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Debate on Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development


10th July 2019

Harriett Baldwin responds to a debate on tackling climate change, protecting the environment and securing global development.

The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Harriett Baldwin)

It is great privilege to reply to this debate. In this Parliament over the last few months, a 93-year-old man, Sir David Attenborough, has spoken powerfully of the need for us to act, and a 16-year-old girl, Greta Thunberg, has come here and told us of the need to act. In the last week, many of our constituents have come to say that the time is now for all of us to act. I am proud to be speaking at the Dispatch Box representing the greenest Government ever of the country that has gone faster than any other major industrialised country to decarbonise, and which is indeed decarbonising faster than any other country in the G20.

Millions of women will have got up this morning in Africa and walked for miles to cut down a tree, turn it into charcoal and cook using it in their own home in a way that poisons them and their family. This is one of the biggest killers in our world today. What came through loud and clear in today’s debate is that this is a global challenge and a global problem. Yes, we have to do our bit here in the UK, but we must also keep at the front and centre of our work the very poorest, who are likely to be the most affected by climate change.

I welcome the spirit of today’s debate. There has been a huge amount of cross-party support. That is important because passing the legislation to go to net zero without a vote in this Chamber, as we did last week, sends out ​the most powerful signal that we can send to the UK private sector that, whatever happens in our politics, everyone is on the same page on this agenda. Of course, there may be differences about what we do and how fast we go, and a range of different points of view were expressed on that today, but what was most powerful overall was that everyone agreed, cross-party, that this is something we need to tackle.

We should also welcome the fact that, although I am responding to this debate as an International Development Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) opened it as a Minister in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That also sends a very strong signal about how we are working on this across Government.

We are all agreed that climate change remains one of the biggest global threats to sustained development and, indeed, to our own way of life. No country on this planet is projected to be spared from further temperature increases, and the world is already facing serious challenges to the natural environment, food production and water resources. The challenges posed by change to our climate are systemic. Much more needs to be done and greater global ambition is needed. That is why the UK is jointly bidding with Italy to host next year’s COP 26.

We have had an excellent debate, full of a range of very strong contributions. Although the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) objected to a Business Minister opening the debate, he will be interested to know that 34% of all our climate finance is spent by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He will also be interested to know that the multilateral development banks agreed at last year’s COP to align their $200 billion of climate finance with the Paris agreement—that is a point he specifically requested.

As we send out these strong cross-party messages, we need to think carefully about the attacks I heard from Opposition Members against the oil and gas sector. I am sure that Labour voters in Scotland would be alarmed if they felt that the hon. Gentleman would be as harsh on the oil and gas sector in Scotland as he appears to be on the sector elsewhere in the world.

This is the only political point I will make from the Dispatch Box today, but we need to think about actions that will lead the world and about actions that will lead to businesses moving from this country to other parts of the world. I would put in that second category the shadow Chancellor’s aspiration to remove the UK listings of many perfectly good, British companies, which will simply move their listings elsewhere.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)

The Minister is talking about future investment. Will she commit her Government to taking real action on carbon capture, utilisation and storage? The project in Peterhead was shamefully abandoned by George Osborne a few years ago, and we need to get projects such as St Fergus up and running. If we could do that by 2023, it would do an awful lot to help this issue. Can the Minister get behind that?

Harriett Baldwin

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are spending £45 million on supporting this technology, and we published an action plan last November, but of course we need to do more.​

In a strong speech, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald) talked about transport and the importance of changing behaviour in the sector, which is such a big emitter of carbon. I highlight the £1.5 billion that goes with the “Road to Zero” strategy, which was published last year, and the private sector is rapidly responding to the signals sent out from this place.

All the UK car companies have now developed electric models, including today’s welcome news about the Mini in Oxford and the wonderful news about Jaguar Land Rover in the midlands. Even in my constituency, Morgan Motor Company, known for its traditional cars, will have an electric model. My right hon. and learned Friend will be interested to know that 1,000 charging points a month are now being installed across the UK, which exceeds our expectations. The sector is rapidly responding to the signals we have sent out from this place.

The hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) made an excellent speech about what Scotland is doing, and he made the valid point that the minority SNP Government may have examples of best practice from which England and other parts of the UK can learn.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan) made an amazing speech, and I salute her work as co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the United Nations global goals for sustainable development. With her experience of the car industry, she made some powerful points about how we are bringing people with us.

The hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), who is Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, made a powerful speech about how this is an opportunity for the UK to lead the next industrial revolution, and she highlighted some of the Committee’s excellent work in this area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr) spoke at some length—I am now looking at the time to make sure I am not also going over—and he highlighted the importance of our moving beyond single-use plastics. As a member of the Select Committee, he spoke with great knowledge of trees, electric vehicles and a range of other important areas. He also spoke of the importance of cross-party work in Scotland.

I am glad that the hearing aid of the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) did not cause any faltering in his excellent speech as a member of the Environmental Audit Committee. The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) highlighted that this is not a new issue. I am old enough to remember the slogan “Plant a tree in ‘73”. I will not embarrass the House by asking other hon. Members to acknowledge that they remember that, but it is something that we have been doing for a while. We need to act faster and go further. I diverged from her only on her feeling that we would be helped in doing that by being a member of the European Union. We are going further and faster than the European Union which was not able to reach consensus on the issue recently.

The shadow Minister talked about the importance of climate finance. The UK has led the world in green finance. We published a further green finance strategy ​last week, and the leadership of Mark Carney at the Bank of England has been strong in this area, including on disclosure in annual reports. The City of London has shown itself able to attract a lot of listings, and we have more than $25 billion of funding going into green developments, which has happened as a result of the UK’s leadership in this area. We need to carry on with that because such investments can often be very capital intensive.

Looking to the future, I am confident that the UK can lead from the front in helping the world to drive the change necessary. That is why debates like today’s are important, timely and effective. I thank everyone who has generated the strong amount of consensus in this important debate today.

Hansard



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Harriett Baldwin
 
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