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Should the target be 60 cent. or 80 per cent.? I am glad the Government have charged the Committee on Climate Change with examining the question. I should like to see the Government set a figure much closer to 80 per cent. than to 60 per cent., but if we set a tougher target, it must be accompanied by credible policy changes that will secure greater reductions, and they need to be
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reflected in the annual carbon budget. Housing, for instance, accounts for some 15 per cent. of UK carbon emissions. The Government set a target that all new homes by 2016 must be carbon-neutral. In my constituency, I have seen some impressive pilot studies, with low-carbon building, which I described last week in a debate about eco-towns.

We need to scale up that technology. Opponents of eco-towns say that we do not need them because the Government are pledged to zero-carbon housing by 2016, come what may, but the only way we will develop the technology to meet that pledge is to pilot low-carbon housing on a community-wide basis. Some critics will ask why all the eco-towns are in the countryside, but I should like to see eco-districts in cities too. We need to build all our housing to those standards.

Road transport accounts for more than 20 per cent. of total emissions and we need an eco-transport policy. Sooner or later, the UK will have to build a new high-speed north-south rail line. I would far rather the Government and business put money into that than into a third runway at Heathrow. We have plenty of airport capacity. Every plane that takes off from London for north America flies over Manchester. Why not fly it from Manchester? That would save half an hour of flying time and 400 miles worth of fuel on a round trip, and if a fast railway line from Manchester to London were built, passengers could be in London in an hour and 20 minutes or an hour and a half. We need a joined-up policy. The Government should create some talisman policies that show that behind the Bill is a raft of policy change that will make a difference.

Some 25 years ago I ran a small television production company called IBT. At the time of the Ethiopian famine in 1984 we made a documentary called “Reclaiming the Earth”. It made the case that drought is not a freak of nature. The famine in Ethiopia was caused, or at least amplified, by human action. We interviewed a woman called Wangari Maathai, a grass-roots campaigner from Kenya, 15 years before she won the Nobel peace prize and 20 years before she became an Environment Minister in the Kenyan Government. Her views and ours at the time were seen as soft-hearted speculation, but those arguments are mainstream today.

We do not have another 25 years to keep debating the issue. If we do not take action in this country and provide a lead globally, the consequences will be catastrophic not just for Kenya and Ethiopia, but for the whole world.

8.13 pm

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): I will not support the Bill this evening. I have fundamental disagreements with parts of it. It requires the Government, and particularly their successors, to embark on a drastic restructuring of the British economy. No one knows the costs of that—certainly, the Government do not, and they do not have even the sketchiest idea how the Bill will be implemented.

There is an air of unreality about a great deal of what I have heard this evening. I doubt whether most of it will happen. The Bill combines some of the characteristics of both the poll tax and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, except on a much grander scale. Either it will be implemented, in which case, like the poll tax, it could be as economically unworkable as it would be politically
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suicidal, or it will not, in which case, like the Dangerous Dogs Act, it will turn out to be yet another exercise in gesture politics. The Bill rests on science, economics and the efficacy of the measures.

Mr. Maples: Until our right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) spoke, there was much discussion in the debate as though all the science was settled, but my reading of it is that that is simply not true.

Mr. Tyrie: I strongly agree. Some areas of the science are settled, but many are not. Having read the literature extensively, my tentative conclusion is that there is still considerable uncertainty about how the climate system varies, and particularly about how it reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. We should regard the current estimates of the magnitude of future warming as tentative.

I note that the only reliable survey that has been conducted of 550 of the world’s leading climate scientists says that two thirds are convinced that most of the observed warming is related to human action. In other words, a third are not convinced of that. It is worth bearing in mind the fact that many of the so-called 2,500 scientists in the IPCC process vehemently disagree with the panel’s conclusions, even though they support the section on the science in the main report on which they have worked.

Let us suppose that the science was settled and that we could take the central scenarios of the IPCC as the basis for policy making. What action should flow from that? To answer that question, the Government rely entirely on Lord Stern, as the Minister said this afternoon. Stern’s view is that we should implement a crash programme of carbon emissions reductions, as implied by the Bill. The problem is that Lord Stern’s report, far from being endorsed by the lion’s share of the world’s environmental economists, has been comprehensively shredded by them.

At a symposium at Yale, the leading experts assembled with Lord Stern and thrashed it all out in detail. I will not go into the detail now; I do not have time. Suffice it to say that the flaws were politely and, in my view, brutally and decisively exposed. In their view and mine, his report is littered with far too many mistakes and controversial assumptions to be taken as a serious basis for policy action at this time.

Professor Nordhaus, probably the world’s leading environmentalist, described the conclusions as “completely absurd”, as has Professor Richard Tol. Professors Mendelsohn, Yohe and a number of others have said pretty much the same. Professor Tol said:

There is much more of that ilk from economists around the world and from most of the UK’s leading experts—most, but not all. Some support Lord Stern, but he is in a minority.

