rose to call attention to climate change; and to move for Papers.
My Lords, this debate on the problems of climate change is most timely. Climate change and sustainable development in Africa are the two principal themes for the UK's presidency of the G8 and the European Council of Ministers, and in two weeks' time, on the 28th of this month, the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Montreal. It seems likely that there will be disagreements in Montreal over whether new targets for reducing emissions should be set beyond the first period of the Kyoto Protocol, and I shall return to that.
We should remind ourselves that our planet's climate has varied hugely over the billions of years that the planet has existed. It is very likely that at times it has been entirely covered in snow and ice—"snowball Earth". At other times, tropical animals have roamed the poles. Even over the 100,000 years or more of Homo sapiens' tenure on Earth, ice ages have come and gone. But the most recent 6,000 years have been unusually steady since the beginnings of agriculture and the dawn of the first cities. Over that time, ice core records show clearly that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have been remarkably steady at around 280 parts per million, give or take 10 parts per million. Carbon dioxide is of course the principal greenhouse gas that plays a crucial, if complex, role in determining the climate of the Earth. Some people have argued that the dawn of agriculture and the rise of cities and civilisation which have occurred during those remarkably stable six to eight millennia are in fact a consequence of that steadiness rather than a simple coincidence.
More recently, following James Watt's invention of the steam engine in this country, the advent of the industrial revolution began to drive up concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere as we burned fossil fuels. At first, the rise was slow. It took a century and a half to rise to 315 parts per million, taking us outside the envelope of the previous six to eight millennia, but it accelerated during the 20th century. Levels reached 330 parts per million by the 1970s, 360 by the 1990s and 380 today. A change of the magnitude of 20 parts per million over the past decade has not been seen since the last ice age ended, yet we are looking at a near doubling of the levels to 500 or 550 parts per million by the middle of this century.
Long time lags are involved in these processes, but, frankly, that is not easily appreciated by people who are unfamiliar with physical systems. They mean, among many other things, that small actions now are disproportionately important—more important than large actions later. Once in the atmosphere, the characteristic "residence" time of carbon dioxide is about a century, and the time taken for ocean warming to come to equilibrium with surface warming—deep oceans have to be penetrated—is several centuries. It is worth noting that the last time our planet settled to greenhouse gas levels as high as 500 parts per million was some 20 to 40 million years ago, and at that time sea levels were about 300 feet higher.
The Dutch Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen has suggested that we entered a new geological epoch in the 1780s, the Anthropocene, when industrialisation began to alter the geochemical history of the planet. Such increases in the concentration of the greenhouse gases that blanket the planet cause warming, albeit with the timelags just noted. The most recent report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that that warming over the coming century would be somewhere between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees centigrade. Many people smile at that, because it is hard to take a few degrees centigrade in temperature seriously. Day to day, the temperature can change by more than 10 degrees.
There is, however, a huge difference between a global average of 1 degree, sustained year on year, and the much bigger daily fluctuations. It is worth remembering that the temperature difference between today and the depths of the last ice age was 5 degrees centigrade. The impacts of that warming are many and serious. Sea levels rise, and there are changes in the availability of fresh water as precipitation patterns change—that in a world when human numbers already press hard on available water supplies. There is increasing incidence of what are called extreme events—floods, droughts, hurricanes—the serious consequences of which are beginning to rise to levels which literally invite comparison with weapons of mass destruction.
The timescales of some of the other non-linear processes involved in climate change are less certain. As the Arctic ice cap melts, dark water is exposed, surface reflectivity increases and warming accelerates. As northern permafrost melts, large amounts of methane gas are released. Methane is a more effective greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. In warm epochs of the past, the Gulf Stream has turned off, but we do not know too much about the timescales of such events.
I shall skip over the effects of global warming on other animals—of which there are many notable examples, compounding the problems of conserving biological diversity—and turn to the things that absorb our attention: us. A very recent Royal Society report addresses the interplay between climate change and crop production, and unhappily emphasises that:
"Africa is consistently predicted to be among the worst hit areas across a range of future climate change scenarios".
This echoes the disconnect between the two central themes of our G8 presidency. On the one hand, we have solemn and sincere promises to increase aid and support development in Africa; on the other, there is a lack of agreement on measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions, which means that increasing amounts of aid will be spent tackling the consequences.
In this context, it is worth strongly emphasising the Royal Society's initiative in producing a short, forceful, unprecedented statement from all the science academies of the G8 countries, along with China, India and Brazil, making it clear that climate change is real. It is caused largely by human activities and has serious consequences. It calls on the G8 to:
"Identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emission", recognising that delayed actions will risk adverse consequences and larger costs later.
So what should we be doing? One thing is clear: the magnitude of the problem is such that there is no single answer, no magic bullet. Rather, a wide range of activities needs to be undertaken. They can broadly be divided into four categories. I know that other speakers will amplify them, so I shall pass by this quickly. First, we can adapt to some change; we can stop building on floodplains. Secondly, we can reduce inputs of carbon dioxide by reducing wasteful consumption. There are studies that show that better designed homes can halve energy consumption without loss of amenity. Thirdly, we could capture some of the carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuel and sequester it by burying it on land or under the seabed. Fourthly, we could move to the various forms of renewable energy sources that do not put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, some of which are on-stream and some of which are more futuristic.
In particular, there is an extremely influential study by two of my former colleagues at Princeton, Pacala and Socolow. They presented a scheme of 15 "stabilisation wedges", each one of which would be sufficient to prevent 1 billion tonnes of carbon being emitted by around 2050. All 15 wedges are based on proven technologies. Any seven of the 15, if implemented promptly and strenuously, could hold emissions at around the 2010 to 2015 level. None will be easy or uncontroversial. But this study shows that we could get there if we put our minds to it, although not with one single, simple technological fix.
We made a good start with the setting up of the IPCC in 1988. It brings together the world's top scientists in disciplines related to climate change. Its recent third report involved 1,250 scientists from some 60 countries—deliberately seeking out dissenting voices—and was careful to set out the range of uncertainties. But ultimately both the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto protocol are political treaties, explicitly stating that developed countries should lead the way in tackling climate change because they have been largely responsible for the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations so far. To underline that, note that in metric tonnes of carbon a year per person, the US inputs 5.5, Europe 2.2, China 0.7, India 0.2—but there are more Indians—and other countries input less.
As I said at the outset, the conference of the parties to the climate change convention will take place in Montreal on
Of course, it is difficult to take costly action today on behalf of a seemingly distant future. The Prime Minister said,
"the blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge".
The blunter truth about the politics of climate change is that countries are not doing enough to sever the link between economic growth and increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. The developed world may already be paying larger costs in dealing with the consequences of the current warming than it could be spending on doing something about the future. An example—one among many—is that, according to studies published earlier this year in advance of the hurricanes, global warming played a part in the unusual ferocity of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Hurricanes derive their energy from surface water. The Gulf of Mexico has never been hotter in recorded time—hence their ferocity. The estimated damage by Katrina alone was equivalent to 1.7 per cent of annual United States' GDP. That gives some sense of the past, and is but a hint of things to come as this escalator rises.
I conclude by emphasising, however, that the cost in developing countries will be even larger, particularly in Africa and other more vulnerable parts of the world. Research earlier this month suggests that the drop in rainfall in Ethiopia and surrounding countries in the past few years—where 6–10 million people already face serious food shortages—is also caused by a rise in sea surface temperatures, this time in the southern Indian Ocean. In the developing world climate change is about life and death, not just about domestic economics. We shall hear later in the debate many other facets of this and wise thoughts about the economic instruments that work together. In an ideal world I see private and public initiatives being used to motivate effective action.
The fact is that, given the accelerating pace of the climate change escalator we have set in motion, future generations will be asked to make much greater sacrifices if we do not begin to act more seriously to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We need all countries to act in equitable proportions; otherwise the virtuous will be economically disadvantaged while all suffer the consequences of the sinners' inaction. Whether our leaders on the national and the international stage, both within and outside government, have the courage and the vision to take the necessary actions remains an open question. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, for giving us the chance to debate this immensely important subject and for setting the scene so brilliantly with his opening speech. There are so many aspects to the different initiatives to deal with climate change that it is not possible to cover them all in one speech. Therefore, I shall concentrate on one policy initiative which could be done quickly, where the technology is known and available and which would reduce CO2 emissions from road transport. We all know that the road transport sector is where CO2 emissions are increasing.
I refer to the use of biofuels provided for in the renewable transport fuel obligation. Its statutory basis is the nine sections of Chapter 5 of the Energy Act 2004. An RTFO requires a stated proportion of transport fuel to be biofuel with penalties for non-compliance. The EU Biofuels Directive has an indicative target of 5.75 per cent inclusion of biofuels in transport fuel by 2010.
The RTFO is in the Energy Act 2004 as a result of an amendment which I moved in Committee with all-party support and with the help of Mr Peter Clery, the chairman of the British Association for Biofuels and Oils; the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, the president of BABFO; and Department for Transport officials, who helped me to steer the amendment through successive stages of the Bill. I declare an interest as vice-chairman of BABFO. I mention all this to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Whitty, the Minister in charge of the then Energy Bill, who took the decision to accept the RTFO amendment at Third Reading. He agreed with the argument that without such an amendment to provide a statutory basis, the Government would not be able to implement an RTFO should they wish to do so.
The RTFO amendment was accepted at Third Reading on the basis that it would be redrafted in the Commons. A simple one-page amendment came back from the Commons as nine pages of legislation with nine clauses. That showed that the Government, certainly then, took seriously the prospect of introducing an RTFO. The crucial clause is permissive, leaving with the Government the initiative to introduce an RTFO by order.
Biofuel interest groups have lobbied hard, since the Energy Act 2004 was passed, at many meetings with the relevant Ministers and officials. The policy has been taken forward by four departments: the Treasury, DTI, DfT and Defra. Things seemed to stall, but now there are definite signs of movement. As the Prime Minister said in an article in the Observer on
"One policy being considered is the increased use of biofuels, already well developed in Brazil and the US. If we can achieve just 5 per cent of fuel from renewable sources by 2010 that has the potential to take [out] more than one megatonne of carbon".
That was backed up by a news article in the Observer on the same day, with the headline:
"Blair pushes for 'eco-friendly' petrol and cleaner, greener cars".
The article said that,
"under government plans to tackle climate change . . . The nation's cars will switch to using a mix of ordinary diesel as petrol with 'biofuel', a cleaner alternative made from plant oils, by 2010, in an attempt to reduce harmful emissions from traffic".
Modesty forbids me from claiming any connection between those articles and a long letter that I sent to the Prime Minister in July on behalf of biofuel interest groups, setting out all the arguments.
It seems now that the door on which we had been pushing is more than half open. This debate gives the Minister the opportunity to bring the House up to date on the issue and, if he can, to tell us whether—and, if so, when—the Government will introduce the RTFO. The basic biofuels are vegetable oils and bioethanol. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, is to speak in this debate, as BP has done a lot of work on the use of vegetable oils in fuel. They can be mixed with diesel to create biodiesel and are derived either from crops such as oilseed rape or from recycled vegetable oils. Bioethanol is derived from crops such as wheat or sugar beet.
It is worth pointing out that Rudolph Diesel powered his new engine on peanut oil and Henry Ford once envisaged that the Model T would be powered by bioethanol. Bioethanol and biodiesel yield valuable reductions in CO2 emissions from transport fuel—as I said, an area where CO2 emissions have increased in recent years. Also, the use of agricultural crops such as oilseed rape, wheat or sugar beet for biofuels could provide valuable diversification for a beleaguered agricultural industry. If just over half the farmland now left as set-aside was used for biodiesel crops, it could provide all the fuel used by British farmers annually—0.5 million tonnes.
When Professor Sir David King, the Chief Scientific Adviser of the Government, gave evidence to EU Sub-Committee D in its inquiry on the EU and climate change, I pointed out to him that large areas of set-aside farmland could be used for biofuels. He memorably replied:
"Biofuels are considerably smarter than set-aside".
It is now generally agreed that reductions in CO2 emissions from the use of biofuels occur on a full crop-cycle calculation, from plough to pump, with never less than a 55 per cent CO2 saving over the cycle.
The Government have taken a welcome first step with a 20p per litre rebate on fuel duty for biofuels, and there is also a special rate of duty of 3.13p per litre for farmers who make and use their own biodiesel. One can envisage farmers, with the right encouragement, forming co-operatives to grow crops and run a small biodiesel plant, enabling them to become self-sufficient in fuel.
After attending a recent biofuels conference in Warsaw, Mr Melvyn Thouless, the chairman of Global Commodities UK Ltd, said:
"It was frustrating at this conference, listening to both commercial and Government representatives, hearing of the significant tax advantages being allocated to bio fuels in other countries, which we in the UK are unable to match. We had to explain to those organisations the economic restrictions we face in the UK, for both production and consumption of bio fuels".
He also pointed out that there are incredible resources across the world that are being put into the development of bioenergy. That will be a major economic development for countries dependent on imported fuel supplies, particularly with the high price of conventional fuel.
Unlike many other initiatives, an RTFO can be implemented quickly. Oilseed rape in the ground now for harvest next year could be used in biodiesel in a year's time if the Government press the button by laying the order for the RTFO and getting on with the detailed implementation. A great deal of groundwork has been done. There is a nascent UK biofuel industry anxiously awaiting the Government's decision. They have the opportunity—if not today, certainly in the climate change statement which is promised before the end of the year—to state their target for biofuel inclusion to reach the EU target of 5.75 per cent inclusion by 2010.
The EU target for this year is 2 per cent inclusion; the UK target for this year is 0.3 per cent. The Commission is considering infraction proceedings as a result of our failure to meet that target. The Prime Minister has said that climate change is at the centre of UK policies for our presidency of the G8 and the EU. To fail to take the initiative that I have described would, frankly, make a mockery of our claim to take climate change seriously. It is an initiative which is good for the environment, for jobs and investment in a new industry, and for agriculture and the rural economy. It is difficult to think of another policy to reduce CO2 emissions which could be implemented so quickly and easily.
My Lords, I thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May, for initiating this very important debate and on the forceful and informative way in which he opened it. I am the chancellor of Brunel University. I had the honour of conferring an honorary degree on the noble Lord some years ago. We felt very privileged that he agreed to accept it and came to the university to do so. I am not sure how often a president of the Royal Society has initiated a debate in this House, but it is one of the very strongest arguments for a largely appointed membership of this House—something on which I have taken some concerns over the years.
One of the last enterprises that I undertook as chairman of the Press Complaints Commission was to work with the Royal Society to improve the standards of reporting on scientific matters. Climate change—not only the science, but the economics—is clearly one of those issues. At that time, we concluded that there was much to be done in the way that journalists reported those matters and in the way that scientists talked to the press about it. I hope that that work has had some useful results.
In this debate, I do not wish to say anything about the science of climate change. I accept the majority view that it is certainly happening, but I hope that renewed efforts will be made to reconcile the differences that exist within the scientific community. I want to say a few words about the economics of climate change, where I have some concerns. The economics tend to receive less attention in the media than the science. But much vital work has been done on the costs and benefits of change—it should not be forgotten that there are benefits as well as disadvantages—and on the costs and benefits of different approaches to tackling climate change. One conclusion is that a more balanced approach to the relative merits of mitigation and adaptation is needed—the noble Lord touched on that—which gives far more attention to the merits of adaptation.
Therefore, I share the Prime Minister's view, when he said at the summit on energy and environment on
"People fear some external force is going to impose some internal target on you, which is going to restrict their economic growth".
He concluded that,
"the world after 2012 [will] need to find better more sensitive mechanisms to dealing with this problem".
I agree. I have on other occasions warmly welcomed the initiative of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to set up an inquiry into the economics of climate change. This is very significant and I hope that the review will examine not only the substantive issues, but the important matter of how they are managed internationally, in particularly at the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change. As far as I know, this is the first time that any government have set up an inquiry that necessarily considers the work of the IPCC.
The IPCC has done a remarkable job in harnessing the skills of thousands of experts and producing three massive and agreed reports covering a whole range of issues relating to climate change—
My Lords, I realise that there is a shortage of time, so I shall say only that the Economic Affairs Committee of this House has produced a substantial report and has been waiting for the Government's response for the past five months. We have received messages that the response is on its way and that it will be substantial. We are not therefore complaining about the length of time it is taking. The committee's report was published just after the noble Baroness the Leader of the House had said that responses would be made within two months. That was in July, just before the G8 Summit, and we recognise that there is a good deal of work to be done. We are not complaining and are hoping soon to receive the substantive report.
I hope that the new British government initiative under Sir Nick Stern will be done with the intellectual vigour which I associated with the Treasury when I was a Minister there some 20 years ago. Whether it is done in the Treasury or the Cabinet Office does not matter too much. I also hope that the Government will use their influence, and specifically the work that is being done by the Stern review, to press strongly for improvements in how the IPCC works.
There are two other options recently suggested by Professor Henderson which should be considered in this context, particularly if it proves difficult to reach agreement on change. The first is that the economics of climate change should be reviewed regularly by the OECD. It is perfectly proper for the OECD to look at the economics of global warming. Its endorsement of the economics would greatly enhance the forecasts that are made. Secondly, Professor Henderson recommends that an independent audit of the IPCC process should be possible. The fact is that not enough detailed information is released on the publication of some of its data to permit replication by others.
There are therefore some difficult questions, over and above the science, on the rate at which climate change is happening and the best way in which we should tackle the problems that arise. In my view, the world will have to take some pretty tough decisions, but it will not be prepared to take them—the Prime Minister's words are evidence of that—unless it is convinced not only on the science but on the economics.
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May, on securing it. In the best traditions of the House it will be a wide-ranging debate. I particularly look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Turner, who is a most welcome addition to the House.
I wish to concentrate my remarks on one specific aspect; that is, the question of housing in relation to energy efficiency. While I was slightly nervous about focusing so closely on one small topic, I take heart from the comments of the noble Lord in his introduction: it is the small actions that we take now which will have a disproportionate effect later. Indeed, during the research for my own debate held three weeks ago on housing provision in this country, I unearthed some interesting research on energy policy. However, I was constrained by time and could not use it. So in the interests of the sustainable use of resources, in this case my own, I should like to take this opportunity to talk about some of that material.
It is a fact that we are still building homes which consume energy as though there is no tomorrow, and we have heard that if we go on like this, tomorrow will be very different. The trick is to build new homes which are sustainable from the outset so that people live environmentally sustainable lives almost without knowing it, and certainly without having to adopt a hair shirt lifestyle. Following the 2003 Government White Paper, Our energy future—creating a low carbon economy, a research project called the "40% House" was established. The project sought to investigate whether the aims of the White Paper, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 60 per cent from their current levels by 2050, could be achieved in the housing sector.
