|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Hunt of Chesterton rose to call attention to Her Majesty's Government's plans to implement the Kyoto Protocol and the proposals they have for tackling the longer term challenges of climate change; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the aim of the debate is for the House to consider the positive actions of Her Majesty's Government to address the effects of climate change. This is potentially the greatest physical threat facing this country and the whole world, during this century and the next. Nevertheless, the threat can be reduced, provided that there is decisive action by the whole international community.
As some major effects are inevitable, whatever action is now taken, governments need strategies for adapting society to the changes, including encouraging new business opportunities associated with the new challenges. I shall briefly recall some of the evidence and predictions drawn from research into climate change that gave rise to international action and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. I shall draw attention to the subsequent plans and actions by governments and industry in the United Kingdom and abroad to follow up on those commitments.
It is a good story, which, I hope, will be more widely known, especially that of how the UK is playing a major role in every aspect of the global campaign. I look forward to hearing the contributions of other speakers, especially the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, who brings great experience and knowledge to the House. My noble friend Lady Farrington will wind up on behalf of the Government.
Evidence that our climate is changing is now generally accepted. We can even learn that from leaflets at our friendly petrol station, whether its logo is tigerish, flowery or a shell. The facts are quite startling. Global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees centigrade over the past 100 years. The 1990s appear to have been the warmest decade in the northern hemisphere in the past 1,000 years. Carbon dioxide levels have risen by over 30 per cent since the Industrial Revolution. We are already seeing the impact of recent climate changes: shrinking glaciers; less ice in the Arctic; decline in some plant and animal populations; and earlier blossoming in botanical gardens throughout Europe. At Trinity College, Cambridge, the geraniums next to the fountain are now bedded out on 1st June, instead of 1st July, as the noble Baroness on the Woolsack will witness.
Computer models of the changing state of the atmosphere and the oceans that allow for natural variations in climate and solar variability can now describe the past climate up to 100 years ago. But to account for the rise in temperatures over the past 100 years, it is necessary to include the effects of the extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted by industry, transport, agriculture and forest fires. Those gases trap the outgoing radiation from the earthas
Those same computer models can predict the future. They show that global temperatures will rise by between 1.5 and 6 degrees Centigrade by the end of this century. That possible range depends upon the volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted in future. It is quite likely that there will be a doubling during this century. Such a rate of warming will be without precedent in the past 10,000 years. Some research indicated that if the Russian permafrost melted, it could lead to a further release of methanea very effective greenhouse gasand average global temperatures could be even higher. If absolutely no action is taken, there is likely to be a levelling out of the temperature at a high level more than 300 years in the future, following a decline in the world's population which is predicted after about 100 years. That is the worst case scenario.
People everywhere will experience the impacts of climate change in some way or other. Changes in climate extremes could be damaging and costly. In the UK probably the worst effects will be along coasts and estuaries where, over the next 100 years, on average there will be a rise of more than 0.5 metres. That may cause frequent flooding and probably the abandonment of some communities as the coastline retreats.
Developing countries, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable people in those countries, will continue to be particularly affected by the adverse impacts of climate change. There will be more flooding in some areas like Bangladesh and droughts and desertification in Africa and central Asia. The social and security consequences are likely to be severe and have global repercussions, as the London ambassador of a central Asian republic forcibly reminded a recent London School of Economics seminar. That is why the Government are playing a leading role in the fight against climate change, both in the international arena and by ensuring that action is taken in the UK.
So what can be done about this global problem? Primarily, emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced by about 40 per cent to prevent the worst effects, according to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. There may be temporary solutions over a few decades by massive tree planting to fix the carbon dioxide, but recent research at the Hadley Centre suggests that that is not a permanent solution because, as the trees die, ultimately the carbon is released again.
The Kyoto Protocol, though limited in its scope, represents the best international framework for addressing the problem of climate change. Essentially it will lead to a reduction in emissions of between 2 and 9 per cent by developed countries. Although it does not apply to developing countries, it is encouraging that as China's economy grows, its emissions are in fact increasing at a much lower rate than those of the United States.
Agreement to and adoption of the rules necessary to implement the Kyoto Protocol, which were conducted in Marrakech in November 2001, was a major political achievement. It is further proof that the international community is capable of pulling together to achieve common solutions to common threats. The rules were adopted by over 170 countries and comprise over 240 pages. The agreement paved the way for ratification and entry into force of the protocol.
For legal and presentational reasons, the European Community and each member state are aiming to ratify the protocol at the same time. It is hoped that that will happen at the next environment Council meeting in March. The Government will then ensure that the necessary procedures to enable UK ratification are completed as soon as possible. Other member states are committed to doing the same. The aim is to complete ratification to allow entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol by this year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, which will be held 10 years after the United Nations conference at Rio in 1992, when the Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed by many nations, including for the United States, by George Bush, father of the present US president.
Although the United States has withdrawn its original support for Kyoto, it is important that the United States Administration have indicated finally that they accept and are committed to tackling climate change. They are now reviewing climate change policy at the highest level. The UK has urged the United States to ensure that that review results in serious domestic action. In fact it is supported by US industry which, just as it did in action to reduce the ozone hole, takes a global view. We can see that on their company web pages. Indeed, many of them are perhaps more engaged in climate change mitigation than many countries in Europe.
There are encouraging signs within the United States, even in very conservative areas like Arizona where they recently voted a bond issue to construct a public transport system. One hopes that new US proposals will be compatible with Kyoto and that the US will return to the international process soon. We should also recognise that, although climate science is a magnificent international success story, the United States Government and universities have made a huge contribution; for example, by their generous and open provision of satellite, ocean buoys and the excellence of their research.
A number of other countries have already ratified the Kyoto Protocol. One hopes that countries that have not yet committed will follow suit. It is good news that Japan has begun its ratification preparations. Russia, which had been a reluctant convertas I learnt in my visit as chairman of ACOPS to the Duma and the Federal Hydromet Service in Octoberwas also positive about ratification at the end of negotiations in Marrakech. It is hoped that Russia will soon make a firm commitment to this process. Climate change will have a huge impact on that country. The UK Government and non-governmental
Japan, Russia and Canada argue that they do not need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as much as other countries because they are maintaining huge areas of forest and not cutting it down. Those so-called "sinks", which amount to about 20 per cent of the reduction expected in greenhouse gas emissions, are now allowed for to a limited extent in the amounts of emission agreed for those particular countries.
The UK Government's climate change programme has three main thrusts: first, the science of climate change and the assessment of impacts; secondly, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; and, thirdly, adapting the UK to the likely consequences. The UK's excellent work on climate research and on the predictions and studies of impact of climate change is widely admired around the world and is regarded as the benchmark for science even in top US laboratories. It has been strongly supported by the previous as well as the present government. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, devoted her entire address to the United Nations in 1989 to this topic, and she also opened the Hadley Centre.
The present Government have increased their support for those programmes; for example, by adding to the UK Climate Impact Programme and through the setting up of the Tyndall Centre, which was opened by Mr Meacher. That is based at the University of East Anglia, Southampton and UMIST, and focuses on the impacts of climate change. The UK is funding international space-satellite and ocean-buoys projects for climate monitoring. Those are absolutely essential to provide regular information to politicians involved in negotiations and to scientists and the public wanting to know how different aspects of the climate are changing year by year. The data help to forecast devastating global climate change events such as El Niño, which may be with us again this year.
The government programme to cut the UK's emissions of greenhouse gases is planned to be 23 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010, well in excess of our Kyoto target. To achieve that, the Government have introduced strong incentives for industries and individuals to contribute their reductions to greenhouse gases; for example, the climate change levy, the establishment of the Carbon Trust and changes to vehicle excise duty and company car tax to encourage more fuel-efficient and low emission cars.
Further financial incentives for innovation and creation of business opportunities for reducing carbon emissions will arise when the UK emission trading scheme starts this year. This, the world's first government as opposed to informal scheme, will be copied across Europe. Direct action by government, local authorities, non-governmental organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust, and millions of individuals are reducing carbon emissions in a number of ways. First, it is being done through energy conservation in transport, industry and in the home.
