Climate Change Bill [Lords]

Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:14 pm on 9th June 2008.

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[Relevant documents: The Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill, Session 2006-07, HC 542-I, and the Government response contained in Taking Forward the UK Climate Change Bill: The Government Response to Pre-Legislative Scrutiny and Public Consultation, Cm 7225 ; The Fifth Report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Session 2006-07, on the Draft Climate Change Bill, HC 534, and the Government response contained in Cm 7225 ; The Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have each passed a Legislative Consent Resolution in respect of this Bill. Copies of the Resolutions are available in the Vote Office.]

Order for Second Reading read.

4.18 pm

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that you and the spokesmen for the Opposition parties have been informed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs sends his sincere apologies for his absence. He is unwell, but it is temporary and he will be back at work very soon. He has asked me to stand in for him.

Every Member of this House knows of the urgent need to prevent dangerous climate change. The science is clear and is now widely accepted and understood. Last autumn, the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told us unequivocally that the world's climate is warming, that human activity is by far the principal cause, and that without global action to reduce emissions, we face an increase in average temperatures of up to 4°C by the end of the century. What would that mean? It would mean too much water, not enough water, conflict over water and food, people moving across the earth looking for somewhere to live, economic disruption and a real risk of reaching the point at which abrupt or irreversible climate change happens.

The effects are already being felt. The World Health Organisation tells us that 150,000 people are already dying each year from climate change. The United Nations estimates that all but one of its emergency appeals in 2007 were to do with the climate—in Darfur, for example, where shifts in rainfall have made the conflict worse as people compete for grazing land.

As Nick Stern said in his hugely influential report on the economics of climate change:

"The benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs".

The benefits include not only avoiding devastating economic and human cost—the equivalent of world war one, world war two and the great depression put together—but enormous economic opportunities for those companies and countries that adapt and innovate in leading the new industrial revolution, the low-carbon revolution.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Has the hon. Gentleman noticed that many great companies are ahead of Governments in making their decisions to combat climate change, that the insurance companies were among the first to recognise its reality, and that there are few people in business now who have studied it who do not see it as something of a business opportunity, rather than a burden?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I would add one caveat: they are not ahead of this Government, but in my experience chief executives and chairs of major corporations are ahead of the game in understanding the realities of climate change and the business opportunities that that presents, and in understanding that business as usual is not an option for them. Indeed, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development is at the table at the UN talks, and it is a point that it often makes. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman.

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Photo of Jon Trickett Jon Trickett Labour, Hemsworth

The fact is, though, that whereas domestically the UK produces about 2 per cent. of the world's carbon emissions, large corporations based in the UK produce 16 per cent. of the world's carbon emissions. The early-day motion in my name and that of 70-odd other hon. Members calls for more openness from corporations in reporting the impact in carbon trading. The Government announced in the Lords that they would take on board the ideas in the early-day motion. Has the Minister anything to say on the matter?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point, which I shall come to. The debate tends to concentrate on the emissions for which we are directly responsible within our shorelines, but our economic activity, including the corporations, as well as the carbon footprint resulting from consumer activity in this country, is responsible for about 15 per cent. of global emissions, as a result of the fact that we are the fifth wealthiest country in the world. I will cover the implications of that later in my remarks.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has just said that there is general agreement that the benefits exceed the costs. How come his own final impact assessment of the measures that the House is considering concludes that at best the benefits could exceed the costs by £52 billion, but at worst the costs of what he is proposing to the House today could exceed the benefits by £95 billion?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am sure the cost-benefit analysis, which I hope we will debate today, will be subject to scrutiny in Committee if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading. It is probably best that I do not go into detail, but suffice to say that— [Interruption.] I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to disagree with Second Reading. He makes an important point and we will be able to debate it. It is not a fundamental principle.

To anyone who might be tempted, in current global economic circumstances, to argue that we should put aside action on climate change because of more pressing matters, I would simply say that that would be the most profound mistake. The resource crunch, shown most clearly by the rising cost of oil and of our gas and electricity bills, is a reason not to defer action but to redouble our efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. Now, indeed, is the time to act. That is why the Government have introduced the Bill. It provides a clear framework for the UK's transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

The time to act is now, but is the Minister aware that in the transport sector there are increasing emissions from road transport, and particularly from aviation, the emissions of which were 9 per cent. up last year? When I put that point to the Secretary of State for Transport, her answer was that the transport sector is allowed to grow and the cuts will have to come from elsewhere. Is that the Minister's Department's view—that transport emissions should be allowed to grow while the others make up the difference?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport often explains, measures are being taken in the transport sector to ensure efficiencies and new technologies. We have debated the motor car, and we will come on to debate the inclusion of aviation in the Bill, which has been one of its controversial topics. On aviation, my right hon. Friend's point is that after the efficiencies in organisation and technologies have been best achieved, emissions will be offset when they are deemed unavoidable. I do question the hon. Gentleman's 90 per cent. figure—

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Nine per cent., for the record; I take that point.

The Bill establishes legally binding long-term targets and medium-term budgets to provide greater clarity for UK industry, and that will enable businesses to plan effectively and invest in the technology that is required to move towards a low-carbon economy and to reap the potential economic benefits that are on offer. It will ensure that we adapt to unavoidable climate change as well.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

The Minister is pushing at an open door in persuading not all, but the overwhelming majority of the House, I suspect, about the urgent need for the Bill, but will he help us with the question of targets? In the other place, Lord Rooker made it clear, saying:

"We admit that the 60 per cent target is an old one; it is seven years old...There have been significant advances in science since the 60 per cent target was set". —[Official Report, House of Lords, 11 December 2007; Vol. 697, c. 179.]

Lord Stern now says that there should be an 80 per cent. target by 2050. Is it not a cop-out simply to try to pass that on to a committee? Should not this House and Parliament take the political decision to set the target and accord with what people such as Lord Stern now advise?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On the provisions in the Bill as it stands, there are two points. First, the target should be at least 60 per cent., with a request to the Committee on Climate Change to consider whether it should be even higher than that. To reassure the hon. Gentleman, I should say that Ministers and Parliament will take those decisions after the expert advice has been sought. I hope that his point will come out in the debate—and if I can move on, we are more likely to get to that debate.

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Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I indicated that I would give way to Mr. Redwood. I shall then move on, because the targets issue is in the substance of the debate.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

I am very grateful to the Minister for giving way; he is being very patient. I find targets much more convincing and plausible if they relate to the next year or two, rather than to a 40-year period, and if they relate to things that the Government themselves can manage and are responsible for. Will the Minister propose targets for the next one year and two years to cut the carbon footprint of the Government? We would find that very welcome.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On the latter point, the Government's carbon footprint is clearly a priority. As the Sustainable Development Commission reported, we have made some progress, but we are the first to say that we must do a lot more. The important point about the Bill is that greenhouse gas emissions are cumulative, and therefore whatever one's end target after a period of years, it is the cumulative gathering of gases that is important. To my mind, therefore, the interim targets are much more important than the end targets. That is why at the heart of the Bill is the idea of five-year carbon budgets—another way of saying targets—with the built-in idea that annual, indicative ranges should fall within them. That, I think, meets the right hon. Gentleman's point about immediacy. The Government as an organisation will be covered by the carbon reduction commitment, and I expect that that will accelerate change as well.

The Bill breaks new ground, and there is enormous interest around the world in what we are doing in this House. It is the first Bill of its kind. At the meeting of G8 Environment Ministers in Japan last month, someone gave me a copy that has been translated into Japanese—I do not suppose that that often happens with our Bills. That demonstrates our commitment, as seen by others, to do our part as we press for a new global climate deal in Copenhagen next year.

Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill, I want to pay tribute to all those whose efforts and leadership have enabled it to be brought before Parliament today. The Prime Minister and his predecessor have led this debate. I thank my predecessor, my right hon. Friend David Miliband; Friends of the Earth for its Big Ask campaign; and the joint parliamentary Committee under the able chairmanship of my noble Friend Lord Puttnam. I am grateful for the scrutiny and ideas of the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Mr. Yeo and Mr. Jack respectively, and for the examination by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of the other place.

There was also the contribution of some 17,000 organisations and members of the public who responded to our consultation—and, may I say, don't I know it! The other place has already given the Bill its full consideration in a constructive and non-partisan process, and the Bill before us reflects the changes made as a result. Overall, this has been a model of how proper pre-legislative and parliamentary scrutiny can help to make a good draft Bill a better, stronger and more transparent Bill.

I am also grateful for the Opposition parties' support for the Bill. The truth is that whoever of us is in government over the next 40 years, this will be the most pressing matter that we have to deal with, and the Bill will help us in that task.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We certainly support the principle of the Bill. However, will the Minister give us a categorical assurance that if the Committee on Climate Change concludes in its study that 80 per cent. is the right answer, the Government will accept that advice and be bound by it—or will they just think about it?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

No, I cannot give that categorical assurance at this stage. The figure may be more than 80 per cent. The issue is linked to what happens in the UN talks. This is a contribution to a worldwide effort, and as yet we do not know what the worldwide effort is. The hon. Gentleman presses me on a point that the other place pressed us on. I have made the position clear. However, I give him the reassurance that I gave to the right hon. Member for Wokingham: it will be up to the usual parliamentary procedures when we get to that point in the cycle.

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Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

In respect of the support of the Opposition parties, does my hon. Friend agree that those calling for an increase in the targets must match that with support for the policies that would help the Government to meet those targets? Does he find it curious that in the past hour the official Opposition have opposed road pricing in Greater Manchester and in the past week they have opposed variable emission-related road tax—two of the policies that would be most effective in ensuring that we deal with the fact that road transport generates 21.6 per cent. of our total emissions?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I think that my hon. Friend is asking me whether I am surprised. I can give a clear answer to that question, as I always attempt to: not at all.

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Photo of Colin Challen Colin Challen Labour, Morley and Rothwell

What would happen if the independent Committee on Climate Change—we always seem to refer to it as independent—comes back with a target that is higher? We are faced with a number of choices in the near future, not least the possibility that if a global framework is agreed the EU will increase its own interim targets to 30 per cent. Do the Government have a plan B to deal with those potential changes?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point, as he always does on these and other matters. How one reaches the target is more important than the target itself. I do not diminish the importance of the target as a framework for action, but it is the interim budgets that set us on that track. The work of the independent Climate Change Committee will give advice not just on the interim five-year budgets, but on policies to achieve them, and we must take decisions in the light of that. Plan B is a combination of the international situation—including what we do if there is not an international agreement at Copenhagen—the interim budgets and the potential international agreement to mid-term targets as well as long-term goals.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Labour, Islington South and Finsbury

On the subject of an emerging international consensus, does my hon. Friend agree that it is good news that Barack Obama also agrees that there should be a target of an 80 per cent. reduction by 2050?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is extremely good news for all of us that the policies that have been adopted by the presidential candidates and the debates in the Senate and House of Representatives demonstrate that we have introduced the prevailing policy around the world. The idea of cap and trade with legally binding commitments is being adopted, and we are closely following the developments in the United States of America. Our policy has been to lobby on a non-partisan basis, and I am pleased to see that candidates across the spectrum have listened to the wise advice of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I would like to move on, because I have a long, detailed speech to make. There is a limit on Back-Bench time already, and the Opposition have to have their say as well, quite rightly. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall move on.

The Bill makes statutory our commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 26 per cent. by 2020 and by at least 60 per cent. by 2050. The level of the 2050 target has been a matter of much debate and I want to add a bit more detail. It is clear that the science has moved on since the target was originally set. We believe that the best way to respond is, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced in November, to ask the Committee on Climate Change whether the target should be tightened up to 80 per cent. The committee, with its scientific and economic expertise, is best placed to analyse the facts and provide authoritative advice on the appropriate target. It is a better and more credible way of deciding on the matter—and decide we must—than plucking a new target figure out of the air, as it were.

The committee's review of the target, which the Bill makes statutory, will take place in the coming months, alongside consideration of the first three carbon budgets, and will be completed by December this year. It will also include whether and how the other internationally recognised greenhouse gases should be incorporated in our targets, rather than simply CO2. We will use the powers in the Bill to do that, if it is what the committee recommends.

The Bill begins with a purpose clause, which was added in the other place, linking the Bill's objectives to the EU's ambition, which we support, of limiting global temperature rise to 2° C through a global effort. Much as we support the overall goal, I cannot see how that requirement fits into a piece of UK legislation. Any measure based on global temperatures means that we are dependent on what happens elsewhere in the world—in other words, on things outside of our direct control. The UK cannot, through domestic legislation, tell other countries what to do; nor can we legislate to control global temperature—but we can control our own overall emissions, which is why the Bill places a duty on the Secretary of State to reduce the net UK carbon account. We will therefore seek to remove clause 1.

One of the Bill's most radical and distinctive features is the framework that it creates for delivering and monitoring the reductions in emissions required to achieve the 2020 and 2050 targets. It establishes a system of five-year carbon budgets, set up to 15 years in advance, to make clear the direction that we are taking and provide greater certainty for business. We propose to strengthen our commitment in the Bill to building a low-carbon economy in the UK. However, we are unable to accept the limit that the other place inserted on the balance between domestic effort and internationally traded credits, because the limit set is arbitrary and undermines clause 34, which asks the Climate Change Committee to advise on the use of credits.

We need to ensure that the Bill supports our efforts to secure the ultimate prize of a comprehensive global deal to tackle climate change. Investment in low-carbon technologies through the international carbon market is an important part of that.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice

I hear what the Minister says about rejecting the approach of the House of Lords. However, is he willing to accept some limitation on the use of international trading to avoid the need—or requirement—to change what we do in this country? Surely we must be an example to the whole world.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the opportunity to give him an affirmative response. It is a question of balance. We must balance the limit that we set to ensure that UK industry secures innovation, which will benefit us and the wider world, with the amount of international trade in carbon that should take place to allow the technology and finance transfer, through the private sector initiatives, that the developing world needs. I know that the hon. Gentleman supports that point.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will the Minister clarify whether he intends to remove the clauses that the other place inserted and await the independent committee's judgment? Does he give a commitment to accept the judgment, whatever it is?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Yes, yes and no. We intend to change matters—I give notice that, should the House give the Bill a Second Reading, we would like the committee to consider that. For reasons of good government and parliamentary accountability, it would be wrong to say that we will accept whatever the committee says. We intend to appoint people of the highest calibre to the independent Committee on Climate Change and take sound advice from them, because they know what they are talking about. It would be foolish to rule out accepting their recommendations. We therefore have an open mind.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am interested in what the Minister said earlier about the targets. He knows that I strongly support the view that too much focus on the 2050 target runs the risk of not doing enough urgently. Will he seek the views of the Climate Change Committee specifically on the interim target and recognise that, although we could hit the 2050 target, we have no chance of staying within the 2° C maximum if we do little in the earlier period?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman makes my point. He is right—we could hit the target by carrying on in the same way until 2049 and cutting emissions by 80 per cent. in the last year. If we did that, dangerous climate change would occur, with temperatures rising by 8° C, 10° C or possibly more. Emissions of gases are cumulative and the interim target is as important, if not more so, than the 2050 target.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are many points to be made on that matter, and I must make progress.

Action by the EU is also important to help deliver our targets, and we need to recognise the legitimate right of UK companies to participate fully in the emissions trading scheme, which is the foundation of the EU's efforts to tackle climate change.

The framework of carbon budgets is underpinned by clear accountability, through annual reporting to Parliament on progress, supported by the requirement to set out an indicative range for the net UK carbon account for each year of the budget period, and by the independent scrutiny of the new Committee on Climate Change. The Government will be required to report to Parliament, setting out their plans and proposals to meet each carbon budget, as soon as practicable after it is set. The first three budgets and our plans for meeting them will be set out alongside the Budget in 2009. A requirement for the report to be laid by the Prime Minister was inserted in the other place, but since every other duty in the Bill is laid upon the holder of the Secretary of State's office, as is usual in a system of collective Government responsibility, we will seek to amend the relevant clause to uphold that responsibility.

There has been a great deal of debate about emissions from international aviation and shipping, which have already been raised this afternoon. They are, by definition, international industries, and the UK has therefore strongly argued for international action to ensure that they play their part in tackling climate change. I hope that aviation emissions will be included in the EU emissions trading scheme from 2012. That would ensure that any growth in aviation emissions in future would have to be balanced by reductions elsewhere. However, the issues in the allocation of national responsibilities for such emissions are complex; and so once the EU ETS rules have been set, we will ask the committee to advise on whether there is a methodology to include international aviation emissions in our targets and on what the impacts of doing so would be. We would expect to be in a position to decide whether to go ahead before the second carbon budget under the Bill, which runs from 2013 to 2017, although we would not want to cut across our parallel efforts to reach wider international agreement.

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Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

If hon. Members will bear with me, I think that they will welcome what I am about to say.

We recognise the strength of feeling on the issue, and have decided to accept the main thrust of the amendment made in the other place that sets a deadline of five years either to include international aviation and shipping emissions in our targets or to report to both Houses on why that has not been done.

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Photo of Karen Buck Karen Buck Labour, Regent's Park and Kensington North

I very much welcome what my hon. Friend has just said. Aviation concerns the public, because it is the fastest-growing source of global emissions. Does he agree that it is right that aviation should bear the full economic costs that it imposes? Is it not time to look, globally, to a successor to the Chicago convention, and is it not anomalous that aviation fuel has been exempted internationally from taxation?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There is a certain amount of detail in this debate, in which I am sure the House will want to participate this afternoon. What I have just announced meets the points of hon. Members in all parts of the House. The Government's intention is that aviation and shipping should be included. We are among the strongest adherents of carbon markets and the cap and trade policy in the world, but carbon markets have to be based on verifiable science. We cannot cherry-pick in carbon markets. The problem is recognising the difficulties in different methods of calculation, but we of course already collect such information.

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Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Labour, Stoke-on-Trent North

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and for his kind words about the role of the Environmental Audit Committee. The work that he has just announced to the House is likely to generate the same sympathy in respect of shipping, because if we have to wait longer for shipping to be included than we do for aviation, that will be unfair on UK manufacturers. We need all emissions to be counted in one go. The sooner that shipping is included, the better.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I can confirm that our policy is exactly to include shipping, partly for the reasons that my hon. Friend suggests.

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Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I should like to make some progress, because I have already been speaking for too long and need to get through this important speech.

I have already referred to the Committee on Climate Change—a new independent, non-departmental public body that will be established under the Act.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I need to move forward and finish my speech.

The committee's task will be to advise on the emissions reduction path to the 2050 target, and specifically on the appropriate level of the carbon budgets and our progress towards achieving them. The committee has already been established in shadow form, with a first-class team under the chairmanship of Lord Turner. It will be sponsored by and will report jointly to the Government and the three devolved Administrations. That gives me the chance to mention the excellent co-operation between the UK Administrations on this Bill, much of which covers devolved areas, for which I am grateful. Both the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly have agreed the requisite legislative consent motions.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Opposition Whip (Commons)

The Committee on Climate Change is a key innovation in the Bill, which goes to the heart of improving accountability. It is, however, being asked to do a lot in a very short period of time. In the Joint Committee, we expressed concern about the amount of resources allocated to the new Committee on Climate Change. Will the Minister confirm its budget in its first year?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will have to come back to the hon. Gentleman—later in the debate, I hope—on the specifics. I give way now to my hon. Friend Ms Keeble.

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Photo of Sally Keeble Sally Keeble Labour, Northampton North

I am grateful. Is the Minister aware that although many qualities are required for the Climate Change Committee, there is no specific requirement for anyone to have any technical knowledge about the impact of climate change on the ecology of wildlife? Will he look into whether that quality could be included somewhere in the wide range of different skills required?

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Consultation with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend Joan Ruddock, confirms that the answer is in the affirmative.

The Bill also introduces powers to establish new emissions trading schemes within the UK through secondary legislation. Trading schemes are among the most economically efficient means, we believe, of delivering emissions reductions. The first use of those powers will be 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 CO2 a year by 2020, making a significant contribution towards achieving our targets.

As the House will be aware, a significant level of climate change is already inevitable, so we must ensure that we adapt to climate change as well as militate against it. The Bill will put in place a requirement to assess the risks and vulnerability of the UK and to report that assessment to Parliament. The Government will have to lay before the House a programme of action on adaptation to address those risks and vulnerabilities. As part of this effort, all providers of public and other essential services will need to take similar steps. The Bill therefore creates powers for the Government to require service providers to assess the risks and set out the actions that they need to take in response. We will provide statutory guidance to help with that work.

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Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

I welcome the fact that the Minister has referred in his speech to adaptation—an important point. The Bill gives the Government new powers to require public bodies to produce action plans on adaptation at the discretion of the Secretary of State, so does my hon. Friend not agree that even at this stage it is important for Ministers to make it clear to local authorities that, given that it is right to expect considerably more volatile weather conditions and considerably more flooding, some of the proposed developments on flood plains are simply irresponsible? Those projections of increased rainfall and increased flooding are a direct result of the climate change that we are already seeing.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As ever on this issue and others, my hon. Friend makes a strong point. He is right; we agree with him.

I say to Mr. Hurd, who asked about the new committee's budget, that it is £3.2 million for this financial year.

A new provision establishing a statutory sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change was added in the other place. I recognise the importance of expert advice on adaptation, so I accept the new provision. We will bring forward further proposals to ensure that the work of the sub-committee is consistent with that of the committee as a whole.

I shall now deal with other provisions of the Bill. The Bill contains powers for up to five local authorities to pilot waste-reduction incentive schemes, designed to encourage households to minimise and recycle their waste. That is in response to requests from the Local Government Association. As previously announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we will bring forward proposals for a power to require retailers to charge for single-use carrier bags. That will ensure that if the radical and swift reductions in their use that we seek are not achieved through voluntary agreement with the retailers, they will be achieved under this Bill.

The Bill also includes provisions to enhance the operation of the renewables transport fuel obligation. It will require the administrator to promote the supply of renewable transport fuel which delivers carbon savings and contributes to sustainable development or general environmental protection in the longer term.

Finally, I wish to address the addition made in the other place concerning corporate disclosure of carbon emissions, which has been of much interest to campaigning groups and to many in this House—the issue has been raised already this afternoon. The Government are not persuaded at present that such specific mandatory reporting requirements are an effective means of encouraging emissions reductions. But we do recognise that action is desirable in this area, not least to encourage the development of a standard that will support comparable emissions reporting. We will therefore propose a requirement for the Secretary of State to develop and issue guidance on how companies should report their greenhouse gas emissions. We will look further at taking forward the issue of emissions reporting in 2010, in parallel with the anticipated review of the narrative reporting requirements of the Companies Act 2006.

Many right hon. and honourable Members wish to speak on the Bill, so I shall draw my remarks to a close, but before doing so I wish to make this point: this Bill is about leadership. No other Parliament in the world has attempted to do what we seek to do today. I wish to take the Bill forward in the same spirit in which it arrived here—open debate, testing ideas and seeking improvements. I am sure that all that and more will take place in Committee, should the Bill be given a Second Reading.

In the end, however, the Bill is just a framework. What we do with it will determine whether we are worthy of the responsibility that has been placed on us by previous generations, ourselves, our own actions and the power of nature. The question is not whether we can pass the Bill. I have no doubt that we will. The real question is: can we reduce our emissions? Can we bring about the low-carbon industrial revolution? The answer will depend in part on what all the nations of the world do between now and our meeting in Copenhagen in 18 months' time to reach a new climate agreement. Each country must make its contribution and each person must play their part. That is the nature of climate change—it affects us all. The best step that the UK can take is to show leadership at home.

On the evidence of the past 18 years, during which UK CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions have declined, what once seemed impossible has now become possible. That is progress, but we need much, much more of it. This Bill will help us to take those next steps on the most important journey that, we believe, faces humankind. I commend the Bill to the House.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 4:58 pm, 9th June 2008

May I begin by expressing my condolences to the Secretary of State, who is unwell? No doubt he is as unhappy as anyone that he cannot be here to introduce what is probably the most important environmental legislation for a generation. We wish him a swift recovery.

