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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and recognise the significance of the Budget proposals. He will be aware that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, and other experts have asked the Government to increase the low-carbon element to at least 20 per cent of the economic stimulus package. What assurance can he give us that the Government will seek to meet this target?
My Lords, I believe that the announcement made in the Budget, on top of the additional money that is being put into the low-carbon sector, will make an appreciable difference. Certainly we believe that a low-carbon economy is one of the ways in which to drive economic growth in this country. It is very important to take advantage of this in terms of skills, jobs and investment. Of course, we continue to listen carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Stern has said, but the announcements made recently very much follow the pattern that he has suggested.
My Lords, it is understandable that my noble friend should give a pleasant reply to a bishop, especially one from Liverpool. Will he confirm that the central task of the fiscal stimulus is to reduce the length and depth of the recession? Will he assure us that that remains the central objective?
Of course, my Lords, but the Budget contains within it proposals to stimulate low-carbon economic development in this country, which is one of the ways that will help us to get through the troubles that global economies are in at the moment. It is entirely consistent with the negotiations that will take place in Copenhagen at the end of the year to seek international agreement, which we must all hope will lead to the development of a global low-carbon economy.
My Lords, how do the Government reconcile their scrappage scheme with a low-carbon economy? When the details are published will they ensure that any new cars that are purchased are environmentally friendly? I declare an interest in that my own car is 10 years old this year.
My Lords, if the noble Lord takes advantage of the scrappage scheme when the details are made available, no doubt he will buy a very efficient car in its place. The scrappage scheme is designed to stimulate the economy, along with other initiatives. For instance, in January we announced a scheme to enable motorists to receive help worth in the region of £2,000 to £5.000 to buy electric and plug-in hybrid cars, which will be available between 2011 and 2014. The scrappage scheme cannot be seen in isolation.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, made a very good point. In so far as a fiscal stimulus can create jobs, which is somewhat arguable, this is about the most expensive way in which it could possibly be done. Is it not the case that the economics of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, have been comprehensively rubbished by all the most competent economists on both sides of the Atlantic? Is it not also the case that the Climate Change Act under the Government's own figures will cost the British economy something like £400 billion, which we can ill afford at present?
My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord's analysis on that or his analysis on climate change. The report of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, has been widely applauded. It has certainly been subject to rigorous scrutiny, but it has been extremely valuable in advising many countries about what is needed to invest in a low-carbon economy. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has essentially said that while there will be a cost today in moving to a low-carbon economy, the longer we delay the more expensive it will become. That is why we have announced the stimulus.
Yes, my Lords. My department works closely with the Department for International Development. We are clear that climate change and sustainability are important pillars of DfID's work. If we are to reach a successful conclusion in Copenhagen, one of the most important facets will be the involvement of developing countries and the financial mechanisms required to help them move towards low-carbon economies.
My Lords, I believe that for the past 10 years global warming has not taken place. There has been no increase in global average temperatures, so for how long does that non-increase have to go on before the concept of global warning is questioned?
My Lords, the question of the science of global warming has been subject to extraordinary scrutiny over the past few years. You cannot simply take one or two indicators of climate; you have to look at the underlying trends. The fact is that the temperature has already risen by 0.8 per cent degrees centigrade since 1900. The scientific consensus is very strong indeed and we would be foolish not to take action now. If we delay action, the consequences for our children and their children will be catastrophic.
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool has asked a serious and important Question. I know from Questions he has asked before that he takes this very seriously. Will the Minister at this stage adopt even more Conservative policies than the Government have adopted so far, which will contribute to the development of a low-carbon UK economy without spending any more public money? I suggest having a £6,500 energy efficiency entitlement for every home in Britain, funding at least three carbon capture and storage projects, bringing forward the introduction of feed-in tariffs and creating a national recharging network for the electric vehicles which my friend on the Liberal Democrat Benches so desperately needs.
My Lords, I am surprised that the noble Baroness has raised that question since it would appear the Conservative Party's financial policies are about cutting, cutting and cutting. The Government have taken strong decisions to invest in a low-carbon economy. The announcement last week of up to four demonstration projects on carbon capture and storage is an indicator of the fact that we are taking these strong decisions. I am convinced that these decisions and the money that the Budget has released will considerably enhance our ability to move towards a low-carbon economy, which will bring great benefits to this country.