It is certainly true that reducing by 60 per cent the carbon footprint of 25 million homes is a pretty tall order. The report concentrates on demand-side measures and leaves supply-side macro policy issues to other debates—wisely, I think. The report details how low and zero carbon technologies can be used within the home. I refer to measures such as solar water heating, micro combined heat and power, and so forth. It shows how they can combine to generate something like a third of the savings needed. By 2050 our housing stock could become a net exporter of power to the national grid with the widespread introduction of solar thermal and photovoltaic panels, heat pumps, domestic combined heat and power, and small wind turbines. All these technologies are tested and are available, but they are currently expensive and comparatively rare.
In its report, Decentralising Power, Greenpeace envisages houses as micro power generators which could be used as an alternative to investment in massive, centralised infrastructure, thereby becoming cost-effective. The OPDM has done some work on the cost-benefit of including low and zero carbon technologies in new build, but it ruled them out as being too expensive. However, in doing that, the ODPM failed to take into account savings in major new energy infrastructure and the enormous waste of power as it is transmitted over long distances around the country. The NFU has pointed out how the agricultural sector could itself be energised by the production of new crops as biomass. I can say no more because the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has covered the point very well. If we do nothing, the alternative is that the housing sector by itself will account for some 55 per cent of the target emissions rate by 2050.
The report has demonstrated how much more can be achieved through substantial improvements in the energy efficiency of the existing stock and of the buildings themselves. The scenario estimates that by 2050 there will be 8.9 million new homes, including the replacement of old stock by new, the demands of population growth and the trend towards smaller households. If these homes are to be built in a way consistent with carbon emissions reduction, not only will the Government have to devise increasingly strict building regulations, but they will also have to ensure an effective enforcement regime now. There is a very long way to go towards compliance with the existing regulations. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee noted that,
"we have seen little evidence of the energy efficiency standards being met".
If current standards were better enforced and best practice adhered to, there would be massive reductions in heating bills now.
At present, fewer than 2 per cent of the homes in our country reach the eco-home standard, despite the fact that to attain the "Excellent" status costs around £3,000, which is a relatively modest sum. Redland Homes, a housing association based in Bristol, was the first registered social landlord in the south-west to achieve the eco-home standard. Most importantly, this is bringing significant energy savings to householders who have among the most modest means in society.
It is estimated that by 2050 some 87 per cent of homes standing today will still be in use. This means that they will require refurbishment as a matter of course. It is for the Government to begin to determine now how interventionist they should be in determining improvements in the insulation value of roofs, walls and windows.
It is also estimated that the greatest additional demand for energy in the residential sector will come from increased ownership of appliances and use of lights. Policy in this area will need to be determined at EU and international level if demand is to be managed.
It is true that low carbon does not mean low comfort necessarily—the difference is that comfort can become affordable—and I certainly do not want my children to worry about fuel poverty in their old age in the way that old people worry about it now. Britain has one of the worst records on winter deaths in the developed world.
Changing our housing stock will require long-term thinking and changes to people. We need to start now to increase educational and training opportunities to build-up a larger body of knowledge and technical expertise, creating designers, builders, inspectors and planners who really understand these issues. There are important steps which can be taken now—for example, improving metering and billing so that the impact of particular forms of energy consumption is more readily understood by consumers. This will make energy saving a real and tangible personal benefit rather than a benefit for the esoteric "common good".
The Government need to do much more now to encourage the technology which will make householders generators as well as consumers of energy. This requires a fundamental overhaul of energy regulation and tax incentives so that householders who install such technologies are rewarded. Local government needs more support to carry out its responsibilities under the Energy Conservation Act and better enforcement of building regulations.
But, above all, government housing policy must be inextricably linked with energy policy, both at the macro level for energy supply and transport needs, and at the micro level of individual homes' energy consumption. I started to check through various government departments dealing with climate change, but I lost count at the point where I found that more than 30 departmental bodies were considering the issue. I wonder how joined-up these bodies are.
But it can be done. Just outside Stockholm there is a major new development of 9,000 dwellings housing some 20,000 people. This development was planned from the start to minimise resource use, emissions and waste, and to maximise re-use of resources both during the construction and in the planned lifestyle. The site was highly contaminated. It was owned by the city council, which met the clean-up costs, and recouped them by selling the land at an increased value afterwards. The buildings were constructed to very high standards, using concrete frames and external insulation. District heating and cooling from a bio-fuelled combined heat and power plant partly powered by waste has been provided. Solar heating is providing about half the heat load, while other dwellings are fitted with photovoltaic cells. Biogas from the local sewerage works is used to fuel the local buses and some of the household cookers. The whole development has been designed with built-in water conservation measures and sophisticated recycling systems. As we are planning major developments in the Thames Gateway, Milton Keynes and so on, these are the kind of communities we should be designing.
A great deal of work is now going on and many local authorities, in a small way, are making progress. Just across the river in Lambeth, Lambeth Housing is actively promoting the integration of renewable energy into its housing stock. A number of its properties have been fitted with photovoltaic panels to provide communal lighting and power for the lifts. One set of properties has even been fitted with sedum roof mats, which provide insulation and reduce water run off.
These days we are all liberal politicians and we much prefer persuasion to dictation. But, faced with the crisis that we have heard outlined so far, we have to ask whether persuasion will be enough.
My Lords, the subject before us is both very important and very complex, and it is on the issues of complexity and uncertainty that I should like to comment. For I believe that it is vital in discussions on climate change to recognise uncertainty—in both the science and the economics—but we should not treat uncertainty in relation to detail as an excuse for inaction or as a barrier to confidence that the challenge of climate change can be met.
There is clearly uncertainty in the science and much that we do not know. We do not know precisely how rapidly and how far increases in carbon concentration in the atmosphere will drive global temperature change; nor do we precisely understand how overall changes in climate translate into specific weather patterns.
But we do know many things almost for certain. We know with high certainty that over at least the last half a million years, there have been naturally occurring variations in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, in a range between something like 180 and 280 parts per million. We are highly certain that these variations have been strongly correlated with variations in temperature large enough to produce swings—very large swings—in the climate of the earth from ice ages to climates such as today's.
We also know with almost total certainty that over the past 100 years concentrations of CO2, as a result of human fossil fuel use, have increased far beyond the range seen in that half a million year record, with concentrations now at 380 parts per million, and rising, versus that historic natural variation range of 180 to 280. We know that given present emission levels, concentrations will keep growing and that without offsetting actions, emissions will rise which will produce an accelerating increase in concentrations.
Again, there is uncertainty in the detail. How rapidly emissions will grow depends on population growth and on emissions per capita, which depend on GDP per capita and on the carbon intensity of GDP. There are very complex relationships between economic growth and population growth. If the Indian economy grows rapidly over the next 50 years, India's emissions will grow very rapidly, but rising prosperity would probably mean population stabilisation at a lower level than if it grew slowly, which means that emissions in 2100 might be lower than under a slow growth scenario. Conversely, slower short-term growth could mean slower short-term emission growth but a higher long-term level for both population and emissions. That is why the scenarios for future emissions published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are complex, and not easily definable along a simple spectrum from low to high. The IPCC summary of the scenarios is not, as everybody who has read it would agree, an easy read, but that reflects the complex relationships between economic growth, population growth and emission growth, not any inherent deficiency of the analysis which it conducted.
For as with the science, so with the economics—uncertainty over the details should not confuse understanding of the broad direction. Asia currently has emissions per capita about a quarter of those of Europe. If India and China converge to present European living standards by the second half of this century, which would be a slower rate of economic convergence than that achieved by South Korea over the past 50 years, and if they do so using the same energy technology as we use today, global emissions will rise massively and the increase in concentration levels will accelerate.
There are complex and important technical debates to be had about how exactly you model the relationship between economic growth and emission growth. There is, for instance, a very important issue which has been raised by Mr David Henderson, whom the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, mentioned earlier, about the use of purchasing power parity or exchange rate definitions of GDP. But those issues of detail should not blind us to the fact that any growth path that pulls the rest of the world towards western standards of living—presumably an objective which we all desire—will, unless cleaner technologies are used, produce carbon concentrations in the atmosphere at least double the maximum levels which have pertained throughout the whole of human history. That will increase temperatures, by how much we do not precisely know. But we know that the smaller increase in concentrations seen from the bottom to the top of past naturally occurring variations produced huge changes in the world's climate. So it is reasonable to suspect that the changes that we are now inducing might also have large effects.
We also do not know the precise economic impact or the quality of life impact of any given temperature increase. It is possible that climate change could be beneficial in some parts of the world, but we must not allow uncertainty about precise effects, or the possibility of positive effects in specific regions, to cloud the reasonable judgment that significant climate change carries the risk of major harm.
If climate change produces increased flooding in Bangladesh or the spread of deserts in Africa, but a more temperate climate in Siberia, it may be possible for economists to illustrate that, in theory, the balance of the effects could even be positive—assuming that the winners will compensate the losers, assuming free movement of people from the losing areas to the winning areas, and assuming that temporary dislocations do not produce political reactions which impede economic development and degrade quality of life. But the assumptions made in such an analysis would be absurd. If climate change is having a harmful effect on the economic development of Africa—as the noble Lord, Lord May, said, significant scientific evidence suggests that that is one of the specific regional effects of overall global warming—there will be huge political and economic consequences and uncontrolled mass migration. We will not be able to offset those consequences by transferring money to achieve adaptive responses. If we have not been able during the past 50 years to work out how by the transfer of money we achieve successful economic development in Africa, why should we be confident that future transfers from winners to losers will ensure an effective adaptive reaction?
From economic growth to emissions, emissions to concentrations, concentrations to temperature, and temperature to economic and social effects, there are complexities and uncertainties at every step of causation, but there is now no significant uncertainty about the overall pattern or about the major risks we are running if we take no action.
Nor is there any doubt that action can be taken and that the costs to economic growth of effective action can be relatively slight. Again, we can lose ourselves in the detail. How much should we rely on improvements in energy use efficiency? How much should we rely on cleaner energy? What specific technologies will be employed? What policy instruments will stimulate action? What role should be played by carbon capture and storage? Those are very important issues in designing a least-cost plan to reduce emissions, but they are issues which should not confuse the big picture, which is that huge opportunities exist to improve efficiency in business in ways which also cut costs and therefore improve economic growth, and in domestic consumption in ways which do not harm amenity. While renewable energy costs are higher than fossil fuel costs at existing prices, we are typically talking 20 per cent, 50 per cent or 100 per cent more, not 10 times more, and that premium over the price of fossil fuels is falling.
So let us run some simple numbers. The UK currently spends about 4 to 5 per cent of national income on energy. That is likely to fall to about 2 per cent in 2050 as energy efficiency improvements naturally occur. Even if there is a business-as-usual scenario, a simple continuation of the declining trend in use of carbon-based fuels, which has been occurring for some years, will lead to a reduction in the proportion of GDP spent on energy. Let us suppose, with extreme pessimism, that we would have to pay twice as much in 2050 for renewable energy as we do today for fossil fuels. In that case, converting to renewables by 2050 will depress our standard of living in that year by about 2.5 per cent. That means that we will reach, some time in spring 2051, the standard of living we might otherwise have reached in January 2050—a standard of living that is likely, on a reasonable assumption of trends, to be about twice to two and a half times the level that it is today.
You can play with the numbers. A lot of people have worked with complex models on this issue. You can raise or lower estimates according to how you design the specific scenarios for technological improvement and energy efficiency, but all the models produce estimates of the same order of magnitude: a year or so at most of growth sacrificed. The idea that achieving a major reduction in emissions during a 50-year or so period poses a threat to economic growth and material prosperity is a myth propagated by two extreme points of view in this argument. At one extreme are those who, for whatever reasons, want argue to against any action; at the other are extreme environmentalists who positively desire that climate change threatens material prosperity and that we have to change our way of life fundamentally in order to respond.
The complexity of climate change makes it a subject of intellectual fascination and a major political problem. It is a barrier to seeing the wood for the trees and a barrier to arriving at a consensus on the way forward. The uncertainties on detail create opportunities for those who wish to argue that there is insufficient evidence to justify action. But the essence of what is happening is clear: greenhouse gases play a vital role in warming the Earth. Indeed, without any greenhouse gases, the world would be too cold for human life to have evolved. We are on course to double, at least, the quantities in the atmosphere of some of the most crucial greenhouse gases. Theoretical models and historical empirical evidence suggest that that will have profound, but, in detail, unpredictable effects on climate. But we have the ability to limit those effects at a cost which, although large in billions of pounds, will have only a small impact on the overall path of economic growth. That is the essence of the situation which we need to keep clear amid the complexities and the uncertainties.
My Lords, it is my privilege to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Turner, and to congratulate him on behalf of the whole House on his maiden speech. We all know the noble Lord, Lord Turner, as chair of the Pensions Commission—a matter of deep personal interest to many Members of your Lordships' House. I got to know him when he was the Director-General of the CBI, from 1995 to 1999. I must confess that I was surprised and delighted by his progressive views on business and industry. Those views were reflected in his book, Just Capital: The Liberal Economy, which he published after he left the CBI. As we heard in his excellent speech today, these views are reflected too in his wise words about the uncertainties of the social and economic effect of climate change. He has great experience in both business and public policy, and we look forward to hearing him on many occasions, not only on pensions but on the economy, where I am sure that we will find him to be refreshingly knowledgeable, frank and wise.
I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May, on moving this Motion. I found what he had to say very convincing. Those who saw former Vice-President Al Gore's presentation at the Guildhall last week could not fail to be convinced about the urgency of climate change. Like the noble Lord, Lord May, he illustrated many tipping points; that is, the point at which humanity suffers as we go over the edge. Those points included the flooding of the Himalayan rivers, rivers which affect 40 per cent of humanity; the disappearance of Alpine glaciers, illustrated by photographs taken from the exact spot where picture postcards from the 1920s illustrated their grandeur; the melting ice caps and the impact on the north Atlantic conveyor; the thawing of the permafrost in Siberia, releasing the methane about which the noble Lord, Lord May, spoke; droughts and fires affecting the Amazon rainforest; and the fact that the 10 hottest years in the past century have occurred during the past 15 years. He convinced me that we are in a period of consequences of climate change rather than a period of conjecture.
But I am not alone. Most people agree that climate change is happening. The debate seems to be about the rate at which it is happening. The Government's scientific adviser, Sir David King, thinks that the threat is urgent—that it is more of a danger than terrorism. The Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington agrees that human activity plays a role in climate change, but it maintains that the rate is modest and will remain so.
Predicting the future by calculating the rate of change is fraught with difficulties and often inaccurate, but imagining a future scenario is much more certain. Indeed, most organisations use that strategy to test their long-term investments. So whenever it comes, the climate change scenario, with huge health and social problems as populations are displaced by flood, drought and rising water levels, is a scenario demanding action.
So what do we need to do to get action on climate change? I thought Sir Crispin Tickell did rather well when he said that we need three things: leadership from above, pressure from below and catastrophe. He is right: putting off long-term difficult decisions in the hope that things will become easier is very seductive, and that is why we need catastrophe—extreme events, as the noble Lord, Lord May, called them, such as the hurricanes of the southern United States. Hurricane Wilma was the strongest ever recorded; Hurricane Katrina caused President Bush to urge people in America to use less petrol—unheard of before. Less dramatic but equally catastrophic for the city of Harare, which was built to be above the mosquito line, is the fact that that city is now below the line—another example of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord May, about climate change cancelling out aid to Africa.
Leadership from above has been restrained by the so-called choice between the economy and the environment—though not so much in Britain, I should add. In the end, there is no choice; if there is no planet, there is no economy. The scenarios that I have described are equally applicable to India, China and Brazil as they are to Europe and America, but those countries are aware of the dangers of global warming. They do not need to be lectured. They need to be helped with trade and relationships built on good will. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, they are not waiting for a report, because they know that high environmental standards help their economy. That is why cars built in China must have higher environmental standards than those built in Europe. The electric cars that you see in London are actually made in India. There need be no conflict between global warming and the economy. As researchers at Princeton have shown, we can satisfy Kyoto with current technology—and by developing it further and making it more competitive we can create endless economic opportunity. By saving energy, we are saving money not only on fuel but on security of supply, which also contributes to economic growth. The Carbon Trust has demonstrated that.
Emissions trading is a good example of leadership from above; it is flexible and it has started, and I hope that it will help to reverse the rising trend of UK emissions, which seem to be going up in the past two years. A useful bit of leadership is the DTI's efforts to persuade the air transport industry to enter the emissions trading scheme. Even though aviation is not in the Kyoto Protocol, air travel is the fastest growing mode of transport, and every incentive must be given for air companies to reduce their CO2 emissions, first within Europe and eventually worldwide. As my noble friend Lord Carter explained, there needs to be more leadership on biofuels, and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, that there also needs to be more leadership on domestic fuel efficiency. Some 50 per cent of our CO2 emissions come from buildings in their construction and use, but the new building regulations published recently by the Government contain serious omissions, allowing construction companies to carry on erecting buildings with lower standards of efficiency. Then there is combined heat and power; the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has been telling us for years about the big gains there but for some reason there seems to be very little leadership in promoting that.
As for pressure from below, in spite of the federal government many cities in America and some states are taking their own action on climate change, and demonstrating that they are becoming more prosperous than those cities that take no action. Perhaps that helps to explain the falling trend in US emissions in the past two years. Here in Britain, 87 councils are giving planning permission only to those commercial developments that generate at least 10 per cent of their energy needs from renewable sources. That is encouraging developers to take greater interest in renewable energy and to convince potential tenants of its value. That is the sort of thing that makes people aware of climate change—pressure from below that affects their daily lives, which should be encouraged on every occasion.
I am fairly optimistic. I realise that this is an issue that is difficult for politicians to grapple with, but it has been successfully tackled before by Britain and the United States working together. Many of us will remember when scientists in both countries warned of the radiation dangers from the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica expanding each autumn. The cause was fluorides used in spray can propellants, refrigerator coolants and other things. Fortunately there was no catastrophe—but the then Conservative government provided leadership from above, partly in the form of targets. Together with pressure from below, that led every spray can and refrigerator manufacturer to innovate and to find alternatives that did not deplete the ozone layer. Business came to see that sustainability could be a source of competitive advantage and profit beyond normal market expectations. The use of fluorides for those purposes has as a result been eliminated and the problem largely solved. More than ever, it is time to repeat that exercise, but on a far larger scale.
Global warming is not a matter of a single issue science, but is a social and economic issue that affects us all. That is the common ground around which we can progress and create consensus. I congratulate the Government on their efforts to do that, using our European presidency and chairmanship of the G8. But it does not end there; it will be a challenge and a prize for progressive governments, way into the future.
My Lords, I join everybody who has spoken so far in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord May, on initiating this debate. Indeed, I join my noble friend Lord Wakeham—he chaired so effectively and so brilliantly the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, of which I had the honour to be a member, in its inquiry into the economics of climate change—in his hope that the Government's response that the report that we produced will not be too much delayed and that we can have another very good debate on the same subject as soon as we get that reply.
From these Benches, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on his admirably lucid maiden speech. I did not agree with everything that he said, but he rightly attached importance to the economic dimension, as well as the scientific dimension, and pointed out the extreme uncertainties that exist. Those uncertainties mean that any of our speeches must be something of an oversimplification in a short debate of this kind. The noble Lord's future contributions will be very warmly welcomed on both sides of the House.
