Energy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 22nd October 2008.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 9:45 pm, 22nd October 2008

My Lords, we regard the Europe-wide ETS scheme as effective, with the capacity to meet the powerful and important objectives that we have established. I was emphasising that not only are we in the lead on these issues but, only this year, we announced that we intend to reduce emissions by 80 per cent of the 1990 baseline by 2050. It has met with much approval across the nation and across all parties that the Government have stiffened these targets and objectives. There is no questioning the Government's good faith in terms of their objectives; we merely disagree with the noble Lord about the methods by which we attain the targets that we have set out to meet.

The ETS is at the heart of our global efforts to tackle climate change. We have worked with the EU Commission and other member states to ensure that in phase 3 and beyond, as we move towards that stage, it is strengthened and consolidated with increased transparency and improves stability in order to make it a more effective tool to tackle climate change.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to the fact that similar regulations to the one enjoined in the amendment obtain in California. There are aspects of the development of these issues in California which we all applaud. Several cities in California have, if not blazed a trail, then set a lead in terms of the way in which cities can respond to carbon pollution. These initiatives obtain in California because they do not have a scheme such as the ETS. The very fact that there is no overarching policy or framework means that they are obliged to pursue these extremely interesting initiatives, none of which I would do anything but applaud. The noble Lord says that the Californian experience ought to be translated to the British one, but we are operating in an entirely different context and the analogy does not hold.

The amendment is clearly targeted at energy generated from fossil fuels and at coal in particular. For the foreseeable future, fossil fuels are bound to play a part in the UK energy mix. That is why the Government's existing framework for tackling carbon emissions is the right one and why the development of the new fossil fuel power stations can be compatible with an overall drive to reduce emissions. The noble Lord says that this will mean other parts of the economy bearing the strain. That may well be the case; in fact, the noble Lord is right—it is the case. That is against a background of the Government's proper regard for the security of energy supply. In order to reach that target and offer that security—and I cannot think of a greater obligation upon Government than to foresee for the future the guarantee of energy supplies—these compromises may need to be made. That is the concept behind the trading scheme: it gives the opportunity for balance within an economy rather than suggesting that the issue can be tackled by action against one particular source of pollution.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, referred to the danger of a potential dash for gas if coal is closed down. We would have to look at other energy sources as alternatives. Studying the recent history of gas—its prices and the security of supply—would surely counsel us against repeating the concept of a dash for gas when the dash would be not for our indigenous resources, as in the 1980s, but for gas that is supplied in rather different circumstances and from very limited sources.

The Government share all the objectives that the noble Lord expresses when he says that this is what we need to achieve. He says that the amendment is directed towards that, but it is not acceptable to the Government. We believe that a strategy limit on carbon dioxide emissions from individual new fossil fuel power stations would not give us additional help in our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases; on the contrary, the effect would be to constrain the possibilities for delivering the diverse energy mix that the UK requires for ensuring the security of supply. That is an important dimension. It does not mean at all that the Government are doing anything else except meet, in an intensified form, the objectives that have been set, originally in terms of the Stern report but also of targets that the Government have indicated they are prepared to increase and substantiate. I hope that the noble Lord will therefore appreciate that we are discussing means to an end when we share those objectives, that he will accept that the Government have clearly identified the necessary means for the nation and that he will withdraw his amendment.