Secondly, new technology is being introduced that could well lead to rapid reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. For example, a leading technologist in one oil company predicted that it would not be selling gasoline in 50 years. Most of its energy sales would be solar collectors and hydrogen, obtained cleanly from coal or oil and delivered to transport vehicles.
Totally carbon-free approaches to energy supply are also being considered as an important component of the UK's energy supply. The Performance Innovation Unit's energy review is looking closely at the future of nuclear energy, including its wider, long-term environmental implications which are now much less threatening with the latest technology in use in power stations and nuclear processing facilities. We also need to keep open future possibilities of power from controlled nuclear fusion which has almost none of the environment risks of nuclear power stations. This is being advocated by powerful voices in Europe. Of all the areas of new energy technology, this is one where the UK has perhaps the greatest advantage with the Culham laboratory.
However, for most environmentalists the favoured forms of carbon free energy are renewables from winds, tides and solar. The Government have introduced programmes to expand those quite rapidly to the level of 10 per cent of the UK's energy supply by 2010. The exemption of the climate change levy for this source of electricity is a powerful incentive. Anyone who has visited California or Denmark will see how financial incentives can lead to a good many wind machines being installed in a few years.
Clearly the technical, environmental and financial initiatives for efficient energy use and energy supplies with reduced carbon emissions require at the government level an unusually close degree of co-ordination between government departments, notably between the DTI, DEFRA, DTLR and Her Majesty's Treasury. The joined-up approach of this Government is proving at least as effective in this respect as that of any other government I know abroad or any government I have experienced in the UK.
Whether it is government or an individual, any sustained programme for energy efficiency and carbon emission requires monitoring and information. Most organisations and households have little idea about how they use energy and contribute to global warming. That is why the Government are encouraging the public and private sector to focus on monitoring, predicting and informing themselves and the public about the impacts of their energy and other processes on local and global environment. The fact is that carbon dioxides emitted here ultimately affect the sea level rise on an island in the Pacific, so we need to know what we are doing.
For other parts of the world, DfID is ensuring that climate change effects are an essential part of its policy, helping the poorest governments to plan their future which may have to be changedwith one Pacific island moving a whole population. That is a measure of the seriousness of the issue. I commend the serious and committed approach of the Government. I beg to move for Papers.
Earl Peel: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on having instigated the debate and thank him for his wide-ranging descriptions of the many problems which arise from this crucial issue. I speak with some trepidation. I follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whose knowledge on these matters is well known, and to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, who has forgotten more about the subject than I shall ever know, is a daunting task.
The extent of global warming, if it actually occurs, is one of the great debates of our time. No matter how sceptical one is, it would be impossible not to be alarmed by some of the statistics in recent times which refer to what has happened in the past. That suggests to me that the predictions for the future must be taken seriously.
As to cause and effects, I do not know. However, I should have thought that common sense alone suggests that if we continue to chuck enough pollutants into the atmosphere something must give. As someone who lives in the country, I have noticed the weather patterns changing and have observed changes in the behaviour of wildlife.
The predictions of how the UK climate may change are alarming. A mean increase in temperature in the 2020s of 1.3 degrees centigrade, wetter winters and drier summers, and sea levels perhaps rising in the 2020s between 14 and 37 centimetres speak for themselves. If even half those predictions come true, it is clear that they are likely to have a profound effect on the way in which we conduct our lives.
I wish to say a few words today from a rural perspective. I declare an interest in that I own land. I do not farm personally; all the land I own is let. The debate on climate change is ongoing but the political, scientific and media worlds do not appear to have acknowledged the interests of the countryside, which are very much in the front line of the issue. Indeed, I was most impressed by the recent report by the Country Land and Business Association on the matter. It came up with no less than 102 recommendations to government on global warming issues based almost exclusively on a rural perspective.
A very significant percentage of the world's carbon source is in the soil, in the organic matter, which is the principal source of the land manager. Consequently small changes in the volume of the soil's carbon can have a significant effect on carbon emissions either way. Cultivationploughing or forestry activitiesresults in carbon emissions. By changing cultivation methods farmers could actively store carbon in the soil.
That leads to the interesting concept of carbon accounting. I realise that this is happening in business already but it is still very much in its infancy in the agriculture sector. It is the method of looking at all the greenhouse gases on farmscarbon, methane and so oncalculating what emissions are taking place and balancing those against the level of carbon sequestration in the soil and trees. It is an interesting concept which I hope that the Government will consider seriously.
Another interesting developmentI am sure noble Lords will be only too well aware of itis renewable crops: crops used to produce carbon neutral energy such as willow coppice. I realise that this again is in its infancy but it surely must have a real future. Apart from the attraction of renewable crops as a means of producing clean fuel, it is to be hoped that they can act as a major replacement for some of the declining levels of uneconomic crops which will not survive the changes embracing agriculture at present. I appreciate that the Government have a target of 10 per cent of electricity produced from renewable sources by 2010. Are the Government satisfied that that target is being met?
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to forestry. It is a means of carbon sequestration and is acknowledged as such in the Kyoto agreement. But it is also worth mentioning that the production of quality timber, principally hardwood, can be a substitute for synthetic materials the manufacture of which contributes to global warming; and such timber could be used more in the construction industry, in houses and so on. Is the woodland grant scheme designed to incorporate such thinking? If not, I believe that the time is ripe for that to be so.
On the question of floodingan increasingly serious phenomenonwhether or not it is a by-product of global warming, clearly land managers can reduce the problem by creating managed flood plains to control the flow of water and, at the same time, introducing some additional wildlife benefits. Again this comes back to the agri-environment schemes which are so much under discussion at the moment.
Let me give one final statistic which has always struck me. The predictions state that a 1 per cent increase in temperature will directly affect birds and plant species by moving them northwards by 100 miles
The opening-up of world trade through less restrictive marketsin other words, globalisationis a fait accompli. I do not wish to comment on that other than to say that it is inevitable. But the aftermath of foot and mouth in this country, coupled with the other difficulties facing agriculture, have resulted in new ideas and new initiatives. The focus is now on the restriction of stock movement, the apprehension of imported meatand therefore greater controlslocal abattoirs, farmers' markets, local trade. All this, again, is reflected in the Curry report.
It seems to me that these two forces appear to be pulling in the opposite direction. But clearly in the context of the debate today, the less movement of goods, the less impact on global warming, and therefore another factor to be fed into this complicated equation.
I have already referred in the House to an article I read recently in a Countryside Alliance publication which struck me very profoundly indeed. I apologise to noble Lords who may have heard me say this before. It concerns a simple story: a farmer in Kent, carrying a trailer-load of apples to a farmers' market, spent more on fuel tax than did a supermarket flying in a plane-load of apples from South Africa. Not only is this a threat to food production in this country, to sustainable agriculture and to rural communities, in the context of this debate, I suggest, it is not much help either.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, when he began to speak the noble Earl, Lord Peel, was very reticent. In fact, he made a most important contribution on the rural aspects of climate change. I am glad that he placed emphasis on the energy contribution which can come from the land and which should be substantially developed.
We are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for introducing the debate and for the wide-ranging manner in which he did so. It somewhat limits what those who speak after can say on the subject. But we shall have some important speeches later, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, who is a most distinguished participant in the energy sector.
The Kyoto protocol has been rescued, much against most people's expectations, after the unfortunate developments at the Hague earlier. A large part of the rescue operation was undertaken by HM Government. It was quite a remarkable achievement. But the objective originally envisagedthat is, a 5 per cent reduction in emissions overall by 2010has not come out of it because of the various negotiating modifications that had to be adopted. It is estimated that it could be less than half that. But that is not the
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to the American position. We were all dismayed when the Americans appeared to be withdrawing from the whole issue of climate change, but that does not now appear to be the case. There is much going on in the United States by way of research and development, in some areas of which they lead the world. From industrial, commercial and popular reactions in the United States, I believe that the Americans will very soon return, in one way or another, to join the other countries which are seeking to deal with this urgent problem.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out, the next step is ratification. So far, very few of the Annex 1 countriesthat is the industrialised countrieshave ratified. Let us hope that soon the EU countries will set an example. Once they have ratifiedand if what we have heard about attitudes in Russia, Japan and elsewhere is true, the necessary numbers will be reached before the Johannesburg conference in Septemberit looks as though reasonable progress will be made, and a good understanding reached, in the period up to 2010.
