get the same support that the Government are giving to other forms of energy? I like to think that we all agree on the need to accelerate and turbocharge our renewable energy sector. My criticism of the Government—and the Minister is aware of this—is that we are not prioritising getting away from fossil fuel energy as soon as possible. That is my point, and it needs to be made again and again. I make that point at every opportunity to ensure that the Government understand the urgency that the climate emergency requires.


  • 6 Dec 2022: Sustainable Energy Generation: Burning Trees


    Tackling climate change is the most important issue of our time. The IPCC notes that approximately 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are vulnerable to climate change. Between 1970 and 2019 the global surface temperature increased at a higher rate than in any period over the past 2,000 years. Since 1950, the global number of floods has increased by a factor of 15 and wildfires have increased by a factor of seven. This year alone, we have seen floods in Pakistan, drought and famine across east Africa and a heatwave in the UK.

    There is still time to reduce the worst effects of climate change. The World Bank suggests that up to 260 million people could be forced to move within their countries by 2050, but immediate action could reduce that number by 80%. That urgency is why I cannot support the use of bioenergy. Bioenergy is not a renewable energy source. The low density of wood means that, when burned, it emits more CO 2 per unit of electricity than coal. That CO 2 can be offset only when new trees regrow, leading a large carbon debt to accrue over decades.

    These timescales are much too long to meet urgent carbon budgets. We do not have the time for these emissions to be paid back. Time is not on our side when it comes to the climate disaster. The idea that bioenergy production can offset emissions is based on pure hope. If greenhouse gas removal techniques are not able to balance global carbon budgets, we risk an extra 0.7° to 1.4° of warming above our 1.5° target. That is the issue. We should not take that risk with people’s lives and the health of our planet.

    Despite the clear issues presented, the Government continue to massively subsidise industrial-scale bioenergy. Drax receives more than £2 million a day in biomass subsidy, in spite of there being no obvious long-term climate benefit. Let us imagine the difference we could make if the Government put that money into true renewable energy and net zero adaptation. There are 5 GW of onshore wind currently awaiting planning approval, which could be fast-tracked to lower energy bills this winter alone. The UK could develop up to 11.5 GW of tidal stream by 2050, supporting over 14,000 jobs. Weak grid capacity is now the biggest issue holding back renewable energy development, yet the Government continue to stall plans to improve the grid.


  • 24 Nov 2022: Oral Answers to Questions

    Research from the Campaign for Better Transport suggests that the Government are so far behind on their electrification plans that rolling stock leasing companies are being forced to destroy electric units that they cannot use. At the same time, the Government continue to introduce new diesel trains—more not zero than net zero. Will the Government ensure that they order no more diesel trains and get on with electrification?


  • 15 Nov 2022: Floating Offshore Wind

    Many renewable energy projects are limited by a lack of grid capacity. We have more wind farms ready for investment in the coming decade than the rest of the world, but the grid is not ready. For future offshore wind projects, who will be paying for the grid connections?


  • 15 Nov 2022: Fracking: Local Consent


    Fracked fuel is a fossil fuel. Fracking flies in the face of our net zero commitment. The Government’s own experts said that seismic activity caused by hydraulic fracking was not safe. Fracking has been linked to multiple health defects. It is disgraceful that the Government even considered lifting the ban and putting the population at risk.

    The Government’s flirtation with fracking proves their unserious approach to climate change and the environment. I am afraid that will not change under the new Prime Minister. When he was Chancellor, the Prime Minister introduced a windfall tax incentivising firms to invest in fossil fuel extraction. As Prime Minister, he had to be dragged to COP27. Those are not the actions of someone who will treat the climate emergency with the urgency it demands.

    Investing heavily in renewables is clearly the answer to the UK’s energy crisis. However, securing local consent is vital, even for popular solutions such as renewables. Local communities must be brought on board for the net zero transition; after all, they are the ones who will have to bear a lot of the costs, host new infrastructure in their neighbourhoods, and alter their routines and behaviours. Without that, there is a risk that people will not welcome or accept the necessary changes. The consequences of that would make our progress to net zero much lengthier, more costly and more contested. It would be less inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable.

    Local consent is what we Liberal Democrats always ask for. The most successful net zero projects have local consent. Where possible, should projects not be undertaken by local people with a stake in them? Local communities are best placed to provide detailed knowledge of their local area. They have expert understanding of how their area functions and what their communities value.

    The Government must remove the shackles from local authorities and give them the powers and funding they need as partners in reaching net zero. In Bath and North East Somerset, domestic and business solar capacity has doubled since our council declared a climate emergency in 2019. These local initiatives should be encouraged by the Government but, instead, they are being restricted by hollowed-out local authority budgets and our planning laws.

    Community energy projects must also be encouraged. They allow people to purchase clean electricity directly from a local supply company or co-operative. That ensures that every pound spent on powering our homes or cars is recycled back into the local community. Energy projects should be carried by our local communities, and they are the ones who need to provide consent, whatever the solutions. Community energy is one of the few tried and tested means of engaging people in energy systems. In my constituency, Bath and West Community Energy has installed enough renewable energy to power nearly 4,500 homes. I take this opportunity—it is a good opportunity, because we are talking about local consent and local energy provision—to ask the Minister again whether he will back the Local Electricity Bill, which is supported by more than half of MPs across the House.

    Achieving local consent is crucial if we are serious about meeting our net zero targets. Gaining local consent for fracking was never going to happen. However, local communities passionately support renewable projects. They just need the Government to empower them to deliver those projects—and we need a Government that finally bans fracked fuel, which flies in the face of our net zero commitments.


  • 9 Nov 2022: Nature and Climate Declaration


    Unfortunately, the UK Government are not acting with the necessary urgency. We are setting a lot of targets and having lots of plans, but we do not deliver on them. The Government have proven themselves to be climate action delayers. When the new Prime Minister was Chancellor, he cut air passenger duty on domestic flights and introduced a windfall tax that incentivised firms to invest in fossil fuel extraction. And our Prime Minister had to be dragged to the COP 27 summit this week. He was asked only today whether he would lift the de facto veto on onshore wind, but he did not answer the question. That gives rise to the question: what is this Government about?

    The climate emergency is a problem not just for future generations. It is having a material impact on people now. We have seen extreme weather events cause suffering, conflict and destruction around the world—from droughts in east Africa, to bush fires in Australia. If we exceed 1.5°C, floods and fires will become more frequent and intense. Crops are more likely to fail and millions will be driven from their homes. Some politicians treat this 1.5°C target as being like a bus that can be missed because we can catch another one. We cannot miss this target. We have to keep global temperatures to less than 1.5°C or we face catastrophic climate breakdown.

    The Government’s net zero strategy recognises the danger of not meeting the 1.5°C target. The Government themselves acknowledge that we might miss the target. Their own plans do not even guarantee that we will hit it, given that their chance of success is just over 50%. Our own targets, in our developed nation, might not succeed. Our Government are taking major risks with the lives of people across the world. The Government know the dangers, yet they refuse to act at the necessary pace and with the necessary focus, as shown by their refusal to lift the veto on offshore wind. It is as if there is always something else that might be more important. No, the climate emergency is now and it is the most important issue on which our Government and Governments worldwide need to focus.

    Nature provides our best chance of mitigating climate change and its worst impacts, such as flooding and droughts. As nature declines, so does the quality of human life. Protecting ecosystems that regulate the climate or contain critical carbon stores, such as ice sheets, forests, peatlands, wetlands and the oceans, must be prioritised alongside cutting emissions.

    To some, these plans might seem radical. However, radicalism is necessary in the face of the climate emergency. The time for inaction is over. This is one of our last opportunities for a decisive response. If Governments do not step up, we risk losing the battle to preserve nature and the climate.


  • 3 Nov 2022: Climate Change and Human Security


    That this House has considered climate change and human security.

    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Efford. I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for granting me this debate, which follows on from the debate we had last year on global human security. There is an urgent need to consider how compatible the UK’s security approach is with tackling the climate emergency.

    The climate threat is one of the largest threats facing humans. Too many politicians are still treating our vital net zero targets, which will keep temperature rises below 1.5° C by 2050, like buses: if we miss one, we can just catch the next. We must comprehend that there will be no coming back and no next time if we miss net zero by 2050. Doing so would be catastrophic, exacerbating worldwide challenges such as rising sea levels and the loss of natural resources. It would contribute to increased conflict, poverty, malnutrition and gender inequality. Some 1.2 billion people are set to be displaced due to climate change by 2050. If people are concerned about migration now, they have not seen anything yet.

    Climate change can no longer be seen as a problem for the future; it is having a material impact on people worldwide now. Between 1970 and 2019 global surface temperatures increased at a higher rate than in any period over the past 2,000 years. Since 1950 the global number of floods has increased by a factor of 15 and wildfires have increased by a factor of seven. The abnormally hot and cold temperatures experienced worldwide contribute to as many as 5 million deaths a year—that is now, not in the future. Climate change is causing havoc around the world. Last month a new study of the Greenland ice cap concluded that a major rise in sea levels of 27 cm is now inevitable, even if fossil fuel burning worldwide were to end overnight. That is terrible news for the 150 million people globally who live less than 1 metre above sea level.

    Earlier this year Pakistan was just one of the countries across south Asia that experienced a heatwave that took temperatures over 50° C. That country has now faced floods that have directly affected 33 million people, causing at least $10 billion in damage. Spring rains in Somalia have been the weakest in 60 years, contributing to drought and famine across east Africa, which has put 22 million people at risk of hunger and starvation. Devastating climate change effects can also be seen at home. The World Weather Attribution group found that human-induced climate change made the recent UK heatwave at least 10 times more likely. The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy has declared that the UK’s critical national infrastructure is

    “very vulnerable to extreme weather and other effects of climate change”.

    We are not just in the middle of a climate crisis; nature is in crisis too. Our way of life, especially in developed nations, is exploiting our global resources in a way that is becoming increasingly unsustainable for our planet. As nature declines, so does the quality of human life. Pollution and poor air quality alone cost millions of lives every year across the globe. We in the UK are not excluded, and all those things beg the question of whether the way in which we currently look at security policy limits the extent to which the Government keep us safe.

    We are used to the Government declaring that their first duty is to keep citizens safe and the country secure. However, the way that they define our security matters. For years, we have thought that security is about the risks to our nation from hostile actors. That narrow conception risks sidelining the climate threat. The Russia-Ukraine war has shown that temptation. We have already seen countries such as Germany move back to using coal. Even in the UK, the former Prime Minister used the war to lift the fracking ban, and announce more than 100 new licences for oil and gas drilling in the North sea. It is of course important that we are properly aware of and equipped to tackle risks from hostile actors. However, the need for energy security should never lead us to downplay the existential threat that the climate crisis poses to humanity.

    The climate threat goes beyond national borders, and has far-reaching consequences. State-centric security practices cannot comprehend the vast array of threats that we face. We must move towards a model of security that cares for people above all else. If we do so, the true scale of the climate threat is thrust into the spotlight. Countries must be incentivised to prioritise it. After all, the sooner we act, the more people can be protected. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C may save around 520 million people from frequent exposure to heatwaves.

    What must be done to protect people from the climate threat? How can a human security approach help the world to reach net zero? A human security approach addresses the root causes of vulnerabilities, and takes early action on emerging risks. Threats such as climate change are predictable and incrementally destructive, yet consecutive Governments have failed to do anything meaningful about them in the long term. The worst impacts of climate change stretch well beyond average election cycles. The evidence is clear that the costs of climate change are dwarfed by the consequences of inaction.

    The country’s finances are already straining under the weight of recent Conservative Government incompetence. They are set to shatter completely if we do not get a grip of the climate emergency now. The London School of Economics predicts that we will lose £340 billion a year by 2050 because of this Government’s refusal to take action fast enough. University College London issued similarly stark warnings about the world’s financial system, which is set to lose 37% of global GDP by the end of the century as a result of the climate crisis. Such losses will be unrecoverable.

