Climate Change is the most important issue facing people and our planet. Let’s consider the trends and relative contributions from the world's most significant carbon dioxide emitters.
Since 1965, no country has put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than the United States. The estimated 264 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide the U.S. has emitted to the atmosphere represented 22.5% of global emissions during that time, and was well ahead of the estimated 216 billion metric tons from the European Union (EU). In second place among countries was the 188 billion estimated metric tons emitted by China.
But as China has industrialised - with a heavy reliance on coal-fired power - Chinese emissions have rocketed past both those of the U.S. and the EU. China's emissions passed those of the U.S. in 2005, and by 2012 had surpassed the combined contribution of both the U.S. and the EU. Should recent trends continue, China will be responsible for the most atmospheric carbon dioxide in less than 20 years.
China has lots of regional company, too. The Asia Pacific region is home to both China and India -- the world's two most populous countries and two of the largest carbon dioxide emitters. It is also home to other fast-growing and/or populous countries, like Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Japan. Over the past decade, this region's carbon dioxide emissions have grown at an average annual rate of 3.1%, which was nearly triple the global average. As a result, Asia Pacific is now responsible for nearly 50% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
While preventing catastrophic climate change is clearly a global challenge, I fully support the UK government’s determination to eliminate our own emissions and to work globally for urgent sustained reductions.
In 2010, the UK's landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near-unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A radical political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since.
A recent report from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking Act has been instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade - and has provided a framework through which the UK has led the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy.
But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue to not only drive emissions reduction at home, but overseas too. As a key part of our Industrial Strategy, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating well paid jobs.
Our low carbon sector now supports almost 400,000 jobs across the country, and the sector is still growing. These businesses include Kensa, the UK’s most popular ground source heat pumps brand, and Carleys organic, who produce chutneys, mustards and pickles in a dedicated organic eco-factory. I am proud that both businesses are based in my constituency.
By 2030, the UK’s clean economy has the potential to support up to two million jobs whilst generating £170bn of annual exports.
Creating electricity from the hots rocks beneath Cornwall is something I have been supporting for a longtime and am excited that drilling the first well has started at United Downs. This innovation could contribute significant amounts of carbon free energy and more well paid jobs. Cornwall already hosts a wealth of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal and marine. Cornwall now contributes more than 768 MW of sustainable energy generation to the UK energy mix, with approximately 25 per cent in local ownership, including 8 MW of Council-owned solar PV and more than 1MW owned by community groups supported by England’s first community energy revolving fund with £2.5 million council funds.
There are 200 community groups around the country already generating their own energy to the benefit of the local community. A great example in Truro & Falmouth is Transition Ladock and Grampound Road who were awarded £500,000 to install low carbon technologies in the community.
The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act. Five years ago, dirty coal accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at 7 per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance will be eliminated altogether.
In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables - with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources - an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables.
Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds - the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way.
Long term government planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming general elections, and it was precisely this short term-ism which the Climate Change Act overcomes.
Business, community and public bodies all have a role to play but so does each and everyone of us. Small changes in our daily routine can add up to significant benefits for our environment. Climate Vision, a local organisation, has produced ten pledges - actions we can all make to our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact. You could join the Climate Vision Pledge Group:Climate Vision.co.uk/top-ten-pledges.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a special report that assessed the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and related emissions pathways, following the higher level of ambition set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to provide new advice on how soon we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. The House of Commons Library provides expert, impartial briefings to MPs and this recent briefing outlines the current action being taken: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/insights/net-zero-emissions-a-new-uk-climate-change-target/
Finally, the Latin “conservare” means to preserve, and as a Conservative I am working hard to leave our environment in better shape than we found it. This is a huge challenge, requiring us all to play our part and take collective action but I am confident we can meet this challenge head on and deliver the changes we need to see. This is not only the right thing to do now but essential for future generations.