Climate Change Bill [HL]
Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is, I hope, common ground between most of us in this House that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our age. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published its fourth assessment report, an authoritative analysis of the current state of knowledge on the subject. Its key conclusions remind us why the need for this Bill is so pressing.
The IPCC concludes that the climate is observably warming and that this is due much more to human activity than to any naturally occurring factors. Without effective international reductions in emissions, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to grow and temperatures will rise by up to 4 degrees centigrade this century. Dire consequences for food and water resources, human health, infrastructure, biodiversity and economic activity worldwide will follow and the risk of abrupt or irreversible climate change will increase. To avoid the worst of this, global emissions must peak soon and then decline rapidly. We know that this can be done. The Stern report set out clearly that doing nothing would cost far more than taking action and that early action will be easier and cheaper than action taken later. Meanwhile, we must also adapt to unavoidable changes already in the system.
The negotiations beginning in Bali next week on a post-2012 global framework are critical. The United Kingdom, with our European partners, will continue to demonstrate leadership, but this is a problem that needs action at every level—global, European, national, local and personal and family. Responsibility for domestic action on climate change lies with the devolved Administrations for their parts of the UK, and all parts are co-operating on this Bill. I have never come across a Bill that enjoys such an all-party consensus; although we will have debates about whether it goes far enough in this or that respect, there is a massive degree of political consensus on the Bill.
The Committee on Climate Change will be jointly sponsored and funded, and devolved Ministers have agreed to put the necessary legislative consent motions to the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly. The Bill is an unequivocal statement that the UK will do its part in the struggle against dangerous climate change and provides a framework to help us to adapt to its unavoidable impacts. It provides a clear, credible framework for our emissions reductions. The targets and budgets provide clarity for industry to plan and invest in moving towards a low-carbon economy and so reap the potentially large economic benefits.
I must take this opportunity to say how helpful the pre-legislative scrutiny has been in developing the Bill. It was incredibly helpful to civil servants and parliamentary draftsmen in Whitehall. In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Puttnam and the other members of the Joint Committee that he chaired. He brought great clarity to the debates that took place. The Bill has benefited greatly from their careful examination, as I shall make clear from a practical point of view during its passage.
We also had great assistance from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of your Lordships' House, from two committees of another place that examined the draft Bill and, last but not least, from some 17,000 organisations and members of the public who responded to our public consultation. As I say, the overwhelming consensus strongly supports the principles of the Bill, often coupled with proposals to strengthen it.
I shall briefly address each part of the Bill. This is Second Reading and therefore I shall not go into a lot of detail. Part 1 puts into law our commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent on the 1990 baseline by 2050. It sets an interim target of between 26 and 32 per cent reductions by 2020. The level of the 2050 target has been much discussed, not least in our recent debate on the Queen's Speech. This target is based on analysis by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. It is within the range of reductions for developed countries recommended by Stern, which European Union Heads of Government have called for. The science is clear that developed countries will need to reduce their emissions by at least 60 per cent if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.
It is also clear that the United Kingdom alone cannot tackle climate change. We have never said that we could; we need a comprehensive global response. This Bill demonstrates that we will play our part and, where we can, give a lead. We will help in efforts to persuade other countries to take on similar commitments, but we will achieve little, and could marginalise ourselves in the international debate, if we set a target without adequate analysis of its costs and other implications, or without a credible plan to achieve it.
The science continues to develop. Therefore, as the Prime Minister recently announced, we will ask the Committee on Climate Change to be set up under the Bill whether our target should be tightened up to 80 per cent. This is also in line with the view of the Joint Committee that the Committee on Climate Change will have the right combination of expertise to review this target and should do so.
Since responding to the parliamentary committees, the Government have continued to listen. We have accepted calls to bring forward the committee's review of the 2050 target, so this will be done alongside its consideration of the first three carbon reduction budgets. This will provide greater certainty about the United Kingdom's long-term direction of travel as soon as possible. We are currently considering the timing of this advice with the shadow secretariat to the Committee on Climate Change and may come forward with a government amendment in due course.
Part 1 also establishes a system of five-year carbon budgets, backed by strong annual accountability and independent scrutiny. The Secretary of State must report to Parliament on the Government's plans and proposals to meet each carbon budget as soon as practicable after it is set. It also sets out circumstances when targets and budgets can be amended and the matters to be taken into account in setting the budgets. It allows other greenhouse gases to be included in our targets by order. The Committee on Climate Change will look at the implications of doing this as part of its review of the 2050 target.
Finally, Part 1 permits the Secretary of State by order to add emissions from international aviation and shipping to the targets and budgets, where appropriate in connection with a change in European or international law or policy. These emissions are currently excluded from the targets and budgets, reflecting international practice and the complexity of the issues. However, the Government believe that it is important that these sectors should play their role. We have led the debate in Europe on including aviation in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which would place a fixed cap on aviation emissions. We hope soon to see that come to fruition and will then ask the new committee to examine whether and how international aviation and shipping emissions could be included in the UK's targets and budgets.
Part 2 and Schedule 1 establish the Committee on Climate Change, which will be an independent non-departmental public body. It will advise the Government and the devolved Administrations on the emissions reduction pathway to the 2050 target and specifically on the level of the carbon budgets. The committee will use its expertise to balance economic, social and environmental factors and will take account of external issues including energy prices, economic growth forecasts and international developments.
To ensure a really strong system of annual accountability, the committee will have a duty to report annually to Parliament and the devolved legislatures on the UK's progress towards meeting its emissions reduction targets, and the Secretary of State will have a duty to respond. There have been calls both in this House and more widely for annual milestones and I suspect that we will hear more later today. The Government have considered this idea carefully and we have concluded that it would be both ineffective and fraught with practical difficulties. We believe that the approach in the Bill is more robust and will ensure effective annual accountability to Parliament and to the public.
Part 3 and Schedule 2 introduce powers to establish domestic emissions trading schemes through secondary legislation. Trading schemes are among the most economically efficient means of delivering emissions reductions. The powers allow schemes to be introduced on a UK-wide basis, by two or more or national authorities working together or by a single national authority acting alone. Those provisions will enable new schemes to be introduced more flexibly and responsively, while maintaining the need for thorough analysis, consultation and scrutiny.
Changes since the draft Bill include making all new enforcement powers subject to affirmative resolution, clarification of penalty provisions and a requirement to consult the new committee on new schemes. Naturally, alternative instruments such as taxation or regulation will still be adopted where they are more appropriate. These powers, with Schedule 4, are being used to implement the carbon reduction commitment, a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme covering approximately 4,000 to 5,000 large, non-energy-intensive organisations. That will save some 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2020.
Part 4 concerns adaptation. To successfully adapt, we must first understand the risks of climate change impacts to the United Kingdom. We have some useful evidence but no comprehensive assessment of the risks and vulnerabilities based on the most recent science. Part 4 requires a first risk assessment to be reported to Parliament within three years. Subsequent risk assessments will be required at least every five years. Putting adaptation reporting to Parliament on a statutory footing for the first time will help to ensure a consistent focus on this work. Following the risk assessments, the Government must lay a programme of action before Parliament, encouraging a comprehensive and joined-up government approach. The programme must contribute to sustainable development, giving due consideration to the natural environment, the economy and social issues.
We have already strengthened the adaptation provisions in the Bill but, in consultation with our stakeholders, we have concluded that we must go further, as the Prime Minister announced last week. We plan a government amendment to provide for powers to require public bodies to assess the risks of climate change and set out the actions that they need to take in response. To encourage consistency, we will also provide for statutory guidance to help public authorities to understand how to do that.
Part 5 and Schedules 5 and 6 include other provisions to reduce emissions. We are providing powers for up to five local authorities to pilot waste reduction schemes to encourage households to minimise and recycle their waste. Currently, 3 per cent of all UK greenhouse gas emissions are methane from biodegradable waste in landfill. Despite making good progress in recent years, too much of our waste still goes into holes in the ground. As we know from earlier debates on another Bill in this House, the UK's position on this is not good compared to that of our European partners and it must improve dramatically.
Research suggests that incentive schemes could significantly help. We will invite local authorities to propose schemes for their areas, subject to various safeguards. Householders who reduce and recycle their waste will receive a rebate which may be integrated with the council tax system. In some schemes, householders who do not do that—that is, recycle—could end up paying more. Piloting will allow us to trial different schemes in different areas, monitor their impacts and report back to Parliament before any decision is taken to roll them out more widely. The Local Government Association has called for schemes of this kind and has welcomed the proposed pilots.
Part 5 and Schedule 6 contain amendments to the Energy Act 2004 relating to the renewable transport fuel obligation. This obligation was established by order under the Energy Act, following parliamentary debates last month. From next April, road transport fuel suppliers must ensure that a proportion of the fuel supplied in the UK comprises renewables such as biofuels. The main objective of the renewable obligation is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from road transport. The provisions in the Bill are to enhance the obligation's operation. We have responded to concerns about the sustainability of biofuels—a topic that was raised in our debate on the Queen's Speech and will, I suspect, be raised again today. The scheme already requires fuel suppliers to report on the carbon and sustainability aspects of their fuel. The Bill adds a duty on the administrator to promote the supply of renewable transport fuel that delivers carbon savings and contributes to sustainable development or general environmental protection. Other changes are designed to give more flexibility to develop the scheme in the longer term, in the light of experience.
The other parts of the Bill deal with technical matters that need not bother us on Second Reading. There are procedural issues to look forward to. I have given a brief summary of the Bill, but because this is Second Reading and many noble Lords wish to speak, it would be improper if I took longer. I commend the Bill to the House.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Rooker.)
Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; Conservative)
My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for introducing the Bill, for its Second Reading and for the manner in which he has presented the proposed legislation. The Bill derives from the Government's draft Climate Change Bill last year. That was fully scrutinised by a Joint Committee of both Houses, which produced a fine critique to which the Government have responded. The Minister rightly paid tribute to the diligence with which that committee operated. Like the issue that the Bill seeks to address, the Bill does not come here out of the blue.
The Minister knows that he will find widespread support from across the House and from these Benches in particular for the principles of the Bill. It is widely acknowledged that climate change represents the most important challenge of our time. We debate this issue knowing that we cannot afford to do nothing and that, even if we follow a strongly focused trajectory to reduce carbon emissions, we will see global warming in the forthcoming decades. This accounts for our belief that government policy needs to be robust and that mitigation and adaptation are necessary lines of action that will lie at the heart of government policy.
What drives our ambitions for the Bill? It must be the need to reduce global warming. This, in turn, is dependent upon scientific knowledge, scientific judgment and scientific prediction. That is why these Benches will seek to place science at the heart of the Bill. It sets a target of 60 per cent. The real goal is a 2-degree reduction in the likely rise of temperature. This will be achieved only by a global concerted effort, as the Minister pointed out. To do our part, perhaps in the hope of leading the way, we must ensure that the Bill is focused on the right way of setting up a durable and effective system.
The current focus seems to be simply on a number. I hope that we do not lose sight of our overarching goal. The 60 per cent reduction figure used in the Bill comes from the 2003 report which was, in turn, based on the World Commission report of 2000. This, as has been noted by many environmental groups and NGOs, may not be enough, and even the Prime Minister indicated that in a speech last week to the World Wildlife Fund.
The Government have voiced their support for three major international agreements. All these have a higher ambition than the targets contained in the Bill. I refer to the Government's commitment to the G8, the Vienna climate talks and the European Council spring summit, and I expect that they will take a similar approach in Bali. However, seeing the 60 per cent target in the Bill, one senses a fundamental inconsistency right at the beginning of the process. I ask whether the Minister intends to change the targets during the passage of the Bill.
In the mean time, we are in receipt of a mixed message from a Government who appear to acknowledge the advice they receive when it suits and not when it comes to doing something about it. That brings us to what we on these Benches consider to be a key deficiency in the structure of the Bill. I am sure that all sides of the House will accept that the effectiveness with which we will make progress in reducing carbon emissions, thereby protecting ourselves against climate change, lies in the balance between the scientific realities and the agency of government. We find the Government's creation of a Committee on Climate Change purely to advise the Secretary of State to be a wholly inadequate vehicle to bring science to the heart of this great endeavour. To put it bluntly, the committee needs to be beefed up: it needs to have clout; it needs to have credibility; and it needs to know that its work will be the foundation for government action. That is why we will recommend that it is given the status of a commission—the commission on climate change. We intend this to give the members status as commissioners and their work to go beyond the mere giving of advice to making recommendations and outlining detailed strategies for climate change reduction. That will drive government action—in effect, putting the commission centre stage in the process.
We will offer amendments to transfer many of the powers now lying with the Secretary of State to the commission on climate change. Among these, importantly, is the power to set and amend the targets. We strongly feel that, whatever targets are set, they can be given strength and credibility in the public sphere only if they come from a commission of experts.
That brings me to the second major point that I wish to make. Any effective government action has to acknowledge that there is scarcely a government department, scarcely an item of government business and scarcely a piece of legislation that does not have implications on this issue. To place overall responsibility in the hands of the Secretary of State of a relatively minor department is inadequate in the face of the project to which we are committed. For this reason, we believe that it should be the responsibility of the Prime Minister to present the annual report of the commission on climate change to Parliament and to seek debate on this and on the annual targets which we will also be seeking to put in the Bill. Success or failure in this area reflects on the whole Government, not just a single department.
A budget period of five years, as proposed, neatly removes the continual monitoring of a Parliament. It means that any incoming Government following an election could always blame their predecessors for failing to achieve targets. Parliament needs annual rolling targets and reports. Rolling annual targets—what some NGOs have called milestones, and I heard what the Minister said about that—would also allow for the flexibility of tilting targets according to the progress that has been made. We need the commission to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of government action, to monitor sectoral initiatives, if they are deemed useful, and to ensure that Parliament is aware of the full implications of government action. In that way, Parliament's authority is vested in that of the commission.
I take this opportunity to examine in more detail our proposals for a commission. We acknowledge that devolution means that national authorities, as the Bill refers to them, form part of the process. We cannot successfully pursue a United Kingdom policy unless there is an agreement with all parts of the United Kingdom. We therefore accept the need for the commission to reflect this interest in its make-up. We also acknowledge that the commission needs to be able to draw on the experience of specialists stretching way beyond climate change science, particularly to include those who can best assist in assessing the impact of the proposals on both the economy and the environment.
We need the commission to be able to provide comprehensive solutions. At its heart, the commission needs to be made up of leading scientific figures. We believe that the Royal Society should be the nominating authority for a majority of the places on the commission. Once again on this issue, it is science not politics which needs to be driving change. We have to accept that at times this will be uncomfortable. Those of us who are active in politics are never too happy about seeing key decisions in the hands of others, but if we are to be successful in achieving objectives and reaching targets, we will have to be prepared to respond to what science is telling us.
We understand the need for proper consideration to be given to the setting of targets and the establishment of data on which they can be based. I have admitted that our preference is for these matters to be the responsibility of the commission. We understand, therefore, that until the commission is established it may be difficult to fix targets precisely. In recognising that targets are important for long-term planning in business and the stability of markets, to which the Minister alluded, we do not see the point in Ministers setting arbitrary targets which might simply be revised as soon as the committee, under current proposals, presents them to the Secretary of State.
Have the Government considered setting up their committee or our commission prior to the legislation passing, if only to ensure that targets are based on full advice? If not, this Bill will be enacted in an atmosphere of uncertainty and instability. The date given for the first report is two years away. Why the delay? Why cannot the committee report within six months, or indeed, at least before a general election? I sincerely hope that politics is not becoming a priority here.
We favour carbon credit trading schemes to a degree, and look forward to the commission's position on the matter. As yet, we do not know the Government's position. A government Minister last week promised that she would provide information about the percentage of carbon credits that will be allowed to be internationally traded. Is the Minister willing to give a precise percentage today? If not, is it acceptable to negotiate at Bali and other international forums with such important issues still under review? Are the Government planning on giving assurances in Indonesia that they are not prepared to give to this House?
There are a number of significant gaps that I hoped the legislation might address. We assume that domestic aviation is included, although it is not mentioned on the face of the Bill. Meanwhile, it is a great anomaly that international aviation is not included in the Bill, although it provides for aviation to be included, along with shipping at a later date. Aviation is a large contributor to carbon emissions and its exclusion is, frankly, immensely short-sighted. If we are truly to tackle carbon emissions, it is scandalous to omit such a large contributor.
The reason often cited for excluding international aviation is that it is difficult to measure. However, the UK already reports emissions from international aviation to the UN. Inadequate measurement therefore cannot be an excuse. If aviation increases at the current rate and is not included, by 2050 it will completely nullify attempts to curb carbon emissions in all other sectors. It is fundamentally illogical to exclude aviation at this stage, and we will offer amendments to this effect.
Like many environmental bodies, we have also sought to include the carbon footprint of international shipping in the overall carbon budget. This is a more complicated issue than aviation, as shipping represents a relatively environmentally friendly way to move goods. It would be contrary to our ambition to reduce overall carbon emissions to discourage heavily this means of transport. At the same time, shipping contributes carbon emissions and completely ignoring the problem, as the Bill appears to do, will not make it go away. Can the Minister comment on how he proposes to solve this problem?
I understand that transport matters are always tricky. It might be to the disadvantage of both the environment and UK industry if ships simply diverted to Rotterdam and planes opted for Charles de Gaulle over Heathrow, and then made up the difference with heavily emitting freight. However, as I mentioned, we cannot simply pretend that transport of this nature has no effect on the environment. Can the Minister therefore explain the logic of excluding aviation and shipping?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Shadow Minister, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; Conservative)
My Lords, it is my view as spokesman for the Conservative Party from this Bench in the House of Lords, so I am quite confident in saying it. There are bound to be differences of view on all these matters. We want a healthy debate on these issues, but it is illogical to have a programme designed to reduce carbon emissions and exclude from it one of the greatest growing carbon-emitting elements of modern transport.
I mentioned earlier the relationship that the United Kingdom Government, Westminster and, for that matter, the Committee on Climate Change will have with the devolved authorities and parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I hope that the Minister can assure us that the clauses dealing with these matters provide adequate protection of the United Kingdom interest. This becomes particularly important when we are considering not just mitigation to reduce climate change, but adaptation to the inevitable consequences of a climate change already in the pipeline. One of the responsibilities we would vest in the commission is to ensure that all government departments properly understood the implications of climate change—I am delighted to hear from the Minister that the Government are clearly thinking along the same lines in their amendments—and that planning and development and infrastructure projects all properly considered the consequence of climate change.
It is essential that the effect of the environment is considered alongside every government policy. Without commitments to sustainable development, we risk vitiating the success in other areas. Among other provisions of the Bill, we will look with interest at the proposals for waste reduction schemes. It is widely accepted that, notwithstanding the climate change issue, resource management is a key ingredient of the proper management of our demands on the planet. We note that the Government have framed this part of the Bill as an enabling measure, and it remains to be seen whether local councils respond positively. We hope that the pilot schemes will be set up promptly and properly; there is currently great diversity in how this issue is approached across the country. We hope that the pilots will be truly exemplary and provide a suitable framework for wider implementation.
I hope that the contributions we make from these Benches make it clear that we wish to strengthen the Bill. If the Bill currently has a weakness, it is that it places far too much discretion in the hands of government, Ministers and politicians. However, that is not to say that those of us with responsibilities in these matters should not be prepared to rise to the task. In truth, this may well be one of the most important issues that we ever consider in this House.
Most noble Lords would personally consider it an extravagant ambition to be in their places to hear the report of a future climate change commission in 2050. But while in politics it is difficult to be right all the time, the most important thing is to be right when it matters most. On this issue, I think that we are. We cannot undertake our task too soon and I look forward to working with the Minister to make sure that that happens.
Lord Teverson (Whip, Spokesperson in the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister, especially for somehow persuading the powers that be in the Government to introduce the Bill in this House first; I should have realised that he had such powers. In this House we will have a more mature debate, although that is perhaps the wrong adjective. We will certainly have a more rounded, intelligent and effective debate than may be had with other procedures and in other ways, and that is appropriate for this Bill.
It is clearly appropriate for the Bill to be introduced at this time, given that the IPCC meeting that has just taken place in Valencia laid out key aspects of how climate change science and the dynamics of that understanding have changed, even over the past 12 months. Environmental and climate change discontinuities are back on the agenda: 11 of the past 12 years have been the hottest on the planet and we have rising sea levels, partly because of the increasing rate of ice melting around the globe. That background says that this Bill is the most important of this Session.
I suspect that many of us from all sides of the House welcomed the Prime Minister's speech last week in which he again committed the Government unequivocally to the renewable energy targets, a large degree of research and development expenditure on renewables, climate change technology and those other areas that we know are required to convert good intentions into action, and a long-term victory in this challenge of climate change. We welcome many of those areas within the context of a dynamic and changing scientific understanding of climate change.
However, there are a number of areas where this Bill needs to become more fit for purpose. I want to spend some time going through those areas one by one, albeit briefly; we will go into greater detail in Committee. First, Defra's explanation for the Bill is that it centres on the Government's understanding and wish, as with the rest of the developed world and the global community, to reduce climate change and keep it to within 2 degrees of historic levels. The Bill has a target—currently 60 per cent—but does not mention the overall strategic goal that we are trying to achieve on climate change as a developing world. On these Benches, we believe that that 2 degree goal, given all the other action that must take place, should be included in the Bill. Only that would give a proper context, understanding and guide to the Committee on Climate Change and to policy-making by Ministers in the future.
As I said, the target is 60 per cent. The Prime Minister said last week that that target is almost certainly out of date and that 80 per cent is almost certainly necessary. Most climate scientists would agree that 60 per cent is no longer enough. I understand why the Government wish to put off a decision about changing the target until the Committee on Climate Change has considered it further, but we should surely not be in the position where the first clauses of the Bill contain a target that we know will not work and is not sufficient. We have either to move back to the objective of a maximum change of 2 degrees or to move the target to 80 per cent, which is what we should do. Liberal Democrats believe that it is possible to move to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. I suspect that that would be difficult to deliver through an amendment in this House, but we believe that the target needs to be 80 per cent or in excess of that.
Another area relates to the greenhouse gases that are included in the Bill. They were not mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, but perhaps we will find out later whether the Conservative Benches agree on this. Much of the Bill refers to international standards and ways of working, but the Kyoto process and the work of the IPCC relate to a basket of greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide. Why does the Bill relate only to CO2? I was thinking about how that sounded. In the policing or Home Office context, it would be like saying that, as 80 per cent of crime is mobile phone snatching, we should target our efforts on that and forget about murders, homicides and other things that do not account for a large proportion of crime. The other greenhouse gases are far more powerful than carbon dioxide. CO2 is the major cause of climate change, but we have to include the whole basket of greenhouse gases in this legislation so that, if nothing else, we do not delude ourselves about what we should monitor and so that we comply with international ways of looking at these things.
I was delighted by the policy statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about international air and shipping. We agree with him on that. It is almost a good thing that, through affluence and the increase in world trade, shipping is an area where there has been a big increase in emissions, as is aviation. The Bill gives us the ability to tackle that in the future but not to tackle it from the beginning. That ignores the most growing problem in climate change and looks at only those areas which we understand completely now and which we have traditionally looked at. The Bill is about the future and we need to take that into consideration.
The other area on which we may not agree with other Members is accounting. A Bill such as this, which deals with principle, framework and strategic issues, should not get into the micromanagement of how we look at figures at the end of the day. I am referring to banking, carrying targets over and adjustments at the end of the budget periods. Why bother with an ability to change borrowing between two periods by 1 per cent? You are likely to have an equal problem if you are within 0.1 per cent of the 1 per cent that you have borrowed. In the business world, if a sales department meets its targets early, does the company reduce its sales targets for the future period? Of course it does not; it banks those, moves on and keeps the same targets or increases them in future. We suggest that we completely take out the banking and borrowing provisions. They suggest, wrongly, that the Government are somehow looking for a fudge factor in the Bill; they are overcomplicated and far too micro, when we should be looking at the issue strategically. Let us completely take out those provisions.
The Bill is not at ease with itself when it talks about the carbon budget, as it uses that term in an accounting sense. The other targets that the Government have talked about before in their manifestos for reduction of carbon dioxide and for renewable energy have related to the UK in isolation. The Bill does not do that. Theoretically, we could meet the 2050 target but not decarbonise the UK economy at all. We could borrow, whether by the clean development mechanism or as part of the EU ETS; we could buy all those credits and stay as a dirty economy ourselves. I know that that is not the Government's intention, but there is no limit in the Bill. This is in the Committee on Climate Change's purview, but there is no limit on what credits the UK economy can buy to meet the targets. Although I come from a party that is fully in favour of international trading and international solutions, we think that there is a real challenge about bringing down the carbon content of our UK economy, so there must be a limit on the amount of trading that can take place under the Bill to meet our targets.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, emphasised strongly the role of the Committee on Climate Change. It has a number of powers under the Bill, but they are relatively limited. One of the key issues does not concern this Bill. It is a framework Bill that enables other legislation, sets targets and sets up a committee, but it does not in its own right bring forward the actions that will help to solve climate change. I want the Committee on Climate Change to be able not just to set carbon budgets but to make assessments and report to Parliament on how effective it feels that government policies at the time are in meeting those targets. In that way, the committee's powers must be increased to give judgment, so that we in Parliament and the public at large can understand whether the government programme on climate change will meet its aspirations.