    That economic dark age is not inevitable. A green future should be seen as a prosperous one. A recent University of Oxford report states that if we move to a decarbonised energy sector by 2050, the planet will save $12 trillion. A net zero economy is an opportunity for this country. We can be the world leaders in this financial age.

    Change must begin at home. The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to announce an action plan, backed by a £150 billion public investment programme, to fire up progress to reach net zero. Our plan proposes a major restructuring of the UK’s economic and financial model, and investment in renewables is vital to it. Renewables are the world’s cheapest source of energy now. Investing in them is good for the planet. It secures our energy and protects our wallets. As the Committee on Climate Change notes, reducing demand for fossil fuels will help to limit our constituents’ energy bills.

    The UK must invest in renewable power so that at least 80% of electricity is generated from renewables by 2030. That is a tough target. We set the targets, but fail to deliver them. We must press ahead to make more of our renewable energy targets. The Government must now deliver on the many promises and targets they have set for the nation. We desperately require a department at the heart of Government that is dedicated to co-ordinating the many fragmented activities across Government and society. We urgently need to bring back the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which provided essential leadership during the coalition years. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government have any intention of re-establishing such a Department, given that we are falling behind in the delivery of our net zero targets?

    The climate crisis should be at the forefront of every decision the Government make between now and the time that net zero is reached. We Liberal Democrats propose having both a department of climate change and a Cabinet chief secretary for sustainability to co-ordinate all Government activity in response to the climate emergency. That would ensure that climate change is given the priority it deserves in every Government action and in every Department.

    The UK must put aside its damaging approach of isolation and the language of division. Climate change is a huge problem that can be solved only through collaboration with everybody else. I recently met John Kerry, who noted that the approach to climate change in the US changed completely when Joe Biden became the new President. Leadership matters, and we need such leadership from our Government now.

    Ahead of COP26, the then Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), cut air passenger duty on domestic flights. Last May, he brought in a windfall tax that incentivised firms to invest in fossil fuel extraction. During the latest Conservative leadership campaign, he pledged that he would make it more difficult to build onshore wind farms in England. To have our new Prime Minister effectively dragged along to COP27 is humiliating for the UK. That is not the leadership we need from our new Government. The UK must lead from the front to encourage others to act. As the Committee on Climate Change suggests, it should prioritise strengthening the ambitions of countries around the world while preparing for a focus on climate finance and adaptation at COP27 next week, and COP28 next year.

    For too long our response to climate change has been complacent. Climate action cannot be ditched in favour of status quo interests. After all, people can never be secure in a world ravaged by extreme weather events. It is time the world moved away from viewing our security simply at state level and started looking at the bigger picture. We cannot be safe until the world is safe from the worst fallouts of the climate emergency. The floods, heatwaves, wildfires and storms of 2022 are alive in our minds. There is no better time than now to put in long- lasting protections to save current and future generations from the crippling consequences of climate change.

    Climate change must become part of the UK’s security thinking. The Conservatives must get a grip and take the lead on this issue. I hope that the UK Government will look at my recommendations. We are all in a war against climate change and must begin to treat it as such.



    I take that on board, Mr Efford. I thank Members for contributing to this debate. The fact that people were wondering who would respond to this debate—the MOD, the Foreign Office or indeed BEIS—seems to reinforce my call that we should have the Department of Energy and Climate Change back, which would co-ordinate all the questions and issues that we have debated this afternoon. That would address them together, rather than always having them addressed in a fragmented way.

    That this House has considered climate change and human security.


  • 19 Oct 2022: Vehicle Taxation Reform


    I am delighted to bring this matter to Westminster Hall for debate. There is an urgent need for reform of our vehicle taxation system, for both fiscal and environmental reasons. The public understand that change must come; they look to the Government for clarity on the path to be followed. I hope that the Minister will be able to aid that process today. She will recognise that the future of travel is changing every year; Britain’s transport networks and habits are moving into the net zero era.

    Absolutely. We see that people are facing great problems in rural communities and it is important to make short-term interventions to help them. However, I am really talking today about what vehicle taxation will look like in the long term, once we transition to net zero. Nevertheless, I fully take the point made by my hon. Friend.

    If we are to transition to net zero sustainably, the Government must find a way to fill the taxation income gap caused by declining fuel duty. The Government’s own net zero strategy from 2021 states that the taxation of motoring must keep pace with electric vehicles. I understand that the Treasury has said in the past that the level of income from motorists should stay about the same in future, but how can that be achieved?

    Nearly 20 years ago, the then Transport Secretary said that road pricing was 10 years away, but we do not have another 10 years to waste. The motivation then was to cut pollution and reduce congestion, particularly in larger cities. Our most urgent need now is getting to net zero and, while doing that, looking at the immediate financial implications that I have mentioned.

    We must encourage the take-up of electric vehicles to reach net zero. However, the public are acutely aware that Britain’s finances are under pressure after the recent economic shocks. Money must be found somewhere. There is evidence that the current vehicle taxation system is not fit for purpose, and the public agree. In the Campaign for Better Transport report, 60% of respondents agreed that there was a need to reform the vehicle taxation system. What options are available to Government and are these options fair in the eyes of constituents? Pay-as-you-go, or pay-as-you-drive, is worthy of consideration. It is widely regarded by experts as a progressive step forward. A pay-as-you-drive system could charge drivers directly per mile driven with a set distance charge. Another alternative could be smart road pricing, whereby the charge per mile varies depending on different factors. The Treasury would have the option of applying this equally to all vehicles. Alternatively, it could create a series of levels based on emitting status and/or the location where the person is driving.

    The Climate Change Committee report to Parliament this year noted that road pricing “will be necessary” in the longer term. It recommended that the Government implement it “later this decade”. The Select Committee on Transport has recommended smart pricing, as has the Policy Exchange, the AA, and the Social Market Foundation.

    The main argument in favour of pay-as-you-drive comes from the need to reduce the number of people driving to lower congestion and reduce air pollution and carbon emissions. The transport sector is now the biggest source of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 28% of all emissions. Cars make up 55% of that figure, while lorries and vans make up 32%. Buses, coaches, and rail collectively account for just less than 5%, according to Government figures.

    We must do everything possible to reach our net zero targets. However, that transition needs to be sustainable and accessible. Pay-as-you-drive is a progressive way of solving the problem of declining fuel duty revenue. In particular, it would encourage much more sustainable transport habits. Clearly, pay-as-you-drive schemes must be combined with more investment in public transport and environmentally friendly infrastructure. I look forward to the Minister’s response.


  • 7 Sep 2022: Financial Services and Markets Bill


    My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) has already indicated that there is quite a lot to welcome in this Bill, but there also are a number of things that we Liberal Democrats do not agree with and would like to be improved. The Bill does not actively promote the leading green finance sector that we were promised. According to the WWF, we need $32 trillion by 2030 to tackle the climate emergency. The Bill in front of us could be a unique opportunity to develop the green economy that the future needs by providing routes to roll out net zero technologies and allowing UK businesses to capitalise on green transitions.

    As the chair of the Climate Change Committee pointed out only this morning, tackling soaring energy bills—currently the most important thing we are considering—and tackling the climate emergency go hand in hand. Net zero technologies could reduce household bills by £1,800 a year—a reduction that is desperately needed by so many people. This Bill could be a unique opportunity to make that happen, but it falls dramatically short.

    In its current form, the Bill prioritises competitiveness over net zero and accountability. Clause 25 adds the need to advance compliance with the UK net zero emissions target to the list of regulatory principles to be applied by the FCA and the PRA. However, the new principle—namely, that regulators must “have regard” to the UK net zero target—is not strong enough. Additionally, they will have limited margin to acknowledge the role of nature in achieving net zero. This approach is reckless. The Bill opens up the possibility, as has been mentioned today, of soaring food prices by throwing out reforms introduced in 2008 to protect consumers from volatile trading practices.

    The Government always defend their net zero strategy by placing responsibility on the markets, yet before the 2008 reforms, food prices rocketed after speculative trading on future food prices drove up prices. Regulators are vital to ensuring that consumers are protected and that markets function well but not out of control. A former UN special rapporteur has said that speculators

    Rather than volatile competitiveness, the Bill must provide clear legal obligations and a commitment to the UK’s net zero target. Net zero must have the same priority for regulators as economic competitiveness. The scale of the climate crisis requires massive shifts in approach that can be achieved only with explicit legal duties, which must include a new objective to decarbonise the financial system. As I have already said, regulations and net zero aims have to work hand in hand. The Government must add climate targets to the primary objectives and thereby give them a status higher than the one the Bill currently proposes.

    We Liberal Democrats would go even further and ban new fossil fuel companies from being listed on the London stock exchange. We would also create new powers for regulators to act if banks and other investors do not properly manage climate risks. That is the sort of ambition that we need, but the Government’s ambition is lacking. We have less and less time to act on the climate emergency. The time is now. I urge Ministers not to miss this unique opportunity.


  • 11 Jul 2022: Energy (Oil and Gas) Profits Levy Bill


    What should we make of the proposals to exempt those companies investing in new oil and gas exploration? There is nothing in the Bill to incentivise investment in renewables. That flies in the face of the Government’s commitment to get to net zero. In fact, it demonstrates once more how quickly they are prepared to U-turn on their promises, making it harder for struggling households to get on top of soaring energy bills now and in future and failing to take serious action on climate change. What is more, where is the programme to transform the pace of home insulation, which is lagging shockingly behind? Where are the planning laws to ensure that we build zero-carbon homes now rather than allowing developers to build homes that will require very costly retrofitting in a few years’ time?

    On new green jobs, cleaner air, warmer homes and lowering living costs, the levy could have done so much more. We Liberal Democrats support the Bill but deplore the lack of a much greater ambition from the Government to rein in soaring energy costs and tackle the climate emergency.


  • 5 Jul 2022: Energy Security Strategy


    Energy security is as important as ever in the face of the climate emergency and the need to get to net zero, but also in the light of more recent events, which have seen energy prices and household energy bills soar. There is some good news: the less we depend on fossil fuels, the better for the climate and household bills. It would therefore be completely wrong of the Government to go back to more fossil fuel exploration. Instead, an even more ambitious plan for the roll-out of renewables is the right way forward.

    The opportunities are fantastic and plentiful. I have mentioned just one, which is floating offshore wind. I believe that Britain could be a true global leader in this field, and the Minister will find in me a passionate and true supporter of all efforts to help the development of floating offshore wind in this country. There are fantastic opportunities, and we need to help develop them. There are some barriers as well, but the opportunities are amazing, and Britain could truly be a leader and an exporter of renewable energy.

    I believe in going even further and exporting renewable energy. If we do not do it in Britain, other European countries will come forward. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) has been to briefings on floating offshore wind, but it is fascinating to see the enormous amount of energy that such installations can produce. If we do not take the opportunity, the technology will be used by other countries and they will become the leaders in that technology instead. I say to the Minister that I am a passionate and true supporter of any Government efforts to support floating offshore wind. It is a new technology, but it is very encouraging and interesting.

    There is huge potential for more community-scale renewable energy, which has been mentioned today, and I ask the Minister to respond on that point. We need more community energy and, as has been said, more than 300 MPs are behind it.

    The biggest advantage of community energy is in bringing people behind the need to get to net zero. We are going to face many disruptions in order to get to net zero by 2050, and bringing people on board will be the most important thing we can do. Community energy is the best place to drive the movement to get people behind net zero. We have already heard about the difficulties, but nothing is beyond us if we really have the political will to achieve it. My ask of the Minister is to respond positively on how we can remove the existing barriers for community energy.

    The measures necessary to tackle climate change will take a big effort and cause a lot of disruption. The Government must acknowledge that there will be disruption, but community energy is one way of making sure that people are fully behind it.


