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To understand that, we have to go back briefly to the G8 meeting last year. At that meeting, Europe, led by Germany and the United Kingdom, sought to isolate the United States in its opposition to binding commitments to cut back carbon dioxide emissions by proposing that the whole of the G8 should agree to a 50 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. I can understand why people are not dying to support anything that President George W Bush supports, but the plan to isolate the United States backfired horribly. Europe was isolated when we got to the G8 summit. The other member countries, Japan, Canada and Russia, all accepted the United States position and therefore there was no agreement on a 50 per cent binding commitment to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Fast forward from that, what has happened? Far from making any headway in persuading the rest of the world, even Europe is now backing off.
I remind the Minister of the original plan, the unilateral European cut. We are committing ourselves to a unilateral cut really, irrespective of what any other country does. After all, we account for less than 2 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions and that is falling. Therefore, it makes sense only if we can persuade the rest of the world to go along with this.
Even our supporters in Europe are busy backing off. The unilateral cut of 20 per cent by 2020, agreed to by the European Unionwith a little teaser that, if the rest of the world joined in, we would go up to 30 per centhas been completely abandoned. It was never a binding commitment because you can bind only individual member countries and the individual countries of the Union had not agreedwe had but the others had notto go along with their share in the 20 per cent cut. The seven accession states of central and eastern Europe, plus Italy, have now said that there is definitely no way that they are going to go along with this. The European Union has agreed that this should be looked at again. Nothing will happen. It can only be agreed unanimously and will be looked at again in December this year, after the Poznan meeting, which I hope the Minister will grace with his presence. It will be an educational event for him.
Not only have those countries said that they will not go along with it, but Germany has always had a slightly equivocal position, because, in addition to ostensibly being very keen on this policy, it subsidises its coal industry more than the rest of the European Union put together. Indeed that is contrary to European Union law and it has to secure a waiver from European law to enable it do that, for which it fights to the death,
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The Kyoto agreement called for only a 5 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. So far, there has been at least a 5 per cent increase in carbon dioxide emissions from the signatories to the Kyoto agreement, and it is rising all the time. This countrys emissions have been rising steadily ever since this Government took office in 1997. The disparity between the words and the facts is astonishing. We got as close as we did to the Kyoto agreementwhich was not very closeonly because we in effect outsourced our emissions very substantially to the developing world, in particular India and China. This is because manufacturing industry relies on carbon-based energy to a very high degree, and the industry has migrated to a considerable extent to China and India. This is why China is now the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in the worldbigger even than the United States.
Given that we could not get close to 5 per cent even while it was possible to outsource emissions, it beggars belief that we think we can get to a 50 per cent reduction by 2050, of which our share will be an 80 per cent reduction, at leastthe agreement is meant to include China, India and everyone. There is no way in which we can outsource emissions to Mars, so this must be a real reduction. China and India have said that in no way will they accept this kind of curb on their emissions, and quite rightly so. These countries have a real problem that is very serious for them; they suffer from poverty, malnutrition, disease and premature death on a massive scale. They can get out of that only by the fastest possible rate of economic development, which requires using the cheapest energy that they can find. It might not be for ever, but for now and for the foreseeable future that energy is carbon-based energy. They will not take part in this.
Interestingly, the Indian Government recently received a report from a whole lot of experts who said that climate change presented no threat to India. One of the signatories to that report was Mr Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who is Indian himself. No one who has looked at this seriously and dispassionately thinks that this is a sensible policy. Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics has written very eloquently on the subjectI am sure that the Minister has read what he has written. He is not a scientist, but he entirely accepts the conventional view of the science. He says simply that this policy is madness and cannot possibly work. He has written two well-argued papers, Time to Ditch Kyotowhich means the whole Kyoto approachand a sequel, which he wrote to help the
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Some people may say that I have forgotten the business opportunities from going along the route of non-carbon-based energy. I confess that there are business opportunities. Noble Lords may or may not be aware that there was a conference in London perhaps 10 days ago called Cashing in on Carbon. The promoters said of the conference:
It is aimed squarely at investment banks, investors and major compliance buyers and is focused on how they can profit today from an increasingly diverse range of carbon-related investment opportunities. The programme features some of the most experienced and respected practitioners in the market and should have very strong appeal to anyone with a stake in this burgeoning market.