As the Minister will know, we support the Bill, welcome it and congratulate the Government on introducing it. It is fair to say that there was some initial reluctance to accept the need for a Bill to put greater rigour into our efforts to reduce emissions of climate change gases. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron, the Leader of the Opposition, for campaigning personally for the Bill. I hope that the numerous non-governmental organisations that have themselves campaigned for it so vigorously and commendably will agree that his commitment played a substantial part in persuading a previously sceptical Government that this was the right thing to do. But this is not a moment for party politics—

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Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths Labour, Edinburgh South

I take it that by a previous Government the hon. Gentleman means the previous Conservative Government. Does he accept that one of the biggest mistakes made by his party and by him personally was opposing the climate change levy, which has saved 28 million tonnes of carbon and 6 million tonnes every year? Why should he be right and all the environmental organisations wrong?

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I am sorry that I gave way to the hon. Gentleman, because he has made a silly and irrelevant point. We do not support the climate change levy because we do not believe that it does what it says on the tin; we think that it should be replaced with a carbon levy to address the problem of carbon. As for the previous Government, they of course set in motion the entire process of reducing climate change gases.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does my hon. Friend accept that merely labelling a tax with a polite name should not make it impossible for environmentalists to point out that some taxes work and some do not? We want a carbon tax that does the job properly, and is not a mere stealth tax that puts money into the Chancellor's pocket.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend, whose efforts in relation to climate change indeed date back to the previous Conservative Administration. He has made a compelling point. The last thing that anyone who cares for the environment needs or wants are stealth taxes dressed up as green taxes: that is a recipe for disaster. This Government have a habit of taking good words and prefixes and stuffing them into inappropriate contexts. I am reminded of the notion of eco-towns, which have very little ecological benefit.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I want to make progress.

I was speaking in a spirit of cross-party co-operation until the intervention of Nigel Griffiths. I have said for some years that we must have cross-party consensus if we are to rise to the challenges and opportunities presented by the need to deal with climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels. I do not intend to break that spirit of consensus this afternoon, but I am acutely aware that worrying precedents in earlier legislation were introduced with cross-party agreement. It is essential for any legislation, however mutually acceptable in principle, to receive its due share of scrutiny by Parliament.

In this case, I believe that the Government have approached the issue with appropriate caution and commendable thoroughness. It was right to place the proposals in the Bill before a Committee of both Houses, and I join the Minister in paying tribute to all who were involved in the pre-legislative scrutiny. I believe that we owe a particular debt of gratitude to Lord Puttnam, who chaired the Joint Committee with such skill and sensitivity. The House will also be grateful to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environmental Audit Committee, and to their respective Chairmen, my right hon. Friend Mr. Jack and my hon. Friend Mr. Yeo, for their role in scrutinising the Bill.

I also believe that it was right to introduce the Bill in another place in the first instance. As ever, their lordships did an excellent job of scrutinising and improving legislation. At the risk of jeopardising my desire to be non-party-political, I especially commend the Conservative Front-Benchers, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Earl of Cathcart and the Duke of Montrose—virgins all, I believe, in the arcane procedures of scrutinising legislation in Parliament—for their outstanding efforts. While I am about it, it would be wrong not to mention Lord Teverson who speaks for the Liberal Democrats and who, together with his colleagues, made a very helpful contribution to making the legislation better and more accountable—even if the occasional press release issued by Liberal Democrat headquarters smacked more of desperation than of responsibility. We believe that the changes made to the Bill in the other place represent a substantial improvement, and our approach to it in this House will be guided by a desire to retain, rather than to extend, its provisions.

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Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be foolish of this House to impose costs and obligations on businesses operating in Britain that are not matched by similar obligations elsewhere, as that would simply drive business overseas and not actually cut total carbon output?

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J

It would be foolish of the UK Government to fail to incentivise businesses and their customers to make changes towards a low carbon economy sooner rather than later. Other...

Submitted by John Byng Continue reading

Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend makes an important point that I will touch on later if he is patient and that will no doubt receive a lot of scrutiny in Committee. However, it is worth reiterating that we are not dealing here with trivial issues. The Climate Change Bill is a small but potentially important part of a global effort to reduce the impact that our generation of human beings is having on the ability of future generations to live in peace and prosperity.

I know that some people continue to doubt the scientific consensus that surrounds the United Nations approach towards measuring human responsibility for climate change. I am not a scientist, let alone a climate change scientist, but I suggest that it takes exceptional courage to disregard the view of 2,500 of the world's leading specialist scientists.

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Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory Conservative, Wells

I have read the intergovernmental panel report, and it surprises me that it makes no reference at all—not even in order to dismiss—to an alternative model of climate change developed by Henrik Svensmark and others, which attributes it to variations in cloud cover that are influenced by the sun's magnetic field. Regardless of whether that is right or wrong, it surely should have been addressed in a scientific report, because if it is not, there is a danger that it is not a scientific report, but more of a political one.

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m

i agree completely to much emphasis is bieng put on the "global warming" theory and whilst the goverment seems to have an endless pocket for green issuses they sre turning a blind eye to other possible explaintions. Another fault is that in a large majority of 2007 gcse questions were baised on the subject of unconditional...

Submitted by maxwell field Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend makes a familiar point, if I may say so. I can only repeat to him that it takes a great deal of courage to disregard the scientific consensus of the world's leading climate change scientists. However, even if one wishes and has the courage to do that, there are many things that we ought to be doing in any case, such as making ourselves less dependent on fossil fuels and being more sparing in our use of natural resources. I will address some of those issues shortly.

While we are addressing the science, however, let me commend to my right hon. Friend the words of someone who did take a degree in science: Margaret Thatcher. She said:

"Until recently, we have always thought that whatever progress humanity makes, our planet would stay much the same. That may no longer be true. The way we generate energy. The way we use land. The way industry uses natural resources and disposes of waste. The way our populations multiply. Those things taken together are new in the experience of the earth. They threaten to change the atmosphere above us and the sea around us. That is the scale of the global challenge."

Margaret Thatcher said that 20 years ago. We are not dealing with anything new here; this is familiar territory in terms of the scientific knowledge. She also said:

"It is no good squabbling over who is responsible and who should pay. Whole areas of our planet could be subject to drought and starvation if the pattern of rains and monsoons were to change as a result of the destruction of forests and the accumulation of greenhouse gasses".

Twenty years on, I suggest that it is not worth squabbling about the scientific evidence. Whether or not mankind or CO2 emissions are responsible, something is happening to the planet, to our ecology and to our economy that we cannot carry on ignoring.

Last year, the Artic summer ice reduction was 30 years ahead of the predicted melt rate forecast by NASA. If melting continues at this rate, the Arctic ice cap could completely disappear in the summer months before 2030. Average temperatures in Britain have risen by more than 1° C since the 1970s—almost twice as fast as the global rate of warming over the same period. Since the late 1990s, droughts and unusually hot summers have contributed to a fall in world grain yields, during which time the number of extra mouths to feed in the world has risen by more than 600 million.

Let us take just last year alone. Africa suffered the biggest flood in three decades, which hit 23 countries from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east, and affected more than 41 million people. Nepal, India and Bangladesh were hit by the worst flooding in living memory, and so it goes on. I do not imagine that anyone in this House fails to understand that the consequences of climate change are moral, social and economic, as well as environmental. The question is: what will this Bill do to address the problem?

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

My hon. Friend has not quite responded to the point made by my right hon. Friend Mr. Heathcoat-Amory. Some of us in the House deserve a bit of attention today, because it is the 25th anniversary of the 1983 intake into the House of Commons, so I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that there will be some indulgence for us this evening. My right hon. Friend was seeking to suggest that the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was politically motivated. Can my hon. Friend confirm that as far as the vast majority of us are concerned, these were scientists giving scientific advice? Indeed, Professor Spicer of the Open university, a constituent of mine, suggests that the IPCC underestimates the science. For example, he is concerned that

"the most recent Working Group 1 report admits that it deliberately ignores the most"—

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. This is very lengthy for an intervention when so many Back Benchers wish to contribute.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

That intervention, though lengthy, was getting more helpful as it went on, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is of course right: the intergovernmental panel and the scientists working on this issue work crab-wise and by consensus, so conservatism is built into the entire process by which they reach consensus. It is unfair to them and an unnecessary slur on their scientific integrity to accuse them of political bias.

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Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Labour, Nottingham South

Is not the truth that, even if we take the arguments of those who believe that this problem is to do with solar cycles rather than carbon emissions, the reality is that the world faces precisely the same crises? That carbon can act as a surrogate for huge changes in the way we live that will not otherwise address the shortages of water, insecurities of energy and the turbulence of climate change that we will have to manage.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Not for the first time, I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has an impeccable track record on these matters.

Of course I accept that there is no solution to the global climate challenge that is not itself global—that is taken as read—but if Britain wants to have credibility on the international stage, we must put our house in order first, and this Bill goes some way towards doing that. However, we should be more honest about our own emissions and our own contribution to the global problem. That means, among other things, including the contribution made by international transport in the calculations, as proposed in clause 30. I was very pleased and interested to hear what the Minister had to say about that earlier.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I must make progress.

We believe that the Bill, as amended in the Lords, is in pretty good shape. As I have said, we do not want to extend its scope beyond what has already been determined, but in particular we hope that the Government will not seek to weaken it and make it less effective as a means of ensuring British leadership in the global debate and in developing the technologies that we need to de-carbonise our economy.

Conservatives see the challenge of climate change as an opportunity, rather than as a threat. We in Britain are in danger of falling prey to the threat, rather than rising to the opportunity. My right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer, who intervened earlier, was absolutely right—dressing up stealth taxes as green taxes is a sure-fire way of alienating public opinion and should be avoided.

We are all too well aware of the rising costs of dependence on fossil fuels. Last week, the price of oil reached an all-time high. The consequences for consumers everywhere are enormous and bad. The rises in fuel and food prices are of course related. The prospect of an economic downturn only reinforces the need to become more energy-efficient, more fuel-efficient, more aware of the limits set by nature, more sparing of our use of natural resources, and more self-sufficient in energy and food. The need to be both greener and safer has never been more apparent, so this Bill is extremely timely.

As I have said, we do not want to extend the Bill's scope beyond the existing parameters, but we believe it important to retain what it comprises. In particular, we believe that it is important to retain clause 1, which establishes a principal aim

"to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to contribute to limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels."

I was disappointed to hear what the Minister had to say about the clause, but no doubt the issue will be further debated in Committee.

We also believe it right for the Prime Minister to be accountable for progress towards the targets set out in the Bill. I think that the Liberal Democrat spokesman recently said, when we shared a platform at a meeting on climate change—that is an occupational hazard—that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was a "piddling little Department." I know what he meant, because it is racked by funding crises, unpopular with the Treasury and disrespected by other Departments; DEFRA certainly has its problems. It is our ambition that the Department should do better. It holds a key position in the great debates of our time, on not only climate change—as if that were not enough—but food security, energy security, water supply and pricing, flooding, coastal erosion and the depletion of natural resources. DEFRA should be at the heart of the Government; it should not be marginalised, weak and ineffectual.

The Bill's provisions involve the whole of Government and the whole economy, not just one Department. It is therefore right for the Prime Minister to assume responsibility for progress towards meeting the targets to reduce climate change emissions. To anyone who says that this is unprecedented, the answer must be that we are dealing with an unprecedented challenge and an unprecedented opportunity for our country, and it is therefore right that the Prime Minister should have responsibility for reporting on progress as set out in clause 4.

We also believe it important to retain the provisions that aim to ensure that a majority of emissions reductions come from domestic sources, as opposed to being bought, like indulgences, in the often unreliable international credit market. Thus, I was sorry to hear what the Minister had to say about that earlier. We support these measures, not because we believe in wearing a hair shirt, but because we believe in opportunity—I am referring to clause 25.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

I am sure that it was a slip of the tongue and that the hon. Gentleman meant to say international carbon market, rather than the international credit market. Does he agree that London could assume an important role as an international trading centre, particularly if the Bill goes through and ours is the first country to achieve a law of this kind?

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman; indeed, London is already the global centre for the international trade in carbon. I meant to say carbon credits—both carbon and credits. By no means all the projects supported under that scheme are unreliable, but some of them are. The point is that we need to ensure that we are driving our domestic effort, as well as helping others around the world to contribute to their efforts. That is what is set out in clause 25. Ministers and other hon. Members may be aware of the joint statement put out on that very issue by WWF-UK and Scottish and Southern Energy in support of the clause. They state:

"A fundamental part of the ambition and purpose of the Bill is to provide a strong framework to guide a sustained decarbonisation of the UK economy."

They add:

"Relying significantly on emission reductions which take place overseas could influence long-term investment decisions here in the UK, particularly in the power sector—locking the UK into a high carbon economy for years to come".

The approach adopted by Scottish and Southern Energy underscores the vital commercial case for setting a framework in the Bill that will give investors the confidence that they need to take the bold decisions that will be needed to drive a dynamic, low-carbon economy, creating green growth and prosperity, and enabling the United Kingdom to take an international lead.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud

There can be no clearer way for individual households to play their part than by their agreeing to personal carbon allowances. What is the Opposition's view of them?

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Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Does my hon. Friend share my concern about the potential impact of this Bill on the costs of ordinary households? Paragraph 2.1.7 of the final impact assessment states:

"Higher fuel prices would decrease the costs of reducing emissions".

That implies that people who support this Bill are in favour of higher fuel costs, which are a great burden on the poor.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I am afraid that my hon. Friend appears to have misunderstood that point. If he is worried about rising domestic fuel bills, he should look at the current price of oil and worry about what continuing dependence on depleting fossil fuel reserves will do to domestic heating, water, transport fuel and every other kind of bill in the future. Consumers have real problems with these rising bills—I am afraid that we probably have not seen the half of it yet—and they are intimately related to our continuing dependence on unsustainable ways of living.

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J

Peter Ainsworth is right and one of the first things to tackle is the growth in aviation.

It is indefensible that the Government should facilitate further growth in aviation, as it is presently doing, when that oil is needed for domestic heating and other essential purposes.

Submitted by John Byng

Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

On the question of the impact of the Bill on business, does my hon. Friend agree that one reason for supporting the Bill is that it may accelerate the process through which British companies decarbonise their products? It will quickly give us a competitive advantage if our companies offer low-carbon products and services compared with those produced in other countries. Market instruments and even regulations may therefore be helpful to businesses in this case.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

I am grateful to my hon. Friend who chairs the Environmental Audit Committee and who has strong personal views on individual carbon trading. I am glad that he did not raise them with me this afternoon. He is right, and that point is central to the one that I am trying to make to the House. It is also integral to clause 12.

Indeed, the CBI has expressed its support for the setting of clear and stretching targets, and the structure of rolling carbon budgets, set three periods in advance. I am pleased that clause 12 now also includes a requirement for the Government to set out indicative annual ranges for the net UK carbon account within each five-year budget period. The CBI also supports the establishment of an independent, authoritative Climate Change Committee to provide advice and guidance on the effort needed to meet our obligations.

As I have said, it is fundamental to our approach that the implementation of measures enabled by this Bill is based on scientific knowledge: economic and social implications will also need to be taken into account, and it will be the role of the Climate Change Committee to do that. I was therefore concerned to read reports that Lord Turner, who was recently appointed to chair the committee, has already announced that he will leave it. I would be grateful if the Minister clarified Lord Turner's position when he responds to the debate.

One of the committee's first tasks will be to establish the adequacy of the carbon reduction targets set out in the Bill. I know that hon. Members will be aware of the vigorous campaign—it has already been mentioned this afternoon—to lift the long-term target for CO2 reductions from at least 60 per cent. to 80 per cent. As my hon. Friend Tony Baldry has pointed out, there are rational arguments for doing so. The 60 per cent. target is based on the advice of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution as it was offered eight years ago. The science has moved on since then. Few in the scientific community now believe that 60 per cent. will be adequate.

The Government will no doubt wish to consider these arguments carefully. Our view from the outset has been that it should be for the Climate Change Committee, not politicians, to determine the scale of the effort needed. The committee will need to have regard to the principal aim of the Bill—provided it is still there—when determining future targets. The scientific understanding of the scale of the challenge will continue to move and it is important to retain flexibility. In any case, I agree with those who have already said that it is meeting the nearer-term, rather than the longer-term, targets that will be critical to success or failure. We must set a short and medium-term trajectory to ensure that the principal aim of the Bill is met.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Is it not the case that this is not a purely scientific question but a political one? It is about how far what we do in this country contributes to the global total, and the science does not provide the whole answer. Surely there is a political dimension and we, as politicians, should take responsibility.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Indeed, we are all demonstrating that responsibility this afternoon.

I welcome part 4 of the Bill, which sets out measures to tackle the impact of climate change and the obvious need to adapt to it. I know that it will be particularly welcome to Rob Marris, who has been a tireless cheerleader for adaptation measures. I have never understood why there has been a stand-off between those who argue for efforts to mitigate the risks of climate change and those who argue for adaptation. We need both. The scientists tell us that even if we halted carbon pollution completely overnight, the effects of existing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will continue to be with us for years to come, so we need to prepare and to adapt. I welcome the creation in the Bill of an adaptation sub-committee to take the agenda forward.

There is some confusion over the Government's intentions regarding part 5, which deals with waste. The Minister shakes his head, but at present the Bill provides for up to five local authority areas to be designated as pilot areas for waste reduction schemes. Schedule 5 sets out the basis for such schemes and includes a provision allowing councils to charge households according to the amount of waste they produce. We in the Opposition would greatly prefer a system of rewards to a system of penalties and I reiterate our belief that any new green taxes should be offset by tax cuts elsewhere. The Secretary of State and his Ministers will be aware of recent press comments to the effect that sources close to No. 10 have decided that they do not want the Government to proceed with the scheme, and so the Government are teetering on the brink of yet another U-turn. Has the Minister spoken to the Prime Minister recently about the plans for variable waste charging? What did he say? What is the status of that measure?

The real test of the Bill will be whether it changes the mindset in Whitehall and Westminster to ensure that respect for the environment truly finds a place at the heart of policy making and Government practice. We must end the absurdity of the present situation, whereby DEFRA spends millions of pounds on public campaigns to get people to use energy more efficiently while the Department's use of energy is going through the roof.

We need the Government to lead by example. An approach based on, "Do as we say, not do as we do," will rightly be greeted with cynicism. Neither will we be successful in persuading the UK public or overseas Governments of our commitment to addressing climate change if, at the same time as preaching the low-carbon message, we usher in a massive expansion in aviation capacity, give the green light to the first new coal-fired power station for a generation without it providing for carbon capture and storage, or impose biofuels obligations on transport fuels without requiring that biofuels come from sustainable sources. It is madness to cut down the rain forest in the name of the environment.

If the Bill helps this and future Governments to be more consistent and coherent in their approach, it will deserve to be counted as a success. If it helps to unlock the creativity, imagination and resourcefulness of our industry and capital markets, making Britain a leader in the journey towards a prosperous, safer and greener world, future generations will look back on it with gratitude.

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Several hon. Members:

rose —

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind all right hon. and hon. Members that Mr. Speaker has imposed a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches?

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test 5:28 pm, 9th June 2008

We have heard this afternoon about one of the most important elements at the forefront of the need to pass the Bill resoundingly through the House: the international significance of what we do, and the way in which the Bill will be not just closely looked at elsewhere across the world, but seen in terms of the discussions that I hope will prove successful in developing international agreements on climate change as a serious and clear statement of this country's intent to play its full part in ensuring that climate change is combated both in this country and internationally.

If we are thinking about the international effect, perhaps we need look no further than the successful Democratic nominee for the US presidential election in November, who, as hon. Members have already indicated, has stated on his website and in his policy statements that he supports

"a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2050."

His website says:

"Obama's cap-and-trade system will require all pollution credits to be auctioned."

Obama goes further than that: he states in his election platform that he will require 25 per cent. of energy in the United States to be provided from renewable sources by 2025. Indeed, he wishes to set national building efficiency goals and

"to establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030."

Well, he is not quite there, as far as the Government are concerned, given their aims for zero-carbon housing, but it is fair to say that one can already see in that plan a number of echoes of what the Government have been doing on climate change and the necessary actions to mitigate it. One can say with reasonable fairness that already what is being done has received echoes in some of the most important parts of the world that will be necessary to ensure that our climate change goals are met.

The most important meat of the Bill is, of course, carbon budgets and driving down the carbon emissions that this country produces year by year, not just ensuring that, by 2050, we have a figure that looks right in 2050. As my hon. Friend the Minister has already emphasised, we need to ensure that the quantum of CO2 goes down every year and is not in the atmosphere at the end of the period and that that progress is made year on year. Therefore, the interim targets suggested in the Bill are equally important, as indeed are the trading arrangements that will enable those budgets to be maintained over that period.

Banking and borrowing in the trading system are important in the carbon budget system. We need to listen carefully to what the Committee on Climate Change advises, but it is vital that we make the very clear link between carbon budgets and real reductions in CO2. We cannot get to the 2050 targets just by trading off others; we must make our own binding and long-term reductions in CO2 emissions. Above all, that will help to shape what a real sustainable low-carbon economy will look like. Borrowing our way into claimed low-carbon economic practices will simply not give the shape to the components of that 2050 economy. It is important therefore that that part of the climate change procedure for carbon budgets is right. It was good that the Government moved in the Lords to eliminate the retrospective amendment of a carbon budget when its period is over for that reason.

It is important also that carbon budgets include all emissions. As we have heard this afternoon, that includes aircraft and shipping emissions, and the Committee on Climate Change should consider at an early stage how those are included under the Bill. Of course, it is essential that we understand the issues of measurement and the apportionment of responsibility. It is good that aviation is now included in the next stage of the European emissions trading scheme. However, to gain the real notion of what our emissions are, it is essential that such things are included, along with real reductions in carbon emissions year by year, in the carbon budgets at an early stage.

Trading is important, but it has to be in a system that gives persistent, long-term carbon value. The Bill will greatly assist us in achieving that because of the comprehensive nature of the inclusions through which carbon budgets work. The carbon commitment will underline how important that is. That is the long-term legacy of the Bill; it is not about some distant debate in 2051, when someone will stand at the Dispatch Box to account for where we have got to with emissions—that is, if the House is still above water then, and the targets have not been seriously missed. The Bill is not about that debate as much as about the fact that at all stages we will need real, measurable and accountable mechanisms that keep the UK up to speed and on track. If the debate is about the point in 2050 when we learn whether the targets have been met or not, the House will have missed its one chance to make sure that the targets are met. If in 2050 we realise that we did not get things right, it will not be a matter of being sorry; it will be a matter of the planet's future taking a very different direction from the one it would have done if we had got things right.

Getting the targets right will inevitably mean enormous changes to how energy is deployed, and to the use of renewables instead of the conventional fossil fuel that we have relied on for so many years. Of course, renewables are one of the greatest forms of insurance against rising fuel prices, because they allow us to secure energy that is based on a free source not subject to the price rises that occur as a result of the increasing scarcity of the fossil fuel supplied to developed economies. Getting the targets right will mean many changes, including enormous changes to how we plan our environment and create and dispose of waste. If we decide that we have to create a carbon value for exchange, we will have to do the same for waste and resources. We cannot create a carbon value for many things, but not do so for waste. We cannot continue to think of waste as something that we can throw around our environment, expecting it to be cleared up without taking any account of the consequences.

That future need not be frightening, but it will be very different, and it will require all parties, whatever party is in government, to maintain the commitments in the Bill. In a sense, the Bill is very different from virtually any other Bill that I have been concerned with in my time in the House, as we cannot take it to pieces at a future date if the fancy takes us. It involves the House making a commitment now if we are to ensure that the Bill stays on the statute book until a guaranteed low-carbon economy has been achieved.

In agreeing to the Bill's Second Reading today, we are declaring that we will not resile from its provisions. It is not a Bill that can be lost in limbo or watered down at a future date. It has to work, and it has to work now. I trust that that is the commitment that we in the House will all make when we agree to pass the Climate Change Bill, and I trust that we will make sure that it not only reaches the statute book but stays there—

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's time is up.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:38 pm, 9th June 2008

May I, too, wish the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs a speedy recovery from his ill health?