Finally, I must say how glad I am that my former constituent, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, will be replying on behalf of the Government. I greatly look forward to what he has to say. In that context, I congratulate the Government—although that is not something that I have occasion to do all that often—on having made a few tentative steps in the direction of sanity on this issue, long overdue.
The first has already been referred to by my noble friend Lord Wakeham. It is the setting up of the Stern review—conducted by Sir Nicholas Stern, the head of the Government Economic Service—on the economics of climate change, headed by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, which will report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister on the economics of this issue. That is very important, has never been done before and is long overdue, but I congratulate the Government on that.
I also congratulate the Prime Minister on his recent statements, of which there have been a number. The first, on
This is not just a question of President Bush. As the Prime Minister rightly pointed out, during the Clinton presidency the Senate voted 95 to zero against Kyoto, which is precisely why President Clinton never dreamt of putting it to the Congress—he knew that it would never get through. So the United States, the biggest emitter, is out. China, which is expected to be the biggest carbon dioxide emitter in 20 years' time—quite soon—has made it absolutely clear that it is not part of Kyoto and that it will not enter into this game at all; it will not play it. This is China's chance to catch up. It is not going to hobble itself. If the West got ahead through economic development using carbon-based energy, China asks why it should not have its turn. In India the situation is exactly the same.
The whole thing is complete pie in the sky, as the Prime Minister has realised. The thinking behind it is that these mandatory targets will force up the price of carbon-based energy so much as to make non-carbon-based energy economically viable. I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Turner, in that I think that is undoubtedly hugely costly in terms of economic growth. Paradoxically, the only mitigation of that cost is that it will lead to a massive increase in "offshoring", to use an ugly word. In other words, as the price of carbon-based energy rises, the energy intensive industries will increasingly migrate from Europe to China or perhaps India, where the cost of energy is very much less. That would not be terribly good for Europe although it would certainly mitigate the global economic cost. However, a fortiori, it will have no effect on carbon dioxide emissions. They will be emitted in a geographically different area but, of course, it is the same globe and the same world.
"rise in oil prices was a global problem requiring a global solution".
He called on the oil-producing nations to reduce their prices. To make any sense of Kyoto, the cost of oil-produced energy must go considerably higher than anything we have seen so far. If what we have seen so far is a global problem according to the Chancellor, goodness knows what the global problem would be were the Kyoto approach to succeed, which, of course, it cannot and will not.
The noble Lord, Lord May, speaks with great passion and, indeed, with great charm—it is a potent combination. However, it has to be said in the kindest possible way that he is a serial alarmist. When some 30-odd years ago the Club of Rome produced its report on the limits to growth—many of your Lordships will recall it—which stated that there would be such a shortage of resources that growth would more or less grind to a halt within a reasonably short space of time, this fallacious forecast, which received a great deal of media attention at the time, was warmly endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord May, as he now is. He said that he thought growth would come to an end even sooner as a result of the second law of thermodynamics. Now he is sending out a new alarm which is the exact opposite; that is, he refers to the alleged rise in carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore global warming, as a result of very rapid continuing growth for a long time to come. So he has backed both horses in the race.
The noble Lord speaks of a scientific consensus. I make two points on the so-called scientific consensus. First, the truth in science is not established by majority voting. Secondly, it is very striking that climatologists are far less agreed on what is happening than those scientists who are not climatologists. The latter express the greater degree of certainty. Incidentally, the idea that over the past 1,000 years world temperature has been roughly stable and has gone up only in recent years—I know that is what the IPCC says—is denied by the great majority of climatologists and economic historians, who point to abundant evidence of the medieval warm period when temperatures were at least as high as they are at present. What is to be done? It is an uncertain science. The IPCC's scenarios are largely bogus in the sense that it has assumed much higher rates of global warming—I refer to the statistics quoted by the noble Lord, Lord May—than any objective assessment would make; in other words, it assumes a heroic rate of continuing economic growth. Even on its lowest assessment, it forecasts that not just overall growth but the standard of living in terms of GDP per head in the developing countries in 100 years' time will be considerably higher than that of the developed world today. I hope that is true, but to have that as your lower end of possibilities is stretching incredulity. The higher end, of course, is very much greater.
As the noble Lord, Lord Turner, said, for very good reasons the whole trend in the world is increasing energy efficiency and lowering energy intensity. That has been happening in decade after decade for at least the past 40 years, yet all the IPCC's scenarios indicate—with no explanation—a steady increase in the energy intensity of economic growth. That is not plausible. Therefore, although this matter needs to be discussed, it is less urgent than the IPCC and others would have us believe.
What is to be done? There has to be a threefold approach. As the Prime Minister has rightly said, the successor to Kyoto needs to be an agreement to foster low carbon technology, including nuclear—as he himself said—and its diffusion. Secondly, adaptation must take centre stage. Adaptation is perfectly possible and is much more cost-effective. It is particularly more cost-effective for two reasons. First, global warming brings benefits as well as costs. Adaptation means that you can pocket the benefits while diminishing the costs as far as you possibly can, and acting on those costs. Secondly, the most important adaptation of better sea defences in low-lying areas of the world brings protection from threats wholly unrelated to carbon dioxide emissions. So you get a double benefit.
The third thing that needs to be done is to wind up the IPCC and to give the task of international collaboration to the Bretton Woods institutions, which will not be as flawed as the IPCC has proved to be.
My Lords, I begin by declaring an interest as the chief executive of BP. For most of the past decade, the question has been whether the problem of climate change actually exists. There is now a very broad consensus, expressed most clearly in the report that was produced before the July summit of the G8 by the scientific academies of all those nations, including the Royal Society. The consensus is that while the science is not and probably never will be certain, the overwhelming weight of evidence suggests that climate change is a risk that we cannot ignore and that precautionary action is justified. That high-level analysis is matched by growing public awareness of the risks associated with climate change, in some cases based less on scientific evidence and more on the day-to-day observation of the changing patterns of the weather.
There is a closely-linked concern with the wider issue of energy security. Dependence on a single source of supply, a single fuel, from one of a very small number of suppliers, is an uncomfortable position. Dependence, particularly if there is a perceived risk of long-term environmental damage, begins to feel like vulnerability. The question now is—what can be done? Can precautionary action be taken and at what cost? Can dependence and vulnerability be reduced? The most effective step that we could now take would be to price the effects of energy use on the world—what economists call pricing externalities. That would encourage the development and use of low-carbon and carbon-free energy. In the interests of simplicity and impact, that policy should begin by focusing on the largest and fastest-growing single source of carbon emissions, which is the power-generating sector. Of course, it is not the only source of carbon emissions. Transportation contributes 20 per cent of the global total, and the heat sector contributes some 40 per cent. The power sector accounts for more than 40 per cent of the global total and is concentrated in a way that makes action practical.
The role of government is not to choose one form of energy over another. Nor is it the role of government to provide subsidies. The long-term answer to climate change will come through the application of technology by business, and good business is never built on subsidies. The effective pricing of externalities would create a level playing field on which alternative forms of energy could compete. That is true at the current trading price for carbon, which is around $30 a tonne. At such prices, wind and solar power and other alternative sources become more economic, and the costs of power from a variety of sources, from solar power, natural gas, coal, to hydrogen generated with carbon capture and sequestration move closer to one another.
Most important of all, technology would be encouraged. The efficiency of energy use would be improved, and science and business would have every incentive to develop new and different inputs to the energy mix. That practical approach would improve the range of choice available to the consumer. In the process, because many alternative sources of supply are indigenous, the degree of dependence would be reduced. The result would not be revolutionary; there is no quick fix and there is no silver "carbon-free" bullet. But as the noble Lord, Lord May, said, small steps taken now can have a disproportionate effect on the long-term future, good or bad.
To take an example, on the current trajectory the combination of electricity demand and generating plant replacement means that over 40 per cent of the world's 2020 power generation capacity has yet to be built. Policies put in place now will determine whether those plants add to the carbon burden or help to solve it. Once built, the generation facilities will effectively either lock in a high carbon profile or contribute significantly to the stabilisation of carbon concentration at the lower risk long-run level of around 500 to 550 parts per million. That shift would be gradual but progressive, changing the fuel mix and the carbon intensity of economic activity at the margin year by year. The cumulative effect over time could be considerable.
Of course, in an ideal world, policy would be universal in definition and application. There would be an international treaty to which every nation would be a signatory. But ideal worlds are elusive and in this situation, when action is necessary, the attempt to find them can be a distraction. It is reasonable to assume that international agreement will follow rather than lead the reality. The approach that I have suggested, pricing the externalities, could make agreement more possible. As we all learn from experience, it may be possible to link the different steps being taken in different countries, perhaps around the carbon emissions trading system building on the European model. As with the currency market, the values of the trade will be determined by the quality of the rules in each area.
This approach is simple, fair and economically efficient. It accepts that the risks of climate change are too great to ignore, and sets a framework within which solutions can be developed. With the right public policy in place, I have no doubt that science and business will respond.
My Lords, we all need to record our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord May, not only for calling this debate in the first place but for the supreme clarity with which he spelt out the daunting nature and urgency of the problem. It is, as he implied, a threat not just to our way of life if we do nothing but even possibly to life itself. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on his maiden speech, which put a very positive, strategic view of what needs to be done, what is possible and how we can bring all sectors of society into taking action to meet those huge challenges.
I begin by making a few more political points. Like the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, I recently attended a presentation by Al Gore on the problems of climate change, which was deeply impressive. Fleetingly at least, some of us thought that had the hanging chads fallen a different way and had the administration of electoral justice in Florida been a little different, history may have been different too. If there had been a President Gore—this is the one part of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, with which I agree—he would also have been faced with severe political problems in the United States. It would be difficult to persuade Congress to endorse a treaty that envisaged an external power imposing limits and potential sanctions on the United States. However, a Gore administration would have introduced a substantial domestic programme in the United States for carbon reduction.
One of my final jobs as a Minister was to go to the United States to try to persuade people to be more constructive about the Gleneagles agreement. I failed lamentably in that regard. It was clear that, while there was a negative brick wall from the Administration, all sorts of other elements in the United States were beginning to take urgent action; not only scientists but corporate leaders, city leaders and state leaders. People who actually see the effects of climate change in their day-to-day life, such as farmers and hunters, were most acutely aware of the problems that were arising.
So with a different administration in America, we could have had a different commitment within the United States and, potentially, after eight years of a Gore administration that was so committed, the mood in America would have changed and the Americans would have been in a position to move us on to some other form of international agreement. It would not have been as precise as Kyoto and would have had different mechanisms, but it would have been another international agreement, post-Kyoto.
Given the default of the American leadership, much of the international leadership has fallen to our own Prime Minister, both in the EU and internationally. We have seen that in recent months with our G8 and EU presidencies. Domestic and international commitments are related and the credibility of our influence internationally is dependent on what we do domestically. That is why it is doubly unfortunate that some recent figures on carbon burn in the UK have gone the wrong way. It is no longer possible to say that those are a simple blip. They may not be sustained for long and it is an episodic position in terms of the sourcing of fuel, but it does make our commitment look more vulnerable and the need for more intensive action more acute.
It is also unfortunate, but wrong, that that has been accompanied by rumours that the leadership of the Government is no longer committed either to the 20 per cent target or to an effective post-Kyoto agreement. I make no apology for asking my noble friend and successor, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, to say that in fact the Government do retain those commitments. I understand from the "Today" programme, which is the source of all such information, that there is a renewed commitment in a Cabinet committee meeting this very day. But I have never doubted that the leaders of this Government are committed and remain committed. They recognise the political and technical difficulties, but they are and must remain committed, because the legacy of this Government and of this Prime Minister—the greatest legacy that he can leave us—would be putting us back on track to tackle our climate change objectives and to getting a new international agreement to that end.
It is not only national and international agreement that is required, but local leadership. That is already manifest in the United States and in many municipalities and corporations around the world. There is a big role for local government here in the United Kingdom that has been less coherently mobilised. There are good examples. The Greater London Authority is fairly well known for taking a lead and hopes to take it further, but smaller authorities have also taken substantial measures to provide an example in their communities, to other local authorities and to the rest of society.
One of my more pleasant last duties as a Minister was a visit to Staffordshire's localised, rural-based alternative sites for energy generation. Staffordshire has not only done that but has converted over 250 of its coal boiler sites to much lower carbon burning gas generation and combined heat and power, CHP. It has installed energy management systems throughout its estates and throughout other public authorities within Staffordshire. It has implemented a heating control system and works together with national bodies such as the Carbon Trust and the Energy Savings Trust on projects such as the one I visited. The net result of that has been that since 1990, in its own operations, Staffordshire County Council has cut its carbon emissions by 44 per cent—well ahead of the target that we have set. If that can be done in one, relatively small, diverse county, then much can be done by other local authorities acting with local business leaders and others in their own communities. The reality is that local authorities are not universally as committed as the likes of Staffordshire and the GLA and we need more effort at that level in this country.
I see that the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, is no longer in his place. While the Government may not yet have drawn up their reply to the Select Committee report, I am prepared to give my reply to it. While I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, that the economics of mitigating and adaptive measures, need to be clearer—and there are some cavalier assumptions in some of the figures—it is nevertheless true that you cannot query some of the more arcane aspects of the economy to deny what the noble Lord, Lord Turner, and others described as the broad picture. I fear that some of the views expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and more explicitly by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, are being used as grounds for scepticism of the totality of the calculations, whereas we should use the useful insights of that report, and of others, and of the committee that has been set up under Sir Nick Stern—which is to be welcomed—to clarify the economics. We should not say that the economics are all wrong or, indeed, come up with suggestions for the most cost-effective or easiest measure to tackle climate change and do only that.
We will not have a successful programme to mitigate climate change unless all sectors of society are involved in it. It is no use saying that one sector shall bear the cost, because that is socially and economically deeply dislocational. Nor can we, as, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said, trade off mitigation against adaptation. Both are important and there is not a trade-off between them. We have to do both.
Some of the measures which we need to focus on and intensify have already been mentioned in this debate and in the recent debate on energy efficiency. Much of the discussion about what we need to do to reduce carbon emissions has been focused on how we source future energy and, in particular, the nuclear option. I do not wish to deal with that, because by far the most important challenge is to restrict demand. Energy efficiency in many sectors such as the building sector has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, and others. We also need to focus on product transformation in the appliances that we use within buildings and provide consumer information, guidance, and fiscal and regulatory intervention in that area.
Your Lordships would expect me to mention the role of CHP—and I declare an interest as president of the CHP Association—which can also deliver a significant contribution; as can moves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, said, to decentralisation of energy generation in our society. I welcome the words of my noble friend Lord Carter in relation to biofuels and hope that we will shortly see a positive statement from the Government in that respect.
I also welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, about the trading system and the other references to that subject. The trading system could bring market mechanisms to bear and begin more generally and effectively to price the externalities of carbon use throughout the economy. The next stage of the European emissions trading scheme will need to be tighter. We will need to ensure that all sectors contribute equally. That should give the market longer-term certainty for investment purposes.
The Government are committed to all such measures, but we need to intensify our efforts on them nationally and internationally. Above all, we cannot rely on the argument, used occasionally in Washington and elsewhere as a cover, that the technology will simply come forward to resolve all of these issues. Technology does not come forward in a vacuum; it comes forward in a particular framework of the market, of the regulatory system, of the legal system and, above all, of societal expectation. Much of the technologies, as the noble Lord, Lord May, stated, are already there or almost there. We need to make sure that they come forward at an early stage to deal with this dramatic and urgent problem, which is probably the most serious problem facing us all.
My Lords, there is no doubt in my mind that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord May, and am grateful to him for raising this debate on climate change; that debate is vital, as so many speakers, who have greater knowledge and expertise about it than me, have said.
It is up to all of us in the UK and world-wide to reduce the use of fossil fuels. First, I believe that we need to do it at home with energy-saving light bulbs, condensing boilers, using fewer washing machines and dishwashers less often, buying "A+" energy-saving marks, and watching your heating by using thermostats. That is an attractive policy, because it saves money, too. Waste not, want not. We must take care of the world's resources. Our two reports of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, published in the past year, Renewable Energy: Practicalities and Energy Efficiency are a good read on that subject.
We have a lack of sun here. Yes, we will use solar energy to heat our water, but if every rondavel in Africa had solar panels, children could do their homework after six o'clock and families could have a much better lifestyle.
A few years ago, the Institution of Structural Engineers in this country gave its gold medal to a German who designed, built and tested in south Germany a wide-spreading glass circle, like a conservatory, leading to a chimney in which was a turbine powered by the hot air to generate electricity. He said, "Give me the Sahara and cables across the Mediterranean and I will power Europe".
We need to develop renewables, including wind, but we must not neglect tide or wave power, which are more predictable. Recently we had a very good presentation in this House on a project that was planned for Swansea—of course, the Severn has the highest tidal rise and fall in this country. A lagoon would be built outside Swansea without in any way spoiling the navigation to the harbour, and in the walls of the lagoon would be turbines which raised power on an incoming, as well as an outgoing, tide twice a day—diurnally and predictably.
I was glad that last week the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, acknowledged the need to look again at nuclear power. It needs to be taken out of politics on an all-party basis. It does not emit CO2. Yes, we have to consider nuclear waste, which is there anyway and will continue for thousands of years, but our House of Lords Select Committee set out a programme over a period of years, including substantial consultation. Meanwhile, we need to go ahead with design for more modern nuclear power stations in the UK; otherwise, we shall be importing it from France.
Another possibility is for biofuels to be near the power station where they are used. It is important that biofuels are not located a long way from the power station, otherwise energy will be used in the first instance by lorries carrying them there.
More recently, a new emphasis has been laid on developing methods of carbon sequestration and subsequent storage in our emptying oil and gas fields. We in the UK still have coal reserves and we should develop ways of reducing carbon dioxide creation in power stations reliant on coal. That would provide good back-up power in conjunction with the undoubted intermittency of wind. The technology developed in the UK would be an excellent UK export—China and India are well aware of the dangers of dirty coal.
The development of carbon dioxide storage in emptying oilfields in the North Sea will help to retrieve their last oil and prevent the escape of CO2 into the atmosphere. Again, the technology is capable of export, and several speakers have talked about the economics of climate change. It would also reduce the need to import gas through thousands of miles of pipeline via unstable countries. We need to consider diversity of energy sources in order to achieve security of supply for our country. Also, it is important that those sources are generated countrywide: it is no good just generating in the north of Scotland; the need for power is in the south of England.
All this rests on good science, engineering and technology skills in the UK at a time when recruitment in these fields has been declining. They are demanding subjects and they need to be taught by good, well qualified teachers and with sufficient revenue available to provide challenging practical work in schools. Noble Lords would expect me, as patron of WISE, Women into Science and Engineering, to emphasise the need to attract girls—52 per cent of the population—as well as boys into these subjects. The nature of the debate today, emphasising the benefits to humanity, needs to be put over strongly to attract young people into studying these subjects. They will be the future designers of innovative ideas for saving energy and producing renewable energy sources to save our planet for future generations.