We believe strongly that those budget periods need to be shorter. Five years always extends beyond the period of a Parliament. We think that three years would be far more appropriate. We know, in our own lives or in organisations that we have worked in, that if we have a five-year planning period, for the first year, we think, "Well, it is five years off". The next year we think, "Well, it is still four years off". In three years, we think, "Well, we'd better do something about it". By year two or year one, we find that we have not got to where we needed to be before. I honestly believe that the budget period needs to be shorter. Even then, we still need indicative targets on the way.
As I said, we strongly welcome the Bill and will do everything that we can to help it on its way speedily. We hope that the Government will welcome some of the amendments that we will bring forward. An even greater challenge will be for the Conservative Opposition to match much of their past greener rhetoric with action. I have to say that I am encouraged. I hope that we on all Benches will be working very closely together to strengthen the Bill.
We often say that legislation should have a sunset clause. In a way, the Bill has its sunset clause in Clause 15, which describes in remarkable detail what has to happen by
The most important thing is that the Bill is successful and passes through Parliament in a toughened state but quickly, and that the UK can hold its head high in international fora not only in Bali but beyond, particularly in the post-Kyoto process. The Liberal Democrats want to support that as strongly as we can, but at the moment we do not have the best track record in a number of areas, such as waste disposal, as the Minister has said. That has to change—we believe that it can—and a stronger Bill will ensure that it will.
Lord Oxburgh (Crossbench)
My Lords, I congratulate the Government on the Bill, which is groundbreaking legislation. It is not yet perfect but it is an excellent start on a very tough problem. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the work of his Joint Committee, which seems to have made a number of excellent recommendations, most of which I support.
Last Friday in Berlin, I attended a meeting of the IPCC. The message that came out of that meeting was that of urgency. We discover that everything we have shows that we have less time than we thought. That should be behind all our thinking and the way in which we approach these matters. I am sure that a great deal of attention will be paid in this debate to Clauses 1, 2 and 3, which contain very many important matters. I intend to address rather briefly two of the Cinderellas of the Bill—Parts 4 and 5—which deal with adaptation and the management of waste.
The Minister went some way in his introduction to convincing me that a Prince Charming might be about to appear around the corner, but a Prince Charming is certainly needed. On adaptation, it is absolutely clear that even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gases today, there would be 25 to 30 years of a progressively deteriorating climate before we began to see any change. This means that our current infrastructure must meet a variety of situations—storms, floods, landslides, heat-waves or what have you—for which it was not designed and to which it is not adapted. The trouble with infrastructure is that it changes very slowly and is rather expensive. At the moment, we have an infrastructure that is not fit for the coming purpose. Because infrastructure is so expensive, whether we are talking about roads, railways, river containment or what have you, it is not practicable to change everything at once. It is, however, practicable to change it at times of natural renewal or refurbishment. Will the Minister consider imposing an obligation on all bodies—not only regional ones—both private and public, down to local council level and up from there, to conduct a risk assessment? He may have included this in what he said. I do not think that he was absolutely specific. They could be required to produce a risk assessment and show how they intend taking it into account in their plans for refurbishment or replacement. Unless we make a move now, it will be either unaffordable or too late.
This country has an abysmal record on the management of waste. Our grandchildren will read about the practices we follow today and have followed for decades with total astonishment. They will say, "You thought you had problems with natural resources and energy, and you simply put that stuff into landfill". They will not believe what we are doing on a daily basis. For example, a calculation done by someone I respect at the University of Texas looked at the intrinsic energy content of US urban garbage. The energy content is in all the organic material in garbage—for example, old shoes, tyres, grass cuttings, wood, furniture and what have you. The calculation was that the intrinsic energy content of the garbage thrown away in a year was about the same as the energy used by the current fleet of US surface vehicles, which is a very large number.
In a sense, that is misleading because there is no way to recover all the energy in that garbage. I use this example simply to indicate that there is a lot of energy in our garbage, some of which we see as methane, which we simply abandon. We have to find different ways to manage this. Obviously, we recycle wherever we can, but after we have recycled what we can, there is a significant energy resource. I would expect large cities the size of London and Manchester to develop facilities by which they centrally manage their garbage. What cannot be recycled should be gasified—effectively heating organic material in a controlled environment to produce a synthetic gas, an important component of which is hydrogen—to produce liquid fuels or electric power. At the moment, this scarcely happens because our existing infrastructure has developed in a low-cost energy environment. But that environment has gone for ever and we need to look at these things very hard. In looking at the detail of the legislation on the management of waste, I hope that the Minister will take into account the fact that this is an important green energy resource.
My final point relates to regulation. We are in a time of rapidly evolving technology. Quite often, the technology that we have is inappropriately managed within the existing regulatory framework. For example, not long ago I visited a power plant which generated electricity by burning waste straw. The company was close to bankruptcy because it had been obliged by existing legislation to put into its flue stack analytical instruments capable of measuring components that were not present in the straw. It was because the only existing relevant regulation applied to coal. Of course, these elements were present in coal and the local inspectorate had no alternative but to apply totally absurd regulations. I should like the Minister to consider the ways in which absurdities like that can be managed. Perhaps there could be a committee to which there can be recourse if something patently silly is happening as an unintended consequence of existing legislation. That sort of thing will arise time and again as the technology evolves, and there will be not be time to return to Parliament and completely redraft the law. We need a system that can respond flexibly to new situations.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP)
My Lords, the noble Lord speaks with great authority, but did I understand him to say that once we have recycled what we can, he is basically proposing the incineration of much of the rest in order to produce these gases? How do we get to the gases?
Lord Oxburgh (Crossbench)
My Lords, incineration is normally burning, while gasification is a quite different process. Incineration normally involves the production of environmentally unfriendly emanations which can be offensive to the local community. Gasification is a quite different process and involves very little in the way of emanations. Whatever may be released would be totally inoffensive.
Lord Puttnam (Labour)
My Lords, that this is an important Bill, and it is to be welcomed is entirely self-evident and I am enormously encouraged by everything I have heard during the past hour of our debate. Just last week the Prime Minister said of the impact of climate change,
"it is not over-dramatic to say that the character and the course of the coming century will be set by how ... we measure up to this challenge".
In response to last week's rather sobering report from the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, one of Germany's leading environmental scientists was quoted in the New York Times as saying that:
"The world is already at or above the worst case scenarios in terms of emissions".
Three months prior to the Summer Recess, I enjoyed the privilege of chairing a committee of both Houses to scrutinise this Bill. I was fortunate in having alongside me a marvellously committed group of people, many of whom will make their voices and views known later in the debate. It is also worth reminding the House that two other expert parliamentary committees studied the Bill, and I think one would be hard-pressed to put even a cigarette paper between any of our key recommendations for improvement, many of which have, in fairness, already been taken on board.
Being neither a scientist nor an economist, I shall focus my remarks on the moral and historical implications of the Bill, one which will unquestionably have an impact on our economy and our lives. More than anything else, this is a Bill about personal and collective responsibility. It is also about morality, a word that does not force its way into many of our debates, especially those involving ostensibly economic matters. In fact, it is the most vexed kind of moral issue precisely because it is also about economics. It is or should be requiring us to make moral decisions that are more likely than not to have a price tag attached to them, and in that respect it bears a quite uncanny resemblance to another piece of legislation which also addressed what was primarily a moral issue, but one which at the time appeared to have immense economic repercussions. It was a Bill, the 200th anniversary of which we unanimously celebrated earlier this year, which led to the abolition of the slave trade. So, 200 years apart, we find ourselves facing the same timeless question of whether we have a duty of care towards our fellow human beings: "Are we our brother's keeper?". In both cases the same economic question arises: what is the true cost of the energy we use to drive our economy?
Two hundred years ago, slavery was perhaps the primary source of energy, a cheap and apparently infinite generator of power, and regarded by many as the foundation stone of British commerce and prosperity. As with our energy industries today, slavery appeared to represent a large and vital component of the economy. At the time of its abolition, the slave trade and its associated activities were reckoned by those opposing the Bill to account, quite astonishingly, for well over a quarter of this nation's GDP, a fact which helped to drive one of the central arguments deployed by the anti-abolitionists: that the overly hasty abolition of slavery could prove only ruinous to the nation's economy. In exactly the same way, their counterparts of today—the dominant energy interests—argue that any overly hasty commitment to change will prove economically catastrophic. If change is necessary, they argue, let it be incremental, gradual, and it will all come out right in the end.
But those same vested interests who argued that a speedy end to the slave trade would be ruinous were profoundly wrong. In fact they were doubly wrong. Far from proving damaging, the abolition of the slave trade allowed Britain to leap forward, as if a metaphorical ball and chain had been lifted from the economy. Slavery, far from being the foundation stone of prosperity, had in fact been a colossal impediment, a hindrance to the development of more efficient business formations, leading to the generation of many new forms of wealth and success. Not only had it been morally repugnant, it proved to have been economically illiterate.
That misjudgment arose, as such misjudgments usually do, from an irrational fear of the unknown and, more significantly, from a refusal to recognise that the real cost of the slave trade was infinitely wider and deeper than anything that could be measured by the profits made by a few prosperous souls in Bristol and Liverpool. The true price, the human price, was ignored by the anti-abolitionists because it was not them, their friends or their communities that were paying; it was someone else, and that "someone else" did not have a vote.
Is it not exactly the same today with the debate surrounding the use of fossil fuels? Those who refuse to acknowledge the mounting cost of climate change do so because they are not yet the ones who are paying the price. Of course climate change is likely to affect every one of us in the long run, but it is already having a devastating impact on some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth—in Bangladesh last week; in Mexico the week before; and in parts of Africa, almost every week of the year.
Just as the real cost of slavery was displaced on those least able to pay, so the real cost of our profligate use of fossil fuels is displaced on those least able to absorb it—the poor, the already disadvantaged, those who do not have the power to affect change themselves or the power to vote for change in countries such as ours which, for all the rapid growth elsewhere in the world, are still the real wastrels of energy and resources. That is why, in welcoming this ambitious and forward-looking Bill, I am concerned that the Government should not dilute the apparent strength of their commitment by addressing issues such as the purchase of carbon credits or the introduction of verifiable sectorial targets in such a depressingly evasive way.
In order to press my point, I shall dwell on carbon credits, an issue which is being represented as an economic argument but which reveals itself quite quickly to be also an issue of morality and leadership. The Bill considers what proportion of any reduction in carbon emissions to which the UK commits itself might be achieved by the purchase of credits in other countries. The Joint Committee considered this question at considerable length. Climate change is a global emergency demanding a global response. A carbon reduction is a carbon reduction wherever and however it is achieved, and there is a great deal to be said for using the resources and the technologies of a vast economy such as ours to help others to achieve change.
But the burdens and the benefits also need to be shared. The Government argument—or, more precisely, the Treasury argument—is that there should be no limit to our ability to purchase carbon credits overseas in order, as the response to the Joint Committee's report put it,
"to avoid making our target needlessly expensive".
I am forced on behalf of our committee to ask the Minister in his reply to spell out to the House exactly what that means. Does it suggest that we just carry on much as we are today, allowing the world's poor to make whatever adjustments to their lifestyle as may be necessary to ensure that we are required to make no adjustment to our own? Is it really "needlessly expensive" for us to adapt the way we live to these new and difficult circumstances? Or is it just politically and socially inconvenient, when it would be cheaper and more convenient to persuade an Indian or a Kenyan or a Brazilian to take the hit?
Not only is this avenue of argument morally questionable, it is also economically illiterate, even in the Government's own terms. Are we to forego the multitude of blessings which the Prime Minister assured us last week will accrue to those who are environmentally responsible and thoroughly innovative? Can it be all that smart to promote new technologies and whole new ways of managing the economies and societies of other parts of the world while we continue to indulge ourselves in the same old ways? As I have said, the Bill is as ambitious as it is urgently necessary. That being the case, let us not cut the ground from under our own feet by setting tough-sounding targets, only to immediately start grubbing around for ways in which they can be evaded and avoided. In my judgment, to do so would be morally indefensible and economically unjustifiable.
We are fortunate enough to find ourselves in a situation in which defensibly moral and business decisions can at last go hand in hand. Could we not just for once grab the opportunity and make the most of it? But we should be under no illusions. At the heart of the Bill lies a moral dilemma that has to be wrestled to the ground, and like most moral or ethical questions it comes down to a simple choice. Can we decide to be honest today—not just a little bit honest; not honest abroad but dishonest at home; not honest in willing the ends but dishonest in denying the means; but properly honest? We could for once trust the electorate with a full and frank confession of the need for radical change, and then offer the leadership and commitment to achieve it.
Of course there will be a price to pay, I hope a modest one. Sir Nicholas Stern's report a year ago gave us a pretty good idea of what that price could be. The unacceptable alternative is to shut our eyes and continue to protest either innocence or ignorance of the real cost of what we all sincerely thought of as progress throughout the whole of the 20th century. Should we choose to close our eyes, our children and our children's children will pay a truly crippling price—a price that will make a mockery of the comforts and the pleasures of the civilised life that today we all take for granted—and they will justifiably curse us as a generation for having been dishonest and irresponsible on a scale that would make the behaviour of the most callous slave trader in the 18th century pale into insignificance. Should we fail to get to grips with this impending crisis, there will be no need to ask for whom the bell tolls. It will be tolling for every man, woman and child on this once quite beautiful planet.
The Bishop of London (Bishop)
My Lords, I am particularly glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. Not only has he made a most distinguished contribution to the preparation of this debate, but he has introduced a note into our deliberations that is absolutely vital. As we have heard, the science develops but the moral imperatives stay the same, and we cannot really look at this issue without taking that seriously into consideration.
One of the reasons that we have had this debate with remarkable unanimity so far today is the exemplary way in which the process of consultation has been undertaken. The principal issues have been identified, and the Government are to be congratulated on the way Ministers have listened and responded. One of the big issues is the development of the science that has put a question mark against the adequacy of the 60 per cent target, and there is now persuasive evidence that an 80 per cent target is more appropriate.
The church is also involved here. In 2006, using the same sort of scientific basis and analysis, the Church of England through the General Synod pledged itself as an institution to reducing its own carbon footprint by 60 per cent by 2050, and we launched the Shrinking the Footprint campaign, which I chair. In the light of the new scientific evidence and the debate on the Bill, the church will also urgently review moving to an 80 per cent target. We are also looking for ways of making our contribution to redressing another aspect of this problem, in which we are by no means world leaders: the use of renewables. We have already heard from the Minister about our poor performance with regard to waste. We are supplying rather less from renewable sources to our total energy needs. We want to look as an institution at what we can do about that. Already we have put solar panels on all sorts of church roofs. I look forward to the day when every place of worship in the country will be generating energy for the national grid. I look for some help, as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, was saying, in overcoming the planning difficulties that stand in the way of doing such a sensible thing.
This topic unites people of all faiths. We are already working with Christians of every kind and members of other faiths. My friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has been a prime mover in a Liverpool and north-western initiative called Faiths for Change, which engages the faith communities in environmental transformation. The Northwest Regional Development Agency has embraced and backed the initiative. It could be a model for other parts of the country, where the potential of the faith communities in bringing moral passion, numbers and practical resources is still underestimated.
People of faith are increasingly united in the conviction, which is clearly stated in the Bible, that we are placed on earth as viceroys and not tyrants, with a duty to keep a balance between its development and preservation. Representatives of all the Christian churches in Europe met recently in an ecumenical assembly in Transylvania—I travelled by train, it is true—and agreed that all member churches should aim to give a creation focus each year to the period from
The Environment Agency has just published an interesting survey of the views of 25 leading environmental experts. They were asked to identify the top 50 things that are necessary to save the planet. Number one, as we might all expect, is reducing energy use. Number two is,
"a leap of faith—it's time the world's faith groups remind us that we have a duty to restore and maintain the ecological balance of the planet".
Number three is solar power.
A change of language is needed. We talk of sustainable development and sustainable economies, but it is time to move on to restorative development and restorative economies. We need clearly enunciated principles which form the content of public education and which we can share and promote—new commandments, if one likes. I suggest four things that are unoriginal but central to this debate: leave the world a better place than you found it; take out no more than you need; try not to harm life or the environment; make amends if you do. That is not too theological, but it is at the centre of what we are setting ourselves to do this afternoon.
Regulatory frameworks are vital, but what the Prime Minister has described as,
"the great project of this generation",
depends on countless personal decisions, and something more than the conversion of light bulbs or the conclusions of developing science will be needed if we are to be successful in a campaign for the common good, which could easily be derailed by individual selfishness. I hope that the Committee on Climate Change will be able to look also at the effectiveness of the public education effort.
As we have heard already, one of the fruits of the consultation period has been a highlighting of the theme of adaptation, which now has its own part in the Bill. In London, the mayor's team is preparing the first regional climate change adaptation strategy in the UK and the first for a world city. Consultation on the plan will begin in January next year. As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, pointed out, it is urgent. The new Lord Mayor said in his Guildhall speech:
"It is a very sobering thought that London is ranked within the top ten cities globally at risk for catastrophic natural disaster".
We have cause for concern about the impact of extreme weather events, but as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, so powerfully pointed out, and as so many other surveys have emphasised, the immediate impact will fall principally on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. The committee needs among its membership people who are sensitive to this international development dimension. We hang together in confronting this challenge, or we shall certainly hang separately.
Lord Waldegrave of North Hill (Conservative)
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, whom subsequent generations will come to see as one of the most distinguished to hold his great office—and it is a distinguished line that he follows in.
This debate, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said, is an historic one. In discussing this matter, we are not really recognising the scale of what we are doing. If this Bill passes into law improved in various ways, as I hope that it will, nothing about the way in which we do things will ever be quite the same again in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, referred to the abolition of slavery and I thought of the abolition of the corn laws. It is something that is going to run through generations and change our behaviour in myriad different ways, if we take it seriously.
The consensus that we have today—the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is not in his seat—will soon break up. I was once Chief Secretary of the Treasury, where I found that all my colleagues were in favour of cutting public expenditure in the generality but never in the particular. It will be much the same with carbon emissions; there will be many special cases. I passionately believe that there will be a place for civil nuclear power. The consensus will not be easily found on that matter, but we will need to do it—and there will be many other similar issues.
I welcome the Bill and congratulate my old sparring partner the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, on the way in which he introduced it. I shall comment on two aspects. The committee or commission—I do not much mind what it is called—is absolutely crucial if the legislation is to work for the length of its time. It is of course right that the Secretary of State, accountable to Parliament and through Parliament to the people, retains the ultimate responsibility. If we do not have the democracy behind what we are doing, it cannot be done. Not everything can be devolved to an outside committee, but the committee will need to have great prestige, authority and independence. As my noble friend Lord Taylor said, it will need to contain scientists, and I see at least two in the noble Lords, Lord Rees and Lord Oxburgh, who would do extremely well, although they may not thank me for that recommendation. It will also need to contain economists and those who understand the social implications of what is happening. This is not just a scientific matter; nothing of this importance can be, although science is at the heart of it.
If the carbon budgets are to have public acceptance in each period, the work that lies behind them must be of the highest quality and the committee will need to have figures of very significant stature on it. If it is to win that acceptance, as I hope it will—and if it does not, a large part of this Bill will be nugatory—it could have some other things added to it. Various suggestions have been made. The sort of role that we are looking for here is the role played by the Committee of Imperial Defence in the height of the empire or, in its narrower field, the Monetary Policy Committee. But it may have a much more fundamental and important role than either.
Assuming success, the committee needs to be given three additional duties. First, if I heard the Minister right—and I apologise to him if I did not—I think he accepts that it should have the duty to advise the Secretary of State on the target for 2050, not only on the budgets necessary to reach that target. If it comes to believe that the target is wrong it cannot do its work unless it says so, and can recommend as much to the Secretary of State. The Minister is nodding, and I think that must be an improvement that it is necessary to make.
Secondly, and perhaps more controversially, the committee should have a duty of public education. Throughout this long campaign, there will be, as there are now, passionate debates about many aspects. There will be disagreements, conspiracy theories and eloquent books—mostly written by my neighbour in Somerset, Mr Christopher Booker—and they will be worth reading and arguing with. But somebody needs to have the duty to analyse and present what is being said in such a way that the public has the ordinary language capacity to understand what the debate is about, or we will lose support. It will be no good—even my friends, the great scientists, are sometimes guilty of this—simply saying that everyone who disagrees is a little potty. That was the line taken by many of my noble friends in favour of the European Union. It did not entirely work to say that anyone who disagreed with them was just potty; it seemed to feed the counterargument in some way. There is a duty with regard to public education. Some of the powers are nearly there. Clause 30(1)(c) contains a duty to provide advice on climate change generally, and the committee is allowed to carry out research. An additional power to have a role in public education in this matter would be useful.
The third duty that I would land on the committee relates to Part 4. Here I strongly agreed with what the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, said. This is a weak part of the Bill at the moment which needs strengthening. I happen to be on the pessimistic wing. Every Christmas for some reason my children give me a little book entitled Thoughts fromEeyore, so perhaps it is just my temperament that is pessimistic. None the less I think that there is a case for being pessimistic. If the floating ice goes and we lose that reflectivity—forget the ice on Greenland—we shall see things happen very much more quickly than the international consensus now suggests. Let us hope that it is not so.
I am absolutely certain that whatever we do internationally, and if all the international efforts are successful, we will need a great deal of adaptation and we will need to start thinking about that, budgeting for it and persuading people about it right now. I am not quite a Lovelockian but I am on that wing. Noble Lords will remember that he is quite calm about the whole thing. He says that several hundred million people will survive all this. Mostly they will live in the Mendip Hills, as far as I understand him, which may become a little crowded. But, more seriously, if things get worse than we say, can this committee avoid getting involved in this area as well? I put it to the Minister that the committee should have a rather more proactive recommendation role in relation to adaptation, because it will be the source and base of authority which will help government and the people to understand that measures that are often inconvenient and costly are needed. I would even consider putting a duty on the committee to budget for adaptation, or to have an involvement in that process and have a duty so to be involved.
I mentioned one of my distinguished friends in Somerset who thinks that all this is a scare. Let us hope that he is right. Would it not be wonderful if it all turned out to be nonsense and a miraculous feedback mechanism in the planet ate up all these greenhouse gases? We are talking about greenhouse gases—all the gases are listed in Clause 64—not just carbon dioxide. If it turned out that the planet had an astonishing capacity to deal with all this by itself, that would be wonderful. Is that a plausible way to go forward? No, it is not. Having undertaken an enormous experiment in climate chemistry for the last 150 years, we now have—as the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and many others said—to start dealing with the consequences.
The problem with scares and their rhetoric is that if you take action people say, "That was just a scare". Imagine that in 1925 or 1930 a more robust British Government had maintained our armaments somewhere nearer the colossal level of 1918, and that Hitler had therefore taken the view that it would be foolish to push west and had gone east only. Would it not now be a large part of the consensus that those people who said that Hitler was a dangerous fellow for us were just scaremongers? He would never have bothered us at all. If we act successfully, I suspect that the Minister and all of us will in due course be teased by people who will say, "It was all a scare". That will arise because we have taken the necessary action in time. That is where I end. This is an historic day on which this country is beginning to rearm itself for the defence of the planet. It will be a very long process but nothing could be more important than the Bill which the Minister put before us today.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (Spokesperson in the Lords, Home Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, it was a privilege to serve on the Joint Committee looking at the draft Bill and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, is able to say that he enjoyed chairing it, because he certainly did it very well and with a very light touch. It was not easy to bring the committee to a consensus on many of the issues. It is a triumph that he got through the entire thing without a minority report being produced, as there were some strong arguments. Because of that, it is particularly incumbent on the Government to take seriously the recommendations of the Joint Committee.
I want to talk about two things today. First, there is the recommendation from the committee, which the Government seem to intend to refute, on international emissions trading. The Government have rightly claimed that the Bill is a world leader, as it will be if it concentrates on what the UK will do to reduce its domestic emissions. However, if no cap is set on the foreign carbon credits that can be purchased—that cap must reduce over time to zero by 2050—the Bill will rightly be seen as a sham in the rest of the world. As the Bill stands, nearly all the UK target—I think 70 per cent—could be met by what other countries do, which we may pay for but which we are not actually doing ourselves, rather than by what we actually do ourselves.
That is addressed in paragraph 27 on page 84 of the Government's response to the pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government argue that foreign credits will count where they would result in reductions that would not have happened anyway. A low level of allowance for such a scheme may be sensible in the beginning, but the level must be capped radically over time. I hope that during the passage of the Bill we will debate not whether there should be a cap but at what level that cap should be and how rapidly it should be reduced.
Paragraph 28 is also important because it talks of the necessity for the Government to have no wriggle room when reporting emissions reductions. It must be clear which reductions are purely domestic and which result from reductions abroad that are funded by the UK. The Government say that they do not want to be bound by a code of reporting practice or audit arrangements that put that difference beyond doubt. That is a disappointing response and I hope that the Government's attitude will change, because the Bill needs to be amended to ensure that such arrangements are in place.