The Liberal Democrats welcome the Bill, but in this debate my worry is about the risk of complacency. There is a danger that we will congratulate ourselves on the first Climate Change Bill—that when we go home tonight having agreed to its Second Reading, as I am sure we will, we will say, "Haven't we done well?" when all that we have done is set a not very demanding target. Targets are all very well, but we all know that they have a knack of not being met when the target is only a few years away, let alone when it is a generation or more away—for example, the entirely laudable target of halving child poverty in two years. On the statistics, child poverty is going up. The target of abolishing fuel poverty for the vulnerable is due in a couple of years, and fuel poverty is going up. My concern about the Bill is that if it does not have teeth, we can set the most extraordinary targets we wish and we will be deceiving not only ourselves, but the rest of the world.

That is why it was regrettable that in his introduction the Minister said that the Government want to remove the teeth that were added in another place—the requirement to report to the Prime Minister. With due deference and no disrespect, I referred to DEFRA as a piddling Department. I also referred to it, mixing my metaphors, as a minnow among wolves; perhaps a minnow among sharks might have been a better description.

As DEFRA is not responsible for green taxation, transport emissions, housing, energy or any of the other principal sources of emissions, the worry is that no matter how noble and worthy a person they may be, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is just a small cog in a very big wheel. If we do not make the Head of the Government of the day responsible for the target, it will not get the priority it deserves and, like so many other targets, will be missed.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Special Envoy for Forestry

Will the hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to apologise to the many civil servants who faithfully give of their lives and their careers in the service of what we are discussing today, who are in DEFRA and who have worked tremendously hard to bring about the Bill? The hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Department as piddling are beneath him.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Au contraire. I do not want to put words in the mouths of civil servants, but I suspect that if I worked in DEFRA, I would want people batting for the Department, demanding a bigger, stronger role for it. I think the people who put the Bill together want it enacted and enforced, and if it is enforced by the Prime Minister, they will sleep happily in their beds at night.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

Is not the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, which was made by my hon. Friend Mr. Hurd, that the central issue is funding—for example, of the Committee on Climate Change? We saw DEFRA being rolled over on the rural payments scheme. The Treasury did not come to the rescue of DEFRA and say, "Terribly sorry, we have fallen foul of Brussels and here is some extra money." The Department just made consequential cuts in every other area of its spending.

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. As so many Back Benchers want to make a contribution to the debate, we must debate the Second Reading of the Climate Change Bill.

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

To implement the targets in the Bill will require funding. My worry about the Department responsible being DEFRA, not the Head of the Government, is that the budget of the Department is torn in many different ways. When it is struggling on the farming and rural affairs side, the environment side gets squeezed—as, for example, in the cuts to business recycling projects.

During the debate we have heard about cross-party consensus. The vital thing is that whichever of the three major parties is running the country in future, the Bill's targets are enforced. My worry is that we have had intimations this afternoon that if Mr. Ainsworth were in charge, he would have exactly the same problems as the Secretary of State will have.

The hon. Gentleman's "Dear Colleague" letter, which has mysteriously fallen into my hands, pre-empts the concerns that we have heard during the debate about the Bill. He is torn. I think he genuinely wants to go further, but his Back Benchers are trying to rein him in. If we had a change of Government, would we see the targets driven forward? The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill goes far enough already. No one out there in the scientific community thinks so.

I shall give an example. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am not a scientist but I know some people who are. On 21 January four eminent scientists wrote to the Prime Minister. Two of them are former chairs of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, who gave us the 60 per cent. figure in the first place, and the third is the current chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. They wrote an astonishingly brief letter headed, "UK Climate Change Bill targets are based on out-of-date science" and they say—I quote just one sentence:

"In tackling the global challenge of climate change, governments must follow the latest science that clearly shows the need for the UK to reduce its CO2 emissions by at least 80 per cent."

The last part of the sentence is in bold and is a simple, unqualified statement.

The Government's response throughout has been, "Maybe. We'll ask Adair Turner, if he has any spare time." The worry, however, is that even if Adair Turner and his friends come back with 80 per cent., the Government might not accept it.

Many Labour Members want 80 per cent., and I genuinely believe that there is support in all parts of the House. The hon. Member for Banbury supports early-day motion 736, which proposes an 80 per cent. target. But the Government's response to those who want the target has been to say, "We'll see what the Climate Change Committee says." If the Climate Change Committee proposes 80 per cent., we need to know that the Government will abide by it; otherwise, it is no reassurance at all.

That is my worry about what the Minister said. He was very clear and unequivocal, for which I thank him, but it alarmed me that his defence was, "We'll ask the committee." Even if the committee proposes 80 per cent., we might not get it, and that is not enough reassurance for me.

Barely can we open our newspapers without reading another report stressing the urgency of faster and deeper action than is in the Bill. Only last weekend, the Stockholm Network study said that on present policies we will miss our climate change goals in the United Kingdom and in the European Union. We need to go deeper, further and faster, but the worry is that we are relying on outdated science. If there were no number, there might be an argument. One might say, "The number is constantly moving," but the Government—quite rightly, in my view—decided to include a number in the Bill. If we are going to have a number in the Bill, it ought to be the right one, not the wrong one that everyone accepts is wrong but hopes someone will put right later. That should not be the basis on which we legislate.

We have already heard from the shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about some of the problems that will occur if we do not address climate change: the massive environmental migration, the flooding in some areas and the droughts in others, the impact on biodiversity and the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world being hardest hit. Because of that, and because I believe that many Members from all parts of the House are committed to going deeper, further and faster, we have today launched a campaign called CanvassYourMP.com, which is the reverse of the normal model whereby we canvass our constituents. The website went live today. Last week, I got together a group of—I feel a song coming on—10 green bloggers, sitting in a room here at Westminster, to ask, "How can we empower individuals who want climate change action but feel that they cannot get through?" They are the individuals who send the postcard and receive the standard reply from the parties, but feel that the message is not getting through.

CanvassYourMP.com has been put together by volunteers, and it is even hosted on a wind-powered web server, which is a nice touch. Every Member is listed on the site, and every Member's contacts details and surgery announcements are being posted. We would welcome to the site every Member from every party stating their position on the 80 per cent. issue. We want constituents to go in person, to talk to Members and to tell them about the issue. Many Members from all parts of the House support 80 per cent., and I would very happily put all their pledges on to the site. We want to get together a popular movement to convey to Ministers in particular the strength of public opinion.

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Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths Labour, Edinburgh South

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's contribution, but will he sign up to the campaign that I support, calling for wind generators both onshore and offshore? Will he repudiate all those Liberal Democrat Members and councils who get up a petition and oppose every single one of them?

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is not accurate to say that Liberal Democrat councils oppose every single application. We have a process of local democracy, which is quite right and proper. I, like the hon. Gentleman, support an enhanced role for wind power, and I support his early-day motion 736. I congratulate him on tabling it. As of the end of today, with the exception of our party leader, who does not sign early-day motions, every single Liberal Democrat Member will have signed it. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman because the number of Labour Members who support its call for an 80 per cent. cut is 167; many of them are in the Chamber.

If all Members who have signed the motion vote for it, provided the Conservative party does what it did in the House of Lords on the 80 per cent. issue and abstains, we will win. That is an exciting prospect. If simply those Members who have signed the motion, plus ourselves, vote for it, and the Conservatives do not block the 80 per cent. target—I hope that the hon. Member for East Surrey will not try to do so—we can achieve it. It would be a fantastic achievement.

We have discussed the Bill's provisions on aviation and shipping. Hon. Members may have been reassured by what the Minister said, but if they look at the transcript they will see that it was not reassuring at all. One of the provisions on aviation and shipping is that the Government can come back in five years' time and tell us that they could not do it, as stated in clause 35(1)(b). Saying that they want to include aviation and shipping but might come back in five years' time and say that it could not be done is not terribly reassuring. Aviation is the most rapidly growing source of emissions—on some projections it could be the whole of what is left by 2050 if we get 80 per cent. cuts—yet the Government have that opt-out. That is profoundly worrying.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government would be much more credible in this area if we saw them leading a real argument in the European Union by, for example, insisting that EU ports were able to insist on improved use of low-emission sea fuel, and that we should be leading the fight in the EU not to build new airports but to make better use of the old ones?

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J

Yes John Gummer is spot on. The way in which the Government is facilitating the expansion of air transport is not consistent with its environmental objectives and is very short sighted in view of recent and likely future oil...

Submitted by John Byng Continue reading

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman is spot on; I absolutely agree. The Department for Transport's policy on airport expansion and our failure to give a lead in Europe are riding roughshod over Government policy in DEFRA.

We have talked about how much of the effort has to be made domestically. The Government have said how great it is that we have had all this parliamentary scrutiny, but most of the big changes are going to be taken out again. That is not my understanding of the meaning of scrutiny. The Government want to get through the whole Committee stage in less than two and a half weeks. We are told that this is the biggest issue facing the future of the planet, but two and a half weeks is supposed to be long enough to kick it around. This Bill needs serious scrutiny.

Members in the other place were right to come up with the limit on the extent to which we can buy in. We need an overwhelmingly domestic effort on cutting carbon emissions. As the Conservative spokesman said, quoting Scottish and Southern, there is a strong case for our taking the lead in this respect. In a different section of its briefing, it said:

"Emissions trading is a cost effective way of reducing emissions for countries who have difficulties in delivering their own emissions reductions, but the UK is blessed with the greatest potential resource of renewable energy in Europe".

In other words, there may be countries that cannot make the transition quickly enough and need to buy in from elsewhere, but we are not one of them. We have huge potential to do the job ourselves, to take a lead, and to be a great green-collar-job economy, but we are missing it. I understand that the Danish economy now gets more money from the sale of renewable energy and renewables than it does from selling bacon—unless the Danes are telling porkies, that is. There is huge potential in this area. The worry about buying in carbon reductions is that it means that money flows out of the UK, sometimes to schemes such as the clean development mechanism where there are concerns about their certification. We could be investing and locking ourselves into a low-carbon economy, yet we are putting off the evil day and potentially saying yes to new high-carbon technologies such as new coal-fired power stations. That must be the wrong route. The UK could be a leader instead of trying to buy its way out of trouble.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am listening to the hon. Gentleman's argument very carefully. I agree with his point, but the other side of the equation is how we ensure that carbon markets can transfer money and technologies to the developing countries to ensure that they can have prosperity and clean energy. What is his policy on that?

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Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is an unnecessary either/or. We can establish the UK as a low-carbon economy, and over and above that, as part of our international development effort, invest around the world in certified renewable schemes—but not as a cop-out for not doing it ourselves. That is the difference between our position and that of the Government.

The Government want to water down other aspects of the Bill, including the reporting clause inserted by my noble Friend Baroness Miller. We will merely have Government guidelines and, no doubt, more consultation, when what is needed is urgent action. The Government are going to remove the clause on the Bill's stated purpose inserted by Conservative Members in another place and leave in a target that everyone accepts is out of date, and then think that the job has been well done. That is not our view of a job well done.

Adaptation has rightly been raised. It is welcome that changes made in another place on that issue will at last be accepted. We need to think much harder about the fact that climate change is happening and will happen. There is already a lot in the system; we need to respond to that and there needs to be proper resourcing for doing so, which all too often there is not.

It would be nice to be able to welcome the Bill unequivocally, but the problem is that we may lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We may think, "We've passed a Climate Change Bill; we've ticked that box", when in fact the battle is only beginning. That battle must be across Government—this must come from the top—and must involve bold, ambitious targets that are not just for 2050; the interim targets need to be raised proportionately as well. We need regular annual reporting, not merely the "not in my term of office" targets that can all too easily slip.

During the Bill's very short Committee stage, we will fight the Government's attempt to reverse the sensible changes made in another place, and when we return to debate it in this House we will certainly seek to increase the target to 80 per cent. I hope that every hon. Member who is approached by a constituent is able to see them to talk it through, and that the CanvassYourMP.com campaign will mobilise people across the country to ensure that we get what the majority of the British public want—a Climate Change Bill with real teeth that can really deliver.

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Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang Labour, Edinburgh East 5:56 pm, 9th June 2008

Surely no challenge facing the world today is more urgent than that of climate change. About 20 years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up. I think that the IPCC reflects the scientific position in the world today, notwithstanding some of the comments that we have heard during the debate. The excellent assessment report that it published last year concluded that warming of the climate system is unequivocal, with many natural systems now affected. It reported that there is now greater than 90 per cent. certainty that most of the increase in global average temperature since the mid-20th century was caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. The panel states that, with varying degrees of likelihood, human influence has contributed to a range of changes, including sea level rises, changes in wind patterns, a greater risk of heat waves, an increased area affected by drought and a higher frequency of heavy precipitation events.

The human, ecological and economic cost of doing nothing would be enormous. The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, of which I am a member, recently took evidence from Lord Adair Turner, who is still chair of the shadow Committee on Climate Change, whatever the future may hold. He put up a most impressive performance in front of my Committee, and it would be a great pity if he moves away from that position. He stated succinctly that a temperature rise of 3° C would be "really worrying" and that one of 4° C would be "very scary indeed." We can look to the IPCC report to see the outcomes that such temperature increases would bring. Many parts of the world would see coastal and flash flooding, while many would suffer from drought. Agricultural production would be severely compromised in many areas, especially in Africa, and species would face extinction. Of course, the poorest countries will be hit earliest and hardest by climate change, though they have done little to cause the problem.

The most important recent UK publication on climate change has undoubtedly been the Stern report. Lord Stern concluded that the economic damage done by failing to tackle climate change could, as the Minister said, rival the great depression and the world wars and would be difficult or impossible to reverse. The great achievement of Nicholas Stern's report was to show us that the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs, and that if the investments are made wisely those costs will be manageable. Lord Stern found that the annual cost of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations at 500 to 550 parts per million of CO2 equivalent would be around 1 per cent. of gross domestic product by 2050—an economic price that is significant but manageable, and small relative to the costs and risks of the climate change that need to be avoided. As the science moves forward, we must consider whether it is enough for the world to seek to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at 500 to 550 parts per million of CO2 equivalent, or whether we must aim lower still. The long-term objective must be to drive greenhouse gas emissions down to the level that the Earth can absorb. Lord Stern advised that that would mean a cut of more than 80 per cent. in the absolute level of current annual emissions. The UK has made progress against its targets, and the Government should take credit for our being on track to meet the Kyoto target.

We must also look at current trends and where they will take us. UK greenhouse gas emissions are no longer declining; our emissions have been on a plateau for the last few years, largely due to ever-increasing emissions from transport. If the UK is to do what is necessary to play our part in preventing catastrophic climate change, we have to take stronger action. There is a sense in the House today that we will have to go down that road—there has been an impressive consensus and the Minister showed great flexibility in opening the debate. He made it clear that the Government are prepared to listen, and the Opposition are also part of that consensus.

The Bill will enshrine our longer-term greenhouse gas emission targets into law, including the commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050. But the science has changed, and the IPCC report did not go into some of the risks that could mean that the situation is more serious than the percentages indicate—what have been described as feedback loops and tipping points. We could get to a point where things begin to accelerate and to get out of control. An example of a feedback loop given by scientists is the melting of the polar ice caps. At the moment, solar radiation and heat bounce off the ice and are not absorbed, but with the melting of the ice, the sun's heat will be absorbed by the darker water of the ocean. That adds to the problem by creating temperature rises, and more ice melts as a consequence. Such feedback loops mean that there is a worry that things could get less predictable than the IPCC's report suggests.

The maximum level of greenhouse gas concentration possible before the world is at significant risk of catastrophic temperature rise is lower than we previously thought. I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members believe that we should commit to reducing emissions from 1990 levels by 80 per cent. by 2050. Reference has already been made to the fact that international aviation and shipping are excluded and I will not dwell on that. There is a will in the House that we must address the issue. It is complicated, but that is not a justification for not seeking to incorporate such emissions in our target. It will leave a huge hole in our approach if we do not do that, which is particularly the case in aviation. Shipping is also obviously a serious matter, but aviation emissions are growing rapidly.

As electricity generation is the UK's largest single producer of carbon dioxide emissions, I am sure that the House will want to consider the means of making our electricity production less environmentally damaging. In that context, we should welcome the statement by the Crown Estate last week that 11 areas of the sea bed around the UK are being designated for offshore wind turbines. There is a growing momentum behind the development of wind power, but we must not concentrate just on that. Other important renewable sources offer tremendous potential for producing energy, such as tidal power, sea barriers, solar and geothermal energy, which will all have to be exploited. We have to be prepared to encourage investment and to invest directly in the securing of more of our electricity from those sources.

The global use of fossil fuels is still expanding. Given the rapid growth in the number of power stations, especially coal-fired stations, in countries such as China, we need to have carbon capture and storage up and running urgently or we will have little or no chance of keeping temperature rises within tolerable levels. That point was made by Lord Adair Turner in his evidence to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Here in the UK, coal is still the source of about a third of our electricity, and new plant is planned. It was a pity that the co-operation with BP on the carbon capture and storage facility at Peterhead did not develop, but it is important that Britain takes the opportunity to develop the expertise needed, which will be economically beneficial to us in the medium to long term. While the Government's competition for a full-scale demonstration plant for CCS is welcome, the winning plant will not be built until 2014, and even then the CCS element need not be fully operational. The response to the potential of CCS should be on a larger scale and of greater urgency. Given the associated higher costs, CCS will need ongoing support.

In conclusion, this is one of those pleasant days in the House of Commons when there is a consensus. We know that the Government have taken an important initiative, and people have acknowledged that, in a sense, they are a world leader. That is not to say that the Bill cannot be improved. There is a will in all parties to improve it even more. As has been pointed out, very fairly, targets are important and we want to get them right, but at the end of the day, the crunch will come when we decide how to rise to the challenge of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 6:06 pm, 9th June 2008

I draw the House's attention to my entry in the Register of Members' Interests.

It is a pleasure to follow Dr. Strang, whose work on the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is well known. I congratulate the Minister on his speech and on the way in which he handled a large number of interventions. He did so with the same courtesy and reasonable directness of response that he showed in his appearances before the Environmental Audit Committee, which I Chair. I congratulate the Government on introducing this measure, but the Opposition also deserve congratulations. Undoubtedly, they have helped to pave the way through the very strong support that my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron has given on this issue. I warmly congratulate the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Mr. Ainsworth, with whom I have done a sort of job swap during the past three years. I must say that I am very happy with the one I now have—I have more staff and better pay.

The worst job in the whole of politics right now must be to be Chancellor of the Exchequer to the current Prime Minister. In 1993, I was the Minister of State dealing with climate change—I am glad to see my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer here today, who was Secretary of State at that time—and it was almost the worst job, because climate change was not a mainstream subject then. If someone raised it at a dinner party, people thought that they were some sort of freak. Apart from scientists or paid-up green campaigners, no one had actually heard of it.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I have respect for the hon. Gentleman as the Chair of the Committee of which I am a Member, but he may like to know that the Liberal Democrats already had policies on binding targets for reducing carbon emissions in those days.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

The results achieved by the Liberal Democrats at that time clearly show that they were regarded as freakish.

This Bill is very important, and it should help to maintain Britain's international leadership of the climate change debate. That leadership was of course established originally by Baroness Thatcher in her famous speech almost two decades ago. She was the first Head of Government of any serious country in the world to address the issue of climate change. That leadership role has been maintained under successive Governments of both parties. What has changed since 1993 is our understanding of climate change. It has been transformed. The science now makes it clear, in a compelling way, that the threat is far bigger and more urgent not to the planet, which will certainly survive, but to the survival of a recently arrived species on the planet—human beings.

The economics are also better understood. I pay warm tribute to Lord Stern, whose report has helped to maintain Britain's influence on the subject internationally. His report shows that action today would be far cheaper and more cost-effective than action taken in five or 10 years' time. I welcome the Bill, and I shall comment on one or two of its detailed provisions in a moment. First, it is important to remember—in the spirit of cross-party consensus, I think that the Liberal Democrat spokesman made this point—that in passing the Bill we must not ignore some other rather uncomfortable facts, one of which is that Britain, in common with every other country in the world, is not even remotely near achieving the sort of pathway towards the extent of greenhouse gas cuts necessary if we are to get anywhere near meeting the targets in the Bill, let alone those that may be decided necessary in future. In energy, transport and the built environment, low-carbon technology is available but not used. We clearly need more low-carbon electricity generation, but it looks as though Britain will build a new coal-fired power station before a new nuclear power station. That is extraordinary. We need more incentives to encourage distributed generation, such as micro-combined heat and power and so on. Huge opportunities are still being ignored.

On surface transport, low-emission cars and trucks are available today, but the incentives to switch to them remain grossly inadequate. While other countries, such as France and Spain, have or are rolling out high-speed rail networks, Britain builds new airports and does not invest in the sort of high-speed rail links that would transform our domestic transport industry.

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Photo of Colin Challen Colin Challen Labour, Morley and Rothwell

I, too, am a member of the hon. Gentleman's Committee. I am pleased to serve under his leadership, as I was pleased to serve under that of his predecessor. However, he is wrong to say that we are not offering incentives for low-carbon transport. I drive a Smart car, which is taxed at £35 per annum—£100 less than I used to pay for a larger vehicle. Is not that an incentive? Does he believe that his party should be a bit clearer and more focused, and support our changes to vehicle excise duty?

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I am delighted to respond to the hon. Gentleman, who is a close and highly valued colleague on my Committee. I strongly support—and have consistently supported—a switch to much higher VED rates for new cars. That is a direct incentive when people replace their vehicle for them to switch to a low-carbon alternative. I believe that my Front-Bench colleagues share that position. We believe that the changes that the Chancellor announced this year for new vehicles are fully justified and will provide a strong incentive. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman drives a Smart car. I am happy to say that I have a liquefied petroleum gas taxi parked in the Members' car park. It is not only cheap to run but free of the congestion charge.

Energy efficiency standards for the built environment are being tightened only slowly. Incentives to decarbonise the existing housing stock and, indeed, other existing buildings, are notable by their almost complete absence. Again, the technology is available.

The three sectors—electricity generation, transport and the built environment—account for a huge proportion of emissions. We could take steps today, with no disruption to people's lifestyles and little cost to the overall economy, even in the short term, and some benefit in the long term, to increase greatly the change to a low-carbon economy, but we are not doing that.

I am delighted that the Minister shares my view of the importance of the interim target. What we do between now and 2020 is far more important than arguing about whether the 2050 target should be 60 per cent., 80 per cent. or even 95 per cent. The next decade or so will define whether we limit the global temperature rise to an average of 2° C. If we do not make progress soon, the action needed will be far more expensive, disruptive and uncomfortable for people in all parts of the world. I will seek to toughen the 26 per cent. target for 2020 in clause 6.

I want to endorse the concerns about the continued exclusion of aviation and shipping from greenhouse gas calculations. That makes no sense. The arguments have been well rehearsed. I know the answer on aviation—it will come into the EU emissions trading scheme in due course—but we have no idea about whether the date that the Minister has in mind will be achieved or the terms on which aviation will be included. It is all pie in the sky at this stage. We should make a commitment in Britain to take a lead and say that aviation and shipping should be included.

A great deal of faith has been placed in the wisdom of the Committee on Climate Change and I hope that it lives up to it. I was dismayed when I read of Lord Turner's appointment to the Financial Services Authority. In conversation last week, he told me that he does not expect to stay on as chairman of the committee beyond next February. That is a pity, although he may remain a member. I hope that the Government will give their urgent attention to finding a replacement who commands the same respect in business and politics. In a spirit of bipartisanship, perhaps the Government should consult the Opposition about the appointment of a successor. Indeed, my Committee would be happy to make some suggestions, too.

Although I acknowledge that Britain must decarbonise its economy, the overriding need in the next decade is to cut emissions globally. The benefit to the planet is equal from any cut in emissions, regardless of where it is achieved. I am therefore much more relaxed than some of my colleagues in this House and the other place about letting developed countries buy, in the short term, carbon credits to meet the targets abroad. That may be the fastest and most cost-effective way to cut emissions.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey was measured about personal carbon trading when it was raised in an intervention. He knows that I support the concept and that my Committee has just published a report about it. I was dismayed that the Government appear to have dropped their interest in the subject. The previous Secretary of State, David Miliband, was positive and engaged in the debate about it. I regret that the Government have put it on the backburner. At the very least, it is surely worth examining in more detail. It is complicated and has some difficulties, but it could be the single most powerful incentive for individuals to make low-carbon choices in a range of daily decisions.