My Lords, not very long ago, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser suggested that the consequences of global warming were the most serious threat to the future of planet Earth. The noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, underlined that point with great force and clarity today, and I, too, am very grateful to him for securing this debate. While I believe that the truth of that message is gradually becoming more and more accepted in our country, the urgency of the need to act is still lagging some way behind. We need to be much more active and courageous in our responses.
The effects and consequences of climate change are all too evident to me. Our summers are becoming drier, although I have to say that it has not seemed like that living in the north-east of England this year; our winters are becoming milder; the five hottest summers on record occurred in the past decade; there have been extreme events—heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and tornadoes—with their devastating effects; sea levels are rising; and there is increasing coastal erosion and so on. All that is due to higher and higher levels of carbon dioxide emissions because of our world's increasing energy needs.
So what is to be done? As we all know, there are no quick fixes, and I suggest that we have to approach this urgent situation in two ways. Our world urgently needs new sources of clean energy, and there has to be a really big push, starting with ourselves in our own homes but not stopping there, to become much more aware of the need to conserve the energy that we use. So, the first requirement is for new sources of clean energy.
The Government are rightly investing in new technology—wind, solar, wave, geothermal, biofuels and so on—for which we are thankful. Indeed, just a week or so ago, I was convinced by a member of the University of Newcastle that it was now possible to heat all the schools in Gateshead using geothermal energy, and relatively inexpensively at that, without any harmful environmental consequences at all. There are already examples of such schemes in different parts of the country. We find turbines all around our landscape—they have taken a little while to reach Northumberland but they are there now. Admittedly they are not always very welcome and they still provide only a tiny fraction of our energy needs.
I have also recently become aware of a device being marketed whereby a tiny wind turbine can be placed on the roofs of our houses. It is not much different in size from a satellite dish or a television aerial and, when you plug it into your 13-amp socket, it will save you roughly a third of an annual electricity bill. It will soon be possible to create our own renewable energy without any harmful emissions.
We can also conserve the energy that we use by simply using less: long-life light bulbs; switching off the computer or the television instead of leaving it on standby (how many of us are guilty of that?); recycling more and more of our household items; avoiding using plastic bags from supermarkets; avoiding—I nearly said "like the plague"—all disposable cups and plates; and, of course, planting trees. Those are the small actions that we can all take which may, in their consequences, have the disproportionate effects of which the noble Lord, Lord May, spoke in his opening speech.
I am trying to say that we must all try to do a bit more, do it a bit better and be alive to the consequences of our actions. Perhaps we should put it rather more succinctly: to live more simply, that others may simply live. Do I, for example, ever stop to think about what I throw away? In a universe of which I believe every part is created, known and loved by God, there is no such place as "away" where we can throw things.
Something else that we might do individually is to align ourselves with the 25/5 campaign, where high-profile people are being sought to commit themselves to a 25 per cent reduction in their carbon emissions over the next five years. There is urgency in our need to conserve the resources of the Earth, which I believe has been entrusted to us as a gift, not a possession, for which we have to be responsible stewards. One simple test for all our actions and decisions is to ask whether we will leave this planet Earth a much better place for our children, and our children's children, than the one we inherited.
If we are going to be responsible in our actions, we must be responsible at every level. I have already spoken about the personal and local, but it might be worth mentioning campaigns like the CarbonNeutral campaign in Newcastle, where I live, and the north-east. I declare an interest in that I am one of the trustees of the Carbon Neutral North East campaign, which aims to make our city and region carbon neutral. It would be wonderful if all the cities in this country were to adopt a similar campaign. The city council has a number of initiatives which encourage us all to live in much more eco-friendly ways.
Individuals can only go so far, however. We need to be supported by the institutions which make up our environment. That can happen when businesses and organisations of various kinds—in our case, including my own diocesan headquarters—seek to become carbon neutral in all that they do.
Then there are the national and international initiatives. I am not competent to talk in any detail about the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme, which is the main mechanism for ensuring that the European Union meets its targets under Kyoto. What is seriously worrying, however, is that the UK is not likely to meet its own domestic emissions targets. Nor is the EU on track. The major challenge in front of us, which must concentrate all our minds, decisions and actions, is the crucial importance not only of the European Union meeting its targets but, in doing so, demonstrating through our practice that implementing energy efficient measures is not detrimental to economic growth or individual businesses.
The best framework for any emissions trading scheme—whether it be European, worldwide or UK-wide—should be that of contraction and convergence. The difficulty is that that concept is hard to put into language which is clear and understandable. Contraction refers to the movement towards a sustainable formal stabilisation target of emissions. The oft-repeated suggestion is a 60 per cent reduction in harmful emissions by 2050. Convergence is the division of the total contracted carbon emissions by head of population. Each nation has its quota, and is allocated its share of permits to pollute. Of course, the reality of post-industrialised countries is that we emit far more greenhouse gases than do those in the developing world, yet we have much smaller populations. The principle goes that the richer countries can buy permits to pollute from the poorer countries, thereby offering them much needed development aid.
Contraction and convergence is a simple, yet radical, solution. It is important because, above all, it is both global and holistic, requiring minds and hearts to be open to the whole world community, rather than the narrower interests of individual nations or groups of nations.
Finally, I spent some time earlier this year in Botswana—my diocese has established a partnership with the diocese of Botswana. Half of my visit was spent in the capital, Gaborone; the other half was spent upcountry—your Lordships who know Botswana will know that it is a big country indeed—in the villages and rural communities way up north. Botswana has, of course, been much popularised by the recent and evocative novels of Alexander McCall Smith. One of the things I learnt from my visit there, however, is what I can best call a simple, traditional African insight which I think we in western societies are only beginning to rediscover: we are not the masters of nature, but we are all part of it. Humankind is not the master of nature, and we surely do not need any more evidence of that than we have seen in the terrible events of recent months.
If that simple truth is taken to heart and acted upon in the way that we create and conserve energy, maybe we will start to have the courage to act correctly to meet the serious, urgent and immediate challenges of global warming and climate change.
My Lords, the seriousness of climate change was explained by the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford—to whom we are grateful for introducing this debate—and underlined by the international conference at Exeter called by the Prime Minister earlier this year.
A 2 degree centigrade rise in temperature over the whole globe, which we produce by an approximate doubling of carbon dioxide from its pre-industrial levels, will cause huge destruction of the biosphere—much larger in some areas than others. I have today returned from west Africa, where the Ghanaian meteorological service has recorded a 20 per cent decrease in precipitation in the coastal zone over the past 30 years. In some African states there has been a 2 degree rise in key months of the year, leading to a further reduction of river flows. Such increases pose real threats to food production, people's health and safety of life.
I trust that the Government do not agree with some commentators, including the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, who have implied that we should accept this kind of level of global warming. Some realistic, perhaps gloomy, planners in the Netherlands are following Noah's advice, and are already setting up communities that can float away as the floods arrive. The Government should be clearer than ever that they want to keep within this target—preferably lower than 2 degrees. At a recent meeting of parliamentarians in Helsinki, I was tackled by other parliamentarians on what they perceive as the recent wobbles of Her Majesty's Government on this question.
The question is, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the Economic Affairs Committee mentioned, how we galvanise people to accept the urgency of these problems and implement effective environmental policies to meet this extraordinary scientific, technical, political and economic challenge. It is the greatest environmental challenge since the last ice age wiped out life and changed our landscapes in the UK and other parts of the world, 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The changes during the little ice age mentioned—perhaps not quite correctly—by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson of Blaby, were small and reversible.
Our dealings with climate change should be realistic and resolute, following the three policies that have previously been applied successfully in dealing with major environmental problems—this parallel has already been drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. First, one has to establish scientific validity. Secondly, one must establish some social and political validity for the problem and action. Finally, it is only going to be a real programme of work if one has valid, practical solutions.
Scientific validity, as we saw with the issues of acid rain and prediction of national disasters—and certainly with climate change—may be controversial. One hundred per cent certainty is never possible in estimating future environmental dangers. However, scientific research can often, and usually does, show up the consequences of ignoring dangers that might well materialise. Indeed, some scientific advice has been ignored this year, in some of the problems we have seen with hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes. Our committee should have underlined this aspect of risk analysis, since this is now an essential element in all responsible business and government planning. The maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, was impressive in underlining this point. Perhaps he might have rubbed it in a bit more with his economic colleagues.
However, I commend the Economic Affairs Committee for having pointed out important elements of uncertainty in the climate prediction models. Indeed, they have been pointed out by the Met Office and others. One of the most critical issues is the further release of methane—a very strong greenhouse gas—into the atmosphere, which might happen as the permafrost melts or the ocean warms. This is just one example of why scientific research into climate change must continue on an international basis. Therefore, we should ask the Minister to underline the value of the IPCC and urge the House to ignore the rather frivolous advice of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson—he was throwing adjectives around, so I thought I would throw one back to the other side of the House.
I agree with many speakers on both sides of the House that scientific research must also focus on the question of mitigation. It is complex because the way in which the world's environment is changing as a result of different human activities is complex. The IPCC is one of the best forums for doing that research. At the same time, we have to consider adaptation. Ministers whom I have spoken to about this sometimes say that there is difficulty about pushing these two targets—mitigation and adaptation—at the same time, but I believe we have to ride two horses at the same time.
I am very pleased that the speaker who will follow me is the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, who was a Minister for science in the Conservative government. Under successive Conservative and Labour governments, the UK has been exemplary in supporting scientific research into climate, not only at the Hadley Centre, but in many other research institutes around the world. This week, I heard about excellent work being done in Niger in Africa, which is supported by the UK Met Office. It is extremely important work and has much greater validity because it is done in place. The recent DfID/Defra report on climate change in Africa highlighted the need to arrest the decline of observations and to maintain capability in those areas.
The second leg of a successful environmental policy is to establish its validity in social and political terms. I have been very interested to read Danish social science research which has explained this concept. Communities, industries and governments have to be involved and convinced about an environmental problem—not only about the science, but about its importance for people, how it will affect their lives and how they can benefit from adapting to an environmental challenge.
In the UK, we saw extraordinary challenges and difficulties for communities that dealt with the problem of acid rain. Coal-mining communities and industries in Europe changed enormously. We may well have to see the same level of changes when it comes to dealing with climate change. The changes that will be associated with facing up to those challenges will perhaps be as great as those we have seen in wartime or during great economic calamities. One remembers Roosevelt's great cry,
"the only thing we have to fear is fear itself".
Some politicians should be as brave as Roosevelt was in dealing with those economic calamities when they deal with climate change. Indeed, the Economic Affairs Committee commented that the political dimension of this challenge is extremely important. One of the reasons why it should be possible to overcome this challenge was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Whitty. Many of the responses to this challenge may well have real economic benefits.
That brings us to the third strand of any practical environmental policy—its implementation. Implementation by government needs a policy, a sort of philosophy. If you will excuse the parallel, when I used to read a lot about politics as a Labour activist, I was always impressed by Lenin's strange policy of power to the Soviets, plus electrification. The parallel for new Labour was power to the markets, plus targets. If one takes away targets, one is left with a hole. We need to hang on to targets, which have been very effective, whether social, economic or scientific. Any wobbling on that makes the whole structure worrying.
When the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution established the target of a 60 per cent reduction, its rationale was accepted and it has been the foundation of our policy. The way the Government have implemented this is to have targets and use international treaties. They must be backed up by industrial and economic measures. The Science and Technology Committee report reviewed how the combined approach of international treaties and science and technology worked in dealing with the regional problem of acid rain and the global problem of the ozone hole. We need the same kind of approach, and it is being applied.
The other interesting point about acid rain was the success of the trading arrangements, which were introduced by the United States. It was the United States that suggested that trading arrangements should be used at Kyoto. Having suggested it, it then voted against it. But it is the policy, and the Japanese, whom I also heard speaking at the recent parliamentarians' meeting, were emphatic that they saw an extension of trading arrangements beyond the extension of Kyoto in 2012.
When we come to global climate change, we have policies that have to be based on these areas of politics: regulation, targets and trading. There is now a growing realisation that a range of technologies is needed. The noble Lord, Lord May, referred to the Princeton study, and the interesting point about it is that it not only mentions renewable energies, but implies nuclear energy. We have had some debates on that subject in this House and we will have to return to it. We also have to ensure that we overcome the fears of people about it. Many new programmes ought to be introduced for that.
There are successful programmes. For example, Woking reduced its borough emissions by 70 per cent over 12 years. As the clock ticks, one of my last questions to the Minister is why are UK Ministers very reluctant to point to clear UK successes in their speeches? When the G8 came here, we did not take them to Woking. The rest of the world comes to Woking to see what we have done. I would like to hear our successes applauded much more.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on an outstanding maiden speech and in thanking the noble Lord, Lord May, for introducing this debate. He may not be one of the favourite climatologists of my noble friend Lord Lawson, but he is arguably the world's leading theoretician on the behaviour of very complex systems, which has some relevance to the matter we are debating today.
However, I am one of those who, like my noble friend Lord Lawson, reacts adversely to scare stories, and also, to some extent, to an overwhelming consensus of all sensible people. I am therefore doubly suspicious of an overwhelming consensus trying to scare me. Let me explain what I mean. First, regarding scare stories, I have been at the eye of the policy storm on two occasions when very powerful scientific voices told me that the probability was that catastrophe faced us from pandemics. In 1990, as Secretary of State for Health, I was told that the likelihood was that there would be a pandemic of heterosexually transmitted AIDS in Europe and North America. The vectors were described and it seemed plausible. In the event, many people in Europe have died through heterosexually transmitted AIDS, but the numbers have been orders of magnitude less than was then feared.
My second example is that when it seemed likely that BSE had been transferred across the species barrier, there were many authoritative epidemiologists who predicted to us that we would face human deaths at least in the hundreds of thousands and perhaps in the millions. It now seems almost certain that, although a tragic number have died, that pandemic has not materialised. Both these outcomes are a matter of rejoicing; in both cases the better-than-feared event may owe some small part at least to preventive measures taken by the government of the day, although I do not think that that was the decisive consideration.
Secondly, when all sensible people agree, watch out. I was told by the sensible Social Democrat Mayor of Berlin in the summer of 1989 that the Wall would be with us for another generation. Most sensible people in this country in the 1970s and 1980s believed that we had to live with perpetual slow economic decline. My great friend and mentor, the late Lord Rothschild, predicted in 1974 that by 2000 Britain would be half as rich as France. In 2000 we overtook France. Your Lordships will have plenty of examples of cases where what seemed an overwhelmingly common-sensical view turned out not long afterwards to be nonsense.
So I start from a point of view that when a dissident voice comes along and sticks pins in the consensus, I am predisposed to favour the dissident; in this case, that global warming is all the fault of the Americans, or more particularly George W Bush. I therefore start with the view that Mr Matt Ridley and Mr Bjorn Lomberg sound like the scientists for me; and that the more they are berated by the powers that be, the more I remember how the dissidents on BSE and AIDS were berated by the powers that be. If you doubt that they are berated, go on to the Internet, or read Andrew Simms in the Guardian; the language is not that of science but of the commination service from the Book of Common Prayer.
But then I remember another kind of dissident, again on AIDS. I remember articles in the Sunday Times, eagerly taken up by the present president of South Africa, although he has happily since partly changed his position. They argued, well beyond the point of rationality, that HIV/AIDS was not a sexually transmitted disease that could be very largely prevented by good public health policy and managed by retro-viral drugs, but an invention of neo-colonialists. Since I knew people in South Africa whose lives had been lost as a result of listening to these dissidents, and others whose lives had been saved by ignoring them, I reminded myself that though again and again in the history of science the outliers from the generally accepted view of things have turned out in the end to be right, it is a logical fallacy to go on from that to say that the outliers are always right. So today I want to address those of my tendency, like my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby—the pro-dissident tendency—and explain why over global warming, or more specifically over limitation of CO2 emissions, I am now sure that their healthy dissidence should be ignored by policy-makers.
My argument is this. First, I do not think that there is now much argument that the greenhouse gas CO2 and others have increased in the atmosphere over the past 150 years. The noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, and others have given the figures. We must go back over 20 million years to find the levels that look plausibly predictable now for the middle of the century—500 ppmv. In the more immediate past we find a stable situation from about 60,000 years ago until about 20,000 years ago—around 200 ppmv—a rise to a new equilibrium of around 260 ppmv, and then a very rapid and continuing increase in the past 150 years.
Does it matter? Well, for nearly 200 years, since Fourier, it has been well understood that we depend on the balance of greenhouse gases and reflective particles to maintain the balance of climate on the planet. There is no argument about that. What is more, since John Tyndall, there has been a very plausible hypothesis that emission of CO2 from man's burning of fossil fuels and from his damaging of CO2 sinks such as forests might well increase the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and affect the climate. Modern modelling makes it seem to me beyond doubt that the measured increase of modern CO2 correlates far better with human activity than with any other proposed cause of increase.
So far so good; there is not much argument about that. It is when we come to the demonstration that this man-made CO2 increase is the cause of a perceived increase in the average temperature of the planet that there is much more room for argument. Over the past million years or so there have been plenty of cycles in the globe's climate. We are not yet warmer than during past cycles of this immediate phase of the planet's history, which is the phase in which homo sapiens have thrived, though we are moving towards the top of what might be a normal cycle—normal, that is, if temperatures started to cool down again. There are plenty of other things which cause these cycles, or the far more extreme changes seen if we go further back in the globe's history—volcanic activity, probable changes in the Earth's orbit, and changes in solar activity. It is worth remembering that the heat coming from the Sun represents about 15,000 times the total energy annually produced by all human sources. A slight change in that output dwarfs anything man can do.
It seems plausible that the warming we are certainly measuring in recent years represents a verification of Tyndall's hypothesis, and relates to the man-made CO2 increases which nobody denies. But it is possible that that is wrong—that some other natural cause has warmed us by the degree centigrade or so we seem to be measuring post industrialisation. That is unlikely. Ockham's razor makes me think that if there is a hypothesis that says that man-made CO2 is likely to raise mean temperatures, and we then produce a lot of man-made CO2 and the temperature warms, the hypothesis looks a good one. But it is not yet certain and Ockham's razor is no proof of anything.
However, I want to say to your Lordships, and to those dissidents whom I respect, that in policy terms it would be very dangerous indeed to wait for a very much higher degree of certainty, and that the increase in man-made CO2 is enough to make rational people act, without a further requirement for much increased certainty of its connection to global warming.
Let me explain why. I will not rehearse again the consequences if what I will call the Tyndall hypothesis turns out to be true. By "turning out to be true" I mean a rise in temperature up to now of about 0.6 degrees centigrade caused by man-made CO2, a rise of perhaps 6 degrees centigrade by the end of this century, and then an accelerating climb in the next century if we continue to source 80 per cent of our energy requirements from fossil fuels.