In this country, the real challenge is what will happen after 2010. That is the date when the AGR power stations begin to be withdrawn from operation, and that is when, on the basis of expectations of energy demand in the various sectors, we could well have an increase in the usage of energy. As things stand at the moment, unless there are changes, the impact of all that could seriously set us back in our longer-term objective of achieving a reduction in emissions.
These matters are closely linked with the issues at which, no doubt, the energy policy review is lookingin particular the issues of energy efficiency, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt referred, and energy security, which is bound to play a part.
In the case of energy security, as we know the estimate is that we will run out of resources from the North Sea in the next few years, creating an import requirement for gas of the order of 90 per cent by 2020. I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, with his great knowledge of the subject, will refer to this and give the House his views.
As to the question of energy efficiency, this country, like many others, is very profligate in its use of energy. It has been estimated that we use only about 55 per cent of the energy generated. The remainder is wasted. The largest area of waste is the waste heat from power stations. Another big area of waste, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred, is the inefficiency with which we use energy in our homes. These are two most urgent questions. If we are to deal with the problem of climate change, of course renewables and alternatives will play their part, but one of the most important issues will be to make better use of energy. That will automatically reduce emissions.
Let me deal with the question of waste heat from power stations. While we have built up a most efficient network of power stations connected by transmission lineswhich many other countries have copiedthe trouble is that it is not the most effective way of converting primary energy to secondary energy. We need to make sure that at least a proportion of electricity is generated much nearer to the points of consumption. Then we can make use of the waste heat and also save on the transmission losses. I declare an interest. Because I am strongly committed to this issue, I recently started a company called Micropower to promote the concept. It is supported by a number of the major companies involved in this area.
On the question of energy efficiency in the home, I regret to say that Britain is among the countries where energy is used most inefficiently. The English House Condition Survey has indicated, each time it has appeared, that we have a higher proportion of poor conditions in housing than any of our counterparts in Europe and that that leads to main heat losses. I regret that the policy pursued by the Government of pressing for a reduction in the price of energywhich on the face of it sounds absolutely rightis one of the prime reasons why we have not done as much as we should in this area.
Reducing the price of energy is socially and commercially desirable. However, it takes the eye off the main ball, which should be to make better use of energy. There should be more fiscal and financial incentives to use energy more efficiently, rather than pressure to reduce the price of energy as it is received. I hope that the forthcoming energy review will pay attention to that point. The matter cannot be resolved simply by means of legislation. A whole new attitude needs to be developed in this area.
Energy security raises many issues, among them the need for a greater use of renewables. However, we must take a hard look at how that is being done and at the definition of renewables. The term is rather narrowly defined. It could, for example, include methane from disused coal mines. If methane from the mines enters the atmosphere, it causes much more harm than if it is captured and converted into electricity. Coal as such can also play a part through clean coal technologies and carbon extraction. All these technologies can be developed to help us, particularly in the period after 2010, to grapple on a continuing basis with the serious problem of climate change.
Lord Browne of Madingley: My Lords, I, too, believe that we owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for initiating this debate. Climate change is a crucial subject and this is a critical moment at which to examine the progress being made, here and internationally. I am personally indebted to the noble Lord because the debate gives me the opportunity to
On the subject of climate change, I believe that this is a moment for realistic optimism. "Optimism" will undoubtedly seem a surprising word to use given the mounting weight of evidence about the seriousness of climate change and the scale of the risks involved. Optimism may seem surprising also given the fact that international negotiations appear to be stalled. But I believe that there are some reasons to be at least cautiously optimistic.
The first is that the science has been accepted. Very few people now deny that climate change is a serious risk to the whole world. Of course, the science is incomplete and the conclusions are provisional. But all science is provisional. The search for truth always continues. The scientific work done so far shows that there is a material risk which we cannot ignore. That has now been accepted by the overwhelming majority of serious commentators and decision-makers.
The second reason for optimism is that the need for precautionary action has been accepted. We may not know in absolute detail the causes and consequences of climate change, but we can see the need to take steps to reduce the risk.
Many precautionary actions are being takenand they are succeeding. They take many formswhich is in itself a good thing, because this is not an issue which can be resolved by a single wave of a magic wand. Here in the UK, there has been a shift to fuels with less carbon. That has also been the case in Chinaas the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentionedwhere the emissions of greenhouse gases are estimated to have fallen by more than 15 per cent between 1998 and 2000 as the country shifted away from coal and in favour of natural gas.
Companies, too, are taking precautionary action. They are using energy more efficiently, eliminating waste, and applying new technology to reduce the emissions from their operations and from the products they sell. There have been advances in the sequestration of carbon, and in some parts of the world new forests have been planted to offset emissions. And in many casesboth at the national and at the corporate levelthe various actions being taken are backed by trading schemes which ensure that emissions are reduced by applying resources in the most effective places. What is perhaps most remarkable is that progress is being made without a huge cost being imposed on the economy.
Optimism must be grounded in reality. Hydrocarbonsoil and gasremain vital sources of energy and the level of demand for both of those fuels is likely to grow as population and economic activity increase. Alternative and renewable fuels are making great progress, but they are still essentially at the
But from that starting-point, given recent experience, it is possible to look ahead and to see a growing world economy in which the emissions of carbon per unit of output are gradually, progressively, falling.
Of course, there is much more to do. Technology and best practice have to be spread and used on a global basis. This issue is inseparable from the general cause of development. In many areas more research and technical development are needed, which is why the work being done at universities here and in the United States is so important.
There is a need to create a framework which enables the steps being taken by different countries and organisations to be valued and incentivised. That will ensure that emissions are reduced at the lowest possible cost and will also confirm that each country, each company and each consumer can pursue solutions which reflect their own particular circumstances.
And on that, too, I am optimistic. We do not have such a framework yet, but the progress made over the past few years will help us to achieve one because we can now see that we are dealing with a challenge which can respond to practical action.
Lord Garel-Jones: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley. We live at a time of great debate about the composition of this House. I am sure that your Lordships hope that, whatever changes may come about, they will enable distinguished fellow citizens from the world of business, science or the arts to make the kind of contribution that we heard from the noble Lord today. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to further contributions from him on this subject and on others.
Global warming is a global problem that demands global solutions. The first problem that arises with global solutions is that many countries, including our own, find that they can occasionally seem to pose a threat to what, in traditional terms, might be called their own sovereignty. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, pointed out, the Kyoto protocol may well be limited in scope and perhaps does not go far enough, but the most encouraging aspect of it is that at least it provides a framework within which we can begin to think about a global solution to the problem.
Part of any global solution will involve what one might call burden sharing. The world's richest countries, which are the greatest producers of pollutants into the atmosphere, will need to make the greatest sacrifices. If one measures the output of human beings as one might measure horse power, to
I was particularly pleased to hear from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and from the tone of the debate that the issue does not seem to arouse partisan feelingsin this House at any rate. I was pleased with the tribute that the noble Lord paid to the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and to Mr Major, who signed the Rio accord. The previous government can also take some credit for the way in which the European Union has begun burden sharing. The three major producers of emissionsthe United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany and Hollandare assuming a greater part of the burden than might normally be expected to fall upon them in order to relieve some part of the burden from Portugal, Spain and the Republic of Ireland.
That brings me to the United States. One particularly pleasing aspect of the debate, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his opening remarks, has been the absence of the attitude that we can prove how British, French or European we are or how committed we are to tackling the problem of climate change by how rude and offensive we can be to the United States of America. That policy is not only mistaken, but far removed from the facts, as the noble Lord pointed out.