  • 15 Jun 2022: Oral Answers to Questions

    T2. Six days ago, the Government approved an application to draw gas in Dunsfold in Surrey, although the council had refused the application twice. Does the Minister agree that this decision by the Government to draw gas from a new gasfield in Surrey flies in the face of the commitment the UK Government made during COP26? ( 900538 )


  • 7 Jun 2022: Oral Answers to Questions

    1. What plans he has to support the development of the renewable energy sector. ( 900382 )


  • 17 May 2022: Tackling Short-term and Long-term Cost of Living Increases


    It was interesting to listen to what the hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) had to say about green community energy funds, but a great deal is missing from this year’s Queen’s Speech. There is nothing about making misogyny a hate crime or tackling violence against women and girls, nothing about making housing more affordable and, once again, the climate emergency was not mentioned even once. Thousands are struggling because of the cost of living crisis. Now is the time for the Government to be bold on the future of energy, where it comes from and what it will cost.

    One of my constituents told me, “I do not heat my home properly, and I stay in bed to keep warm.” I welcome the upcoming energy security Bill, but will it say, in no uncertain terms, that the future must be renewable energy and not fossil fuels? Will it set an end date for the UK to stop all fossil fuel extraction and leave gas and oil in the ground? Where is the windfall tax on the super-profits of oil and gas giants that the Liberal Democrats are calling for? Where is the retrofitting programme to save energy and ease the burden of rising bills? Why are developers still able to build homes that will need expensive retrofitting in a few years’ time because the Government have failed to introduce legislation to build net-zero homes now?

    Unless we see a decisive legislative programme now, households will struggle with the cost of living crisis far into the future. In Bath and North-East Somerset, the average household energy bill has risen to a staggering £1,360, and research suggests that the Government’s short-sighted decision to scrap the zero carbon homes policy has added nearly £400 a year to people’s energy bills. Insulating our homes is not just about getting to net zero; it will protect the British people from volatile energy prices and rising bills. The sooner the Government get on with a meaningful and resourced plan to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, the better.


  • 9 Mar 2022: Large Solar Farms


    Global gas prices are soaring to the point where many more families will struggle to heat their homes. We obviously need to wean ourselves off Russian oil and gas, but we need to wean ourselves off all oil and gas. Now is the time for a green energy revolution. Solar farms are an integral part of the UK’s bid to get to net zero and to reduce our reliance on oil and gas, yet there are many myths around solar. The first is that solar is expensive, but that is not true. Solar is the most affordable energy in history, according to the International Energy Agency, and the most affordable energy source in the UK. It is efficient and reliable.

    Solar projects deliver a range of benefits to their local communities, and I pay tribute to Bath and West Community Energy in my constituency, who have used their community fund to provide grants for other environmental projects in the local area. I urge the Government to review and revise Ofgem’s strategy and policy statement as a matter of urgency. The net zero target must become mandatory. It will unlock the potential investment in urgently-needed grid capacity. One of the largest constraints on solar is grid capacity. Every DNO region in the country is affected. Solar Energy UK has identified at least 45 solar projects, equating to over 40 GW of generation capacity and £1.6 billion in capital investment, that are being blocked by a lack of grid infrastructure. Many of those projects accepted offers to connect this year or next, but are now being told that they will not be able to connect until the end of this decade. That is not acceptable. The problem will get worse before it gets better.

    We have the capacity to be a world leader in renewable energy, with the right political will. Now is the time for our green energy revolution. There should not be blockage but further support from the Government for the solar energy sector.


  • 2 Mar 2022: Oral Answers to Questions

    Reuters reports today that data show that the corporate world remains far from aligned with global climate goals and that some countries have gone backwards since the agreement. What does the President have to say to that?


  • 1 Feb 2022: Oil and Gas Producers: Windfall Tax


    I will focus on how we got here, how our dependence on volatile gas supplies from abroad could be avoided in future and why more has not be done. Two things have shocked me. First, I am shocked by how dependent we still are on gas when we must dramatically change our fossil fuel consumption if we want to stand a fighting chance of reaching net zero in 10 years’ time. Secondly, I am shocked that consumers who have switched to renewable electricity companies will foot the extra bill for gas, although they do not use any gas at all—I made that point in another debate, as the Minister knows.

    The cost of wind power is coming down year on year, and it will soon be a mature market with steady costs. Once a wind farm is built, apart from small overhead and maintenance costs, the electricity cost is almost nothing. That is the beauty of all renewables, and it was the idea behind the contracts for difference introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government when my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. Contracts for difference are best described as fixed-term contracts for the electricity produced over a 20-year period. Once they are out of contract, electricity from these installations should be extremely cheap, which is perfect for consumers.


  • 24 Jan 2022: Levelling Up: Active Travel

    I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He knows of course that travel accounts for nearly a third of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, with the majority coming from petrol and diesel vehicles. In my constituency of Bath the council is working very hard to get to net zero by 2030, and active travel is a key part of that. So in the upcoming planning reforms will the Secretary of State include the 20-minute neighbourhood principle, which ensures that people can access services and goods within a 20-minute return walk?


  • 18 Jan 2022: Gas and Electricity Costs


    The council is working hard to provide a local household support fund, with grants of £250 to help the least well off with their energy costs this winter but, again as we have heard, energy costs are likely to rise by about £600. That grant is something, but it is clearly not what is needed. Many more of my constituents are worried about their next heating bill. What have the Government done to protect them? They have scrapped the programmes to insulate our homes, which would have reduced bills long ago. They have cut universal credit and increased the UK’s dependence on imported gas, rather than investing in renewables: green energy homemade in the UK—something the Minister knows I keep saying in these debates. That is what should have happened a long time ago.


  • 1 Dec 2021: Oral Answers to Questions

    Synthetic aircraft fuels are still in their infancy. Domestically, the Government have a tool, the renewable transport fuel obligation, by which they can mandate the mixing of synthetic fuels with conventional aircraft fuel, thereby starting the process of making synthetic fuels viable. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of any similar mechanisms in other countries, so we can start an international agreement on mixing synthetic fuels with aircraft fuels and driving the route to net zero?


  • 30 Nov 2021: Community Energy Schemes


    I thank the Minister for offering to meet us and have that engagement. I am a little disappointed that he has still not quite understood what we all think: that the current system does not work because it is too centralised, and that the Government must face the brave new world of decentralisation to set free the power of local electricity. As we have heard, community energy schemes currently account for 0.5% of the UK’s electricity supply; 20 times that would bring 10% of the energy market to the table —clean, renewable energy. We have heard today that the most important thing is that we fire on all cylinders, and it is surprising that the Government do not take up that opportunity for that extra 10% of local electricity supply—setting free people and power. I hope that we will receive a more positive reply when we come back to debate this topic, yet again, in this Chamber or the main Chamber.


  • 15 Nov 2021: Skills and Post-16 Education Bill [Lords]


    A key opportunity for further education is to be at the forefront of our efforts to reach net zero. Currently, fewer than 1% of college students are on a course with broad coverage of climate education. Unless we embed climate and environment in our post-16 education curriculum, the Government’s plans for net zero will simply not be possible.


  • 4 Nov 2021: Topical Questions

    Making aviation net zero is clearly a big challenge. Earlier, the Secretary of State said that it is not flying that is the problem, but emissions from aircraft that use fossil fuels. Will he meet me to discuss ideas around synthetic fuels that scientists from the University of Leeds have brought to my attention?


  • 21 Oct 2021: COP26: Limiting Global Temperature Rises


    The climate emergency is a global crisis that we can solve only at a global level. International co-operation and mutual respect, especially with those countries who have been our long-term allies, are key ingredients for a successful COP26. Brexit and the continuing fall-out from it are a huge distraction. I am convinced that Britain could be far more effective in pulling reluctant countries who are not our allies, such as Russia and China, to the table if Europe could speak with one voice on the international stage.

    The Government also have to get their own house in order. The big political difference is not about whether we are on the road to net zero but crucially the speed at which we go along that road. The greatest danger now is climate action delay. We are surrounded by powerful vested interests who want to continue with the extraction and consumption of fossil fuels for as long as possible. As long as the Government are allowing themselves to be dominated by those vested fossil fuel interests, we will miss the crucial targets of net zero. There have been many examples of this. Carbon capture and storage is about keeping the fossil fuel industry going, as is blue hydrogen. Those are examples of how the Government are clearly not acting in the interests of net zero. In all the big announcements prior to COP26, the biggest gap is any announcement about how to put big investment into the renewable energy sector. I agree with the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) on this point. As an island country with lots of wind and water resources, the UK could indeed be a world leader in producing renewables. Are we missing our biggest and best opportunity here?

    Is it any wonder that our young people, especially, are becoming increasingly anxious about the inaction of political leaders? A recent study co-authored by academics from the University of Bath has revealed the extent of climate anxiety among children and young people across 10 countries. My thanks to Caroline Hickman, Liz Marks and Elouise Mayall for sharing their research with me, and I urge the Minister to get a copy of that report. The most worrying aspect of their study is the feeling of betrayal reported by young people. It found that 65% of children and young people in the UK felt that the Government had failed them, 57% felt that the Government had betrayed them and 48% felt that they had had their concerns dismissed when they talked about the climate emergency. We are failing our young people. It is their future and their quality of life that is in question. I urge the Government to use their presidency to set out a vision of hope for the next generation.


  • 20 Oct 2021: Carbon Capture and Storage


    It is in all our interests to stop climate chaos, and we must work together globally and nationally to find and implement adequate solutions. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage—CCUS—is the new big buzzword. As global warming is caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, a logical solution is clearly to capture the damaging gas. However, not all proposals are as sustainable in the long term as they seem. The Government have a clear favourite: to capture the CO 2 that is produced by burning fossil fuels, and to store it back in the Earth’s rock. It would allow Britain to continue extracting fossil fuels, burning them and pumping the carbon dioxide back into the seabed, where it is out of sight. That would be easy and very convenient for the existing fossil fuel industry, but not so fast. At best, it would not add to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The question is: why not put all the much-needed investment into renewable energy, which is really where the future lies?

    I do not disagree that we should be investing in renewable energy, but why should we not do both?

    I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention, because it is always the argument that certain things are too expensive. All sorts of renewable energy production projects, including the use of tidal energy, have been rejected because they are too expensive. There is only so much investment that the Government can make, which we understand. Why not put it into renewable energies, rather than putting it into projects that keep the fossil fuel industry going? The Government should make it clear that the aim has to be to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They should do that now and support the development of renewable alternatives of power. It cannot be business as usual for the fossil fuel industry.

    One of the possibilities is to combine CO 2 and carbon monoxide with green hydrogen and produce a synthetic fuel that could be used in aeroplanes. I have made that point to the aviation Minister, and I hope the Government are listening. The technology has been thought of by a number of universities, among them the University of Leeds. This synthetic fuel behaves in similar ways to traditional aircraft fuel and can even be mixed with it. It would be one solution for aviation to become net zero.

    Any of these new technologies will need to overcome many hurdles and need millions in investment, but they exist and they open up the possibility of a truly circular economy that will be much more future proof. I urge the Government to look beyond short-term fixes to keep the fossil fuel industry going and to look at CCUS for negative or carbon-zero emissions as one of the great opportunities for getting to net zero.


  • 20 Oct 2021: Oral Answers to Questions

    6. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of proposals to put four new oil wells in Surrey on the UK’s (a) credibility and (b) negotiating position as President of COP26. ( 903712 )


    The International Energy Agency has warned that if the world is to reach net zero by 2050, the exploitation and development of new oil and gas fields must stop this year, yet there are currently proposals for multiple new exploratory oil developments across the UK. With just 11 days to go until world leaders gather in Glasgow, how can the COP26 President justify these developments against the Government’s stated aim of keeping global warming to 1.5 °C?


  • 21 Sep 2021: Topical Questions

    May I press the Secretary of State further on blue hydrogen? The source of blue hydrogen is natural gas, which is a fossil fuel, so how can a Government committed to net zero invest millions of pounds in new technologies based on fossil fuels? The Secretary of State has said several times that it is a “transition”, but since this is not a net zero technology, a transition to what?