I also want to talk about issues of morality. I am cheered that that word has been used so much already in this debate. This is to do with personal morality and personal responsibility. There is a place to discuss personal carbon allowances, which were touched on in our questioning of witnesses, but perhaps not enough. The allowances give individuals choice over how they will make savings.
I have been a bit surprised that the NGOs are not keener on this. I think of members of Greenpeace speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference, when I had quite an argument with them about why they did not see individual responsibility as important. I think that the answer is that they see the levers of power as better and easier to pull, but I believe that individuals and their behaviour are the key to all this. We have to make sure that individuals are empowered to start making choices. If personal carbon allowances are a good mechanism to do so, that would be a progressive scheme. Yes, it would hit those who drive up and down to and from second homes. Yes, it would hit those who weekend abroad by plane. Yes, it would hit those who want to heat their homes to 80 degrees in winter and go around in a T-shirt. However, that is pretty fair and pretty moral. Those who use less would have allowance to sell. It will be a complicated mechanism and setting a cap for it will be tricky, but it needs to be done.
I am pleased to say that two eminent bodies are already working on this. The RSA produced a good interim report, Carbon Limited, with a number of recommendations. The IPPR think tank is doing similar, complementary work. We could pilot these recommendations when they are more complete next year. There are self-selected "transition towns" in the UK, which have decided that this issue is important to them. They would be perfect places for these pilots.
In evidence to the Joint Committee, David Miliband said that he was an enthusiast for the idea of PCAs and that it was worth researching. In fact, it is being researched and is worthy of much more than just research, because it gives individuals power and choice on how to arrive at a low-carbon future. Government can do their bit by setting the tax regime and business and industry can do their bit—they already have trading schemes—but in the Bill we have to address how individuals are to be empowered. I suggest that we table amendments to enable us to do that.
Baroness Young of Old Scone (Other)
My Lords, I commend the Government for the Bill and support the proposals for statutory emissions reduction targets and carbon budgeting and trading schemes, but I agree with the recommendation of the Joint Committee on the draft Bill that the compliance mechanism for carbon budgets needs to be strengthened. We need an effective mechanism to ensure that something actually happens if it looks as if we are not hitting the targets. The Government could commit to purchasing domestic and international carbon credits if the budget were off track. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, that a cap is needed on the purchase of overseas credits if we are not to risk overly focusing on carbon reduction globally, rather than re-engineering the UK to a low-carbon economy. If we were off-beam on targets, the Government could help with credits from a fund set up specifically to stimulate low-carbon development to achieve that re-engineering.
I wish to focus on Part 4, which is about adaptation. I should declare an interest as the chief executive of the Environment Agency. The Minister may be looking for Prince Charming, but I am afraid that all I can offer is Queen Canute. Adaptation is the poor relation of the climate change agenda. The global focus has been primarily on mitigation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Managing the impacts of climate change is important and pressing—the summer floods and the recent storm surge on the east coast were but individual examples of just how pressing they are. It is not just about floods but about drought, heat and extreme weather generally. No matter how successful we are in reducing carbon emissions, there is enough carbon already in the atmosphere to cause these extreme weather events and other impacts with increasing frequency. That will affect the economy, the quality of people's lives—particularly poor people's lives—and, indeed, life and limb.
I welcome the duty in Part 4 on the Secretary of State to report to Parliament every five years on the risks of the impacts of climate change and the programme of measures to adapt to those risks. I welcome the Government's intention in the new year to bring forward an adaptation plan. However, that element of the Bill needs further strengthening; I was pleased to hear other noble Lords say that it was perhaps the weaker part of the Bill.
Perhaps I may bring to the House's notice two areas that require further strengthening. The Committee on Climate Change will take a very effective role—particularly if amendments on it are tabled in your Lordships' House—in scrutinising independently the mitigation targets, the budget and the programme. I believe that we need a similar committee, as an advisory group, to provide independent and expert scrutiny of progress on the adaptation programme. That group needs to be separate from the Committee on Climate Change so that the adaptation element of the agenda is given a proper focus. However, it needs to be carefully timetabled to ensure that its view on the adaptation risks and impacts and on how well prepared we are for them feeds into the considerations of the Committee on Climate Change in giving advice to government on setting targets and budgets.
The second strengthening was brought home by the summer floods but it is not a new issue. All the reports on floods over the past 10 years and longer have pointed out how vulnerable our vital infrastructure is in this country to the impact of, in those days, flooding and, increasingly these days, all the effects of climate change. I am talking not just about electricity switching stations and waterworks but also about roads, railways, hospitals, police stations, fire stations, healthcare premises and, distressingly, Environment Agency offices. Our regional control centre was in Tewkesbury—a rather ill advised choice, I think. These are issues that have been connected only with the floods, but many of our important electrical installations will not operate at high temperatures, so we have to think through in a rounded way the impacts and how such critical infrastructure can be made climate change-resilient for the future.
I welcome very much the Prime Minister's commitment last week to bring forward an amendment to the Bill to introduce risk-based monitoring and statutory guidance to encourage the providers of these infrastructures to think about climate change in what they do. If I understand it correctly, the plan is that there will be statutory guidance and that the Government will assess whether all the bodies that need to take action, of which there are many—there could be several thousand—have done enough and will then wait to see what further action needs to be taken. I think that we have waited to see for quite a long time. We have waited to see since 1998 and, lo and behold, we saw in the summer that critical infrastructure flooded, so we need an amendment that is tougher than may currently be planned.
The Environment Agency has assessed the number of all sorts of pieces of vital infrastructure that are at high risk of flooding and I do not think that it would be a surprise to say that, at the moment, our key public services are simply inadequately protected. We need action now. I believe that an amendment should be brought forward now placing a duty on public bodies, public authorities and the providers of critical infrastructure to assess the risks of climate change to their functions and to put in place an action plan to reduce those risks. There are already parallels in existing legislation with the Civil Contingencies Act. Can the Minister say in his response whether he will be able to bring forward the text of the government amendment well enough in advance of the Committee stage in this House to allow proper consideration of whether the action will indeed be urgent enough, tough enough and fit for purpose? Ideally, he will also bring forward the draft strategic guidance on adaptation so that we can take a view on whether the proposed provisions will deliver fast improvement in the climate change-proofing of our infrastructure.
The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, talked about urgency. Time is of the essence in reducing carbon emissions but it is even more of the essence in the adaptation agenda because the impacts that we are seeing now will be seen increasingly frequently. My noble friend Lord Puttnam also said that, if we get these issues wrong, they will fall upon our children and our children's children. I very rarely take issue with my noble friend but I will on this occasion. I do not think that this is an issue for our children and our children's children; the adaptation agenda is an issue for us all now—for noble Lords, for me and for the people in the Gallery. Let us see this good Bill strengthened as it goes through our House so that it becomes an excellent Bill.
Baroness Uddin (Labour)
My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in this very important first for the United Kingdom and for the world and I welcome the Bill's introduction in this House. Voices from organisations ranging from the CBI to Christian Aid have called for urgent action on climate change and I am proud that this Parliament is introducing the first Bill that makes clear the task facing us and commits us as a country to meeting our obligations for a safer world.
The recorded effects of climate change as a result of excessive energy consumption and pollution can be rattled off like a shopping list—glacial melt, smog, acid rain, flooding, increased erosions, crop starvation, disease and deaths. Two of the worst recent examples are Hurricane Katrina and tropical Cyclone Sidr. The catastrophic effects of Katrina are only too well documented. Albeit that we had all the resources at our feet, there is still a great deal to be rebuilt. Before Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the US National Weather Service broadcast at least two emergency warnings about the potential effects of the hurricane. Both were ignored and less than 24 hours later New Orleans drowned. The cry from the people was and still is, "The Government acted too late".
As someone born not too far from the reach of Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh, I am particularly concerned about climate change. The citizens of Bangladesh are now in the forefront of our warming planet. People are already feeling the impact as river beds and livelihoods erode. The devastation wreaked by Cyclone Sidr on Bangladesh is fresh in our minds. The confirmed death toll is about 5,000, rising each second with untold numbers unaccounted for. It seems that the new early warning systems that were in place, with the help of the UK and US, and disaster preparedness saved millions of lives. I welcome that, as will all noble Lords. However, around half a million hectares of crops have been damaged and hundreds of thousands of livestock have been lost. The toll of destruction is heavy, with more than 1 million homes damaged or completely destroyed. According to the UK's 2001 census, Wales alone has 1.2 million occupied households. I leave your Lordships to imagine the scale of destruction.
In Africa lies Lake Chad, which in 1963 was the sixth largest lake in the world. Today, at one-twentieth of its original size, it is but a pond in comparison. N'guigmi, a city in Niger, once surrounded on three sides by Lake Chad, is now more than 60 miles from the water. As yet no studies have been carried out on the effect that this loss of water and livelihood has had in the region, which is better known for genocidal attacks. Do we have to wait for studies to be carried out when all the evidence is before us? Do we have to wait for this "Mad Max" scenario to knock on our door before we do anything? Obviously not.
Despite these depressing developments, we are equipped with the tools for humankind to begin to reverse some of the catastrophic effects, of which we have heard from all sides of the House. To paraphrase Al Gore in his book An Inconvenient Truth, the era of procrastination is over. We are now facing an era of consequences, as has been eloquently said. Perhaps we need seriously to consider nuclear power stations or a Bill that subsidises the installation of solar panels and generators, as has been suggested. Maybe we need both. I am not an expert. I speak from an emotional standpoint and from what people tell me on these issues. I do not have the answers; I am making suggestions for your Lordships' consideration.
We know that climate change is no longer happening in small pockets in far-off places. As the oceans get warmer, storms get stronger; the effect has been a 20 per cent increase in worldwide precipitation in the past 20 years. It is happening on an ever increasing scale, covering more and more areas and affecting more and more people. We have only to look back to June through to October this year, when communities on more than 40 British rivers were placed on flood alert. When the floods were done, at least 12 people had been killed, more than 5,000 properties were flooded and 48,000 were left without power. Some estimates placed the damage at over £500 million. In addition, the River Ouse reached its highest recorded level since 1625. The resounding cry there, too, was that the Government had acted too late.
Climate change contributes to rising sea levels, which turn freshwater sources salty and unusable. In Bangladesh and elsewhere, sea water has travelled so far that salt can be tasted from groundwater sources 100 kilometres inland. This is killing fruit trees and freshwater fish, damaging vital forests and making people travel further to get water to drink and cook with.
Many noble Lords will speak on some of these issues, including those that affect Africa, which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and others mentioned. I shall raise two further points. First, like others, I am concerned that the targets in the Bill are not strong enough; they were drawn up seven years ago and are well out of date. In the light of this, I am concerned that the committee to be established by the Bill may be working on outdated information. I hope that the Minister will reassure the House in addressing this point. I also wish to see the UK leading on this matter in the context of global justice, as climate change places the heaviest burden on people in countries such as Bangladesh, whose contribution to the problem is negligible, yet who face the full brunt of its impact.
Lord Vinson (Conservative)
My Lords, it is not quite true to say that Bangladesh has made no contribution. One of the underlying sources of CO2 generation is the world population, and population growth is exploding. All of us must think twice, in considering limiting carbon, about how we limit world population growth. I am sure that that applies to India as much as to anywhere else.
Baroness Uddin (Labour)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comment. I said, as the noble Lord would have heard, that I consider the contribution to be negligible in comparison.
While Sidr may be attributed to natural climatic patterns, the two recent floods, the rising sea levels and warmer temperatures causing greater chances of affecting natural patterns are now well evidenced. Therefore, I would wish us to utilise, as part of our special relationship and influence with the USA and other parts of the mature world, some brownie points to raise this critical agenda.
This is the 21st century and, as has often been noted, we live in a globalised world. Our families, societies and business relationships have never been more international or interdependent. We must be careful that, in reducing emissions at home, we change our way of doing things and do not simply put them offshore, offloading them on to other countries. Within our borders, we generate just over 2 per cent of global emissions, but the economic activity of UK-listed companies is responsible for around 12 to 15 per cent. Therefore, our impact is categorically global—I hope that that answers the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, a little more.
The Bill should include enabling powers to allow the Government to set common reporting standards on carbon emissions and to ensure that businesses have regard to these standards. Such transparency should cover not just direct emissions but also those generated indirectly from companies' electricity use, supply chains and investments. Although the framework for reducing our carbon emissions should focus on reducing our domestic economy, we should know and understand how UK businesses generate emissions both here and around the globe. At the moment, such transparency is sorely lacking, depriving consumers, investors and the Government of key information in an accessible and comparable format. Of course, such powers should be implemented after discussion with UK businesses to ensure that they are not unnecessarily burdensome, but I believe that this is both possible and necessary.
The time for political agendas and positioning is over and I am glad that in this Bill the Government intend to act more decisively. If ever the whole world needed to work together to resolve a problem, it is now on climate change, as noble Lords on all sides of the House have said. Climate change will not differentiate on the basis of race, religion or creed and it will not take any prisoners. We now need clear leadership, with absolute clarity of purpose. Such leadership will have to transcend today's differences on politics, race, religion and creed, no matter how far apart the poles are.
"We must send a strong message of support to the forthcoming climate change conference in Bali".
I hope that later today my noble friend the Minister will set out absolutely the position that Great Britain will be presenting at the Bali summit. Leadership before the world on this is not only desirable but critical so that we can prevent a resounding cry from our children that we acted too late.
Lord Crickhowell (Conservative)
My Lords, I served on the Joint Committee on the draft Bill, which was ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. I was led into my next remarks by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave of North Hill. Evidence sessions began and finished with two contrasting but connected contributions. In the first session, my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby—whom I have seldom dared to challenge since our schooldays across the road where he was a scholar and I was distinctly non-academic—in a characteristic presentation doubted whether we should be treading this path at all. He described the Government's "quaint proposal" as "dangerous" because, by going out on a limb alone, we would not have any measurable effect on global warming but would damage our own economy. We were told that, because the Chinese among others would not follow, it was the equivalent of the lead of the Earl of Cardigan in his charge of the Light Brigade.
That was not my conclusion, nor that of the committee. I welcome the Bill, but recognise that we have to remember that the actions that we take may have results only far into the future and then perhaps only by delaying the impact of global warming, even if we succeed in stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases. Some of the costs might be better devoted to dealing with adaptation and some of the gravest problems confronting the poorest parts of the globe today. As the Government put it in their Explanatory Notes, we have to find an,
"economically credible emissions reduction pathway".
To that extent, my noble friend and those who think like him make valid points.
However, I believe that an overwhelming case has been made for the need to act urgently, not least because we cannot press others to do so if we are unwilling to set an example to other counties, including those such as China and India that have development as their priority. Nevertheless, those countries may be more receptive than the sceptics allow. Almost half the world's glaciers are in China and their disappearance would have devastating consequences, while some of China's most important river systems are already in a desperate condition. The reasons why China will have to act are compelling and there are already indications that policy attitudes are changing, as revealed in an interesting article in today's Times.
It was a happy chance that the committee, having started by hearing from my noble friend, concluded its evidence by questioning Dr Lu Xuedu, representing the Chinese Government, who argued that all countries, including his own, had to find a balance between development and measures to combat climate change. He said:
"Through development we can have capability, technology, and economy, to address it".
He thought that our legislation would have influence on China and the world and he may have given some comfort to my noble friend Lord Lawson by suggesting that adaptation to the effects of climate change is as important as mitigation.
I turn now to the substance of the Bill, which is predicated on the basis that it imposes legally enforceable duties on the Government. I expressed my doubts in the debate on the gracious Speech and will return to this important issue by tabling amendments to Clause 1, which seeks to impose a legal duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that the net carbon account more than 40 uncertain years ahead is 60 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline. I wonder whether a Secretary of State in office in 1955 would have been able to deliver on a similar undertaking or whether he and his successors could have been held legally responsible if they had failed to do so.
In committee, I suggested that Clause 1 be replaced by a purpose clause and that any legal duties should arise from what is now Clause 4, which requires the Secretary of State to set and achieve five-year carbon budgets. The committee shared my scepticism about legal enforceability and the dubious proposition that the courts would be prepared to make judgments about the approach of Ministers to a whole series of very complex policy issues, let alone seek to impose penalties. Instead, we suggested the inclusion in the Bill of compliance mechanisms. The Government continue to assert that the duties are legally enforceable and add, even more improbably, that any sanctions specified in the Bill,
"might be less stringent than one which could be prescribed by a court of law".
Because my doubts are widely shared, we will need to consider carefully in Committee whether compliance mechanisms can be found that would give the Bill real teeth.
Concern has also arisen because the duty is imposed on the Secretary of State. We in Parliament understand that a reference to a Secretary of State means all Secretaries of State, but the fact is that it is the Secretary of State at Defra who will be seen as primarily responsible. A parallel mistake is made by those who assume that the emphasis in the Bill is on emissions trading. Certainly, carbon trading is seen as one instrument but, if the duties imposed by the Bill are to be capable of achievement, fiscal policy, energy policy, transport policy, planning and building regulations and the activities of almost every department and their offshoots will play an equally important part. It will require effective joined-up government, which can be achieved only if leadership comes from the Prime Minister and the primary responsibility lies with him, as my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach argued. There are precedents for naming the Prime Minister rather than the Secretary of State in legislation and many believe that that is what is needed in this case.
My noble friend Lord Lawson argued that only by taxing carbon until behaviour had changed sufficiently and making sure that everybody else did it as well would you achieve the objective, if that was your objective. Carbon trading he saw as a second-best method and he echoed the Financial Times in describing it as a scam. Surely it is more sensible to see fiscal policy as one instrument among others, which will include carbon trading and the Kyoto clean development mechanism.
At this Second Reading, I will simply draw attention to the evidence given by the witnesses from Climate Change Capital, who probably know as much about these instruments as anyone. Those witnesses rather effectively dealt with some of the criticisms made. I recognise that there will be those who will comment, "Well he would say that, wouldn't he?" because one of those expert witnesses was my son, Rupert. However, what he had to say about European compliance mechanisms, the robustness of the supervision of the clean development mechanism, the principle of supplementarity, sensible caps on the import of emissions credits and the good arguments for the use of least-cost emissions abroad will, I believe, be of value when we come to consider those issues and the role of the Committee on Climate Change.
It is generally cheaper to take a tonne of CO2 equivalent out of the atmosphere of developing or transition economies than it is to do so in the industrialised world. In seeking the right balance—the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam referred to this—the committee will have to be careful to ensure that foreign credits do not let us off the hook of having to take effective action ourselves and do not have the effect of setting a carbon price too low to stimulate low-carbon investment and technology investment in Britain and Europe.
Much heat is generated about whether we should have a target of 60 per cent or 80 per cent. The committee considered the arguments carefully and hesitated to come to a conclusion. Our conclusion, such as it was, was to support the Government's approach, provided that it is understood that this is but a first step along a path and that, as soon as possible after it is established, the Committee on Climate Change should review the issue and make recommendations on the appropriate level for the longer term. I was glad to hear the Minister say that that would be one of its first tasks and that the process will be accelerated.
I find it hard to believe that we are likely to arrive at a sounder conclusion than the committee will by parliamentary debate about what are complex scientific and economic issues. Because my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach is right to say that science is at the heart of the Bill, I am afraid that I have to disagree with his conclusion that we should pass judgment on what he describes as a fundamental inconsistency. I, for one, would like to have the advice of the strengthened committee or commission that my noble friend proposes—particularly because of its scientific expertise. I would also like its advice on the percentages to be internationally traded, which may vary over each budget period.
I warmly welcome two improvements to the Bill since we considered it in draft form. First, there are the new provisions on adaptation in Part 4. The Environment Agency and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, have made important proposals based on their experience of the adaptation programme, including the need for an interdepartmental steering group, expert advice and the placing of statutory duties on all public bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, made some important comments on the same subject.
The second improvement is in the clauses that will increase the Government's accountability within Parliament. That will be especially important if I am right about legal enforceability. If the Bill is to achieve even half its aims, Parliament will have to be far more effective than it has been in recent times in holding the Executive to account. It is being given the weapons to do so in this instance. I hope for all our sakes that it will use them effectively. The achievement of a 60 per cent target—let alone 80 per cent—will be a formidable task. It will need an immense, co-ordinated drive by a succession of Governments, a strengthened Committee on Climate Change and the most rigorous supervision by Parliament.
Lord Turnbull (Crossbench)
My Lords, successive reports of the International Panel on Climate Change have increased our knowledge and have narrowed down the range of uncertainty on the prospects of climate change. The estimates will continue to be refined but, for me, at least, it is now clear enough that an approach of "wait and see" is no longer tenable or even morally defensible. It is most unlikely that this will all turn out to be a false alarm.
Fifteen years ago, I hoped that the scientists might discover—as is often the case in nature—that some dampening mechanism might have come into effect, for example that a hotter, moister, more carbon-rich atmosphere encouraged more active carbon sinks and sequestration. Instead, I am more concerned about the accelerative mechanisms: the saturation of the upper layers of the oceans; the reduction in the polar icecaps, reducing the reflective power of the Earth; and, most frightening of all, the thawing of the Siberian tundra, releasing vast quantities of methane which has a global effect 21 times that of CO2.
The dying breed who argue that even if there is warming, it is due to something other than CO2, are now largely confined to Texas and the Washington Beltway, although, as the noble Lords, Lord Waldegrave and Lord Crickhowell, have hinted, they may have posted one or two honorary consuls in our midst. They need to explain how it is possible to double the concentration of C02 in the atmosphere and not have a warming effect: in other words, why the scientists of the 19th century, such as Fourier and Arrhenius, were wrong.
It is therefore welcome that the Government are responding in the Bill to the growing threat that we face. Nevertheless, there are some questions about the components of the Government's approach to climate change. First, the target set for 2050 appears to be largely unconditional and unilateral. The UK will commit itself to this target irrespective of the performance of other nations. The reality, however, is that our own contribution by 2050 is unlikely to be crucial, so we are heavily dependent on the exemplary effect: in other words, we cannot carry conviction in international debate if we do not carry our full share of the burden. There is genuine validity in this, but we should not be naïve and rely on it too heavily. If we fail to persuade other nations, we could be left in 40 years' time having paid heavily to decarbonise our economy and still incurring the costs of rebuilding our sea defences and water resources. The Bill should therefore contain a duty to work actively internationally for more demanding targets.
I am critical of a number of aspects of EU policy on climate change, but the EU might have the better of the argument in one respect. The target for CO2 for 2020, which was set at the May 2007 council, is in two parts: first, a high target representing what it believes is necessary, will campaign for and will adopt if others do the same; secondly, a lower but still demanding target, which is what it will do unconditionally regardless of others.
On the other hand, the adoption of a separate target for the share of renewables, to which we signed up at the same council, is a serious error. It is wrong to preordain a market share for any source of energy or any technology, and there would rightly be strong objections from NGOs and from those on the Liberal Democrat Benches if such a thing were attempted for nuclear power. Having pushed up the price of carbon to reflect its social costs, whether by taxes or by cap and trade, we should allow renewables to find their own level. They should enter the merit order on merit—in other words, because they can contribute substantially to a low-carbon economy—but we should not push on blindly to push the share all the way up to 20 per cent if there are other non-renewable sources, such as clean coal or nuclear, which cost us less. In short, we should in our thinking replace the renewable/non-renewable distinction with a low-carbon versus a high-carbon distinction. There will be many instruments at our disposal: taxes, relief from taxes, cap and trade, subsidy, grant, and regulation. None is inherently superior to the others, and all will find a use. Whichever is used should be reduced to a common metric: the cost per tonne of carbon avoided. Otherwise, we will find that we are a long way from equalising at the margin the effectiveness of the different approaches.
A recent report by John Llewellyn of Lehmann Brothers, which I commend to the House, demonstrates that the implied cost of carbon in the EU auto-regulations greatly exceeds the IPCC's estimate of the cost of carbon required to stabilise CO2 at around 550 parts per million. One of the instruments permitted is the purchase of carbon credits, to which a number of noble Lords have referred. In theory, this allows lower-cost ways of reducing carbon to be pursued and brings the developing world into the system, but we must not fool ourselves; much of the credits industry is intellectually bogus—the modern equivalent of purchasing indulgences. Adopting a hydro scheme in Cameroon, say, rather than reducing carbon at home, may look smart but only if there is genuine additionality; that is, the hydro scheme would not have gone ahead otherwise. It is essential that there is integrity to the process.
I welcome the creation of the Committee on Climate Change, but it must be expert, objective and independent. It must not be put together by balancing opposing vested interests. There can be no place for representatives, whether of business interests or campaigning NGOs. Like many noble Lords, I believe that the committee should be given power to advise not just on appropriate carbon budgets but also on the effectiveness of the different approaches being followed. Having assembled a group with substantial expertise and the staff to support it, it would be a great waste not to use that fully. I support those who see a role for the committee in the field of adaptation.
