Tackling climate change is an environmental and economic necessity, and an issue of social justice.
The UK has a strong legacy of international leadership on climate change. The last Labour Government enshrined the world’s first legally binding carbon emissions reduction targets in the Climate Change Act 2008, which commits the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% (from 1990 levels) by 2050 and also requires the Government to set up five-yearly carbon budgets for emissions. The current Government must set the level of the fifth carbon budget level (for 2028-2032) by June 30 this year. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advises that emissions should be reduced by 57% over this period. I support an ambitious carbon budget and hope the Government will accept the advice from the independent CCC.
I welcome the historic agreement reached at the recent UN climate change conference in Paris and the announcement that the developed world will provide at least $100 billion of finance to assist developing countries. I am pleased the Paris agreement replicates the successful method of the UK Climate Change Act through a series of five-year reviews. The Paris agreement takes us much closer to climate safety and sets us on the path to a cleaner, greener future. However, the challenge now is to turn fine words into strong action. It is therefore vital that international cooperation and ambition is increased if global temperature rises are to be limited and the goal of climate safety kept within reach. The Government must back up the commitments it made in Paris by taking real action to tackle climate change at home.
I am concerned the UK Government is failing to show the leadership that is needed by slashing support for vital clean energy schemes at home. For example, the Government is ending subsidies for new onshore wind farms and has cut support for solar power. It has also ditched support for low-carbon technologies like Carbon Capture and Storage and is failing to provide the investment that we need in energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is the most effective way of lifting people out of fuel poverty and that the Government must end the scandal of cold homes. Support for renewable energy is crucial in ensuring the UK meets its climate change commitments and carbon budgets cost-effectively. I am concerned the Government is undermining renewables and taking the UK backwards on climate change action. Extreme weather events, like the recent flooding in the UK, make it even more important the Government re-evaluates its approach.
I will continue to press the Government to change course domestically and pursue a more balanced approach to energy policy in order to meet our climate change commitments. This is vital if we are to make progress towards the ultimate goal of a completely carbon-free global economy in the second half of the century.