It is true that at the outset the United States Government perceived the Kyoto protocol as an intrusion into their sovereignty, in a sense, but our Government are to be congratulated on taking a leading role in moving the United States Government towards a position in which we can hope that they will sign up to the protocol and provide the lead that only they can provide in tackling the problem. By their signature to the Montreal protocol on the ozone layer, the United States Government have proved that they understand that such problems need a global approach. I think that we can be optimistic in that sense.
What now? Following the events of September 11th, the United States Government have demonstrated to the world and to themselves that they can pursue their interests and protect their citizens when they are able to stand in front of a coalition. They have done that with skill, restraint and success. We should invite our Government to use the influence that I believe they have, particularly the Prime Minister, to suggest to the United States Government that the contribution that they already maketo which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, drew attentionis not sufficient. The United States alone ought to be leading on the issue. I very much hope that our Government will continue the good work that they have been doing and will ensure
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt on initiating this important debate and add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, on his extremely well informed and interesting maiden speech.
The Kyoto meeting in 1997 was an important stage in the global strategy for dealing with climate change, as it represented an important breakthrough in the acceptance that climate change is caused by human activity. It is a first step aimed at the developed world and has been a very shaky step, given the withdrawal of the United States, which is the world's biggest polluter.
We all know that the target in 1990, reported to the 1992 Rio earth summit, calculated that an immediate 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions would stop the build-up of carbon dioxide. The conference warned:
Those huge figures60 per cent, 10,000 years and several others that my noble friend Lord Hunt and others who are much more scientifically expert than I am have brought to today's debatehave created a mountain that ordinary people find it difficult to face and to climb.
I shall make a few remarks about the global situation, but mostly I shall address myself to the local, the community and the personal. Like many, I was proud that my Government took a firm stance on Kyoto and its subsequent meetings. The leadership that the UK Government have shown has kept the door open to the United States Governmenta door that I hope, in time, they will go through. Like many, I was disappointed when George Bush withdrew the original support that the United States had given to Kyoto.
As my noble friend has said, the UK's research on climate change has made a huge contribution to helping to solve the problem. The UK has generally been recognised and praised for its generosity. We must not slip back and reduce our commitment. What should we be doing in our homes, our communities, our towns and our cities? The policy framework that local authorities face on energy conservation and related issues is increasingly complicated. Will my noble friend the Minister assure us that local government is playing its part and will continue to do so?
In the course of researching this speech, it came to my attention that, as my noble friend Lord Hunt said, satellite and aircraft monitoring make it possible to "photograph", which may not be the right word, the heat emissions of every town, street and even home. I suspect that such photographs have already been taken. If they have, what is being done with that information? Is Slough councilan example that I
What about our personal and very local contribution? Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Peel, I am an urban creature, but, like him, I feel that we have to examine ways of encouraging energy saving and recycling at the very local level. Many local authorities have addressed environmental issues and attempted to make their contribution to saving the world on the basis of Agenda 21. Your Lordships might remember those debates. Perhaps another, greater push for local action will be made at the Earth Summit + 10 which will take place in Johannesburg. I hope, and I am sure, that the UK Government will be at the forefront of any such initiative.
Our children's education and awareness of environmental issues are major factors in addressing those issues. The national curriculum itself addresses many issues to do with recycling waste, greenhouse gases and the environmental effects of global warming. The job of parents and teachers is to ensure that we translate that theory into practical daily action in the home. We should explain, for example, how to treat domestic waste and the benefits of walking or taking the bus to school rather than taking a car. We should also accept that, in many ways, our lives need to slow down. It is not necessary to live life at such a fast pace. We should explain the benefit of planning one's life so that one is able simply to walk or take the bus.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, we are very wasteful in our homes. I live in a modern house. When the builders were selling it, they proudly explained to me that it was also a very energy efficient house. Although I was a little sceptical at the time, the fact is that my fuel bills are half those I had in my previous, Victorian house. Better insulation and house design are the way forward.
We also have to make environmental awareness fun for our children if we are to interest them in the issue. I have yet to find a computer game about saving the planet that is as challenging and fun as games involving Lara Croft and James Bond. Our children are addicted to the latter type of game. I therefore challenge game inventors to devise equally interesting games about the environment. It could be their contribution to saving the planet.
I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, that there is no room for complacency, and I do not believe that the Government are complacent. However, although there is no room for gloom, there is an urgency to the issue which this debate has revealed.
It is heartening to know that the Government will ratify the Kyoto protocol well before the UN summit in August. It is equally heartening that the Government's climate change programme more than covers the 12.5 per cent reduction required by Kyoto. I hope and pray that the programme is successfully implemented by 2010 as intended. I also hope and pray that the much more stringent requirement of a 60 per cent reduction by 2050, the case for which was made last year by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, is achieved. As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, that is the bigger challenge.
The need to move towards a low-carbon economy is paramount. The tortuous process that led to and followed Kyoto cannot be afforded again. Once Kyoto is ratified, we must regard ourselves as committed to remain on the path to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. We must produce just and intelligent policies to reduce our share of the poisoning of the atmosphere that has gone on so prodigally in the industrialised world for so long.
For too long, the industrialised world has been allowed to make its decisions on the basis of what it can afford rather than what it needs. Yet I am frequently struck, as I am sure other noble Lords are, by the number of people of good will who are sincerely trying to live their lives less selfishly, making changes at whatever level they can. For part of the duty of being human is to leave things better than one found them. However, people of good will are trying to effect change often within a framework that militates against them.
The pace of life, which ensures that we all have to find the quickest way to travel from one place to another, together with the cost and trouble of switching to alternative energy sources, overwhelm many a good intention and leave people much where they started but with a consolidated feeling that there is nothing they can do to help; it is beyond the power of the individual to change. How would it be if the Government heard that grassroots need and swung into action to help, perhaps more effectively and constructively? Make it easy for individuals to reduce their energy consumption and we may be startled by the size of the response.
As we know so well, not all people seek so earnestly to serve humanity's needs before their own. The restraint required in consuming less is effortful and often our convenience overrides our conscience. Moreover, as we become less and less true to our internal, spiritual selves, so we become more and more demanding of the external, material universe to satisfy ouractually insatiabledesires for distraction and entertainment.
Meanwhile, there is a serious charge of injustice to the poor of the world which we in the West have to answer whether we like it or not. I very much welcome the Prime Minister's current visit to Africa. The poor of the world are paying for our affluent lives, and government must not wait for widespread changes of heart among their population before they insist on change. They have to use their wit and do all in their power to fashion policies to ensure that,
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, gave what I would describe as a masterly review of all the problems affecting global warming. I am delighted that so distinguished an expert has become the chairman of ACOPS, of which I was chairman for a long time and am now happy to be president. The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, no less, is the founding president of ACOPS, so this House and ACOPS are not doing too badly!
We are dealing here with a highly complex issue. Scientists the world over find themselves deeply divided over cause and effect. President Bush, and those politicians advising him, essentially rejected the approach that climate change endangers the planet. Perhaps some degree of special pleading has something to do with that. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, is right and that they can be moved on that issue. I do not know whether that is the case but we certainly have to make an effort. After all, probably the majority of United States scientists who are experts in this field reject the scepticism which, according to Dr Benjamin Preston, a senior research fellow at the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change in the United States, is advanced by many sceptics who are non-practising scientists or conservative organisations or other interest groups with a vested interest in undermining Kyoto and all that it stands for.
Personally I prefer the presumption of probability in situations of this kind. How else can the man or woman in the street make up their minds on this issue? That, in a remarkable maiden speech, is what the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, prescribed.
Is Kyoto the death-knell for business? Michael Meacherand I agree with himcertainly does not think so. By taking a lead, British business, through the development of a domestic emissions trading scheme, can secure a future that will be for the benefit
The President of the United States considered that the protocol was dead. Indeed, that is the word he used. I believe that he is profoundly wrong. I hope that he will increasingly recognise that the Kyoto protocol can be realised. Therefore, I ask my noble friend what plans this Labour Government have to win over the United States. Failing that achievementI hope that I am profoundly wrong about thathow will the Government make Kyoto succeed? Have they any plans, a point made by several noble Lords, to introduce fresh measures on energy use? I suppose that we shall have to await the Budget for credible evidence about that. If that is not the case how can the United Kingdom meet its targets under the Kyoto protocol for reducing greenhouse emissions?
