Peter Aldous backs calls for more action to tackle the threat of climate change, highlights the opportunities presented locally by offshore wind and calls for the flood defence schemes in Lowestoft and Kessingland to be properly funded.
Britain has a good record in recognising the global threat of climate change and taking steps to address it. That said, the threat of climate change is growing, and more action is required on more fronts. Tomorrow, the Committee on Climate Change will provide its recommendations for how to shift the UK’s long-term climate target to net zero emissions by 2050, and I anticipate that the Government will respond positively and proactively. That will complement the measures already being taken, which embed tackling climate change in the nation’s DNA.
The industrial strategy leads into the clean growth strategy, from which sector deals are derived. The offshore wind sector deal, which the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth launched in Lowestoft in March, is helping to revitalise the local economy, and ScottishPower has set up its operations and maintenance base in the dock. Also, an offshore engineering training facility is under construction at East Coast College.
The low-carbon economy offers enormous opportunities to grow our domestic economy and to create expertise that we can export around the world. Oil and gas extraction on the UK continental shelf has played a crucial role in the UK and East Anglian economies for over 50 years, and the industry has an important role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy. The skills and expertise required in the sector overlap to a large degree with those required in offshore renewables. The two industries are already working together on such innovative projects as gas-to-wire, whereby gas from the southern North sea gas fields is generated into electricity offshore and then transmitted to the shore.
Does my hon. Friend welcome the £355 million that has been invested in Scotland’s offshore wind industry by the UK Government between 2010 and 2018?
I do welcome that investment. The two industries go hand in hand. In oil and gas basins all around the world, one will hear Scottish, Geordie and Norfolk and Suffolk accents, and we must ensure that that continues to be the case long after we have extracted the last drop of oil from the North sea and after other countries have moved to forms of renewable energy production.
We need to look closely at what we can do better in many areas, and I will briefly mention four of them. First, the Suffolk coast has been at the forefront of the battle with rising sea levels for a millennium, and the challenge has intensified over the past decade as climate accelerated the rise in the level of the North sea. Innovative schemes have been produced locally to defend both Lowestoft and Kessingland, and it is vital that they are properly funded. Secondly, the roll-out of smart meters is in many respects the elephant in the room that no one talks about. We are not doing well enough, and we need to do better. Thirdly, we were wrong to ditch the zero-carbon homes initiative. It needs to be reinstated, and we must step up plans to retrofit our existing housing stock, thereby reducing fuel poverty. Finally, electricity storage has a vital role to play, but it is threatened by Ofgem’s targeted charging review proposals. They must be reviewed, with full implementation delayed until 2023.
Millions of people around the world are imperilled by climate change day to day. We need more of what we are already doing, but on more fronts and with a greater sense of urgency.