We cannot simply turn off CO2 output without equal catastrophe. We have to cut output, sharply increasing the helpful trend which already exists in advanced economies whereby increased GDP growth has become less energy intensive, and spread that benign trend to developing economies, which are about to overtake the developed economies as the main total emitters of CO2. We then have to stabilise and cut emissions, and reverse concentrations already existing in the atmosphere by strategies of recapture.
The technologies to do all that already, more or less, exist, but the lead times are immense. To gain planning permission and then to build a serious new power station using non-carbon technology in the UK takes a minimum of 10 to 15 years; its lifetime might then be 30 years or so. To change the shape of our energy use worldwide, involving the use of law and of economic incentives of the kind about which we have heard such as a carbon tax and CO2 consents trading, will realistically take decades to achieve. History shows us that we always underestimate the lead times in the establishment of new heavy engineering techniques. However, it is not just technology but politics that need changing. Huge economic interests and inertia will need to be shifted, while new economic empires based on different technologies will need to take their place.
If the technologists and politicians of the world were all working together already to produce these outcomes, it is doubtful that the increases in the system, which will take us up to 500 ppmv CO2, could now be prevented. What would be possible is that the levels might be roughly capped there and then caused to diminish. But the time scales are very long—decades are involved.
For that reason we cannot take the risk of wasting the next 20 or 30 years waiting for a plausible hypothesis with powerful evidence to support it to transmute into a universally accepted truth—in so far as science ever has such things. By then we would have built in a momentum of increase that would take us way beyond 500 ppmv into a position where, if present doubters were then shown to be wrong, the human race and most of today's ecology would be unsustainable. It is possible that those doubters might turn out to be right. In which case, as Lomberg says, we would have wasted huge wealth which could have been spent on other things such as curing malaria. But the case is not symmetrical: if the doubters are wrong, curing malaria will be the least of our problems. The mosquitoes might exist, but I rather doubt whether human victims would be available.
I am with James Lovelock, the inventor of the Gaia hypothesis. This is a different kind of crisis, where the lead times are too long for normal market forces alone to produce a solution, although they have a key part to play. We will have to risk local accidents with alternative sustainable energy sources, including nuclear fission and fusion, because the alternative is to risk irreversible global change of a kind which may threaten our species. Environmentalists will have to give up their quasi-religious anti-nuclear beliefs, just as industrialists will have to stop sneering at environmentalists as doom-mongers, architects will have to stop designing absurd buildings made of glass which require air-conditioning even in cold countries such as Britain, and so on. Energy prices and taxes will need to go up and, yes, it will be unfair, just as ending slavery was doubtless unfair to innocent shipbuilders who built the ships. It will not all be a positive sum game: there will be losers and hardship. There will be lost growth and more poverty, but that has to be better than the alternative.
Finally, it is no good continuing to blame the Americans. They are right to say that Kyoto by itself is trivial, and that they will not sign up to any process unless those who will shortly be greater emitters of CO2 than they are also sign up. American wealth, science and technology, and leadership are crucial to global success in this campaign, though by themselves they will not be enough. I will end with that thought. Making this subject an excuse for anti-Americanism trivialises it. I predict that the Americans will move fast in due course. If I wanted to predict a region whose slowing economy, diminishing research base, and antiquated decision-taking procedures would in a decade or so represent the drag-on progress, it would be Europe rather than the United States, but that is another matter, and one on which I hope I am wrong.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak in this debate and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May, on initiating it. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on his excellent maiden speech. I shall make a rather different speech from others that have been made because I reckon that, by this time in the debate, most of the facts will be known. I am certainly not in denial about global warming. It is there for all to see and feel. So I set myself a challenge of asking what impact all this will have on agriculture and food and whether we will be able to feed ourselves in future as a result of the impact of climate change.
The variables in climate change are emission growth in greenhouse gases, the reduced resources and inputs that we must achieve to stave off the problems that are growing every day, the implications of population growth and the conversion to alternative technologies, which will be helpful in tackling climate change. The climate change impact on agriculture and food is already enormous—on a worldwide, European and even United Kingdom scale. I shall illustrate that in a moment. I hope to end up with some solutions in agriculture that may help to tackle those immense problems.
UK emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture constitute about 12 per cent, from business 37 per cent and from transport 23 per cent. We must remind ourselves that the 10 hottest years for the world as a whole since records began in 1860 have all occurred since 1991; 1998 was the hottest year on record, with 2002 and 2003 the joint second hottest years. What are we doing about that in the UK? We have our targets, such as our renewable energy targets. Among the EU 15, as it was in 2002, the UK was 13th in achieving those targets. By 2010, it is reckoned that the UK will only reach 12th place at best.
I have watched and worked in the agricultural scene for most of my life. When I worked for a multinational chemical company in the 1960s, I could already see degradation taking place from some excessively high inputs in agriculture. The company that I worked for was excellent internally and had very good audits for consuming energy within the company, but its application in agriculture was very much flawed in resources. Finally, I decided to leave after the rubbishing of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring in six consecutive monthly meetings that I attended. Because I had seen environmental degradation taking place during the previous 10 years, I could not carry on and went back to practical agriculture, from whence I came.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has rightly said that agriculture depends on the climate more than any other human activity and so is especially vulnerable to climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that increasing human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will have an impact still to be quantified on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food security, biodiversity and rural environmental conditions. Overall, global warming is expected to add to the difficulty of increasing food production. The weather and climate will become more unpredictable, making farming and planning more difficult. Present agricultural zones will shift, sometimes by hundreds of kilometres in latitude and by hundreds of metres in altitude on hills and mountains. Some plant and animal species, especially those such as trees, with long life cycles, may not be able to adjust to that and poorer farmers will find it very hard to adapt.
Predictions for food production are therefore not good. A number of pieces of information came to the fore at the G8 summit. One was that one in six countries in the world faces food shortages this year because of severe droughts. That is alarming. Wulf Killman, chairman of the Food and Agriculture Organisation's climate change group, said that the droughts that have devastated crops across Africa, Central America, and South-East Asia in the past year are part of an emerging pattern. Africa is our greatest worry. Up to 30 million people will need assistance because of the droughts and other natural disasters, such as the Asian tsunami. The worst affected countries include Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and 12 other African countries in the centre of Africa. Climate change would also trigger the growth of deserts in Southern Africa and a recent report published in Nature predicts that, as greenhouse gases fuel global warming, the dunes of the Kalahari may begin to spread. That threatens countries such as Angola and Botswana. That is well known. To be fair to the Prime Minister, at that G8 summit, he raised those enormous problems, which already exist.
As a result of climate change, there is impact on animals and crops. Some species, especially wild species, are predicted to vanish. There are challenges to crop production not only in places such as Africa but in Europe. Mediterranean countries, in particular, are at risk of gradual desertification. There are forecasts that Britain is likely eventually to become the major bread supplier for Europe because of climate change and that there is likely to be a surge in wheat production in the United Kingdom because we will be one of the few places with adequate rainfall. In my area of central Wales, before the nine inches of rain that we have had in the past 10 days, we had achieved only 70 per cent of the average rainfall for the year. In parts of southern England, only 40 per cent had been achieved by the end of September. So there are huge challenges in front of us all over the world, which must be tackled. In Europe, countries bordering the Mediterranean are predicted to suffer an increased risk of water shortages and forest fires. We have all seen what has happened on that score during the past 12 months. We have to tackle that in a constructive way.
We certainly had a crisis in food production after the Second World War. Then, we deployed the latest technologies to tackle that. We must do the same now. We would be very wrong not to engage in investment in fundamental research and in development and applied research in how to construct farming systems that can tackle the impact of climate change. When I was working for the chemical company, we produced a lot of information about increased nitrogen applications, which seems funny now when we look back to 40 years ago, but at the time it was profitable to do it.
We must invest in such research and apply it. We must be able to feed the nation and the world. That was done in the UK only by epoch-making legislation such as the Agriculture Act 1947, which provided profitable farming systems with increased food production. We must now create global-warming reducing farming systems that sustain the environment and reduce energy inputs in the farming and non-farming economy. I was interested in the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, about producing biofuels from oilseed rape and sugar beet. Transforming sugar into a biofuel would be a very interesting approach. We must speed up technology transfers and stabilise food production from renewable resources so that we can feed the UK, Europe and ultimately the world. That massive task can be achieved only by technological breakthroughs and application, but it is not beyond the capacity of men and women worldwide to achieve it.
My Lords, we have listened to many brilliant, well informed speeches, none more compelling than those of my noble friends Lord May, to whom I add my thanks for today's debate, and Lord Browne of Madingley. It is on occasions such as this that one can appreciate the enormous value to your Lordships' House—indeed, to the whole country—of the presence of Life Peers with such distinguished careers in science and industry. I fear that my own contribution will be at a decidedly more modest level.
I first became concerned about global warming in the early 1990s, in my then role as chairman of the BOC Foundation for the Environment. Our brief was to fund and support environmentally positive, practical research projects. Among the first group of regeneration projects that we supported were a number concerned with waste minimisation and recycling. I was amazed—indeed we were amazed—to discover just how little attention it received, either in industry or in our domestic lives. The Aire and Calder project—research that we funded to assess the amount of industrial pollution entering those two rivers and to consider the scope for cleaner technology—revealed that very few businesses had any idea just how much waste their manufacturing processes involved, let alone the cost of its disposal. Even fewer had begun to realise the potential benefit to their bottom line from recycling a mass of materials, currently labelled simply as "waste".
I have an abiding memory of one result where an immediate saving of £2,000 per annum was recorded as a result of turning off a tap that had always been left on during a process. Nobody had noticed that a change to the process made it no longer necessary. One much more general conclusion follows from that pack of research projects: the link between so many seemingly different objectives. By tackling waste of money as well as of raw materials, businesses were able to achieve environmental objectives as well. In other words, the attack on global warming is often one and the same thing as the attack not just on global but also daily business waste.
Things have improved since then. Our awareness of the issues has grown, even if nothing like enough. Government have set targets and imposed compulsory measures on businesses and others to achieve the overall reduction of carbon emissions required. Increasingly, too, I am glad to say, companies are adopting an overall sustainable corporate social responsibility policy as a basis for all their operations and relationships. However, the CBI is beginning to argue, rightly, that the individual citizen and not just companies must play a more active part. There is an element of special pleading in that—one need only think of the continuing unnecessarily bulky packaging of the products that we buy—but it has a point. It would help if schools, workplaces, shops and clubs continually reinforced the message of the individual's responsibility in the different roles that each of us plays daily. It would meet the earlier point mentioned by my noble friend Lord May: the need for multiple actions.
However, much more still needs to be done at the industry end. Many more organisations could follow the example of Sainsbury's, Boots, Marks & Spencer and others, all of which have already saved themselves millions and reduced carbon emissions as a result of various cleaner technology and energy efficiency initiatives. As mentioned earlier, the Carbon Trust has done excellent work in that regard.
Returning to the role of individual citizens, much more could be done to minimise waste and to recycle—certainly by switching off unnecessary lighting. The blazing lights left on in obviously empty, large buildings hardly set citizens the right example, as the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, pointed out last week in the energy debate. What about your Lordships' House? We now have recycling bins in every office but do we all—like, I must confess, my noble kinsman—reuse, in our printers as well as for drafting paper, the unused back of paper for drafts before eventually putting it in our recycling bins? I confess at once that I do not. But the amount of paper that we use seems to grow relentlessly. I am sure that the appropriate committee of your Lordships' House must report periodically our in-house sustainability achievements and future targets. But I wonder how many noble Lords are aware of that? Does not its work deserve a higher profile? However, the contribution already made by innovation in all its guises, including design, is our best long-term hope, if—this is important—we can get through this interim period without crossing into the global-warming disaster zone. That is why I have concentrated on the individual contribution, too.
I am glad that other noble Lords have mentioned that we cannot, and should not, expect developing countries to deny themselves the growth that will provide the economic benefits that the Western world already enjoys. Can you imagine their citizens denying themselves, for example, car ownership once they can afford it? Why should they? But cleaner car design and fuel must be a priority for us all.
One very encouraging consequence of engaging the so-called developing world alongside the developed in this debate is that already some of them are becoming the pacemakers in the right direction. Just because according to our history—though, understandably and rightly, not to Chinese history—the industrial revolution took place in what we like to call "the West" or "the developed world" does not mean that solutions to today's problems will emerge in the same places. Indeed, already the opposite is beginning to emerge. In China, for example, as the noble Lord, Lord Soley, pointed out last week, a British company, Arup, has won the award to design and build an entirely carbon-neutral city for 1 million people. In Latin America, particularly Brazil, biofuel has been developed as a generally available alternative to gasoline. Devices that enable motorists to ring the changes as they please between the two are encouraging open-price competition. It is good to see that it looks as though that will become much more common practice here.
So, too, with nuclear energy. The developing world is much more ready than the developed world to exploit the nuclear option. Of course we need to encourage all forms of alternative energy, which the Government are right to encourage and incentivise as far as is humanly possible. I strongly support those who believe that we in the UK need to maintain the 18 or 19 per cent of our energy that is currently supplied by existing nuclear power plants and sharply to increase that percentage. The Government have to make up their mind urgently on increasing our supply of nuclear energy. Its carbon neutral capacity is essential if we are to have the remotest chance of reaching the Government's target of a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. Of course there is nervousness about nuclear, not least about storage of its waste. But, as my noble friend Lord Tombs pointed out in the energy debate last week, methods of dealing with that securely are becoming more effective.
Finally—I declare an interest as an ambassador of WWF—I hope that all those invaluable environmental groups, from WWF to Greenpeace, are re-evaluating their opposition to nuclear power in light of the very real—indeed, deadly—crisis that we now face.
My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate covering so many areas that I would not have even considered before. It would be lovely if many more people were able to become aware of the debate. Air travel is the world's fastest growing source of greenhouse gases which cause climate change. Globally, the world's commercial jet fleet generates more than 700 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide—the major greenhouse gas—annually. One person—I repeat, one person—flying a return trip between Europe and New York generates about two tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is approximately the same amount each individual western European citizen generates at home for heating and electricity in one year.
Air traffic has expanded at nearly 2.5 times average economic growth rates since the 1960s, which has, of course, resulted in the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK that means, according to the DfT, moving from 210 million passengers per annum today to more than 476 million by 2030. That will entail increasing demands for more airport capacity and more flights, leading to more pollution, worsening noise, and local air quality and climate change impacts from the increasingly crowded skies.
I would find it hard to believe that there is one noble Lord who does not know about the threat of climate change decimating our planet. One area of economic activity most at risk from climate change impacts is tourism, which is somewhat ironic given how often the air transport industry claims that leisure activities are now the world's largest industry. Many of the destinations that appeal to tourists are under direct threat from climate change depredation. In 1999, the world's leading scientific body for climate change investigation and analysis—the IPCC—published a detailed study on the impact of aircraft pollution on our atmosphere; namely, Aviation and the Global Atmosphere. It makes interesting reading and has been mentioned by other noble Lords.
I am particularly concerned with the effects of nitrogen oxides and water vapour from aircraft engines at altitude, which the report identified. Water vapour contributes to the formation of contrails, often visible from the ground, which, in turn, are linked to an increase in the formation of cirrus clouds. Contrails and cirrus warm the Earth's surface, magnifying the global warming effect of aviation. Together, nitrogen oxides and water vapour account for nearly two-thirds of aviation impact on the atmosphere. Therefore, any strategy to reduce aircraft emissions will need to consider other gases and not just CO2 to cover the total climate change contribution from aviation emissions.
The IPCC report concluded, most significantly, that improvements in aircraft and engine technology and in air traffic management will not offset the projected growth in aircraft emissions. In other words, both fiscal and regulatory measures are urgently needed to reduce the impact on our climate. Emissions from international aviation are specifically excluded from the targets agreed under the Kyoto Protocol. Agreement was reached only in respect of domestic aviation, which has led to fuel taxes for domestic air travel in the Netherlands and, this month, in Sweden. It will not surprise noble Lords that several airlines have protested.
However, all is not good news. The 1944 Chicago Convention instituted a world-wide tax-free regime on kerosene used on international flights. If growth always outpaces technological gains as emissions increase at a much faster rate than research can offset, as is widely acknowledged, clearly, economic instruments and policies become a vital tool to reduce transport's negative environmental impacts.
In 1999, the European Commission produced a communication on air transport and the Environment setting out a work programme that included an examination of the role of emissions trading and presenting a proposal for a European aviation emissions charge. It confirmed that it would work initially through the International Civil Aviation Organisation, but also signalled that European-wide action could be expected after 2001 if little or no progress was made. It seems that very little progress has been made. The period 2005 to 2006, therefore, represents an excellent opportunity to introduce European-wide measures to tackle aviation's impact on our climate. In the early part of this year the European Commission consulted on a range of market-based options, including charges, taxes and emissions trading, and recently issued a document mapping the way forward.
Our Government's presidency of the EU is to be praised for using that office to tackle emissions from the aviation sector. The DfT's 2003 aviation White Paper commits us to pursuing the inclusion of intra-European flights in the EU emissions trading scheme by 2008. However, that seems to be somewhat unlikely to happen before 2012–13, and the delay concerns me. Studies by the Aviation Environment Federation, using sophisticated econometric models inputting what I would call a "congestion charge of the skies" of about 3.6 pence per passenger kilometre, predict that this country would have to cope with around 315 million passengers by 2030 instead of the department's forecast of 476 million, yet still deliver welcome economic benefits. That indicates that a progressive taxation would begin to stabilise the worst negative environmental impacts from the air transport sector. It should be introduced urgently.
I must stress that this is not an anti-aviation policy as flights and passenger numbers would still increase if taxes were applied sensibly. Research published late last summer by Friends of the Earth—carried out by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research—shows that unless the Government take action to reduce the growth in aviation emissions, the industry's emissions will wipe out all the savings that other sectors of the economy could take. Tyndall concludes that if the aviation growth continues on a "predict and provide" basis, it could take up the entire emissions budget for all sectors of the EU economy by 2040, and all sectors of the UK economy by 2037, if we are to keep within safe limits. This would mean that schools, hospitals, commerce, houses and industry would not be able to release any emissions if the UK and the EU are to stay within environmental limits. The report concludes that there will be,
"severe consequences for both the UK and the EU in terms of meeting their obligations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions . . . if European governments continue to permit, or indeed promote, historically high levels of aviation growth".
In addition to that startling conclusion, recent reports from the Sustainability Development Commission and others support the necessity to implement the "polluter pays" principle and apply the costs of the environmental damage aviation causes to ticket prices at a level that controls and thus reduces the sector's growing and worrying contribution to climate change. The Environment Agency exhorts us to put the lids on our saucepans when heating food in order to reduce energy consumption, but is it not time to try to put the lid on our seemingly insatiable desire to fly to a city we have barely heard of for 99p—plus taxes and charges, of course?