Finally, we must recognise that we face an optimisation problem, not a maximisation one. There are multiple objectives—carbon reduction, strengthened energy security, affordability and promoting economic development. We should avoid approaches which pursue one of those without regard to the others. Regrettably, the US seems to be on a course to tackle energy security even if it involves measures which add to CO2 emissions. Many of the so-called unconventional hydrocarbons, such as tar sands and tight gas, do precisely that, as do some forms of biofuels.
This is a Bill of extraordinary ambition. I know of no other instance where a Secretary of State is placed under a statutory duty of such breadth and has such responsibility for the actions of other people. I was interested in the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, about how this might be approached. Nevertheless, we have to face it that climate change is an issue like no other. Only nuclear war has quite the same global and possibly terminal impact. I am confident that, amended through the collective wisdom of this House, this Bill can be a pioneer in the way in which countries go about organising themselves in tackling climate change and that it can mobilise scientific, economic and philosophical resources to bring rationality to a series of formidably complex problems.
Lord Haskel (Labour)
My Lords, this Bill demonstrates once again how right we were to introduce pre-legislative scrutiny in this House six years ago. I join the Minister and other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Puttnam and his committee on their excellent work. Obviously, the Bill has benefited enormously from it.
I shall look at the Bill from a business point of view. My friends in business and industry tell me that they welcome it. As the Minister said, it provides a framework which gives them the possibility of investing and planning for the environment over a long term. The CBI climate change task force has reported positively. I declare an interest as the honorary president of the Environmental Industries Commission, a business organisation which strongly supports this Bill. We have already been actively engaged at events at Defra and BERR, looking at opportunities for business from climate change.
Our main concern is the comparable reporting of carbon emissions, to which I think the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull referred. At present, reporting is not comparable because of the use of different methods of calculation. The CBI climate change task force acknowledges that. It speaks of the need to set benchmarks for reporting. I hope that the Minister will see that this happens quickly. The record of business on reporting on the environment is patchy. Unless good practice on reporting carbon emissions emerges soon, the Government will have to make this mandatory, because this reporting is central to the Bill. The need for adaptation is also central. Industry is already hard at work on the development of new metals, plastics, textiles and other materials, and different combinations of all of those, to create new products with a lower carbon footprint and less waste; namely, products which are recyclable and reusable. Again, I declare an interest as the honorary president of Materials UK, which is the main network set up by the Government and business to facilitate knowledge transfer in these new kinds of materials. Sustainable development has already become an imperative part of business and industry, and this Bill will encourage and help it along.
The Minister has told us that the Government's ambitions stretch beyond the United Kingdom. Together with other nation states in the EU, this Bill will set targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This is a commitment to the European Union and the Commission which I am pleased to see. Other noble Lords spoke of carbon trading, which does not reduce emissions here. I would say that we have to make sure that carbon trading reduces carbon emissions somewhere. I hope that the Government will insist on the United Nations carbon credits and persuade the Commission that the cheaper assigned amount units available in Hungary and Poland as well as Russia do not count, because these credits do not result in cuts in emissions anywhere. That kind of thing will just undermine the Bill.
The Government are proud that we are the first country in the world to have a legally binding, long-term framework to cut emissions and adapt to climate change, and they are right to be proud. But being a pioneer is not easy, and obviously the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, said that to the scrutiny committee. I was in business in Yorkshire, where there is an old saying that there is both treasure and trouble in being a pioneer. I am anxious that we should win the treasure and avoid the trouble. The treasure lies not only in securing CO2 reductions, but also in being the first to get the mechanics of doing so into operation and getting the so-called first mover advantage. The danger lies in the fact that no one has done this before, so there are no signposts along the way. In these circumstances, the way you recognise the danger is through using data. By that I mean proper data, not froth. I do not mean the kind of data which are frequently used to score political points or sell franchises, but the kind of data which are the key to understanding what you have done and what has to be done—data that can be turned into knowledge. I do not want to sound like an accountant or consultant, and I do not want politicians to be managers. I just want to avoid the self-generated problems that we have been experiencing recently.
I know that much of this work will be delegated to the Committee on Climate Change. The noble Lords, Lord Waldegrave and Lord Taylor, want it to be beefed up, as does the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull. They are right, but I do not think that that is enough, as I shall show. The general impression is that these bodies do well at budget management, target management and process management, but because there is no way of accounting for equity as there is in the private sector, it is very difficult for public bodies to gather data which really monitor performance—the kind of data valued by management in the private sector as a way of seeing who does well and who does badly. The UK emissions trading scheme was the first of its kind, and those working in it developed expertise in exactly this way, so that today they dominate the international emissions trading world. We need to learn from this.
The National Audit Office provides a very useful service in exposing incompetence and waste, and the resulting embarrassment produces change, but that is just not good enough for this venture. Clauses 21 and 22 talk about carbon units and carbon accounting. In other clauses there are rules for trading schemes, waste reduction and reporting obligations. Part 2 establishes the Committee on Climate Change and obliges it to provide annual reports and accounts. It has to advise in connection with carbon budgets and provide other advice or assistance, but nowhere is there an obligation to collect knowledge, to learn from mistakes, to react to events, to make progress, to create a sense of urgency and avoid unintended consequences, about which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, spoke.
Experience is required for this kind of project. Who is going to manage this and drive it forward? Certainly not the Prime Minister, as suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Crickhowell. This is not the kind of Bill that you can put on the statute book and then move on. This is a project that will last for many years. It will cut across every part of government and, somehow, we have to get into the Bill the way in which we are going to manage it properly. The climate itself will not respond to market forces; it will respond only to action taken. This is why the management of the Climate Change Bill is so crucial.
As many other noble Lords have said, climate change will have an impact on all aspects of our lives—social and economic, public and private. The Climate Change Bill acknowledges that priorities will have to change in many aspects of our lives. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, reminded us that all parts of government will have to be joined up to promote the activities consistent with the targets in the Bill. For instance, transport and land use policies will have to change. Building an additional runway at Heathrow while at the same time claiming that with the Bill we are taking steps to reduce emissions will cause the public to think that the Government speak with two voices or that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. This would be fatal.
The purpose of the Bill is to influence public opinion and to win public support for the moral decisions about which the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, and the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, spoke. Without it, we will fail. With these provisos, I support the Bill and wish it every success.
Baroness Byford (Conservative)
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and to pick up on his last comment. The Bill is enormously important; it is a challenge to us all and we should not underestimate the task in hand. Its success is important not only to us in the Chamber but to our families, the people who live within our immediate communities and, more importantly, to the whole world.
The climate change here is very kind compared with other parts of the world but we will remember that we have seen the summer appearing in April—a friend said he had never sheared his sheep in April before but this year he had to—and then summer being completely washed out, followed by flooding and drought in certain parts of the world. Clearly the climate is changing and we need to respond to it. For me this is a moral issue—as it is for the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London—and we need to act now.
I support the Bill in the main although, like others, I wish to see it strengthened. It could and should have been brought forward sooner so that we could have joined the negotiations on the new global climate agreement with our own targets firmly in place and our position crystal clear. As the Bill stands, our 2050 target will be,
"at least 60% lower than the 1990 baseline",
but it will be subject to amendment following, among other things, the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. Sadly it appears from the Bill that this will not be given for the first time until mid-2009, with the Government's response not due until mid-October of that year, the end of which is the deadline for agreement on a new global position.
I hope the Minister will advise us on the strength and commitment of the new committee. Will it be able not only to give advice to the Government but to ensure that that advice is taken on board by Ministers? Clearly as it is set up at the moment it is in the position of giving advice to the Government, rather than ensuring a government response on the advice given.
In studying the Bill, I have found it quite difficult to envisage how carbon emissions and carbon savings will be calculated. Why is it not considered possible to do this now for carbon emissions that occurred back in 1990? After all, it is nearly 18 years ago. I would be grateful for an explanation from the Minister which might rid me of the suspicion that the Bill contains a number of let-out clauses which are convenient for coping with any failure to attain targets.
In that context, I am also surprised that there are no immediate targets for other greenhouse gases, an issue to which other noble Lords have referred. Our agricultural industry will be greatly affected by the Bill, if only because in one sense it stands to lose the most if climate change control and emissions reduction is unsuccessful. The Bill defines "UK removals" of greenhouse gases as the removals of gas from the atmosphere due to,
"land use, land-use change or forestry activities in the United Kingdom".
There does not appear to be any other method of gas removal allowed for the purpose of calculating net emissions, nor any possibility of changing that definition. I find this surprising and I wonder whether the Minister will clarify the issue.
As agricultural methods change, so we shall now have to be capable of measuring, monitoring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions under conditions of reduced or zero tillage systems, whole farming systems and any new methods that may be introduced. Who will be responsible for devising the necessary measurement methods and how much assistance will be made available by the Government?
It is not all bad news for farmers; there are great opportunities out there for them. As the natural fossil fuel supplies reduce, the power of the sun and water and the growth of plants will enable new discoveries. Recently at the Oxford farming conference, and again here in London last week, Professor Diana Bowles spoke at length about that. I hope that the climate change committee will reflect on those opportunities.
I slightly disagree with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, on the make-up of the committee. I wonder how he defines "experts" and whether they are to be purely scientific experts or whether, because this will affect land greatly, they will include experts in land management. I see him nodding his head. I am grateful for that clarification. Clearly this will affect land so much that we need to have an input from that side.
Adaptation to climate change is most important, as evidenced already by the need for flood control measures around our coasts, caused mainly by storms and rising sea levels, and inland, caused by extreme rainfall and the impact it has on land. I welcome this part of the Bill but I am surprised that there is no mention of the introduction of prohibitions—for example, to curb the profligate use of energy—or new and different standards for those who make, import or sell goods. Will the trading schemes be able to do that? The suggestion is that some capping may well be introduced.
Contemplation of the trading schemes is, for me, a difficult process. The EU carbon Emissions Trading Scheme has attracted much criticism, even though it applies to only a relatively small number of entities. The implications of a greater number of schemes, some of them applying to a large number of participants, are not so easy to grasp. The Explanatory Notes cite the example of supplying heating fuel. Oil and coal tend to be supplied, by businesses that do little else, to individual family or single-person households, to the young and the very old. But people move house and their household numbers change. Is it right that those individual companies will try to persuade people to use less when their whole purpose is to increase their sales?
Waste reduction schemes, of which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, spoke, are apparently to be constructed only for domestic wasters. Over 90 per cent of this country's scrap and rubbish comes from manufacturers, retailers, importers, service providers and others, to say nothing of state-run or state-related enterprises. That is neither fair nor likely to provide sufficient waste reduction. I wonder if the Minister will refer to that later.
Personal savings are a matter for each one of us. Individual responsibilities are for us to decide. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London spoke about the role the church has to play, and I agree with him. I was much encouraged recently when I visited churches that have taken part in eco-congregational schemes, which are the church's way of looking at its own carbon footprint. I was reminded of the Christian Aid slogan some time back in the 1980s, when we were asked to live simply so that others could simply live.
I am a little disappointed that as yet we do not have the details of the Energy Bill, because it is inextricably linked to this Bill. There is great overlap between them and their aims.
I shall reflect on some of the information I have had from outside bodies, which believe that the targets are too low; that aviation and shipping should have been included; that we need to strengthen the committee; that annual milestones should be reached; and, whatever else, that research and scientific development are extremely important.
Agriculture has its part to play within renewables, and will in future have a bigger part to play in energy and balancing food security. I welcome the Bill. This is a moral issue, one on which individually we can do quite a bit, but collectively we can do so much more.
Baroness Northover (Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, many experts have already spoken in this debate. Like them, I welcome the Bill. As spokesperson on international development, I emphasise how important this is for the poorest countries and people.
It is glib to say it but this is, if anything ever was, a global problem, and we are only just feeling our way towards finding global solutions to such a challenge. Global institutions are, in historical terms, very recent inventions at an early stage of their development. Working through the UN and the EU is critical but individual states must also act, which is why the Government are right to take this initiative.
There has been a feeling in parts of the development community and some developing countries that addressing such problems penalised developing countries. It looked as if developed countries were pulling up the drawbridge before developing countries could follow. Western countries are, after all, the major contributors to this problem, although if you visit developed Hong Kong and see the pollution blowing across the border from China and the pollution in the Peal River delta, you can see that others are fast catching us. It is surely fair enough, however, to say that the West must take most action and certainly not export our problems to developing countries in the same way that we ship our rubbish.
We now recognise that we have looked at the needs of developing countries in a blinkered way. As the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London so clearly stated, it is the poorest people who will suffer first and the most. They are the most vulnerable. We know that in other areas—for example, in the AIDS epidemic—that problems can be absorbed much more easily in the West, whereas anything like this has a devastating consequence in the poorest countries, decimating societies.
Indeed we are our brother's keeper, as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, says. In addition, what happens in the poorest countries affects us too. Fragile societies are more prone to violence, which can then spill over into other areas of the world—not least through migration, as we well know. Livelihoods in the poorest countries are often dependent on subsistence agriculture, and it does not take much to knock that off course. People live at the margins. As International Alert argues, where people are living in poverty in underdeveloped and unstable states with poor governance, pressures are already great. Add another and some may reach breaking point, and those are the countries least able to adapt to such challenges.
We have heard of the possible impact on Bangladesh of climate change: more cyclones, higher sea levels and reductions in crop levels because of salination of fresh water. Christian Aid reports effects worldwide, highlighting, for example, reduced crop yields in Bolivia because of increased rainfall, contrasted with drought in Mali because of lower rainfall, with resultant migration out of the area. International Alert talks of the effect on Algeria, recovering from conflict, of expanding desert areas. We already know of the impact in the Middle East—Israel, Palestine, Syria, Jordan—of water shortages. The IPCC predicts that the number of people facing water scarcity will rise sharply because of climate change. The conflict in Sudan owes some of its ferocity to climate change: the extension of the Sahara has helped displace some people who then, in seeking land, have displaced others.
International Alert reckons that there are 46 countries, with a total population of 2.7 billion people, in which the effects of climate change will create a high risk of violent conflict. They estimate that there is a second group of 56 countries, with a total population of a further 1.2 billion, where there is also the potential for conflict because of the pressures of climate change. It becomes the straw that breaks the camel's back.
For many in the poorest countries it is already too late to address the effects of climate change solely by mitigation. These measures are essential but their effects will be felt only with time. What is required now is for states and communities to be helped to adapt. The Bill relates to the UK. I would have liked to have seen stronger measures, as my noble friend Lord Teverson has laid out, and we must think beyond the UK, especially given that the Bill is about that wider community. For example, I would have liked to have seen some meat put on what we decided recently in the Companies Bill regarding what UK companies were required to do to mitigate their effect overseas on the environment.
We also need to do much more in terms of adaptation. The proposed Committee on Climate Change will need to take a global view of the issue. It will have a duty to look at adaptation so far as the UK is concerned. I would like to see that extended. Just as the committee looks at climate change globally, it should also work on adaptation in its international context. At the very least, given the impact on the UK of what happens elsewhere in the world, it is surely appropriate that a law on climate change relating to the UK should also analyse, research and support adaptation, not just in the UK but internationally.
The Bill is welcome and this debate has been outstanding, not least in its agreement about the challenge we face. In the interests of the poorest people as well as ourselves, we need not only to take the Bill through but to strengthen it so that it is indeed a groundbreaker.
Lord Kimball (Conservative)
My Lords, I declare an interest in that I am the deputy chairman of the Countryside Alliance, which has been carrying out a major exercise on fly-tipping, an important part of the Bill.
I agree with my noble friend Lady Byford that this all seems a bit far away from our point of view. Carbon emissions should be reduced by 2050 to 60 per cent below those of 1990. It is of very little interest to us but it is of interest to our children and grandchildren, and for that reason I support the Bill.
We will have a new independent, non-departmental public body, the Committee on Climate Change, which will have grant-making powers. Who will get the grants? We will want to know about the committee's advice on carbon budgets, and the Government's reply.
The management of land can make a substantial contribution to the reduction of the carbon emissions. I press the Minister to ensure that on the Committee on Climate Change will be a sensible land manager that understands the problems.
There is no doubt that this has all happened before. In 1630, grapes were grown as far north as Lincoln, on the edge of my former constituency. The climate did not return to its normal pattern until 1646. We did not have cars and aeroplanes then, which are the principal polluters at the moment.
An excellent article in the Daily Telegraph last week pointed out that much of the world would go hungry if we rushed into growing biofuel crops for petrol instead of wheat for our bread. Asian countries now require a higher standard of food; they no longer seem able to survive on a little bit of maize. The Government are failing to produce high-quality food in this country. They think that they will meet consumer demand through foreign imports, but they may not be available in the future. The Government should base their farming policy on the need for food, energy and water. In addition, if we are to feed this country, we must deal with the question of GM crops, which must be grown in one form or another.
The National Farmers' Union has taken a close interest in the Bill. Farmers are key players in tackling climate change, because of the gas emissions, mostly methane and nitrous acid, from the sector. Those emissions can be used significantly to change the climate and be adapted to everyone's advantage. In 2006, cattle farmers received an average price of £2.05 per kilo of beef at auction, yet anyone who went into a supermarket would find that the average price was about £13 per kilo. We need grazing animals to look after the countryside and for food. Our only hope is that some of the gas emissions from the grazing animals could be used in some way or another to close the gap.
It is important that waste-collecting authorities have in place a robust strategy for preventing illegal fly-tipping. It must be closely coupled with other reductions in polluting emissions, including greenhouse gases.
I hope that we have today started on a course that will be of benefit to our children and grandchildren. Therefore, I support the Bill.
Lord Jay of Ewelme (Crossbench)
My Lords, I, too, welcome and support the Bill, which is timely, important and well conceived, if not yet quite perfect. The context is absolutely clear. It is impossible to read the measured, objective prose of the recent IPCC report without accepting the basic arguments underlying it: that the planet is warming, that man is responsible, that damaging climate change is already happening and requiring us all to adapt—rich countries and particularly poor countries, which will need our help if they are to avoid damaging consequences—that further warming and damage are inevitable, but that, by acting now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can contain the rise in temperature and therefore at least some of the damage that will otherwise be inevitable. As the Stern report concluded, acting now will be cheaper than acting later, and action now is urgent. The question is how we seek to achieve that. It needs addressing and answering, as the Minister said in introducing the debate, at every level—internationally, regionally, nationally, locally and by all of us as individuals, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, cogently argued.
I shall say a word about the international dimension before turning to the Bill. I welcome the Government's determination to play a constructive and active role in the UNFCCC conference that opens next month in Bali—for presentational reasons, I rather wish that somewhere like Detroit had been chosen to hold it. That meeting must commit the international community to reach an agreement by the time of the UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, so as to have a new framework in place by the time that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. That will not be easy, because there remain big differences among the member states involved. However, those differences are narrowing. Even the United States—even inside the beltway, as a noble Lord put it—is moving. We can be sure that whoever is elected president this time next year will be committed to a new international framework for climate change. President Sarkozy made a far-reaching and imaginative speech earlier this month. Australia will now sign the Kyoto Protocol, which suggests that electorates can be an effective compliance mechanism. The EU agreed an ambitious programme earlier this year, and there are signs of a more positive approach, too, from the emerging economies, including and perhaps especially China, for which the combined experience of pollution, climate change, the melting glaciers and desertification are becoming a real spur for action.
Despite the difficulties, there is therefore a real prospect of a comprehensive international agreement within two years. That must be our aim, and I hope—indeed, am confident—that the Government will continue to lead as they have in the past. Leadership and action at national level are needed, too, which is why I welcome the Bill. However, the real leadership in the years ahead will come from the actions that stem from the Bill and not from its mere passage. That will require tough political decisions from Governments of all persuasions—on nuclear power, which a number of noble Lords have mentioned and on which I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave; on a more forthright approach to aviation emissions, which are growing and are crucial in this context; and on stronger fiscal incentives for clean cars in particular and energy efficiency more generally. None of that will be easy.
Against that background, I support the broad structure of the Bill—its medium- and long-term targets, the establishment of an independent climate change committee to advise the Government and, I hope, to hold Governments to account through Parliament, and its enabling measures to ensure that the detailed policy prescriptions are put in place. I welcome, too, the extent to which the Government have taken into account the recommendations of the parliamentary committees which have considered the Bill so far, including the Joint Committee led by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, of which I had the honour to be a member. The consequent revisions of the Bill have unquestionably strengthened it.
The amendments to the Bill do not yet go far enough, however. Like a number of noble Lords who have spoken, I should like to see it strengthened in a number of respects. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, the Joint Committee supported the formulation in the Bill of a target of at least 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 over 1990. I, too, supported it at the time, but the science has shifted even since the summer. It is clear that that figure, challenging though it will be to match, is now too low and almost certainly inconsistent with the Government's aim of limiting the rise of global temperatures by 2 degrees. I am glad that the Government are to ask the new Committee on Climate Change to look at it again, but I wonder if we can or should wait that long. Will the Minister consider whether changing the figure in the Bill from 60 per cent to 80 per cent would be seen not as procrastination during the drafting process but as a recognition of the changing science and the growing urgency of the problem?
Secondly, I see no logic at all in maintaining an upper limit of 32 per cent for the 2020 reduction target. What is needed is a minimum figure, and I have no difficulty with 26 per cent in that regard—but there should not be a maximum limit, as it might even in some circumstances curb our necessary ambition. I hope that the upper figure will disappear during the passage of the Bill.
Thirdly, I do not think that the Government are sufficiently ambitious on aviation and shipping. I appreciate the difficulties and like other noble Lords I have received many representations about them, but this is an area in which leadership is needed. I am not confident that the international organisations involved—the ICAO for aviation and the IMO for shipping—will come up with the kind of recommendations and agreed approaches that we need. I hope that the Government will continue to argue for the early inclusion of aviation in the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, but like other noble Lords I see a strong case for including aviation and shipping emissions in the targets from the beginning.
Most importantly, the Bill is deficient in not including an upper limit on international credits that can count towards meeting the targets in the Bill. There, too, I share the views expressed by other noble Lords this afternoon. International credits are not as sure as national emission reductions, whatever the logic behind it, and there is a risk that by relying too heavily on international credits the total emission reductions will not be as robust as they need to be if we are really to meet the objectives of reducing global emissions by 2050. I hope that during the passage of the Bill an upper limit on permitted international credits will be included.
Finally, as many noble Lords have said, the Committee on Climate Change is a key element in the Bill. I welcome the strengthened role for that committee in the revised Bill but believe that it will need to be strengthened further—or beefed up, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said. It will need to be and be seen to be independent and properly resourced. At first sight, I am attracted by his suggestion that it might be converted into a stronger commission with commissioners, rather than a committee, and I look forward to him developing those ideas as the Bill passes through Committee and to the Minister's reaction to that.
With those caveats, I repeat what I said at the beginning—that I strongly support and welcome this Bill.
The Earl of Caithness (Conservative)
My Lords, I, too, had the immense privilege of serving on the Joint Committee under the able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam. I pay a particular thank you to him as he performed an almost impossible task, and to all the Clerks who helped us. In particular I highlight the work of Charlotte Littleboy, who did the most amazing job. However, although prelegislative scrutiny is a very good idea, the Government always seem to give us far too little time to do a very difficult job. If it is really going to work, the Government need to think about giving committees more time so that we can do a better job.
In the committee we discussed whether the Climate Change Bill had an appropriate name, given that climate change has been going on for millions of years. I live in a house in the north of Scotland whose stone is tropical and was laid down 355 million years ago. I walk on peat that was not there when the Neolithics were hunter-gatherers. I walk on a beach with pine trees in the middle of it that is now all sand, so I see the effect of a change in sea level. I work with a community that has to work in harmony with nature and the environment, which 99 per cent of the rest of the UK does not seem to do any more. We have made an awful mess of our planet.
In the international context, this Bill presents us with huge costs but, much more importantly, huge opportunities and challenges to which we should rise. I am glad that the UK is taking a lead, since British scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer. My noble friend Lady Thatcher, then Prime Minister, hosted the ozone conference when I was Minister for the Environment, which led to the Montreal Protocol, which is an international agreement. We all seem to have forgotten that we have tackled these problems before, but the problem facing us today is a much more difficult one.
I am also concerned that climate change is a bit of a buzzword, as it is used by the Government to support any legislation that they think is appropriate. For instance, they used the issue of climate change to support the introduction of energy performance certificates in home information packs, but when those certificates were first mooted and imposed by Brussels climate change was not even mentioned. It is now said to be the cause of every single natural disaster, although those disasters are in fact caused by man's stupid greed and his ability to build in the wrong place. If man builds on a flood plain and below sea level, there are going to be problems, but we continue to do it—and now we are blaming it on poor old climate change.
There is no doubt, however, that we are in a new era of climate change, in which man has influenced the climate. We have to do something about it—and therefore I welcome the Bill, although it needs to be improved and made stronger for it to work properly.
I turn to some of the issues that we face with the Bill. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell is absolutely right in saying that the Bill is not enforceable. The duty on the Secretary of State will never be enforced and should therefore not be there. We discussed this at length in the committee, where we got towards an improved wording, but it is still an area that needs to be thought through and discussed, which we shall do in Committee.
