Thursday 18th January 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank and pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, for bringing forward this important debate. It has been short but interesting none the less, with some excellent contributions from across the Chamber. I will seek to address as many of the points made as I possibly can.

Although the title of this debate focuses on efforts to adapt to climate change, it is of course equally of paramount importance that we do our utmost to limit further warming in this critical decade. In sharp contrast to the picture painted by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Blake, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, the UK is—and is proud to be—a world leader on climate change. We are totally committed to net zero, to the Paris agreement and to keeping 1.5 degrees alive. We were the first major economy to halve its emissions, and we have one of the most ambitious decarbonisation targets in the world. We have achieved that while growing our economy by more than 70% since 1990. We have a much better record than—to pluck a random example—Germany, where the socialists and the greens are in government, because it is practical action that counts rather than fancy green rhetoric.

On assessments relating to the likelihood of exceeding 1.5 degrees of warming relative to pre-industrial levels this year, the World Meteorological Organization and the Met Office recently confirmed that 2023 was the warmest single year on record globally, at around 1.45 degrees above pre-industrial levels. While reaching 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels in a single year does not mean that the Paris agreement long-term average temperature goal has been reached, it is clearly a concern that record temperatures are already being set. The latest IPCC synthesis report drove home just how important it is that we limit the rise in average global temperature to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Every increment of global warming will increase the adverse impacts of climate change, multiplying hazards and compounding risks that are more difficult and more complex to manage. That is why we put keeping 1.5 degrees within reach at the heart of our own COP 26 presidency and our international climate diplomacy efforts since then.

To answer the points made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones, Lady Hayman and Lady Blake, the Prime Minister has underscored our commitment to delivering on net zero. Our 2030 target means the deepest cuts of any major emitter since 1990, and we are determined to deliver on that. We were the first major economy to set a net-zero target in law, and we are committed to delivering net zero at home and, of course, to driving forward progress internationally to keep 1.5 degrees within reach in this critical decade.

However, it is of course a fact that the UK produces just 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can address the remaining 99% and keep 1.5 degrees in reach only through international action and leadership, which is what we are providing. We made it the centrepiece of our COP 26 presidency and under the presidency, the proportion of global GDP covered by net-zero targets increased from 30% to over 90%. We will continue to focus on the most practical and deliverable measures that bring the largest global carbon savings.

At COP 28, we focused on driving forward efforts to protect forests, to scale finance for the transition and to accelerate net-zero transitions across a number of different sectors. On forests, we announced £576 million to support countries taking action to halt forest loss and to protect nature, and we saw the commitment to halt and reverse deforestation enshrined in the UAE consensus. We drove forward initiatives to scale finance, including the Prime Minister announcing £1.6 billion worth of new international climate finance programmes, and we endorsed the climate finance framework, which champions reform of international financial institutions to make them bigger, better and fairer.

The UK was also at the forefront of efforts to accelerate decarbonisation in many key sectors. To take an example, the International Partners Group, co-led by the UK and the EU, launched the Vietnam Just Energy Transition Partnership—JETP—a £15.5 billion resource mobilisation plan to help accelerate Vietnam’s transition from fossil fuels through to clean energy. The Powering Past Coal Alliance, which we also co-chair, announced 13 new members—including the USA, which has the world third-largest coal fleet—all committed to phasing out unabated coal power and to building no new coal capacity. We were also pleased to see two new breakthroughs launched on buildings and cement. In response to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, these are just some of the international partnerships and initiatives that we will continue to drive forward action on.

As many noble Lords noted in the debate, important progress was made in Dubai. We are now globally unified around a commitment to transition away from fossil fuels, underpinned by a goal to triple renewables and double energy efficiency. A new fund for loss and damage has been established, and the first global stocktake under the Paris Agreement was successfully concluded.

Of course, we all know that that is not enough. Looking ahead, we have to work harder with partners to ensure that many of these key commitments are met, such as that to triple renewable power. The noble Lady Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, questioned what we, as the UK, are doing to scale up renewables. First, we have made very significant progress already. Since 2010, renewables have gone from less than 7% of our electricity supply to 48% in the first quarter of this year. Today, the UK is proud to be home to the five largest operational offshore wind farm projects in the world, and we have an extremely ambitious target to increase offshore wind to 50 gigawatts of capacity by 2050.