I strongly support the Bill because it is good for Britain and the world. Countries at the forefront of tackling climate change do the right thing not only environmentally but economically. Decarbonising our economy, especially our transport infrastructure, will give Britain a huge competitive advantage. It is not some terrible burden that we have to bear, but something that will give us a head start economically. It is right to encourage and incentivise businesses to offer their customers low-carbon alternative products and services. As long as the regulations involved recognise the industry's investment, even forcing them to make that switch could be beneficial for business.

I will not only support the Bill but try to strengthen it, though I wish to make it clear to the Whips that I do not want to do that as a member of the Public Bill Committee—I will reserve my strength for Report. I warmly commend the Bill to the House.

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Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy Labour, Plymouth, Sutton 6:17 pm, 9th June 2008

I welcome the Bill, especially the contribution made to it by hon. Members through the Joint Committee on the draft Bill and the reports of the Environmental Audit Committee and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. I also welcome the contribution of the many non-governmental organisations and of the scientists who have informed the debate so far. It is right that scientists are at the forefront of the evidence base for what we are setting out to achieve.

Instincts also go a long way, and I especially thank the local climate change panel that advised me and helped me to contribute what I hope were informed comments to some of the early consultation stages that led to the Bill. The panel includes scientists and someone who works for the South West Observatory, which is based at Plymouth university. It is helping to prepare our public organisations and services to do what they will have to do to help us meet the targets that the Bill introduces.

At a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association seminar, I heard Jonathon Porritt, who has given good service on our regional development agency, put the case with the greatest clarity. He talked about canaries in the mine. For me personally, the urgency of the position hit home when he made that speech. He spoke about the melting of the permafrost in Siberia, the Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice cap; the CO2 absorption rates in the oceans and ocean acidification; and the drying up of the Amazon rain forest. There are many more examples that one could list. People understand and want to learn what to do, and the Bill will, I hope, set the framework for encouraging them to take action constructively and change behaviour in a way that will make a difference.

Plymouth is well blessed with scientists in both the health and marine sectors. I am particularly grateful to the Royal Society for the opportunity to link up with a Royal Society fellow, Dr. Richard Kirby, and learn about his work on the long-term plankton data set, which is held by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science. That also helped me to get my head round the important role that the oceans play. We talk about climate change, but 71 per cent. of the earth's surface is oceans. The complexity of the feedback systems, which are discussed in many arenas, is infinitely greater in the world's oceans and give increasing cause for concern.

There are still some who say that the increasing scientific consensus is a conspiracy, but in my experience scientists are cautious and like everything to be peer reviewed. Increasing numbers of the scientists whom I know locally have come up to me over the past year and quietly said, "Linda, we really are worried about what is happening. Urgent action needs to be taken."

The Bill will prove to be just in time, but it is important to get it right. We are, of course, not the first to legislate on such matters, but the comprehensive nature of what is set out in the Bill is unmatched and is set to provide a framework that others will come to use. It is therefore important that the Bill is workable. Never, perhaps, has it been more important that legislation should be of the highest quality.

The path to where we are today has shown how difficult the challenge for everyone is. Our delivery of emissions reductions has been challenged by the growth in our economy and our prosperity over the past decade. Growth in countries such as India and China will make it difficult to arrive at a post-Kyoto settlement, and our challenges will probably pale into insignificance. The Bali conference and beyond means that we need to succeed in establishing something that works and that engages across all sectors. Hon. Members have already talked about the need to tackle the issue across the piece, from the energy used in business and the home to transport, including shipping and aviation.

Bald targets do not always do that, however. Ones that have been carefully crafted and fully examined, and take the realities of implementation into account are far more likely to deliver. A lot has been said about 60 versus 80 per cent. I would be surprised if the Committee on Climate Change did not recommend tightening the reduction, for the reasons that my right hon. Friend Dr. Strang outlined. Indeed, he quoted Adair Turner himself saying as much to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The debate about annual targets has moved on, recognising their limitations. The provisions in the Bill dealing with annual reporting to Parliament and the consequences of any slippage are very important in that context and should rightly engage hon. Members considering the Bill in Committee.

I greatly welcome what my hon. Friend the Minister said about a stronger commitment in the Bill on aviation and shipping emissions. I take that as representing the Government's confidence that the work that we have been doing to bring about an EU emissions trading scheme as soon as possible, hopefully to be followed by an international trading scheme, is going well.

Finally, I want to touch on the media. Steve Webb said that one has only to read the papers to find stories setting out the alarming situation that we all face. However, Maxwell Boykoff and Maria Mansfield of the environmental change institute at Oxford university have conducted some interesting research on the reporting of the human contribution to climate change in the UK tabloid press. They have examined the coverage between 2000 and 2006, and shown that it diverged from the scientific consensus. Although the scientific consensus on the challenges that we face became stronger over the period discussed, the tabloid papers did not reflect that; indeed, reporting diverged from that consensus. From interviews conducted as part of that research, Maxwell Boykoff and Maria Mansfield suggest that inaccurate reporting may be linked to the lack of specialist journalists.

I am not sure how the provisions in the Bill could help to change that situation, but change it should. I hope that the further consideration of the Bill in Committee will at least encourage a better understanding, but that will happen only if the debate from here on is responsible and does not run away from the political leadership that is necessary to avoid people being put off by the unnecessary fog of political game-playing. I am referring specifically to the labelling of difficult decisions, which will be unpopular but necessary, as stealth taxes. That also applies to becoming too distracted by the argument about setting the target at either 60 or 80 per cent.

The Copenhagen conference in 18 months' time will be stronger, better informed and more likely to arrive at realistic and effective decisions that are in our interests and those of the world in which we live if we get this Bill right.

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Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee) 6:26 pm, 9th June 2008

I rise to support the Bill. I want to concentrate my remarks largely on clause 11, paying particular attention to the international matters that the Secretary of State must take into account when setting carbon targets; and on clause 13, which states that any proposals and policies prepared to meet our carbon budget should "contribute to sustainable development". If I have time, I shall also say a little about waste reduction. I mention that to ensure that I remain in order when I mention the passionate subject of rain forests, which are part of the overall sustainable development plan and play a key role in dealing with climate change.

It is almost 16 years to the day since I last addressed this subject. I quote from The New York Times of 7 June 1992:

"Diplomats attending the Earth Summit said today that they had achieved a broad consensus in favor of setting up a high-level watchdog group to insure that governments respect the pledges they make here...'There is growing acceptance that the follow-up to the Rio summit should be entrusted to a Sustainable Development Commission,' said Britain's Environment Minister, David Maclean, a leader of the push for the new agency. 'It will be a forum for peer pressure that will identify gaps and problems.'"

I quote that because I want to emphasise to the Government that concern about climate change did not start in 1997. With the nicest will in the world, the Government tend to think that all history began in 1997. However, in 1992 I had the privilege of leading for the Government at Rio, doing most of the negotiations until, as usual, the Prime Minister arrived in the last few days to sign up to all the things that we had agreed.

A few weeks later, I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the European Community at the plenary session of the United Nations General Assembly, where I said:

"Unless we proceed rapidly to the implementation of the progress we made in Rio, the hours we spent on negotiation will all be for naught."

I went on to describe

"the progress made within the EC towards implementation of the commitments made in Rio. At the European Council in Lisbon after the Earth Summit," we

"committed to an eight-point plan including: stabilizing CO2 emissions at the 1990 level by the year 2000; ratification of the Climate Change Convention by the end of 1993; early ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity; preparation of national biodiversity strategies; an international review process for the statement on forest principles by the CSD; and EC support for the establishment of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee".

Again, those matters were all set up before we had the Kyoto protocol. Of course we support what was achieved at Kyoto, but I remind the House once again that the previous Government were there; we got the T-shirt about cutting carbon emissions long before many people realise.

When I reported to the UN, I was very keen that we adopt the schedule on forest principles that was devised at Rio. I hope that we are successful in meeting our targets. I will not enter into the debate—I may not be fortunate enough to serve on the Committee—about whether the target should be 60 per cent., 80 per cent. or even 100 per cent. What came across strongly to me at the meetings I held at Rio as a new Minister in the then Department of the Environment was that the G77, incorporating our Commonwealth links, and the G7, including our American friends, depended on Britain as the key player to help persuade others. Britain played a key role. We still have the lead and are internationally respected on these matters, and we must not lose it. What came across to me loud and clear was that many of the principal nations of the G77—China, India, the tiger economies—believed that climate change was an excuse for the developed world to hold them back. They said, "You only want us to sign up to these binding targets so that you, the western world, can maintain your primacy in development and we, the third world, will not be allowed to catch up." Many of them made it very clear that they would sign up to climate change measures only if we, the developed world, would give them something in return. It struck me then that we had to do more on carbon sinks, afforestation and reafforestation.

I understand that part of the mechanisms in the Bill will provide for carbon credits and the marketing of carbon sinks. Some of the argument for carbon sinks has fallen into disrepute, perhaps because some of the carbon sinks traded as credits are not genuine or viable. There is nothing moral or right about cutting down millions of hectares of Brazilian rain forest, Papua New Guinea forest or forests in Malaysia and Indonesia to plant millions of acres of palm oil in order to produce biofuels. Those are not genuine carbon sinks. I totally support the trading of carbon credits for pristine, virgin rain forests, as I am desperately concerned that we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. That is also part of the Bill's aims, although it is not specifically mentioned. Sustainable development is, I suppose, as close as we come to maintaining biodiversity.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does my right hon. Friend agree that trading is the mechanism by which the rich countries can ensure that the poorer countries can grow in a more environmentally friendly way? It is a debt that we owe them because we caused the problem in the first place; we have grown rich on the pollution that we caused.

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Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Chair, Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee), Chair, Statutory Instruments (Select Committee)

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course we must aim for a lower carbon economy in this country; of course we must reduce our own carbon use. However, I agree with my hon. Friend Mr. Yeo, the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, that it is not enough for Britain to meet its target when we produce just 2 per cent. of the world's carbon dioxide. Unless we do something for China, India and the developing countries, they are not going to sign up to lower carbon emissions. It is a long time since I negotiated with Environment Ministers from those countries and perhaps the mood has changed, but I suspect that many of them still regard the climate change debate as a western plot to hold them back. They are certainly not going to meet the targets that we are imposing on ourselves, but that is not to say that we in Britain should not accept those targets. Of course we should show leadership, but let us be in no doubt that many of the largest polluters—not even to mention the United States—are not going to accept the targets set out in the Bill. We must have a valid carbon trading credit mechanism and it is crucial for it to be sustainable. There is so much more that we can do to help the developing world by carbon trading so that we can keep the essential biodiversity that we need.

I am not going to enter into arguments with my hon. Friends about whether the Amundsen sea embayment is retreating at 1 m or 0.7 m a year. Clearly, there is a serious depletion of ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps. I will leave others to argue whether it is temporary and whether it is caused by sunspots or by CO2 emissions. What concerns me is that we are clearly losing our rain forests; we are losing the lungs of the earth, and we should be doing much more to ensure that we keep them. I would be perfectly happy if, in order to keep those rain forests, we needed to help by forcing our big companies to cut back on some of their carbon emissions—and if they cannot cut back more than a certain level, there should be a carbon trading credit scheme so that money is given directly to the parts of the world with the rain forests.

I had no idea how serious was the loss of rain forest in Papua New Guinea. Why does it matter if that country loses its rain forests? Could it not plant date palms instead? Well, Papua New Guinea has between 6 and 8 per cent. of the world's biodiversity. Yes, we can show emotive pictures of polar bears struggling to find icebergs to sit on, but my key worry is not so much for the polar bears as for the bumble bees. If we were to lose some of the less cuddly species such as insects that pollinate, one day, the world would actually starve.

We are heading for world food shortages and goodness knows how that is going to pan out. I had the privilege of meeting the Secretary of State to discuss this matter recently; he was kindly meeting many colleagues from all political parties. I was impressed with how he was switched on to this item. I hope that he makes a speedy recovery.

In addition to building measures on climate change into the Bill, we have a golden opportunity to tackle the problems of loss of biodiversity and to make for a more sustainable agriculture throughout the world. These are not matters that I can deal with in a Second Reading speech today, but the Bill does not preclude them. I would like to explore further with the Government, perhaps on Report, what other matters they intend to take into account in clauses 11 and 13. The proposals and policies must, taken as a whole, be such as to contribute to sustainable development—and I understand that to mean sustainable development throughout the world, not just in the UK. I hope that we are able to explore the Government's intentions further at that stage. Yes, it is vital to do all the things that the Bill provides for, but we must also keep an eye on the rest of the world.

In the 30 seconds left to me, let me say that this Bill is too important to allow it to be polluted by policies on waste reduction and recycling that are to be implemented by five target councils in the country. Too many of my constituents and I are getting a bit cynical about the policies of recycling. We do not mind doing the council's dirty work for it—I do not mind recycling by putting my plastic in one box and my glass in another—but I do not expect to pay the same community charge without getting a better service. I am happy to recycle everything, including polystyrene, but if we are to go down that route, local authorities must not charge us for things that they cannot do themselves.

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Photo of Colin Challen Colin Challen Labour, Morley and Rothwell 6:38 pm, 9th June 2008

I, too, welcome the Bill, which shows genuine leadership on climate change. Indeed, that leadership has brought about a degree of consensus in the House. I welcome the Bill because it imposes a legal duty on the Government to continue to work on the mitigation of climate change, even when in future we may encounter more political pressure for adaptation: the two should not, of course, be juxtaposed. We all know, however, that if we told constituents that we were going to solve their flooding problems by putting up a wind farm, they would laugh in our faces and demand immediate action—on the grounds of adaptation—to address their particular concern.

I welcome most, if not all, of the amendments made in the other place. They have strengthened the Bill, but it needs further strengthening. In saying that, I refer Members to the words of Dr. James Hansen who, as many will know, works for NASA at the Goddard space research centre. He said:

"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm."

At the moment, the Bill is predicated on business assumptions that will take us well over 550 parts per million and possibly into the region of 700 parts per million CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere.

Many Members have referred to budgeting to deal with this most serious problem. Bearing in mind such extremely serious figures, I also refer Members to work done by the Tyndall Centre, which has contributed a wealth of information to us, including to the Environmental Audit Committee. It has calculated that if we wanted a pathway that stood even a 30 per cent. chance of not exceeding the 2° C threshold, the UK would have to cut its total carbon emissions by 70 per cent. by 2030 and by about 90 per cent. by 2050. That illustrates the seriousness of the issue of cumulative concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. If we cannot grip the problem early, we will lose out in the long term. Although I support much tougher long-term targets, from which we can back-cast and figure out where we need to be eventually, early targeting and cuts must bite into the cumulative target-setting process.

Clause 3 refers to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report, "Energy—the Changing Climate", published in 2000, which is seen as a base point for our thinking on climate change. Adoption of the contraction and convergence model was implicit in that report. Some Members might think that I sound a bit like a cracked record, but it is worth stating—Steve Webb touched on the matter briefly—that one cannot arrive at a figure, whether 50, 60 or 80 per cent., without a distribution of the responsibility for tackling climate change. We cannot simply say that the science tells us that the globe must have an average cut of, say, 50 per cent. by 2050, and that that just happens to be our share. We should ask how we arrive at our share. The RCEP report in 2000 considered the various options, calculations and methodologies, and concluded that contraction and convergence were the most elegant and most likely to succeed.

"Contraction and convergence" is not a phrase that the Government like to use much. I suspect that the reason for that is that one does not necessarily want to set out one's entire stall before going into an international negotiation. Just as we are showing leadership with this Bill, and taking action before any other Parliament in the world, we should go to Poznan later this year, and Copenhagen next year, and back the implicit principle that underpins our Bill. If people ask us what the report says, and we scratch our heads thinking, "We can't mention contraction and convergence, which underpins our whole thinking, as that might reveal our hand," we will not follow through the leadership that the Bill represents.

Thankfully, many more people than perhaps even a year or two ago are coming round to such a way of thinking. Tony Blair now talks about per capita emissions rights being equalised, possibly at 2 tonnes per person globally, although it depends on the rise in global population. Nick Stern, who said in his report that he could not quite get his head around contraction and convergence, now talks about a pragmatic right to the equalisation on a per capita basis of emissions. In January this year, the Prime Minister went to India for the UK-India summit and agreed with the Indian Government that the principle of convergence is very important and deserves serious attention. In Australia, Professor Ross Garnaut, who produced his interim report on climate change on behalf of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, also strongly supports the contraction and convergence principle, arguing in favour of per capita rights to greenhouse gas emissions around the planet.

It is time that we urged the Government to consider the principle once again, and to make clear in a new clause in the Bill their methodology for arriving at a figure. Until they produce their methodology, they will always be open to the accusation that they are plucking figures out of thin air. If they do not do so, the independent Climate Change Committee, if it is to be asked to bring forward figures, should be under a duty to produce its methodology.

The Bill provides for a duty, but how will we know that it is being taken seriously? The Bill does not provide the means for delivery. A new clause should also be introduced that requires the Treasury to report annually on the effort of UK plc to deliver on the targets under the Bill. As we know, Nick Stern said that it will cost less to avoid the problem if we spend a bit now. In his report, the actual figures—working on the basis of up to 550 parts per million—are that spending 1 per cent. of GDP now might avoid 5 to 20 per cent. of damage to GDP down the line. As I said, that 1 per cent. is predicated on a possible 550 parts per million concentration in the atmosphere. If we are talking about a 2° C limit on the increase, many people now know that 550 parts per million is totally over the top. A 4° C or even 5° C increase is more likely. The Government were presented with that science in Exeter, before the Gleneagles conference.

Clearly, we should be considering a greater spend. According to Nick Stern, if we wanted to aim for between 450 and 500 parts per million, the cost would be 3 per cent. of GDP. In 2006, when his report was published, that would have been nearly £40 billion—obviously, 1 per cent. is about £13 billion. Have we spent anything like £13 billion, year on year, on tackling the problem? No, obviously not; not even half that, I suspect, although working out what we spend is extremely complex—is it a gross or net figure?

The Treasury, not the piddling Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—not my words, but those of Steve Webb; I do not necessarily agree with his assessment, but it is certainly not an assessment that one could make of the Treasury, the least piddling Government Department—should have a duty under the Bill to report annually on the effort of UK plc to deliver on its targets. I hope that other Members will join me in supporting that principle on Report.

With that couple of small caveats, I very much welcome the Bill and hope that it will proceed with all-party support.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 6:47 pm, 9th June 2008

I refer the House to my declaration of interest.

This is one of the most exciting times to be living, simply because there is a bigger change in the way that human beings look at themselves and the rest of the world than has occurred perhaps since the renaissance. First, we cannot treat the world, even in thought, as if we were an imperialist nation, which is what we have always done, ever since people lived in a fort on a lake-village or in the next-door lake-village. Today, we know perfectly well that we must answer a global problem with a global answer. Secondly, this is the first time in history that social justice has become a practical necessity, and not merely a philosophical concept, if we are to achieve our ends.

The United Kingdom therefore has a special responsibility. We caused much of the climate change happening now. We might only produce 2 per cent. of the emissions now, but the current climate change is derived from our contribution when we were the leading industrial nation. Also, throughout the world, our companies produce between 12 and 16 per cent. of current emissions.

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Photo of Peter Ainsworth Peter Ainsworth Shadow Secretary of State for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend has just made the point that I was going to ask him about. Has he seen the research by Dieter Helm and others about the impact of CO2 produced by other countries who make things for our domestic market?

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Indeed. That is another aspect of our being one world in a practical sense, rather than just in theory.

What we must do about climate change is very much in line with what we must do anyway in a world that is living beyond its resources. When there are more middle-class people in India than there are in Europe, as is the case today, demands on resources are such that we must find a way of living more leanly. We must also be honest about the need to follow the best science. Conservative Members and others will argue that this or that scientist does not agree with what is being said, but such an approach is rather like trying to judge Christianity by what the Jehovah's Witnesses say. It is not a sensible approach if our aim is to make a real assessment of the views of those who actually represent the best science.

We should see this as an opportunity, not as a threat. The Minister may have heard me say earlier that I was prepared to support the Government's proposals for public transport in Manchester, and I hope she will not think it unfair when I say now that there are many instances in which the Government have not led, in factual terms, the life that their theory leads us to believe they ought to lead. For instance, this is a Government who clung to the dark ages in fighting to retain hydrofluorocarbons against the wishes of other members of the European Union. This is a Government who have still not introduced smart metering. This is a Government who had no energy policy at all for 10 years, which is why we are so late in producing nuclear power. I look forward to having Sizewell C, but I would have liked it 10 years ago, and I would have liked a planning system that enabled my constituents at least to express their views about a new road, if we are to have one.

It is hard to take the Government's green credentials seriously when they want another runway at Stansted, and do not recognise that one in five flights from London are to places which, in terms of time, are equally well served by trains. That is not a sensible way to deal with aviation.

This is also the Government who introduced eco-towns, which are neither "eco" nor proper towns. They have no proper credibility in terms of sustainability, because they do not accord with any modern concept of a sustainable town. Again, the Government have used a phrase that makes it difficult for us to oppose what they are doing. I know exactly what they will say: they will say "He cannot be very environmental, because he is against eco-towns." I would be in favour of eco-towns if "eco" and "town" meant what they seem to mean, just as I would be in favour of a climate change levy if it had anything to do with climate change.

The independent Committee on Climate Change will have to bring home to the Government the fact that we cannot undermine our environmental reputation by introducing taxes that we pretend are green when in fact they are not. No taxation can be called green unless it either replaces some other taxation, or has a direct effect that will lead to more green activity. There must be a justification for taxes: if we do not have that, we shall undermine everything in which we believe, which is why the independent committee is so important.

I hope the Government have noted that the independent committee will have just as strong an effect on the Opposition as on the Government. If the Opposition wish to tell the Government that some rather uncomfortable decision must not be made, they must provide an alternative. They cannot simply attack the Government; they must reveal what they would do. That will be true of the next Opposition as it will be true of the next Government. When we change sides, we shall both be caught by the committee, and it is right for that to happen.

I hope that the committee will recognise the importance of thinking in terms of rewards rather than penalties. I do not think the Government are right to believe that the way to encourage people is to punish them. The way to encourage people is to give them the information that they need, which is why I think that smart metering is vital. If someone has to climb under the stairs to find the meter and it then says something in kilowatt hours that they do not understand, it will not affect the way that they behave. The Government must acknowledge that smart metering is a crucial part of providing what we need to provide—information—and also that it is important to encourage people.

The Government must show people in this country that encouragement is continuous and not short-term. The Treasury must specify the long-term parameters by which British industry can meet the demands of climate change, and provide British industry with the leadership that will put us in an economically favourable position. That cannot be done by a Government who are not prepared to introduce long-term tax breaks.

There are two more ways in which the Bill can help us. Many of my colleagues have mentioned the need for action to be taken quickly and urgently. The more we do now, the better it will be. The cost of now is considerably less than the cost of tomorrow. We need annual targets, because that is more important at this end than long-term targets rising from 60 to 80 per cent. I am an 80 per cent. man—I have no problems about voting for that, and the Government should not think that Tories will not vote for it—but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is what the Government do between now and the election, and what the next Government do between that election and the one after that. If we constantly establish targets that are beyond the period of a Parliament, Governments will put things off. I am cynical enough to believe that that is an all-party comment.

This needs to be a world issue, and we need to show leadership. I speak not in a spirit of party political argument, but simply in a spirit of trying to get things done. We cannot take seriously any Government who do not use the European Union, and lead it to take the steps for shipping and aircraft that the Government should have taken but have left for far too long. We cannot take seriously a Government who are not seen to be on the front foot in every international negotiation, rather than looking as though they are being dragged into everything.