I hope that current policy developments at the EU level really do succeed in making the polluter pay. Our atmosphere is being polluted at a height where the dissipation of gases is very slow. That is something which is frequently overlooked, if not in fact ignored. The higher the emissions, the longer it takes for them to disappear. The human race might also survive for some years hence if fossil fuels were to last longer. We must ensure that future generations have no cause to blame our generation for the destruction of 2,000 year-old forests and other old natural habitats, and to wonder what on earth those long, straight concrete areas were used for.
My Lords, the Government are still overestimating by how much the UK can cut its carbon dioxide emissions without making changes to current policy. No, those are not my words, but those of Sir David Wallace, the vice-president of the Royal Society, in response to the Government's review of the UK Climate Change Programme published in May this year. Today the noble Lord, Lord May, has again raised these concerns. We are grateful to him both for tabling this debate and for his great knowledge and expertise in this area. The Royal Society argues that the Government's revised climate change programme must,
"spell out its resolve to look at how we deal with the loss of capacity from nuclear power stations and to look at the role that all energy sources, including nuclear, along with energy efficiency measures, might play in meeting the Government's ambitions for cutting carbon dioxide emissions".
Two weeks ago, my noble friend Lady O'Cathain led a lively debate in this Chamber on energy. No doubt some of us will cover many of the same issues today. I believe we should make no apology for that because it is crucial that the Minister is made aware of our concerns as climate change and energy supply are so closely interlinked. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave expressed his doubts over the scientific facts, but went on to suggest that each of us as individuals needs to act, and that cutting our own output could also save us money. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey, spoke in detail about food security, so I shall not go over that ground again. However, it is an issue that I raise constantly in this House. I believe that we should spread our risks. Another issue of particular concern to me is the question of our future water supply. Our entire horticultural and agricultural production depends on an adequate water supply.
During the energy debate the Government were accused of having no clear strategy, no lead department, and of ducking the question of nuclear build. It is because of that lack of leadership that Mark Lazarowicz has introduced his Private Member's Bill, the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill. It calls on the Government to,
"make provision about the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, the alleviation of fuel poverty, the promotion of microgeneration and the introduction of a renewable heat obligation; and for connected purposes".
Calls made in our debate a couple of weeks ago and the fact that a Labour Member of Parliament has felt it necessary to bring forward a Private Member's Bill highlight the fact that this Government have no lead department in the area. On "Farming Today" on Radio 4 this morning, we were told that the Environment Agency is launching its marine strategy. The announcement was followed by an interview with a representative from the agency who talked about environmental pressures and rising sea levels. The interview took place in Southwold in Suffolk, an area I know well. There the soft cliffs are being pounded away and serious work will have to be undertaken to protect homes. Also under threat are several conservation areas, which include some wonderful wildlife and plant habitats. How will the Government manage coastal retreats from areas for coastal farmers? Will it be left to the Environment Agency, will it be a responsibility for local government or will central government take the lead?
I understand that the agency is looking to the draft Marine Bill to find answers to the questions such as who has the right to use the sea, who will consider the needs of fishermen, who is to decide on planning consents for wind farms and who will hold the consents for future development? These are yet further examples of the fact that no government department takes the lead in this area and joined-up thinking is very much missed. Who is the individual Government Minister dedicated to the co-ordination of climate change initiatives?
One aspect of climate change that we have become more aware of in recent years is the increase in incidents of flooding. A report by the Association of British Insurers on the future impact of climate change on flood defences and requirements was published in June 2004. It noted that insurance claims arising from storm and flood damage in the UK doubled to £6 billion-worth between 1998 and 2003 compared with the previous five years. The association believes that claims resulting from river and coastal flood damage could increase from £1 billion a year to £20 billion a year by 2080. That is extremely worrying.
Although I have berated the Government on their lack of leadership, it was a joy to hear this morning that they intend to make an important announcement this afternoon; that is, that they have agreed to commence with the renewable transport fuels obligation, for which the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Whitty, along with several other noble Lords, worked so hard to achieve when we took through the Energy Bill some 18 months ago. So while I usually attack the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and previously the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, when he occupied that post, for not taking action, this is very good news—delayed though it has been—and will make an immense difference. I understand that the fuel obligation is to be set at 5 per cent and is to be fully implemented by 2010. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that, although it is to be announced today, the obligation will not start until 2008. I am also somewhat concerned that it may be subject to state aid approval. Again, I would be grateful for clarification of this point. We are told that a series of feasibility studies are to be sent out for consultation. They will look at the impact of both the design and the obligation. What we need is obvious. We must put in place the right mechanisms so that it works properly, but it is important to ensure that there is no further delay.
Although I welcome the renewable fuels obligation, I suggest to the noble Lord that there is considerable potential in this country to meet our own fuel needs. We export wheat from this country while we import sugar cane. If horticulture and agriculture have an important part to play in reducing the UK's carbon emissions—I believe that they have—I was somewhat dismayed to hear it announced on the radio this morning that most of the biofuel to be used is to be made from sugar cane. As I have said, we export some 3.5 million tonnes of wheat every year, so I must ask this question: what is the advantage in transporting wheat out of the country and then importing sugar cane? Again, I would be grateful to the Minister for his clarification of this point.
At Kyoto, the British Government agreed to reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions by 12.5 per cent by 2012. Since 1997, UK emissions have risen by 5.5 per cent, and that increase steepened by 1.5 per cent in the last six months of 2004 and by 2.5 per cent in the first half of this year. Biomass, novel crops, wood-burning units, biofuels and energy from waste—and the many other sources of energy that have been suggested by other noble Lords—have a part to play. Some have claimed that it will be a very small part but, however small, it is an important part nevertheless.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred to air travel. I shall not go into that subject further except to say to the Minister that we have a particular problem at East Midlands airport with night-time freight flights, an issue that I wish to draw to the attention of the House. Again I thank the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, for introducing the debate. I look forward to the Minister's response.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, for introducing this important debate and congratulate him on his speech.
I should like to speak about one of the effects of global warming and climate change that hitherto has received little attention—that is, the health impact of climate change, both immediate and long term, which will affect the developing countries more than the developed countries.
The 2003 heat wave in parts of Europe—which resulted in 15,000 extra deaths in a matter of weeks in France, mostly of elderly people, often living on their own—caused real concern among health experts. Most of what we know of the health effects of climate change comes from limited studies by one or two centres, including the notable Department of Environmental Sciences at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The UN and WHO in their various reports have also made assessments of the areas of the world and populations most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change. Societies with concurrent environmental and socio-economic stresses will be most at risk, as will the elderly and the children and countries with poor access to healthcare and public health infrastructure.
What we know about the health effects of climate change may suggest that the risk is low, certainly when compared with the current acute health crisis in large parts of the world, where the attributable burden of disease from such widespread phenomena would be high. The studies of the pre and post-El Nino effect showed a range of health impacts, such as malaria epidemics in parts of Latin America and south Asia, outbreaks of cholera, Hantavirus infection, Rift Valley fever and other diseases, some in parts of the world where such diseases are not common.
While extreme weather variability results in an increase in injuries, fatalities and the incidence of diseases such as malaria, subtle long-term climate change will increase the incidence of other mosquito-borne diseases, such as Dengue fever and encephalitis, and water-borne diseases, outbreaks of which have been reported following heavy rainfalls in parts of both the developed and developing world.
So what is the likely impact of climate change on the health of people living in countries such as ours? Again the risk will be higher for those who are more vulnerable—that is, the usual group of the elderly, the young, the poor and the immuno-compromised. Deaths due to infections will rise and temperature-related illnesses and deaths will increase. While we may not see the extreme high temperatures that some parts of Europe saw in 2003, both extremely cold winters and mild winters will affect the pattern of diseases such as influenza. Increased winter precipitation is associated with increased deaths from heart attacks. We are told that this year we will have a most severe winter, so we shall see what happens to death rates.
We are familiar with the health effects of air pollution. This will be further exaggerated by climate change with, for instance, an increase in the ground level ozone, leading to the exacerbation of respiratory diseases. We have already seen an increase in childhood asthma in this country. Water-borne diseases will increase unless water safety and monitoring surveillance is made more robust. Vector and rodent-borne diseases, once common in Europe, may re-emerge, as has happened sporadically, for instance, with diseases such as Lyme disease in the United States and Europe, and leptospirosis.
So is climate change a serious threat to health? Without doubt it is. Our ability to prevent or lessen its effect will depend on the measures we take to reduce the risk, including legislation and, importantly, improved disease surveillance and prevention programmes, the education of health professionals and the public, and research to address our knowledge gap in the climate/health relationship.
Although the doomsday scenario is far from reality, the slow but what appears to be inevitable march of climate change presents a challenge for the health system and society. The many health effects of climate change will be slow in appearing and will require long-term prevention planning. We need to start that planning now. Much attention, quite rightly, is given to the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems; similar attention needs to be given to the global health effects of climate change.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord May on the comprehensive and authoritative way in which he introduced the debate.
I want to concentrate on one of the major sources of CO2 emissions—the transport sector—which has been touched on by one or two speakers. It tends, however to be rather neglected when compared, for example, with the power sector and yet it is almost as big in emission terms: 25 per cent of UK total emissions as against 30 per cent for power and heating. Moreover, and perhaps more ominously, the level of emissions, as the noble Lord, Lord Carter, reminded us, is rising inexorably. It is an intractable sector. The fuel options are limited—you cannot run cars and planes on nuclear energy, wind energy or photovoltaics—and, for all practical purposes, we are stuck with oil for a long time.
I take the view that by 2060 it will be reasonably practicable to deliver the 50 per cent reduction in the power sector provided we grasp the nuclear nettle and provided we are serious about carbon capture and carbon sequestration developments. I take some comfort from the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley. Wind power is a red herring. It is generated in the wrong place; it is impossible to run the grid properly without huge back-up; and it is damaging in landscape terms.
So the real challenge is going to be the transport sector. The main source of emissions is, of course, private vehicles. The projections are that their emissions will increase by 17 per cent by 2020. I may say that in preparing these remarks I have been much helped by seeing a preview of a paper being prepared by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, that admirable institution. Car use continues to increase but car technology is now mature. The internal combustion engine has nearly reached its theoretical peak of fuel efficiency, which is not very great because of the inexorable second law of thermodynamics. We can scratch away at the surface of the problem. We now have a hydrogen-fuelled bus with huge cylinders, and no doubt we will have more of them. We also have the hybrid car; it is a great idea, but it is surely only scratching the surface. We have biofuels, about which the noble Lord, Lord Carter, spoke enthusiastically, and one sees some scope for them playing their part, particularly in countries such as Brazil.
We can lay down standards, we can have targets, we can legislate, and so forth. However, I suspect that emissions will be held at the current level, if we are lucky. By 2060 that will simply not be good enough. As far as I can see, the only technical solution in the long term—it is clearly long term and is surrounded by "ifs" and "maybes"; the White Paper saw it as only a "possible" key player—is the hydrogen fuel cell, which is emission-free and does not suffer in the same way from the second law of thermodynamics. We know that several of the major international motor car companies see this as the long-term solution. They are certainly putting a huge research and development effort into it. If they succeed—and they are private sector, which makes it more likely—there will be difficult transition problems, for example, the huge infrastructure investment in hydrogen stations.
It will be necessary, obviously, to make the hydrogen. That means nuclear power and possibly fossil fuels, with CO2 capture and storage. I have no hang-ups about that, but some of the green organisations do. Some regard it as tantamount to a do-nothing policy, while some seem loath to have private cars anyway. It may not be fully do-able in the next 50 years, so it is important to press on with a belt and braces approach, with incremental measures, even if they only scratch the surface. It is not just that we are wedded to the car but that we have a huge infrastructure investment in it; it is physical, and, perhaps more importantly, it has to do with how we conduct our lives, based on the car.
All this will pale into insignificance when China and India take off. In the recent energy debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Hendon, said that China was set to have 390 million vehicles in the next 25 years. I thought that seemed rather fanciful but, on reflection, it seems not unreasonable. That is a very big figure, and it does not include India, Brazil or anywhere else. We simply have to get fuel cells to work.
I turn now to aviation, more particularly international aviation. What I shall say echoes the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. The IEA states that between 1990 and 2002, CO2 emissions increased by 23.9 per cent. To put that in context, total world emissions from all sources increased by 16.4 per cent—in other words, far less. Moreover, the total international aviation emissions are not insignificant; they amount to about two-thirds of the UK total for all emissions, and Britain is by no means a small player in the emissions field.
It is ironic that the astonishing technical advances in planes and engines which have resulted in cheap travel for massive flows of people have also resulted in huge increases in emissions—ironic, but not surprising. These trends—technical, economic and the volumes of people—will clearly continue, as will the emissions. It is also profligate. If I fly to New York and back, I generate nearly four tonnes of emissions. A couple of trips to New York is about the same as the UK's per capita CO2 emissions. It is profligate, but we do it because we do not know. I do not think that fuel surcharges would have much effect unless they were so massive as to be impossible to impose. I suspect that the answer will have to lie in some surcharging, coupled with carbon taxes and emission trading schemes. Here I again echo the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley. Almost everything we have to achieve will have to be based on carbon taxes and emission trading schemes. In aviation this, in turn, would require some international accords, which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, mentioned. It is an area of considerable complexity, and I should be very interested to hear the Government's thinking.
I am conscious of being rather parochial. I am sure that we are all aware that in the medium term, on any basis, we are only a modest part of the global problem. One immediately thinks of China and India in the years ahead and, in a rather different context, the US. I take some hope from China, which seems extremely sensitive to the problems of climate change, and I suspect that India will be as well. I am sure that others will speak in the wider context. I also hope that we shall revisit this subject from time to time, perhaps again under the authoritative guidance of my noble friend Lord May.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, on his excellent introduction of the subject. It is a very interesting one which we should be thinking about seriously for the future.
I should like to declare two interests, although I am not sure how relevant they are. I am a shareholder of Falcon Oil & Gas, which has concessions in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, and I am the unpaid chairman and a shareholder of Hot Rocks Energy, which hopes to develop geothermal energy. Your Lordships should not hold their breath about that—it is some way off.
I think that noble Lords would agree that the link between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming is an inexact science—so inexact that I am not certain you could actually call it a science. I attended a seminar at the Royal Society of Chemistry quite recently; it was addressed by two professors, John Mitchell, the chief scientist at the Met Office and Colin Prentice of the department of earth sciences at Bristol University. They pointed out that carbon dioxide emissions were certainly high and that temperatures were high and rising. I do not think that anyone would dispute those two facts. However, they both said that they could find no causal link between the two. It was not for lack of trying—they would have been delighted if they could have found a causal link showing that CO2 emissions were pushing up temperatures, but they could not do so. That caused me serious worry and concern. We are going to inordinate lengths to cut CO2 emissions, yet we do not know that they are actually pushing up temperatures around the world.
It has been pointed out already in your Lordships' House that climate change and increasing temperatures are not a new phenomenon. The Romans were growing vines north of York, and when the Vikings discovered Greenland they named it that because it was green, not because it was covered in ice and snow. There was also another period in the Middle Ages when there was quite a serious rise in temperatures. During those times there was no discernible increase in carbon dioxide levels. So on the basis of what happened on those two occasions, it is not possible to show that there is a link between CO2 emissions and temperature rises. There are, of course, many causes for other forms of greenhouse gas which contribute to temperature rises, such as water vapour, ozone and methane. Kyoto, rather modestly, wanted a 4 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, but we have to bear in mind that it makes up only 25 per cent of those greenhouse gases. Reducing CO2 levels by 60 per cent, which would virtually ruin most of the economies of the world, would reduce world temperatures by 0.2 per cent centigrade. So we have to be very careful before we get too carried away on science that is unproven. We should not go to inordinate lengths to disrupt economic development before we can be pretty certain that there is a link between it and rising temperatures.
Why then do temperatures rise, as they have obviously done in the past? Unsurprisingly, as has already been alluded to by my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, the sun has a lot to do with it. I am told that it is do also with the movement of magnetic poles on the icecaps at either end of the world, which changes the magnetic field of the Earth. That then changes the effect of particles from the sun on the Earth, which can change temperature and alter the direction of the Gulf Stream, with the result that climate change can take place without any human input whatever.
Nevertheless, I totally agree with my noble friend Lord Waldegrave. We must do all we can to clean up our act. It is absurd to go on polluting the atmosphere in which we live. We also must recognise that fossil fuels are rapidly running out. That points inevitably to the fact that we should be getting on with nuclear energy. The first job that I had in government in 1979 was PPS to my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford when he was Secretary of State for Energy. It was quite significant that we announced that we would be building one nuclear power station every year for 10 years. What actually happened was that we built one nuclear power station in 10 years. So to build nuclear power stations is not the easiest thing to do. There is always resistance to be met, but it strikes me as being infinitely sensible that we get on with doing that now or we will become more and more dependent on fossil fuels, which we verily do not want to be. The Government's attitude to alternative energy is extremely disappointing. They seem to be able to think only in terms of wind power. Wind turbines are creating greater and greater public opposition and we should certainly be looking at many other forms of alternative energy, including tidal and wave power, on which very little seems to have been done. That needs serious encouragement as well.
I very much take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that we need cleaner cars. I am rather sad to hear that the internal combustion engine has seen its best days in terms of increased efficiency and cleanliness. We will certainly look at other areas there. As the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, said, aeroplanes have become more efficient too. I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, is not with us, but I confess that I am a bit worried when I hear members of the Labour Party say that we should basically make air travel so incredibly expensive that poor people cannot afford to use it any more. That is the only conclusion that one can reach if pricing mechanisms are introduced which make it impossible for people on low incomes to fly any more. I have great problems with that. That so many people in this country can now travel the world is a good thing and we should be very careful before we start making air travel once again prohibitively expensive because we are concerned about the pollution caused by aircraft.
Like a number of noble Lords, I am enormously concerned by the question of the developing world. Whatever noises China is making today about wanting to clean up its act, that is not, let us face it, its top priority. Its top priority is to get its people to work. It is building a new power station every 10 days or every fortnight, and the coal that those power stations are burning is of a particularly polluting type. The chances of getting China massively to switch its policies away from pushing on with industrialisation are very small. I do not think that it will want to add to its costs, whatever noises it makes in international forums. We should view the prospect of 390 million cars being produced in China in 10 years as something that will undoubtedly happen, and we should expect similar levels of output in India as well.
We must be extremely sceptical in accepting that there is a link between CO2 emissions and global warming. It could be a natural phenomenon. We would all look incredibly stupid if it turned out in time to come that there was no link whatever and that we had gone to inordinate lengths to raise costs in the developing and developed world when it was not going to achieve anything at all.
My Lords, like many previous speakers, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord May, on instigating this debate. The only problem with speaking towards the end of it is that his speech was so good that there is not much left of mine with which to weary the House. Given that his speech was followed by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, I have very little to say. My only qualification for taking part in this debate at all is that I introduced the subject of climate change to the House 27 years ago with an Unstarred Question which had the rather mysterious title, "Atmospheric Changes and Weather Patterns". For the historically minded, it can be found in the Official Report for
There is a difficulty for those of us in the political spectrum who are not scientists in trying to approach this problem. I wrote to the head of the Met Office, Dr Mason—whom I did not know—possibly one of the shortest letters that I have written, but I can quote it in full:
"Dear Sir. I am worried about the weather. Should I be?"