On the international side, we will continue to scale up renewables through UK initiatives such as Power Breakthrough and the Green Grids Initiative, which is all about scaling up the net-zero grids that we will all need for a net-zero future.

In answer to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on new oil and gas licences, this is of course a matter which we have debated across this House many times. I point out that while the Government are of course scaling up our own clean energy sources, such as offshore wind and nuclear, I agree with my noble friend Lord Lilley and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, that the UK still needs to utilise oil and gas for most of our energy needs. That will be a continued need over the coming decades.

New licences will slow the decline in UK production levels, rather than see them increase above current levels, as has been implied. Even with any new licences, oil and gas production in the UK is still expected to decline by 7% year on year—faster than the average global decline needed to align with the UN 1.5 degrees centigrade pathway. I have made the point many times before that it makes no sense to import LNG from other countries with higher carbon emissions when we could obtain it from our own resources, albeit that these resources are continuing to decline as the fields become depleted.

On adaptation, as noble Lords have set out, the impacts on climate change are already being felt. The UK has long recognised its importance. We are delivering on our commitment to spend £11.6 billion on international climate finance through to 2025-26, to ensure a balance between adaptation and mitigation, including at least £3 billion on protecting and restoring nature.

To support the most vulnerable in our world who are experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change, at COP 27, the Prime Minister announced that we would triple our funding for adaptation from £500 million to £1.5 billion by 2025. Over the past 12 years, our international climate finance has helped over 100 million people cope with some of the worst effects of climate change. At the COP 28 summit, the UK negotiators were successful in helping to agree a framework to bring the global goal and adaptation into alignment. Of course, although we accept that there is further work to be done, this is a critical step towards more meaningful action. During our COP 26 presidency, we secured a commitment to double adaptation by 2025. We will continue to push for more donors to help deliver on this commitment.

To address another point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, we welcome the establishment at COP 28 of the new fund covering loss and damage, with funding in excess of $650 million. The UK announced a contribution of up to $40 million to this fund, with a further $20 million for funding arrangements, including for early warning systems and disaster risk finance. Given the scale of the need, it is essential for the success of the fund that it attracts new and wider sources of funding, including grants and concessional loans from public, private and some innovative sources. We will continue to progress this as much as we possibly can.

Also at COP 28, my colleague, the Minister for Development and Africa, announced a further £100 million of UK funding to help many vulnerable people adapt to climate change. The UK can be proud of its record and of everything that we are doing—both domestically and through the leadership we are providing abroad.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab)
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Before the Minister sits down, will he respond to the point I made about the Government’s support for small nuclear reactors?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to do so. I did not cover it directly in my speech because we made a big announcement about it last week. I answered Questions on it in this House only the other day. We are progressing big-scale nuclear reactors. We are committed to making a decision shortly on the progress of Sizewell C. We have provided £200 million to Rolls-Royce for the development of new SMRs. Great British Nuclear is rolling out our campaign of both SMRs and AMRs. Many of our existing nuclear plants will go offline towards the end of this decade. We need to make sure that we make the investments to replace them because that will be essential if we are to reach net zero. The noble Lord’s point is well made.

My time is up, so I will draw my remarks to a close. The House can rest assured that the UK will continue to deliver on net zero at home and to push and accelerate action internationally, while championing the need to address many of the worst impacts of climate change. The science demands that we drastically accelerate global action on mitigation in what will be a critical decade ahead. We will progress all these efforts both at home and internationally. Once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, for securing this debate, and all noble Lords who contributed.

Lord Gascoigne Portrait Lord Gascoigne (Con)
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My Lords, I thought I would just repeat the point made earlier in the Chamber by both the Leader of the House and the Opposition Chief Whip, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, concerning the importance of brevity in this debate—indeed, in all debates. If noble Lords speak for the full time limits in this debate or exceed them, there will be insufficient time for the Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, to respond. So I humbly request that noble Lords stick to the allocated speaking time, which is a maximum of seven minutes. Thank you.