Those are some of the questions that must be posed. There are others. For example, how do we verify a country's, or for that matter a company's, emissions? Is there a difference between the European Commission's draft directive on the creation of an emissions trading scheme for the European Union as a whole and the United Kingdom's scheme which is due to begin this year? What objections do our Government have to the EU's mandatory approach as opposed to their own voluntary scheme? Are there any other differences which we ought to know about? As I say, I do not think that the protocol is perfect but it is a start. It represents a vital foundation for the future. The balance of evidence we now have requires us to take effective steps at this time to overcome real damage to the global environment. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is more confident than ever that our climate is being changed for the worse as a result of man's activities and that we must arrest that change before it is too late.
That summarises the challenge that we face. Some effectively seek to duck it. I have thought for a long timeI may be wrongthat the Government of the United States seek to duck the challenge. The noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, took a different view. He may be right; I hope he is. However, if we had adhered to that kind of approach with regard to the Montreal protocol, the hole in the ozone layer would pose an even more significant threat than it does. Nothing can be achieved if we deem it too difficult to try. But try we must if global warming and everything which
Lord Greaves: My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for introducing this debate, perhaps he will not be too upset if I say that some of us are just a little less certain than he is that the Government are doing everything that is absolutely necessary in this field. Indeed, I am quite sure that if the noble Lord thought that to be the case he would not have bothered to introduce the debate.
One motivation for putting down one's name to speak in such a debate is the knowledge that one will be listening to experts in the field who bring with them a level of expertise that is valuable and essential for someone like me who describes himself as a jobbing politician rather than an expert. I was very pleased to note that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, had put down her name to speak. I do not believe that she would be too upset if I described her as a jobbing politician as well since I believe that politics is probably the highest profession in a democratic society, whatever others may think. A degree of common sense and of looking for practical solutions are what politics is about.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, in his most erudite maiden speech, said that he believed that progress was a matter of combining optimism with realism. I believe that it is the job of politicians to turn optimism into commitment and realism into action. The work of experts plus politicians ought to result in progress. The fact that that does not always take place is perhaps because of our own inadequacies.
This is a timely debate in one sense. The meeting of the European Parliament this morning passed a resolution. It was being consulted by the Council of Ministers about the Kyoto Protocol and its implementation by the European Community and its member states. It voted to approve the measure this morning. That is timely because it is not just the British Government who can be proud of their record in pursuing the Kyoto Protocol despite all the difficulties that they ran into. It would have been very difficult indeed for that to be accomplished without the European Union as a major forum in the world to promote the protocol with a very substantial sector of the industrialised world which was prepared to take it on and persuade the rest of the world. The fact that the European Union countries intend to ratify Kyoto together in a symbolic way is most important. It is not just important as regards the issue itself, including global warming and all the peripheral consequences which appear to flow from that, but it is important as a step forward in rational and democratic global governance with sensible ways of tackling the huge global problems which we face.
I also associate myself with everything said by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, about the importance of relating these issues to those of the countryside and particularly as regards the huge opportunities there are to take advantage of what should be huge new markets for biofuels in the future. That will occur only if we are able and prepared in this country to take the initiative and develop technologies. As my noble friend says so often, this is an area where those countries which take the initiative will benefit not just environmentally in the future, but economically as well. There is a huge opportunity here for us. If we have sense we will seize it. If we do not we shall suffer.
Ten years have been lost in negotiations and talks. There is still a huge problem with the United States. I share the scepticism of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, rather than the greater optimism of others. It does not matter what we believe. Everyone on this planet has to continue to do what they can to put pressure on and influence the United States. Unless the United States and North America as a whole are able to come to terms with this problem and realise that it is one for them as well as for the rest of the world, we will not solve it.
How we are going to tackle the problem? It is quite clear that the Kyoto targets are interim measures. Whether the longer-term targets are 60 per cent by 2050 or some other figure, it is quite clear that we have to tackle these targets very seriously indeed, which means very great changes. If we look all the time for short-term solutions, we shall not find long-term answers.
At the moment it appears that, within the European Union, the United Kingdom and Germany are doing quite well in reducing emissions of the six Kyoto greenhouse gases. The figures I have from the EU suggest that the United Kingdom has been able to reduce them by 14 per cent and Germany by 19 per cent. The United Kingdom reduction is almost entirely due to the dash for gas in electricity generation. That is clearly not sustainable in the long run. It has to be made up in the future. The German reduction is almost entirely due to the modernisation of the previously decrepit industrial infrastructure in East Germany. We have to take these matters incredibly seriously. In particular we have to regard them as serious in the fields of building and transport, particularly in the latter which is perhaps the most difficult of all.
As regards energy generation, at the moment gas is producing 39 per cent of our electricity. Clearly, in all but the short to medium term that is not sustainable. There is a lobby in this country that suggests that the answer lies in nuclear power. If the answer lies there, the suggestion is that the present 23 per cent generated
The September 11th attacks do not suggest that as regards the nuclear industry security ought to be high on its list of plus points. The massive costs of decommissioning, decontamination and the safe disposal of nuclear waste are issues which have not been solved. No one knows how that will be achieved. That suggests that we should not be moving forward with the nuclear option at this stage. The problem with nuclear fuel is not whether it can fill some of the gap; it involves how much of the 23 per cent of energy generated from nuclear sources is sustainable in the medium-term and how to replace that with renewable energy sources of some kind. There are many such sources, including wind and biofuels.
It is time that the Government conducted a serious investigation into the whole question of biofuel. I believe that that could lie at the heart of a solution to the present crisis in the countryside and the whole question of the future of farming in this country. Everybody laughs when people point out that 100 years ago, 20 per cent of this country's farmed land area produced biofuel in the form of hay and oats for horses, but that is a fact. There is no reason why that cannot be done in future in a rather different way. However, that would need a major initiative from central government and a major investigation into how that is possible, what research needs to be done and how practically it can be brought about. The people who are currently involved in that area are scratching away at the periphery.
Lord Judd: My Lords, the thought of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton speaking on this subject was intimidating enough; having heard him, it takes a great deal of courage for any of his colleagues to rise to their feet.
At the outset I should declare an interest. I am a trustee and member of a number of NGOs that are concerned with environmental matters. In the context of this debate, I thank in particular WWF, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Greenpeace and SERA for the invaluable tutorials by post that they have given me.
The professionally and scientifically highly endowed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change spelt out, in its most recent report last year, in moderate language the magnitude of the challenge. It is a matter of ethics and equity. Failure to act now, when we know what needs to be done, will inflict a
It is altogether reassuring that our own Government have undertaken to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in time for the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Tomorrow, as WWF reminds usits campaign is due to begin thensees the start of the 200-day countdown to that summit. It would be a terrible failure on the part of the world's leaders if, by the time that the summit assembles, sufficient numbers of governments have not ratified. Can my noble friend therefore assure us when she winds up that the Government will now give a lead by making ratification an urgent priority and that, if need be, they will not wait for the European Union to act together? Such a priority would, I suggest, be particularly timely in light of the Prime Minister's welcome focus on the needs and challenges of Africa. Many of the consequences of global warming will be felt most acutely in that continent.
Credibility for any such lead will inevitably depend on the convincing detailed arrangements that we put in place to enable us to fulfil our undertakings and meet our targets. The more convincing those are and the sooner they are in place, the greater will be the encouragement and challenge to others to follow suit. As my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton emphasised, the Government deserve a great deal of recognition for what they have already done in terms of reducing the UK's greenhouse emissions. I am sure that he agrees with me that there is still a very long way to go. The foundations on which to build are in place.