  • 21 Sep 2021: Decarbonising Aviation


    The Government have legislated for net zero by 2050. That is too slow for Liberal Democrats. It is clear to us that, in order to stop increasing climate chaos, we need to cut most emissions by 2030. There is no ducking some of the challenging choices we need to make. Farming, shipping and heavy industry are sectors where getting to net zero is a challenge and so is aviation.

    If the UK invests in the right technologies, synthetic fuels can be just that; properly carbon zero and sustainable in the long-term. As I understand it, synthetic fuels are no more and no less than hydrogen combined with carbon dioxide. However, to be fully net zero, the hydrogen used has to be green hydrogen. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) has already said: it has to be green, not blue hydrogen because green hydrogen is made from renewables and blue hydrogen is made from natural gas, which is a fossil fuel. That means heavy investment in renewables. Currently, the Government say that green hydrogen is too expensive, but I am still waiting for an answer on whether they have made a proper long-term cost analysis between green and blue hydrogen.

    I would like the Minister to look at these alternatives. I understand that scientists from the University of Leeds have made that proposal and are in conversation with the Government. If not, I am happy to put him in touch and would love to be part of that conversation because, to me, there seems to be at least a possibility of a solution. Now is the time for the aviation industry to begin to change, and for the Government to ask the aviation industry for their plans on how to get to net zero.

    I could not agree more with all hon. Members who have spoken in this afternoon’s debate. The aviation industry has been through some difficult times in the past 18 months—I do not deny that—but it has received a lot of Government support along the way. I believe that the aviation industry can become net zero in time. It will be challenging, but it can be done. We need the political will, the Government’s support, and a Government that set out a clear strategy.


  • 16 Sep 2021: COP26: Devolved Administrations


    Does the hon. Lady agree that it is really rather disappointing that we are yet to see a net zero strategy document from this Government? We have been waiting for a significant amount of time for such a document to set the direction of travel for all Whitehall Departments and the Government themselves in respect of how they might achieve the UK net zero targets, and we are yet to see any sign of one.

    Indeed. The Opposition are waiting urgently for exactly those things because we want to co-operate. We all understand how urgent this issue is and how only co-operation among all nations will get us on the right track. We should not be setting each other up and creating competition among us, with people saying, “We’re the best here” and “We’re the best there”. The whole globe has to come together to tackle this urgent issue that transcends nations. The Government often do not understand that, which is why we are here to urge them to change the pace of their action. The negotiations begin in only 46 days’ time and will determine the choices that we make about the future of our planet. They will determine whether we want to be ambitious enough to limit global temperature rises and avoid the worst impacts of the climate emergency, which will hit the poorest nations the hardest. The fact that it is the poorest nations that will be hit the hardest is not well enough understood.

    At this pivotal moment in the fight against climate change, the Government cannot continue to treat the devolved Administrations as an afterthought. There are so many brilliant examples of where the devolved Administrations and local authorities have got it right on climate. Wales, as we have heard today, is second in Europe and third in the world for household recycling centres. It is also admirable that it introduced the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, which is a progressive and forward-looking piece of legislation. The rest of the UK should follow Wales’s lead, as it is a global leader, and legislate a future generations Bill. I am not lining myself up to become an honorary Member for Wales, but offering credit where credit is due.

    The devolved nations’ knowledge and understanding of their local communities will be vital in providing solutions to the climate and ecological emergency. It is essential that they are included in a meaningful way in the lead-up to COP26. Local governments have been pushing for years now for a multi-level conference of the parties. As the COP26 president, the UK should be leading the way. I urge the Minister to push for stronger multi-level co-ordination, not just at COP26, but beyond.

    There must be a deeper discussion on the localism of climate finance during the relevant negotiations, particularly on funds for loss and damage and adaptation. The devolved Administrations should have a seat at the negotiating table.

    We Liberal Democrats have long believed in empowering local communities. Devolved Administrations must not be pushed to the fringes of these negotiations. Each one of our family of nations deserves to be heard at COP26, the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement. Inclusion in the official party delegation is the only way to ensure that all the voices in our nations are heard.

    There is also a strong desire among local authorities to be much more ambitious than central Government. Many were quick off the mark in declaring a climate emergency. My own local authority of Bath and North East Somerset was one of the first to do so—a month before central Government. Just this week, our council has launched its first ever climate and biodiversity festival. It is showcasing the action taken locally to tackle the climate emergency, but, even more importantly, the festival is about starting the conversation with our residents ahead of COP26.

    May I say one more thing, Madam Deputy Speaker? It is alarming how few people in this country know what COP26 is about. I think the statistic was that about 13% of people in this country actually know what it is about. What have the Government done to engage people in this important discussion about climate change?

    The climate emergency is our shared responsibility. I am so grateful to those in our Bath community who have already got involved, and I urge all Members of Parliament to do something similar in their local areas in order engage local people in the discussions about the urgency of climate change and the very difficult decisions on which we need to agree.

    The Government cannot deliver their climate programme without local authorities such as mine. Climate action begins at local level. The Government must empower local authorities at COP26 and beyond so that they can deliver on green transport, homes, energy, infrastructure and waste management policies that we need to implement if we are to get to net zero.

    Again, it is a shame that our local government has been disempowered by central Government for decades now, and for the last decade in particular. We need to empower local authorities to do the things for local people, because only then will they have the real understanding of how to deliver to make sure that we have the jobs and the infrastructure in place. If central Government continue to disempower local government, we will not be in a good place. Most of all, the Government must recognise that the climate crisis is a real emergency, and that business as usual is not good enough. We need a change of pace from what we have seen so far from this Government and we need it urgently.


  • 9 Sep 2021: Decarbonisation Commitments

    In the past month, my constituents in Bath have been subjected to the pollution of helicopter joyrides flying low over Bath. Clearly, this type of leisure pursuit is hugely damaging to the environment and does nothing to get us to net zero. Currently, neither the Civil Aviation Authority nor Bath and North East Somerset Council has the power to intervene. Will the Minister meet me to find a way forward for my constituents?


  • 7 Sep 2021: Global Britain: Human Rights and Climate Change


    Climate change is inherently a human rights issue. From the right to housing, food, water and sanitation, to the right to development and cultural and political rights, climate change is already damaging the rights of countless people across the world. Human rights must be the principle that underpins our approach to COP26. That means making progress on the issue of loss and damage. Nations have been ravaged by the covid pandemic while facing climate impacts that are causing devastation. Those vulnerable communities deserve new and additional finance to compensate for the irretrievable non-economic loss. It also means reversing the heartless cut to foreign aid, including climate finance projects. It means solidarity with those worst affected by climate change, including the rights of indigenous people. Collectively, indigenous people protect about 80% of the world’s biodiversity. They manage 25% of the Earth’s land surface and a third of the carbon stored in tropical forests. We must listen to their voices, needs and concerns, and ensure that their rights are respected in the decision-making process.

    Under article 6 of the Paris agreement, countries are able to sell their over-achievement of the Paris goals to other countries that have fallen short. That allows countries to maximise emissions reductions without concern for indigenous people’s lands. It has been six years since the Paris agreement. This year, the UK must go further than the Indigenous People’s Pavilion. It is absolutely vital that the UK ensures that at COP26 human rights language is put back into article 6.

    The Government must also get their own house in order on human rights. In the year that the UK hosts COP26, the Government are pushing through a Bill that the charity Liberty describes as one of the worst and

    UK history. The Bill is a thinly veiled reaction to the climate protests that we have seen over the past few years. Grassroots activism has played a critical role in getting the climate emergency on the political agenda. Let us not forget that it was thanks to the right to protest that there was a moratorium on fracking in England.

    The climate emergency has evoked strong feelings, especially among young people. It is their generation that will bear its brunt. It is their generation whose human rights are threatened most unless we significantly reduce emissions. Curtailing their voice and their right to be heard before and during COP26 is simply the wrong thing to do.


  • 22 Jul 2021: COP26 Conference Priorities


    It is 100 days until COP26 begins in Glasgow, and it is more important than ever—it is vital—that the Government get their own house in order. This is the biggest opportunity for real climate action since the great moment of hope that was the 2015 Paris agreement. It is deeply unfortunate that in recent months the Government have consistently chosen lip service over climate action. They have scrapped the green homes grant, which could have significantly reduced emissions from our homes. The planning Bill denies councils the ability to block new developments for environmental reasons. Most significantly, the Government have failed to set any direction on how to heat our homes in the future and how to expand the electricity grid for the doubling or trebling of our electricity need, let alone on tackling emissions from heavy industry, shipping or aviation.

    Those changes and many more serve only to undermine our climate credibility on the international stage. The climate crisis is already damaging health through extreme weather, polluted air, food and water shortages, forced migration and the aggravation of disease. Just this week, the Met Office issued its first extreme heat warning. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, The B MJ and The Lancet all agree that climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century.

    We hold the COP26 presidency. It is our responsibility to push for serious ambition from countries worldwide—not only to influence them to legislate for net zero, but to achieve it as soon as possible. We have had a string of incredibly disappointing COPs in the years since the Paris agreement. Big decisions have been kicked further and further down the road.

    If we want the negotiations to solve our climate crisis, and if we want this forum to be trusted by stakeholders and Governments around the world, the Paris rulebook must be finalised by the end of this COP. The responsibly for that lies with the Government as host. We must not only break the deadlock on article 6 and transparency; the UK must use this opportunity to make progress on the issue of loss and damage, as we have already heard. We have seen nations ravaged by the covid pandemic while also facing climate impacts that are causing devastation. Those vulnerable communities deserve new and additional finance to compensate for the irretrievable non-economic loss caused, as well as the more quantifiable damage caused by natural disasters. I welcome the COP president’s commitment to operationalise the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage by COP26. It is so important that we ensure that that network is more than just a website; it must be a living, breathing network of organisations and countries delivering technical assistance on loss and damage to those who need it.

    COP26 must be a COP of global solidarity. It is time for the Government to put their money where their mouth is. The world is watching to see whether the UK will step up to the plate.


  • 15 Jul 2021: Planning


    However, any review of our planning system should go beyond the delivery of housing alone. Planning authorities play a huge role in creating places for their communities, from connectivity and accessibility to local infrastructure and affordability. The Government should concentrate on such measures, for instance adopting the 20-minute neighbourhood concept or updating guidance to create active neighbourhoods that prioritise walking, cycling and public transport. Domestic heating accounts for about 14% of our emissions—the Minister is not listening—so we must have a proper plan to decarbonise heating. The future homes standard is still not fit for purpose. It is a system for building regulation, not for place making, and it goes nowhere near the challenges of addressing sustainable location and layout. Will the Government commit to binding the Planning Act 2008 and the Climate Change Act 2008 together?


  • 8 Jul 2021: Fuel Poverty


    We must address fuel poverty not only to end this unjustifiable inequality, but because it could be a major step forward in tackling the climate emergency. All too often fuel poverty goes hand in hand with poor housing, especially poor insulation. Energy inefficient homes are not just bad for the environment, but a huge drain on the household bills of low-income families. Behind the reduction in fuel-poor homes in 2018-19 was the increase to an energy efficiency rating to band C or higher, but the Government are relying only on the energy company obligation and the warm home discount. That is simply not enough.

    The clearest example of the Government’s failure is the scrapping of the green homes grant only five months after it was introduced. Only 6% of the budget was spent, and only a fraction of the vouchers were given out. Rather than ending the whole scheme as quickly as it was introduced, the Government should have extended the scheme over 10 years, with the clear aim to end fuel poverty and cut greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the decade. With a long-term commitment, the industry would have been able to scale up to deliver this massive task. Knee-jerk actions and short-termism are not just bad for the environment; they are letting down the 3.2 million households that will continue to live in fuel poverty. I urge the Government to reinstate a new net-zero homes grant, but this time with a long-term commitment to end fuel poverty once and for all.