The Government persist in taking their lead from Lord Stern, in which case, logically, they should carry on listening to him. But he has changed his views since his report. He now says that we should cut emissions by between 80 and 90 per cent. by 2050. So why do the
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Government not go for 80 or 90 per cent.? After all, Adair Turner also supports 90 per cent. By the way, Tony Blair, not to be outdone, has told us that he favours virtually 100 per cent. cuts. With those proposals, we move fairly briskly out of the implausible world of large cuts and swiftly into the theatre of the absurd.

What about the measures in the Bill? I have time to address only a few. A central objection raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) is that the Bill is unilateralist. No other country has been foolish enough to consider such a measure. It is a profound mistake to take the unilateralist route. First, we contribute only 2 per cent. of global emissions. Secondly, if we go ahead unilaterally, the UK will be disproportionately hit because we will increase our cost base when other countries have not increased theirs. A third reason is that although UK emissions will fall, they will reappear, probably at even higher levels, as the industries that we closed down with our higher cost base reopen in China and elsewhere. Finally, once we have acted unilaterally, the Chinese will have every incentive to delay an international agreement. That point has not been made at all today. After all, why should they rush to agree anything when they can acquire our industrial base and those of other countries silly enough to go it alone? It is regrettable that the Government have not even thought through the issue enough to make the Bill’s implementation conditional on some action by others. At least the EU approach to cutting carbon emissions contains some conditionality.

There are many other deep flaws in the Bill, but I do not have time to discuss them. It will hit the poorest in our society and in societies throughout the world. As I have already mentioned, the Government have only the sketchiest idea of how to go about this huge undertaking and of its cost. One clause—recently added—is enough to make the Bill objectionable to me. It now requires 70 per cent. of carbon emissions to come from domestic efforts and not to be purchased from abroad. Either the carbon emissions trading scheme is something that we want, in which case we should be allowed to buy as much as we need from it, or it is a corrupt or hopeless scheme, in which case it is not the right way forward. The domestic requirement just imposes an unnecessary extra burden on our economy. It has to be one or the other. I support proportionate action, including a modest carbon tax, technological research and adaptation, but the Bill is not proportionate.

Mr. Maples: One of the other things that puzzles me—I do not know whether my hon. Friend has thought about it—is that the media and commentators in the media seem to be wholly lined up behind the Government and the Stern analysis of the problem. They never seem to mention the things that my hon. Friend is talking about.

Mr. Tyrie: I strongly agree. We are taking decisions against a very difficult backdrop—periodically fuelled by media hysteria. The subject has acquired some of the characteristics of a religion: apocalyptic predictions abound, and they make good copy. Over nearly 20 years since I first looked at the issue when I was at the Treasury working for John Major, I have become saddened by the way in which the calmer voices of many orthodox scientists and economists, particularly those who do not
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agree with the current policy prescriptions, have often been drowned out. All the incentives are against speaking up about the subject. Some have described Professor Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the father of modern climate science. He wrote recently that

I have spoken to a number of the UK’s most senior specialists on the subject, and some feel similarly coerced. I shall read to the House a quotation from one of the major businesses in the UK. It says that

A leading economist has said:

Those people are concerned about speaking up but cajoled into not doing so. That is a bad climate in which to take such decisions as this Bill.

8.23 pm

Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab): It is quite refreshing and reassuring that the friendly consensus that had broken out in the House has been shattered by the resurgence of what can only be described as the flat earth society. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) gave one of the most depressing diatribes that I have ever heard. The issue is not counting beans but the survival of the species. Of course there has not been much in the way of carbon dioxide emissions savings up to now, because we have not had any legislation to promote it. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is faced with legislation to promote it, what is the problem? Has he got any better ideas? No. We have had nothing but negativity—sheer negativity.

The evidence is absolutely overwhelming, although not entirely consistent. It is not monolithic; there is an enormous range of evidence from climate scientists. It ranges from something that we can just about manage to the frankly apocalyptic. Those scenarios are possible, and do not forget that they have happened before in geological time. They are not figments of imagination: when they have happened, they have resulted in the wipeout of 90 per cent. of the species on the planet.

We are in a position to try to do something, and as human beings we are under a moral obligation to do something. We cannot just stand by and see the world made uninhabitable for our grandchildren.

Mr. Tyrie: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Turner: Yes, I very happily will.

Mr. Tyrie: The hon. Gentleman is giving a deeply apocalyptic view of the world. Can he tell me where in the IPCC reports, including in the science section of the fourth report, the evidence is to support such a view?

Dr. Turner: As has already been made clear, it is not in the IPCC reports, which err on the side of conservatism and are entirely consensual. However, everybody knows that there are step-change events that could completely transform the situation—for example, if the Amazon
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rainforest burned or if the Arctic tundra melted and released the enormous quantities of methane trapped in it; methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that would ratchet up the greenhouse effect enormously.