Undoubtedly one of the most important parts of the Bill relates to the Committee on Climate Change. I start with a criticism. The news of the shadow committee leaked out as though it was an accident. Why were the Government not up front with the Joint Committee? Why did they not tell us that they were setting up a committee and that this was its remit? It caught us by surprise. We were asking questions about whether setting up a shadow committee would be a good idea, to be told that it was already happening and that the Government were doing it. That does not lead to any confidence in the Government; if they cannot be straightforward and give a body such as the Joint Committee the requisite information, what other things are they holding back?
Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
My Lords, the committee has not been set up. There is a shadow secretariat. The committee will be appointed following public consultation and consultation with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. It will then take a shadow form until the Bill gets Royal Assent. The persons themselves are not there yet. There is a shadow secretariat—but I do not want any confusion about this.
The Earl of Caithness (Conservative)
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that, but the news of setting up the shadow secretariat came out by accident. It is important that the Government are absolutely up front to us all about this. Exactly where are we with that shadow secretariat? What is the timing for the appointment of a shadow chairman of the future committee? That person will have to work—as will the committee—with all the evidence to be able to produce the requisite information, otherwise it will not be able to be done on time.
As regards the future role of the committee, the evidence of Professor Sir David King and Malcolm Wicks MP, then Minister of State for Science and Innovation, was contradictory. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave talked about who should be on the committee. When we discuss this in Committee, it is important that the committee's role should be made absolutely clear for it, Parliament and everybody else to understand.
We suggested that there should be sectoral targets but the Government dismissed the Joint Committee's report. However, the head of the Bill team, Mr Robin Mortimer, explained in the evidence, in answer to Question 641, that,
"the committee will have to look sector by sector at what it considers possible across the economy".
Unless there are sectoral targets and annual milestones, the committee's work will be severely hampered. I hope that at future stages of the Bill the Government will realise that the only way forward, besides the five-year budget and the five-year target, is to have an annual stepping stone.
I shall discuss appointments in detail later but I hope that the Secretary of State will not get his sticky fingers on appointing the vice-chair of the committee; that is a job for the chairman.
It was clear that the funding provision in the draft legislation was totally inadequate for the job that the committee has to do. If the committee is to have credibility and be a leading light across Europe and the world, it has to be properly funded and to be able to use the advice and the modelling of various organisations, but it must also be able to do its own work if it needs to. We cannot have a committee that is short of funds.
I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said about carbon credits. There must be a limit to the trading of carbon credits. We will come on to that but there seems to be pretty much unanimity among those who have raised the question.
I am grateful to the Government for the improvements they have made to the draft Bill with regard to parliamentary scrutiny. However, I still do not think that it is enough and we shall discuss that in detail.
Undoubtedly the Bill will alter all our lives. Every person in the United Kingdom will require huge education in this regard. If the policy behind the Bill is to work, it is critical that it takes the people with it. If the Government try to impose this without taking all the UK population with them, they will fail. A massive effort will be required in every department in Westminster and in the devolved Assemblies, because our way of life as we have been privileged enough to have known it—and, unfortunately, been privileged enough to squander some of the benefits—will be affected. We are going to have to rein back and change our ways. To do that, you have to take everybody with you; you cannot impose it. One of the things that will change is undoubtedly energy. The Energy Bill is rightly talked about in connection with climate change. Building regulations—something close to my heart—will need to be linked with it. I live in the shadow of Dounreay, which is now being decommissioned. What a tragedy. There was a facility in which the UK led the world. If its funding had been maintained, it would have provided a solution to some of our energy problems.
I overlook, and walk beside, one of the great energy sources in the United Kingdom, the Pentland Firth. What is man doing about it? Nothing. The tidal race running through the Pentland Firth could provide enough electricity to put the lights on all over Scotland. You could do it in the Solway Firth and in the Severn, which is beginning to happen. But unless we start to act now and get hold of problems like that, we shall have a much more difficult task ahead. I support the Bill and will work with the Government to get it through this House, but I would like it amended because it is only 90 per cent good so far.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Labour)
My Lords, it is always a privilege to speak in this House after so many excellent speeches, many of which I largely agree with. This is perhaps one of the most far-reaching and fundamental Bills that Parliament has ever had to deal with. It calls for action to deal with climate change which threatens the future well-being of the human race, if not the human race itself, but certainly affects the existence of many types of life on the planet for hundreds of years ahead.
A sceptical commentator in the Sunday papers, who has already been referred to this afternoon, ridiculed the idea of legislating for the future. But as the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, mentioned, 200 years ago Parliament discussed the global problem of slavery. The UK legislated to prevent it where it had the power—the Royal Navy was a factor, of course—but it took more than three-quarters of a century for the rest of the world to be convinced. This Bill also concerns the UK's contribution to a massive problem that can be solved only through joint action, particularly by the developed and industrialised countries. It is essential that the mitigation of climate change is dealt with more urgently by the world than in the time it took to deal with slavery.
Climate change legislation has to address many issues—scientific, political, economic and even ethical—using new words whose meanings need to be clearly explained. The guidance to this Bill is helpful but more needs to be done, especially where the clauses are vague and aspirational, for example Clauses 47 and 48. The noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, suggested that the new committee might have a role in the public explanation of the Bill.
I declare my interest as a professor of climate modelling and someone who helps to direct some environmental non-governmental organisations. The climate science background for this legislation is well covered by the POST leaflet in the House of Lords Library, which does not seem to be selling very well so I recommend noble Lords to have a look. It makes a point referred to earlier by a noble Lord on the Conservative Benches who was sceptical about the whole business. He was quite right to point out that there has not been a rise in the global average temperature since about 1999. This followed a very rapid rise in the 1990s and since then there have been large oscillations in the world, particularly associated with oceanic effects and the El Niño oscillation. The information that I have from the Met Office and other scientists is that this oscillation is expected to end and a rapid climb to occur probably in the next few years. It shows the vital importance of ocean research and monitoring, which are just as important as atmospheric research. The UK Government are contributing strongly to the floats in the Pacific Ocean which indicate these profound changes.
If the greenhouse gases emitted are controlled along the lines suggested in the Bill, according to current UN recommendations there will still be an average temperature rise of about 2 degrees Celsius over this century. A more realistic estimate might be 3 or 4 degrees but the large variations in temperature and rainfall over days, months and years will most affect people and natural processes. We are already seeing phenomena that probably have no parallel since the last ice age. Research supported by the Natural Environment Research Council has shown how the largest temperature rise in the world of 3 degrees in the last 50 years took place on the Antarctic peninsula. It was associated with westerly winds and complex fluid dynamics with which I am involved. This caused an area the size of Wales to break away and this area of ice—the Larsen ice shelf—had been the same for the last 20,000 years.
Record temperatures over several days in 2003 led to more than 30,000 deaths in European cities. Some researchers, particularly in France, conclude that such high temperatures may well last longer in future, which will have devastating effects. Colleagues from the Indian Parliament in the GLOBE organisation describe the unique disaster of no rainfall occurring in the wettest place in the world in 2006, which is probably associated with the changing meteorology of the Himalayas and other mountains around the world. The atmosphere is changing, causing more intense rain and, as we saw in the UK, damaging floods. It is also leading to changes in crops worldwide—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kimball. Current estimates are that there may be a 20 per cent reduction in food in some areas.
Reports by the IPCC showed that the recommended scenario means that global greenhouse gas emissions must stop over the next 30 years and then be reduced to levels significantly below current levels. This must be done by 2050, and preferably sooner. If that action is delayed, there will be really damaging effects on human health and food supplies and there will be natural disasters associated with damaging the infrastructure. However, through policies of mitigation and adaptation, this gloomy future for the climate is not completely inevitable, nor are all the damaging impacts on communities inevitable.
Following the reports of Socolow at Princeton and Stern here in the UK, the Royal Commission report and today's CBI report, there are a multiplicity of mitigation measures that could be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those should be within the means of an economy such as the UK and eventually will be within the means of economies such as India and China. That will take many decades to achieve. Those measures involve either reducing the use of energy through greater efficiency and conservation and a move to more sustainable lifestyles and consumer demand, or replacing fossil fuels through the use of renewable and nuclear energy sources.
The Japanese Parliament decided that lifestyle was important, and noble Lords will know that it adopted a new clothing style associated with trying to reduce energy. Members now wear a loose fitting uniform in the summer, and some Japanese parliamentarian—they do not make many jokes—said, "It is rather cool, don't you think?". This evening, I had to take off my jersey as I came into the House of Lords. I had been in an economical university department earlier where I had my jersey on; then I came into this hothouse. Clearly, we have something to do to lead the rest of the UK on these matters.
The Bill states that the UK needs to reduce its emissions by 60 per cent or more by 2050 by stages that are legally enforceable through rolling five-year targets. The challenging target for the UK is to take into account the fact that countries with lower standards of living and energy use will be increasing their emissions for the next 30 to 50 years before they start to make these changes. An important feature for the future, and one which gives us great optimism, is the use of solar energy, as mentioned earlier. The UK has perhaps some of the world's greatest scientists dealing with the possibilities of plastics and nanotechnology, which may be able to cover roofs the world over. I have the vision of a man in Africa going on his bike to the local store and coming back with a light plastic sheet to put on his roof. At the moment, that would fizzle in the sun, but the research being done may enable us to see something different in the next five to 10 years.
Another reason for being hopeful is more down to earth. Even with technology that was 10 years old, the borough of Woking, not so far from here, showed that it is possible in its building and transport facilities to reduce carbon emissions by 70 per cent and its use of energy by 45 per cent. If Woking can do it in the 1990s, surely we might be able to do it by the 2050s. That point was made in two of our reports.
The organisational plan for implementing the Government's policy is quite complicated. As the GLA pointed out in its briefing—it is nice for the GLA to make some organisational comments, because it gets a lot of flak from this House—with new organisations, there is a great danger of them treading on the toes of existing ones. The method of the Government here is a mixture of market forces based on carbon trading and administrative and fiscal measures. The latter are not particularly well set out in sufficient detail in the Bill for us to understand how they will be used and whether the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, which I very much welcome, will be sought as actively as on carbon budgeting.
In particular, will the committee be able to investigate the plans and practices of public organisations, which I am pleased to see will now have obligations? Will the committee be able to quiz government departments? Will it be able to quiz the Treasury about the Budget before it makes the Budget? From my experience and that of many others of running government agencies—which in the UK employ more than 2 million people—the Government have often been reluctant to use those powers to help policy objectives. This new initiative will be a bit of a challenge for the whole governmental system, and I look forward to seeing how it works out. Christian Aid and other organisations are arguing that the Bill should include regulating the significant emissions of UK-based companies.
The question of the role of local authorities was the dog that did not bark in the night. I gather that the committee under my noble friend Lord Puttnam wrestled with this but came up with a damp squib. It did not recommend that the Government should empower local government. Local government has shown that it can do it; it has shown that it can have leaders around the country. They will be the people who will be looked at to see whether this is happening. Whitehall is very remote for most people—
Lord Puttnam (Labour)
My Lords, we discussed that issue at great length, and we were advised—I think rightly—that to go down the route that my noble friend is suggesting would require a different Bill. We decided not to pursue the issue. I think that is correct. A local government Bill on adaptation will be required at some time in the fairly near future.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton (Labour)
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that. I just comment that, in the appendix, Wales seems to have got away with it. Adaptation measures are now firmly part of the Bill, and I very much welcome the fact that they are in the Title. That has been welcomed around the House today.
One of the most important features is that, perhaps through the Committee on Climate Change, there should be a clear plan for integrating adaptation measures with those needed for mitigation. The holistic approach that the Government now use must be part of their strategy. The Prime Minister advocates the Severn barrage. That is a classic example of where you are dealing with flooding, which requires adaptation measures. You can also have windmills along it, and you are generating a vast amount of electricity. That must be the way forward.
Finally, I reinforce what the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said. African and many other developing countries feel strongly that they should be part of this process, and we need to take their interests into account. I hope that the Committee on Climate Change will be able to take that aspect into UK policy as it gives advice.
The Duke of Montrose (Shadow Minister, Scotland; Conservative)
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, who has such a depth of expertise in this area of climate and what the world has in store for us. One of the daunting tasks in considering the issues in the Bill is that it has already engaged and challenged so many minds and engendered so many reports. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave pointed out the problem that the policy faces. That was something that Winston Churchill underlined, when he said that the ultimate political skill is,
"the ability to foretell what is going to happen ... And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen".
I think nowadays I might add, "in such a way that people will believe you".
My interests in this matter are probably centred mainly around the fact that I am a farmer, and that is a sector to which some of the provisions of the Bill may be extended. It may be of interest to your Lordships that I have a son who is much involved in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in China and less developed economies and with the trading of carbon credits.
As the Minister mentioned, last week's report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes very sobering reading. The arguments that most struck me were the contention that current increases in temperature were occurring at a time of limited sunspot activity—which has usually been taken to cause increased temperature—and that the rises in temperature have been identified not only in the atmosphere but in the oceans.
The closing conclusions of the report at first seem almost too obvious. It says,
"the macro-economic costs of mitigation generally rise with the stringency of the stabilisation target".
But by combining the elements that it classifies as adaptation with those of mitigation, it contends that a moderately successful annual target to 2050 would cause between a 1 per cent gain and a 5.5 per cent decrease of global GDP. In that, it is forecasting that things will be 1 per cent more costly than was forecast in the Stern report. It is interesting that those two elements run so closely together. In the Government's response to pre-legislative scrutiny, published in October, at paragraph 1.9 they undertook to provide alongside the revised Bill their initial analysis of costs and benefit that are likely to be caused by any new targets. Can the Minister tell the House why this has not been forthcoming—at least, I have not been able to lay my hands on it?
Looking further into the scientific technologies that will be required, it strikes me that the present remit seen for the Committee on Climate Change is to advise the Government on net UK emissions and the use of carbon offsets based mainly on business and industrial processes. The further element that is only hinted at is that the committee might be required to estimate the carbon absorption rate of various activities, many of which will not be connected to those businesses but which will be an integral part of the UK net emissions.
Clause 61 allows for emissions of greenhouse gases occurring in or above coastal waters and the UK sector of the continental shelf. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, mentioned the importance of oceans and he was among those with me who attended a seminar at the Foundation for Science and Technology last week, when I was informed by a professor of oceanography that half the carbon dioxide emitted since the start of the Industrial Revolution has been absorbed by the oceans. This has increased the acidity of the ocean and, along with raised temperature, will result in the oceans being less able to absorb CO2. We are really only scratching the surface of knowing what the results of all the interactions within the oceans could amount to.
There are obvious problems of knowing how this power can be factored into any calculation. Noble Lords this afternoon are offering many additional duties to the committee, but the fact that this may have some bearing on what our carbon policy should be suggests that the committee should have some remit in promoting and researching carbon sequestration on land and in the oceans. The Government in their response paper lay great emphasis on a policy that the committee must be adequately resourced from the start. Can the Minister say if present proposals include resources of this nature or whether they expect research into oceans and other carbon reduction spheres to be separately financed?
My noble friend Lord Taylor criticised the amount of discretion that the Bill puts in the hands of the Government. At paragraph 5.1 of their response to the Joint Committee the Government proudly state that this is a framework Bill. In your Lordships House it could equally merit the description of a "skeleton Bill", and for aficionados of this type of legislation, it rates as a collector's item. On a quick skim through, I have found seven areas of legislation that can be amended by order and five clauses that are to be implemented by regulation—let alone Schedule 2, in which 96 matters can be provided for by regulation.
I have some doubts about the contention of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell that the Bill gives Parliament sufficient powers. The structure of the Bill lays great emphasis on the fact that in many cases any changes will require consultation with the Committee on Climate Change and then be subject to the affirmative procedure. Would noble Lords agree that these safeguards do not have the power that is suggested? I wonder how many Members of another place would be prepared to defy their party Whip for a statutory instrument. Also, the present conventions of this House mean that we do not exercise a power to amend statutory instruments if the Government will not accept our arguments.
Lord Crickhowell (Conservative)
My Lords, I was not in any way accepting that the statutory instruments part of the Bill was the effective bit; I was welcoming the fact that the Government have strengthened the Bill in the provisions regarding reporting and explaining to Parliament exactly what is going on. My point was that it is then up to Parliament to make use of the fact that these reports have to be given to it to make them effective. I expressed some doubt about whether that has always been the practice of Parliament, but hoped that things would change.
The Duke of Montrose (Shadow Minister, Scotland; Conservative)
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention. It is always useful to go into these things in slightly more detail. Some powers in the Bill should be delegated to the committee, as my noble friend Lord Taylor suggested, and maybe some powers should remain with the Secretary of State, but as we approach Committee stage, careful thought will need to be given about which of these should appear in the Bill or whether our legislative conventions will have to be re-examined.
Perhaps the outstanding example of delegation lies in the Secretary of State's power at Clause 6(2)(a)(ii) to amend target percentages when there have been significant developments in European or international law or policy. This amounts almost to allowing the Secretary of State to have royal prerogative on entering into international treaties. Other than this statement, there is nothing in the Bill to say how we expect this national scheme to relate to all the international obligations to which we have already signed-up. Does the Minister agree that it is at the point of considering our part in any new treaties that this topic should be considered on the Floor of the House?
There seems to be a gap in the wording of the Bill whereby we are anxious, as laid down in Clause 66, that our metric tonne of carbon conforms to the protocols of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The provisions for trading schemes—as far as I can understand them—will apply perfectly well to any carbon credits generated and traded within the United Kingdom. But Clause 37(3) seems to limit that to this activity. In the absence of anything in the Bill, my noble friend Lord Taylor made a point of asking the Minister what the Government's view was on how we should impose a limit on the purchase of overseas carbon credits; but I see nothing in the Bill which states that our domestic targets will be able to accept international carbon credits as part of an individual or our national budget. The corollary, of course is: will any carbon credits generated here be acceptable in other international schemes?
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, pointed out that this country has a track record of picking and choosing in terms of the Kyoto agreement and which gases we will consider, and when. So far, we have blocked the implementation of any of the so-called joint implementation projects under Kyoto—a situation hinted at by my noble friend Lady Byford when she mentioned that we are not taking up the gas reductions through the land use, land change and forestry scheme. We have not implemented anything to do with sequestration in that area.
For those who wish to entertain a more sceptical frame of mind, I sometimes wonder whether we should not be prepared to regard all this activity as another example of the enthusiasm that was generated by the proposition of putting a man on the moon. What one might ask was the purpose of all that? But while we were at it we drove forward miniaturisation, computers, IT, unbreakable china and non-stick saucepans. Where would Her Majesty's Government be without all of those?
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Labour)
My Lords, I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate today. This Bill and the Government's clear determination to act on carbon emissions and climate change are welcome and timely. Before I continue, I wish to declare an interest as a non-executive board member of WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme, which receives government funding to encourage businesses and consumers to reduce waste and increase recycling.
The Prime Minister was quite right when he spoke last week about the scale of the challenge ahead. The mission to build a global, low-carbon economy is historic and world-changing. It is also undeniably necessary, with all leading scientific bodies projecting temperature increases of up to 4 degrees centigrade and rising sea levels by the end of the century. We can already see the damaging effects of the weather changes around us, and, as the Environment Agency has made clear, whatever action we take, the effects of increased warming are already locked in to our eco systems for the next 30 or 40 years. More seriously, as the Stern report made clear—and has been reinforced in this debate—the impact of climate change is not evenly distributed. The poorest countries will suffer earliest and most. So business as usual is not an option, and the Government's ambitions for a comprehensive reform of our energy, industry and consumer policies, combined with a new global consensus, must be supported.
I very much welcome the Government's recognition of the scale of the challenge, and I hope that they can be persuaded to go further and commit to the target of an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. I believe that the scientific case now exists to make that a necessity. However, targets are nothing if they are not deliverable, so our focus now has to be on winning the hearts and minds of industry and the public in persuading them to embrace change, as well as putting effective caps, incentives and investment in place to deliver change on a grand scale.
In the Queen's Speech debate on this issue, my noble friend Lord Giddens entertained us with a theory of behavioural change which he called hyperbolic discounting. He summarised it as meaning that people prefer small rewards in the present to large rewards in the future. Therefore, as he put it, people find it hard to change present practices, even if the threat from the future is substantial. If he is right, we face a significant challenge in delivering voluntary behavioural change, but I do not share his pessimism and it is that to which I now turn my attention.
My involvement in the Waste and Resources Action Programme has demonstrated the considerable appetite for change that already exists. An international review carried out by WRAP showed that, across a wide range of wastes, recycling offers more environmental benefits and lower environmental impact than either incineration or landfill. Already there is evidence of a large-scale embrace of waste minimisation and recycling initiatives across the manufacturing, retail and domestic sectors.
It is an exciting time to be operating in that sector as manufacturers look to design out waste and find new uses for recycled materials. Research and innovation are increasing at an enormous rate. In the retail sector, the Courtauld agreement has seen major retailers and brands commit to reducing packaging. Indeed, there is growing public opposition to excessive packaging and a growing realisation that single-use plastic bags are an unnecessary and avoidable contributor to landfill and CO2 emissions.
Overall, current UK recycling is estimated by Defra to save more than 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year, which is the equivalent of taking 5 million cars off the roads, and the annual turnover for recycling has nearly doubled in value. Meanwhile, 70 per cent of people agree that home recycling is a good idea and already 64 per cent describe themselves as committed recyclers. I would contend that those who recycle do so not because of any short-term benefits—in fact, I am sure that many people would argue that separating their waste is marginally cumbersome—but for altruistic reasons because they can see the longer-term benefits to the planet.
There has also been significant growth in home composting. Since 2004, WRAP has worked with 112 local authorities to provide 1.6 million composting bins to householders. As a result, more than one-third of English and Scottish householders compost at home. Statistically, every four new composters divert almost a tonne of organic waste from landfill. That, of course, is a win-win situation in which waste is reduced and free fertiliser is produced for the consumer.
Despite those successes, there is still considerable scope to reduce our waste levels and recycle more, thereby reducing our CO2 emissions further. For example, a third of the food that we buy in Britain—an astonishing 6.7 million tonnes—ends up being thrown away and, with it, all the carbon emitted in growing, processing, transporting and storing it before it was bought. That much of this food ends up in landfill, where it creates methane—a greenhouse gas which is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide—reinforces the benefits of waste prevention in this area. However, as with recycling, I am confident that consumer behaviour can be changed. I hope that noble Lords will have seen the highly effective "Love Food Hate Waste" campaign, which has just been launched by WRAP to raise awareness of the issue and encourage consumer change.
Finally, I should like to say something about the waste reduction schemes proposed in Part 5 of the Bill. As we have heard, this legislation would enable up to five local authorities to pilot incentive schemes for domestic waste collection, rewarding those who recycle most. Similar schemes already work successfully in other countries. I believe that incentive schemes are the logical next step in delivering comprehensive behavioural change. They clearly have a role as an additional tool for local authorities to encourage recycling, but they can work only where communities understand the benefits and support the schemes, where strategies are put in place to prevent fly-tipping and where good kerbside recycling already exists. It is also vital that any money collected is paid back to the community, rather than being perceived as an extra tax, and that the schemes can be administered effectively. I look forward to considering the details of this part of the Bill in Committee.
In conclusion, I reiterate that I welcome the Bill and I very much hope that the political momentum for radical measures to reduce our CO2 emissions continues. There is a groundswell of popular pressure for action and some evidence that consumers are already prepared to make changes in their lifestyles as a personal contribution to the cause. The challenge now for government is to win hearts and minds for the even bigger changes in lifestyles which, of necessity, lie ahead. I hope that in responding to the debate the Minister will address how this can be achieved.
The Earl of Liverpool (Conservative)
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to take part in the Second Reading debate today because there is greater consensus and general agreement in your Lordships' House than I can remember for a very long time.
The first thing that I want to say is somewhat tangential to the Bill but, none the less, relevant. If we are serious in our desire to lead the world in combating climate change, we must encourage our newer, more enterprising and innovative companies. However, Richard Lambert, the current director-general of the CBI, makes it clear that the Chancellor's recent shock announcement on changes to CGT, both on rates and taper relief, will handicap not only small and medium-sized businesses in the enterprise economy but larger businesses as well. It will have an impact on the tax bills of employees in company share-ownership schemes; it will discourage business angels and venture capital funds; and it will hurt private equity and pension funds.
Promoting enterprise and risk-taking will be vital ingredients as we search for cutting-edge technologies in our effort to reduce our carbon footprint. I believe that the Chancellor really must listen to the director-general of the CBI, who said recently that the changes to the CGT regime compound this anxiety among the CBI's members and put the Government's 10-year effort to create a pro-enterprise agenda into reverse gear. I know that our ability to influence money matters in this House is slight indeed but I hope that the Minister will at least acknowledge that there are real concerns and convey them to the Chancellor.
Coming to the Bill itself, Part 4 refers to adaptation. I agree with my noble friend Lord Waldegrave that extra powers will need to be given to the committee, or commission, to enable us to achieve some of the less palatable measures that we must take—flood protection and managing and harvesting our water supplies being just two examples. More emphasis will need to be put on recycling grey water in the future, and I also believe that every new-build home should henceforward include some form of rainwater capture, particularly as we address the building of 3 million new houses by 2020.