The detailed priorities are clear. As many of the organisations to which I have already referred emphasise, the Government will need to introduce numerous measures. They include: the expansion of current energy efficiency and conservation education programmes; building regulations that move progressively towards "zero heating" houses; generous support for energy efficiency research and development, focusing on key technologies such as fuel cells; more ambitious standards for appliances and cars, which are set at EU level; traffic strategies to stabilise and reduce road traffic; more freight by rail; extension of the emissions trading scheme to cover all major business polluters; greater use of climate change levy receipts to support sustainable energy activities in business; much greater support for combined heat and power, including full exemption from the climate change levy; energy efficiency reviews that are made mandatory in leases of commercial buildings; reduced-rate VAT on energy efficient appliances; setting up of an office of sustainable energy that is headed at least by a Minister of Stateas part of its responsibilities, that office should promote combined heat and power; the long-term goal of a fully renewable energy system; ambitious staged targets to ensure the delivery of our strategic commitment; major research and development programmes into renewable sources, energy storage and hydrogen technology; immediate support for the implementation of key technologies and of wind power especially; a more positive planning regime with regional targets and a presumption in
It is not just at home that action is necessary. Internationally, the priorities for which the United Kingdom should be striving and in relation to which it should be taking action itself, where appropriate, are numerous. They include: the introduction of stringent international environmental and social standards to limit the use of sinks under the Kyoto ProtocolI, for one, am not convinced that they have a major role to play; a strong Kyoto compliance regime with legally binding consequences for non-compliance and full transparency; an accelerated round of UN negotiations, leading to emissions reductions that are based on safe, global per capita limits to greenhouse gases; much increased emergency aid and preventive adaptation funding to assist vulnerable communities around the world in protecting themselves against the impact of climate change; the implementation of the recommendations of the G8 Renewable Energy Taskforce, including the elimination of all fossil fuel and nuclear subsidies; the reform and reorientation of multilateral development banks to support the deployment of sustainable energy systems worldwide, with particular emphasis on funding, technology sharing and capacity building, which will provide access to affordable energy for the 2 billion worldwideespecially womenwho are currently without access to adequate energy services; and reform and reorientation of the Export Credits Guarantee Department to support renewable energy and energy efficiency exports instead of technologies that are based on fossil fuels and nuclear power. We should also act as a champion of binding environmental standards for export credit agencies at the OECD.
It is difficult to envisage any major issue that will impinge on the future of the United Kingdom and the well-being of our children and grandchildren that is not inextricably part of a global reality. Relevant politics is international global politics. Here in Westminster, history will judge us by our commitment to contributing to the effective global policies that are essential for the viability of our own society no less than the viability of all other societies of which the world is comprised. That is true of the terrorism that currently preoccupies us but it is at least as trueI believe that it is more trueof the environment and global warming. We, like every other nation, simply cannot deal with it on our own. We are all vulnerable to what happens globally; and what happens globally is an aggregate of what we all do. Frankly, it is not just ironicI shall not echo what some others in this debate have saidbut sad, and, I believe, potentially dangerous that the United States, which does more
The United Kingdom Government must leave no stone unturned in their efforts to persuade our US cousins to impose a mandatory cap on their carbon dioxide emissions, and to ratify the Kyoto protocol. I pray that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, for whom I have almost unlimited respect, is right in this instance to be confident in this respect.
Baroness Maddock: My Lords, it is clear that all noble Lords who have spoken are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for introducing the Motion. Much has been written about global warming and climate change. Indeed, we have seen experts from around the world who have argued about the causes and told us about the various scenarios and potential impacts on all our lives. It is clear from comments that have been made in the Chamber tonight that this is not an issue that will go away, or, indeed, one we can ignore.
Noble Lords have ranged far and wide in their speeches. We have heard from those who are experts in the field; and, to quote my noble friend Lord Greaves, we have had "jobbing politicians". I believe that I come somewhere halfway in between this description. Like my noble friend I was a "jobbing politician" for much of my life, but I always had a particular interest in this areaan interest that I shall make use of later in my remarks.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, set out most clearly the background to our debate. He also talked about what was happening in England, especially as regards the very important scientific community, and what was actually happening on the part of the Government. The noble Lord talked about the importance of co-ordination, to which I shall return later. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, we were all very grateful for the contribution from the noble Earl, Lord Peel. If you like, his was a lone voice as regards the importance of the countryside. My noble friend Lord Greaves touched on the importance of biofuels, which has been the subject of debate in this House.
Various noble Lords talked about America. I do not wish to disagree with my noble friend Lord Ezra, but some of the disquiet mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, in relation to America's attitude to Kyoto and to getting together globally on these issues is a matter of concern to me. I was pleased to note that my noble friend Lord Ezra and the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, believe that our worst fears have dissipated for the moment.
Like other speakers, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, on his maiden speech. I hope that he will contribute to our future debates on this subject. He, too, talked about the global nature of the issue. However, although this is a global matter, the tone of the noble Lord's speech suggested that it is of concern to us all individually, and that, individually, we have a collective responsibility as regards future
As is the case with my noble friend Lord Greaves, I am not so encouraged by some of the Government's actions, especially in the area of energy and of energy efficiency. I wish to put forward a few reasons for that view. I believe that there is a lack of coherency between civil servants and Ministers across government departments. That is my experience, particularly in energy matters. It is also my experience following eight years spent in both Houses of Parliament. Indeed, that view has been expounded in Select Committees considering such issues, especially in another place. I should add that it is also the opinion of outside observers, not least some of the journalists who have an interest in the area.
The Treasury is often the stumbling block when we are trying to deal with these issues. Some noble Lords have talked about the climate change levy. I believe that people welcome the Government's efforts in that respect, but there have been problems. It is not working out in quite the way that people wish, especially when it comes to combined heat and power. Perhaps I may declare an interest here as a non-executive director of a company that deals with combined heat and power and district heating. I know from that experience, and from others, that all is not well. We have had a U-turn on student fees, but it remains to be seen whether we shall see one on the climate change levy. Although I am making jokes about it, I recognise that it is a very serious problem and one that we must address.
Another matter that worries me is the Government's record on legislation in this area. It is rather disappointing. I have talked about the climate change levy, but I believe that all the legislation introduced into the Houses of Parliament, especially on energy efficiency, has been in the form of Private Members' Bills; in other words, it has not come from government. Some of those Bills were successful; indeed, I was lucky enough in another place to pilot the first Home Energy Conservation Act through
There was also the warm homes Bill, which introduced the fuel poverty strategy that everyone welcomed. But that was also a Private Member's Bill. There is another Home Energy Conservation Bill going through another place. At present, it is stuck halfway through Committee stage, despite hopes that it would have progressed further by now. Again, I believe that we are having problems in relation to responsibilities across departments and also with regard to an unwillingness to deal with setting targets. Part of that stems from the fact that the Treasury always becomes worried about the cost when one quantifies what one wants to do.
As I said, the second Home Energy Conservation Bill got into several difficulties this week. I have spoken to the Minister, the right honourable Michael Meacher, about this matter over a number of years and I know that he is committed to it. Yet he proposed amendments to the Bill which wrecked its purpose. That purpose is to ensure that we have proper targets in place with regard to greenhouse gases and improved energy efficiency. But he made helpful noises.
This issue is particularly worrying because the Cabinet Office has produced a review for the Performance and Innovation Unit. I know that the review has not been made public but it was discussed in a committee yesterday and, therefore, I shall report what was said in that committee. I am aware, as I am sure the Minister will tell us when she replies, that it is a report to government and not of government. The review stated that the aim was to ensure that the energy efficiency of domestic consumers improved by 20 per cent between now and 2010 and by another 20 per cent between 2010 and 2020. That would double the existing rate of improvement.
Others have calculated for me that a 20 per cent improvement between 2002 and 2010 would match exactly the 30 per cent target set in 1995 in the first Home Energy Conservation Act. I regret that, in their attempt to bring that about, local authorities have made slow progress. There have been insufficient resources and I do not believe that there has been enough guidance and commitment from government. I hope that that will change. I am very disappointed about what is happening in relation to the second Bill.
