Big Plastic Count
I agree that we need to reduce plastic pollution and The Big Plastic Count is undoubtedly a fantastic initiative to achieve this aim. The Government is already taking steps to address plastic pollution. The Resources and Waste Strategy for England sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse, and recycle more plastic than we do now.
Ministers have committed to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable or reusable by 2025. Significant progress that has already been made to address plastic pollution. This includes introducing one of the world’s toughest bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products and bringing in measures to restrict the supply of plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds. The use of single-use carrier bags has been reduced in the main supermarkets by over 95 per cent with the 5p charge.
I know that this has been increased to 10p and extended it to all retailers. The Government recently consulted on proposals to ban the supply of single-use plastic plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks, and expanded and extruded polystyrene food and beverage containers, including cups. Ministers are committed to going further and addressing other sources of plastic pollution and ran a call for evidence to gather information on other problematic plastic items, including wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets, and other single-use cups.
Further, the Environment Act 2021 includes a raft of new powers to address plastic pollution and litter, including a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers, which will recycle billions more plastic bottles and stop them being landfilled or littered.
The Extended Producer Responsibility scheme for packaging will make manufacturers responsible for the full net cost of recycling their packaging waste and encourage more recyclable packaging. In addition, the Act establishes greater consistency in the recycling system and introduces new powers to make it easier to place charges on single-use plastic items that threaten our ecosystems.
National planning policy encourages local authorities to support our national transition to a low-carbon future with a positive strategy to promote energy from renewable sources. Onshore wind is one of the most cost effective electricity generating technologies and already accounts for approximately a quarter of installed renewable capacity in the UK.
The Government’s Net Zero Strategy highlights the importance of wind technology to a low cost net zero system and the need to increase locally supported onshore wind as we work towards a greener future. More widely, ministers have committed to reviewing the National Planning Policy Framework to ensure that the planning system contributes to climate change mitigation as fully as possible and is aligned with our net zero targets.
Nonetheless, protecting the beauty and local amenity of our countryside is something I consider with the utmost importance. That is why I welcome new plans to consult on developing local partnerships for a number of supportive communities who wish to host new onshore wind infrastructure.
New projects which receive strong local backing will be accompanied by benefits, such as lower energy bills. In addition, existing onshore wind infrastructure will be improved where updates and replacements are required.
Jackdaw Gas Field
Proposals for Shell Jackdaw development have been rejected by the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) on two occasions - most recently following a revised proposal from Shell in January.
Shell has subsequently submitted an amended proposal which will be reviewed, and a decision will be made by the Oil and Gas Authority. It should be noted that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy must give his approval before any consent is given. My colleague's decision will be based on the environmental impact assessment for the project.
Oil and natural gas will still be required for heating, cooking and transport until we reach net zero in 2050, and after that will still be needed for the production of many everyday essentials like medicines, plastics, cosmetics and household appliances. While the Government is working hard to drive down demand for fossil fuels, there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas over the coming years, as recognised by the independent Climate Change Committee, with the UK as net importers of both oil and gas.
Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet; tackling it is the number one policy priority of HM Government. In support of this, HMG is doubling its ICF spend to £11.6 billion between April 2021 and March 2026, compared with the previous 5-year commitment of £5.8 billion between April 2016 and March 2021.
At COP26, 141 countries committed to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030 in the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use. HMG has allotted up to £1.5 billion in ICF over five years to support action to protect and restore forests in developing countries. In the activities supported by the pledge, HMG has promised to promote the full, effective, and willing participation of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in programmes that protect and restore forests, reduce deforestation and forest degradation, and to work to ensure that benefits reach smallholders and local communities.
At COP26 in Glasgow more public and private finance was mobilised to support climate action in developing countries than ever before. Governments have committed to double the overall finance for adaptation and to better address the threat of loss and damage in climate-vulnerable countries. HMG is working to ensure that all countries make good on their pledges ahead of handing over the COP Presidency to Egypt later this year.
I recognise your point about access. While the amount of available finance is increasing, the current mechanisms for accessing it are often slow, complex and uncertain. The Taskforce on Access to Climate Finance, co-chaired by Fiji and the UK, was established in response to calls for reform from developing countries.
The Taskforce aims to address the way ICF is accessed through the implementation of a new approach to ensure countries and communities get the finance they need faster, and in alignment with their own plans and priorities.
HMG has committed £100m to support implementation of the new approach set out in the Principles and Recommendations, and ministers encourage other providers and recipients to apply this approach.
The Heat and Buildings Strategy marks a step change in improving energy efficiency and how we heat them. From 2035, all new heating systems installed in UK homes will either use low-carbon technologies, such as electronic heat pumps, or will support other new technologies, such as hydrogen-ready boilers, where the Government is confident fuel can be clean and green.
To encourage consumers to install low-carbon alternatives, a new £450 million three-year Boiler Upgrade Scheme will offer households £5,000 for low-carbon heating systems, such as heat pumps. This scheme is scheduled to open in April 2022.
The strategy also announced that the Government is boosting funding for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, by investing a further £800 million over 2022/23 to 2024/25, and the Home Upgrade Grant, by investing a further £950 million over 2022/23 to 2024/25. This aims to improve the energy performance of low-income households’ homes, support low-carbon heat installations, help to reduce fuel poverty and build the green retrofitting sector to benefit all homeowners.
I do appreciate your concern that these changes do not go far enough. It is important to remember that we are only now emerging from a pandemic that had a significant impact upon public finances. Funding decisions must now reflect that reality. Nonetheless, there is always more that we can do and I shall certainly bear your thoughts in mind for conversations with Ministerial colleagues.
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