I should now like to take up briefly an old chestnut of mine—tidal lagoons. For too long, the DTI adopted a negative stance on the introduction of such lagoons off our shores, despite the fact that we have the second highest tidal range in the world. I believe that, over time, they would be twice as efficient as tidal stream turbines and they could be built without employing any public funds. The Sustainable Development Commission's recent report sadly failed properly to endorse this technology, so I beseech the Government to seize this opportunity to have a Damascene conversion. After all, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
I should also mention briefly CSP—concentrated solar power. I shall not weary your Lordships too much with this detail today, as I referred to it in the energy debate on
"whether the Government have given proper consideration to this technology and whether there has been any exchange of views with the German Government".—[Hansard, 12/07/07; col. 1539.]
I now ask, if not, please will they undertake to do so?
Part 5 of the Bill makes provision for the introduction of waste reduction schemes. I am delighted that that is included, and hope that the Secretary of State and the Committee on Climate Change will pay close attention to the very important role that both rotating and non-rotating autoclaves can play in achieving this. These devices are capable of reducing the volume of household rubbish by up to 85 per cent. After 45 minutes' operation at 160 degrees centigrade and five-bar pressure, the residual waste is inert, sterilised and free of all pathogens.
If anaerobic digestion of the organic element is undertaken, it can provide sufficient biogas to run a CHP system, making the whole process energy positive because the waste steam from the electricity generation is sufficient to run the autoclaves. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, mentioned the gasification of urban waste. I am not a sufficient authority to know whether I am stealing his clothes or whether the scheme that I have proposed is in some way different. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with him after the debate.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, who has just spoken, I believe that there is a groundswell of enthusiasm among the public for dynamic action in this area, and many householders are keen to do whatever it takes to reduce carbon emissions. The problem is that technologies are developing so fast and there is no specialist advice centre currently available to direct the public. For example, how many householders are aware that there is paint currently on the market using nanotechnology that provides phenomenal insulation and can reduce heating bills by up to 40 per cent? Geothermal heating, new generation gas condensing boilers and micro CHP plant are just a sample of the other products on the market that could help householders reduce their carbon footprint, so I hope that the Government will set up properly resourced regional advice centres where both business and the public can go and see what is currently available. The internet works for some, but for others a one-stop shop or advice centre would be immensely helpful and would really kick-start things. After all, it has often been said that if we are really serious about reducing our CO2 emissions, first we have to conserve and save what we currently waste.
Finally, I want to end in a spirit of consensus. The Bill is to be welcomed; the carbon budget period should be three, not five years. I agree that the bar should be raised from a 60 per cent to an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. I agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor that the committee should be elevated to a commission and report to the Prime Minister, and I agree that we should endeavour to include aviation and marine from the outset. I look forward to the Committee stage.
Lord Avebury (Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I think that the noble Earl is the first to have brought into our debate a mention of the less palatable measures that may have to be taken to get to these targets. Although I agree with him and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, who spoke before him, that people—and householders—can make significant contributions which could perhaps be reinforced by the personal carbon budgets mentioned by my noble friend Lady Miller, I think that there will also have to be a considerable driving force by the public authorities behind the attainment of these targets and, where necessary, compulsion and fiscal disincentives to change harmful behaviour, for which of course this Bill is not the recipe. There is a risk that when we finish this debate at 10 o'clock, we will all go home with a warm glow of self-approval, when the uncomfortable decisions have yet to be made.
There is a consensus on the science of climate change, expressed at the fourth assessment meeting of the IPCC. Everyone—certainly everyone in this House—accepts that average global temperature is increasing at an accelerating rate due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, and that in the worst scenarios, the rise could be as high as 3.5 degrees by the end of the century. It is also agreed that Governments, intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, local authorities and individuals must act to prevent this increase exceeding 2 degrees if the effects are not to be utterly catastrophic.
To pick up a point made by the noble Duke a few moments ago, warmer temperatures on the ocean floor could trigger the release of massive quantities of methane from the hydrates stored at the bottom of the oceans, as probably happened in the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum of 55 million years ago when global temperatures increased by 5 degrees to 8 degrees for a few thousand years. That was thought to have been triggered by a sudden release of methane from the ocean floors. If a similar event occurred now because of anthropogenic rises in deep-ocean temperatures, then very few people or animals would survive. The Hadley Centre has been working on models of ocean temperatures, but the science has not yet been developed to a stage where such predictions can be made. I certainly endorse what the noble Duke said about the adequate financing of this kind of research.
On top of the continuous and accelerating rise in global temperatures witnessed since the beginning of the industrial age, there may discontinuities of that kind—the example that I have given is not the only one—when no matter what countermeasures are taken, there is a massive and unstoppable further rise. The IPCC considers a number of scenarios, the most optimistic of which assumes that world population peaks mid-century and that there is a rapid change towards a service and information economy; reductions in material intensity; the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies; and emphasis on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity. The Bill can deal only with the contribution that the UK makes towards these objectives, but as a nation that is relatively profligate with the use of energy and energy-intensive materials, we have a special obligation to set targets that will achieve a more than proportionate reduction. Since the evidence is that the longer we delay taking action, the more painful the adjustment process will be, it is not only the goal we set for 2050 that matters, but what we do by 2020 that will be of even greater importance.
Britain was a leader in setting the EU target of a 20 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, and the Bill aims at 26 to 32 per cent. However, as 2020 is halfway through the period we are looking at, between 1990 and 2050, we should at least have the power to go further. I agree with the several noble Lords who said earlier that the limit of 32 per cent should be removed from the Bill. Only 9 per cent of our energy comes from low carbon sources now, yet the UK has the largest resources of wind, wave and tidal energy in Europe. If we set an ambitious target for 2020 the Government would have more incentive to get on with the Severn barrage and the Pentland Firth project, making planning consents easier for wind energy and encouraging the necessary portfolio of technologies including CCS, CHP, heat pumps and the generation of electricity from waste disposal sites, a matter in which I declare an interest.
I welcome the energy-saving measures that the Prime Minister discussed last week, such as the tightening of building regulations so that all new houses will be zero-carbon by 2016, and help with the improvement of insulation of existing dwellings. We are going to reduce the carbon footprint of public sector buildings, including the Palace of Westminster—as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton—which uses the energy equivalent of 6,500 private dwellings. The European Union's adoption of an upper limit of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometre for all cars sold after 2012, reducing to 100 grams per kilometre by 2020—or, at the latest, by 2025—is far too modest, but we should include provisions in the Bill allowing limits of that kind to be enacted by order so that we can move with the technology.
I agree, as other noble Lords said, that it is disappointing that international aviation and shipping emissions are excluded from the targets in the Bill unless they are brought in by regulations. Civil aviation now accounts for 6 per cent of UK emissions, but its effect is much larger because most of the greenhouse gases are emitted at high altitude where they do most harm. The European carbon trading scheme may have a marginal effect on the rate of growth but is not due until 2011. ICAO, which should be taking a world lead, abjectly failed to produce any strategy of its own at its recent meeting, simply endorsing IATA's goal of increasing fuel efficiency by 25 per cent by 2020. And that depends not on the airlines but on engine and aircraft manufacturers, with the airlines not lifting a finger.
Aviation leaves a gaping hole in the world's climate change reduction programme and we would like to know what the Government and the European Union are going to do to plug it. Is it not incongruous to leave aviation out of a Bill intended to reduce emissions when official forecasts are that aviation will more than double from 17 million to 60 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent between 1990 and 2050?
Lord Clinton-Davis (Labour)
My Lords, the Government have not left out aviation and shipping altogether; they are saying that there ought to be international agreement, and I wholly agree. Does the noble Lord not agree with that?
Lord Avebury (Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I agree that there should be international agreement if possible, but, as I said, ICAO is not moving on the subject. We have to get ahead of the game and set a world lead. The steep rise in passenger numbers assumed by the Department for Transport in its demand and CO2 forecast is quite unacceptable, and aviation must share the burden of reducing global warming along with every other section of industry and society. To add new runways at Heathrow and Stansted just now would show that we are not serious about climate change.
My other concern is that the functions of the committee to be appointed under Clause 26 are too narrow, as many noble Lords have said. It should be empowered to offer advice of its own volition on the way particular national authority policies might help or hinder mitigation and adaptation. On trading schemes, it ought to have responsibility for advising not only on the regulations themselves but on whether the scheme has achieved its objectives over a given period. The committee should be obliged to produce a statement for Parliament about the trading schemes and that should include their indirect effects on the economies of the world outside and putting an upper limit—as the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Puttnam, said—on the extent to which we can palm off our obligations on developing countries. To paraphrase the noble Lords and my noble friend Lady Miller, that is not on.
I wonder if it is a good idea to give the national authorities the power to appoint all the members of the committee as well as the chairman. I also agree with those who said that they would like to see more scientists on the committee. I suggest that we leave the appointments in the hands of scientific bodies such as the Royal Society and the Natural Environment Research Council—so much of whose research is directly relevant to climate change—the Met Office's Hadley Centre or the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Come to that, the Bill says nothing about mobilising our considerable expertise on climate change for the benefit of other countries. Should there not be a methodical approach to disseminating the findings of our scientists to overseas audiences who might benefit from them?
We have only one chance to get this right, domestically and globally. Britain is not the worst carbon criminal on the planet, but we have a unique contribution to make. I hope that we will set a precedent which, if followed by others, will avert the worst threat facing mankind. If we put our backs into carbon reduction here in the UK, it will not only give us the authority to persuade other industrial nations to follow our example, but help Britain to earn a living in the carbon-light world of the next generation.
Baroness Billingham (Labour)
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his characteristically dynamic presentation of the Bill and also the previous speakers, who have shown this House at its best. This is an historic moment: we are setting up a framework for the UK to achieve its long-term goals of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and laying out procedures to lessen the impact of climate change. This is a life-changing Bill for all of us. Two crucial factors work in favour of the Bill. The first is the consensus of scientific evidence, with very few deniers; and the second is political consensus which stretches across all parties and gives real power and potential to the Bill.
The Bill is brave. It stipulates for the first time the obligation of successive Governments, irrespective of political colour, to honour the pledge in the Bill. As the Minister describes, the Committee on Climate Change will be central—indeed, crucial—to the effectiveness of the Bill's aims. Success will depend, as has already been said, not only on the unquestionable expertise and objectiveness of the committee but on its power to resist pressure from Government at any time.
I have been privileged to serve on two committees in your Lordships' House leading up to the Bill. The first—EU Sub-Committee D, which sat regularly in 2003-04—evaluated evidence under the title of The EU and Climate Change. The committee was packed with fellows of the Royal Society, eminent scientists, equally eminent environmentalists and climatologists—and me. Never has the term "lay member" been more warranted. However, as the evidence was laid before us and the committee prodded and probed our expert witnesses, I began to see that I had indeed a proper role to play. I was in exactly the same position as 99.9 per cent of the general population: aware that something gloomy was predicted but assuming that in some way or other it would—I hoped—be sorted. But as the evidence mounted, my focus in the committee became clearer: how are we to ensure that evidence heard in the committee will be heard outside? How are the public to be made more aware of the facts? What are the Government going to do to raise awareness? What role are the media playing? Those were just some of the questions that we raised.
Some answers have been found, but certainly not all. We still have an absence of appropriate information in the popular media—the tabloid press, the soaps and reality TV, all of which are potential media outlets witnessed by millions. One of our expert witnesses, when challenged, said proudly that there had been an excellent article on page 11 of the Financial Times only the previous week. Well, with all due respect to that distinguished journal, that does not measure up to the impact of, say, page 3 of the Sun or the Daily Mail.
The next committee I sat on was the Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill, in 2007. In the years between the two committees there had been improvements in public awareness. Many more people have been reached by first-hand witnesses of melting ice caps, extreme weather, a more global agenda and even the prospect of Armageddon in a film—but clearly not enough.
The Bill before us today was influenced by the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Puttnam, who presided wisely, expertly and patiently over what can only be described as a very varied group. But eventually the Bill was strengthened and improved and all members signed up to its recommendations. The Government have listened and modified. The Prime Minister is on record as speculating that parts of the Bill will need to be strengthened in the future. For today, however, the Bill will be a cornerstone—even a touchstone—in tackling climate change.
We still have to engage all citizens, whether as individuals or in groupings, local authorities or business and lifestyle in general. If we are to succeed, we will have to convince, persuade and support life-changing practices. The Committee on Climate Change must have as part of its duty that task of informing and encouraging. It is a formidable role.
In conclusion, I have a proposal that would reduce energy consumption by at least 1 per cent and probably more like 2 per cent. It can be done at virtually no cost and has side-effect benefits that are hugely desirable. The reduction would more than compensate for emissions from aviation and be equally valuable as energy generated by wind power. I speak, of course, of the potential energy-saving measure of adopting a daylight saving scheme. Surely the Government should and could set up an experiment to look at this. We have so much to gain, especially when we are under such threat. I await the Minister's reply with enormous interest while at the same time giving a ringing endorsement of the Bill before us.
Lord Vinson (Conservative)
My Lords, I take a rather different view. This is a missed opportunity of a Bill and a triumph of hope over reality.
I had the honour to serve on the Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill and I congratulate the Government on at least attempting to make certain that the legislation is fully appropriate. But I am afraid that I am not sanguine about the long-term output of this Bill. I would particularly like to congratulate the secretarial staff and our excellent chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on the exceptionally hard work that they put in to make something out of it. However, the Bill is long on budgeting and short on implementation and that is its potential weakness.
In many ways, the only really charitable thing that one can say about the Bill is that it may improve the public's perception of climate change and encourage fuel economy. As an example for the rest of the world to follow, it is far too complex and overregulatory. The truth of the matter is that in a global context any contribution that Britain can make to diminish global warming will not be even scientifically measurable. Meanwhile, the existing CO2 levels on the planet are sufficient to accelerate global warming even if the entire world's carbon emissions were reduced to zero overnight.
The Bill sets out complex, fanciful and unachievable limits on carbon reduction and unenforceable sanctions on any future Secretary of State for failing to meet targets, because no one Government can commit the next, as has been well said already in this debate. The truth of the matter is that the UK's carbon output will rise dramatically as our ageing nuclear plants are phased out, due to the inept handling by the Government of our energy requirements over the past 10 years. The degree to which the British public will accept additional economic penalties for failing to meet targets is doubtful. People will not want to wear hair shirts for long, particularly when they see the rest of the world's carbon footprint increasing dramatically. Knowing that the world's population is likely to grow by some 3 billion in the foreseeable future will also add to their disquiet. Unless I have missed it, the question of world population has not been raised in this debate today, but human beings breathe out and use an awful lot of CO2 and population control should be one of the items at the top of our agenda if we want to control the world's climate.
The Bill is founded on, as much as anything, the concept of carbon trading, which, as has been said, the Financial Times called a scam. Carbon trading is a charter for international cheating through bogus assessments of allowances and fraudulent verification. I doubt whether in practice it will contribute anything worth while. In any case, the extent to which the UK purchases carbon emission allowances from abroad will obviously affect how other nations see the exemplary value of the UK, which, of course, is the main purpose of the Bill, as others have said. Trading our carbon outputs with the underdeveloped world is the modern equivalent of selling one's sins to gain redemption. If such trading accelerates the introduction of sensible measures that really will reduce carbon on a massive scale, then so much the better, but I am doubtful. The whole concept is full of holes.
However, that does not mean that one should not try to look at the whole question of global warming through more constructive eyes. If it is manmade and not a natural geological sequence, there are many sensible things that we can do about it. We should, of course, economise in every way, but economising will not save the planet. Energy use is the foundation of civilisation—ours in particular. Economic self-flagellation through enforced target setting would be deeply damaging to the economy and an expensive way of setting an example. In any case, it will, of course, be totally ignored by India, South America and China, whose carbon footprint is due to overtake that of the USA very shortly.
Wave power, the Severn barrage, carbon sequestration, biomass, wind power etc may all help, but they are as yet largely underdeveloped and mainly unproven technologies. Not least, the intermittency of wind power limits its application and makes it extremely expensive. We should try to develop all these economically and sensibly, as they are good alternatives, but not at the expense of failing to utilise the one existing proven technology that we pioneered in this country—nuclear generation. Nuclear is the only way to make meaningful savings on carbon worldwide and quickly; it is the one technology that can actually save the globe. It is good to hear our Prime Minister at last start to talk about such real measures rather than trying to abolish plastic bags. It is high time all of us stopped listening to Greenpeace with its luddite policies. The nation has been held to ransom long enough and Greenpeace has, in turn, held up the development of nuclear for another year.
We should aim, following the pattern of France, to reduce our dependency on oil and carbon fuels and go for an all-electric world as quickly as possible. We already have the technologies in hand to enable us to create an all-electric society within 50 years. New technologies may come along and have their place, but meanwhile we should get on with things. We should really set our sights not only on lighting our homes with electricity, but on heating our homes with electricity, running our trains on electricity and rapidly developing electric cars to run on electricity and be rechargeable from home—a development that is just round the corner. Above all, if we used carbon dioxide-free base-load nuclear power, our children and grandchildren would have a good future to look forward to.
That could mean Britain building one nuclear power station a year for the next 30 years, but that is perfectly achievable if we set our minds to it. What is more, if we switch from carbon-based sources to nuclear fission and then fusion, the carbon footprint savings in the world would be so massive that they would more than offset any increase in aviation growth—currently 1.5 per cent to a projected 3 per cent worldwide. Aviation is the great transport emancipator of the 21st century and I cannot see the world doing without it. There are some 440 nuclear power stations in the world and 35 under construction, including six under construction in India. Our going extensively nuclear really would set a meaningful and practical example to the rest of the world.
If global warming is as serious as many believe, it is made doubly so by our perilous energy position and our lack of energy security as oil runs out. The House should be deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who has indefatigably tried to bring this to the attention of the nation. Energy security should be treated in the same way as defence of the realm and given economic priority in every way. Going nuclear electric would help to solve both problems. Meanwhile, we fiddle on the periphery of the problem: the Government fiddle while the climate burns.
The Bill will be largely if not wholly symbolic. It is a token measure. It may make feel people feel good, but in practice it will do little good to save the world. There is hope for the globe, but not through micromanagement, overregulatory measures and the unrealistic thinking that this Bill promotes. I hope, however, that today's debate will at least lead us to more realistic and effective solutions in the future that really will help to limit climate change.
Lord Clinton-Davis (Labour)
My Lords, I largely depart from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Vinson. This is rather a good Bill, which I on the whole welcome.
I ought to start by declaring my interest: I am the president of BALPA, a former Aviation Minister and a former Transport and Environment Commissioner in Europe. I shall concentrate on flying and shipping. They greatly benefit the UK, so the question I pose is: how can they conform to our obligations concerning global warming and climate change? How can we justify their exclusion from the Climate Change Bill while we wait for an effective and enforceable international regime?
It is evident that the pertinent UN agencies, notwithstanding what has been said, have made some progress and will be spurred on by the United Kingdom Government in future. Aviation and shipping are international in character and it therefore follows that any solution must be international as well, despite the observations that have been made by the noble Lords, Lord Taylor, Lord Jay and Lord Avebury. Meanwhile, airlines must subscribe to the European Emissions Trading Scheme with a view to a globally agreed emissions trading scheme in future. BALPA and its members, even a large number of Ryanair pilots, have already adopted this policy, and my hope is that the European Parliament will follow suit. Unilateral action, which has been canvassed by some speakers in this debate, ought to be strongly discouraged. Not only is it inefficient, but it can be counterproductive. It is all too easy for flights to be transferred elsewhere in Europe—indeed, in the world—and no benefit would accrue as far as this country is concerned.
BALPA considers that aviation is of immeasurable advantage to the travelling public. Having said that, I am not arguing that all short-haul flights are essential. They should be examined in the light of the availability of other modes of transport. Reasonable airlines are already responding positively to the problems of global warming and climate change, as indeed are all sections of the industry: aircraft manufacturers, airports, air traffic control, pilots, those who work at airports and passengers. Research is being undertaken into new and greener technologies, cleaner fuel and better airport operation and air traffic management, including by the airline industry itself.
Meanwhile, the Government have produced their own thinking about climate change and, on the whole, should be complimented rather than criticised on the progress that they have made and envisage. This is where I particularly depart from the noble Lord, Lord Vinson. The Climate Change Bill now before us indicates the advances that this country is making. While we would all wish that we could move more rapidly, if others were all to move at the same pace, the situation would probably be soluble within two or three decades. Alas, things do not operate so simply. Reverses are almost bound to happen. Equally, advances that cannot now be foreseen will also take place. We are bound to take into account what is economically and politically achievable at the relevant time. All we can do is to progress in a way that others are able to follow. We can also benefit from their experience and we must be prepared to act in advance of the world's current thinking.
Common law recognises two different standards of proof: criminally, guilt has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt; civilly, proof of liability has to be procured on a balance of probabilities. When it comes to climate change, I think that the second standard is to be preferred. If the situation is not as grave as the majority of scientists, politicians and others seem to consider, we could accelerate progress, but if the scientists are right and we do not act now, the situation will be irreversible. At present, the omens are distinctly unfavourable. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, the arctic ice is thinning; there is an increase in the rate of global warming; drought afflicts many areas of the world, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, but elsewhere too; glaciers are in retreat; flooding and tropical storms cost thousands of lives and are more frequent than ever; habitats are disappearing; tropical forests burn with disastrous effect; and much more besides. In other words, the situation is potentially cataclysmic and we need to take urgent remedial action.
As the Bill says, it is vital to establish an independent—and I mean independent—Committee on Climate Change so that we can deal in facts rather than in slogans and conjecture. However, the committee cannot have the last word. That is the job of Parliament. We ought to listen very carefully to what the committee has to say, but in no way can the committee determine the policy, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said at the beginning of this debate.
Research to replace fossil fuels to power aircraft has to be hastened and we have to devise means of avoiding aircraft, especially those at Heathrow, circling for long periods while waiting to land or incurring long delays in take-off, thus creating enormous CO2 emissions. It is idle to pretend that the airlines are oblivious to that; they are not. They are working on it at the moment and it is already happening. For this reason alone, a third runway at Heathrow has to be considered in a dispassionate way, but we ought to have the evidence. The evidence at the moment may be inconclusive, but some people have made up their minds, which is entirely unforgivable.
Lord Avebury (Spokesperson in the Lords (Civil Liberties), Home Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Africa), Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, the evidence is available in UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts, which was published by the Department for Transport in November 2007. I suggest that the noble Lord reads it.
Lord Clinton-Davis (Labour)
My Lords, I have read it. I have read it very carefully. I have read all the relevant information about this. The noble Lord and I do not exactly conform to the same point of view, but that is to be expected.
As I said, the Bill is timely. I welcome it. Indeed, not only is it timely, it is long overdue.
Lord Palmer (Crossbench)
My Lords, parts of me welcome the Bill and parts of me do not, as I feel that there is a touch of the emperor's new clothes about it. Climate change must be one of the most confusing and controversial topics today. I declare an interest as a farmer and as president of the British Association of Biofuels and Oils and of the transport division of the Renewable Energy Association. I, too, thank the Minister for last night's very useful discussion on the Bill.
It is clear to me that manmade CO2, along with other greenhouse gases, is assisting the warming process. However, we cannot be certain that the sun itself may not be involved—as it certainly has been in the warming periods that have gone before. Governments are powerless to influence solar radiation and our Government is relatively powerless on world greenhouse gas emissions. In the light of this summer's floods in central England, it must not be forgotten that in November 1703 the great storm killed more than 8,000 people. We will always be hostage to the weather, whatever any eminent scientist may say.
Global warming and likely future problems relating thereto are inextricably linked to our energy use, whether for heating, cooling, food production, industrial processes or transport of goods and, indeed, of people. Our Government encourage us to cut CO2 emissions. They are creaming off tax increases in so doing. A whole new carbon saving industry has developed, with large amounts of taxpayers' money and political capital being directed to this end. The worrying and depressing aspect is that any CO2 savings that we make here will have a negligible effect worldwide. That was also alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Vinson.
I do not believe that the money and effort is being well spent. We have all seen the Carbon Trust's extensive advertising campaign. Indeed, there were full page advertisements in today's papers, but the National Audit Office has called into question the value of that expenditure: £103 million was spent by the Carbon Trust in the latest financial year, resulting only in a claimed saving of up to 2 million tonnes—much of which would probably have happened in any case.
Almost every noble Lord has mentioned the committee. I have a horror of yet another government quango wasting taxpayers' money. I very much hope that the new committee will have real teeth and not cost a fortune to administer. I accept that, as other noble Lords have mentioned, it must be properly and realistically funded.
Our transport priorities are wrong. To give a small example, on Sunday night, I travelled from Berwick-upon-Tweed to London on an extremely overcrowded train, for which the second-class ticket costs £238, whereas I could have flown to New York for a further £84 and got a seat. There is no method behind our transport philosophy and anybody trying to board an Underground train at Westminster tube station at 6 pm is subjected to immense human cruelty. If animals were treated as such, there would be a public outcry. More must be done to prioritise public transport, with our carbon footprint in mind, if not to the fore.
