Thank you for contacting me about the Government’s actions to mitigate climate change as we mark the Great Big Green Week.
Climate change is no doubt one of the greatest challenges we will face in this lifetime, and I share your views on the importance and urgency of action needed on this issue.
A harrowing report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the world is warming much faster than previously anticipated, with climate change already affecting every single region of our planet. This stark report must be met with immediate global action to limit warming, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and loss of Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.
As you may know, the UK, which continues to demonstrate a world-leading role in tackling climate change, was the first G7 country to legislate to achieve net-zero by 2050. In fact, we are decarbonising faster than any G20 country. In addition, we have set ambitious climate targets in law, such as a commitment to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030 and by 78% by 2035 (both compared to 1990 levels) ahead of meeting our net-zero commitment.
At present, the UK accounts for approximately 1.2% of global emissions. The Government and the COP26 President are working hard to ensure that other countries, particularly remaining G20 countries – accounting for 80% of global emissions – urgently submit new or updated 2030 targets with their plans for climate action ahead of the vital COP26 summit later this year in Glasgow.
While I am unaware of any current moves to implement a ‘net-zero test’ on government spending, the PM has established a Cabinet Committee on Climate Change to ensure all arms of Government are geared towards a common purpose in reducing net emissions and improving air quality. I know that my colleagues at the Treasury are also committed to ensuring that the financial system plays a major role in the delivery of the UK’s net-zero target and ambitions for a ‘nature positive’ future at home and abroad.
For instance, the UK recently issued the UK’s first ever Sovereign Green Bond, becoming the first country in the world to make Taskforce on Climate-Related Disclosures mandatory by 2023. I am proud that the UK has also used its current presidency of the G7 to broker an agreement moving towards making climate disclosures mandatory across their respective economies.
The UK’s commitment to reducing global emissions was supplemented by measures outlined within the 2021 Budget review, with announcements including £640 million for tree planting and peatland restoration, over £1 billion to support the transition to electric vehicles and new measures to reduce plastic waste. The Chancellor also announced £15 billion of green gilt issuance to help support vital projects tackling climate change, to fund critical infrastructure investment, and create green jobs across the UK.
The PM’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution sets out a clear vision for how we will achieve net-zero while also creating sustainable jobs. The plan will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled, green jobs in the UK and spur over three times as much private sector investment by 2030.
With regard to your calls for a detailed plan towards net-zero, on top of the Ten Point Plan, the Government has published its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, as the transport sector is the biggest contributor to the UK’s emissions. A new ‘Jet Zero’ Council was recently launched too. It brings together leaders from the aviation sector, academia, environmental groups and Government who regularly meet in committees and sub-committees to make net-zero emission flights possible in future.
With regard to a carbon footprint amendment, I am encouraged that the UK is already committed to being environmentally sustainable through in the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. In January 2021, the PM announced that the UK will spend at least £3 billion of international climate finance on nature and biodiversity over five years. The funding will deliver transformational change to protect biodiversity-rich habitats, shift to sustainable food production and supply, and support the livelihoods of the world’s poorest. In addition, the UK will be ending support for fossil fuel exports overseas as soon as possible. This is a significant change, as in the last four years, the Government supported £21 billion of UK oil and gas exports through trade promotion and export finance.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. The next decade will be decisive and every country, government, business and citizen must come together to tackle this huge threat to our planet and humanity.