I am glad to say that among those prominently represented was the group of which the noble Lord, Lord Stern, is deputy chairman. I am sorry that he is not in his place on a Bill of this importance. So the people who gave you the glories and the joys of mortgage-backed securities are now offering the great business opportunity of carbon-backed securities.
I always like to look on the bright side: it is possible that this Bill is not as bad as it might seem on paper. Under the Bill, there is no reason why we need to cut our carbon emissions. We can do it entirely by purchasing emission reduction certificates under the clean development mechanism from China, India or wherever. Although that would be a quite unnecessary transfer of resources to other countriesperhaps they deserve it, I do not knowit would be less costly than trying to cut back carbon dioxide emissions ourselves, which would be immensely more damaging.
A number of journalists and other academics have demonstrated the clean development mechanism to be a complete scam. What now happens is elementary economics: if a price is put on carbon dioxide, people will produce it. Various countries are busy producing emission reduction certificates so that they can be sold. The Chinese have done a very good business in this. They are very sharp and very much on the ball. They are now getting huge revenue from the certificates, which have no bearing on the carbon dioxide concentrated in the atmosphere. They are making so much money that the Chinese Government are taxing them in order to help their government revenues, which gives them more money to spend on their massive coal-fired power station programme. That is not only madness, but also highly unpopular.
There has been so much interest in the American presidential election that people have not looked as closely as they might have done to two other elections which have also taken place in recent weeks in English speaking democraciesin Canada and New Zealand. I say to my own party, in particular, that it should watch and take note of the fact that in both countries this issue was prominent in the debate. There was a rather weak, very shaky minority Conservative Government in Canada. The Liberal Opposition thought that it could come to power with what it called the green shift, which really tackled this issue. It was so unpopular that the minority Conservative Government
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In New Zealand, a Labour Government, led by a very able woman Prime Minister, was in power for a very long time. Again, they said, This is the big issue. Although we may think that it is ridiculous for New Zealand to say that it is giving a global lead, it is no more ridiculous than us saying that. Having an elaborate system to cut back on emissions and having an emissions trading system was so unpopular that the Labour Party lost office. The Conservative Opposition, to their great astonishment, found that they won the election.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, that is a very good point. The main thing in the Australian election was that the people were sick and tired of John Howard, whom they felt had been there for far too long. It is true that the Leader of the Australian Labor Party said that he would sign the Kyoto agreement. People thought that that was a good idea. I happened to be in Australia at the time of the election and watched people being interviewed on television. The interviewer rather shrewdly asked a lot of people, Are you in favour of signing the Kyoto agreement?. A great majority said, Yes, we are. The next question was: Do you know what the Kyoto agreement is?. They said, No, we dont. The new Australian Government are now having to implement these things and their standing in the polls has plummeted. I am glad that the noble Lord raised the issue of the Australian political scene, which is always an interesting one.
I shall take a moment to warn my noble friends on these Benches. This is extremely unpopular. The Government are shrewd in turning the tables on the Conservative Party on the tax issue, deftly jettisoning any idea of prudence and saying, We are now the party of tax cuts. As we move closer to the next general election, if it should happen that the Labour Party feels there is a possibility that it might lose it, the Prime Minister will have no hesitation at all in putting this issue on the back burner, saying grave things about other countries not having agreed to it, or the need to look after the economy in these difficult and stressful economic times, thereby leaving the Conservative Party high and dry.
The noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, who I am delighted is now a Member of our House, adds greatly to the gaiety of nations wherever he goes. It is great that he has come here. He is very shrewd, and I am quite sure that that is the advice he will be giving the Prime Minister. I hope that not merely for our partys sake but, above all, for the sake of our country, we recognise that this is complete madness. We are on our own completely and should desist from going ahead with it.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I used to be on a different side on this issue until I was given a small book written by an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he showed that global warming stopped in
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If we have all grasped the piece of religious mania that the world will be so hot that palm trees will grow only in Orkney, and that desertification will spread when the evidence for it seems to be very much less than beforeserious doubt has arisen in my mindwe will all look awful asses for following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, or his next best friend, along a road that does not exist.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I hate to argue the other way. I was about to speak specifically about the amendments, but without getting into a Second Reading debate, which could almost happen here, many noble Lords will want to make it clear that we read much of the scientific literature intelligently. We consider and assess the evidence, we look at what is happening around the world, and we see the consequences not so much for this country but for developing countries in the future. We say, If there is anywhere that we apply a precautionary principle with action, it is here. That is why most sides of this House have welcomed the Bill.