  • 21 Jun 2021: Planning Decisions: Local Involvement


    Every new home should be built with the climate and ecological emergency in mind. Domestic heating accounts for about 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions. We cannot hope to reach our emissions targets without proper plans to decarbonise heating. Climate action begins at home. Rather than undermining local authorities, the Government should be directing their energy towards building greener, more resilient and more sustainable homes.


  • 13 May 2021: A Brighter Future for the Next Generation


    This Queen’s Speech could have been an opportunity for the Government to show real leadership on the challenges that face not only current generations but the generations to come. Instead, it has been a lost opportunity. This Government are good at making promises, but they are poor on delivery. They scrapped the green homes grant and cut grants available for people to buy electric vehicles. Currently, it is predicted that we will not meet the fourth and fifth carbon budgets and that the UK will fail on 14 out of 20 biodiversity targets. Unquestionably, the Environment Bill, which has been delayed without explanation, must be brought back to Parliament as a matter of urgency, and it needs to be much stronger. The Bill needs to include a strong Office for Environmental Protection that has the powers and the resources needed to hold the Government to account on their climate promises, and legally binding interim targets so that the Government cannot continue to delay.

    The climate and ecological emergency has the potential to be even more devastating than covid-19. In just under 30 years, we need to cut our carbon emissions worldwide to net zero. It may already be too late to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5° C. Given the promise that the Prime Minister made only a few weeks ago to bring forward the 2050 target for curbing emissions by 78% to 2035, why does the Queen’s Speech propose no Bill to reflect that promise? Adopting a Bill specifically designed to cut most emissions by 2035, thereby mitigating the worst effects of climate change in the next decade, would set the UK up as a trailblazer at COP26. It would make the UK the first UN country to have such legislation, but it is not there—a missed opportunity.

    While the Government should not lose focus on our national targets, we need to recognise that climate action begins at local level. Many local authorities, including my council of Bath and North East Somerset, were quick off the mark in declaring a climate emergency. Government must work with local authorities to ensure that net zero development frameworks are included in the net zero strategy, and that should be enshrined in law. We should empower local authorities so that they can deliver green transport, homes, energy, infrastructure and waste management. Local authorities are best placed to understand the needs of their community, and they will be critical in delivering effective, coherent change on the ground.

    Climate change is not tomorrow’s problem, but consecutive Governments have failed to take meaningful action because its worst impacts stretch beyond the average election cycle. Issues that will have widespread consequences are too often neglected and matters that seem more immediate and are easier to see are favoured.

    If the Government were serious about a brighter future for the next generation, they would support a wellbeing of future generations Bill. From climate change to nuclear proliferation, from risks from future technologies to future pandemics, we need to foresee and plan for growing risks so that we are properly equipped to tackle them. That would ensure that future Governments publish a long-term vision for a better UK, as well as a national risk assessment looking forward over the next 25 years, after every general election. An Act dedicated to safe- guarding the wellbeing of future generations would set a gold standard for ensuring that preventive safeguards are in place before it is too late. After all, the experience of the covid pandemic has taught us that crisis prevention is even more important than crisis management.


  • 26 Apr 2021: Rights to Protest


    The measure before us is a thinly veiled reaction to the climate protests that we have seen over the past few years, not just around Parliament, but in towns and cities across the country. The climate emergency has evoked strong feelings, especially among young people. Curtailing their voices would be absolutely the wrong thing to do, as it is the next generation especially who will bear the brunt of a climate catastrophe if the Government fail to act now. Every generation has to fight again for its freedoms, and each generation faces different challenges, but a diversity of voices from all sections of our society makes our democracy stronger. Those voices should never be silenced or suppressed.


  • 22 Apr 2021: Neonicotinoid Alternatives

    One hundred and fifty-seven of my Bath constituents have written to me since January to raise this issue. We must remember that we are in not only a climate emergency, but a nature emergency. Given that the Government made an explicit pledge to keep pesticide restrictions in place after Brexit, will the Minister commit to giving the Office for Environmental Protection the powers and resources to hold public authorities to account on environmental standards?


  • 13 Apr 2021: Global Human Security


    It is a pleasure to serve under you in the Chair, Sir Christopher. First, I thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting me this debate. The extraordinary experience of the pandemic that we have just lived through has shown us, if anything, that we need an honest discussion about the threats that put all our lives at risk. For years, we have thought that security is about the risks to our nation from hostile actors. It is, of course, important that we are properly aware of and knowledgeable about those risks and equipped to tackle them, but as long as we continue to define security in those narrow terms, we risk neglecting our duty to our constituents to keep them safe now and for generations to come. The world around us is changing, and we must scrutinise our core conventional security assumptions. Ranging from emerging artificial intelligence, cyberwar and organised crime to pandemics and the climate emergency, threats to our security are becoming more complex and more diverse.

    By now, we have had plenty of warnings of the climate and ecological emergency, which has the potential to be even more devastating than covid-19. It is nearly 50 years since the UN’s first major conference on international environment issues in 1972, yet successive Governments have failed to take the climate emergency seriously. In just under 30 years we need to cut all our carbon emissions worldwide to net zero. Although we have known about the threats for decades we have failed to act decisively for far too long. Rises in temperature are now accelerating at a faster rate than most scientists anticipated. It might already be too late to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5° C.

    We are not just in the middle of a climate crisis. Nature is in crisis too. Our way of life, especially in developed nations, is exploiting our global resources in a way that is becoming increasingly unsustainable for our planet. As nature declines, so does the quality of human life. Pollution and poor air quality alone cost millions of lives every year across the globe. We in the UK are not excluded. Those things all beg the question whether the way we currently look at security policy limits the extent to which Government can keep us safe.

    Threats to human security such as climate change are predictable and are incrementally destructive, but consecutive Governments have failed to do anything meaningful about them because the worst impacts of climate change stretch well beyond average election cycles. Short-termism leads to long-run costs for short-run savings. Issues of widespread consequences are neglected in the agenda in favour of matters that seem to be more immediate and easier to manage before the next election comes along. That is why the UK should lead the way by looking beyond short-term political cycles and should introduce a wellbeing for future generations Bill. That would reset our approach to the way we plan for long-term crises.

    As the vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for future generations, I am a champion of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (No. 2) Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). It has the support of more than 100 organisations. That Bill would enshrine in legislation a long-term approach to security so that we could foresee and plan for growing risks, including nuclear proliferation, climate change, and risks from future technologies such as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. It would ensure that Governments would publish a long-term vision for a better UK and put together a national risk assessment, looking forward to the next 25 years after each general election.

    Many countries have already started to address damaging short-termism. Examples are the Finnish Committee for the Future and the Singapore Centre for Strategic Futures. Closer to home is the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. However, there is no such body in Westminster. Adopting a Bill designed specifically to mitigate the worst effects of climate change would set the UK up as a trailblazer at COP26—the first UN country with such legislation. An Act dedicated to safeguarding the wellbeing of future generations would set a gold standard for having preventive safeguards in place before it is too late.



    Many Members have made good and important points today. I am grateful for all the points that have been raised. I hope that this debate is not the last that we have, but the beginning of a discussion about how we view national and international security in the round. This is about tackling the climate emergency, the threat of global pandemics, upholding international human rights, global inequalities, and how we help poorer countries and do not exploit them.


  • 15 Mar 2021: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill


    All that important debate is undermined by the part of the Bill on the policing of protests, which is an assault on our civil liberties and our democracy. The Government say they want to clamp down on the most destructive protests, but let us be clear that they aim quite literally to silence protest. The measure is a thinly veiled reaction to the climate protests that have taken place over the past couple of years around Parliament and in cities and towns across the country. The climate emergency has evoked strong feelings, particularly among young people, and it would be quite wrong to curtail their voices.


  • 10 Mar 2021: COP26


    It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). He is absolutely right: negative emission technologies have not been developed yet, and yet they are vital for us to get to net zero.

    Hosting COP26 in the UK, especially as it marks the beginning of the implementation of the Paris agreement, is a great honour. We are asked significantly to increase our ambition and achieve what we promised in 2016—let us remember that we now have to get to net zero, not just to 80% of emissions.

    The UK has a historic responsibility for causing the ecological and climate emergency. We must now use our power on the international stage to get to net zero, address the nature crisis, and lead by example globally. We must push for the strongest possible ambition from our international partners, but we cannot do that if our own credibility is undermined. Therefore, we need clear and ambitious domestic targets for which the Government can be held responsible immediately. Getting to net zero in 29 years’ time means little if we cannot hold the Government to account in the meantime. We are, as we have already heard, way off when it comes to hitting our own targets, so is the rest of the international community. We must do better.

    COP26, as we have already heard, is not all about us. Island nations risk losing entire cultures to sea-level rises. New species risk going extinct every day that we allow illegal deforestations to continue. Every day that we delay action, we get closer to new tipping points in our national ecosystem. We must make sure that the money we put into COP26 includes adequate support for the global south, so that it has the same access and can participate as usual despite the pandemic. The UK Government must commit to offering visas to delegates and accredited civil society from the global south. Every year, hard-working, dedicated activists are turned away from contributing to international climate policy. Furthermore, let us ensure that people from across the UK, from across all backgrounds and from across all ages are involved in the preparation of this conference. COP26 is a vital historic moment for international climate action; let us not waste it.


  • 10 Dec 2020: The Future of the High Street


    I spent Small Business Saturday celebrating small businesses in Bath, but this is a very challenging time for our high streets. Many landlords are trying their best. British Land, which owns the SouthGate shopping centre in Bath, has deferred £40 million of rent and cancelled £3 million in rent owed by its smaller retailers and restauranteurs, but the council, which is also a major landlord, cannot do the same. The money that it receives from rents helps to pay for social care, bin collections and investing to make Bath a net zero city.


  • 4 Nov 2020: Further Education Funding


    There is no better time to talk about the importance of properly funding further education. The pandemic brings with it a great deal of financial uncertainty for many people across the UK. It is more critical than ever that we invest in helping workers to retrain and reskill. Our workforce and our economy must be ready to adapt to a post-covid world. Also, in the context of the climate emergency, we keep talking about how important it is to prepare for the jobs of the future in order to get to net zero. I have spoken before about the excellent work of Bath College. In my constituency, our local universities, businesses and the council are working on exciting ways to address the pandemic’s economic impact on our city.


  • 29 Sep 2020: United Kingdom Internal Market Bill


    It is through international co-operation that we can address the challenges facing our global community, from climate change to human rights to security. The UK has always stood up for international law on the world stage. It is the very foundation on which we deal with other countries. The Prime Minister said it was a “fantastic moment” when he signed the withdrawal agreement, but less than a year later this Government are proposing a Bill that would enable Ministers to go away from the UK’s obligation under that treaty. What does that say about our credibility as a trading partner?


  • 7 Jul 2020: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Departmental Spending


    The climate emergency is real and, as the word “emergency” suggests, it needs urgent action now. I want to thank the Minister for his time yesterday, and I will continue to engage with him; some of what I am going to say now he heard yesterday. I continue to worry that although the Government do something to address the need to lower our carbon emissions, they fall short of addressing the urgent need to get to net zero in the next few decades. The Government need to publish a comprehensive and coherent plan of how to get to net zero, not just to low carbon emissions, across all sectors of our economy—transport, heating, energy, agriculture, construction and so on. All this has to be done simultaneously. It is well understood that this is a very complex task, but any Government who took a climate emergency seriously would have such a plan, not just announce piecemeal measures.

    One of the biggest set of carbon emissions comes from heating our homes and buildings. The Government need to set out what they believe the future of heating our public and private buildings will look like, and how the transition to net zero is going to be achieved. If the Government are serious about hydrogen, significant pilot schemes need to be rolled out soon, not only to guarantee their safety but to indicate to investors and businesses what the future direction looks like. I urge the Government to fast-track green hydrogen production, so that we do not end up with hydrogen coming predominantly from natural gas and we do not still pump fossil fuels out of the ground in 30 years’ time. The production of green hydrogen requires a large scaling-up of renewable energy production, so thinking about one sector branches out into another. District heating could play an important part in heating our homes, but rather than going forward with its roll-out, since 2018 we have gone backwards. The energy company obligation scheme is going to be continued into 2022, but I urge the Minister to look into widening it to include the most vulnerable people.

