Tackling climate change is one of the most critical issues the globe faces.
Britain has always led the world in facing these challenges head on, and this is no exception.
The UK was the first country to introduce legally binding domestic climate change targets; we were instrumental in securing the historic Paris Agreement; and since 1990, our national carbon emissions have fallen more and our national income has risen faster than any other nation in the G7.
Globally, momentum on climate action has accelerated. Just last month, the Prime Minister and I attended the One Planet Summit in Paris, to mark two years since the Paris Agreement. It was here that countries, including the UK, launched initiatives to help the poorest parts of the world mitigate and adapt to the ravages of climate change.
So what did we achieve in 2017? The growth of the renewables sector has been a real UK success story.
The latest figures verified by National Grid indicate that last year was the greenest year ever, with almost 52 per cent of electricity generation from low carbon sources between June and September. We now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world, and the cost of new offshore wind is tumbling thanks to government support.
On 21 April, the UK had its first day without coal power generation since 1882. We committed to phasing out power generation from unabated coal by 2025.
The shift to clean energy presents a multi-billion pound investment opportunity for businesses. Our low-carbon sector already directly employs over 230,000 people and another 200,000 indirectly, and we want this to increase.
The government is determined to lead the world in this transition to a low-carbon economy, ensuring that the UK reaps the economic opportunities.
Through support for science, research and innovation, we will secure the UK’s position at the forefront of low-carbon technologies, delivering high-value jobs up and down the country.
But it doesn’t stop there. Last autumn, our clean growth strategy set out £2.5bn of investment to support low-carbon innovation – a strong symbol of our commitment to a low-carbon future for the UK.
On our roads, we announced ambitious measures to reduce air pollution, committing to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in our country by 2040. And in December, the Prime Minister announced a ground-breaking zero-emission vehicle summit to take place later this year.
This action is delivering real results. We are on track to meet or over-deliver against our first three carbon budgets, and the 2017 energy and greenhouse gas emissions projections published this week show that we are doing even better than we thought against the fourth and fifth carbon budgets.
With this rate of progress, I am confident that we will meet our future budgets and in the process drive clean growth right across our nation.
Our work at home is also helping the world. The United Nations annual climate change conference held in Bonn represented a special moment for global climate action. There is real momentum to deliver the commitments of the Paris Agreement, despite the disappointing actions taken by President Donald Trump.
New initiatives are gaining traction, such as the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a global coalition of businesses, countries and cities committed to ending unabated coal power, which I launched along with Canada’s environment minister. The alliance has 50 signatories after only two months.
So I am looking forward to 2018 as a year to build on the foundations of our greenest year ever, take more action to help businesses improve their energy efficiency, and accelerate the switch to low-emission vehicles on our roads.
We will invest further in renewables, reinvigorate technologies such as carbon capture usage and storage, and launch the country’s first Green Great Britain week. Our aim is to ensure we leave the world in a better place for future generations.