I have considerable respect for the Minister for the Environment, but it is a great pity that he did not begin his litany with the information that this is an all-party operation. It was begun by Mrs. Thatcher, and subsequently my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron fought for a climate change Bill when the Government were saying that they did not want one. The Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and Friends of the Earth had to launch a joint battle to persuade the Government to change their position. Now that they have changed it, can we all stand shoulder to shoulder and make it work?

If we are to make it work, we need two key things. First, we need targets that are immediate, and that is why I think that annual targets are important. Secondly, we need a system of trading that enables the rich countries to help the poor ones to play their part. We cannot say that this is putting off our duty, for it is the only mechanism whereby we can meet the need for social justice, without which there will be no ability to beat climate change. Climate change makes us one world: it gives rise to a global demand for a global solution. The people of Britain and all the rich countries will have to recognise at long last that social justice alone will deliver.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton 6:59 pm, 9th June 2008

Along with everyone else, I strongly welcome the Bill. I also welcomed the patient and skilful manner in which it was introduced by my hon. Friend the Minister.

The latest figures show that greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by about 18 per cent. since 1990, although carbon dioxide emissions have marginally increased in several years during the last decade. There are two important caveats: first, that—as many people have said, and as the Prime Minister acknowledged in a speech on 19 November last year—the reduction required by 2050 must be at least 80 per cent. rather than 60 per cent. if there is to be headroom for developing countries to expand their economies while keeping within the overall global 2° C increase limit, which scientists say should not be exceeded without risk to the planet. On that basis, I draw the sobering conclusion that an 80 per cent. reduction by 2050 requires an annual reduction in emissions of at least almost twice the rate of the past two decades.

The second caveat is that—as, again, many have said—the Bill ignores the UK's share of international aviation emissions, which Department of Trade and Industry figures show already account for 12.5 per cent., or one eighth, of the total UK impact on global warming. Indeed, I regret to have to say that because the Government are proposing to triple airport capacity, the Environmental Audit Committee calculates that by 2050 UK aviation emissions—let alone UK shipping emissions—might amount to almost half of all UK emissions. In introducing the Bill, my hon. Friend the Minister questioned the practicalities of including that data. I say to him that it would be entirely practical to include international aviation emissions in the Bill: the UK already reports on them regularly under the Kyoto protocol, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has figures dating back to 1970 on how much fuel has been taken on board at UK airports.

However—and this is where I disagree with some Members' contributions—even if aviation emissions are included in the Bill, another loophole still needs to be closed. At present, the Bill allows 100 per cent. of emission reduction targets to be met by buying carbon credits from abroad rather than by reducing emissions in the UK. I am in no way against using genuine carbon credits that have been earned abroad promoting clean development in other countries, but this is a question of balance, and there are two relevant arguments. One is that, unfortunately, the purchase of carbon credits overseas is sometimes open to highly dubious manipulation over the vexed issues of additionality and baselines; they are complex and can easily be manipulated, and there is clear evidence of considerable abuse. The second argument, which is the clincher, is that we will succeed in stopping climate change, or the worst effects of it, given the stage we have now reached, only if we in the west, who are primarily responsible for it as a result of our industrialisation over the past two centuries, can persuade developing countries—largely China and India, which alone have two fifths of the world's population—that we are serious about tackling climate change. Buying all our credits from abroad simply will not persuade those countries that we are serious if at the same time we are taking an unsustainable path in our own country. That will produce only cynicism and resistance.

The fact is that the rich countries, with approximately 18 per cent. of the world's population, are responsible for 54 per cent. of global emissions—three times our due share. Until that is dealt with, we will simply not get international co-operation, without which the entire climate change problem cannot be solved. We are 1 per cent. of the world population and account for 2 per cent. of global emissions. Even with Europe, we are a small part of the picture. This has to be global, and we have to persuade the rest of the world that we are deadly serious about tackling the problem.

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Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon PPS (Jim Knight, Minister of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the ways of convincing the newly emerging industrial countries that we are deadly serious is by sharing our new technology—by not holding it close to our chest, and by not holding on to patents, but by sharing them?

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton

I entirely agree, and I think that we could do a great deal more. There is a lot of talk about China starting two new coal-fired power stations every week. The best way of dealing with that is through the technology of carbon capture and storage. The problem is that there is probably no prototype anywhere in the world, and we need to do a great deal more than simply talk about this. I agree in principle, however.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we could start by not building a coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth without that technology? We might set a bit of an example, while we are about it.

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton

I entirely agree—and, as so often, the right hon. Gentleman anticipates something I was going to say a little later.

We should in this Bill impose a reasonable limiting cap on the buying of carbon credits abroad to meet UK emission targets. Indeed, that was precisely one of the caveats that led a United Nations human development report issued in the last year to say:

"If the rest of the developed world followed the pathway envisaged in the United Kingdom's Climate Change Bill, dangerous climate change would be inevitable."

That is a very sobering reminder. This is a good Bill, but it is certainly not ambitious enough.

That sober conclusion is given additional force by the fact that the Climate Change Bill is only a part, and probably a small part, of the UK's overall strategy to combat climate change, and the rest of the strategy needs to be reviewed to see whether it is fit for purpose. I thought that some of it was now being brought into line. I thought that the Government accepted the amendment in another place providing powers for the Government to introduce mandatory reporting standards for carbon emissions by business. The need for that is overwhelming, as is shown by the carbon disclosure survey, which found last year that fewer than half of the FTSE 350 companies provided quantitative emissions data. Support for mandatory carbon reporting now comes from the CBI, the Aldersgate Group and a wide range of leading blue-chip companies and leading investors. Following my hon. Friend the Minister's rather equivocal comments on this at the end of his speech, I ask the Government to look again at the matter, and to endorse clause 80 and not to seek in any way to water it down, but in time to extend it.

Further improvement is urgently needed in other aspects of the armoury of instruments to combat climate change. The Government must wean themselves off their continuing obsession with fossil fuels. It sometimes seems to me that the left hand in DEFRA does not know what the right hand in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is doing—or at any rate cannot stop it. It is extraordinary to respond to soaring oil and gas prices by—as we have seen in the past few weeks—trying to increase the supply of oil from the North sea where the prospects, in a state of continuing decline, must be virtually nugatory, and by making an increased commitment to nuclear, which is highly controversial in this House, and which, whatever one thinks about it, is not relevant as, quite apart from the other problems, it takes 10 to 15 years to build a nuclear reactor, rather than by taking the obvious long-term sustainable route: the fastest feasible expansion of renewables in this country. It is almost incredible that although we probably have more renewable capacity in this country than in any other in Europe, we are at the bottom of the league in electricity regeneration from renewables—just 4 per cent. compared with 10 to 25 per cent. in Germany, France and Italy and 30 to 50 per cent. in Scandinavia.

We now have an EU mandatory target to provide 15 per cent. of all our energy from renewables by 2020, which is bound to mean that we have to produce at least 40 per cent. of it from electricity generation, yet it seems to me that DBERR spends its time not trying to meet the target but dreaming up ways to get round it in Brussels. What we need from the Government—from all the Government—is a precise strategy on exactly how they are going to meet that 15 per cent. target.

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Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, had the Government taken a decision shortly after 1997 to have a single Department responsible for power generation, energy efficiency and the response to climate change, we would now be much further down the road?

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Photo of Michael Meacher Michael Meacher Labour, Oldham West and Royton

My hon. Friend raises some very interesting issues with which historically I confess I had something to do. I will talk to him afterwards, rather than using the very limited time that I have available, but he has a very good point.

I come to another DBERR failing, and to Kingsnorth and carbon capture and storage. No new coal-burning station should be licensed without carbon capture and storage. To be fair, the Government hinted at this, but as a result of lobbying that was supported in the media, they appear—I am not sure about this—to be backtracking. I have to point out to my hon. Friend the Minister that it is not enough to say that the plant will be CCS capable, because that simply postpones it indefinitely. Will he confirm that the Government will not license Kingsnorth without a requirement that CCS be installed and operated from the start?

There are several other issues. Building eco-houses is fine, but what about the other 99 per cent. of the stock? What about replacing renewables obligation certificates with feed-in tariffs? This is an excellent Bill but it needs to be improved.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury 7:11 pm, 9th June 2008

The speech of Mr. Meacher demonstrates that this debate cannot be just about targets; it also has to be about ensuring that this and other Governments have a coherent energy policy.

None of us chooses when we are born, so none of us chooses the challenges that face us during our lifetime. However, the challenge of climate change is probably the most serious that faces us as decision-takers, legislators and politicians. This Bill is therefore probably going to be the most important in this Parliament, and as one of a number of us who today mark having been in the House for 25 years, having been elected on this day in 1983, I can think of few Bills that have had an equal potential to contribute to the common wealth and the common good.

As I said in an earlier intervention, if anything the published science may well underestimate the urgency of the problem. Professor Spicer, a constituent of mine, of the centre for research at the Open university, says that

"the IPCC reports are designed to be internationally palatable" and

"they also tend to be highly conservative. For example, the most recent Working Group 1 report admits that it deliberately ignores the most recent findings documenting the accelerating loss of ice from the Greenland ice cap and that overall ice dynamics are poorly understood. Consequently the problem of future sea level rise is downplayed despite the fact that this is likely to cause considerable economic, social and political disruption because much of the world's population live in major port cities. More disturbing is that the very climate models used to predict the future are themselves conservative: they are anchored in the present and seem incapable of reproducing the patterns and process of climate change that the geological record tells us has happened in the past."

This is an important Bill not because, as is clear from the science and the IPCC, these matters are extremely urgent but because we have a moral duty to take action. In the last Parliament, the International Development Select Committee, of which I, Hugh Bayley and others were members, undertook a lengthy inquiry into climate change and sustainable development. Our conclusions, which were unanimous, were not earth shattering but some of them are worth reminding the House about:

"Irreversible changes are occurring in our climate as concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rise....Human activity is accelerating climate change and the scale of the action needed to tackle it is unprecedented...We believe that the precautionary principle must underpin any approach to climate change and the consensus provided by the IPCC should provide the basis for action...Given their relative contribution, the burden of finding a solution to the problems posed by climate change should fall mainly on developed countries...The impacts of climate change will not be evenly spread across the globe and are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor...Climate change has the potential to increase further the inequality between developed and developing countries...Rising temperatures and changes in precipitation will place hundreds of millions of people additionally at risk from either hunger, water shortage, coastal flooding or malaria."

We concluded:

"The timescale is urgent and the UK and other donors have to take a lead in building capacity so that policy makers and politicians in developing countries can understand climate change in the context of the local issues facing their country, and translate that understanding into effective policies and mechanisms."

It is crucial that, as with this Bill, we do take the lead. Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, observed only recently that, as a newspaper report put it,

"too many rich countries...had failed to take the action needed to convince the developing nations to sign up to a deal in Copenhagen next year that could help to stabilise global emissions."

Whether we like it or not, it is we who will have to take the lead. Rajendra Pachauri said:

"You may not be able to get an agreement in one shot, let's say by Copenhagen, that sets you on the path of stabilisation in keeping with some kind of long-term target...Looking at the politics of the situation, I doubt whether any of the developing countries will make any commitments before they have seen the developed countries take a specific stand."

He said that there were "reasons for dismay" regarding the failure of rich countries to cut carbon emissions, and that:

"This really doesn't give anybody the conviction that those that had agreed to take action as the first step are really serious about doing so. And in several developing countries you get the feeling—in fact people state it very clearly—that these guys"— rich countries—

"are going to shove the whole burden on to our shoulders. That's why it's necessary for the developed world to establish a certain credibility."

I am vice-chairman of the all-party group on China, about which we have not heard very much today. A new coal-fired power station is coming on stream in China every couple of weeks. China is still classified as a developing country, and if we cannot convince it that we are genuine and for real about cutting our carbon emissions, there is absolutely no way we will get it—at Copenhagen or anywhere else—to sign up to binding targets that reduce its carbon emissions between now and 2050, or any other date.

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Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says about China, but the other issue is that it is building new carbon-free eco-cities and using technology developed in, and expertise from, this country. Does that not give him some hope?

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

As I think was said earlier, this whole area of climate change provides the UK with considerable opportunities to export our green, clean technology. As my hon. Friend Mr. Yeo, the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said in his very good contribution, if British business gets there first, it does give us a competitive advantage, and that goes with the grain of being good.

A number of reports have demonstrated that the impact of climate change is happening now, and I shall mention two of them briefly. A United Nations Environment Programme report of 2007 made clear the impact of climate change on Darfur, reiterating the linkages between the environmental degradation caused by global warming, resource scarcity and violent conflict among ethnic groups. The report argued that environmental issues have been, and continue to contribute to, causes of conflict. Sudan has the largest population of displaced persons in the world today, and it suffers from desertification, devastating droughts and land degradation. Some of those are seen as the result of regional climate change and the southward shift of the boundary between semi-desert and desert. Those of us who have been to Darfur can recognise what is actually happening there: in many ways, there is a competition between various groups for dwindling resources. That picture will be seen increasingly across the world if we do not take care.

Interestingly, a new US military report, commissioned by the US Government and financed by the Centre for Naval Analyses, lays out strong support for a link between climate change and terrorism. Admiral Joseph Lopez, a former commander-in-chief of US naval forces in Europe and of allied forces in southern Europe, has said:

"Climate change can provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror. In the long term, we want to address the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit, but climate change will prolong those conditions. It makes them worse."

The report describes climate change as

"a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world"— which will—

"seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states".

These are grim and serious issues, and I say to the Whips that because this is such a serious Bill, I shall gladly volunteer to serve on the Public Bill Committee. We should all make a contribution to this Bill.

The final point that I wish to make relates to targets. Again, I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk said about all the targets in this matter, not just the 2050 target; we are all workaday politicians and we recognise that because most of us will be dead by 2050, it is a lot easier for us to opine about a target for 2050 rather than making reference to a target for this Parliament or the next one. However, the targets do have—

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Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has used up his time allocation.

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Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State), Department for Transport 7:23 pm, 9th June 2008

It is a pleasure to follow Tony Baldry, whose comments about developing countries I listened to with interest, although I got a bit depressed when he discussed longevity and 2050. This House's duty is to ensure that those who follow us can live happy and full lives, as we are able to do in this country. My intervention aimed to demonstrate that developing countries are not just sitting back waiting for us to lead the way; in many cases, they are leading the way and setting an example to us. China is, in many respects, a good example, because of its lead on eco-cities and on carbon capture.

I very much welcome the opportunity to debate the Bill, which is supported by organisations whose combined membership of millions across the country dwarfs that of any political party, and their members will be watching this debate closely. I commend the Minister for the Environment and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who cannot be present today—I, too, wish him well—on introducing the Bill. I commend the patience and wisdom shown in their approach of discussing the Bill with various parties, not just Members of Parliament, and I thank them for that. I also thank the Minister for the Environment for his contribution to my private Member's Bill, which has sadly fallen. I very much valued his advice, and I shall return to the matter later.

The Stern review made it clear that both the causes and consequences of climate change are global, requiring collective, international political leadership. I am pleased that our Government are taking a global lead on climate change with this Bill, which will set legally binding targets, putting us head and shoulders above the international community in our commitment to the issue.

My constituents welcome the Bill and tell me that the Government have to take a lead. In the past two months, I arranged for the Secretary of State to meet members of the Swindon Climate Action Network—SCAN—at a fantastic pub in my constituency called the Royal Oak in Bishopstone. It was specially chosen, because it is the home of Helen Browning's organic range which is nationally known and internationally recognised. It cuts food miles—I believe that the organic food travels just yards from the farm to the pub—thus setting a good example. The meeting gave my constituents a chance to put their arguments and ideas about climate change to the Secretary of State. SCAN is an impressive advocate and it made strong arguments to him, which I am sure he took back to Westminster.

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Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon PPS (Jim Knight, Minister of State), Department for Children, Schools and Families

Does my hon. Friend agree that although we are debating this serious issue and Governments around the world are debating it and taking steps, this is not just about Governments? It is about individuals, whose role she just mentioned, also accepting that they must make major changes to their comfortable everyday lives in this country, because that will also be crucial to the success of anything that comes out of this House or any other House around the world.

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Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. I believe that this is about not only Governments but how we get local people involved. I am not necessarily talking about those people who are approaching this subject zealously, but about those who are perhaps only dimly aware of climate change's effect on their lives. SCAN is one organisation working with local groups to ensure that everybody in Swindon understands climate change and why we all need to play a part in tackling it.

Gina Adams from SCAN has said that although it welcomes the Government's Climate Change Bill, targets are just the start. It wants real progress to be made in reducing CO2 emissions and tackling climate change by both central and local government. Like me—it is not just Conservatives who want this—SCAN wants the target to rise from 60 to 80 per cent. However, I agree with some Members of the other House that it may be better not to prescribe a figure in the Bill; if we leave the figure at 60 per cent. and the Climate Change Committee subsequently changes it to another figure, that would bring into question the Government's commitment and our commitment in this House. We need to be clear about what we mean by our attempts to reduce carbon emissions in this country, and I hope that the Minister will be clearer about what he means on climate change targets. I was not clear what he was saying in his speech about 60 or 80 per cent., or the possibility of opting for a higher figure. He needs to give us more of an indication of what he means, and I, too, hope that I will be able to follow that up in Committee.

One argument that SCAN made was that people outside the Westminster bubble were unlikely to be inspired to cut carbon if those inside the bubble—us—are not able to do so. My private Member's Bill was all about that. The Government need to take a lead in showing how those targets will be achieved. If we want a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon, we will have to take radical steps to improve the efficiency of the way we live, particularly how we build our buildings. If we want an 80 per cent. reduction in carbon—that is supported by many in this House and many of my constituents—we will have to take even more radical steps. The aim of my private Member's Bill, which failed to reach Committee last week because of the objections of one particular Conservative Back Bencher

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Photo of Anne Snelgrove Anne Snelgrove PPS (Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State), Department for Transport

I will name no names, because the Member concerned is not in his place.

My Bill aimed to ensure that all new Government buildings were in the highest quartile of energy performance. I was very pleased to have had the support of not only the Government but Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers, so it is a shame that the actions of one maverick stopped the Bill going into Committee.

It is a modest request to make of the Government as it simply gives legal force to a commitment that has already been made in their own energy efficiency action plan. This is where I have to thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment, because he went the extra mile to ensure that both he and the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend Mr. Wright, were able to acquiesce to some of the demands in my Bill. I am very grateful for the patient work by my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and his officials.

I welcome the fact that as a result of this Bill the Government will have new powers to require public bodies to produce action plans on adaptation at the discretion of the Secretary of State and on many other things. I recognise the importance of the five local areas, but the Government should give a lead and show local councils that when procuring new buildings for the Government estate, they are aiming for the highest possible environmental standards. Without a commitment on the face of the Bill, Departments will continue not to pull their weight in the fight against climate change. Some 17 out of 21 Departments are not on track to meet their energy efficiency targets, and energy efficiency across the central Government estate has actually worsened by 3.3 per cent. since 2000. I proposed a modest change and I hope my hon. Friend the Minister will find some way to include it in the Bill.

The Minister has said that the Bill is about leadership and that it should be about keeping promises. In recognition of their duty to lead by example, the Government committed in the energy efficiency action plan in 2004 to procure only buildings in the top quartile. The commitment covered Departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. To put that in perspective, there are currently around 100 executive agencies and more than 800 non-departmental public bodies. They include organisations as diverse as the Highways Agency, the Meat and Livestock Commission and the Royal Mint.

The top quartile commitment was subsequently restated in the "Common Minimum Standards for the Procurement of Built Environments in the Public Sector", published by the Office of Government Commerce in September 2005. The most recent restatement of the commitment was in the 2007 energy White Paper. The promise to carry out this action has been made a number of times. However, the Environmental Industries Commission wrote to me earlier this month stating that in 2006-07 only 46 of 351 Government new build or refurbishment projects were even assessed for their environmental impact. The failure to ensure that major public building projects will be energy efficient and sustainable is a huge wasted opportunity and will undermine the Government's aim of making the UK one of the EU leaders in sustainable procurement. We can all see failure looming. Only if this Bill is amended to include a requirement that public buildings are procured in a better way can we stop that failure happening.

As I said, the Bill is supported by hon. Members on both sides of the house and NGOs across the UK. Millions of people make up their memberships, and tens of millions make up their supporters. They will be watching this debate closely and I will make sure that its outcome is also reported to those who have written to me from my constituency.

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Several hon. Members:

rose —

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Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. So as to be as inclusive as possible, I propose to reduce the time limit to seven minutes for hon. Members called after 8 o'clock.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice 7:34 pm, 9th June 2008

I will try to keep my remarks brief.

Anne Snelgrove mentioned several of her constituents; perhaps I should start by mentioning one of mine. Sir David King is the former chief scientific adviser who got into a lot of trouble for describing climate change as the most dangerous challenge facing the world. He said that it was more dangerous than terrorism. This week, above all weeks, it is worth repeating that remark, and never mind the trouble that it got him into. He was right. The scale of the problem that we face is the equivalent of the challenge that was posed by nuclear war. It might be happening more slowly and in a different way, but it is the same sort of thing.

We have discovered that human beings have the capacity to undermine in its entirety the life support system on which we all depend. There are a few sceptics around, but they are increasingly like those who believe in UFOs and aliens. They are relying on smaller and smaller pieces of evidence, with wilder and wilder theories, while all around them shuffle in embarrassment and change the subject. There is a difference between scepticism, which is appropriate to science, and obduracy, which is not. Now is the time to act. A remark was made about the press, especially the tabloid press and the irresponsibility of some of its coverage. For me, that just illustrates why it is important that we should not be ruled by them.

There have been big changes to the Bill since it was presented to the pre-legislative Joint Committee on which I and many others served. In the vast majority of cases, those amendments have been for the good—especially those passed in the House of Lords. I was disappointed by the Government's attitude to several of them, however.

One of the crucial changes in the House of Lords was to clause 1, which introduces the 2° C target. That is important because it is as near as we can get to what we are talking about. We are trying to stop the harm caused by climate change, and that harm is measured by the change in average temperatures. It is not measured by reductions in emissions. It is measured by the outcomes—the temperature—not the inputs.

The Government's argument against that way of framing the Bill is that global temperature is not under our control, because it is a matter for international action, but we have to take responsibility for our share and we have to set an example. It is a simple moral principle that we should act in a way that would be acceptable if everybody else acted in that way as well.

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Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman makes a coherent argument, but there are many countries, such as the small island states, in the United Nations forum that do not accept 2° C.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice

I once had a PhD student who did her thesis on small island states, but I do not have time to go into the full issue that the Minister raises. However, it is a different point about the overall starting point for reductions, not the share. Colin Challen was right to say that if the Government have accepted contraction and convergence, in the 60 per cent. figure, they must also accept it for any other figure that comes along. The Government have already accepted the principle and cannot go back on it.

The second point is the connection between the 2° C figure and the 80 per cent. target. There is a logical connection between the two. If the Government accept —as a matter of policy rather than for legislative purposes—the 2° C target, they must also accept a target of 80 per cent. reduction or greater, because the probability is that we will not be able to hold world average temperature to a 2° C increase unless the reduction that is attributable to us under contraction and convergence is something like 80 per cent. The two issues are connected. Once the Government have accepted the 2° C figure as a matter of policy, they should accept the 80 per cent. figure, too. As hon. Members have said, the science has moved on. Many hon. Members will have seen the letter from another of my constituents, Sir Tom Blundell, which makes it absolutely clear what we are talking about and what action we should take. It is also true that there have been eight years of rising emissions between the RCEP report in 2000 and now. We have to make up for those eight years, as the emissions will be in the atmosphere for another century.

Let me refer to another part of the Bill that has not been referred to much, although Mr. Gummer mentioned it in part. There has been a change in the reporting provisions in the Bill, so the question of annual targets is rather different from what it was when we first discussed it. There is a five-year reporting period with an action plan, and a one-yearly indicative target reporting system whereby the committee makes a report and the Government respond to it. That is much better than when the Bill started out, but it still needs to be strengthened. There needs to be some suggestion of an action plan that is possibly produced yearly but not necessarily each year. I would give the power to the committee to suggest to the Government that if they are so far off target for a particular year, they might consider bringing forward the date at which the action plan obligation comes into force.