Equally, it is not logical for the Government to encourage road transport with low-polluting emissions but at the same time to promote air transport through an expanded Heathrow Airport. Many other noble Lords have mentioned that. The CO2 produced in the construction of another runway, along with the massive pollution from the resulting—untaxed—aircraft fuel burnt will offset much of the greenhouse gases saved elsewhere, especially as the water vapour produced at high altitude from aircraft is a large but often overlooked greenhouse gas, as other noble Lords have mentioned. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, made that point most forcefully.
The Government should concentrate on the energy needs of this country, about which they can do something, rather than nagging us continually about CO2 saving, which worldwide our Government can do virtually nothing about. That needs to be very carefully balanced with our need for sustainable and viable food production from within our own agricultural resources. More research is needed into GM crops—for example, those that will in future require less of our natural resources, such as water.
I particularly welcome Clause 49, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament the Government's objectives in relation to adaptation to climate change and their proposals and timetable for meeting them. Adaptation and mitigation of climate change run hand in hand. It is absolutely key that one is considered along with the other, as in many areas they are complementary to each other.
I believe strongly that we should be switching the effort to enhanced research on new energy sources, and science directed at reducing the energy cost of industrial and agricultural products. Supplies of fossil fuels are limited and are becoming steadily more expensive, as I have mentioned countless times on the Floor of this House. They will be priced out of reach for many people and for many purposes before too long. Regardless of legislation, major carbon dioxide saving will occur only when fossil fuel becomes just too scarce and expensive for most of its current uses.
In the United Kingdom's national interest, investment in and encouragement of alternative energy sources must become the priority, not purely CO2 saving. Nuclear, wave, wind, bio, solar and tidal power will all have a role to play. Although at the moment they are more expensive than fossil fuel, they will become relatively cheaper as technologies improve and crude oil and natural gas become more expensive—and very possibly politically rationed by unfriendly states from hostile parts of the world. The noble Lord, Lord Vinson, alluded to that point in his powerful speech.
I suggest further that geothermal heat will be the ultimate, lasting source of energy for our planet and that it should be a research priority. Tapping into the earth's crust to produce unlimited heat will be feasible in time and is already taking place in parts of the world, such as the Azores, where such heat is close to the surface. So confident am I of geothermal heat that I am about to install a small unit at my home in the Scottish borders to try to reduce the heating costs of what my dear friend the late Lord Ewing of Kirkford used to refer to as my 109-roomed wee but and ben.
I urge the Government to ease up on their current, rather hypocritical line on CO2 saving and, instead, to cope more effectively with climate change, and to divert the resources so employed to stimulating more and better alternatives to fossil fuels. My noble kinsman, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, emphasised that point most strongly. That would ensure that the cost-effective alternatives are ready when energy from fossil fuel is priced out of many households—and, indeed, businesses—in the very foreseeable future. That is as sure as that night follows day.
Finally, Clause 55, on renewable transport fuel obligations, is an important measure that has come in for close scrutiny. Along with the noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, and my dear friend the late Lord Carter, I was a member of the gang of four who persuaded the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, to accept the renewable transport fuel obligations during the passage of the Energy Act. The renewable transport fuel obligations remain an important part of policy measures to address climate change, alongside other measures to improve fuel efficiency and the public transport infrastructure, but longer-term signals about the Government's intentions beyond 2010 are urgently needed to build confidence in the emerging biofuels sector. I was delighted to read only today that last week the Minister opened Britain's very first commercial bioethanol plant, which uses only sugar grown on 10,000 hectares of UK farmland. I was only sorry that, due to other commitments, I was not there to applaud his speech.
Britain has a unique opportunity to influence sustainability and carbon-reporting standards for biofuels, both in the European Union and worldwide, but this opportunity may be lost if the UK industry is not allowed to grow and if Her Majesty's Government do not encourage it. I hope that they will do so, and I urge the Minister and his excellent Bill team to take this on board.
Lord Dixon-Smith (Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government; Conservative)
My Lords, a little less than four hours ago, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London introduced a moral issue into the debate. That is an interesting concept. I have never thought of myself as a particularly moral man, but I do feel an immense sense of responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves, as indeed we all should. It was British engineers and technologists in the latter part of the 18th century who began the technical development that subsequently became known as the Industrial Revolution. That led to a situation somewhere near the middle of the 19th century, when 60 per cent of all the manufactured goods on the sea that were being traded in the world were British. The rest of the world very quickly caught on and has been catching up ever since, which is why we are where we are. If there has to be a country that can and should look for the way out of this dilemma, it is this one. We started it; we should be able to demonstrate how to get away from it.
This is an energy Bill. It is called the Climate Change Bill, but it is of course all about energy. I have complained before to the Minister about the division of responsibilities for energy in the current government structure. It is ridiculous that we have Defra, which is responsible for the consequences of our energy use, and DBERR—or BERR—which is responsible for the energy supply. Ne'er the twain shall meet, except that I am sure that a Cabinet committee, or perhaps the Prime Minister, pulls them together and bangs heads, if that is what is required.
As the Bill is about energy, it is all about how we limit the use of a particular sort of energy. There is a reverse side of that coin which we—apart from a couple of my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer—have not spent much time on: the question of how we answer society when it says, "Alright, we have to do all this, but how will we keep everything going?". If the purpose of the Bill is simply to stop things, it will not succeed. We must find the way into the future. I find it intensely frustrating that the way into the future already exists. The technologies are already there but they are not sufficiently discussed. They are not, of course, part of the Bill. Perhaps that is inevitable and perhaps we will have an energy Bill that will begin to make sense of this side of the equation in due course. Other obstacles have to be overcome.
The world is not short of energy. The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, whom academic Members on the Cross-Benches will recognise, said to me about a dozen years ago, "You know, Bill, mankind has only one source of energy—nuclear—and he has a choice; he has a nuclear power station 98 million miles away, or he can build one here". When you think about it, all the fossil fuel that we use today so happily and so profligately is the product of that nuclear power station in the sky 50 million or 60 million years ago. It took more than a million years to scrub the carbon out of the atmosphere then, to make the deposits that have now become oil, natural gas and coal. We, with extreme folly and a degree of ignorance, are attempting to put as much of that carbon back into the atmosphere in the space of a couple of centuries. In no way can such a programme be described as wise.
The sun sends enough energy to this planet in 24 hours to supply the whole of mankind's needs for a year. Where have we got to? We are getting better. They say—there are various estimates—that photoelectrics may be competitive with current electricity generating costs in three to five years. It may be 10 years, I do not know, but the price of photoelectrics is coming down and down. The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, and I slightly disagree about energy production, because he would like to produce energy from biofuels and I point out to him that an acre of photoelectrics would produce 10 times as much energy per acre or hectare. It might not be as attractive to look at, but if it is energy that we need, that may be the route that we have to take.
That is one source. We can cover every roof in the land with photoelectrics. We can also get a great deal of solar heat, although we have to be a little careful about that. I have a neighbour who has both solar panels on his roof and a 5-metre turbine in his garden. I wish I could say that this was putting him ahead of the game, but the report of his first 18 months of use indicates a repayment period of more than 60 years. There has always been an energy equation, and if we expect households to insulate and reduce their energy needs, a 60-year repayment period is not enough to attract people into that business. I venture to suggest that it also indicates that a level of subsidy of incentive would be required that is probably more than the Treasury would wish to vote. So there is a problem. If fossil fuels rise in price, however, that may become self-correcting.
My noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Lords, Lord Vinson and Lord Palmer, talked about other forms of green energy and about the possibilities of nuclear power. One thing that has not been mentioned and ought very much to be is how we increase the thermal efficiency of our power generation. For every kilowatt hour that we purchase, something like 1.5 kilowatt hours of energy are used generating and transmitting that energy and go up into the atmosphere as waste heat. We need to overcome the planning obstacles to make that heat useable.
I was disappointed to see that the Government are considering three existing nuclear power station sites in either East Anglia or the south-east for fairly immediate development. They are all on the coast and of course beautifully protected if sea levels rise. More importantly, 50 per cent or more of the energy that they produce will be wasted unless we go into horticulture in a very big way and cover thousands of acres with glass. That problem has to be cleared.
We have to clear the administrative obstacles that prevent us making the changes needed to set these forms of energy free. We expect a Planning Bill when my noble friend Lord Taylor and I perhaps may swap positions. He may speak from here and I may speak from down there. We have to find a way to streamline the planning system, not just so that we can do things about nuclear power or wind more quickly and easily. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell inveighs against me on the Severn barrage, but we will have to consider it. It is my view that we need all the green energy that we can get, and that there is plenty of it.
I have not yet mentioned solar furnaces, which will not work frightfully well in this country, but we could receive electricity from the Mediterranean basin from them. If you transmit electricity as direct current, the transmission losses go down, not to zero, but to very little. Electricity can be transmitted for up to 3,000 kilometres with about a 10 per cent loss as direct current, whereas you would get nothing at the end of the line if it was alternating current. All these changes can and have to come about. We have half the equation here, but we need to recognise that that is all it is.
Lord Campbell-Savours (Labour)
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and his comments on photovoltaics, an area of technology which we all look forward to being developed in the future. This Bill is radical, welcome, of utmost urgency to the United Kingdom and of global significance. It is important legislation as it places a legal duty on the Government to provide a sound foundation for addressing climate change and demonstrates that the UK Government are prepared to lead on the matter.
I am particularly interested in the attitude of the trade unions. I am indebted to the UNISON trade union team of David Arnold and Ian Geary for advising me on the developing debate in the trade union movement. While government action is clearly imperative on this agenda, engaging and empowering civic society is equally vital. UNISON's work on tackling climate change demonstrates that trade unions also recognise that they have a role in empowering and equipping their members to be active citizens. Their members need to be prepared to tackle climate change by greening their workplaces and lifestyles.
UNISON is a member of the "Stop Climate Chaos" coalition and welcomes the Bill, but it has high expectations that its content should be even more radical than its current ambition. In brief, its objectives are that the Bill should include a commitment to 80 per cent cuts by 2050 and should include aviation and shipping within the targets. However, at the International Parliamentary Conference on Climate Change this morning, sponsored by the CPA, a very interesting contribution was made on the problems that would arise with these targets on third world and developing countries in the event that we go down the aviation and shipping route. Clearly, while we go down that route we have to take those positions into account. Its objectives also include backing-up five-year budgets with annual milestones.
As has already been stated, the Government are committed to asking the new Committee on Climate Change to consider whether the target proposals need to be increased. The UNISON team fears that the results of this inquiry will not emerge until after the first of the three five-year carbon budgets has elapsed. Its worry is that the Government at the start of the process are set on a trajectory that is woefully low and ineffective in preventing catastrophic climate change.
I shall focus on the significance of this Bill and the areas in which, I believe, we can, with creative thinking, be more radical. The Bill should include the 80 per cent commitment. We must not dither. Since the 60 per cent goal was formulated, with science moving on and with it being estimated that a figure of at least 80 per cent is required to keep average global temperature rises below 2 degrees centigrade, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research now believes that there is a strong risk that pursuing a 60 per cent target would contribute to a global temperature rise of between 4 per cent and 5 per cent, which is higher than pre-industrial levels. Furthermore, if the Government are serious, they need to include aviation and shipping. The Bill should have the widest possible coverage in these areas, subject to the caveat to which I have already referred. We are told that aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions. Does it make sense to exclude it?
I believe that the Committee on Climate Change should include membership from stakeholder groups—I have never liked that word—as well as experts. The current proposals for the Committee on Climate Change include a number of competences that members of the committee should hold. My view, and, interestingly, that of UNISON, is that for this important body to have the legitimacy required for the public to support its recommendations and the independence to stand up to government, serious consideration should be given to including membership from stakeholder groups. These should include environmental NGOs, trade unions and other groups. I would argue that there is a strong case for the committee to comprise of both expert and stakeholder voices.
The public sector, as institutions that give expression to the collective, common good, clearly have a role in setting an example for civil society. The carbon reduction commitment, which will be one of the mechanisms through which the Committee on Climate Change can assign specific reduction targets, will be a significant driver of changes in the public sector, as will the new national indicator on climate change for local government. For example, each year public services spend about £10 billion on energy; about £125 billion on goods and services; billions on new buildings; and more than £8 billion—I was astonished by this figure—on uniforms and food. The NHS alone uses 1 per cent of all energy consumed in the country, produces 400,000 tonnes of waste and accounts for 25 billion kilometres of miles travelled.
The challenge of tackling climate change and greening our public services will involve technological and regulatory dimensions. This Bill recognises those imperatives. Yet these levers and mechanisms alone will not prove sufficient. The task that lies ahead will also require a strong, behavioural component. I am delighted to see trade unions are rising to this challenge and developing the role of trade union environmental representatives. I hope that the Government can support these developments. UNISON is taking a prominent lead in this role.
I should also like to say to the sceptics and the proponents of the debate that whatever the truth—even if this whole debate about climate change is misplaced, which is not my view—it will force the world community to clean up the environment, conserve resources and dramatically cut industrial pollution. The consequences of these changes for human health and disease are incalculable. That benefit arises whatever the outcome of this great debate.
Finally, I want to say a few words about the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, who is not in his place. I agree with him and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, that nuclear power will have a huge role to play in the future. My father was an engineer in the nuclear industry and my former constituency had thousands of workers in the nuclear industry. I am a strong supporter of nuclear power and I really do see it as the solution. But the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, has to recognise that organisations such as Greenpeace have a critically important role to play in the development of nuclear power because they are part of the checks and balances. Greenpeace and similar environmental protection organisations actually give the public the reassurances they need, particularly when incidents occur in the nuclear sphere. Greenpeace's campaigns on waste discharged into the marine environment were absolutely critical in the investment programmes of British Nuclear Fuels in the early 1980s into the Sixsep plant and another plant whose name I have forgotten for the purposes of this debate. Greenpeace also campaigned on the marine transportation of nuclear waste from one part of the world to the other, exposing deficiencies in shipping. Again, that was absolutely critical. I have financially supported Greenpeace in some of these campaigns even though I take a very strong view in favour of the nuclear power industry because the organisation is part and parcel of the whole arrangement of checks and balances.
In my last minute I want to say this. There has been a little confusion in the debate, and perhaps my noble friend will be able to advise those involved in these discussions nationally to deal with a particular issue concerning the word "ton". When we talk about "tons" in terms of emissions, people cannot see it in the context of 20 hundredweights. I put a simple proposition: we need to explain to the public exactly what is meant by the word "ton" because it does not register in the way we intend it to do so.
Lord Bradshaw (Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, before I came into your Lordships' House, I was a member of two independent, non-departmental public bodies, in both of which I had considerable expertise. They were not concerned with climate change. As soon as I came into this House, the Permanent Secretary to the department which ran them telephoned the Chief Whip twice and almost insisted that I should not speak in your Lordships' House about what I knew. It did not have much to do with these bodies, but the Civil Service immediately brought down the barrier on free discussion. One of the bodies was then subsumed, and nothing much has happened. If we are going to have an independent, non-departmental public body, it needs to be independent, it probably needs on it some of the people referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and it must be able to say things freely. It should not be a creature of the Civil Service.
I want to talk about the price of oil. Several noble Lords have said that the price is going to go up, but not many have ventured to say by how much. I postulate that between 2025 and 2035, the price will cross the £4-per-litre barrier. Once we get into shortages of supply, the price will immediately take off, and there are many reasons why we should expect that to happen. We should be developing alternative means of transport that are powered by electricity. Where the electricity comes from—several noble Lords have made suggestions about that—is beside the point; it has to be used to power the train, vehicle, bus or whatever is used to move people about, and that cannot happen overnight.
I was very disappointed with the response of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, to my Question to the Government yesterday:
"What plans they have for further high-speed railway lines within the United Kingdom".
Part of his Answer was:
"The Government plan to undertake such analysis in time to inform the long-term transport plan, which is due to be published in 2012".
That does not reflect much urgency. A high-speed or electric railway, or a fleet of hybrid buses or cars are possible, but the decisions need to be taken to get on with it. These are long programmes, and while 2025 may seem a long way away, it is not long in terms of managing the infrastructure. Several noble Lords made this point, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave. You do not get the alternatives immediately. If you want to change the way things are done, you have to start planning today, go through the consultation process and then carry out the work. I cannot see any sense of urgency at all in the department to which I have referred.
I shall quote from another part of the Answer that I was given yesterday,
"over the next decade there will be an increase in the number of rail passengers of about 30 per cent".—[Hansard, 26/11/07; col. 1026.]
That would be 3 per cent per annum. I do not think that any train operator is experiencing a growth rate of 3 per cent, most are seeing increases between 6 per cent and 10 per cent. That means that at the end of 10 years you will be hopelessly short of the capacity to move people. The railway cannot shoulder the burden of transporting many more people. As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, it is already full of those who want to travel.
Electricity can be generated from a huge number of sources, and I believe that nuclear should be one of them. It is not the view of my party, but I live close to Harwell, the fusion station at Culham, and next to the Institute of Hydrology. I am surrounded by scientists; indeed, I think we have more scientists in the local parliamentary constituency than any other in the country. They are worried that decisions are being delayed because it takes a long time to bring a new source on stream.
That is probably all I want to say because everyone has said all that needs to be said about the Bill. The most useful thing I can do is to draw the attention of noble Lords, first, to the fact that the committee must be truly independent of the Civil Service, otherwise people like me who serve on it will resign immediately we sense any interference. I am not talking about proper argument, but direct interference and veiled threats being delivered. Secondly, we have to get on with providing an alternative structure to carry people and goods when oil reaches a very high price, which I am sure it will.
Lord Turner of Ecchinswell (Crossbench)
My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as an adviser to Climate Change Capital, which is a business active in renewable energy and carbon emissions trading. Like most other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, I strongly support the principle of the Bill, and it is important to be clear that this is a major step forward. We should recognise that, whatever our debates may be about the precise details and whatever amendments may be brought forward either here or in another place.
The genesis of the Bill lies with the report of the Royal Commission in 2000 which suggested for the first time that the UK would have to cut emissions by something like 60 per cent by 2050 to play our role in limiting atmospheric concentrations to a level compatible with a temperature increase of only 2 degrees centigrade. Since that report, new evidence, both scientific and economic, has reinforced that conclusion and raised the question of whether we need to go further and faster.
On the scientific side, the evidence for climate change resulting from man-made emissions of greenhouse gases has relentlessly increased and the credibility of any alternative theories has diminished. But while the probability that climate change is occurring and is man-made has become even closer to a certainty, scientific progress has not enabled the IPCC to be more precise about future possible temperature increase. Indeed, the IPCC fourth assessment widened the range of possible temperature increases compared with the third assessment. That reflects increasing scientific understanding of how complex the climate is and how difficult it is therefore to forecast with any precision.
Sceptics attack the IPCC for glossing over uncertainties in the science and thereby exaggerating the dangers. One wonders whether such sceptics have ever read a full IPCC detailed report, because on doing so the danger seems rather the reverse. The scrupulous methodology of the IPCC and its unwillingness to include findings which are not yet peer reviewed and for which there is not yet a significant academic consensus, may at times lead it to underplay the possibility of some of the more extreme self-reinforcing events to which my noble friend Lord Turnbull referred.
But as important as changes on the scientific side have been, changes in the economy and industry, and in particular the fact that China and India have, over the first seven years of this century, grown far more rapidly than the Royal Commission or anyone foresaw back in 2000. Almost no one in 2000 was predicting that China would grow at a growth rate of 10 per cent per annum for a decade; almost no one was predicting that the Indian growth rate would accelerate to 8 or 9 per cent. Indeed, even in 2005, in the report presented by this House's Select Committee on Economic Affairs on the economics of climate change, there was hardly a mention of China and India. Instead the report was still questioning whether the emissions scenarios assumed in the IPCC's third report might be too high. We now know almost for certain that precisely the reverse is the case.
Global economic growth is running more rapidly than stated in the original emission scenarios. At least over the past few years, that growth has been more energy-intensive than was predicted because of the take-off of Chinese heavy industry. Energy production has become on average more carbon-intensive than predicted because of the resurgence of the use of coal within the energy mix, in China in particular. As a result, emissions since 2001 have increased more rapidly than in any of the IPCC's six scenarios, and concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are rising more rapidly than was then assumed. All of this, sadly, raises the question of whether it is still possible to limit temperature increase to only two degrees centigrade.
This reinforces the need for action now. That need has been reflected in a rising tide of concern across the world and a regular flow of high-level commitments, including quantitative commitments such as California's aspiration to an 80 per cent cut by 2050 and the EU's commitment of 20 per cent unilaterally by 2020 and 30 per cent if other countries also commit.
"the number and strength of policies under consideration continues to grow faster than the number and strength of policies actually adopted".
Allowing for the policies which have been adopted—the cap and trade systems in place, taxes imposed, energy efficiency regulations passed into law—the IEA's reference scenario suggests that global emissions will rise by 57 per cent between now and 2030. This will leave us on a path more likely to lead to a 5 or 6 degree centigrade temperature increase than to a 2 degree centigrade increase. While allowing for the policies under consideration, and even assuming that the talk is translated into action, its alternative scenario still has emissions at 27 per cent higher in 2030 than today, with a best guess of a 3 degree centigrade rise against pre-industrial levels.
Globally, despite the talk, limited action has resulted so far. In the UK, while we are on target to hit our Kyoto commitment as a result of the shift to gas in electricity generation in the 1990s and considerable success on the non-CO2 greenhouse gases, progress has slowed or, indeed, reversed over the past few years.
Against that background, it might be possible to see the Bill as yet more talk rather than action. I believe that would be a great mistake. The Bill will create a strong discipline on government to take the necessary action. By establishing clear carbon budgets and an independent committee to advise on those budgets and to report on whether they are being met, the Bill will put pressure on government to propose and implement the measures necessary to stay within budget. It will provide a strong message to business that the effective price penalty of emitting carbon will inevitably increase over time.
Of course there are details of objective which will need to be debated and details of operation which will need to be got right. Given the new scientific evidence and the economic trends, there is an issue of whether the target should be higher than 60 per cent—perhaps 80 per cent—and that issue was clearly put on the table by the Prime Minister last Monday.
The extent to which the UK meets its targets by cutting emissions itself versus buying carbon credits from overseas is crucial. The theoretical case for international carbon trading to achieve lowest-cost emission reductions is a very strong, good case—but it is only a good case if we are confident that emission reductions truly are additional and permanent. At the moment, there are considerable doubts on that issue and it cannot be an alternative to putting the UK on a clear path towards a low-carbon economy.
Finally, within each budget period, government will need to ensure steady annual progress towards the budget target, rather than leaving action until too late and then borrowing from the next budget period. It is important for us to debate how we are going to ensure that that occurs, and how the committee in its annual report will assess government progress in that regard.
There are important issues and concerns, but those concerns should not lead us to undervalue the Bill's overall thrust. It will be the first Bill in the world that commits a national Government to specific legally entrenched targets and to creating an independent committee to tell the Government, if necessary, that they are off target. This debate raises questions of what legal targets mean in the absence of a clear set of defined sanctions, but the political reality is that, whatever the legal position, this will create a strong political pressure on the Government to deliver. It will be much more difficult for them to avoid their responsibility to bring forward and implement the measures required to meet the budgets. The Bill creates an external discipline on the Government and at times that will be uncomfortable for them, but it makes it more likely that we will stick to the required path. I therefore think that we should strongly welcome the Bill.
Lord Redesdale (Spokesperson in the Lords (Agriculture & Energy), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Energy), Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform; Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, I too welcome the Bill. I do not go so far as the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, and say that this is a brave Bill; one of the NGOs described it as an Aero-like Bill, full of little bubbles and quite lightweight. However, the Government have been remarkably brave to introduce the Bill in this House because there has been great consensus that the Bill could be much better, and there has been a feeling among many of those who have spoken today that we will make it a lot better. I gently remind the Minister—who has been extremely industrious today, answering two Questions and attending this debate—that we might quietly move a number of the amendments to give the Bill some real teeth.
The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said that there is a morality to moving forward on this issue. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that the Church of England sees it as a moral issue and as an organisation has tried to do as much as it can. I am very keen on some of the schemes that it has introduced throughout the country. If you talk to people around the country, you find that they also see this as a moral issue.
It has been interesting today to see that no one in the debate has questioned whether climate change is taking place, which means we have moved on from a few years ago when I know at least a couple of Peers would have stood up and questioned it. It is more a question of the speed with which climate change is taking place and how quickly government should react.
The major issue that will confront the Government—and as this is a Second Reading speech, we should highlight the issues over which they might face one or two difficulties—is the five-year target. Since people are talking about future technologies, I should say that over the weekend I was reading Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and there is a wonderful part where a spaceship is planted at Lord's cricket ground but no one can see it because there is a technology called "Somebody Else's Problem" and the ship is wrapped in a Somebody Else's Problem field. I get the impression that the five-year target is based on that principle. I was always told that if anyone mentioned five years in parliamentary terms, that meant it was after the next election and therefore no one could seriously take it into account.