I consider progress in our own country to have been slow. I recognise that we have been very influential on the world stage and that we have worked with people in Europe. That is important, and I hope that we can continue to do so in order to improve matters on a global scale. But at home progress is slow. I hope that the Minister can give me some encouragement that the Government mean what they say when it comes to legislation.
In preparing for this debate, I came across references to the last occasion that we had an energy department. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, talked about a sustainable energy department. That is important, but I consider that energy, and in particular our commitment at Kyoto, is also important. Therefore, I believe that it would be helpful to have an energy department again.
I conclude by saying that I discovered that the last energy Minister was the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and that a previous opposition energy spokesman was none other than the Prime Minister, the right honourable Tony Blair. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton. This has been an interesting debate and we all look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in reply.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for giving us the opportunity to try to comprehend the vastness of the subject that he has introduced. He set the scene in an international context and then related it to the pressures upon the UK. He spoke about the pressures that will be brought to bear on our coastal regions and estuaries. That underlies the pressure that will be put upon our precious agricultural land, some of which we are likely to lose. In that vein, I also add my thanks to the many noble Lords who have spoken, including my noble friend Lord Peel.
It is true that the agricultural industry is well aware of the opportunities that are available and of the responsibilities that it carries. I, too, congratulate the CLA on the very thought-provoking report that it produced and on the 102 recommendations that it made. Perhaps I may inform noble Lords that it is shortly to hold a conference on climate change. I also thank my noble friend Lord Garel-Jones for his contribution. He pointed out that those of us who create more fuel emissions should be held responsible and he expressed the hope that the US would come aboard very shortly.
I was interested in the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. She said that we all have a role to play. Indeed, we have. Her speech took me back in my mind to the "Keep Britain Tidy" week, which is still in being. Perhaps the Government would consider having a "save energy" week, in which they could raise the profile of what we as ordinary individuals can do. "Keep Britain Tidy" was a small initiative but it led to great rewards. Perhaps the Minister will consider that issue.
As many noble Lords have said, the essentials of the situation are as follows. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Second World Climate Conference have all stated their belief that the world is growing hotter because of man's activities. The main problem is carbon dioxide. Stabilisation of the situation will require cuts of 60 per cent world-wide in emissions into the atmosphere. It should be noted
If cut-backs are not made, it is possible that sea levels will riseit has been forecast by up to 2½ feetand the incidence of storms and droughts will worsen to the point where, by the year 2050, there may be 150 million or more environmental refugees. As other noble Lords have already said, most would be from Africa and from low-lying eastern hemisphere countries such as Bangladesh and Polynesia. But several million such refugees would be from Europe, America and parts of the UK. Even stabilisation implies a final total of twice as much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as was the case 250 years ago and average temperatures of 2 degrees higher than now.
So to Kyoto, where 84 developed countries agreed to cut their emissions by an average of 5.2 per cent of the 1990 output by the year 2010. Within that 5.2 per cent, the EU has a target of an average of 8 per cent, and the UK has accepted 12.5 per cent, with an unofficial aim of 20 per cent. Noble Lords should bear in mind that the average saving necessary in order to avert disaster is 60 per cent. Therefore, although we have set a high level, we are still way below the estimate of some people.
The Kyoto treaty will come into force three months after a minimum of 55 of the original 85 countries have ratified. As at 7th December last, only 33 countries had done so. That does not mean that the remaining 51 are not trying; but it does mean that sanctions cannot be applied if they fail.
The Government's substantial, integrated package of policies and measures to deliver cuts in emissions was set out in March 2000 in their draft UK programme summary. That included the following aims: to stimulate new sources of power generation by using renewables for 10 per cent of electricity and by doubling the capacity of combined heat and power; to cut emissions from the transport sector; to promote better domestic energy efficiency; to continue reducing emissions from agriculture and forestry; and, lastly, to ensure that the public sector takes a leading role, as other noble Lords have already mentioned, by improving energy management in public buildings, by setting efficiency targets for local authorities, schools and hospitals and by developing green travel plans.
We are nearly one-fifth of the way to 2010, so we should ask, "How are they doing?". Some noble Lords have already expressed their concerns about the progress being made. Will the Minister list the efficiency targets that so far have been set for local authorities? Will the Government set individual targets for schools and for hospitals? If not, how will the aim be achieved? Can she explain the figures that were quoted on 4th December last year in another place in relation to increases in energy use of 77 per cent in the area of health and 23 per cent in the Treasury?
In 1996 domestic combustion accounted for roughly one-sixth of those emissions. As a consumer, I am aware that in the past two years electricity prices have fallen while gas prices have risen. Can the Minister confirm that one result has been to switch electricity generation from gas back to solid fuel?
That brings me to power generation, which in 1996 was responsible for 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, nearly 30 per cent of the total. In 2000, 2.8 per cent of the electricity generated in the UK came from renewables. In Scotland it was 8.25 per cent; in Wales it was 3.25 per cent because of hydro power; and in England and Northern Ireland it was only 1.5 per cent. Will the Minister tell the House whether the target of 10 per cent is for the UK as a whole or for each country individually?
The introduction of the renewables obligation has now been delayed until April. Can the Minister assure the House that that is the final, final publication deadline? Can she confirm that the new electricity trading arrangements working group did indeed report by the end of January as promised by the Secretary of State? Even more importantly, has it come up with workable solutions to a situation that has caused the closure of small wind farms and a 60 per cent reduction in energy production from combined heat and power? The Government are well aware that the existing system for making connections to the national and local grids does not suit small wind farms. Changes have been promised. Is the Minister able to put a firm timescale on that?
I turn to biomass, which other noble Lords have mentioned. It is produced by farmers for burning in power stations. Several farmers I know planted willow, while their neighbours watched with interest, but some "jobsworth" in the Ministry decided not to pay a planting grant until the farmer had a contract for the sale of the output. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.
As other noble Lords have said, this is an infant industry which is only just past being an R & D project. The electricity supply companies have won a battle and are now free to import timber by the boat-load, confident that our embattled farmers will largely diversify elsewhere. They may have won a battle, but I see this issue as a campaign which is important to the increase in use of renewables and important for the future of agriculture.
For the future, biofuels are of great potential importance. The recently published Curry report recommended a reduction in road fuel duty to the equivalent level of other clean fuels. Has the Minister discussed that subject with the Chancellor? If not, will she do so before the Budget? I urge the Government to include in their R & D focused research into the use of low emission and renewable products for the heating of homes, factories and workplaces.
I close by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, on his thoughtful maiden speech. We look forward to hearing from him again. I know that he is a busy businessman, working on the international scene, but we hope that he will be able to spare time to participate often in the House. As other noble Lords have said, the Government have made a good start, but we have a long way to go if this country and others are to reach the targets.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I feel that I have a long way to go tonight given the range and depth of information that has been given and the range of questions that have been asked. It has been an outstanding debate. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt on securing the debate. We share with him the knowledge that it is an extremely important issue. Like the noble Earl, Lord Peel, I am only too aware of the depth of knowledge that there is in your Lordships' House.
As my noble friend said, the evidence is mounting that our climate is changing. He and other noble Lords described the effects that climate change is having and will have in the future. It is important to note that the UK has played a vital role in the research that has been carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
We have always believed that the Kyoto Protocol represents the best framework for addressing the problem of climate change. We are now working with the EU and other member states to ensure that the protocol is ratifiedI shall deal with that point in more detail in a momentand that it comes into force by this year's world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg. We shall begin our own ratification procedures once the European Community has adopted the decision that will allow it to ratify the protocol.
We are making strong progress on implementing the range of policies that were outlined in our climate change programme. We believe that the UK has much to gain by facing the challenges head on. My noble friend has already mentioned that we estimate that the programme will cut the UK's emissions of greenhouse gases by 23 per cent below 1990 levels by the year 2010.