Another large issue is that of the emissions for international aviation. Some 90 per cent. of the emissions from aviation in this country are caused by international aviation, while a very small proportion are caused by domestic aviation, which is included in the Bill. I point out to the Government that throughout the debate, from the consideration in the Joint Committee until now, the Government have said that it is too difficult to distinguish between the two, and there has been disagreement between the Department for Transport and DEFRA about how to do it. However, that cannot be the case, because the Government are already doing it: they answer parliamentary questions that ask them to distinguish between domestic and international emissions. It seems to me that the best thing for the Government to do would be to put the obligation in place now so that when they are required to go along that path in 2011-12 by the EU ETS, they will have to make a far smaller adjustment to their position than they would if they did nothing now and carried out the whole adjustment then.

I have only one point to make on the international credits debate. A number of points have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the argument, but my view is still that the big advantage that is alleged to flow from international trade is that it means that the cheapest options can be taken first. No one is told what options have to be taken over the whole period, because in the end they all have to be taken. In the end, states such as Britain are allowed to take cheaper options from abroad early on. That does not mean that they will not have to take expensive options later. Usually, it is quite a good thing to do it that way, but it is not always. In this particular case, if we take ourselves down the line of being a high-carbon economy and allow ourselves to take cheap options from other countries, we will be stuck in that economy. When the time came to take the expensive options, they would be even more expensive.

The final improvement to the Bill to which I want to refer is clause 80. I think that I am the only Member who took part in both the Standing Committee that considered the Companies Act 2006 and the Joint Committee on this Bill. I will not go through the various struggles about the operating and financial reviews and the attempt to get the Government back to the position from which they started. It seems essential that if we are to create a market for ethical investment and consumption, we should have the strongest possible reporting requirements on companies. That dimension has not yet been mentioned. It is a way in which individuals can take part in the fight against climate change in their own lives, by making choices in the market. In the end, it is for all of us—both politicians and individuals—to play our part, and that is how it can be done.

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Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Labour, Scunthorpe 7:44 pm, 9th June 2008

I welcome the Bill; indeed, its principles have had a unanimous welcome. If they had not, we might as well have given up on combating climate change. Of course, there are issues of detail, and it is perfectly reasonable that they should be debated and tested. Some of the amendments made in the other place have been very helpful in trying to clarify and strengthen the Bill. However, I want to focus on a couple of points. The first is carbon reporting, which has been referred to by my right hon. Friend Mr. Meacher. He and I are members of the Aldersgate Group, which has been a driving force behind the idea of carbon reporting.

There has always been resistance in Government to the idea of more regulation. That is understandable, to a certain extent, but sometimes it reaches the point of irrationality. Regulation can sometimes be more efficient and can benefit industry and society. If I understand my hon. Friend the Minister correctly, he is saying that he accepts the principle that there should be some regulation of carbon reporting so that there is a standardised approach. That makes absolute sense. At the moment, although about 45 per cent. of top companies report on carbon, they use different criteria and assessments. That makes it almost impossible to compare and to see who is the better performer.

The CBI climate change taskforce recommended that there should be a standard approach. It looks as though that point, at least, has been accepted. At the CBI conference, delegates were asked whether they supported mandatory reporting, and 82 per cent. were in favour. If 82 per cent. of the CBI is in favour of a new regulation, why are we messing about in this way? I suspect that it is not my hon. Friend the Minister who is messing about. Sometimes, some parts of Government are more sympathetic than others to the idea of environmental regulation. However, the principle is sound and I hope that my hon. Friend will give it a little consideration during the passage of the Bill.

Clause 80, which was inserted in the House of Lords, strikes me as a sensible clause. I would hope that my hon. Friend the Minister would make that a workable and effective clause. If we are to make real progress in addressing climatic change, we need a complete cultural shift in society. That shift must come at all levels—at a personal level, in industry, in the public sector and in the private sector. We have to do that.

I agree with some of the points that were made about the need for this country to give leadership. This country has given leadership over many years in raising the issue, making the scientific arguments and offering a top-quality scientific base through the technical arguments. I have seen the respect that this country is given in international negotiations as recently as the meeting in Kobe of G8 Environment Ministers. We have influence and people look to us for a lead. There is no doubt that developing countries will not move unless they see the developed countries taking climate change seriously and putting in place the essential measures.

On a small part of that cultural shift, I disagree with some of the comments about the measures on waste and recycling. We need maximum flexibility in how we deal with such things. There is an argument not only for charging—I take the argument that we do not have to charge, as we can also offer incentives—but for introducing more imaginative ways of encouraging people to recycle more. Recycling is about reducing energy, and reducing energy is about reducing emissions. We should not forget that. It does not help the all-party approach that has been talked about to attack such measures, just as it does not help to attack the idea of congestion charging. Some of the measures that we will have to put in place will not be easy and they will not always be popular, but they are part of the cultural change that we need.

In that respect, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will try to make the Bill's capacity to accommodate new measures as flexibly as possible. New measures will arise, and the Government will need to respond quickly and flexibly. This is an opportunity to pass empowering legislation that gives the Government that flexibility. There is a possibility of a range of actions. I very much support the idea of measures such as individual carbon allowances. I accept that its time has not yet come; it is a very radical approach. Nevertheless, elements of it could be applied to an aspect of our society, such as the purchasing of fuel or energy, for example. That also has the benefit of a very strong element of social justice, in the sense that those people who are not great energy users—whether petrol or other fuel—will have a financial advantage compared with those who are big energy users. We should not rule out such approaches; we need the flexibility to adapt.

There may well be some movement on, for example, sectoral approaches—not exactly popular with many other countries around the world. However, that might address problems in our energy-intensive sectors, such as steel, that are exposed to global competition. It will do nothing for the environment if steelworks cannot compete in a global environment and their capacity simply switches from this country to a developing country. There would be no environmental gain. That is not to say that we should not encourage efficiencies, productivity and innovation, but perhaps a sectoral approach is one way of doing that, whereby technology transfer and energy-efficiency knowledge can be shared among sectors and developing countries can gain from the experience of developed countries. My hon. Friend the Minister knows all about the discussions that have taken place internationally on such issues. They are not easy, just as discussions on a global stabilisation goal are not easy, as he said, but that is a prerequisite to an overall target.

I disagree with hon. Members who talked about absolute target figures, year on year. The idea of carbon budgets is a much better approach, because it gets into people's minds the way that we have to go: to budget for carbon, to put a value on carbon and for all of us to be aware of our impact. In that respect, I strongly support the comments made by my hon. Friend Colin Challen about the fact that there should be annual carbon budgets, which should be treated in the same way as the annual fiscal Budget, so that the Government's annual carbon budget for the country is open and transparent for the future.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 7:52 pm, 9th June 2008

It is a great pleasure to follow Mr. Morley, who has given one of the most practical and realistic speeches in the debate so far. Having studied physics at Cambridge before going on to study economics, I approach the science and, to a greater extent, the economics of global-warming alarmism with a degree of scepticism. None the less, I am predisposed to curb hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions because my scepticism may prove unwarranted; it is sensible to seek more secure and plentiful sources of energy, and we have a duty of stewardship to the planet.

Above all, because I spent last year and the year before studying global poverty, it is clear to me that, if climate change is significantly man-made, the men and women who did not make it are the poor people of this world. Yet they will suffer most from it, and they more than anyone need to increase their energy consumption if they are to grow and prosper. So I accept that developed countries, including the UK, should bear a major share of the burden of prevention of or adaptation to climate change. However, any measure that we introduce must pass two tests—the same two tests that we apply to any Bill. First, the benefits, even if they accrue to other people, must be greater than the costs, even if they are all incurred by us. Secondly, the measures must be effective, rather than just demonstrative.

The Minister did not mention the final impact assessment, except in response to my intervention, yet it shows that both the costs and the benefits of the measures that he proposes are immense—so immense that it is astonishing that the House has got this far in the debate without considering them. According to the Government, the potential benefits lie in the range of £82 billion to £110 billion, but the potential costs lie in an even larger range, from £30 billion up to £205 billion. The net benefit, they say, could be £52 billion positive, but it could be as much as £95 billion negative.

The Government admit that the method that they employ in their final impact assessment

"cannot capture trade and competitiveness impacts" and is

"unable to capture transition costs...limited in its ability to capture the obstacles which make it more expensive (such as information and policy costs)... It may therefore be expected to produce lower-bound estimates of the costs of carbon abatement in 2050."

In other words, their estimates are the lowest possible and ignore quite significant costs.

Those costs are not trivial. The Government's own figures say that

"transition costs", which are not included in their figure of up to £205 billion,

"could be 1.3 per cent. to 2 per cent. of GDP in 2020."

On the trade and competitiveness impact, which, again, is not taken into account in their costs, they say:

"Both short and long run costs could be unevenly distributed, with a small number of energy intensive industries affected more significantly, particularly those facing international competition."

They go on to quote the IPCC, whose research found

"relatively high risks of the transfer of productive capital to countries without carbon policies" if they are pursued asymmetrically—that is, unilaterally by us, without others doing the same. We could end up bearing the cost of driving UK business abroad, which is not included in the Government's figures, without reducing carbon emissions—because, of course, those industries abroad would still be spewing forth carbon.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the Institute of Public Policy Research report that considered the various Government models for calculating costs and said that, even if 2 or 3 per cent. of GDP in 2050 had been expended in an attempt to meet the 80 per cent.,

"the economy would almost triple in size by 2050, even with an 80 per cent. cut in emissions"?

So surely he is talking about a marginal amount in the end.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Professor Stern said that, if global warming goes ahead and causes all the damage that he anticipates, the world will be only four times as rich by the end of the century as it is now, not fives times, as it would be if we cured global warming. The hon. Gentleman should first take that on board.

The Government's report moves on to benefits, and it is very terse, saying only:

"For indicative purposes only, it is possible to use the Shadow Price of Carbon to place an indicative money value on the emissions reductions that could occur under a 60 per cent. emission reduction target. The Shadow Price of Carbon captures the damage cost of climate change caused by each additional tonne of greenhouse gas emitted."

They are using that figure to calculate benefits, without mentioning that virtually all those benefits will fall outside this country. I accept that we ought to be acting to help others. None the less, we ought to point out what we propose to do, who will bear the costs and who will get the benefits. A document that does not do that is not worthy of acceptance by the House.

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Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, of course, that the shadow price of carbon approach has been heavily criticised by a number of economists, and the Government are on the verge of abandoning it.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

That is as may be, but that is a criticism of the Government, not of me. I am only quoting what the Government have told us and how they have assessed things.

The second test is how effective the measures are likely to be. We know that current policies are not working: CO2 emissions are not perceptibly lower than they were in 1997, when the Government were elected. Moreover, the target measure does not include aviation emissions, which have been rising, so CO2 emissions are actually higher now than when the Government were elected. A UN report said that Britain's national target of reducing CO2 emissions to 20 per cent. below its 1990 levels by 2010 is now unlikely to be met, and that the outcome is likely to be about half of that. Again, that is without taking into account aviation and shipping emissions.

It is extraordinary that although the Government have failed to meet the modest targets that they inherited and set themselves, we now hope that we can compel Governments, by statute, to meet far more demanding targets. It is a bit like suggesting that we can legislate for better weather, but not quite as extreme as that. It might be presumed that the Government would impose sanctions, but what are they? On closer inspection, there are no sanctions for failure to meet the targets. If the Government fail to make the 26 per cent. reduction by 2020, the Minister will not be clapped in irons. If by 2050 we fail to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent., there will not be a condign punishment for the Prime Minister of the day.

The sole effect of enshrining the targets in statute will be that the Government's policies will be open to judicial review. Judges will be asked to assess whether measures introduced will be likely to be effective in ensuring that targets are met. I do not have a great deal of faith in the ability of Ministers of this Government, or perhaps any Government, to meet the targets, but the idea that judges should decide on policies costing billions of pounds, without being accountable to the electorate for the billions that they might decide need to be incurred, fills me with foreboding.

It is pretty daft to suppose that merely passing laws can help to bind us to, or help us meet, targets, but it is dafter still to suppose that passing laws can make other countries follow us. The Bill is unilateralist, and just as I was suspicious of unilateral disarmament, I am suspicious of measures that require us unilaterally to incur huge costs, regardless of whether others do likewise. I remind hon. Members that the UK accounts for only 2 per cent. of world emissions, so even if we achieved our targets the contribution would be negligible as far as global warming is concerned, whereas the impact on the UK economy would be crippling.

There is, of course, merit in setting an example and taking a lead, but what if no one follows? No one has mentioned a most extraordinary development that took place last Friday, when a Democratic measure in Congress, which was intended to embarrass President Nixon by requiring emissions targets—

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Yes, President Bush; I am a bit behind the times. Many people equate the two. The Democratic measure collapsed. It was not possible to get sufficient support from Democrats. To imagine that the US will follow in our slipstream is the simplest moonshine. If we pass this measure, we should at the very least ensure that it has binding effect only if a sufficient number of developed countries follow us—and that, I think, is unlikely to happen.

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Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The right hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way to me a second time. Does he accept that California has already pledged to make an 80 per cent. reduction on 1990 levels? It is setting an example, and it is one of the most industrialised and richest economies in the United States.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

Great; I do not doubt that some countries have taken action, and others will do so, but only if a sufficient number does should we make the targets binding on ourselves and commit ourselves to up to £205 billion of expenditure at net present value or more, for benefits that may be less than that.

There was mention of the shadow carbon price. When all the measures were being thought about, the price of crude oil was about a third of what it is now. There is general agreement that the best way to reduce carbon use is to set a carbon price that reflects future costs. If we consider the Government's assessment of the cost of ensuring reductions, the current price of crude oil does the trick. Their assessment and the calculations in their impact assessment assume that the high cost relative to the base cost produces an extra one-third reduction in emissions. That "high cost" was a crude price of $72 a barrel by 2020. The price is already nearly twice that; it will presumably produce two thirds extra emissions cuts. It will help us to meet the targets without the binding commitments to policies that may be damaging to British industry, costly to British taxpayers, and additional to the huge burden that they already bear by paying the high price of crude oil. I hope that Members will show a considerably greater degree of scepticism towards the Bill in its later stages in the House than they have done today.

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Several hon. Members:

rose —

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Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. I point out to all right hon. and hon. Members that the time limit imposed on Back Benchers' speeches is seven minutes, with effect from now.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 8:05 pm, 9th June 2008

I warmly welcome the Bill as an environmentalist and an economist. I congratulate the civil society campaign that made the case for such legislation, and I should especially like to mention the Friends of the Earth's Big Ask campaign. There is great public interest in the measure; I have held three public meetings on the subject in my constituency in the past year, each attended by more than 100 people. I agree with what many Members have said in this debate: the greatest responsibility for cutting emissions must rest with developed countries, because we are the largest emitters. It is the stock of carbon in the atmosphere that is warming the planet, not the emissions made year by year, and our country—the first to industrialise—and others like it have been large emitters for two centuries.

One of the consequences of the Kyoto treaty is that we tend to focus on the responsibility of states to cut emissions, and of course they must do so, but sometimes that obscures the fact that a state's emissions are simply the aggregate of the emissions of the people in that state. It is important that we stress each person's responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint.

Last autumn, I was asked to make a speech in India about the need to reduce emissions. It is a difficult place in which to make such a speech, because the Indians simply point the finger at us and say, "Your emissions are far higher than ours. This is a problem that you've created; you solve it." However, one has to remember that the emissions of rich people in India are broadly the same as the emissions of people in this country. Per person, the emissions of the richest 10 per cent. of people in cities in India are 10 times that of the rural poor in India. The former have washing machines, air conditioning, refrigerators and cars, just as we do, so it is not just a matter of pointing the finger at the rich world.

I should like to respond to the points made by Mr. Lilley about the danger that, if we enact such legislation, we will undermine the UK's competitive position. To an extent, he answered the charge himself, because with oil at $150 a barrel, becoming less carbon-dependent would surely make this country more competitive. It is also morally right to take action. When this country abolished the slave trade, we put our country at a commercial disadvantage, but it was the right thing to do. When we abolished child labour, the same charge could have been made; it could have been said that we were undermining the profitability of British industry. Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do.

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Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

After the Bill abolishing slavery was passed by the House, the British Navy patrolled the Atlantic, stopping other countries indulging in the slave trade. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we do the same with global warming?

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

No, I do not suggest that we do the same with global warming, because a British frigate cannot stop what a rich person in Los Angeles does. I make the point—and I stick to it—that we should do the right thing, and we should take a lead. We cannot expect other countries to participate in reducing carbon emissions unless we, as a large emitter, lead by example.

Global warming is caused largely by emissions from countries such as ours, but its impact is felt mostly by people in poor developing countries. The Government set a target of an average increase in temperatures of no more than 2º C by the middle of the current century, but we must be aware that averages are sometimes misleading. If I put my head in the fire and my feet in the fridge, on average it is quite a comfortable temperature, but it is not a comfortable way to exist. An average increase in temperatures of 2º C will mean an increase of much less than 2º C over the oceans and much more than 2º C in the centre of continents, because the land heats up faster.

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester 8:13 pm, 9th June 2008

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

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

Until our right hon. Friend Mr. Lilley spoke, there was much discussion in the debate as though all the science was settled, but my reading of it is that that is simply not true.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

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

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

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

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

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

"If a student of mine were to hand in this report as a Masters thesis, perhaps, if I were in a good mood, I would give him a 'D' for diligence; but more likely, I would give him an 'F' for fail."

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

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

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

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

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

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

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

"scientists who dissent from...alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libelled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse... Only the most senior scientist today can stand up to this alarmist gale."

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

"the more one looks behind...climate change policy...the more it is based on patent absurdities... Anybody who reveals the truth is scorned."

A leading economist has said:

"I have learnt that to say anything about the subject is to be assailed by fundamentalist crackpots."

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

Photo of Desmond Turner Desmond Turner Labour, Brighton, Kemptown 8:23 pm, 9th June 2008

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

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

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

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Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

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

Photo of Desmond Turner Desmond Turner Labour, Brighton, Kemptown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party 8:31 pm, 9th June 2008

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

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

The models on which the policy of the party of Colin Challen is based cannot account for that cooling, and none of them predicted the constant temperatures that we have had for the past seven years.

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

No, I want to get on with my argument.

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

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

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

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

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

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

I expect that you will be corralled into it, too, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let us take three points. Over the past 150 years, sea levels have risen by about 30 cm, which is the predicted rise for the next 100 years. Okay, it will happen slightly quicker, but we coped with that rise perfectly easily over the past 150 years so we can cope with it over the next 100 years. Secondly, we have urban heat islands. In cities, temperatures have risen considerably. The temperature in London has risen between 4 and 6° C since 1950, as it has in Los Angeles, Tokyo and other places. It is a fact of urbanisation called the global heat island effect. We know how to deal with that. If we are richer, we can have air conditioning. We know that if we put in more parks, water and trees in cities, we can cool them considerably. We know how to do that. We can adapt to that very successfully.

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

No, I am sorry. I want to make these points myself.

We are a very adaptable people, and we can achieve much more by pursuing economic growth, and as we are richer, applying the technology that we have and that we develop to deal with these issues.

In the 2003 heatwave, there was a huge amount of publicity concerning the 2,000 additional heat-related deaths in London, but every year 25,000 people die of cold in the winter. It is not just a one-way street—there are benefits of global warming as well as costs, and those are never taken into account in the visions with which we are presented.

The whole intellectual underpinning of the Government's policy is the Stern review. It was conscripted after they had come to their conclusions, which perhaps accounts for the methodology that Stern has used, and it has been comprehensively taken apart, as my hon. Friend Mr. Tyrie says. Stern is accused of exaggerating the science. A review by some very distinguished people in World Economics states:

"We consider that the Review is doubly deficient. The scientific evidence for dangerous change is, in fact, far from overwhelming, and the Review presents a picture of the scientific debate that is neither accurate nor objective."

Professor Nordhaus, whom my hon. Friend quoted, said in the Yale symposium at which Stern was present:

"The review's unambiguous conclusions about the need for extreme immediate action will not survive the substitution of assumptions that are consistent with today's market place real interest rates".

That is the rub. Stern has exaggerated the damages that will be caused. Barry Gardiner shakes his head, but he should read the Yale symposium document cover to cover. He will find that those criticisms are in there, and they are very trenchant indeed.

Photo of Andrew Tyrie Andrew Tyrie Conservative, Chichester

I have the Yale symposium document, and I completely agree with what my hon. Friend just said. Could he set out his view of the fact that Stern writes in no value at all for pure-time discounting?

Photo of John Maples John Maples Deputy Chairman (Candidates), The Conservative Party, Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

The main criticism of the Stern review is the discount rate that it uses. It is quite difficult to work out what it is because Stern does not tell us, but, working backwards, it looks like about 1.3 or 1.4 per cent. He gets that from saying that the value of our generation and the one living in 3,000 years' time is the same—there should be no pure-time discounting at all. He uses 0.1 per cent., but that is as close to zero as makes no difference. The Government's policy is based on Stern, and because he uses a time discount rate of 0.1 per cent., 5 per cent. of the benefits accrue more than 3,000 years in the future, with 93 per cent. accruing more than 200 years in the future. That cannot be a sensible basis for making policy. I am concerned about my children and the world that they live in, and about my grandchildren and the world that they live in, but I do not think that any of us are concerned about the generations that are going to be alive in 3,000 years' time. That is what we are being asked to pay for now.

Stern further compounds that error by saying that a sacrifice of 10 per cent. of one's income is the same to a rich person as it is to a poor person. That is effectively what he does, because the world will be much richer in 100 years' time than we are now, but he thinks that we should pay the costs now rather than leave richer generations to pay them in the future. That is like saying that in 1800 we should have legislated to make people living in dreadful conditions in the industrial revolution sacrifice part of their income so that we would not have the problems that we do 200 years later. That is the logic of the argument.

On top of that, Stern uses an incredibly low interest rate. The Treasury's benchmark for real returns on capital is 3.5 per cent., that of the World Bank is 8 to 10 per cent. and most American corporations achieve approximately 7 per cent., but Stern uses 1.3 or 1.4 per cent. Of course, such a figure makes future damage much more expensive than a higher figure. If one uses a figure of 4 per cent., the consequences are far fewer. A discount rate of 1.4 per cent. makes $1,650 in 200 years' time worth $100 now, whereas a 4 per cent. discount makes it worth 55c. One can take one's pick, but there is a huge gulf. Stern has picked interest rates at the lowest possible end of the spectrum.

Stern also compares one possible solution with doing nothing. One would expect such a study to compare a range of solutions. The most important IPCC scenario that he left out assumed high growth and lower fossil fuel usage—exactly the policy that we all want to pursue. He picked and chose his scenarios and his data, and he chose a low interest rate.

The only argument for acting radically now is if there is a tipping point—a point of no return. None of the scientists whom I have read predicts that.

Some man-made warming is going on. It is worth taking action now: a price mechanism through carbon tax, energy efficiency and nuclear power are worth pursuing, especially nuclear power. Research into alternative power sources—fusion, carbon capture and adaptive strategies—is also worth conducting. The Stern review is worth recasting along the lines that I suggested. However, if we go down the road that we are following, we sacrifice a huge amount—perhaps 1 or 2 per cent. of GDP—now and for ever, for a problem, most of the consequences of which will not be felt for 200 years.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris PPS (Rt Hon Shaun Woodward, Secretary of State), Northern Ireland Office 8:41 pm, 9th June 2008

I welcome the Bill and I accept that human activity is affecting the climate adversely. I am not a flat-earther and I welcome the Government's leadership, especially that of the then Deputy Prime Minister at Kyoto. However, I do not accept tonight's cosy consensus.

The cuts in CO2 emissions are measured against a 1990 baseline up to 2050. We are 30 per cent. of the way into that period, and there has been roughly a 30 per cent. change in CO2 emissions on a world level in that time. However, it is a 30 per cent. increase, not a 30 per cent. cut. United Kingdom per capita emissions are up since 2000. According to the National Audit Office, the Government have increased their emissions. Between 2003-06, the Department for Transport showed a 50 per cent. increase in emissions; between 2000-06, the Department for Constitutional Affairs showed a 66 per cent. increase; and the Department for Work and Pensions—the second biggest consumer of energy in the civil estate—increased its emissions by 14 per cent. between 2000-06.

