The Government keep bringing us these thin Bills that ought to include things such as the ecological crisis and climate change, but do not. The subsidy principle should ensure that all our environmental and climate targets are met. Ecologically damaging, polluting industries should be weaned off public money completely and, ultimately, binned. My Amendment 8 would ensure that subsidies contribute towards limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming. My Amendment 33 would prohibit subsidies for fossil fuels and extend the definition of fossil fuel subsidies to include any government policy that makes fossil fuels cheaper than their true cost.
This is a very technocratic Bill, with lots of rules and principles, but it completely misses the opportunity to develop a grand strategy for what we want subsidies to achieve. The economic power of government finance is obviously huge; it can sway the economy for good or bad. Simply constraining subsidy-making powers, rather than planning what we want to achieve for those subsidies, indicates a huge lack of ambition on the part of the Government.
Part of that reflects an insurmountable tension within this Government, from those who are so free-marketing that they verge on being anarcho-capitalists to those who want to use the power of state finance as a way of sucking in voters and making a political legacy for themselves. Both those groups miss the point: that the Government should lead the economy into the future that we want to see and live in—one that would be comfortable for the majority of people. We need strategies for how we are going to deal with achieving net-zero carbon emissions and eliminate poverty. That would be a fantastic thing to want to achieve but, somehow, this Government actually increase poverty. Of course, this is not just about wealth; it is also about well-being. The Bill could be a chance to achieve all those things. However, the Government have to get back to the job they should be doing, which is improving the well-being of the population.
The subsidy principle should ensure that all our environmental and climate targets are met. Ecologically damaging, polluting industries should be weaned off public money completely and, ultimately, binned. My Amendment 8 would ensure that subsidies contribute towards limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade of warming. That is what scientists say we must achieve, so our laws should reflect that reality. The Government are most definitely not on track to do that. I can list an awful lot of legislation that has been passed that is damaging our chances of getting to that lower level of global warming.
My Amendment 33 would prohibit subsidies for fossil fuels and extend the definition of fossil fuel subsidies to include any government policy that makes fossil fuels cheaper than their true cost. This is really important, because fossil fuel subsidies are not just about giving money or tax breaks but include favourable regulatory systems, exemptions from environmental laws and so on. It is essential that we capture all those factors in the calculation of a subsidy.
Community energy schemes are quite important in a lot of local communities and I might have to bring back another amendment on this.
I am opposing the Question that Clause 51 stand part of the Bill. Nuclear energy is an energy scheme or an environmental scheme. I need an explanation as to why nuclear energy is expressly excluded from the energy and environmental principles in the Bill. This seems to allow for favourable subsidy arrangements to be given to the nuclear industry against renewable and zero-carbon energy sources, which will clearly distort the market in favour of nuclear. If nuclear can compete with renewables, let it do so and scrap this exemption. If it cannot compete with renewables in a fair fight, why pursue nuclear at all? This is a probing amendment at the moment, but I will probably bring it back on Report and push a vote on it, because I am so incensed that there is not a fair fight between nuclear, which is potentially extremely polluting, and renewables.
We may have had this debate many times but the fact is that the Government do not listen. For example, the Government could have already reduced by a huge margin our reliance on fossil fuels and gas by helping people insulate their homes. They have given little bits here and little bits there, but they have not invested heavily. They could do more but they refuse to do so. I do not understand why. So, we are going to continue having these debates until the Government actually fulfil some of the promises they have made.
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