Yesterday at 11.13am in the House of Commons the Fossil Fuel Extraction took place based on the text that emerged from “They Work for You” which can be found here. It was not a surprise that along with the author of the debate, Caroline Lucas that one of the other speakers was Wera Hobhouse, based on what I wrote about yesterday in my blog in anticipation of this debate. Sadly apart from Caroline and Wera the only other person who participated was Robert Goodwill who is the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby. His comment and indeed Wera’s comment were both responded to by Caroline in her speech. It was then presented to the Government and the Minister who responded was Lee Rowley who is a BEIS Minister. Very sadly although he made some positive words about Caroline, he ended by claiming her statement was not very positive and indeed Wera tried twice to interrupt him and he refused to listen to her. What I found most strange was that although the text appears from the House of Commons in They Work for You and it was clear that the discussion took place, that in Hansard the list of debates they refer to “Tuesday 26 April 2022 – The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock” and so it would seem that the Fossil Fuel Extraction took place before Parliament was formally opened which seems very strange. Perhaps it is because Caroline Lucas and indeed Wera Hobhouse are not part of the Government and therefore perhaps they have very limited opportunities to introduce issues. The final few words from Lee Rowley was this:
Ultimately, one has to choose one’s own approach. I respect and accept the hon. Lady’s approach and I am grateful for her contribution. I think we do have shared aims, but we have to agree on much of the content of this. We want to get to the same place. However, this Government are trying to put the rhetoric and the complaints aside, and to base this on the reality of how we are trying incrementally, carefully and in a sustained way to reduce our impacts on the world as a whole—to tread more lightly on the earth but also to recognise that that will take time, to acknowledge that we have great opportunities in our country to get there, and to recognise that we are in a transition rather than an extinction.
Ultimately, my concern about the hon. Lady’s speech is that it was very long on critique and very short on answers. Those who oppose have a responsibility to propose. We have a set of plans, a set of frameworks, a set of documents and a set of strategies that are seeking to get us to the end point of this and do it in a cool, calm and incremental way. I look forward to those on the Opposition Benches making such proposals some time so that we can do the same critique that has been done today, because they will not hold up to what we have been able to achieve so far, what we are doing today, and what we seek to achieve in years to come.
Question put and agreed to.
The opening comment from Caroline before Robert Goodwill spoke was as follows. His comment was to suggest that actually that he believed that Germany was using too much fossil fuel and he was arguing that we need to benefit from the nuclear opportunities – the response from Caroline is in the third paragraph here
In this global week of advocacy for fossil fuel non-proliferation, I call on the Government to deliver on the climate leadership that was promised, while the UK still has the COP26 presidency, by helping to initiate a negotiation process on an international fossil fuel treaty to phase out fossil fuels. I will set out the context for this treaty, the idea for which originated several years ago with parliamentarians in the global south and that has now been endorsed by more than 200 worldwide. I will lay out some of the reasons why such a treaty is necessary and ask the Minister some key questions about the Government’s strategy for ending fossil fuel production.
According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the burning of coal, oil and gas accounts for around 86% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade. There is global consensus that, on scientific, economic, public health, justice, moral and countless other grounds, we have to end our deadly addiction to fossil fuels, and we have to do it fast. At the Glasgow climate summit, under the UK’s ongoing COP presidency, for the first time since the original UN framework convention on climate change was negotiated in 1992, fossil fuels were finally referenced in the outcome text, albeit by committing only to a “phase down of coal”. But the fossil fuel age is well and truly over, and the only debate to be had is how quickly, successfully and fairly we act: whether we urgently transition to a zero-carbon economy or decline into climate chaos.
I think I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The truth is that although mistakes have certainly been made in Germany in the past, the idea that new nuclear now can help the UK get to net zero fast enough is simply misguided; it is too costly and too slow, and it simply will not get us where we need to be quickly enough. What is clear, however, is that phasing out fossil fuel production, and fast-tracking progress towards safer and more cost-effective alternatives, will require unprecedented international co-operation.
The rest of Carolines speech is worth reading as well, and it can be found in the link above. The challenge is what is the Government going to do? The first few words from Lee Rowley were
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and I congratulate Caroline Lucas on securing it. Although she will probably be aware that we differ on some points, it is useful even at this late hour to talk about a number of the issues she has highlighted and to respond to some of the questions she has asked.