Oil prices have increased massively, not because production has decreased but because demand has increased—we are burning more of the stuff. We need to consider what has to be done to get anywhere. The Paris-based International Energy Agency told the Bali conference on climate change that in the world we need 30 new nuclear power plants, 17,000 wind turbines, 400 biomass power plants, two hydroelectric dams, each the size of the Three Gorges project in China, and 42 coal or natural gas plants using carbon capture or storage if we are to cut emissions by 50 per cent. by 2050. We need all that by 2013, and we need it every year from 2013 until 2030.

We have heard arguments in the Chamber and outside about an 80 per cent. cut. They are presented with the best intentions. However, it is not a piddling up the wall contest, but reality. I say to hon. Members, "Wake up and smell the coffee." We are not going to achieve 80 per cent.—it will be hard to reach 60 per cent., if we consider the number of air trips our constituents make or the simple fact that most Members and their staff will not even turn off the lights in the toilets in Portcullis House.

I learned about greenhouse gas effects at university in 1974. By that token, many hon. Members are speaking with the zeal of recent converts. The 80 per cent. figure represents gesture politics, albeit from the best intentions. As far as I know, the youngest Member is Jo Swinson, who was here earlier. In 2050, she will be 70 years old. It is unlikely that she will be an active politician then.

There has been an over-emphasis in this debate, with 17 Back-Bench speeches before mine, on causes. Of course causes are important, but in opening the debate, the Minister almost spent longer on plastic bags than on adaptation, which many hon. Members know I have a thing about. It was the same with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers.

The under-emphasis on dealing with the effects is nonsense, because the effects will come anyway, almost regardless of whatever we do, because we are responsible for only 2 per cent. of emissions. Yes, we need to show leadership, but the effects are coming anyway. Amazingly, I have a lot of sympathy with Mr. Lilley on the unilateralist approach, which could mean that we take our eye off the ball on the adaptation that we need to engage in.

Various agencies and others are getting their teeth into adaptation, but not the Government, or at least not enough. They include the Environment Agency, the Association of British Insurers, the European Union, which has produced an excellent report, the Met Office, the British Beekeepers Association, the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, the Wildlife Trusts, the Local Government Association, the Oxford Research Group and so on. Lots of people are doing stuff on adaptation, but the Government have just one clause on it, following my private Member's Bill. That clause, which was clause 37 in the draft Bill, has, thank goodness, been expanded to 14 clauses, after what was inserted in the Lords, in order to adapt to the climate change that has already started and which will get worse, whether we on this small island go for 50, 60 or 80 per cent.

Those effects mean the effects on wildlife, plants, food production and pests and of diseases such as malaria coming to this country, and they will affect issues such as building design and planning regulations; roads and railways, with rails buckling in the heat; water supply, with a need for new reservoirs; what we have to do about coastal defences with rising sea levels; inland flooding, which we saw dramatically last year and which will only get worse; possible civil unrest and its security implications, which other countries and, potentially, we will face; and international development. That is an entire adaptation agenda, which has been almost completely overlooked not only in this debate, but for all the time that we have been talking about climate change.

I have been campaigning on adaptation for two years. The Government are starting to get it, but like Dickens's Oliver, I want a bit more. Specifically, I want a bit more than the Minister spending 35 or 40 minutes opening the debate, but spending just two minutes on adaptation. There needs to be a whole lot more on adaptation, because adaptation is within our control. World emissions are not within our control, and only a complete ostrich or fantasy altruist would think that they were. Of course we try to show a way, but adaptation is much more important, because it is about what happens on these islands.

It would be much better if the relevant clauses in the Bill asked for three-yearly reports, not five-yearly reports. I do not want five-yearly reports on adaptation; I want three-yearly reports. I want the first report within one year, not within three years. And for goodness' sake, why do we have a sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change dealing with adaptation, when it is at least as important to deal with the effects in this country as it is to deal with the causes? I say this to the Minister here now: it is complete nonsense to have a sub-committee dealing with adaptation. We need the full membership of the Committee on Climate Change to deal not only with causes, but with effects.

Photo of Hywel Williams Hywel Williams Shadow PC Spokesperson (Education), Shadow PC Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Health) 8:48 pm, 9th June 2008

I welcome the Bill on behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party. I am speaking in this debate as a substitute. Had the circumstances and timing been different, my hon. Friend Mr. Weir would be speaking. He is hoping for a place on the Public Bill Committee.

Combating climate change has been a central part of my party's policy and that of the SNP for many years. Indeed, a former colleague in this place, Cynog Dafis, who has spoken eloquently on such matters, was the first to reach the House of Commons on an overtly green ticket, being elected in 1992 as the official Plaid Cymru and Green party MP for Ceredigion.

The Bill, if strengthened by Lords amendments and any amendments accepted in Committee, will be a major step towards preventing catastrophic climate change. The Bill commands wide support and has been the subject of much of the mail that I have received in the past few years. From speaking with other hon. Members, I know that my constituents in Caernarfon are no different from those in other parts of Wales and the UK. Furthermore, the Bill is supported by a wide range of campaigning bodies, academics and non-governmental organisations.

Only this morning, I received a further brief from Friends of the Earth. As far as I am concerned, it is also important that Christian Aid has made climate change a foremost element in its campaign to eradicate poverty and injustice. Last October, I was proud to walk with thousands of other people from City Hall through central London to St. Paul's in support of the 18 marchers who had walked 1,000 miles in the "Cut the Carbon" march. There was a great deal of public support for that.

We in Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party support the key changes that the United Nations Development Programme has said are necessary, particularly the overall target for an 80 per cent. cut in emissions by 2050. Mindful of comments made today, we also support the shorter-term targets and, indeed, the very short-term targets of the three years mentioned by Rob Marris. We also support the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions, although I note the Minister's earlier statement. I am a signatory of early-day motion 736. As it states, if the Bill were applied to every developed country without those elements, global temperatures would rise well beyond the 2° C limit. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us her estimation of the rise in temperature if we stick only to the 60 per cent. target. Friends of the Earth has said:

"The test for the Climate Change Bill is whether it reduces UK emissions to a level which, if replicated in all developed countries, would keep the globe inside the 2° C limit."

Climate change is not a concern limited to enthusiasts. Some people in my constituency are very concerned. I recently met a constituent, Mrs. Gaffey, who has a waste disposal firm and was concerned about the effect of climate change. She wondered about the availability of landfill in the constituency and pointed out that her firm had been recycling as much as possible for many years in order to limit the use of landfill and also because she was concerned about the effect on the environment. We support mandatory reporting of carbon emissions by business. It would be good if business reported greenhouse gas emissions simply as a matter of good practice, but transparency and standardisation in reporting is essential, as there is a lack of quantifiable, publicly available information.

Briefly, on the devolutionary aspects of the Bill, I note in passing that Welsh coal powered much of the industrialisation of the 19th century and that we share some of the responsibility for it. We also welcome the Bill's recognition of potential differences across the UK, and the House should note that the Scottish Parliament is already in the process of producing its own climate change Bill to drive change towards an 80 per cent. reduction in respect of all six greenhouse gases. We look forward to the Bill being presented to the Scottish Parliament towards the end of the year.

As to Wales, we welcome the provisions for consulting on targets and budgets and on reporting requirements and guidelines for local authorities. We also welcome the possibility of establishing trading schemes within Wales and we certainly want to see the Committee on Climate Change giving advice to all UK Administrations. We are certain that the concordat on roles and responsibilities must be strong, clear and detailed.

Photo of David Kidney David Kidney PPS (Rt Hon Rosie Winterton, Minister of State), Department for Transport 8:53 pm, 9th June 2008

It is valuable to hear sceptical voices in the debate, because when there is a consensus it is important to test the arguments to the limit. I would not criticise anyone who has put forward a contrary point of view. I would ask those on each side of the debate to ask themselves, "What if I am wrong?" The consequence of taking urgent and drastic action now, which I propose we should, may have an economic cost, but it will bring in return a lower dependence on finite fossil energy resources. There will be an increase in resource efficiency, which will improve the atmosphere and biodiversity as a result. To me, those are desirable outcomes.

Along with the science and the effects on the environment, we should take some other considerations into account. One of those is growth in the earth's population, which is already past 6 billion and forecast to be 9 billion by 2050—more mouths to feed, more demands on limited resources, and more demands for wealth, jobs and the ability to buy things. We must take that challenge into consideration. The further challenge is that while we deliberate on what action to take, investment decisions are being made about the future. We are in danger of laying down a second carbon economy while we decide what action should have been taken. That is another reason why urgent action is required.

On the crucial issue of the targets for 2020 and 2050, and the other issues between us, I ask people to bear in mind the fact that the eventual wording of the Bill, which is a forerunner and the first of its kind in the world, will determine the credibility of the final law with people beyond the Chamber, and with UK citizens whom we want to change their behaviour in order to contribute to a low-carbon future. It will also determine our credibility in the eyes of other countries and Governments around the world whom we want to follow our example, and of those who make investment decisions on whether to go for a carbon or low-carbon future. In the years that follow our decision on the Bill, those investment flows will make the biggest difference to the future. I therefore ask for cautious wording to be adopted on the crucial issues that have been dividing us tonight.

The Bill has just the one instrument: emissions trading. It is important to bear it in mind, however, that the Bill anticipates not just one emissions trading scheme, but a whole series in this country and hopefully around the world. If the Stern approach to achieving a low-carbon future through the price of carbon is adopted, it is important that emissions trading schemes are successful and credible with markets. As other Members want to speak, I have insufficient time to discuss the tools that are not in the Bill. Clearly, however, when we announce a carbon budget next year, and an action plan for five years, all those other instruments—economic instruments, regulation, education, publicity and, hopefully, media support—will come into play.

On the specific issue of power generation, 30 years ago Germany chose the route of a feed-in tariff to promote greater renewables use, whereas this country chose the route of obligations—the non-fossil fuel obligation, and now the renewables and renewable transport fuel obligations. I do not say that they were right and we were wrong, but given this summer's consultation about feed-in tariffs, and all that we have said about smart meters during consideration of the Energy Bill, I hope that this country can at least graft those on to our existing tools as part of our solution.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde 8:58 pm, 9th June 2008

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which I have the honour of chairing, welcomed the Bill. In its report, it indicated ways in which the Bill could be improved and strengthened, and some of those suggestions have been acted on by the House of Lords. If for no other reason than it provides some domestic self-discipline in our attitudes towards emissions reduction, the Bill has merit. To date, in spite of the Government's endeavours, we are effectively running behind the trajectory that the Bill establishes, and that we have already established as a target for our emissions reduction.

Effectively, the Bill puts the rigour of law behind the setting of targets. Targets are what they are—they are where we would like ideally to be. Through the establishment of the Climate Change Committee, the Bill attempts to provide advice to the Government about how to achieve those targets. The way in which the committee provides its advice will, in my view, be crucial to the domestic effectiveness of the legislation. We currently have no clear plan for achieving emissions reductions in, for example, heat production and transport: our proposals in those areas lack the detail that we tend to include when becoming excited by discussion of electricity generation.

Some have described this as an isolationist approach. I would describe it as different, but if it does one thing it is to add to the credibility of the voice of the United Kingdom in the international forums that will be so vital if the world is to get to grips with the whole question of climate change. Whatever the science says, whatever the numbers say, making the best possible use of our scarce resources—in this instance, carbon—is essential at this time.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the food and agriculture world summit in Rome, which discussed food supply. I can tell anyone who wants to know where international consensus can be found that there is such consensus on the effects of global warming on the supply of food to the billions of people who live on our planet. Any of us who may want to play fast and loose with the responsibility of feeding the planet should bear it in mind that they ignore the rise in global temperatures at their peril.

Even if it is for no other reason than the precautionary principle, it makes plain common sense to ask—nationally, within Europe and at a world level—what we can do to address that risk. If we do not ask that question we should be reminded, in the nicest possible way, that most of us will not be around in 2052, when the Bill tells us that, if we miss the target, the hapless Secretary of State of the day will have to come to the House and present a report explaining why we missed it.

If the worst-case scenarios of the scientists are realised we will be in deep trouble, and optimising the use of our resources in the meantime is, again, plain common sense. The carbon committee's role will be vital, not just from the United Kingdom's standpoint. It will provide advice on dealing with all the carbon trading activities that will take place in the European Union, and on input to the successor to the Kyoto treaty.

At the meeting in Rome last week, I listened to what was said by delegates from the United States. One speaker told us that the United States took climate change seriously, that it was in the lead with all kinds of mitigation policies, and that it had reduced its emissions in relation to the growth of its economy. I must admit that I blinked and wondered whether I could believe what I was hearing, but in about six months that could be the reality. A new American Administration could change things dramatically. I want to make certain that the United Kingdom is at the top table, with a credible position and able to influence that new Administration. Unless the United States is engaged in the climate change agenda, we shall not be able to make the necessary progress with the successor to Kyoto and deal with the difficult issues of Chinese and Indian emissions.

When it comes to the setting of our domestic budgets, we must bear in mind the fact that we are allowed a certain quantity of carbon emissions until 2050. The carbon committee's decision on whether we should have a "ski slope trajectory" or a "cliff edge" solution will be vital to how we reduce our domestic emissions, and it is important for the committee to make clear at an early stage how it will tackle that aspect.

I should like the Bill to specify the involvement of Parliament in discussions of the Secretary of State's reports. As the Bill stands, the Secretary of State will report on the achievement or non-achievement of the targets in response to the Climate Change Committee's report, with Parliament effectively sidelined. The only sanction on Parliament is the need for it to make certain that our carbon budgets are balanced. I should like a mandatory requirement for a climate change debate, allowing the court of opinion to be represented through the expression of views in the House of Commons.

Finally, I ask the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make certain once and for all that we in this country can see who within Government is in charge of the climate change debate. I would like there to be a Cabinet Minister for climate change—somebody who can bring together all the elements of this subject to ensure that there is genuine coherence of policy as we pass this Bill.

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Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Special Envoy for Forestry 9:05 pm, 9th June 2008

I am delighted to follow Mr. Jack, who has echoed some of the very sensible remarks of his party colleague, Mr. Yeo. It is interesting that we can have such intelligent cross-party debate on this issue in the Chamber, while at the same time there is an undercurrent theme from the Opposition Benches which is utterly antediluvian—as represented by Mr. Tyrie and Mr. Lilley. I just pray that the right hon. Member for Fylde and the hon. Member for South Suffolk represent the true position and authentic voice of the Tory party on the issue.

Climate change is real. It is caused by human action, and it is already affecting the lives of millions of people throughout the world. If climate change is a fact, it is also important that we outline two others. Economic growth can, will and should continue. Often when I speak with the environmentalists, they seem to regard economic growth as the enemy; it is not, and let me explain why. Over the past two centuries, Europe and north America have managed through economic growth to raise almost one third of the population of this world out of a life of hunger, hardship and disease. In the past two decades, another third of the world's population, mostly in Asia, has found that escape route, and they, too, are transforming their lives through economic growth. In the coming years, the final third will be looking to make their escape as well, and no environmentalist, and certainly no politician, will be able to stop them, and in the interests of justice no one should try. I echo the remarks of the right hon. Member for Fylde when he spoke about the world food summit. For every 1 per cent. rise in food prices, 16 million extra people go to bed hungry every night. That demonstrates the seriousness of the challenge.

The second inescapable fact is that there comes a point when the continued emission of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere will so fundamentally affect ecosystem services that human life becomes unsustainable—or to put that into the language of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stabilise the world climate.

Let me explain why I prefer to talk in the language of ecosystem services rather than of climate change. In and of itself, change in climate would not matter. What matters is that the pace of change is so fast that biodiversity cannot keep up with it. As biodiversity declines, ecosystem services fail, and it is the ecosystem services that matter and the biodiversity upon which they are based. I guarantee that tomorrow some "intelligent" member of the press corps will quote the UK Prime Minister's special envoy for forestry as saying that climate change does not matter, but I hope that, in this Chamber, I will have conveyed the truth.

Those two inescapable facts lead us to one imperative for action: we must raise the level of carbon productivity—the amount of wealth generated per tonne of CO2 emitted. In order to maintain the current global economic growth rate of 3.1 per cent. per annum while reducing emissions to about 20 gigatonnes by 2050 and 10 gigatonnes per year thereafter—that is consistent with a 450 to 500 parts per million stabilisation scenario—carbon productivity must increase by a range of between eightfold and fifteenfold by 2050. Without that major increase in productivity, maintaining ecosystem services will become impossible, for let the rich world take note that there will be no sharing of the environmental space if there is no sharing of the development space—there will be no sharing of the environmental resources unless there is a sharing of the development commitment, and in particular of the adaptation commitment.

Achieving an eightfold to fifteenfold increase in carbon productivity will require radical and wholesale changes in the world economy at both macro and micro-economic levels. I would like to go into some of those, but time does not permit that, as colleagues wish to contribute. There are five clear areas of work, however: energy efficiency; decarbonising energy sources; accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies; changing the attitudes and behaviour of managers and consumers; and preserving the world's carbon sinks.

Let me end by describing that world in 2050 as it will be when I die, aged 93. Estimated global population projection: 10 billion people. To maintain ecosystem services: emissions limited to 20 gigatonnes by 2050, declining to 10 gigatonnes thereafter to achieve that stabilisation goal. That means an average of 2 tonnes per person per year, declining to 1 tonne—so low that there is no scope for any large group to depart significantly above or below it. Current emissions are about 11 tonnes per capita in the EU, 25 tonnes in the US and already 5 tonnes in China.

That gives us three options for the future. The first is to accept injustice, with some developed countries continuing to demand more than an equal share of the world's finite resources, which is possible but—I hope that we all think—unacceptable. The second is to increase carbon productivity still further beyond the fifteenfold increase already discussed. The third is to reduce population—something that politicians in developed countries are very reluctant to discuss, but which Governments in developing countries have already taken on board.

People are very keen to accuse China, as we have heard in this debate, over their coal-fired power stations. Such people fail to commend the political initiative that has seen 400 million people not being born to create a carbon footprint in the first place. We need to take the issue of population seriously. It is the third element of the triangle, and it should be incorporated in this Bill.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 9:11 pm, 9th June 2008

I am depressed by the re-emergence of such forceful Conservative climate change scepticism during this debate, but impressed by the emerging consensus among all three major parties regarding support not only for this Bill but for a stronger version of it.

I stand here to honour a pledge to my constituents to fight for binding targets for greenhouse gas reduction. I stand in the tradition of a party and, more importantly, a green movement that I have counted myself a member of for nearly 30 years, and that tried for decades to draw the attention of Governments to the seriousness of the crisis that we faced. I stand here finally as a parent, so that I can look my children in the eye when they are older and tell them that I played my part in the attempt to stop the catastrophe when there was still time.

The omens, however, are not good. The Bill contains the 60 per cent. target, which was based on the royal commission report from 2000. It based that, in turn, on the assumption that stabilisation at 550 parts per million was sufficient to contain global warming within 2° C above pre-industrial levels. However, by the time the Stern report was published, those numbers were already out of date. The Hadley centre, which was mentioned earlier by a Conservative Member, is quoted in the Stern report as saying that at 550 parts per million, the probability of exceeding 2° C is 99 per cent. Even at 450 parts per million, the probability of exceeding 2° C is 78 per cent. The more conservative IPCC figures put the figure at 38 per cent. That is a risk that I would happily bet on if I was betting on a horse at the Cheltenham races; it is not one I would bet on for the future of the planet.

Let us remind ourselves what exceeding 2° C of global warming actually means. Contrary to what some Conservative speakers have said today, there was a scientific review in Stern and it pointed out what the impacts of exceeding 2° C would be. It said:

"Significant changes in water availability...Possible onset of collapse of part or all of Amazonian rainforest...Many species face extinction (20-50 per cent. in one study)...Rising intensity of storms, forest fires, droughts, flooding and heat waves",

In the non-physical—in the political—realm, we can predict political and social conflict worldwide, and inevitably millions of deaths.

The truth is that the IPCC science is relatively conservative. It is based on consensus and old science, and the new science is if anything more worrying. Let me give just one example, as there is little time. A meta-study published in Nature last month examined 28,800 datasets that might reveal climate impacts on animals and plants worldwide. Some 90 per cent. revealed alterations in the direction expected as a response to warming. Some 95 per cent. of the datasets, which were linked to physical changes such as retreating glaciers, painted the same picture.

Those massive changes may induce physical feedback mechanisms to make the situation rapidly and unpredictably worse. Such mechanisms include changes in carbon absorption patterns in our oceans and soils, reduced reflectivity as white Arctic ice is more rapidly replaced by dark ocean, ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica accelerating their own melting much faster than we had first predicted, and a loss of biodiversity. The recent report by Robert Hazen of the Carnegie Institution for Science noted the added threat of deep reserves of greenhouse gases—carbon and methane—running into trillions of tonnes in the deep ocean floor and in the permafrost contributing to those feedback mechanisms. As a result, organisation after organisation is making it crystal clear that the 60 per cent. target is not enough.

I was going to cite many organisations, but as many have already been mentioned, I shall refer to just one. WWF, which knows a little about biodiversity, has cited a recent analytical study by Ecofys for DEFRA, concluding:

"An 80 per cent. target in the Climate Change Bill would therefore be at the bottom end of the range recommended by Ecofys. A 60 per cent. target would completely fail to deliver the 2° C pathway that the Government supports."

If that is not enough, Sir Nicholas Stern says:

"For a 50 per cent. reduction in global emissions by 2050, the world average per capita must drop from seven tonnes to two or three. Within these global targets, even a minimal view of equity demands that the rich countries' reductions should be at least 80 per cent.".

He is right to talk about equity, and other quotes that I could have cited mention burden sharing. This is not just a scientific decision; as some hon. Members have said, it is a moral and political decision. It is about what share of responsibility the United Kingdom and the other developed countries are prepared to take for their share of emissions.

I am pessimistic enough about this Government's ability to take action and conscious enough of the need for a clear target for industry and the private sector to be in favour of a 100 per cent. reduction target. However, I am prepared to compromise at 80 per cent. for this Bill—I believe that that is the consensus in many parts of this Chamber. I am disappointed that the Government and the Conservative Front-Bench team are still stuck at 60 per cent., and I hope that we can change their minds, not least because the UK has huge geophysical resources for renewable energy, and enormous talent and entrepreneurial potential. We should be a world leader in the fight against climate change, not a laggard.

Dr. Strang rightly said that we needed strong, early action. I am reminded of the note written by Churchill during world war two when he was presented with evidence that radical investment in code breaking could significantly shorten the war. It simply said, "Action this day." We now face an even greater, even more serious and even more global crisis than world war two. We need to move on to a war footing against climate change. We need action, and not only by setting targets in this Bill. The rest of the Government need to act on international trade, energy, transport, housing and taxation, and they need to refuse applications such as those for a third runway at Heathrow or for a new power station at Kingsnorth without carbon capture. We need action this day.

Several hon. Members:

rose —

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. Winding-up speeches are due to commence at 9.30 pm. If hon. Members can be concise, all may still be successful in catching my eye.

Photo of Alan Simpson Alan Simpson Labour, Nottingham South 9:18 pm, 9th June 2008

This, internationally, is a groundbreaking Bill, which if we give it teeth, could also be an Earth-changing one. I am pleased that tonight's debate has not turned into a parliamentary love-in to welcome the Bill, because the purpose of Second Reading must be for us to set out the basis on which to have serious arguments among ourselves about the deficiencies of the Bill. Those arguments may then be rehearsed in Committee, but ultimately they will be tested back in this Chamber on Report. We need to be honest about a determination on the part of the House to make this a Bill with teeth.