I particularly welcome the move to 80 per cent. As the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, pointed out, there are all sorts of ways in which we can dodge that, but we will return to it at a later stage. I congratulate the Government on having bitten the bullet on this target. None of us underestimates the effect of this, or what we will have to do to achieve it.
It is a shame that we have removed the Prime Ministers responsibility for this voyage. If anything has a wide-ranging effect, it is this issue, and perhaps for once the head of the Government should take personal responsibility for it. It is not a matter of fundamental principle, but it would match the occasion. The purpose clause would be useful to show the objective but, again, it is not fundamental. The key issue is the target. I was concerned that we would still have 60 per cent while saying that we were going to have something else and so would have the wrong number in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Turner, needs congratulating on the work that he and his committee have done within the timescale, and I welcome the fact that we have the right number in the Bill.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, may be unaware that this is my first entry into the Climate Change Bill as well. He described himself as a non-believer taking part in a religious ceremony. After my tour around the Department of Health, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice, I could perhaps best describe myself as an agnostic. However, although I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord has said regarding what the Bill is really all about, supported by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, one cannot ignore the reports of the various bodies that have looked into these matters so carefully. For instance, the fourth
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Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, that is not true of the past year. The noble Lords predecessors were seriously misinformed by his officials, and I suspect that he will be too. That is a real problem for him, and I feel for him. The fact is that in the Antarctic, where most of the ice is, the ice is thickening and has been for some time. In the Arctic this year there has been a greater extension of ice than ever before.
Furthermore, I would be interested if he could refer me to where in the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change it says that it makes sense for us to have a binding commitment to cut back carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. That is what we are talking about here. The science may be the background, but we are discussing what is a sensible policy.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, surely the point is that that report and others have provided the evidence that the Government have now considered and which has informed our decision to go for the 80 per cent target. I refer the noble Lord to the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, which, as he will know, reported a few weeks ago. It said that we know more about how rising temperatures will reduce the effectiveness of carbon sinks. It says that, unlike the authors of the report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, we have the benefit of models that include the warming effect of gases other than CO2. It says that the reduction in summer Arctic Sea ice in recent years has been greater than predicted by any of the models, and that the summer melt of the Greenland ice sheet has accelerated. It says that it is now realised that atmospheric pollution has probably masked some of the greenhouse gas warming that would have occurred, so that as air quality improvements continue to be achieved even more warming can be expected. It says that there is now a greater understanding of the range of potential climate change impacts. Finally, the latest global emission trends are higher than anticipated in most IPCC scenarios, largely because of higher economic growth and a shift towards more carbon-intensive sources of energy. It is not unreasonable for the Government to have taken that seriously.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am not a scientist, and it is not my role to debate the intricacies of scientific arguments, but I can and do pray in aid the reviews, the committees and the expert groups that have looked into these matters and which have informed the Governments decision: it is on their conclusions that the 80 per cent target is now based.
I listened with great interest to the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, about the Government taking a lead that he said other countries would not follow. I accept that the challenge we have set ourselves is massive, but I would not underestimate the potential of this country to influence international debate and considerations. I am not pessimistic about the current negotiations, despite the way that he has described them; I am confident that we will move from the EU into discussions towards Copenhagen. This countrys lead will have a powerful impact on our ability to come to international agreement.
The noble Lord raised issues aboutshall we say?the credibility of projects such as CDM projects. I understand the point he makes, but it is right that this country is a strong supporter of CDM initiatives. We look to international processes to ensure the integrity of those systems.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has welcomed the amendment made in the other place setting the 80 per cent target, but says that there are ways it can be dodged around. I hope he will have confidence that it is not the Governments intention to reach a conclusion on the level of the target and then legislate to find ways around it.
On the question of whether the Prime Minister should be in the Bill, I do not want to repeat my arguments from earlier but, although they may seem to be technical, they are in fact substantive. This Government and this Prime Minister are committed to what we have set out to achieve. On that basis, I hope the House will accept this group of amendments.
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