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MS-4: Net-Zero White Paper 2017

Simon Bleyer

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Mr Speaker,

I am proud to present the Net-Zero White Paper 2017 to the House. It sets out the government’s plan to achieve our goal of Net-Zero by 2040. Our strategy has been divided into six segments: upgrades needed for homes and workplaces; the decarbonisation of heat, and electricity; the creation of a Green Revolution in the economy; manoeuvring Britain into being the energy powerhouse of Europe; and the upgrading and greening of our transit network.

It presents the issues that Britain and the world faces, and our responses to them.

I know that it will shock the Opposition to hear that good policy is not produced in a day, and that the business of government is not conducted overnight. So whilst they’ve been complaining - the departments of government have been in the business of delivering. This has been a significant and comprehensive process, comprising several departments and meetings with stakeholders in the business and environmental communities, to ensure that the policies included are the right things to do. This is no fleeting programme, but the groundwork agenda of environmental politics for two decades to come. That is an impressive and ambitious effort - and reflects the substantial commitment that must be made if we are to mitigate the environmental crisis, and tap into the economy’s Net-Zero goldmine.

Under these bold plans, we can - and we will - get the job done.

I will gladly take any queries relating to the White Paper either during this session, or at the regularly scheduled Ministerial Question Time.


Net-Zero White Paper 2017

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Mr Speaker

I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate my right honorable friends for their hard work on this white paper, which delivers on our commitment to be a world leader on climate change with an ambitious target of net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

We had the world's first climate change act, and now the world's first net zero target.

The party opposite have been doomsayers all along, Mr Speaker, opposing climate action from the get-go, and using project fear tactics to scare ordinary people that they would pay the price. Nothing count be further from the truth: today the Government has set out a plan that is not only a just transition, but one that can make Britain a world economic leader. We won't be caught late to the game, outsourcing the tools and the industry of the new green industrial revolution. We will make the electric cars and the energy infrastructure of the future here in Britain.

This plan will help us create 850,000 new green jobs in Britain: well paid, highly skilled, and secure jobs in the new green economy.

This plan will make the British economy a world leader in the biggest international growth industry of all: green technology and green energy.

This plan will put ordinary families and workers first: cutting energy bills by investing in home improvements and insulation. 

In Government, the party opposite rallied against what the Prime Minister at the time called "green crap". In doing so they wasted seven years. Seven years we could have been building the economy of the future. This Government had shown it won't dither and delay the big calls. We will get on with the job, and deliver the stronger, greener, more secure economy that our net zero future offers.

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Mr Speaker,

I rise to thank the Right Honourable Member, and Deputy Prime Minister, for an advanced copy of his statement.

Mr Speaker the whole House has rightly come together to express its deep and meaningful concern regarding the future of our green and pleasant land when it comes to energy and the environment. The 1970s showed us what a dependence on foreign fossil fuels and a Labour Government can do to our economy. I am pleased that the Government is taking steps to reduce the likelihood of both through this statement and its support for the Right Honourable Member for Walthamstow when he was Prime Minister.

Mr Speaker although this White Paper looks promising it fails to grapple with several important aspects of the drive to Net Zero. For example, it simply takes the 2040 date as gospel truth. Mr Speaker experts predict that the cost of Net Zero in the United Kingdom will easily reach or exceed £1tn, this price will be felt by Government, by consumers, and by business. In taking the decision to ensure that Net Zero is reached a full ten years earlier than it needs to be the Government are in effect ensuring that we have to spend a full £15bn/yr more until 2040 raising an already eye-watering cost to the Government to a full £43.5bn/yr for the next 23yrs. Mr Speaker this kind of expenditure should not be taken lightly, it will require deep cuts to other departments or eye-watering tax rises which, while Labour's obviously preferred mechanism, will not be easy for the millions asked to pay more either directly through their PAYE or indirectly through higher prices as businesses pass on the additional costs at a time when the Government is also demanding that they spend more on their own Net Zero obligations. While I appreciate, Mr Speaker, that the Government has pointed relentlessly to their fully costed manifesto and say that this, magically, exonerates them of any need to pay for their spending. Regrettably Mr Speaker this White Paper does not exist anywhere in the manifesto, and the 10yr National Transformation Fund only covers a quarter of the required spending. Mr Speaker this is the inherent contradiction at the heart of Labour's Net Zero and Fiscal Plans, they will raise taxes on businesses while demanding they spend more on Net Zero, they will raise taxes on individuals while demanding that they spend more on Net Zero, and they will raise Government Debt on Net Zero while demanding that we balance our Budget. This, Mr Speaker, is what makes the decision to rush this entire project even more unfathomable.