As a result of that, he took me out to lunch at the Royal Society and showed me the draft of his very important paper for publication in Nature, which was the first major warning of the problems of CO2 in the atmosphere.
I asked the question to,
"discover the attitude of Her Majesty's Government towards the whole problem of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the subsequent social and economic impact of a sudden and unpredictable change in the world's weather patterns".—[Hansard, 30/11/78; col. 1442.]
The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, who is not in his seat, may recall that he took part in that debate, which happened so long ago. The whole subject of greenhouse gases was met at that time with a mixture of amusement by some noble Lords and bewilderment by others. Today the subject is taken much more seriously, as Kyoto proved; but is it not too late to curtail the causes of greenhouse gases when perhaps we should be preparing to cope with the effects that they create on climate change?
To discover where we are on climate change at the beginning of the third millennium, it may be worth while to look for a moment at the history of this subject over the past 30 years or so. That would illustrate clearly, in my view, the very difficult relationship between science and politics, which appear to have different agendas operating with differing time frames. The consequences of that disparity have created a serious delay in decision-making by all democratically elected governments of the industrialised world—particularly the United States, where every voter is apparently still led to believe that they have some sort of entitlement to 25 per cent of the world's energy supply, regardless of what may be taking place in the upper atmosphere. It is very difficult for politicians in the United States to double or treble the increase in gasoline prices; in fact, it is impossible.
The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, mentioned India and China, but there is a big difference here, as India is a democracy and China is not. I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, because I believe that China is going to make a determined effort. What is more, because the Chinese run a directional form of government, to put it politely, there is some chance of it being implemented; whereas in India, and indeed in this country, we have a democratically elected government, and I see very little chance of all the wonderful ideas that have been put forward by noble Lords being properly implemented. The reason for that is, quite simply, the party managers. I do not want to raise the question again but, because of climate change, our grass is growing much later in the year— and I hope to put before your Lordships' House a Bill to make it lighter in the evening, so that we can mow in the evening. But politically that is very difficult to get through, because party managers do not want to see it.
There is another problem. I have spent the past 27 or 28 years, or whatever it was, working with scientists and engineers outside this Chamber. The things we do all take a minimum of five years. Politically, that is too long. No government, on whatever side of the House, can produce a change that will take place beyond five years. That is the problem in a democratic society. I do not know the answer to that. I hope that the Minister will give us some guidance. When I originated the debate so long ago, I suggested that there should be an inter-disciplinary committee to consider the problem, made up of all parts of the House and civil servants, which would be ongoing regardless of government. Such a committee has not been formed, and I wonder myself today whether such a committee should be formed to consider contingency plans for the effect of the failure to contain the greenhouse effect.
One of the many problems, which has been raised by noble Lords who know about these things, is the possibility of the Gulf Stream disappearing. I shall not go into the technical details, but that would affect Scotland, northern England and northern Europe; and it would affect them very quickly, if the ice core histories are to be read and interpreted correctly. It has happened before in a matter of a decade. That is very similar to the problem of asteroids—another favourite topic of mine, which I have brought before your Lordships' House. "It is unlikely to happen", you say, and "It certainly won't happen on my watch", say the Government; so therefore let us make a glossy pamphlet and get a few consultants in, but let us not actually do anything. That is what has happened with asteroids, and I suspect that it is going to happen again with the greenhouse effect—because to a democratically elected government the voters are more important than the future of mankind.
Most countries in the industrial world are democracies, I am glad to say. We are trying to sell democracy as a great form of government throughout the world. There are many advantages to it, but one major disadvantage is quite simply that we cannot get long-term decisions made on matters that affect the entire planet. Perhaps we should move to some form of world government on issues of this nature, but it is impossible to do so in the current global political situation.
I would ask the noble Lord, Lord May, who instigated this debate, why on earth are we having it now. We should have had it at least 10 or 12 years ago. Since the original debate was introduced into the political spectrum—we are the only people who can change the world—nothing has happened. After 12 years Mrs Thatcher called the scientists to Downing Street and used the greenhouse effect as a way of promoting nuclear power. Exactly the same thing has been said today—my goodness me, we must have more nuclear power. What on earth has changed? Nothing. We have got very little further forward. A huge number of international committees have been established and great strides have been taken in the scientific community. However, we in the political spectrum are still stuck with long-term projects affecting the climate that we are unable to change.
I shall not detain your Lordships any longer. However, I am rather depressed. I considered for a moment reading the speech that I made 27 years ago. I wondered whether anyone would notice if I read that out today. Perhaps I should have done that. But the fact is that we in the political spectrum have not got very far. We must catch up with the scientists, and we should do so now.
My Lords, how good it is to have a historical perspective on our discussions. I declare interests as an adviser to Climate Change Capital and as president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association.
In my view the argument about whether climate change is being caused by our burning of fossil fuels is over. There may be those who continue to believe otherwise, but the evidence is now so overwhelming that the rest of us have to move on. The debate that legitimately continues is about the extent and timing of the climatic consequences of any particular level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
I say to those noble Lords who have cast doubt on the science of climate change that the truly astonishing thing is that among a community which thrives on challenge and argument, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change managed to achieve a near consensus among some thousands of scientists—not just a small "in group"—from more than 100 countries. This has to be taken seriously. I confess myself totally baffled by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, because the association between carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and temperature rise is the quintessential greenhouse effect, which was predicted by the Nobel prize winning chemist Arrhenius in 1897, if my memory serves me rightly. Therefore, I suspect that there might be some crossed wires in that report.
I believe it is also clear that the consequences of climate change are likely to be predominantly damaging. That means that we must take all steps that we can both to mitigate the consequences and to remove the causes of climate change. We have to do both because even if we achieve the most taxing targets for reducing our emissions, it will still be 50 years or more before the atmospheric abundance of greenhouse gases falls to more acceptable levels. The question now is not whether we should reduce our greenhouse gases but how. The three questions of environmental security, security of supply and security of energy cost are inextricably intertwined.
The 2003 White Paper set the country the laudable aspiration of reducing UK emissions of carbon dioxide by 60 per cent by the year 2050. In the two years since the White Paper was published progress has been hardly encouraging. Government figures show that UK greenhouse emissions have actually risen and the 2010 targets for renewables are now, I think it is accepted, unlikely to be met. The picture would have been still more bleak but for the energy savings achieved by industry. Furthermore, changes in the world prices for oil and gas have raised serious questions about the viability of the proposal in the White Paper that most of our electricity should be generated by gas.
What the White Paper lacked, and what the Government appear still to be lacking, is any sense of urgency. The fact that a target is set for 2050 seems to have engendered an appalling sense of complacency. Every year that the world delays bringing greenhouse gases under control, both the period of climatic instability lengthens and its severity increases. It is the scale, cost and character of our infrastructure that makes this so serious. The infrastructure that we have today evolved in an era of apparently limitless and cheap fossil fuel, an era that lacked any general appreciation of the damage that it caused. It was an era in which it was more cost-effective to burn more fuel than to double glaze buildings. It was an era in which rarely if ever was fuel economy an important selling point for a car—power, acceleration, ruggedness, yes, but not economy. Not to labour the point, our infrastructure is simply inappropriate for a new era when energy is expensive and when we know that fossil fuels are damaging the environment.
The problem, which has been touched on before by several noble Lords, is that our infrastructure is renewed so slowly, and we are prisoners of the past. Road vehicles have an average life of around 15 years; trains and aircraft around 30 years; power stations around 40 years and buildings around 70 years or more. The only cost-effective way to change infrastructure is to do it as part of the normal life cycle replacement. Then they should be replaced not like for like but by installations that meet new standards. The problem is that in the absence of regulation that might not be cost-effective for those who make the decisions.
It is now urgent that the Government and the EU in their several areas of competence set out clear regulatory guidance for the areas in which action is required. For example, that might apply to power station emissions, vehicle fuel economy and fuel composition, appliance economy and a host of others. I understand that statements may have been made by the Government today, but unfortunately I am not aware of them. However much they might wish to do so, companies cannot make major investments in the plant that they know is needed to meet environmental challenges unless they are confident that their competitors will be required to do so as well. If we are to have any hope of meeting our emissions targets, we have to make a start now, but that start will not be made until the regulatory environment is clear.
I now turn to a larger problem—the developing countries. It is well known that as a country develops its per capita energy use increases along with per capita GDP. For most countries, that has gone along with an inexorable increase in greenhouse gas emissions. To take an example to which several noble Lords have already referred, Chinese emissions today approach those of the United States, but because they have so many people the per capita emissions are smaller. As the Chinese economy grows, so will its need for energy. China has little in the way of oil and gas but has large coal reserves, which are fuelling its growth. At present, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, pointed out, China is commissioning a new gigawatt-size power station every five days. That is a prodigious rate of dirty coal installation.
Unfortunately, traditional coal power stations produce more CO2 per unit power than any other fossil fuel; about twice as much as natural gas. However, it does not have to be that way. Modern integrated gasification combined cycle power stations can burn coal more cleanly and produce more power per unit of emissions. Gasification also makes it easier to sequester CO2 at the power plant and to store it underground, and reference has already been made today to initiatives where that is being pioneered. However, although advanced power stations are more efficient, if the fuel is cheap that may not be sufficient to balance the increased capital cost. Furthermore, sequestering CO2 makes the financial situation worse under most circumstances because there is a roughly 10 per cent efficiency loss on the power station. Taken together, that means that it is financially very unattractive for China to develop its coal power cleanly. The same is true for India, which is faced with almost identical problems.
Can the West realistically expect China and India and other poor countries like them to carry the costs of clean development while we in the West grew rich not doing so? It is essential that both at a national level and at an EU level we find ways of helping those countries with the costs and the technology of clean development. If the developing countries develop on the same emission-rich trajectory as we in the West have done, we can simply give up any hope of controlling climate change. We would be swamped.
I conclude with two pleas to the Government, both of which require urgent action: first, for a clear regulatory framework within the UK and the EU so that industry can invest with confidence for the future; and secondly, to give high priority to establishing an effective framework that allows the West to work with developing countries to avoid environmental disaster. Time is of the essence, and if we fail, the consequences are unthinkable.
My Lords, those of you who have toured around France will probably be familiar with those Michelin Guide designations: one star—"worth a visit if you are there"; two stars—"worth a detour"; and three stars—"absolutely worth an expedition". This has certainly been a three-star debate, not least because I felt immensely privileged to hear the noble Lord, Lord May, introduce it. He must be congratulated on securing the debate; I also congratulate the other speakers.
The noble Lord, Lord Turner, put things into perspective in his clear statement on how little needs to be sacrificed in terms of standards of living and the short amount of time that that would seem in future years. That message needs to be brought home to people more often so that it becomes clear that this is not a clash between environmentalists and economists, as perhaps was evident sometimes this afternoon.
While listening to the debate I reflected on the fact that some noble Lords reflected the economic view regarding whether we could afford to take any action, while many with scientific opinions stated that we could not afford not to take action. It occurred to me that there was much meeting of minds between those sides and other noble Lords, who were listening and reflecting on the expert opinions offered. There is a lesson to be learned regarding the international frameworks, because the meeting in Montreal at the end of November, as the noble Lord, Lord May, said, will be discussing these issues. Then there will be the WTO meeting in Hong Kong, which will consider world trade issues.
At the moment, I do not believe that there is much convergence between those two bodies. I am not arguing against free trade, but that needs to take place against the types of issues that the Montreal meeting will discuss, because if free trade means much more of the things that the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, mentioned—such as shipping wheat out and sugar in, in energy terms—that will not be much of a step forward. I have read some of the papers that say where emissions come from, and air travel has been touched upon by many noble Lords. In particular, regarding individuals' air travel, the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, asked whether it was fair to prevent people flying who could not afford to do so, because the prices would go up. However, a huge amount of aircraft movement is now caused by freight, and we need to address that. Shipping, which was not discussed this afternoon, also bears a heavy responsibility for emissions. I, too, believe that technologies are in the pipeline that could solve some of these issues, but we must think about them in the context of climate change and the Hong Kong talks.
I hope that at an international level the Government will be able to bring together the converging paths of climate change, poverty and world trade, as they started to do strongly through the G8 summit. I hope that they will be able to keep that ring going and not let the discussions pursue parallel paths.
I was struck by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. He spelled out clearly why the UK's effort, even though it may seem small, is so important. I agree with him that the UK is giving a lead internationally, but our credibility will be fatally undermined if we do not make far better progress domestically.
A number of suggestions have been made this afternoon with regard to areas where we could make better progress domestically. One of the most interesting points of debate was that of decentralised generation and supply. That subject was touched on by my noble friend Lady Scott in her comments on the housing stock and by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle. They both gave us strong examples of why decentralised supply is very interesting. It could do with far more government intervention and interest because it can make the best of what is available locally and no power is lost in long-distance transmission. There are many reasons why, domestically, we should be encouraging locality supply and encouraging communities to build on their strengths, be they wind, tidal or biomass. I should like the Minister to comment on that area, in particular.
I turn to Sir Crispin Tickell's comments on the three necessary things, to which the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, referred. They include pressure from above, which is evidently necessary, and pressure from below, which is also interesting. Pressure from below is still very difficult for consumers in this country to apply because much of the time either they simply do not have the information in front of them or the physical incentives are not right when, for example, buying insulation for one's house. We need to ensure that there are no barriers to encouraging consumers to spend their money on energy saving or, indeed, to encouraging them to invest in solar panels on the roofs of their houses. Having now benefited for a year from hot water from solar panels and a gas bill of some £40 a quarter, I can say that they make an enormous difference.
While we are considering these issues, I should like the Minister to comment on the switchover to digital television. As I understand it, all the energy savings available in appliances will be wiped out because digital consumption will be some 5 per cent higher. That is a matter of detail but it is the kind of detail that I consider to be very important—especially when you walk into Comet or Currys and see not only that energy consumption will be 5 per cent higher because digital will take more power but that the size of televisions is increasing exponentially. So what we do domestically is very important, and the Government have the means to give consumers the tools to be far more effective in doing their bit.
I turn to a matter touched on, first, by the noble Lord, Lord May, and then by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, my noble friend Lord Livsey, and the noble Lord, Lord Turner. I refer to the potential of climate change to lead to conflict. We must ask, "Can we afford to do little?", because the effects will be catastrophic, even in the short term. That point was highlighted some time ago by President Gorbachev just after he had taken over the body which I believe was called Water for Peace. He said that it was very likely that water would become the next source of major conflict in the world. There are many examples, as we have heard this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, talked about what will happen if agriculture suffers and the food supply is threatened. Another speaker mentioned Bangladesh, and the refugees that will result from rising sea levels. The potential for instability and political conflict arising from the effects of climate change mean that, as many noble Lords have said, we cannot afford to leave this issue, even in the short term. The Amazon drying out is another example. Egypt is threatened at both ends both by rising sea levels and the effect of other countries taking more water from the Nile as it flows downstream. This is a live issue.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, mentioned that voting is often on short-term issues and that the challenges are long-term indeed. He said that politicians must catch up with science. He is absolutely right. It is difficult to transfer politicians' thinking from short-term issues into long-term issues. I like my brief so much because it encourages me to think in the long term. When I go out to campaign, it enables me to do so on long-term issues.
However, it behoves all politicians to lift our eyes to the long horizon—politicians outside the Chamber should probably start by reading the speech of the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford. There could be no better way of getting people to understand the issues. Whether we campaign on health—I look back to the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Patel, which was equally powerful—education or housing, all of those issues come back to climate change. They will do for all of our lifetimes and, I am sure, our children's lifetimes.
My Lords, it is impossible to sum up a debate which has been running for four hours, with so many knowledgeable and expert speakers, in a matter of 12 minutes. The House owes a considerable debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, for introducing this debate—the second of two very significant debates in this House this autumn. There is a sense in which I wish that this one could have taken place first, but the accidents of House procedure have it this way round.
It was a particular pleasure to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, who achieved a remarkable feat in making a positive speech, having picked his moment with immaculate timing so that it was completely non-controversial. I look forward to hearing more from him in future.
The best that I can do is to pick up some themes. I quote an article which appeared in the Times two days ago on a report from the International Energy Agency on future investment to meet global energy demand. Mr Claude Mandil, the executive director, said:
"These projected trends have important implications and lead to a future that is not sustainable . . . We must change these outcomes and get the planet onto a sustainable energy path".
For those who are still sceptical about whether that is a problem, I am encouraged by the fact that for many years after the linkage between smoking and lung cancer was generally acknowledged, there were those who denied it. But in the end, we have all come to the conclusion that the link was absolutely correct. So it is with global warming.
The second thing I need to say is a word of hope to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, who is concerned whether democratic society can take the necessary decisions in time. He needs to consider that although there will always be tight and intense debate over the means, I do not think that there is any longer any great dissent in political systems over the ends that need to be achieved. In that sense, I have hope for the future. I am sorry that he had to start 30 years ago to hear that in the debate this afternoon, but I hope that he will go away from the debate in a slightly more hopeful position.
The next theme I wish to pick up is the need for example, which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, brought up. As a nation, we aspire to lead the world in the political argument about global warming; at least, that is what the Prime Minister has stated. I am all for that. But the old saying, "Don't do as I say, do as I do", applies. Regrettably, we are not performing very well. The Government have made some play of the fact that we expect to meet our Kyoto targets for emissions by 2012, but the reality is that our carbon dioxide emissions have been rising consistently for three years. Although our basket of emissions is still below the target, if carbon dioxide continues to rise in the way that it is rising we stand a modest chance of missing both targets. That means that our ability to lead others in their thinking is damaged.
The noble Lord, Lord Turner, mentioned the uncertainty aspect of everything that we do. I picked up another item that illustrates that well. It came from the BBC News website:
"The ocean west of the Antarctic Peninsula has warmed by more than a degree since the 1960s—contradicting the results of computer models".
That small event has had a big effect, as the article continues:
"A study published last year showed krill numbers had fallen by 80 per cent since the 1970s and experts linked the collapse to shrinking sea ice".
Krill are the basis on which marine life lives in that part of the world. The long-term consequences are likely to be devastating. We can see that sort of biological effect across the globe, in different ways in different places.
On the need to do things, the Times reported that a survey by the Association of British Insurers showed that insurance losses due to weather are rising. Currently, insurance losses due to weather in a normal year are £9 billion. The association expects that to rise three times by 2080. In an extreme year—and extreme years seem to be becoming more usual—losses run at more than £50 billion per year. The association estimates them being between £197 billion and £260 billion by 2080. That is the Association of British Insurers. Imagine what it is like for the global insurance market. One noble Lord mentioned that Hurricane Katrina cost the United States 1.5 per cent of its GDP. So the cost of doing nothing is huge anyway. We also heard from the noble Lord. Lord Turner, that the cost of doing something in the context of GDP is small when you consider that the effect might simply mean that we achieve a slightly lower standard of living than would otherwise be the case. That is a very important way of looking at the issue.