I find that people who talk about climate change also focus on the issue of China and India, which has been mentioned today. There is a feeling that there is no point in us doing anything—it is someone else's problem—because China and India are growing quite so rapidly. However, I find that argument quite distressing. The Government of China are desperately worried about climate change because the rice harvest might fail and then they would have real problems feeding their population. There is also the moral question of whether we should use that argument at all, because the majority of China's population live on under £2 a day. We, as one of the richest nations on the planet, who profligately use far more carbon than anyone in the developing world, feel it somehow unfortunate that we are even asked to try to curb our excesses. As my noble friend Lady Northover has pointed out, it is the poor who will suffer hardest as the situation moves forward.
I hope the Government will take on board that there is unhappiness with the five-year target. We think a three-year target would be slightly better, with annual indicators. The problem I have with targets is that they are very prone to slippage. There was an example last year, when there was a massive increase in the amount of carbon used in the country because the spot price on gas went up very quickly last winter. The problem there was that, instead of us paying higher energy prices, many mothballed coal-fired power stations were fired up again to meet the demand, which caused an incremental increase in the amount of carbon being produced into the atmosphere.
If we used the trading scheme we could always say that we could counteract that by buying credits, but I feel there is a moral ambiguity about buying credits from overseas. Climate Change Capital has been mentioned today. I have had a meeting with that organisation—in fact, it seems to have affected many Peers in the building—and it has talked about some of the amazing things we can do. There are low-hanging fruit, such as reducing the amount of HFCs produced in China. That has an effect because of course carbon, like all greenhouse gases, knows no borders. However, as has been said, we should not try to export our problems. We should understand that, even though we talk about our carbon budget in this country, we have automatically exported a massive carbon burden by producing most of our goods in India and China. That is carbon for which we should be accountable.
We are going down the route of a Secretary of State saying in 2050 that we have reduced our emissions by 60 per cent, but that Secretary of State may not yet even have been born. Saying to somebody who may not yet have been born that they will have to be responsible for slippages in the system is an issue. That is why the Bill is to a degree aspirational. That it is aspirational in that area is not a bad thing, but if a Secretary of State misses the target, what sanction will they face? Under European directives, the sanction is a fine for the country, but I cannot see that happening in a British scheme.
We would like to see the Prime Minister, rather than the Secretary of State, made responsible for meeting the targets. On that, we share the view of the main opposition party and it will be interesting to see whether there is an amendment on it that we can both put forward. We hold that view because we have seen the first climate change casualty in the political sphere. There has been talk that the popularity of the Prime Minister of Australia was massively affected by his inability to agree on climate change. Although he changed his view towards the election, the electorate showed that it believed in climate change. Another country that has made massive changes is Canada. One warm winter last year which had amazing effects has moved climate change from the low to the high end of the list of political priorities.
It is interesting that we as politicians are lagging behind the public, who believe that politicians should do a great deal more than they are doing at the moment. I therefore think that the Bill is momentous or historic only in one fact: that it will be the first of many. We will probably be considering a climate change Bill every couple of years as the science progresses and we understand more about the problems and issues that we have to address.
It is interesting that the Bill's Second Reading is in the same week as Heathrow's next runway is being given the go-ahead. I heard somebody say on the radio this morning: "Well, of course, we have the issue that the third runway will produce as much emissions as Kenya". That is interesting. When we talk about other people having to cut back, we are talking about economic growth at the same time. I raised the matter in a debate the other day. Perhaps we should have far fewer flights; perhaps we should cut the numbers of flights. Is it really acceptable for the cheap-flight syndrome to carry on? We are building for capacity for 2030, when we might not even have the oil to put the aircraft in the air, let alone to power a massive growth in aviation. If we believe in climate change, should we not look at reducing the amount of air capacity, because it might never exist?
I have significant worries about the European trading scheme. I hope that it works, but I hope also that we do not go down the route of using it as an opt-out clause, because, with 27 member states each fighting for their own interests, the market may be flooded with carbon units. They will be bought and carbon levels will not be reduced.
I shall not go into waste, because it has been covered comprehensively, but, as many noble Lords have said, climate change affects many different areas. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, spoke about agriculture and tillage. I am working with a company on a one-pass seed drill which would massively reduce the amount of fuel used by farmers by removing the need to turn over the soil five times. We perhaps have to start looking at such schemes and moving towards changing the way we do things. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, eloquently pointed out, things are changing. She had quite a difficult summer at the Environment Agency with the flooding. Being on the front line has changed the public's perception.
I ask the Minister to think about supporting any schemes which deal with carbon labelling on the local level. We have a problem in that regard. It is something that has come up again and again. On the radio, when people talk about cutting emissions, many people talk about electricity as the only form of carbon emission. One problem is that electricity emission represents only about 30 per cent of emissions; the other 70 per cent comes from all other sectors. We can be very keen on introducing nuclear power, which some of us oppose and some support, but in the great scheme of things we have to bring everything else in the round into the mix.
I studied as an archaeologist at university, which is not the most useful of degrees—or at least it does not help you often in everyday life. However, the one area on which I was very keen was prehistory. Of course, the best finds in prehistory were not in Britain; the best finds were in the lowlands, and 16,000 years ago the lowlands of Europe were underneath the North Sea and the channel. Recent evidence tells us that the glaciers that disappeared 16,000 years ago disappeared not in the course of centuries—scientists have thought that the ice age ended over centuries—but probably in decades, moving into maybe 100 or 200 years. The speed of that change must have been quite catastrophic. In this building, noble Lords only have to go on to the Terrace and look at where the high watermark is of the tide to realise that it is a tidal river and see how dangerous this is if we do not take it seriously.
Earl Cathcart (Conservative)
My Lords, I am delighted to be speaking at the end of such an interesting debate. Climate change is high on the political agenda on all sides of this House. We all support the introduction of this Bill and the recognition or consensus, as the Minister said, that Britain and the world in general must reduce carbon emissions, and quickly. We on these Benches warmly support the Bill. However, the devil is in the detail and, as we have heard in today's debate, there are many variations on how to fine-tune that detail.
Many of today's speeches have discussed areas that I was going to touch on, while some noble Lords have brought up other points. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, argued that the Committee on Climate Change should have a duty to educate the public and should have a more proactive role in adaptation. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, too, argued that it should have a more proactive role in that regard and should tackle the matter urgently. The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, drew attention to the effects of the Bill on farming and the complementary nature of this Bill with the Energy Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, both said that the penalties against the Secretary of State would be unenforceable, as did the noble Lord, Lord Vinson, who went on to talk of the need for energy security and for more new nuclear power. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, when he questioned our transport policies and priorities and urged us to find alternatives to fossil fuels. My noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith gave us an indication of how modern technologies and energy sources can reduce carbon emissions. I found myself agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, on Greenpeace being a check and a balance. One might not like what some of the pressure groups say, but they make us stop and think.
Part 1 deals with carbon targets and budgeting. The Bill currently has a 60 per cent target for reductions by 2050 and there seems to be an almost universal agreement that that is not enough. Can the Minister confirm that the Government think that a higher target is necessary? I think that he mentioned 80 per cent in his opening remarks. Does he agree that the Committee on Climate Change should set these targets, which would then be subject to parliamentary approval, and therefore that no CO2 target should appear in the Bill? That would certainly allow for a more robust and realistic target to be set, because it would be based on scientific evidence.
Before I leave the subject of carbon targets, I should mention the interim target of between 26 and 32 per cent by 2020. This was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Jay. It seems odd that Clause 5 says that the upper limit must be no more than 32 per cent. This seems to fly in the face of the thrust of the Bill. Are the Government really saying that if the United Kingdom achieves a reduction of 40 per cent by 2020 it will be breaking the law?
The Bill proposes five-year carbon budgets, the first one applying to 2008 to 2012, as well as yearly reporting to Parliament on progress. Given that there will be a general election in the middle of the first five-year carbon budget period, there is an argument that there should be rolling annual targets so that Parliament can assess the success or failure of the Government of the day's achievement. If the budgets are to work, those working towards the targets are the ones who should be held accountable. We surely want to avoid giving a Government of any colour the chance to simply blame someone else. Progress should always be the priority.
The committee—or, as my noble friend Lord Taylor preferred, the commission—is due to report on the first five-year budget by September 2008, which is only nine months away. It is therefore imperative that the Government set up the committee now rather than waiting until this Bill becomes law. Can the Minister say when he intends to set up the committee?
The committee has an advisory role only and, as my noble friend Lord Taylor said, we feel that a commission, replacing the committee in the Bill as it stands, should be a completely independent body with responsibility for overseeing the entire programme and for scrutinising and holding key players to account, including the Government of the day.
The Government took a similar "advice only" position in last month's debate on radioactive waste management. In that debate, the Minister rejected giving the committee full responsibility. He said:
"The Government will set the policy and take final decisions".—[Hansard, 29/10/07; col. 1240.]
When asked what weight would be given to recommendations from the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, the response was—I hasten to add that I do not think that it was from the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—that it would depend on the advice received. I think that this is a great pity. Governments will come and go. There is a pressing need here for continuity and a commission on climate change would give that necessary continuity. The "advice only" stance by the Government gives the Government of the day wriggle room and the ability to make decisions that prioritise political expediency over the interest of the public—and the planet.
These Benches believe that giving a commission full responsibility for overseeing this entire programme would give far greater credibility in the eyes of the public, industry and the three devolved Administrations, by which I mean Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I know that the Minister has already been in discussions with them on the Climate Change Bill and my understanding is that they are all supportive of the Bill. However, this is an area that needs greater thought, because it is conceivable that, when the Secretary of State sets the five-year carbon budgets, the devolved Administrations could set different ones and, indeed, different secondary legislation. That is yet another reason why the responsibility for setting targets should rest with the commission and not with the Secretary of State. It is essential that the United Kingdom be truly united against the potentially devastating effect of climate change. A more powerful commission would be able to ensure that all the regions worked together.
Why is Defra in charge of this? The obvious answer is, "Because it's the environment, stupid". Yes, it is the environment, but let us look at it. Since 2005, Defra has had three Secretaries of State; to me that lacks continuity. If in future Defra is confronted with another annus horribilis like 2007, with inland floods, tidal flooding, bluetongue, foot and mouth, bird flu and so on, one can hardly expect the Secretary of State to have his eye on the ball as far as climate change is concerned.
Although the Climate Change Bill will affect Defra, it will also impact on many other government departments, as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell argued. It will affect the Treasury; the Foreign Office; the Department for International Development; the Minister for Europe; DBERR, the former DTI; the Department for Transport; the Department for Communities and Local Government —housing, planning, schools and hospitals—Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the nine English regional ministries. So I ask again, "Should Defra be in charge?". Maybe that is not such a stupid question. We on these Benches think that this should be strengthened further by making it the responsibility of the Prime Minister, who is the one person with the necessary clout and authority to take legal responsibility for compliance with this and subsequent regulations.
I enjoyed the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, on the moral argument and how it impacts on overseas carbon credits. Overseas carbon credits allow the UK to spend money abroad to help another country to reduce its CO2 emissions and they allow this country to count that expenditure as part of the UK target. It is rather like the buying of indulgences. Of course, there is a case for overseas offsets, which will help to fight global warming, but they will do nothing to change attitudes and outcomes here in Britain. While it is obviously worth while to contribute to the global battle against climate change, it is important that we work to ensure that the infrastructure for a new, greener economy is being developed here at home.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, assured me in response to a topical question about the forthcoming conference in Bali that the Government would provide in writing what percentage they were prepared to allow to be traded. As I have yet to receive an answer, I hope that the Minister will be able to provide a precise figure now. If not, will he explain how we are negotiating global provisions for carbon reductions without such a figure?
The Bill makes no provision to include emissions from aviation. We believe that it would be illogical not to include emissions from aviation, as the Office for National Statistics already collates the statistics on emissions attributable to UK aviation, and especially as aviation is the fastest-growing source of UK and global greenhouse gas emissions, as has been mentioned. Greenhouse gas emissions are also excluded; I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that that is a great pity. The Bill states that the Secretary of State will calculate the targets, set the base year—which could be different from 1990—determine how the carbon accounting will work, set up the body to supervise it and give guidance to that body. We believe that all this should be the commission's responsibility, not the Secretary of State's. Its members are the experts, after all.
In conclusion, the Bill must be sufficiently robust; it needs to be strengthened in terms of targets and the role of the Committee on Climate Change. The UK needs to shift from an economy in which large amounts of fossil-fuel energy are produced and large amounts are wasted, to a new economy in which energy is conserved and CO2 emissions are reduced. If the UK wants to lead the way in the battle against climate change, there is much to be done to this Bill to make it more robust and more effective. Noble Lords from all sides of the House can agree that this problem needs the most diligent attention and I look forward to working with the Minister to try to ensure that this serious threat to the planet is averted.
Lord Rooker (Minister of State (Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
My Lords, it has been an incredibly fascinating debate with so many speakers with such expertise. I give notice that I propose to sit down when the clock reaches 20 minutes on the basis that I cannot possibly begin to answer the questions. Unlike on the Queen's Speech debate, I can say that we will deal with all these details in Committee when I will have all the answers—that is part of the plan, anyway.
One or two noble Lords said there was a consensus on the Bill. There is a consensus—which I mentioned at the start. Consensus about Bills is dangerous. The example that I always give when I talk outside this place about Bills that all parties love, but do not get properly scrutinised, is the original Child Support Bill. It sailed through both Houses. Everyone loved it, it was a great idea, it had no proper scrutiny and was a disaster. That was the reality for Members of Parliament and for tens of thousands of families in this country. Parliament did not do its job, because everyone thought it was a good idea and there was no proper scrutiny.
There is a good degree of consensus on this Bill. While it is not an equivalent issue, nevertheless it has to be properly scrutinised. I am still a new boy in your Lordships' House, but I shall report back to my Secretary of State and the Minister for Climate Change that, by and large, the Government will get a drubbing if we are not prepared to live with the views of the House. The Bill started in this House purely in terms of management of the Government's programme. That is the only reason. Many Bills cannot start in your Lordships' House due to the conventions that we understand. I do not have the answers to what will be put forward and agreed at Bali, but I can say that the Secretary of State is due to attend informal meetings in India next week before going to Bali in some two weeks' time. Officials will be in Bali at the end of the week, I understand. It is a two-week process in relation to Bali.
Some central issues have been raised and one can compartmentalise them. Although Clause 1 is at line 5 of the Bill, it is at line 1 of the text of the Bill, and states:
"It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the ... carbon account for the year 2050 ... is at least 60 per cent lower than the ... baseline".
It is worth putting on record—and this is the only substantive note that I shall use—what happens if the target is missed. There is an issue about there being no sanction. Ex-Ministers in the House will see a chord struck on this. This will be useful for Committee stage. Putting a duty such as this into law is important in itself. It is not just about the punishment in the event of failure; it is about trying to change institutional behaviour through a change in the law. The rule of law is extremely important in our constitution and this is reflected in the Civil Service Code and the Ministerial Code, which emphasise the importance of complying with the law. By putting these duties into law, we are giving them a constitutional significance which will permeate down to every level of decision making. There is no other way of achieving an equivalent effect without using the law. The duty should be looked at in this broader constitutional sense, rather than just in terms of what happens in court. Nevertheless the statutory basis of the targets and the budgets in the Bill mean that any failure to meet the target or budget carries a risk to government of judicial review. In such a case, the remedy would be at the discretion of the court. In most circumstances where a Government have failed to comply with a duty, courts do no more than issue a declaration. However, we cannot completely rule out the possibility of the court making a more stringent order, such as ordering them to purchase credits, and no Government will take that risk lightly.
Because this will be the law, when civil servants in all departments across the silos of government advise their Ministers on a range of issues—and every walk of life has been discussed here tonight due to the nature of the Bill—they will be duty-bound under the code, the ministerial code and the law, when coming up with solutions and recommendations, to ensure that the options put before Ministers relate to this legislation. It may be thought that that is of no significance but it is incredibly significant in the way that the machinery of government works. Although there is no obvious sanction, the target has a duty attached to it, and that has to be borne in mind.
I shall attempt to deal with some of the issues that were raised. As I said, when I have spoken for 20 minutes, I shall sit down because there will be plenty of time to raise matters in Committee and it is impossible for me to go through all the points now.
Internal air flights are included in the legislation. No one raised that specifically, although someone asked a question relating to it. International aviation is not included but United Kingdom aviation is, and I want to put that on the record.
I was very grateful, as was the whole House, for the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. He apologised for being unable to be present at the end of the debate but he was not feeling too well and wanted to get home. He started by saying that he wanted to raise the Cinderella areas of the Bill. I took the view that not many of your Lordships would be discussing the waste issue. I knew that some would; for example, my noble friend, who is a member of the board of WRAP, was clearly going to raise it, but the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, raised the subject of waste up-front, which, from his background, was very important. It should not be a Cinderella issue in terms of adaptation.
The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and one or two other noble Lords also made a point concerning regulation—a matter also referred to in a roundabout way by the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool. New industries will be formed because of the Bill, and they must not be snuffed out by over-regulation based on our old technologies before they get going. I am not being critical but the waste directive is one such example relating to the definition of products. The noble Earl cited other examples. If we use the formula that we have used in the past, some industries will start and some will fail. There is a risk there, and we have to be very careful that new industries which are formed to meet the challenges of climate change are allowed to flower and be successful. Therefore, we have to be careful about over-regulation or damaging regulation. Sometimes regulation has to be made on a European basis and that is why it is good for us to give a lead.
Clearly, the question of whether limits should be imposed on overseas credits will be a substantial issue. I have been listening to the voices and think that there is a consensus across the House on this. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, for having missed two or three minutes of his speech, although that was the only time that I was away from the Chamber, but I got the message about overseas credits. They can provide a benefit but, as I think my noble friend Lord Puttnam said, we should not grub around using them to avoid the targets. That is crucial, and I am sure that this matter will figure highly in our debates in Committee.
The other central issue raised was the Committee on Climate Change. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, kicked us off on that subject and virtually everyone else mentioned the committee in one form or another. I shall try to deal with some of the points now because that will be useful for our forthcoming debates. The committee will be set up in shadow form. The legislation must have a Second Reading before certain things can be done, but advertisements have been put out for the chair and members so that the committee can be set up in a small way. The committee's remit will change because of the way in which the Government have agreed to change the Bill, so the issue of looking at the three five-year targets may change, as well as whether the 60 per cent target should be 80 per cent. I shall have an answer on that for my noble friend when I reach the relevant note. We have to get the right balance, but it will be set up in shadow form and become statutory when the Bill gets Royal Assent. In the mean time, a secretariat—civil servants across Whitehall—is being put together that will serve that committee in the normal course of events as a shadow secretariat.
There will be a need for independent scrutiny, as several colleagues mentioned—we always have this issue. I think I answered it in the debate on nuclear waste, as we had an interesting report from the Science and Technology Committee. Anything that is truly independent and completely at arm's length from government and Parliament will have a life of its own and not be democratically accountable. You have to examine the definition of "independent". What we mean is independent of political motivation and government or Treasury arm-twisting, to give free, fair and transparent advice, so that everyone knows the basis on which decisions are taken. If advice is rejected those taking the decisions will be accountable, which is important. One finds this in every organisation and walk of life. Parliament itself has decided to have a group of people—an issue that may be churned over, as questions of membership and time served are important.
Speeches were made about the extra work put on the committee in considering adaptation and mitigation work, which will require a different set of skills from those considering the science. There is no question about that. We could have a big committee—my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours referred to environmental NGOs and trade unions—but there is nothing to stop the main committee having sub-committees. I am sure that we will have useful debates on the structure, role, form and skills required. My noble friend Lady Billingham made the point about the ordinary citizen, and gave some good examples. She referred to page 3 of the Sun. I said to myself that I must not make jokes, but page 3 girls must be quite warm because they do not wear clothes, I understand. She said that we should be getting the message across so that the public can see a connection between what we are saying about climate change and their personal circumstances. Page 11 of the FT is not the way to do that. That is a fair point to make.
We are looking for different skills from different people for the committee. The intention is for it not to have a policy-making role. There are issues to debate including, certainly, the public education aspect and land management, which several noble Lords raised, because what we do with our land, 80 per cent of which is farmed, is important for climate change purposes. There is no question about that.
I was asked whether the committee would advise on the first three budgets before it advises on the level of the 2050 target. The Prime Minister said last week, as I encapsulated in my speech, that we will ask the committee for its advice on whether the 2050 target should be tightened up to 80 per cent, as it begins to consider its advice on the first of the three carbon budgets. It will not be required to go through all that process. It will have to do it in parallel because it is important to have that decision. We are talking about next year, obviously.
I was asked about the timing of the appointments. It is worth spending time on that in Committee because it will figure largely in the debate. The shadow secretariat is being set up, but the actual committee members have not been appointed. We hope to have the shadow committee in place by the end of February/early March. We are making only a number of limited shadow appointments until the body exists. They will be made through fair, open competition and regulated by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in accordance with Nolan principles, so there are rules about appointing the committee. It will be appointed and promulgated, but until Royal Assent it will not have its statutory role. With the Bill starting in this place, all kinds of things can happen to the nature of the Bill that the other place receives.
I do not have a specific answer to the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, about whether we have talked to the German Government. The answer that I have is that it would be a bit of an expensive job. We could not use solar in this country as we do not have the sunlight, and transmitting electricity over long distances is inefficient and expensive, but others probably could. But I will see whether there is a specific answer because my noble friend Lord Jones was asked whether we have talked to the Germans. The working examples of those concentrated solar panels are currently in California and Spain, but it is thought that the cost-effectiveness is much higher in hotter climates and that the UK is not suitable.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, asked about personal carbon allowances. They could not be introduced without proper public consultation and they are not suitable for the Bill, but I do not think that she was making that point. Nevertheless, there is an issue here and a debate to be had. We will certainly have to have a comprehensive period of public debate. We are working on a pre-feasibility study, which is due to report in 2008, although I do not know when.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, asked whether I would bring forward the government amendments on adaptations early enough before Committee to allow consideration. The answer is yes. Officials are currently working on the details, including in partnership with officials from the Environment Agency. We plan to introduce the amendments as soon as possible. I am not a business manager, but I understand that we will have a couple of days on this before Christmas, with the other days afterwards, and I think that the amendments will be introduced for that later period. I hope that there will be plenty of opportunity to get them seen.
The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, raised an issue to which I have tried to find an answer. He referred to paragraph 5.1; I think he was referring to paragraph 1.9 of the Command Paper, which says:
"Initial analysis, to be published alongside the revised Bill, indicates a potentially increased impact on GDP".
The impact assessment contains an initial analysis referred to particularly in paragraphs 18.104.22.168. The impact assessment, with the figures, is available on the Defra website and in the Printed Paper Office of the House. In addition, there is a further background document. However, the webpage for this on the Defra website is broken; we will get it fixed as soon as possible tomorrow.
That brings me to a point that I was not going to raise: why Defra? Why not? In my experience this year, whatever people might say, Defra has proved itself incredibly resilient in dealing with issues, whether foot and mouth, bluetongue, the two sets of avian flu, preparation for the flood surge or reaction to the flooding—all matters that we did not plan for. We were of course told that we were going to have a long, dry, hot summer; that was the forecast earlier this year. We had the wettest winter on record after two of the driest. We would have been in trouble if we had had a third dry winter. This is currently very unpredictable. Defra has proved itself incredibly resilient and able to give a lead to the rest of the Government. But this is a government operation, not a Defra one. It is not for a single department. We may have some interesting issues over whether the Prime Minister takes a role or not, but I think that the Secretary of State will probably suffice.
Many noble Lords talked about recovery of energy and waste. Those are crucial in terms of local authority issues in the Bill. The public may well be ahead of the Government and Parliament, as I think more than one noble Lord said. Our recycling record is appalling in this country; my noble friend Lady Jones gave lots of examples. Certainly, the need to recover energy from organic waste is crucial because we are wasting so much. I understand that 6 million tonnes of wood that could be used for energy go into landfill every year. It is an appalling waste. Whether it is anaerobic digestion or other methods, all are technologies that we should use and seek the best benefit from. We will not get to the point where we will have a single answer to this, but we will have to take the Bill through and debate it in detail. I will try to come back with as many answers as possible in Committee, as it would be wrong to leave everything until Report.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked me about advice about the 2050 target being produced in 2009. Apparently we did not say that the committee would advise in 2009. We are currently considering the timing of that. I will obviously have more information in Committee: it is impossible at Second Reading to deal with such issues.
I am told that I have one minute left so I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. It is a debate that is worthy of your Lordships' House. I know that the Secretary of State, the other Ministers in Defra and the rest of the Government will take a keen interest in it because, as colleagues in the other place have said to me, they understand that the level and nature of debate in this House is different from the other House—that is getting through to them slowly. That is not a criticism or a boast: it is different. This is such a vital Bill and there is no government majority in this place, as everyone knows. There is a degree of consensus but, following the initial scrutiny, there will obviously be a desire to improve the Bill in lots of ways. That is something that they understand in the other place. I will take that important message back to the Government, having sat and listened to your Lordships' debate. I commend the Bill to the House.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.