VoteClimate: Kenly Wind Farm - 15th June 2021

Kenly Wind Farm - 15th June 2021

Here are the climate-related sections of speeches by MPs during the Commons debate Kenly Wind Farm.

Full text: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-06-15/debates/C23925AB-EF45-4775-93B9-E8F45DAC3933/KenlyWindFarm

19:06 Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrat)

As part of that innovation, St Andrews has championed sustainability for over two decades, long before it was the dominant issue that it is today. Always leading the charge, the university has pledged to reach net zero by 2035, which is a significant commitment, given not just the date, but the approach that the university is taking. The university, led by its environmental sustainability board, chaired by Professor Sir Ian Boyd FRS, chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 to 2019, and now professor of biology at the university, is taking on the net zero challenge, alongside local community organisations and businesses. Indeed, I attended the first meeting of the outreach group only last month. Under complementary environmental sustainability and carbon management plans, the scope of its approach encompasses procurement activities and the travel of international students coming to the university to study. I am sure that the Minister will want to join me in congratulating it on its progress to date.

This is not just an isolated local issue. There are 782 onshore wind farms around the UK, amounting to over 11,000 turbines and up to 66 MW of energy each year—enough to power 18.4 million homes—and this trend is not slowing down. The trade group RenewableUK is predicting that onshore wind will continue to be a preferred alternative energy source as we work towards meeting net zero goals. Organisations are being encouraged by this Government to make the switch. Last year, the net zero business champion, the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith), was appointed. Organisations are encouraged to join the United Nations’ Race to Zero campaign and are celebrated when they do. Part of these commitments will inevitably involve switching to clean energies such as wind. Simply put, there will be more applications for wind farms such as Kenly.

The fact that more onshore wind farms are likely to seek permissions and the likelihood that a proportion will be near RAF bases shows that it is vital for the MOD to put in place a comprehensive plan to work with developers to find meaningful solutions. If the MOD is not working to support wind farms such as Kenly, I wonder what it is doing. On 30 March this year, the MOD published its own climate change and sustainability strategic approach with a foreword by the Minister himself. This includes a commitment to working sustainably, to encouraging the development of low or zero carbon solutions, and to being a partner in the UK’s green transition. In fact, it includes an action plan, which includes a pledge to:

“Grow awareness inside and outside of Defence with a communications plan on commitments and work on climate change and sustainability, inspiring understanding among our people, the wider public, industry and international partners.”

To me, that sounds like the sort of commitment that would involve engaging with projects such as Kenly wind farm and constructively engaging with initiatives to tackle the climate emergency.

The MOD, it is true, is looking at mitigation solutions and novel technologies for use at offshore wind farms. I am sure the Minister will point out that there is an ongoing competition for proposals which closes this week. However, this is not relevant to the 782 onshore wind farms such as Kenly around the UK, as different mitigation solutions—different ways of using technology—are understandably used on land compared with offshore. Even if the solutions were relevant to onshore windfarms, this is a very slow process. It began when the MOD last directly engaged with St Andrews in 2015, and some six years later the competition is only just entering its second phase. Proceeding at this rate, it will be 2033 before the process finishes—too late for St Andrews and its goal to achieve net zero by 2035, and frankly too late for all of us. We all know that to limit global warming to 1.5° C we need to make significant changes now. We cannot afford to wait to finish this process to get started. Organisations that take on this responsibility—that are putting themselves forwards to tackle this challenge—should be supported and not stopped.

It is now two years since this House declared a climate crisis, and the situation has only worsened since that time, with the UK’s contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions continuing to outstrip its share of the global population. This is an issue that my constituents in North East Fife care about deeply. As a prospective parliamentary candidate in September 2019, I took part with other candidates and the then MP for North East Fife in the Line in the Sand climate strike ably led by young people from local high schools. During the subsequent election, students supportive of the Kenly development attended the main hustings in the constituency and made their voices heard. Yes, there were local objections during the planning process, but the rapid development of wind technologies will result in a more efficient and less obtrusive development.

The Government state that they are putting a green recovery at the front and centre of their plans, and we know that a shift to clean renewable energy has to be a key part of that process. Just this week, the Prime Minister was in Devon for the G7 summit, where commitments were made to tackle the climate crisis at home and globally, including a commitment to green energy. Later this year, the UK—Glasgow—will be hosting COP26, where I am sure pledges will again be made on green energy. We are told that it is a priority for the Government, and that may be true for some parts of it.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, and the Scotland Office has signed up to the previously mentioned Tay cities deal, which supports sustainable initiatives. So, I hope that this is a case of the MOD just needing to catch up. However, if, as the Minister himself wrote in his foreword to the MOD strategic approach, it is determined to play its full part in helping the Government to address climate change head-on, that needs to happen now.

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19:16 Jeremy Quin (Conservative)

I recognise that the status of the planning application for a wind farm at Kenly is matter of concern for her, the University of St Andrews and her constituents. We certainly share her desire for a swift and amicable resolution to an issue that, as the hon. Lady said, has become far too protracted. She paid tribute to the staunch work of the University of St Andrews and its ambitious plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2035. I would very much like to echo those remarks.

The impressive measures that the university has already taken to do that include using modern technology to drive energy efficiency and its Eden campus project. Since 2018, as I understand it, a 20% reduction in the university’s carbon footprint has already been delivered through solar energy and biomass heat. The Government share St Andrews’ enthusiasm to reduce carbon emissions, introducing our legally binding target of net zero by 2050 and working towards what we all—including the hon. Lady—hope will be a successful conclusion to COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

In the integrated review, the Government set out how climate change was our No. 1 international priority. We in Defence are determined to play our part in achieving the UK’s ambitions. In our climate change and sustainability strategic approach, which the hon. Lady was kind enough to refer to and which we published in March, we set out how our approach to sustainable procurement, carbon reduction and better utilisation of our estate can help to deliver results even as we learn to adapt and operate in increasingly unforgiving theatres. At President Biden’s recently inaugurated discussions on climate change, at which the Secretary of State spoke, the US Defence Secretarty, Lloyd Austin, commented that UK defence had “raised the bar” on climate change as an issue. We certainly hope to continue to do so.

We recognise the vital importance of renewable energy in helping us to meet our goals. Within the defence estate, we recently announced a £120 million project to deliver four solar farms over the next five to seven years, resulting in £1 billion in energy-efficiency savings and reducing emissions by 2,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. The use of wind energy on the estate is very much an option to which Defence is open, where it is viable and consistent with training.

Many wind farms have been able to proceed, after consideration, without issue; however, we have also been keen to support the sector to find solutions that can enable further projects to go ahead. The Royal Air Force, in partnership with the Offshore Wind Industry Council, has formed a joint taskforce to develop radar mitigations. The hon. Lady is right that it focuses particularly on offshore wind and air defence radar, because that is where the greatest capacity can be released to achieve our important renewable energy targets. We also expect the lessons that we learn to be applicable, and more useful, in a wider context, including onshore.

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