Climate Change

I have said in my article in the Thame Gazette this week that I believe that climate change is a crucial issue facing the planet. However, attendance at (or the number of) a particular debate is not an indication of commitment to an issue either from me or from the Government. It is important to look at the context of the debate and what it is seeking. The debate was to seek a Statement from the Government which will tell where we go from here. It is part of the structure of the way we govern ourselves that MPs like me are representatives not delegates and as such it is down to me to allocate my time and my energy in the way I think best. On any day there are competing demands on my diary to attend public meetings, debates, committees and also private meetings with Ministers, constituents and other representatives from organisations. One of the problems with Back Bench Business Debates like the one on Climate Change is that the exact timing is not known in advance and I had a full diary of other commitments to which I needed to attend. In the Parliamentary calendar, Thursdays are generally a day when the business is such that MPs can anticipate less disruption from Government business to the diaries and thus a good day to arrange other meetings. These will have been set well ahead of publication of the topic for debate for the day.

Apart from debate in the main Chamber there are also debates in the second chamber of the House of Commons known as Westminster Hall. Here recent debates include the UN Climate Change Conference 2018 and Extreme Weather Events. In addition, Questions to Ministers and Ministerial Statements also play an important part as was the case with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and in assessing the climate change impact of Heathrow. The questioning of Michael Gove by the DEFRA select committee is also another example of intervention on climate change issues. Beyond the House, debate also continues in the Council of Europe of which I am a member. Here I have fully supported the climate change work of Lord (John) Prescott and spoke on it as Conservative Group Spokesman as well as on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the cause of Caribbean hurricanes.

Talking about climate change in debate is not the same as taking action on climate change. One advantage of these other methods of questioning Ministers is that they give MPs the chance to hear directly what Ministers and the Government have been doing.

I hope you are pleased to see that our wind farms generated more electricity than coal plants on more than 75% of days in 2017 and solar also outperformed coal more than half the time. Overall, renewables provided more power than coal plants on 315 days in 2017. Wind beat coal on 263 days, and solar outperformed the fossil fuel on 180 days. Overall, renewables now generate over 31% of our electricity.

I am pleased that since 1990, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40% while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation. The Government's Energy Act puts Britain firmly on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent and underpins the remarkable investment that the UK has seen in its low carbon economy since 2010. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 23% since 2010.

The UK is a world leader in clean growth and the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010. The Industrial Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy identify and target the huge potential opportunity for the UK from clean growth and transition to a low carbon economy, while the National Adaptation Programme 2018-23 sets out a strategy for dealing with the effects of a changing climate. The Government has also agreed to support and expand offshore wind, and made the historic commitment to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025. The UK will be one of the first developed countries to take coal out of the equation, and all coal-fired power stations where carbon emissions aren't being captured and stored will be closed. A new, clean energy infrastructure will be built that is fit for the 21st century.

There is only so far we can go by getting our own emissions down. It is developing countries' action that makes the real difference, but it is these countries that cannot afford to invest. I was delighted that the agreement reached in Paris included $100 billion of support for poorer nations to mitigate, and adapt to, the impact of climate change.

The Government set up the International Climate Fund (ICF) to help the world's poorest adapt to climate change and promote cleaner, greener economic growth. Since 2011, the ICF has provided access to low carbon energy to more than 2.6 million people. The funding for the ICF has recently been raised to £5.8 billion, and is used to reduce carbon emissions, help people adapt to the effects of climate change and reduce deforestation. In addition, the UK supports efforts to integrate climate change policies into international development plans.

The Government does not provide subsidies to fossil fuel production or consumption. The sums argued by some are features of the tax regime and promote the industries concerned. For instance, the UK oil and gas sector which has made a huge contribution to the economy and supports thousands of jobs.

The Government has also made clear, through its Bioenergy Strategy, that only biomass from sustainable sources should be used in the UK. Under new biomass sustainability criteria bioenergy suppliers must report on the sustainability of their operations if they want to claim Government subsidy, and any generators that do not comply will lose this support.

We will of course need to legislate for a net zero emissions target at an appropriate point in the future, to provide legal certainty on where the UK is heading. In the meantime, Ministers will continue to seek advice from the UK's independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, on the UK's long-term emission reduction targets.

In this constituency it is worth noting that we have one of the leading centres in the world for the development of Fusion Energy at the Science Centre at Culham. This is a non-radioactive form of energy similar to that emitted by the Sun and will provide limitless energy without an effect on climate change. As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fusion Energy I am very supportive of these developments.