    If private vehicles will be largely powered by electricity, we need a large increase in grid capacity. People will find it a lot easier to switch to electric vehicles if they can be confident that they can quickly and easily charge their cars. However, I hear from car makers across the board that the Government have not committed themselves yet to the large infrastructure changes needed to allow them to be confident about the quick and large-scale take-up of electric vehicles. Taking steps in the right direction is not good enough; we need a coherent plan and big leaps to get to net zero.


  • 12 May 2020: Covid-19


    For decades we have been overdependent on cars, and that must change. I have also spoken before about the need to tackle emissions from surface transport. We have been having these discussions in my city of Bath, which has suffered from severe air pollution, for many months now. As we slowly emerge from lockdown, we need to look at ways to avoid a dramatic resurgence in car use, particularly as many people may be nervous about using public transport. Other countries are already looking at ways to rebalance the priority given to cars over cyclists and pedestrians in urban areas, through segregated cycle lanes, speed reduction zones or new and widened pavements. I welcome the Transport Secretary’s new guidance to local authorities. Early action will be crucial, in order to embed changes in behaviour. This is a great moment for change, and we must ensure that our economic recovery is focused on the need to get to net zero.


  • 17 Mar 2020: Income tax (charge)


    Turning to the Budget response to the climate emergency, the Budget should have been an opportunity for Government to match their rhetoric on tackling the climate emergency with real action—now, more than ever, as Parliament voted to commit to a net zero target and as the UK is hosting COP26 later this year. The UK should show leadership on tackling the climate emergency, but the Budget falls short in many ways. While there were encouraging announcements on electric vehicles and charging points, they were negated by the Government’s continued support for road building and petrol and diesel vehicles. The fuel duty freeze in the past 10 years has not resulted in an increase in people taking public transport but in an increase in cars on the road and fewer people using public transport. That should not be the direction pursued by a Government who are genuinely committed to taking all petrol and diesel vehicles off the road in 12 years’ time.

    Where are the plans for the complete electrification of rail travel? The electrification of the line to Bath has been halted. When will it be completed? Most worryingly, there was no mention of any Government plan to tackle the UK’s greatest source of carbon emissions—our homes. The challenge is twofold: first, to ensure that any home that is a new build is fit for a net zero future and, secondly, to upgrade our current housing stock to make it energy-efficient.

    There is no real ambition on that—the Government have only committed to require the future homes standard from 2025. They should legislate now, so that the thousands of new homes that will be built over the next five years will be net zero straightaway. The greater challenge is to retrofit the current housing stock so that it is energy efficient. That will be challenging and expensive, but is crucial, both in reducing the emissions from our houses and for alleviating fuel poverty. It is therefore frustrating that there was no mention of any action on that in the Budget. It is not enough simply to hope that people will upgrade their home’s energy efficiency. People living in homes with the worst energy efficiency ratings are often the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

    The Government, who cancelled the Liberal Democrat green new deal scheme without a replacement, need to take the climate emergency seriously, and replace words with action. That means ensuring that we have just measures so that the burden of the net zero transition does not fall on those who can least afford it. The Chancellor should use the Government’s new-found affection for spending to provide support for upgrading all houses and building to energy efficiency grade C or higher. Rather than building roads, we should invest a lot more in public transport.

    The coronavirus crisis is uppermost in our minds, but it has not simply replaced the climate crisis, which continues to be the most pressing issue of our generation. Not responding adequately will result in catastrophic cost to human life. The Government must step up.


  • 4 Mar 2020: VAT (Listed Properties)


    I congratulate the hon. Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay) on securing this debate, which is very relevant to my constituency. I have already had many discussions with relevant bodies, in particular the UNESCO world heritage site body, on the need to get to net zero. I am especially worried about listed buildings in the context of the climate emergency.

    That situation is not a coincidence. I am proud that Bath has been a pioneer in protecting buildings of interest since the 1880s. Listed buildings and how to maintain our built heritage is very much a Bath issue. As the buildings age, the challenges of preserving them have grown. In addition, we now face the challenge of the climate emergency, so the urgency of upgrading listed buildings has only grown.

    The housing stock in this country is our largest producer of carbon emissions and millions of homes will need to be made much more energy-efficient over the coming decades if we are to have any chance of achieving net zero. That poses a significant enough task for most homeowners but, for those who own the 2% of total housing stock that is listed, the challenge is greater and more expensive, as we have heard. This debate has to be about not the swimming pool, which might add value to a property, but the maintenance of heritage and tackling the climate emergency.

    Listed buildings are likely to be older and therefore less insulated, and to have less efficient heating systems than other properties. Coincidentally, though, older properties keep cooler, so if we look at the climate emergency and overheating, sometimes the listed building might provide an answer. Previous generations knew well how to keep cool. I have the privilege of sometimes being invited into beautiful properties in Bath, and have talked about the shutters that still exist in some of the older buildings. Previous generations knew how to use shutters effectively. It is important to work with people who own listed buildings and are interested in the history of how we used to live, and for people to put their mind to understanding the history and often the benefits of what previous generations knew about healthy living.

    If the Government are to take their net zero obligations seriously, financial support and incentives are vital to reduce carbon emissions from listed buildings. The simplest way, and a necessary first step, for the Government to ease this financial burden is for VAT relief to be extended from simply covering alterations to applying to all renovations and improvements in listed properties, especially where aimed at reducing carbon emissions and getting to net zero.

    Extending VAT relief would help the thousands of private owners of listed buildings in Bath and beyond to preserve important historical properties and to tackle the climate emergency. I do not want to argue with the hon. Member for South Thanet about whether it was worth leaving the European Union so that the 2%, the listed building owners, can get VAT relief, but it would be somewhat perverse—or hypocritical—of the Government not to use their freedom to look at VAT relief on listed properties in this country. Britain attracts thousands—millions—of tourists every year because of its wonderful built heritage. We need to ensure that we preserve it and, at the same time, to take our climate change and net zero obligations seriously.


  • 26 Feb 2020: Environment Bill


    Although the Government have claimed that Brexit will mean enhanced environmental standards for the UK, the Bill does not really deliver much on those promises. We are facing a climate emergency, a fact that the Government acknowledge but are less willing to act on. We need to tackle the climate emergency immediately, with legally binding targets included in the Bill.

    I am pleased to see that the Office for Environmental Protection has had climate changed added to its remit, but the OEP needs independence and teeth to hold the Government to account. Unless and until it can independently impose hefty fines, the OEP cannot match the EU as an enforcer of environmental regulation.

    We would also know whether we were sending our waste to waste incineration facilities. Although people talk about energy from waste, I remind the House that it is not a net zero solution. Incinerating plastic is no better than burning fossil fuels. If we are looking for a net zero solution for this country, incineration of waste is not it. We need to look at that urgently. My amendment would make sure that those who diligently recycled could be confident that their waste was recycled and not shipped abroad or burned in incinerators. Incinerators need a certain calorific value in order to burn. For example, burning wet food waste is best done by adding plastics. It is perfectly possible that waste companies are burning recycled plastic waste from local authorities.

    It is crucial to understand that energy from waste plants is not a net zero solution. Burning plastics, as I have just said, is no better than burning fossil fuels. Plastic should be recycled where possible, and energy from waste facilities create a counter-incentive to recycling. A small change in the law to require waste to be traced to its end destination will make the system more transparent and waste authorities more accountable. In this way, everyone will know where their waste is going when they put it in the recycling bin. We owe it to our residents to give them that transparency.

    Although this Bill brings forward some important changes to waste and recycling, there is still not enough focus on waste prevention and how the waste industry will contribute to a net zero Britain.


  • 11 Feb 2020: Waste Incineration Facilities


    For too long, waste incineration has been labelled as energy from waste and seen as part of the circular economy and a green way of disposing of our municipal waste. Councils have been struggling with their budgets, and they look into anything that saves money. Bath and North East Somerset Council has just agreed a big contract for a waste incinerator. I have raised concerns about that, and I am still arguing with the council about whether it is actually a green solution. We have been looking at ways of diverting waste from landfill because it creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but burning waste creates very high carbon emissions, too. That must get into the public domain so that people who make decisions know what they are doing.

    I recognise that 10 years ago, energy from waste seemed like a way to get to a low-carbon economy. When our target was to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, it was an option, but everything has changed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. We now know that we have to get to net zero by 2050. The last 20% of emissions are crucial, and they are very difficult to get out of the atmosphere. For that reason, low-carbon solutions are no longer an option. We have no time to invest in low-carbon technologies; we need to put all our efforts into net zero solutions. I believe that incentives and disincentives are the way forward. I also support the idea of an incineration tax. The landfill tax has made a massive difference in diverting waste from landfill; an incineration tax would ensure that we do not just divert all our waste to incinerators.


  • 4 Feb 2020: Net Zero Targets and Decarbonising Transport


    Absolutely; the Lib Dem Bath and North East Somerset Council is looking at how to provide local leadership, but we also need leadership from central Government to ensure that councils can fulfil their net zero ambitions. I urge the Government to look at proposals from Cycling England about safe cycle routes, because safety is one of the main reasons that young people do not cycle. If they have not grown up cycling, as adults, they do not cycle. We need a big shift to create safe cycling routes.


  • 4 Feb 2020: Climate Justice


    The climate crisis will affect us all, but not everybody will be affected equally. If we allow it to get worse, it will create huge global inequalities on a scale that we have never seen. Some parts of our planet will be much worse hit than others, which will create extreme poverty, hardship, displacement and possibly even war. Those who are worse hit will be those already living in poverty and struggling against extreme weather conditions.

    As a Liberal, I care deeply about people from every part of the world. People in China, Argentina, Nigeria and Iran are our neighbours, which is why I try to call out human rights abuses wherever I witness them. The point has already been clearly made that climate justice and the fight for human rights are directly linked. I feel called upon to avert the climate emergency, because it is about justice across the world and, ultimately, the human rights of people who live in areas of the world that will be much worse affected than here.

    At our last conference, the Liberal Democrats agreed a credible plan for how the country could cut most of its emissions by 2030 and get to net zero by 2045. Our approach is evidence-based and pro-innovation. We need to put British innovators at the forefront of the fight against climate change. I agree with many hon. Members who have said that we do not need to be doom and gloom, but we do need a plan to effect change. The most important question for this debate is how we do that fairly in this country.

    I completely agree, but unfortunately, the path to building net zero homes was stopped under the last Government. As a new Member, the hon. Lady is probably best placed to encourage the Government to make sure that we build carbon zero homes. In fact, our target is for them to be carbon zero by 2021 and at Passivhaus standard by 2025, because that is where we ultimately need to get to. That cannot be the reserve of only those who can afford it, however, so how do we build a sustainable housing programme for social and affordable homes, not just the private sector?

    Fairness means that the energy efficiency of social housing and rented property cannot be an optional extra but must be a requirement for anyone wishing to be a landlord, so that it is part of letting a property for social housing providers and private landlords. A fair transition is the only way to fight the climate emergency while protecting the ideals of climate justice. A fair transition also ensures that people buy into the more radical choices involved in climate action. The climate emergency will affect us all, but it will affect some of us more than others. The longer the Government wait to implement meaningful climate action, the more people will suffer. We are running out of time to smoothly switch to a net zero Britain without compromising our health, happiness and freedoms.

    At the core of the Liberal Democrat plan to get to net zero is a just transition commission to understand where the biggest economic impacts of changing to a net zero society will be, and to create future jobs before the job losses in fossil fuel industries are incurred. We need to set up citizens’ assemblies to involve all parts of the public in the discussion, so that we formulate together the aims and ambitions for getting to net zero fairly. Most of all, the Government have to set out a credible coherent plan to set the direction for how the UK will get to net zero.

