Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion Debate

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Richard Benyon

Main Page: Richard Benyon (Conservative) - Newbury)

Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion

Richard Benyon Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Claire Perry Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Apr 2019, 3:57 p.m.

I just want to pick up on a couple of factual points. First, I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to the right to protest. It is a wonderful, wonderful freedom that we have and one that we should use judiciously. I know that he and I have both done so.

On the point about coal, it is not the case that other countries across the EU are phasing out coal. In fact, when I was at the climate change talks in Bonn, it was shocking to see the barges of dirty Ruhr coal floating down the Rhine because Germany took an ideological decision to phase out nuclear power. For us to get to zero now—it will be zero completely by 2025—is a huge achievement for an island that is built on coal and surrounded by fish and that had 40% of its energy generation coming from coal in 2010 when I was elected. That has been done not by the climate directive, but by unilateral policy decisions taken by the coalition Government and continued by my Government. That is how we will continue to lead the world—by taking tough decisions, hopefully with cross-party support, to make the differences that we need but that we can then accelerate around the world. Our leadership on coal has enabled me and my counterpart in Canada to set up the global Powering Past Coal Alliance—an alliance of 80-plus countries, cities and companies that have all committed to phase out coal thanks to the UK’s leadership.

I also want to reassure the hon. Gentleman. He made a brilliant point about natural capital accounting, which will be formal Government policy by 2020. I join him in paying tribute to the work of the Bank of England and the Governor, Mark Carney, who have identified the challenge for investors and companies, and indeed for regulators, if there is not proper accounting for climate risk disclosure—again, an area where we have continued to innovate and lead the world.

I am delighted to share many of the points that the hon. Gentleman made, but I do believe fundamentally that a market-based economy that delivers rapidly reducing costs of technology and innovation—the sort of innovation that has seen the price of offshore wind tumble over the last two years—is the way to go. I will look with great interest at the advice that we get from the Committee on Climate Change and act as soon as is proportionate and possible.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

It is not just the protesters on the streets or the children coming to our offices who are raising this matter; this issue is being talked of around kitchen tables, among families whom we represent. The worst way to reflect those concerns—whoever they are from—would be for our Opposition parties to say, “The Government are not doing enough” and for us to say, “Look at all the things we’re doing.” I therefore absolutely concur with the Minister’s cross-party consensus on this matter. Does she agree that we should applaud the fact that this country is not like the United States, where this is a polarised political issue? This is an issue on which we, as a Parliament working together, can actually move the dial. The Minister has made some really good points, as have the Opposition. Does she agree that, on this issue, we really can reflect the needs and wishes of the people out there through the consensual nature of our debate?

Claire Perry Parliament Live - Hansard
23 Apr 2019, 2:30 p.m.

I very much thank my right hon. Friend for his work as a Minister, particularly on waterways and rivers. This issue is not simply about the air or the biosphere. It is about the whole planet—all the ecosystems working together. He made an incredible amount of progress with that portfolio. Of course he is right. People look at us and see us filling this place with hot air over the three-year forward look regarding our relationship with the European Union, and then they see this place when we are debating these portfolios. In my time as a Minister, this is the fullest I have ever seen the Chamber when we have debated these matters. [Interruption.] Well, there have been very few Members on the Opposition Benches previously as well. People are right to look at us and say, “What are you going to do, working together across parties?” and to ask what role organisations such as the Youth Parliament can play—that is, whether there are organisations and assemblies which already include young people that can help us to make progress with the issue.