Thank you for contacting me about COP26, which is being held in Glasgow in November this year and measures to address climate concerns.
The UK was the first major economy to legislate to achieve net zero by 2050. The Prime Minister has set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law of reducing emissions by 78 per cent by 2035, compared to 1990 levels. This builds on the existing interim target of reducing emissions by 68 per cent by 2030. The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution lays the blueprint for how the UK can forge ahead in eradicating our contribution to climate change and achieving net zero.
The UK will produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we currently produce to 40GW by 2030, thereby supporting up to 60,000 jobs. The Government will work with industry and aim to generate 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 for industry, transport, power and homes. In addition, the Government aims to develop the first town heated entirely by hydrogen by the end of the decade. The UK will also become a world leader in carbon capture technology to store harmful emissions away from the atmosphere, with a target to remove 10MT of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to all emission of the industrial Humber today, through £200 million investment. Finally, from £525 million investment in nuclear as a clean energy source this will develop the next generation of small and advanced reactors which could support 10,000 jobs.
Other parts of the plan include a target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028, £1 billion funding to make our schools, hospitals and homes more energy efficient, planting 30,000 hectares of trees every year, promoting and investing in zero-emission transport and £20 million to develop clean maritime technology. The plan also includes a pledge to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, while the sale of some hybrid cars and vans will continue until 2035.
This plan will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support 250,000 highly-skilled green jobs across the UK. It is expected to spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.
We will use our Presidency of COP26 to work to achieve four clear objectives:
- To ask countries to commit to net zero by mid-century, with more ambitious nationally determined contribution targets for 2030;
- To urgently protect and help adapt our communities and natural habitats from the destructive effects of climate change;
- To increase funding to support these aims, making good on the $100 billion annual climate finance goal affirmed through the Paris Agreement; and
- To close off the outstanding elements of the Paris Rulebook, and accelerate delivery of the Paris Goals through collaboration between Governments, Businesses and Civil Society.
When the UK accepted the Presidency, under 30 per cent of the global economy had signed up to a net zero commitment; that figure has now increased to 70 per cent. Around 120 countries are committed to or are developing long-term climate neutral plans. The Government thinks it is a good idea to press for more countries to set net zero targets.
Due to a very busy diary in the months ahead, I do not have time to schedule a meeting before the Great Big Green Week. However, I will continue to closely monitor the Government's work in the run up to COP26.
I note your concerns about global temperatures. As you may know, the Paris Agreement of 2015 aims to halt global warming at well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. We hosted the G7 in June 2021 when world leaders committed to accelerating efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and keep the 1.5°C global warming threshold within reach.
The Government conducted a consultation during the summer of 2020 into a Carbon Emissions Tax. Following this consultation it was decided that an emission trading scheme (ETS) would be implemented.
The UK's ETS was launched in January 2021 and covers aviation, manufacturing and fossil fuel power generation: it is more ambitious than the EU scheme it replaces. It is the world’s first net-zero carbon cap and trade market and a crucial step towards achieving the UK’s target for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The cap on emissions has initially been set at a level which is 5 per cent below the UK's notional share of the EU ETS cap. The Government is committed to carbon pricing as a tool to drive decarbonisation and intends to set out additional proposals for expanding the UK ETS over the course of 2021.
Examining the cost of Net Zero
It is also right that we should look carefully at how costs are distributed in the longer-term. The Treasury published an interim report in December 2020 on achieving net zero which found the combined effect of UK and global climate action on UK economic growth is likely to be relatively small. The scale, distribution and balance of new growth opportunities and challenges will depend on how the economy and policy respond to the changes required. It also stated that new industries and jobs will emerge as existing sectors decarbonise or give way to low- carbon equivalents.
As we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, we have an opportunity to build a greener, more resilient economy and I welcome the Prime Minister's £12 billion Ten Point Plan which lays the blueprint for a green industrial revolution while supporting and creating 250,000 green jobs. I also welcome the interim target of reducing greenhouse emissions by 68 per cent by the end of the decade, compared to 1990 levels. The UK can rapidly cut carbon emissions, while creating new jobs, new technologies and future-proof industries that will generate economic growth for decades to come.
International Climate Finance
The Government’s International Climate Finance commitment has seen several projects established around the world in which the UK supports developing countries tackle climate change.
The UK will spend at least £3 billion of international climate finance on nature and biodiversity over five years. The funding will be allocated from the UK’s existing commitment of £11.6 billion for international climate finance and will deliver transformational change in protecting biodiversity-rich land and ocean, shifting to sustainable food production and supply, and supporting the livelihoods of the world’s poorest.
One example of a project is the UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions), a bilateral capacity building programme, which responds to the critical global need to build the capacity of countries to accelerate the implementation of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). With £60 million between 2018-2021, UK PACT works with high-emission, high-ambition developing countries through bilateral programmes, skill-shares and a global challenge fund.
You can be certain that the issue of climate change is being addressed in schools and elsewhere and that children will be left in little doubt as to the views it is considered that they should have on this matter. For example, materials promoting COP26 and the view of climate change that it embodies are being distributed to schools.
It is vital that young people are taught facts, as far as they are established by science, about climate change. It is also vital that children and young people understand that science is not a collection of unchanging dogmas but is a process of hypothesising, questioning and testing and often results in people changing their minds as new knowledge emerges. This education starts in primary school, and continues in secondary school throughout both the science and geography curricula and GCSEs. Should students wish to specialise in this area, a new environmental science A level was introduced in 2017.
The Department for Education also supports energy efficiency in educational facilities through capital funding and programmes, both to reduce the carbon footprint and save schools money on energy. Almost £9 billion has been allocated in condition funding since 2015 to maintain and improve school buildings. Conditional funding can be invested in projects which improve energy efficiency. In addition, interest free loans for energy efficiency projects have been made available through the Salix finance scheme.
I understand that as Leeds City Council has approved the application, the planning has been referred to the Secretary of State under the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Directive 2009, due to its scale and green belt location. The Secretary of State has recently indicated that more time is required to consider the application.
I am assured that the Government is carefully considering all the Climate Change Committee’s advice, including on aviation emissions, ahead of setting the sixth carbon budget.
Cumbrian Coal Mine
While the Government places a strong emphasis on localism and decentralisation when it comes to planning applications, I am aware that the Communities Secretary has made the decision to ‘call-in’ the planning application for the Whitehaven Coal Mine.
The Secretary of State decided to call this application in because of the further developments since his original decision. The Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the 6th Carbon Budget have been published since he was previously advised on this matter.
It is also the case that local authorities are expected to make planning decisions promptly and the planning application for this development was first submitted to Cumbria County Council in May 2017 and has been considered by their planning committee on three occasions, without a final outcome being reached.
The Secretary of State believes that this application raises planning issues of more than just local importance; consequently, there will be a public inquiry before any decision is made.
It is worth mentioning that the extracted coal would be used exclusively for steel production rather than energy production. The Government has confirmed its commitment to end unabated coal-power generation from 2025 and launched a consultation on bringing this date forward to 2024. This would ensure that the deadline for the phase-out of coal from Britain’s energy system is 1 October 2024. I hope that coal-generated energy will soon be a distant memory as the UK builds a greener and more resilient future in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP