Clause 2
Marine and Coastal Access Bill [Lords]
2:45 pm

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies

Huw Irranca-Davies (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Marine and Natural Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Ogmore, Labour)

I confirm that my hon. Friend’s interpretation of my earlier comments on what we intend to do is absolutely right. I might be able to help in relation to amendment 3, too. The amendment seeks  to require the MMO, in the course of exercising its functions, to have regard to the need to mitigate and adapt to climate change. As those who tabled the amendment might be aware, the issue was raised during Committee in the other place by Lord Greaves and Lord Tyler.

The marine environment plays a vital role in mitigating climate change. I emphasise that the Bill as a whole will help us to meet the challenges of climate change. The Bill will allow us to make better decisions about the activities in our marine area that will help to mitigate climate change—for example, the development of renewable energy projects—and the measures introduced under the Bill will be adaptable to allow us to manage and use new technologies as they come along. Provisions on marine nature conservation and fisheries will also help us to restore and maintain marine ecosystems to ensure that they are resilient to the effects of climate change.

I reassure the Committee that climate change will be one of the important factors taken into account in the UK-wide marine policy statement, which will set out, and prioritise where required, the policies and objectives in the UK marine area that will contribute to sustainable development. Climate change is one of the four agreed priorities in the UK sustainable development strategy, “Securing the future”, published in May 2006.

As Lord Hunt said during a debate on the issue during Committee in the other place on 21 January 2009, managing the different pressures on the marine area will be a challenging task, and one that will be tackled through our high-level marine objectives, which were published in April. The objectives set out our interpretation of sustainable development in the marine area and underpin the development of the marine policy statement. The statement, once adopted by the UK Administrations, will provide the framework within which the MMO will operate, and will guide decision making by the MMO and other regulators in the marine area.

In a subsequent Committee sitting, Lord Hunt said:

“In preparing a marine policy statement, we must consider an extremely wide range of issues and policies. The intention is to bring together all policies capable of having an impact on the marine area. This is the first time that that has occurred and, at the end of it, we want a coherent and integrated statement of policy that will make a real contribution to the achievement of sustainable development in the UK marine area”.

Lord Hunt continued:

To do that, the policy authorities will need to consider a wide range of factors when drawing up the statement, such as the legislative commitments, national policies and targets relating to the marine area covering sectors ranging from fisheries, oil and gas, offshore energy and ports. They will need to consider information and trends on different uses, the resulting pressures and likely changes. They will need to consider how to deal with interactions in uses and what guidance to provide...They will also need to consider the interface between the land and sea and the policy on regional and international interfaces.

Naturally, some policies feature higher in our consciousness than others at any given time. Mitigation of climate change and security of energy supply are foremost in our minds and they will be two major considerations when the MPS is being prepared. As the noble Lord knows, the Climate Change Act imposes a duty to lay before this House and the other place a programme of policies and proposals that contribute to the achievement of sustainable  development and set out how we will respond to the risks facing the UK as a result of climate change. Clearly, those policies and programmes will need to be reflected in our marine policy statement.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 28 January 2009; Vol. 707, c. 326-27.]

Rather than imposing a duty on the MMO, therefore, any duties in relation to climate change should, and will, fall on Ministers in their role in drawing up the marine policy statement, which will take account of all relevant policy considerations, including the implications of climate change. Ministers will also be bound by the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008 and will need to ensure that Government policy achieves the targets it sets out. It is therefore Ministers who must be satisfied that, taken as a whole, the policies contained in the marine policy statement will contribute to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change and to the achievement of sustainable development.

I hope that this explanation of just how critical climate change is and how we are bound by obligations are reassures hon. Members that climate change is an important issue that will be fully taken into account in the marine policy statement. The MMO must act in accordance with this, so there is no need to make specific reference to it in the MMO’s general objective. To deliver what my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test has suggested, and to give us the time to work on the precise wording, I hope that the Committee will oppose amendment 3, but support clause 2 standing part of the Bill.

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