The Zero Carbon Future conference at (carbon-neutral) St George’s Wash Common, was an appropriate way to mark the start of Green Great Britain Week for me. The conference was organised by West Berkshire Green Exchange and was a chance to look at ways in which our lives and infrastructure here in West Berkshire could be changed to achieve the reductions required by 2050 under the Climate Change Act.
Nationally, Green GB Week was designed to bring together businesses, Government and civil society to celebrate the extensive cuts in emissions that we have already achieved in the UK – and also to open up the discussion about the challenges and opportunities from cleaner growth. All MPs were encouraged to mark the start of the week by making a pledge; with the Newbury conference fresh in my mind, mine was to help Net Zero West Berkshire to happen.
The Minister with responsibility for Energy and Clean Growth made a statement to the House on Monday. The evidence globally is not encouraging and the latest report from the IPCC makes sober reading. But there is evidence that successive UK Governments’ efforts are beginning to pay off. The average annual reduction in emissions per unit of GDP, which is the technical way this is measured, is 3.7% a year since 2000, well ahead of the G7 average of 2.2%. The Government’s Clean Air Strategy, Industrial Strategy, Clean Growth Strategy and 25 Year Environment Plan all play a part in this continuing commitment. The Minister had been at the European Council last Monday where emissions reduction targets were discussed and this cooperation across Europe and the wider world is something that has to continue, regardless of the technical rearrangements of our relationship with the EU.
Action on climate change and economic growth can go hand in hand. There are already more than 400,000 jobs in the UK’s low carbon economy and it is forecast that this thriving sector could grow by 11% a year up to 2030, four times faster than the rest of the economy. We are now at 32% of renewables and have had our first coal-free day. That is something to celebrate. In my contribution to the Net Zero West Berkshire event I said that whilst it is important to heed the apocalyptic warnings in the IPCC’s latest report we must not be too gloomy. If we are, the wider public who are broadly supportive will turn a tin ear to endless tales of woe. Across all major economies the UK has cut greenhouse gas emissions more than any other and has grown its economy more than any other. This proves we can deliver a better world for our children without wearing sackcloth and living in a cave!