Our programme is providing a strategic focus for action against climate change in the UK, bringing together positive action by businesses, local government and other organisations. It is encouraging longer-term changes and a move towards a low carbon economy. We are implementing a series of innovative and creative policies that will ensure that the UK cuts its greenhouse gas emissions in a flexible and cost-effective way.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford that it is important to see this subject in the context of the world. We have a target to provide 10 per cent of the UK's electricity from renewable sources by 2010, backed up by at least £250 million over the next three years.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, in an outstandingly impressive maiden speech, gave me particular heart because of his recognition that we need a spirit of optimism, that we should not despair and that we have to take action. The style of his contribution led me to think that if I were 45 years younger I would have been given a sense of hope for the future of the world and the knowledge that I must get on and do some work to achieve what is possible. I congratulate him and look forward to hearing him speak again.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne, recognised that the world's first economy-wide emissions trading scheme, backed by £215 million over five years, is due to go live on 1st April. It is one of our priorities as a government. We see emissions trading as a cost-effective mechanism for making a low carbon future a reality.
The climate change levy will also help to fund measures to promote better energy efficiency in business. The Carbon Trust will recycle around £100 million of climate change levy receipts to boost the take up of cost-effective low carbon technologies.
The European Union level voluntary agreements with car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiencya point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Byfordby at least 25 per cent, backed up by changes to vehicle excise duty and company car tax, will encourage more fuel efficient low emission cars and of course be part of the 10-year plan for transport.
It is clear that we need to adapt to some climate change in the UK, whatever we do to reduce emissions. I should like to refer to the fact that we are building adaptation into mainstream policy, making areas like flood defence, water resources and revisions to building regulations. We have begun a cross-government process to stimulate and monitor action on adaptation. We continue to support the Climate Impacts Programme (UK) in helping implementation of adaptation strategies on the ground by regional and local authorities and private organisations. To help them, the Climate Impacts Programme (UK) will be issuing higher resolution national climate change scenarios in the spring.
We should recognise the contribution that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, and BP have made to the development of emissions trading. They have taken a leadership role, not just by setting up an internal trading scheme, but also in the partnership between government and the business-led Emissions Trading Group, whose fruits we shall see when the UK starts in April.
The noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, raised the issue of meeting targets agreed under the EU's burden-sharing agreement. They are constantly monitored within the EU. The UK, Germany and possibly Luxembourg are at the moment the only EU countries which are on target. Nevertheless, the other member states have taken some radical steps to get themselves back on target. The EU, as a whole, is committed to meeting the targets that have been set.
Following the withdrawal of the US from Kyoto in March 2001, over 170 countries came together in Bonn in July and in Marrakech in November to agree the rules to implement the Kyoto Protocol. This is an enormous achievement, which clearly demonstrates the desire to put in place a global solution to a global problem. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford and my noble friend Lord Judd and other noble Lords referred to that matter. We look forward to the next international meeting on climate change scheduled for October 2002 in India and the early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.
I agree with noble Lords who have raised the issue of tackling the problem of climate change in co-operation with the US. The US is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses and it must play its role in reducing those emissions. The Government are pleased that President Bush acknowledged that climate change poses a serious challenge. That was recognised in June 2001. The US is now undertaking a climate change policy review. The Government have been encouraging the US to ensure that the review results in substantial action to tackle climate change. In that way, the US can help to provide the same global leadership in this area as the European Union.
We have no interest in having any hostile relationsI have to say to my noble friend Lord Juddwith the US. But we want to continue to work constructively with it and ensure that it is fully aware of our commitment to the need to tackle the issue. We would like the US fully to re-engage in the international process and the door remains open for it to do so.
My noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, referred to developing countries. We welcome the co-operation between the UK and India and China on climate change. We are pleased that we are able to assist through our collaborative programme with India and China to assess the impacts of climate change. We understand that China does not have a target on Kyoto, but has been successful in reducing CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP by some 47 per cent between 1990 and 1999. Total emissions fell by about 6 per cent between 1996 and 1999, the most recent years for which we have data.
The noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord Garel-Jones, my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Hunt, and other noble Lords raised the issue of the protocol coming into force. The deal reached at the climate change convention was adopted by a large number of countries. Kyoto can enter into force without the US but, as I have said, it is very important that we encourage the US to come back into the negotiations.
My noble friend Lord Hunt and the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, raised the issue of the process and the procedure within the EU of the UK's ratification. For legal and presentational reasons, the UK needs to ratify the protocol at the same time as other member states. The first step in the process is for the EC to ratify. A Council decision is currently under negotiation, which it is hoped will be agreed at the
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, raised the issue of Russia. It has made positive remarks about ratification in the closing session of the second conference of parties in Marrakech in November, but has yet to make a firm commitment to ratification. We hope that Russia will soon be in a position to do so. We believe that it is in Russia's interest to ratify and that it would indicate that it was showing global leadership in this area.
My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis raised an issue concerning UK businesses. As with the optimism shown by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, we believe that there will be opportunities for UK businesses to improve their energy efficiency and cut costs and get ahead of their competitors in developing cleaner technology and moving in to new markets. Perhaps I may also say that I can think of few other areas where we should encourage both young men and young women to go into science and technology. Given that they could have a role in tackling some of the problems of pollution and of climate change, it may change the focus of young people's thinking and increase the number going on to study science.
I believe that I have answered the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. It is a process that has to be adopted within the European Union. We recognise that the Spanish presidency is aiming to reach agreement on the decision at the Environment Council. The Council has given a public commitment that the Community should be in a position to deposit the ratification agreement instruments by early June. We hope that all member states will meet that timetable. It would allow the protocol to enter into force in advance of the world summit on 26th August.
My noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton, the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, raised the issue of adaptation to impacts. We have issued guidance to flood defence operating authorities in England and Wales, which includes allowance for sea level rise and higher river flows as a result of climate change. Work is being done on strategies and plans for water resource management, catchment obstruction management and maintenance of supplies in drought conditions. We have strengthened planning guidance in PPG25 and will review it in three years' time, in the light of experience.
In spite of the fears of the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, we have held a ministerial discussion on adaptation to the effects of climate change, and a cross-governmental process to stimulate and monitor action on adaptation is being taken forward. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford raised the issue of developing countries, as did my noble friend Lord Judd. Work on adaptation under the United Nations is funded by the Global Environment Facility, to which we contribute. We are calling for a 50 per cent increase in contributions at the next replenishment. The Bonn agreement established an adaptation fund under the facility to help developing countries in their efforts to combat the impact of climate change.
Many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, sought to draw me on the issue of the PIU energy review and some of the budgetary issues that will flow from consideration of that report. I am sure that they do not expect me to anticipate my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in advance of the Budget. We are aware that issues such as fuel mix and fuel pricing policy have been considered and will be part of the recommendations that the Government will consider in due course.
My noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton also asked about setting a renewables target for 2020. That issue is also being considered as part of the PIU energy review, and the Government will consider it further in the light of their recommendations. Among others, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, raised the issue of nuclear energy. We are on track to meet the Kyoto target, which takes us to 2012 without new nuclear build. The Climate Change Programme set out the strategy for delivering further cuts, so that we could move beyond that target. The review will have considered that, and we look forward to the recommendations.
The noble Earl, Lord Peel, asked about the achievement of government targets. Renewables accounted for 2.8 per cent of electricity generated in 2000. Figures for electricity generation for 2001 will not be available until mid-summer. However, we expect the introduction of renewables obligation contracts scheduled for April to help to work towards the 2003 target. We recognise that 10 per cent is challenging, but we believe that it is achievable. In the United Kingdom, we start from a low base on renewables, and we have taken that fully into account in developing our policy.
The Government are promoting combined heat and power. I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that, in the case of this Government, the Treasury is not part of the problem: it is part of the solution. There is exemption from the climate change levy of all inputs into good quality CHP and the generated electricity supplied directly to the end-user. CHP is eligible for enhanced capital allowances on investment in energy-saving technology. Electricity-generating plant and machinery in CHP schemes is exempt from business rates. That also answers some of the points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel.
The noble Earl, Lord PeelI believe, although I am not sureraised the issue of fuel tax and aircraft. No, it may have been another noble Lord who raised the issue. I apologise. Discussions are being taken forward. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Peel, did, in the context
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page