Enough of the flat-earthers—let us go with the majority for the moment and deal with the Bill. The Bill is a collection of aspirations. By itself, it does not legislate for the saving of a single tonne of CO2. It needs some nuts and bolts. As my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) said, we must have concrete measures to make it work. Fortunately, other legislative vehicles are kicking around.

The Energy Bill, for example, is now in the House of Lords. I am sad that, so far, we have missed an opportunity for advance through that Bill; it does nothing like enough to promote the deployment of renewable energy in Britain. We are in the unique position of having magnificent raw sources of renewable energy, and there is no more effective weapon against climate change and CO2 emissions than the maximum deployment of renewable energy. I confidently expect those omissions to be corrected in the Lords by various amendments, and I hope that the Government will accept them when the Bill comes back so that we can start to deploy renewable energy much faster and more effectively.

If we are going to do anything, we have to make a dramatic step change in our whole approach to climate change. It is no good assuming, as clause 1 does, that we can legislate for a 2° C limit on global warming. The range of variability in the correlation between levels of CO2, or CO2 equivalents and temperature rises has such a wide margin of error that 2° C is at the lower end of the range. The only answer is to take a precautionary approach and to reduce as fast as we can as effectively as we can. That is why we cannot mess about with this.

The flat earth society is very concerned about the economic impact, but that pales into insignificance if the world becomes uninhabitable—there ain’t much of an economy in an uninhabitable world. In future, on every measure that the Government introduce we must carry out not only a regulatory impact assessment but a climate change impact assessment, and we need to try to ensure that that assessment is always on the positive side.

I believe that we should not wait for the Committee on Climate Change to increase the central target to at least 80 per cent., with concomitant increases in the interim targets, but, rather, should do so during the passage of the Bill. In the light of current evidence, it is inconceivable that the committee would recommend anything less. We all know that the sooner one takes action—the sooner a tonne of CO2 is saved—the more effective it is. I very much hope that we can go to the higher targets right now. We should ensure that at least 70 per cent. of CO2 emissions are saved within country. There is an awful lot of doubt about clean development mechanism credits and so on. They have been seriously abused, and there is a real possibility that if we place too much emphasis on buying credits we will not save any CO2 at all. Equally, I have a very qualified faith in trading mechanisms. One of my criticisms of the Bill is that it places far too much reliance on trading mechanisms and not enough on physical mechanisms such as exploiting renewable energy. Markets never delivered anything except money into rich men’s pockets.

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8.31 pm

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Until a couple of months ago, I was happily riding this consensus and basically accepted the received wisdom. I thought that it was probably being exaggerated a bit, but then people usually do that in making a case. However, I then made the mistake of reading a few books and quite a lot of analysis, particularly of the Stern report. That has led me to a couple of conclusions that trouble me a lot. I do not believe that the science is anything like as settled as the proponents of the Bill are making out. In fact, the scientists hedge their predictions with an awful lot of qualifications and maybes that those who invoke them often omit. The science is a bit like medicine in the 1850s. The scientists are scratching the surface of something that they do not really understand, but no doubt will. They are probably on to something, but nothing like the whole story. What they say does not justify any of the apocalyptic visions that we have heard set out.

The record shows that the climate warmed from 1920 to 1940, cooled from 1940 to 1975, rose again from 1975 to 2000, and since 2000, according to the Hadley centre, has not risen at all. In the past seven years, global temperatures have not increased. All the predictions that we work from, whether from the IPCC or anybody else, are based on models, none of which can account for the cooling between 1940 and 1975.

Colin Challen rose—

Mr. Maples: The models on which the policy of the party of the hon. Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) is based cannot account for that cooling, and none of them predicted the constant temperatures that we have had for the past seven years.

Colin Challen: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maples: No, I want to get on with my argument.

It is not the temperature itself that is important but the effects to do with water, food, coastlines and health, almost all of which are amenable to our ability to adapt. Anybody who doubts that should read Bjørn Lomborg’s book, which is a seriously reasoned analysis of the costs of dealing with those issues through the Kyoto process and through adaptation. In almost every case, adaptation is the cheaper way to do it, in the sense that our living standards rise faster.

Mr. Tyrie: Bjørn Lomborg also does a pretty good demolition job on the whole issue of whether Kyoto was worth it. Does my hon. Friend think that the renewables commitment is a sensible way forward in this regard?

Mr. Maples: I was coming to that point. On, the Government’s renewables target of 20 per cent., a leaked document went to The Guardian recently, which said that the Government’s own predictions of the costs were between £18 billion and £22 billion a year. That is £400 a person, or £300 a week for every family of four in the country. All I can say is you run on that policy at the next election, and any party that does it—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was not referring to the occupant of the Chair.

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