    As the country that led the industrial revolution, we have been one of the biggest polluters over time. We as a country have a moral duty to provide global leadership to tackle the climate emergency here and across the world without delay.


  • 15 Jan 2020: A Green Industrial Revolution


    It is just weeks since the general election, during which all Opposition parties proposed detailed plans for tackling the climate emergency and getting us to net zero emissions as soon as possible, and I have been encouraged by how the scientific consensus and the political consensus have matched. We have known for over a year that we need to keep global temperature rises to below 1.5° C and that our old target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions must change to net zero by 2050 at the latest.

    The Opposition parties offer similar commitments to climate action, and we share similar thinking on the science and technology. We share similar aspirations for a just transition and for ambitious targets, but where is the Government’s plan? Climate action is notable by its absence from the Government’s plan for this new Parliament, and I have a term for that: climate action delay. The climate emergency is real, and we need urgent action now. Climate action delay is no better than climate change denial, because if we delay now, we will fail to keep temperatures below the threshold of 1.5° C necessary to avoid global climate chaos.

    What does climate action mean in practice for transport, for energy and for our homes? In transport, net zero means that cars, lorries and buses need to be powered without using fossil fuels. For us that means no sales of new petrol or diesel cars from 2030; for the Government the target is 2040, which is too late. Is there a scientific reason for a 10-year difference? No. It is climate action delayed.

    The next sector is electricity. In net-zero Britain, electricity must come from renewables and green hydrogen. For us that means massive new investment in renewable energy such as offshore and onshore wind, solar and marine power, starting now. No one should be in any doubt that this is a big challenge. Electricity usage will go up enormously as we transition from natural gas for heating and petrol and diesel for vehicles.

    Our target is to generate 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030. Net zero means completely transitioning out of fossil fuels in this sector. What would the Government do if they were serious about a net-zero Britain? They would support a fast and extensive roll-out of renewable installations, including onshore wind and marine power. They would demonstrate that there will be no fossil fuel extraction in the UK, and they would put a clear stop to fracking now. They would reduce and remove all fossil fuel subsidies.

    The third sector is the energy efficiency of our homes. To get to net zero, we need to stop heating our homes with natural gas and oil. We will succeed in that transition only if we have an ambitious programme of insulating our homes to the highest energy efficiency standard feasible.

    We know what needs to be done, and the technology is there. We can build new homes to high sustainability standards. What is this Government’s plan? Little or nothing. They are consulting on or suggesting making some changes five years from now. Once again, that is climate action delayed. We cannot afford delay any longer. We need a clear and decisive plan for how to adjust and change almost every sector to deliver net zero, starting now.


  • 13 Jan 2020: New Homes

    The climate emergency is real and we need to tackle it. Building new homes to a net zero standard must be at the heart of the solution. What action are this new Government going to take?


  • 20 Dec 2019: European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill


    I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will vote against the withdrawal agreement, because we believe that it is damaging to our economy, our security, our international reputation and our ability to tackle the global climate emergency, and that it will put a border in the Irish sea and threaten our family of nations. Most of all, we will lose something profoundly British: being international, and leading in the continuous fight for liberal values, human rights and a rules-based international order. We Liberal Democrats will always fight for that.


  • 28 Oct 2019: Environment Bill


    Environmental degradation is at an all-time high and we need to be bold to safeguard our natural world for our children and our children’s children. It is important to enshrine standards in law, especially if the EU legislation becomes no longer relevant. But the targets that this Bill sets out are deeply inadequate: 2037 is the first year that the Government would be required to meet their targets, which will not even be set until 2022. We are living through a climate emergency and we need climate action now, not in 18 years’ time.

    The year 2037 is far too late to start holding the Government to account. We need to undertake a 10-year emergency emissions reduction programme, seeking to cut emissions as much as possible by 2030. The Liberal Democrats have a credible plan to cut most emissions by 2030 and get to net zero by 2045. Targets are meaningless on their own. We must ensure that local authorities, under the new Office for Environmental Protection, are empowered to hold the Government to account. If they are not, we risk this fundamentally important legislation being reduced to a Christmas wish list.

    One of the key features of the legislation is the new Office for Environmental Protection, which seeks to replace the current protections we enjoy under EU bodies. This proposed organisation, however, has extremely limited independence, relying on central Government for funding, appointments and target setting. In addition, it lacks the power to fine Governments. It is a toothless version of our current provisions, which come from the EU and can hold the Government to account through hefty fines. This is exactly what happened with the air pollution problems. Only when ClientEarth came along and actually threatened to fine the Government did the Government finally act. This Government’s fixation on leaving the EU will cause untold damage. We are facing a true climate emergency and our environment is in the firing line. Now is not the time to abandon international co-operation.

    We can all talk about wanting to do something about the environment and say, “Yes, there’s a climate emergency”, but it is ambition that matters and this piece of legislation definitely lacks ambition.


  • 17 Oct 2019: The Climate Emergency


    The climate emergency is real, and we must act now to get to net zero as soon as possible. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning of huge dangers to the planet, while our own Committee on Climate Change is reminding the Government that they are not even reaching their old target, while our young people are worrying about their future, and while climate protesters have been on our streets for the past two weeks, what is the Government’s response to the crisis? Nothing. There was no mention in the Queen’s Speech of how to get to net zero—not a line.

    Unless we have a clear, decisive plan to decarbonise our energy, our heating, our travel, our food production and all our industries—including decarbonising capitalism—the planet will warm up to unsustainable levels. We will create huge global inequalities, displacement and possibly wars. We cannot just do business as usual. We need to act locally, nationally and internationally, and we need to act now.

    But the Government have no plan. The energy White Paper was promised for more than a year, but it has now been dropped altogether—there was no mention of it in the Queen’s Speech. There was only a warm-up of the Environment Bill, which lacks ambition, urgency and, most of all, measures to create a proper regulator to ensure that our environment is properly protected. What an utter failure from this Tory Government, and what a wake-up call to all climate change campaigners not to rely on this Tory Government for climate action.

    In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have a proper, ambitious and realistic plan to cut most of our carbon emissions by 2030 and get to net zero by 2045. The power of the future is electricity from renewable energy, from which we can make hydrogen and other net-zero fuels. There will be no place for fossil fuels in our energy future. The Liberal Democrats would ban fracking now. Our target is to make 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030. By 2030, we cannot be heating our homes with natural gas. Providing warm homes for all at a price that everybody can afford will be a big challenge. The priority for our Liberal Democrat Government will be to make all homes highly energy-efficient and to put an end to fuel poverty.

    We will create a just transition commission to advise on how to deliver a net-zero economy that works for everyone, and just transition funds to support development in the regions and communities most affected by the transition. Surface transport is still the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and volume has hardly fallen since 1990. Electricity is likely to be the power for cars, with hydrogen for heavier vehicles. There will be no sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. We must ensure that the electric grid can deliver the additional power needed.

    There are other sectors in which we do not yet have the solutions to get to net zero, such as by taking fossil fuels out of some industrial processes, aviation and agriculture. Where we cannot avoid carbon emissions completely, negative emissions technologies need to be in place. Nature has its own way to absorb emissions. We must re-wild our environment, and most of all we must plant millions of new trees. Our plan is to plant 60 million every year, which would be the biggest replanting project ever.

    The Liberal Democrats are ready to face the climate emergency. We understand that getting to net zero is a challenge, but with the right political will and with a plan, we can tackle the climate crisis. We need climate action now. I ask the Government to publish their plan for getting to net zero as soon as possible.


  • 7 Oct 2019: Amazon Deforestation


    We are having a good discussion. I am happy to acknowledge what a pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), and his enthusiasm, which I share, that if we put our mind to it, there are solutions to the climate crisis and we must not be gloomy. We hear increasingly about people who get really depressed about the future, especially young people. That, on top of the challenge that we have, will be devastating if we allow it to continue. The hon. Member for Winchester (Steve Brine) is leaving the Chamber, but it was a particular pleasure to listen to what he was saying.

    Like the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), I became a member of Greenpeace—more than 30 years ago, in Germany. This is not a new thing. We knew about it, yet what have we done about it? If anything, we will have to justify to future generations the fact that we knew about this. The chair of the Committee on Climate Change said that we have a “moral duty”, because we know what to do about it, so let us do it.

    Deforestation in the Amazon is a global crisis. The Amazon is the largest carbon dioxide sink in the world; it captures and stores a huge amount of CO 2 , doing the heavy lifting for all of us in the fight to stop the looming climate crisis. During the summer, reports emerged about the huge expansion of Amazon rainforest fires. Although wildfires are seasonal and play a role in regenerating wildlife, the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest were much larger than usual. If the Brazilian Government continue to ignore the extent of the damage, those fires will pose a serious threat to the Amazon biome.

    I understand the argument that it is a bit rich for us to pontificate if we have, in the past, also deforested and if our economies ultimately profit from what is happening elsewhere in the world. However, responsible Governments see that there has to be something like a carrot and a stick, and I think we need to apply a bit of a stick, not just a carrot. We need global co-operation if we are to have any chance of keeping the rise in global temperatures below 1.5° C. If we continue on this trajectory, global temperatures are currently predicted to rise by about 3° C. That is just not acceptable, and we cannot be complacent. If we fail, we will face an irreversible climate crisis, which evidence suggests will destroy ecosystems, cause the extinction of thousands of species and displace much of the world’s population.

    This is one of the wider political problems. The climate crisis and catastrophe will affect the world disproportionately. Some countries, particularly in the northern hemisphere, will be okay—Britain will probably be one of them—but what about Africa and the southern hemisphere? If we think globally, and if we believe that we cannot just let other countries sink into the ocean or have intolerable temperatures so that they cannot sustain human life, our response has to be urgent. It is our global moral responsibility to act, and so far I do not think that the Government have really woken up to this emergency.

    The only way we can stop this is by everyone, on every level, doing their bit, from individuals to international bodies that represent groups of nations. Brazilian President Bolsonaro, it seems, has so far shown no interest in averting the climate catastrophe or in putting forward some climate action. I will be very political here: he is a populist leader who uses environmental chaos, social instability and economic disruption for his own political gain. He has no regard for the long-term implications of rainforest destruction. It would be naive to think that Bolsonaro turns a blind eye only for short-term financial success. Burning down the rainforests and literally fuelling the climate crisis is consistent with his disruptive political agenda. It matters that we stand up to these populist leaders who seek to divide people, not only for the people of this world but for the planet.

    I fully agree with the petition, signed by 122,578 people across the UK. We cannot afford to sit on the fence and let other countries do the work. If the Government are serious about reaching net zero and about preserving our environment for future generations, we must do more now. Liberal Democrat MEPs have been playing a central role within the EU in challenging Mr Bolsonaro’s policy and in working with other EU partners to figure out how to challenge his destructive agenda. I take the point of the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) that it is no good only to impose sanctions. However, the European Union, which is usually very good on international co-operation, has proposed this path, and I believe that the British Government should fall in line and do the same and really put some stick into their actions towards the Brazilian Government.

    International pressure is the way to build incentives for Brazil to protect its rainforest and step up in the fight against the climate crisis. This is where our membership of the EU is central, allowing us to lead the fight against populism and climate destruction. By promising to leave the EU on 31 October, the Government are recklessly putting the UK out into the cold, where our power and influence will be much diminished. The fight to reach net zero and save our planet for future generations will be the biggest challenge we have ever faced. We owe it to future generations to act and do something now.

    We cannot get there without global action, and we must respond with one voice when a leader like Bolsonaro fails to take the climate crisis seriously. I hope that the Minister will take on board what has been said so far this afternoon.


  • 10 Jul 2019: Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development


    I really hope that this is a new beginning, that we are all going to work together, and that we understand that some difficult decisions need to be made. We will probably have party political ding-dongs about that, because there are so many different ways of achieving what we need to achieve. We all know that we need to get to net zero by 2050, but how we get there is obviously the big question.