We need to look at what we can do in this country to improve our circumstances. We have heard a great deal today about emissions from the generating industry. Of course we also have heard that we are introducing, under the renewables obligation and with other forms of persuasion—including carbon trading, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Browne—various forms of green energy into that system. But we have to recognise—and this is the real sting—that our rate of introducing green electricity sources will be less than the rate of depletion that we receive as a result of having to close down our nuclear power stations over the next 15 years, unless we can do a great deal more or make electricity generation more efficient.
It takes roughly 2.5 kilowatts of power to supply 1 kilowatt of power to the domestic consumer level. Much of that power is vented to the atmosphere as heat. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who is in his place, might pick that up as chairman of the Combined Heat and Power Association, because the efficiency of power generation could be immensely improved if that waste heat were captured and used. That massive change would be well worth achieving. The obstacles to that are, in part, geographical, and so we come back to the complications with the planning system. What will the Government do about the planning system? It puts power stations in remote areas. If we want to combine or improve their efficiency by using the waste heat—and conveying that over long distances can be done, but it is very expensive and reduces the overall gain—perhaps we should put them somewhere near where people live. But then we have the problem of such organisations as SELCHP in south-east London. It was built to heat houses, has been running for 10 years and has not yet warmed one house. That shows a lack of co-ordination somewhere.
I shall run out of time if I am not careful; I said that this was an impossible task. I have two more points to mention. First, we need to do something about giving ordinary people the power to use microgeneration from either winds or photoelectrics. I pulled a note off the Internet this morning by a person who has moved to France. He states:
"I have a small wind turbine, 3 PV solar panels producing my own electricity . . . My argument is that even if you can reduce your energy impact by 50%—think how that would make a difference on a large scale".
That is less than the cost of a small car. That person went to France partly because the regulatory process here makes doing these things difficult. That is something else we need to look at. Tidal energy was mentioned. Ultimately that is just large hydroelectric power, but a matter we need to look at. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, got on to the question of the alternative energy carrier of hydrogen, which we will have to develop over time. He will be interested to hear that the first hydrogen-powered plane flew in July. It was what I think that the Americans call an unmanned air reconnaissance vehicle, but they expect that, when fully developed, it will be able to stay up for a week. We need some fairly intensive work to translate that technology to civil aviation.
There is no more time; I have been long enough. I have not said much that I want to say, but this has been a remarkable debate and I very much look forward to the Minister's reply.
My Lords, this has been an outstanding debate. At the risk of being accused of getting carried away, I think that it has seen this House at its very best. Although it is invidious to do so, I draw attention to two speeches in particular.
No one could close this debate without thanking the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, not just for choosing this subject but for his outstanding opening speech, which was an absolute model for all those interested in this subject, whether they know a great deal about it or, like me, do not know enough about it. I thank him very much for that. The other speech is the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Turner. His reputation goes before him and he arrives in this House with many of us knowing a lot about his past career. All that he said today lived up to everything that we know about him. His knowledge on this subject seems great and genuine. We very much look forward to hearing what he has to say on this topic, and on many others in which he has a passing interest, in the near future.
Let me make it crystal clear. The Government share the view of noble Lords that climate change is an issue of unparalleled importance for the world environment and for future generations who will inhabit this planet. That is why the Prime Minister has given a world lead on the issue, especially this year from our G8 and EU presidencies. Our ambitious domestic programme to tackle climate change will continue to be accompanied by intensive international co-operation. Ambitious domestic action is the key, we think, to persuading others to work alongside us. Although the UK is on course to meet and, we believe, to exceed its Kyoto target, it is one of the few industrial countries to do so. We fully accept the strictures that tell us that we need to do more.
The Government have set highly ambitious domestic carbon dioxide reduction targets of 20 per cent by 2010 and 60 per cent by 2050 below 1990 levels. Those go much further than our Kyoto commitments. No other nation has attempted that level of action before, so we are in new territory—very challenging territory—and we must learn as we go. We do not for a moment accept that we are complacent about the issue. Our record shows that we take the issue seriously and that we accept that there is a real need for urgency.
We have come a long way in understanding the science of climate change. Indeed, the UK's Hadley Centre is a world leader in that respect. No one here has disputed the fact that a serious problem is mainly, chiefly and overwhelmingly the result of human activity. There is less global consensus on the economics of action to combat and adapt to climate change. Therefore, in order to encourage others to take action and to plan for our future, we need a full debate on the economics. The Government have given serious consideration to the report of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on that issue. I thank the members of that committee, and, especially, its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. I can assure noble Lords, including him, that a thorough government response—I think that he would rather that it was thorough than straightaway—to the report will be released shortly. By shortly, I mean shortly.
Noble Lords will be aware that the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, led by Sir Nick Stern, will conduct an in-depth analysis of the economics of climate change and are to report back in autumn next year. The review will look at the medium- to long-term economic implications of climate change, the costs of action and inaction, the impact of climate change on development, and different approaches to tackle the issue—always, of course, recognising that traditional measures may be necessary.
In the UK we have shown that taking action on climate change does not necessarily lead to slowed economic growth. Noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Turner, touched on that. Between 1990 and 2002, emissions fell by 13 per cent whereas the economy grew by 36 per cent. That is a clear message to those who believe that taking action on climate change will be economically prohibitive. Modelling work commissioned by the Government in preparing the energy White Paper of 2003 suggests that the cost to GDP in 2050 implied by a 60 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions might be around 0.5 per cent to 2 per cent of the predicted baseline in 2050—in other words, slowing economic growth by just six months over 50 years. Those estimates remain consistent with expectations from international literature that shows that the economy-wide impact of significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions need not be prohibitive, provided that appropriate policies are put in place and a sufficiently wide range of low-carbon technologies is made available.
We are already seeing the benefits of the policies and measures of the climate change programme, launched five years ago. The Treasury expects the climate change levy to deliver more than 3.5 million tonnes of carbon by 2010. Climate change agreements have also been successful. The UK emissions trading scheme, the first national emissions trading scheme to be established, also continues to be a success. This year, participants overachieved their emissions reduction targets by approximately 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Without those measures we would be seriously adrift from our Kyoto commitments. It would be wrong to assume that the progress that we have made is purely from the "dash for gas".
Gains in energy efficiency are expected by 2010 to deliver roughly half the carbon savings envisaged in the 2000 UK climate change programme. UK delivery of increased energy efficiency is very encouraging to date. The first phase of our energy-efficiency commitment—an obligation on energy suppliers to promote improvements in household energy efficiency—has seen around 10 million British households, of which 6 million are on low incomes, benefit from energy-saving measures that also translate into lower carbon emissions. We are continuing to evaluate those policies and to make adjustments as are necessary and sensible. We have responded to the rise in emissions in 2003 and 2004 by conducting a comprehensive review of the UK climate change programme. The review concentrates on emissions from the principal sectors included in the original programme: business, households, energy supply, agriculture, forestry, land use, the public sector and transport. We expect to publish the revised programme around the turn of the year. That will in turn enable us to evaluate possible new policy options but take full account of the outcome of a number of very important pieces of work that will contribute to the review. They include the outcomes of the joint Defra-Treasury energy-efficiency innovation review, the biomass task force that reported a short time ago and the review of the renewables obligation.
Ahead of the climate change programme review, I am delighted to confirm what the noble Baroness told us: the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, today announced a renewable transport fuels obligation. Many people have been waiting for that news, which I believe will be excellently received throughout the country. The obligation will require that 5 per cent of all fuel sold in UK forecourts will come from renewable sources by 2010. The prediction is that around 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide will be saved in 2010—the equivalent of taking 1 million cars off the road.
In addition to the major stimulation to the biofuels industry which we believe will result from the obligation, I remind noble Lords that ground support to growers of energy crops of £29 million has been provided under Defra's energy crop scheme. We are keen to encourage a competitive UK biofuel industry. We are confident that there is scope for both home-grown biofuels and for imports.
As noble Lords appreciate, tackling climate change is not just the responsibility of big business and the Government: it requires the participation of us all. The noble Baroness, Lady Platt of Writtle, was right. We have to raise the level of citizen engagement in energy efficiency and climate change in the UK. But I concede that we have a long way to go and must put a lot of effort into it. That is very much the focus for the Government's climate change communications initiative, published earlier this year, under which at least £12 million is available for the next three years. We will launch the first elements of the strategy later this year to build on and complement the substantial amount of existing awareness and will look to determine whether there is further scope. Of all the matters that have been raised today, public awareness is one of the most important and we must take that forward.
We are pressing for the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme from 2008 or as soon as possible thereafter. Many noble Lords raised the aviation issue. The European Commission has adopted a communication aiming to bring forward legislation in 2006 to include aviation in the EU ETS. We are using our presidency of the EU to debate the Commission's proposals and hope to agree a way forward.
A key to the successes of this year has been the Prime Minister's desire to use our presidencies of the G8 and EU to add fresh impetus to the international climate change agenda. We believe that there is a growing consensus on the need for action resulting from a series of meetings held this year, which was highlighted by the joint statement on climate change issued by the science academies of all the G8 countries, along with China, India and Brazil. The statement reflects a growing global scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that it is in large part caused by human activity. The statement also urges governments,
"to identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net global greenhouse gas emissions", thus raising the activity of our key delivery bodies, including the Carbon Trust, the Energy Saving Trust, the Environment Agency and the UK Climate Impacts Programme. We fund the Carbon Trust and Energy Saving Trust to the tune of some £87 million a year.
As regards the wider community, the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme—a market mechanism for encouraging industry and electricity generators to reduce carbon dioxide emissions—represents one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving emissions reductions. EU member states are looking forward to phase 2 of the scheme and for ways in which we can build on the successes and learn from our experiences of phase 1. Addressing any gaps, anomalies or competitive distortions that may have arisen is a priority for the UK. I thank the noble Lord, Lord May of Oxford, for his work in helping to secure the joint statement.
At their meeting in Gleneagles, G8 leaders heeded the scientific evidence and agreed to a statement on the importance of climate change. Those leaders, including President Bush, acknowledged that human activity does in large part contribute to climate change and agreed to,
"act with resolve and urgency now".
The statement also acknowledged that greenhouse gas emissions need to slow, peak and reverse, and that we need to make "substantial cuts" in emissions. That represents the strongest statement on climate change yet from the US Administration.
G8 leaders also agreed to a plan of action to combat climate change. The plan builds on existing work in order to increase the speed with which we reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The package includes improvements to energy efficiency in appliances and buildings, cleaner vehicles, aviation, work on developing cleaner fuels, renewable energy and promoting research and development, and the financing of future projects. To assist with this, the G8 has engaged with the International Energy Agency and has asked it to undertake further work on action to reduce emissions and improve funding for clean technologies in developing countries.
As the House knows, the Heads of Government also launched the Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development, to report to the G8 Summit in Japan in 2008. The dialogue is intended to be complementary to the UNFCCC process by providing an informal structure for discussion on future energy needs. Developed and developing countries can discuss their energy needs and explore areas for co-operation without the need to deliver agreement on exactly the same course of action for all the countries.
At the first meeting of the Gleneagles Dialogue, held in London on
Climate change has also been a priority of the Government's presidency of the EU. We have pursued an ambitious agenda, focusing on continuing mitigation efforts in the short term through our commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as considering longer-term emissions reductions pathways. There has been much discussion in the debate about China, India and other countries in the category. In view of their rapidly growing economies, it is crucial that China and India fully engage in international efforts to combat rising greenhouse emissions. Climate change therefore featured heavily at our recent EU summits with China and India. The UK will be investing £3.5 million in the development of a near-zero emissions coal demonstration plant in China using carbon capture and storage as part of the EU-China Climate Change Declaration agreed in September. I hope that noble Lords will see this as an important first step in determining which way China goes. I say that because we have heard both sides of the argument during the debate.
Earlier this week my right honourable friend Margaret Beckett participated in a major international conference on renewable energy in Beijing. The conference recognised the role that renewable energy plays not only in addressing environmental concerns, but in helping security of supply and the provision of decentralised energy systems that are more resilient to price fluctuations. China took the opportunity to announce its aim to increase its share of energy derived from renewable sources to 20 per cent by 2020.
There are now 14 developing countries with renewables targets and we will continue to work with developing countries through the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership, which aims to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy. Following on from the £2.5 million provided this year, the UK will be providing £6 million over the next two years.
Possibly the most important objective for our EU presidency is to secure agreement to the start of international discussions on a long-term framework to tackle global emissions. Launching discussions among all countries on future international action beyond the first commitment of the Kyoto Protocol will be a key item for discussion at the UN climate conference in Montreal, where the UK will lead the negotiations on behalf of the EU.
I want to counter the insinuation that the Prime Minister is somehow backing down on his commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. When, with great skill, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, praised the Prime Minister—I argue that the noble Lord's point of view had a false basis—I was reminded that we have heard that extremists on both sides of the argument sometimes seem to have a common view. But only those who want the Prime Minister to back down on his commitment and those on the far edge of the environmentalist movement would see what the Prime Minister did as changing his stance. The Prime Minister stated on
However, we have to face reality. The US will not ratify Kyoto and it does not set targets for developing countries. For the long term, we need a global agreement. That is why we are driving forward a complementary approach to the formal target set in the negotiations of the UNFCCC, under the G8; it is not an alternative. The initiatives we have taken forward this year are all aimed at furthering the understanding of climate change, building consensus on the way forward and practical measures to reduce emissions. We hope that these will come together to help agreement on the long-term solution and I am not sure that I heard any arguments today to suggest that what we were doing was wrong.
The Government have put climate change at the heart of their domestic and international agenda and the results this year speak for themselves. The increased public interest and publicity for this topic is everywhere. We recognise that we need to do much more and we are working on that. We will continue to work with partners at home and overseas to tackle this problem, which requires an ambitious international response. Above all, we want to engage with all sectors of our communities—whether public or private, NGOs or business, central or local government—in working together to address what the Government believe may well be the most serious environmental threat we will face this century.
My Lords, as a relative newcomer to this Chamber, I hope that it will not be unseemly of me to say how much I appreciate the quality of the debate we have had today. It has reflected, yet again, the breadth and depth of the expertise that is such a distinguishing feature of this House.
In particular, it is a pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on his superb maiden speech. On a personal note, going back a few years when the noble Lord was head of the Confederation of British Industry and I was the Chief Scientific Adviser, there were many occasions on which we got together in creative thinking to bring together strands from the worlds of science and of commerce. To my mind, that is what we are trying to do, in a larger sense, in the debate today.
I said at the beginning that I would focus on sketching a framework and leave many of the important topics to be filled in. I could not have wished for a better response. Had I but world enough and time, I would wish to revisit each of them. Let me very briefly mention some of the highlights. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and my noble friends Lady Howe and Lord Chorley highlighted, with specific details, the role to be played by energy savings, focusing attention on transport and the home.
I said in my opening remarks that I did not have time to speak as I would have wished of the effects of climate change on other animals and plants, and I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and others picked up that topic and went much wider with regard to the consequences for agriculture and our natural heritage.
My noble friend Lord Patel picked up the theme of the impact on the particular set of animals that we humans are and the diseases that will be affected for the worse by climate change. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, elaborated on some things I had hinted at, regarding the increasing incidence of extreme events, as did other speakers.
My noble friend Lord Browne, summed it up well when he said that whatever the areas of remaining uncertainty, it is clear that the risks are too great to be ignored. That theme was explored by asking what we can do. Various evaluations of the balance among the four categories I sketched at the beginning—adapting, saving waste, sequestering carbon and renewables—were, in various shapes and forms, pursued by my noble friends Lord Turner, Lord Browne and Lord Oxburgh, and by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham.
All this, with little exception, was against a background that accepted that climate change is real and largely human-associated, that it is serious and that little actions now are more important than big actions later. In response to my noble friend Lord Tanlaw, I say that we could well have had this debate 10 or 12 years ago, but that some things would have been significantly less well known then. I tried to distinguish between the areas of science that are pretty secure and some issues, such as the timescales for Arctic melting or the consequences for permafrost, that are still a little insecure. In 10 years, we will know yet more. But we knew enough 10 years ago, and we know even more now.
Some speakers, such as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, voiced dissent, which was fair enough. In his excellent speech about economic instruments, the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, mentioned in passing that he would like the IPCC to be audited and, by implication, the academies of the G8. I was wondering who would conduct such an audit but the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, solved that for me brilliantly by suggesting we abolish the IPCC. That left me wondering to whom we would turn for advice—a subset of people who told us what we wanted to hear, perhaps. But I was deflected from that by discovering that I am a serial alarmist. Being the sort of bloke who likes facts, I looked forward to hearing the various points on the time sequence of my career; I discovered that the anchoring point is that I apparently once said something nice about the Club of Rome. I freely confess that I forget having said that, and I regret it. It would have been back in the 1960s, and I look forward to learning exactly when it was said. Rather than continue on this narcissistic note, let me say that if we are to have a discussion that characterises positions with such extremist language, then I am cheerful to embrace the category of serial alarmist, for humanity has benefited more from serial alarmism than from serial complacency, and always will.
My noble friend Lord Oxburgh spoke about what we do. It is a question not of whether we need to bring greenhouse gases under control, but how. That of course is the nub of the debate and the really difficult point. It is the issue about which the group of distinguished economists on the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said so many good and wise things. I found it reassuring that many of the recommendations in that report—carbon taxes and others—resonated with comments made in the Royal Society's report on economic instruments for the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Noble Lords, including myself when I opened, said that the real need at the heart of this issue is to get beyond Economics 101 and to decouple economic growth from rising input of greenhouse gases. I reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Bach, just said: our own Government have been exemplary in this respect by illustrating that one can do this without suffering and, in fact, do it while one is doing well.
It is also clear, as many noble Lords said, that there is no one technical trick, no silver bullet or magic technology that will painlessly get us out of this problem—this unintended consequence of well intended actions. It is clear that the way out cannot be found either by the public sector simply setting regulations and incentives or by leaving it to the private sector. A private sector left to itself does not focus pharmaceutical activity on diseases of impoverished countries, for example. We need a combination of appropriate regulatory frameworks and incentives, as was said many speakers, particularly in relation to energy savings, together with the opportunity for an uninhibited response to that by the wiser sectors of business that take a longer view, as BP has been so seminal in doing.
Finally, reinforcing the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Lord, Lord Bach, I would like to say what a timely debate this has been. I express my appreciation for the fact that Nick Stern is going now to prepare the Government's response to the excellent report of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. More importantly, I return to the one thing that I really do wish to bang on about: at the Montreal meeting, I hope that we will hold tough, not for more targets beyond Kyoto, but to set up a study to investigate the likely consequences of stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at various levels, because without a sense—necessarily a bit of an imprecise sense—of what is going to flow from what we are doing or not doing, we will have no sense of whether the things that we are trying to do are going to be too little, too late. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.