The context in which the debate is taking place is a world spinning into a multiplicity of crises. We face not only the climate crunch, but a credit crunch, a food security crunch, a water supply crunch and an oil crunch. We are told by the International Energy Agency that oil prices are expected to exceed $150 a barrel within a month. We have been warned by OPEC of the likelihood that oil prices will exceed $200 a barrel by the end of the year. That will have a huge and unavoidable impact on food prices, food supply, energy and production. Those are non-negotiable changes which we are trying to address in this Bill. The real danger globally is that we may face a series of meltdowns in global systems. If that is the case, we will be forced into a fundamental rethink about how a world that can support human life can work.

The scientific consensus is that there tends to be a 30-year delay in the environmental impact of the damage that we do now. So for the next 30 years, we cannot undo the damage that is in the pipeline: we are stuck with it. Whether the changes are driven by human impacts or solar cycles, the rate of environmental damage is accelerating. The challenge is what we do to address that. We should not be arguing about the 2050 targets, but about the 2015 or 2020 targets. That is what the scientists told us in Bali. Fundamentally, the whole shape of this century will be determined by what we do within the next five years, or 10 at the most. A figure of 26 per cent. carbon savings by 2020 is 10 per cent. short of what we need, so we need to raise the short-term targets.

The lesson that the Government have to learn is that when we have been shy about setting tough year-on-year achievement targets, we miss the milestones that we set for ourselves—on child poverty and fuel poverty eradication for the most vulnerable by 2010. Unless we take the hard decisions now, we may not be in a position to take any meaningful decisions by 2020.

We have to address new realities about the nature of the crunch. One is that everything that is non-renewable and depleting will spiral in price from now on. If there is anything that stands a chance of saving the poor it is a fundamental shift towards the sustainable and the renewable.

I must disagree with several parts of the Bill. The first is mandatory reporting standards. We cannot have an objective shift on the scale that we need if everyone is making up the standards as they go along. If even the CBI says that it supports that, so must we. The second is targets and how we meet them. The targets have to be domestic. We have to move away from the presumption that we can pay someone else to meet them. If a Member of Parliament were stopped by the police and found to be driving three times over the alcohol limit, they could not give the excuse that although they might be blind drunk at the wheel, they had sponsored a man in Botswana to stay at home sober. That would not get them off the rack. We have to be held to account for the dangers that we present in how we drive our economy, as we are when we drive our cars. We are the danger on the road to survival and we have to change our behaviour ourselves.

The third area is aviation and shipping, which have to be added to the Bill, even if we simply factor in their carbon impact. If the Government insist that those two sectors have to have their impact covered by other people, at least their impact has to be added to the equation, as the royal commission required in 2000.

Trading emissions is the Mickey Mouse idea of our time. A study of the effectiveness of CFC and HFC reduction programmes in the developing world found that they cost $5 billion in carbon credits, but it would have cost $100 million just to give the countries the money to do the clean-up directly. We need to choose the transparent and the simple method, not the complex and speculative.

The issue on reporting is not the competence, integrity or commitment of DEFRA Ministers. It is the commitment of the Government as a whole. In that context, everyone knows that the obstacles will not come from officials in DEFRA. They will come from the Treasury, which is where they have always come from. If anyone is going to throw a spanner in the works, it is the Treasury. If that is the case, the person who has to be accountable is the Prime Minister. This is about leadership from the Government as a whole. If the Prime Minister wants to take hold of the issue and say to the House and to the country, "The buck stops here", the response that he will get from outside is, "You bet your life it does!"

Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon 9:25 pm, 9th June 2008

I shall restrict my remarks to three minutes to allow others to get in.

First, I want to place on the record my broad support for the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron on his leadership on the issue during the past two years. My support comes with two caveats. First, the Bill must be seen in the context of a multilateral necessity. That is crucial. We are legislating today to have a serious impact on our domestic arrangements, and so I want the Government to demonstrate that they will redouble their efforts to ensure that global action is taken around the world by all countries and all Governments. In particular, I want them to seize the opportunity afforded by the US elections in November to have a dialogue with the new Administration to ensure that there is leadership on the issue from the US. We need to ensure, too, that the EU, which interferes unnecessarily in our lives in so many areas where we could do things unilaterally, takes some leadership in the one area in which we want it to. Collectively, it should meet the highest standards in reducing carbon emissions, particularly as we move towards Copenhagen.

My second caveat has been mentioned before. All the Bill does is introduce targets and a committee. That is fine, but we want to see the meat of the action that will be taken to change people's behaviour in this country. I want to read a letter from some of my constituents, and if it takes the rest of my time it is worth doing. I received it this morning, and I ask the Government to listen, please. Some of the things that they have been doing with vehicle excise duty have not changed behaviour but hurt the poor. The letter reads, "Mr. Streeter, we are against the increased excise duty being applied retrospectively. My husband is disabled and his choice of car is governed by his ability to get in and out of a particular car. He bought his car in May 2003. We use it frugally and average 3,000 miles per annum, so our impact on the environment is minimal. We are pensioners and the proposed hike from £210 this year to £430 in 2010 is absolutely appalling. We cannot afford to change our car and anyway this retrospective taxation would make our current immaculate low-mileage vehicle all but worthless". So they go on.

We cannot support action dressed up as a green tax when it is only effectively a stealth tax. It has to change behaviour. The fact that the VED changes go back to 2003 does not provide any opportunity to change behaviour and they clobber the poorest. I support the Bill, but the measures that flow from it must be genuine green taxes and should not give green taxes and green measures a bad name.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North 9:28 pm, 9th June 2008

Mr. Streeter has highlighted the most important point this evening. I want to reiterate the sense of my earlier intervention. I welcome the fact that we now have all-party consensus on the objectives and nearly on the targets, but unless we develop all-party consensus on the mechanisms we will not go anywhere. We have a problem when Conservative Back Benchers resist measures that might not be perfectly fine-tuned, but must in principle be part of the solution—that is, affecting the demand for private transport. Whether we are talking about variable vehicle excise duty or road pricing, the decisions are difficult but there is no point in anybody putting their hand on their heart and saying how green they are and then turning away when the difficult decision comes. I am the first to agree that some fine-tuning of the proposed changes to vehicle excise duty might be necessary, but the principle behind the proposals is absolutely right. They are absolutely consistent with the Bill.

I welcome the main provisions of the Bill. I have followed the development of climate change debates in the House over 11 years, from the time when barely two or three Members could be found who wanted to contribute to the debate. Of course, in those days, climate change was seen as a peripheral issue, which was a little bit about the environment and a little bit about the natural world. Gradually, people came to understand that it was also perhaps about social justice in this country and abroad. Gradually, it came to be seen as a matter of economics. Of course, the Stern report was crucial in that. Now, the environment is seen as an issue of security and survival. We should not underestimate the seriousness of the threats that we face. That is why the radical nature of the Bill and the legal framework that it proposes are so important.

Although the Opposition sceptics feel strongly about the Bill, we must understand that whether or not the precise scientific projections and the precise economic analysis are correct is almost beside the point, because things change so quickly. I generally accept the science put forward by the IPCC, but I do not believe for a minute that today's scientists can accurately predict what will happen in 2050. I broadly accept the economic arguments in the Stern report, but I do not believe for a minute that it is possible to calculate precisely the economic benefits or disbenefits of specific actions.

We must take it on trust that climate change is happening. We have seen the impact on poor people around the world, in the small island states and China's agricultural regions, which are now subject to desertification, and we have seen what is happening in Darfur. Therefore, I welcome the principles behind the Bill. I hope that the Government will be sensitive and flexible in dealing with amendments in Committee.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Opposition Whip (Commons) 9:31 pm, 9th June 2008

I shall take one minute to make one point to the Government. I recently served on Committees that considered two major measures: the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill and the Housing and Regeneration Bill, which were transformed in Committee by the Government's own amendments. I seek reassurance from the Minister that the Government have thought the Bill through and that, in Committee, we will not dilute the Bill's core value, which is as a framework Bill that will send a clear signal to the markets about the changes that we are making to the way we set and revise targets and hold the Government accountable for those targets. That is what the markets want to hear; that is what they will base their investments on. Let us not dilute the Bill by applying the kitchen-sink principle to taking it through Committee.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 9:32 pm, 9th June 2008

This has been an historic parliamentary occasion. Certainly, the scale and the nature of the planetary crisis that the Bill seeks to address is simply without precedent, as we were reminded by Alan Simpson. As the excellent speeches in the debate from hon. Members on both sides of the House have made clear, humankind is walking into uncharted territory as it attempts to avert climate chaos. But the framework of the Bill, which seeks to set clear targets for successive Governments to reach all the way to 2050, is unique, so vigorous, healthy and challenging parliamentary debate, the sharing of wisdom and the robust analysis of both the threat and our response to it are not only welcome but absolutely vital.

Let us be honest: the gargantuan scale of climate change is daunting for us all, and the science already tells us that we can be by no means certain of avoiding the worst effects of man-made global warming. As we were reminded by Rob Marris, preparation and adaptation must be important elements of this framework Bill. However, as the Bill continues its passage through the Commons, the House can expect a consistent approach from Conservative Front Benchers. Under the leadership of my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron, we will continue to be relentlessly optimistic, persistently ambitious and repeatedly long term. But tackling dangerous climate change effectively will be a real test for all Britain's political leaders.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

No, I will not give way.

It is incumbent on every political party not only to make the case for action, but to endeavour to bring the public along with us as we go. We must strive to build the broadest coalition and to find a sense of common purpose that has united our nation in the face of great challenges in times past, not because we want to squeeze out dissent or to create a cosy back-slapping consensus but because we must chart a course that will outlive not just this Government but successive Administrations for decades to come, whatever their political colour.

Britain will be fighting this battle long after the last of us has left Westminster, and the current Parliament has just a couple of years to run, at most. The next Administration and those that come after it will need to show genuine leadership, demonstrate real vision, and commit to the long-term strategy inherent in the Bill if the United Kingdom is to stand a real chance of playing its full part in the international battle to keep global warming to a rise of less than 2° C on pre-industrial levels.

I hope that the debate has sent a clear message to the sceptics, pessimists and doom-mongers who suggest that we have to choose between economic growth and going green. The notion that in the 21st century we have to choose between the two is outdated and backward-looking. Many of the most urgent steps that we need to take to reduce dependence on fossil fuels are sensible and desirable in themselves, regardless of the climate change imperative. The idea that man's ingenuity and talent cannot take us past the age of expensive, polluting fossil fuels is profoundly short-term and unambitious. In fact, building a more sustainable economy is an investment that we can ill afford to delay. As many speakers have pointed out, in an age of rapidly depleting and exhausted natural resources, far from diverging, the worried consumer and the campaigning environmentalist should be marching together, arm in arm.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will not, I am afraid.

Anyone filling their car at the pumps, anyone with a heating bill to pay, anyone with an electricity demand popping through their letterbox is right to be worried by the relentless rise in the price of fossil fuels. This evening, the spot price for oil stands at a record high of $139 a barrel. Some analysts at Goldman Sachs speculate that a barrel of oil could hit $200 by December. Today, the spot price of coal hit $175, a staggering increase from just $63 two years ago. Gas now stands at $77 per barrel of oil equivalent, up from $29 in 2007—an increase of 166 per cent. in just over a year.

Whatever the short-term price fluctuations, it is absolutely clear that the era of cheap fossil fuels is over—a sentiment echoed this morning by the chief executive of BP. We will not just stumble on replacements for hydrocarbons or easily wean our businesses and consumers off dependence on oil and gas; that will require clear leadership from future Governments. The Bill is an important step in that direction, which is why the CBI strongly supports it and considers it to be a critical tool for making climate change an urgent, shared national priority for companies, consumers and Government.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will not, because I have very little time.

There have been some terrific contributions to the debate. My favourite has to be that of my right hon. Friend David Maclean, who has been a parliamentary hero of mine since I first served under him in the Opposition Whips Office. His powerful defence of the rain forest, which he called the lungs of the earth, elevated him yet further in my eyes. My hon. Friend Tony Baldry reminded us that the issue of social justice is inseparable from climate change, and Darfur is an example of state instability as a result of dwindling national resources.

In a real tour de force, my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer reminded us that the situation can be an opportunity, not a threat. He did much when in office to advance the agenda on the issue.

Colin Challen demonstrated real expertise and reminded us of the immediate need for adaptation, particularly in relation to flood defences.

My hon. Friend Mr. Yeo, the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, spoke of the huge competitive advantage that would result from British leadership in changing to a low-carbon economy. As the EAC has made clear, we must not become preoccupied with the 2050 target. The focus should be on the 2020 near-term target.

Mr. Morley, who also has a strong record in this field, spoke of the need for the UK to provide leadership, and said that we should balance the need to drive change with realisation of the futility of action that simply drives energy-intensive industries into the developing world.

It will not surprise my hon. Friend Mr. Tyrie that I take issue with some of his comments. I did not recognise much of his analysis, which is not shared by the Front-Bench team, and I fundamentally disagree with his conclusions. The vast majority of the measures that we propose to tackle global warming would make us more energy efficient and less dependent on expensive foreign fossil fuels and are a good thing in themselves.

My right hon. Friend Mr. Lilley is a sceptic, but he, too, reminded us that we need to take into account concern for social justice and the effect of climate change on the world's most vulnerable.

Mr. Meacher strongly supported the Bill but argued that we must enhance it further. I was worried but listened carefully when he said that the left hand in DEFRA does not know what the right hand is doing, and if it does, it cannot stop it. Coming from someone who has served in that Department—

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I have missed out a bit. I apologise and I stand corrected. The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton said that the Government must produce a clear and precise strategy for meeting the EU 2020 target of 15 per cent. renewable energy. On that we all agree.

My right hon. Friend Mr. Jack, the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, made a wide-ranging and expert speech ending with a call for a Cabinet Minister for climate change, which was probably noted by both Ministers on the Front Bench.

Barry Gardiner made a valuable contribution, as did Mr. Chaytor. My hon. Friend Mr. Streeter was spot-on with his observation that stealth taxes disguised as green taxes serve only to give the whole environmental agenda a bad name.

Progressive, profitable, forward-looking businesses everywhere are grasping the climate change opportunity. However, the Bill on its own will not deliver the changes that they need. Although we support the framework, it should be no surprise that we are far more critical of the Government's record of real carbon reductions to date, and their lack of ambitious policies to deliver the economic carbon transformation anticipated in the Bill.

Nevertheless, I congratulate Ministers on bringing the Bill thus far. It is a welcome step towards creating a long-term public policy framework that will enable British entrepreneurs and wealth creators to gain some of the certainty and direction that they need to drive dynamic industrial change—dynamic industrial change that will spawn new industries, create thousands of new jobs, utilise the tremendous talents, skills and abilities of the British work force, help arrest the remorseless exhaustion of the planet's finite natural resources, drive the transformation of our economy and secure the long-term prosperity and well-being of future generations.

I look forward to working constructively with the Government to take the Bill into Committee, to scrutinise it and improve it, mindful of the need to protect the interests of hard-pressed consumers in a tough economic environment, mindful of the need of businesses for long-term clarity and certainty, and mindful of the need to maintain full accountability to Parliament of the present Administration and all future Governments as they strive to meet the demanding, stretching carbon reduction targets set out in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State opened the debate from our Benches by quoting Margaret Thatcher, the first world leader to call for concerted global action against man-made climate change. I close with a less well known quote from her, which was equally prescient. In November 1990, in one of her last speeches before leaving office, Lady Thatcher told the world climate conference:

"The IPCC tells us that, on present trends, the earth will warm up faster than at any time since the last ice age. Weather patterns could change so that what is now wet could become dry, and what is now dry could become wet. Rising seas could threaten the livelihood of that substantial part of the world's population which lives on or near coasts. The character and behaviour of plants would change, some for the better, some for worse. Some species of animals and plants would migrate to different zones or disappear for ever. Forests would die or move. And deserts would advance as green fields retreated. Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event. It is sensible to improve energy efficiency and use energy prudently; it's sensible to develop alternative and sustainable and sensible...it's sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it's sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it's sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it's sensible to tackle the problem of waste. I understand that the latest vogue is to call them 'no regrets' policies. Certainly we should have none in putting them into effect."

Indeed, we should have no regrets, just renewed ambition and even greater determination to overcome the challenge of global warming. In that spirit, we welcome the Bill.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste) 9:45 pm, 9th June 2008

I am grateful to Gregory Barker for his support. Let us be absolutely clear about just how ambitious the Bill is. When it receives Royal Assent—in a few months' time, I hope—the UK will be the first country in the world to have a legally binding, long-term framework to cut CO2 emissions and adapt to climate change. The framework of binding targets and budgets, and the accompanying obligations on the Government, supported by maximum transparency and by parliamentary oversight, will drive the UK's transition to the low-carbon economy that we need both to play our part in that crucial global effort and to secure our own economic future.

I very much welcome the generally positive tone of today's debate. Mr. Ainsworth, in his opening remarks, said that the Bill is probably the most important piece of environmental legislation in a generation. He is correct. He asked me about clause 1 and the purpose of the Bill. May I tell him that any attempt to hold the world to a 2° C temperature rise depends on every country playing its part? It cannot be a unilateral move, and we therefore have difficulty accepting his point. He asked about the Prime Minister being responsible for reporting, but we have a Cabinet Government, and the whole Government are bound by the Bill and the whole Government will have to report in due course.

The hon. Gentleman asked about overseas credits, as did Steve Webb. The majority of emissions savings will, indeed, come from our domestic effort, but the fact is that in the emissions trading scheme, 50 per cent. of our emissions can be dealt with by companies making their own decisions. They can, for example, make reductions in a plant in Germany rather than in one in the UK. If we want the trading scheme, we cannot have limits on the emissions and credits that we can obtain overseas. The hon. Member for East Surrey asked about Lord Turner. The most important thing that he will do as the chair of the new committee will be to set the advice to the Government on those first budgets. That he will do. He will leave in the new year, but not until that most important job is done.

My many hon. Friends have made very constructive speeches, but I have no time to go into all of them. The hon. Member for Northavon rather failed to rise to the occasion, although far be it from me to call his contribution a piddling little speech. He spoke about the 80 per cent. target. Of course, the Bill says "at least" 60 per cent, and we have made it very clear that in the reference to the Climate Change Committee, we have allowed for the fact that the provision may be tightened to 80 per cent. The hon. Gentleman has to wait only until the end of this year, when that decision will be taken.

Mr. Yeo made a good speech. I was grateful to him for agreeing that progress against the 2020 interim target is the most important issue. He offered to supply some names for Lord Turner's replacement, and we would be delighted to hear any names from the hon. Gentleman.

My hon. Friend Linda Gilroy, in a very supportive speech, spoke about the importance of the oceans—one area about which we are extremely conscious—and of going beyond the tales in the tabloid press, which fail to encourage people to take their responsibilities seriously.

My hon. Friend Colin Challen spoke with his usual expertise and commitment. The Bill requires the committee to publish its advice and the reasons for it, so if the Government were to set a target at a different level, they would have to say why. The issue of transparency is covered.

Many hon. Members referred to aviation and shipping. Those matters are best addressed at the international level, working through the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Authority and the International Maritime Organisation. We are taking action in Europe. We have been leading in Europe on the question of including aviation and shipping emissions. However, complex issues are involved and, as was recognised in the other place, we need expert advice from the Committee on Climate Change before we take a decision on whether to include international aviation and shipping emissions in our targets under the Bill.

David Maclean made an important contribution on forests and biodiversity and the need to assist developing economies. We can all bear that in mind in the debate about whether we accept a restriction on the credits that we obtain overseas.

My right hon. Friend Mr. Meacher, in a typically challenging speech, discussed mandatory reporting by companies. The Companies Act 2006 provides for reporting on environmental issues by listed companies, but it is too early to say how well they are reporting and what they are reporting on. When Lord Rooker accepted the amendment in the House of Lords, he said that the Government would have to consider the matter further, and that is what we will do. Kingsnorth has not yet been licensed, and we cannot anticipate what will happen in that respect.

Tony Baldry spoke on the basis of his international experience and referred to the importance of setting an example. He mentioned the need to convince China. We totally agree, and we work very closely with China. That is why carbon capture and storage is so important.

My hon. Friend Anne Snelgrove made a very supportive speech. I am grateful for her remarks, particularly about the contribution of individuals, who are responsible for 40 per cent. of all the emissions that arise in this country. Our "Act on CO2" campaign and advice line are the best means by which individuals can contribute. As she said, the contribution of communities is also extremely important. She asked about the Government needing to do more on the question of buildings. All Departments are making greater efforts in relation to energy efficiency and sustainable development in general. The carbon reduction commitment, which is part of the Bill, will cover large councils and Departments and help to drive down emissions.

David Howarth agreed that individuals should play their part by using their power in the marketplace and referred to reporting by companies, which I have already dealt with. We very much agree with his sentiments.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I cannot give way. [Hon. Members: "Give way!"] I cannot; there is no time.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr. Morley and to the great contribution that he makes, particularly as president of GLOBE International. He raised several points that I think that I have covered already. He referred to recycling as being absolutely crucial in reducing emissions. That is very important. He is entirely right about bringing about behavioural change on waste as opposed to other means. He spoke about annual targets. Every year, the committee will report to Parliament on progress, and every year the Government must respond. We do not support annual targets because— [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The Minister has the Floor. It is not wise for Mr. Lilley to say what he is saying. It is clear that the hon. Lady is not giving way, so let her continue with her speech. The right hon. Gentleman has had his tuppence worth.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to cover the points that were made.

As I said, my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe referred to targets. The committee will report to Parliament on progress, and every year, the Government must respond. We do not, however, support annual targets because there is always some variability in emissions each year—weather being an obvious case in point. Having annual targets would be a great problem, but there will be reporting and transparency, and there will be the opportunity for everyone to comment.

In the contributions of Mr. Lilley and the hon. Members for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) and for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples), the true voice of conservatism was heard tonight—completely out of step with the majority of scientists. In February last year, the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change evaluated all available lines of evidence and concluded that there was a 90 per cent. chance that human emissions have caused most of the warming since 1950. That is the clearest answer to the points that the right hon. Gentleman raised.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The right hon. Gentleman knows better, and he is defying the Chair now. He has shifted the ground a bit, and he should behave himself. He usually does.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

On the question of finances and the impact assessment raised by the right hon. Gentleman, we will be happy to deal with the matter in Committee. It would be impossible for me, given the moments that I have left, to deal with the points that he—

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste)

No, I am sorry. I have made it very clear that I am trying to answer the points that were made in the debate.

My hon. Friend Hugh Bayley provided the antidote to those sceptics who spoke, indicating that less carbon dependency by our companies can lead to greater profitability. My hon. Friend Dr. Turner said that policies should have climate impact assessments. I agree with him entirely, and all of our policies and pieces of legislation are required to have a climate impact assessment as part of their regulatory impact assessments.

My hon. Friend Rob Marris has done more than anyone to advance the adaptation debate. I congratulate him on that. He has done a huge amount of work, but a huge amount of work on the matter is going on in the Government. I am the Minister with responsibility for adaptation, and we are involving bodies at every level, such as local authorities and regional development agencies. We have the Climate Change Committee, the UK climate impacts programme and a raft of measures through which we will get a proper assessment of risks, a programme of adaptation measures to address those risks and new powers to require reporting by public authorities.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend Mr. Kidney for his supportive speech. He raised the issue of feed-in tariffs, which are under consideration. Mr. Jack, in a powerful speech, showed a great deal of understanding of our global responsibilities and the importance of the UK being at the top table. My hon. Friend Barry Gardiner made an important contribution on ecosystems and biodiversity, development and adaptation commitments and the important issue of population. My hon. Friend Alan Simpson made a passionate speech bringing to bear his great experience on this issue, and I know that he will keep us on our toes throughout the Committee.

Mr. Hurd, in the final moments, asked whether we would water down the Bill. We have no intention of watering it down. The questions of Mr. Streeter were answered by my hon. Friend Mr. Chaytor, to whom I pay tribute for his hugely consistent campaigning and the welcome that he gave to the Bill.

It is clear that the UK has a fine record of leadership internationally on the enormously challenging issue that we have been discussing. The Bill provides the essential framework for ensuring that our response at home is commensurate with the challenge. The House has deliberated on few more serious issues than climate change.

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Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 344, Noes 3.

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Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

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