    The climate crisis is the most pressing challenge of our time. We are already seeing its disastrous effects across the globe. The UK has a moral responsibility to take the lead in tackling the crisis. First, as a pioneer of the industrial revolution, we have been among the greatest producers of historical emissions, so I do not take the point that we are responsible for only 1% of global emissions. We have a much greater responsibility than for just 1% of current global emissions. We need to take our share of responsibility for the emissions that we have produced over many decades, and even over centuries. Secondly, we are a rich country. We have the means to decarbonise more quickly than poorer countries.

    The hon. Lady has made a very important point. One of the challenges that we will have to meet as a world is how we bring billions upon billions of people out of poverty in a way that does not damage the environment. If we are not careful, we will be seen as saying, “We’re okay,” and as pulling the ladder up after us with our comfortable standard of living. It is a real challenge for us to tackle climate change both here and across the globe in a way that is fair and equitable to those people who are currently living in poverty.

    Thirdly, as Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said this morning, when we know, we have a responsibility to act. We know now how to get to net zero, so we have a responsibility to do it. This is a very important point. It is not that we do not know how to go about it; we do know what to do, and therefore we have a moral responsibility to do it, and do it quickly.

    I welcome the fact that this House and the Government have now said in legal terms that we should get to net zero by 2050, but I wonder whether that is only a desperate effort to build a legacy for the current Prime Minister. The hypocrisy of it is striking, given that her Government have relentlessly undermined the climate progress achieved by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government. Distant targets such as 2050 are meaningless unless backed up by concrete short-term action. The Committee on Climate Change has reported that of its 25 headline policy actions for the past year, this Government have only fully delivered on one—one out of 25.

    Complacency— [Interruption.] Complacency, which I am hearing from the Government Benches, is not in order. The Liberal Democrats are committed to achieving a net zero target by 2045, but we recognise that that will be achieved only if vital steps are taken immediately. For example, we need to ban fracking now. It is unacceptable that the Government support the development of new fossil fuels when all our efforts should go into developing renewables as sources of power. The Government blocked the Swansea tidal lagoon, even though it would have allowed us to become world leaders in tidal power. They privatised the green investment bank and stopped the growing solar power industry in its tracks. They have all but banned onshore wind, although that is now the cheapest form of renewable energy. They are also failing to lay out a clear road map that would allow industries to make long-term green investments.

    The hon. Gentleman wants to make a political point—that the private bank works better. This will be the big debate about climate change. Who will take the lead—the private or the public sector? I am not convinced that the private sector will deliver what we need to achieve the net zero target in 2050. I do not believe it will. Those will be our big political differences. I do not mean that everything needs to be nationalised, but we need a clear debate about what will be carried by the public sector and by the private sector. I believe that, to make the transition socially just, the public sector will have a very important role to play.

    I am going to say something else that the Government side of the House will not like. If we are serious about the climate emergency, the most immediate thing we can do is stop Brexit. Climate change is a global problem and the fight against it requires co-ordinated international action. As our closest geographical neighbour, the EU is a good place to start. It has been a force for good in meeting the challenge of climate change. Through its institutions, we have learned how to negotiate and bring together separate national interests under a commonly shared vision.

    The process is not easy and not perfect, but it is far preferable to going it alone. The EU has taken the lead on international climate change action: it has, for example, introduced projects such as emissions trading schemes and interconnectors between national grids. One initiative important for local councils was that of the European directives on biodegradable waste, without which this country would have done nothing about recycling.

    Secondly, does the hon. Lady agree that a number of Members in this House are nationalists who want not only to break out of the EU but break up our own United Kingdom? Surely breaking up the component parts of the United Kingdom would not help us to tackle climate change in any way.

    Our closest geographical neighbour is the European Union, and we should work very closely with it. That is why the best thing we can do if we are serious about climate action is to stop Brexit. History will not look kindly on us for leaving the European Union just at the moment when our moral responsibility is to protect our planet and work together. We should be placing ourselves at the heart of the European project, because the climate emergency demands it.


  • 24 Jun 2019: Climate Change


    The Government’s commitment to the 2050 target is welcome, but we must ensure that that general commitment today is turned into clear interim targets and legislation. There has been a fantastic rise in public awareness of the climate crisis in recent months, and young people have played a vital part in that. It is their future and this is a wake-up call for all of us, with difficult choices ahead. We need to get widespread public buy-in for climate change action. Citizens assemblies are one method that the Liberal Democrats believe could help to achieve that.

    The current Government have effectively banned onshore wind which, as we have just heard, is the cheapest form of renewable energy. They slashed subsidies for solar power and scrapped zero carbon homes. They ended the green deal, which was there to improve energy efficiency. They have set meaningless targets for the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars. They continue to support fracking, which involves a fossil fuel, and airport expansion, with no plan for research into jet fuel.

    Most importantly, transitioning to net zero risks placing an unfair burden on those who can least afford it. Energy and power is likely to cost more for the next 20 years, so we must ensure that the costs are fairly shared. We do not want to end up slapping punitive costs and taxes on the most vulnerable, so we must not ignore social justice. The transition to carbon zero provides an excellent opportunity to build a fairer society. We need to turn that opportunity into reality, and I wish that Ministers would listen.


  • 1 May 2019: Environment and Climate Change


    Let us remind ourselves why we are here: thousands, if not millions, of young schoolchildren protested on the streets, and that is why we are suddenly taking this issue seriously again. I share some of the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband). I, too, feel a sense of shame, and I think we all should. What have we done since we have known that this climate catastrophe faced us? Since 2001, we have had Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth”, but what have we done since? We have not done enough, and that is why we are here today.

    It worries me that we are creating a comfortable consensus and a sense of complacency, with the idea that we just need to do a little bit more, and we are done. No; we need to do a lot more. It is about political choices, and this Government have done far too little. Since the Liberal Democrats left government, the Tories have abandoned climate change as an issue. Subsidies for renewables have been slashed, the Green Investment Bank has been privatised, the proposal for zero-carbon homes has been abandoned and a meaningless target of phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 has been adopted.


  • 28 Mar 2019: Permitted Development and Shale Gas Exploration


    I could not agree more. We have such a long way to go before we become carbon zero and it is so important. What are the Government doing promoting fracked fossil fuel over renewables? We are living through a global climate crisis.

    I completely agree with the hon. Lady that we should not open up a new fossil fuel front and increase the contribution to climate change; she is absolutely right about that. On planning, my local authority has now twice voted overwhelmingly against fracking in nearby West Lancashire, which affects my constituency as well, but the authority’s views are completely ignored by the approach the Government are taking. Does that not demonstrate that significant local interests should be taken on board? It cannot just be a national Government issue in respect of permitted development rights.

    I am enjoying the comments of the hon. Lady, my constituency neighbour, but for balance could she remind the House which country is top of the league table in the G20 for decarbonisation?

    This country has made great strides, and we are leaders, but we will fall behind badly if we do not keep up that lead. That is what worries me. Things have gone badly wrong in the last three years. We are living through a global climate crisis and we must align our policies to become carbon zero before 2050. I am sure the Government have read the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    On building infrastructure around these sites, does the hon. Lady agree that it is slightly hypocritical that the development arm of CDC Group—the Government-backed development bank—that invests in infrastructure outside Britain would not invest in shale gas because of the infrastructure and climate change risk, but for some reason we are happy to do it in our own country?

    Let me turn to the climate crisis. The big problem that we face is the Government’s energy strategy and our continued reliance on fossil fuels. Fracking is not sustainable, and even classifying it as a transitional fossil fuel does not stand up to the science. It recently emerged that investing in fracking would produce as many carbon emissions as 300 million new cars. It is blatantly obvious that the Tory Government favour fracking over renewable energy. The Environmental Audit Committee found that investment in renewable energy had fallen by 56% in 2017, which was the greatest decline of any country that year. In May 2018, investment in renewables was at its lowest in 10 years, despite the claims by the Government that renewable energy is booming. That must be wrong if we must now urgently turn our attention to becoming carbon zero before 2050.

    The recently released IPCC report states that globally we must become carbon zero by 2050, if we are to limit a global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. Scientists have concluded that a temperature rise that is higher than that will bring irreversible damage. The IPCC report gives us 12 years to completely transition away from fossil fuels in order to prevent this from happening— 12 years. With the proximity of that deadline, how can this Government argue that now is the time to be rushing into a massive national project of shale gas production? My view, which I hope will be shared by others in this House, is that they absolutely should not. We must reinvest in renewable energy. This Government have removed subsidies for onshore wind and have spearheaded a 65% cut in subsidies for household solar panels. The 2017 Budget ruled out additional investment in renewables before 2025. Yet communities up and down the country are asking for more investment in renewables. Only a few weeks ago, our streets were filled with schoolchildren who were making their voices heard and saying that the climate crisis is the biggest issue for them.

    We urgently need a culture change. All Government Departments should have sustainability and a zero-carbon target at their core. As a developed country, we should lead the fight against climate chaos, but this Government have gone in completely the opposite direction. Policies such as those proposed by the Government stand in the way of progress. This Government cannot keep prioritising big oil over the urgent need to combat climate chaos. They have to drop these proposals. As a country, we must legislate in a way that restricts fossil fuel industries and instead invests heavily in renewable energy. There is no time to lose. We owe it to ourselves and future generations.



    I thank all hon. Members from across the House for their powerful contributions to this important debate. There is real anger across the board about the Government riding roughshod over local communities, and not allowing local people a voice on shale gas exploration sites. Across the board, there are concerns about the environmental impacts, particularly the industrialisation of the countryside, water contamination and seismic activity. But most of all—I wish the Minister would listen—there is a concern that fracked fuel is a fossil fuel. The Government should entirely change direction and invest in renewables instead. Let us change direction, take some action on climate change and ditch fracking.


  • 13 Mar 2019: UK’s Withdrawal from the European Union


    There is now a majority in the country for staying in the EU. I am on their side, along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues, the Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru, the Green party and the Independent Group. We are united in our view that our future is in the European Union. We stand for peace, collaboration and solving problems together, including the big issue of climate change. Although we represent at least 50% of the people of this country, our side of the argument has been completely sidelined in the past two and a half years. It is now time for Parliament seriously to consider the possibility of staying in the European Union.


  • 14 Jan 2019: European Union (Withdrawal) Act


    Among the first regulations on the bonfire will be those that protect the environment. The European Court of Justice, so hated by Brexit fanatics, has been an outstanding protector of environmental laws and regulations. The Government’s recent draft environment Bill does not include a watchdog with anything like the power of the ECJ, and climate action will lose out. There will be an increased incentive to support fossil fuel companies for short-term economic gain. Green energy projects are becoming increasingly affordable and promise long-term economic gain, but they still require up-front investment and will therefore be the first victims. Who would provide such investment in a struggling post-Brexit economy? Once more, climate action will lose out.


  • 13 Jun 2018: European Union (Withdrawal) Bill


    I rise to speak to my amendment (e) in lieu of Lords amendment 3. If we want world-leading environmental protections, we need a world-leading environmental watchdog. Today, we awoke to warnings that one fifth of Britain’s wild mammals, our beloved wildcats, hedgehogs and water voles, are at high risk of extinction within the next 10 years. The EU’s role in monitoring, updating and enforcing environmental law will be lost after exit day. The Environment Secretary’s proposed watchdog does not backfill those functions, and it has no teeth. It has three major gaps: an enforcement gap, a climate change gap and a citizen gap.

    Secondly, there is a climate change gap. The Committee on Climate Change warned that its omission from the watchdog’s remit

    The Committee on Climate Change will hold the Government to account on the Climate Change Act 2008, but there will be no enforcement of our other climate change obligations. Who monitors progress towards our legally binding targets under the EU’s renewable energy directive? What happens to our EU emissions reduction targets? Will there be a gap if we leave the EU’s emissions trading system? Amendment (c) does not address that.


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