Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 13 November 2008.

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Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy Labour, Plymouth, Sutton 10:30, 13 November 2008

What recent assessment he has made of the progress towards achieving the Government's target for carbon dioxide emissions reduction by 2050.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Between 1990 and 2006, the UK cut by 16 per cent. its own emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide; and if action taken under the EU emissions trading scheme is included, emissions were cut by 20 per cent. That makes Britain one of the few countries in the world that is on course to exceed its Kyoto targets; and we are the first in the world to legislate for a 2050 target, which, following my announcement last month, is now set at 80 per cent.

Photo of Linda Gilroy Linda Gilroy Labour, Plymouth, Sutton

I welcome that progress, but my right hon. Friend will know that many of my constituents are particularly interested in climate change. Does he understand their concern that the Government are not yet moving fast enough on issues such as getting the balance right between air, road and rail travel? Does he acknowledge that they also worry about credits, which may be a way of buying our way out of things rather reducing our own emissions?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need a balanced approach and that we need proper domestic effort to deal with these issues. What I would say to her and others listening to our debate on the question of buying in credits from abroad is that we need to show that we—the whole world—are in this together. If we can find ways of providing finance to developing countries to enable them to move towards a low-carbon economy, I believe that that is all to the good. There need to be limits, but we argue in favour of that in the EU and we also have recommendations from the Energy and Climate Change Committee to consider. My hon. Friend is right in what she says, but I believe that credits have a role to play as well.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

During the debate on the Climate Change Bill, the Secretary of State made much of the fact that the targets that he has set will be legally binding. Will he confirm that that does not mean that Ministers or officials will be held to account or punished if they fail to meet those targets and that its only implication is that those targets are judicially reviewable? Does he accept that if a court believes that he is failing to achieve those targets, it could insist, without being democratically accountable to the public, that we spend more and take more measures to meet the targets—all £200 billion of them—than the Government are currently committed to?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I will. I know from our discussions that the right hon. Gentleman is a sceptic about some of our climate change targets. It is of course the case that the targets in the Bill will be judicially reviewable. It is also the case that there are limits to the actions that can be taken against Governments. However, the important point is that when the House set out its general cross-party consensus on long-term targets, it was a way of binding the hands of Ministers in this Government and Ministers in future Governments. No Parliament can completely bind the hands of the next Parliament, but this was an important innovation because it set out so clearly—in a cross-party consensus—the objectives that Ministers needed to follow to meet the targets.

Photo of Mark Todd Mark Todd Labour, South Derbyshire

One means of meeting our targets is to change the balance of our energy generation. A new biomass power station is already planned at Drakelow in my constituency, but are there opportunities to encourage the site owners to explore other biomass options at other locations along power valley—the Trent valley which South Derbyshire straddles?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

My hon. Friend has made a good point. Biomass can play an important role in meeting some of our future energy needs, particularly in terms of heating. We have tabled amendments to the Energy Bill to encourage the generation of renewable heat, but I think we can go a great deal further to meet our climate change targets in that regard.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

It is to the Secretary of State's credit that he listened to the experts, scientists and thousands of campaigners across the country who called for the target of an 80 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2050, but does he agree that if that target is to be met, the current target of a 26 per cent. reduction by 2020 will need to be revised significantly upwards? If so, when does he intend to announce the new target?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I thought that the hon. Lady was going to add that I had listened to the advice of the Liberal Democrats, but, in a very non-partisan way, she resisted the temptation, on which I congratulate her. She is right to suggest that we need to look again at our 2020 targets.

Lord Turner will make recommendations on 1 December for carbon budgets for the next 15 years, which will include 2020. It is also important for us to stick to the agreement reached by the Heads of Government in 2007 that we will aim for a 20 per cent. overall European Union reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and a 30 per cent. reduction contingent on agreement at Copenhagen. That is something for which we have argued. We will take a view on the new 2020 targets following Lord Turner's advice.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

When my right hon. Friend made his first statement to the House as Secretary of State, he told me that calculating the direction of travel for public spending would be an important part of meeting our climate change targets. He said that he would go away and do some homework. Will he now tell us what assessment he has made of whether we are on track to meet the Stern recommendations?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

I am tempted to say, "The dog ate my homework", but I think the best thing for me to tell my hon. Friend is that I am working on it. Now that she has asked me the question a second time, I shall make sure that I demonstrate further progress next time she asks it.


2/10. Must do better. See Mr Johnson.

Submitted by S Hewlett

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

There was broad support for the adoption of the even more stretching 2050 and 2020 targets, but what policy does the Secretary of State believe does more to undermine their credibility—building a third runway at Heathrow, or the Government's commitment to building a new generation of dirty coal-fired power stations without carbon capture and storage from the outset?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

The hon. Gentleman is on the fringe wing of the Tory Front Bench—he is its outrider—when it comes to these issues, about which he knows a great deal. Let me deal directly with the two questions that he has asked, because they are important. The two main points about aviation are that reducing its carbon emissions must be, and is, part of our overall climate change objectives, and that we must put a price on those carbon emissions, and are doing so under the European Union emissions trading scheme. The decision on the third runway is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but whatever decision is made, there will be a carbon price for aviation. That is the most important point.

As for what the hon. Gentleman describes as "dirty" coal-fired power stations, Conservative Front Benchers have made a decision on those: whatever the needs of security of supply and whatever the demands for the next decade—about which the hon. Gentleman asked—there must be no more new coal-fired power stations. I take the more balanced view that we need to examine the case relating to security of supply and, as quickly as possible, establish how we can also meet our need to reduce carbon emissions. That is the work that we are undertaking. We will respond to the carbon capture and readiness consultation that we initiated, and then we will answer those questions.