Mr Speaker the good people of this nation will look to this debate in anticipation of an answer for their own home. The Government has set lofty ambitions but in this white paper they are just that, ambitions. Mr Speaker the plan is to reach a position where every building in the country has an Energy Efficiency rating of A, B, or C be that public, residential, or commercial. Mr Speaker, how will the Government reach these ambitious targets? What will be the cost of telling a single pensioner, existing off of a single state pension and pension credit, that they must rip out their boiler, tear down their walls, and shatter all their windows to make way for a £10,000 ground-source heat pump, a £26/square metre cavity wall insulation, and a £500/window triple glazing. Even then Mr Speaker this is a target that the Government themselves acknowledge that they cannot possibly reach with many homes being simply ill-suited to projects like cavity wall insulation on account of having no wall cavities or being listed. Mr Speaker these represent incredible new challenges for the Government and for homeowners and are simply not addressed in this White Paper. What support will the Government be offering to homeowners who haven't got a spare £15,000 lying around? Who will then ultimately pay the bill which the Government incurs for this spending which wasn't budgeted in their manifesto plan?

Mr Speaker the Government raise the issue of decarbonising heat, a lofty goal I am sure that this entire House can support, but even then it is fraught with complications. The Statement talks about quick win solutions, ending coal and oil heating, ending biomethane injections into the gas grid, and curiously ending solar hot water. Mr Speaker I'd be grateful if the Secretary of State could outline what problems the Government has with solar powered hot water in the context of decarbonising heat? But more substantially Mr Speaker I would be grateful if the Government could explain what on Earth it will do for rural constituents such as my own who are not on the gas mains and who rely presently on heating oil, Kalor Gas, or coal. As I say Mr Speaker these are not on the gas mains, they cannot simply end the biomethane injection and be done with it. I have thousands of constituents in tens of villages across my constituency where the gas mains simply does not exist - is the Government telling these constituents, including many Housing Association tenants, that they will have to sink or swim? Will the Secretary of State commit to urgently meeting with me and my constituents to ensure that vast swathes of rural families are not left in energy blackout thanks to these proposals?

From here on Mr Speaker, we comfortably depart from potential future pitfalls and emerge comfortably in present day potential disasters. The Government have laid out numerous policy proposals for renewable power but say that they will pay for it with a windfall tax on the profits of non-renewable energy and heat producers. Mr Speaker energy and heat producers heat our homes, fill our cars with petrol, they are intrinsically linked to the very heart of modern British society. I am not arguing that they are untouchable, but I would caution the Secretary of State that introducing punitive taxation will lead to higher prices. It will be 5yrs before even the "quick wins" are fully online, it will be 10yrs minimum per nuclear powerplant before we can deliver cleaner energy in a sector-shifting way, but it will take five minutes for a windfall tax to raise the price of gas in the UK, it will be ten years minimum that commuters have to pay more at the pump because the Government hiked taxes on oil providers. Mr Speaker, what plans do the Government have to support people who are hit by the consequences of this windfall tax?

Then we come onto Section 5, the Green Economy, and Section 6, the Transit Network. Mr Speaker, we have seen time and time again in this statement that there will be an incredible cost to the taxpayer both in the form of higher taxes and in the form of direct costs for replacing parts of their home, higher gas bills, and higher petrol prices. Mr Speaker we are seeing in this section a commitment to massively expand our spending and not even a cursory attempt to mitigate the cost. The Government has committed to both infrastructure spending and day to day spending which does not appear in their manifesto costings. Mr Speaker how will the Government pay for all of this? Will they borrow and break their golden rule? Will they put taxes up even further? We simply do not know thanks to the uncertainty of this statement.

Mr Speaker I would like to conclude my remarks now to give others time to speak in this debate. What we are seeing here is a political choice to go harder and faster than is required pushing the British people to take even greater action than is needed. I have outlined how the Government's actions will impact businesses, consumers, and government spending alike leading to higher petrol prices, higher gas bills, and higher taxes. This is all a direct result of the Government pushing Net Zero completion a full decade earlier than many others would. Mr Speaker, I agree with the aims of this White Paper, I supported Mr Cameron when he pledged that you could vote blue to go green, but I do not support this reckless endangering of the British people's standard of living to pursue an ideological agenda ten whole years early. That comes at a direct cost of £15bn/yr. Mr Speaker, I urge the Government to reconsider the target date of 2040, but if this is not something they are willing to consider then I would urge them to actually look at the impact of these decisions laid out today and provide the key support required in a sustainable and fiscally sound way. Net Zero can be delivered at a net profit but this White Paper doesn't even begin to grasp at the difficult decisions between now and then.

Arnold J. Appleby

MP for North Bedfordshire (1979-Present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary

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