Report (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 6:15 pm, 21st October 2015

My Lords, I particularly wish to speak to Amendment 78UA, to which I have added my name, but I will start with Amendment 78S, which is the decarbonisation debate. I was certainly very disappointed that the Minister confirmed—he was very clear, and I welcome clarity—that the Government will not take advantage of the opportunities opened to them under the previous Energy Act and declare a decarbonisation target. We have had a lot of discussion about the Conservative manifesto, and in fact the Minister referred to it in the context of saying why that would not happen. However, the words of the Conservative manifesto were completely clear. They suggest that a decarbonisation target would meet both the Government’s objectives. The manifesto says:

“We will cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible, and will not support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets”.

That is very clear.

The point about a decarbonisation target—exactly as the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, said—is that it moves on from the distorting targets that we had for renewables in terms of decarbonising our energy sector. In fact, because it brings in proper mechanisms in terms of markets and all of that, it is actually less expensive. So, it seems that a decarbonisation target will not only help us very specifically meet our Climate Change Act targets—which the Conservative manifesto fully supports—but provide a route for those targets to be met with a non-distorting and less expensive method than we had under the renewable targets under the EU’s 2020 system and so on. This is therefore a very good and logical amendment. It is almost a vital amendment that the Government should be able to accept to fulfil their own manifesto commitments. I do not say that to make a clever lawyer’s argument; I say it because it is how I read it. It is in plain English in the manifesto.

I move on to Amendment 78UA, to which I have put my name. I pay credit to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for the great role that she played in bringing the Climate Change Act into being. I played a much more modest role in those days on the Front Bench of the Liberal Democrats in opposition—strangely, we are back in opposition again; but there we are. I was going to mention the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, and the fantastic work that he did with me and the noble Lord, Lord Rooker. We helped to deliver, right across the House, together with the Cross Benches, the fantastic Climate Change Act. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, did a great piece of work.

One of the things that I did then was to try to bring to the attention of the Bill team and Ministers the fact that although those carbon budgets were great, they excluded 50% of the country’s emissions because they took into account the EU ETS trading. So, in effect, government policy only controlled, or had an effect on, about 50% of UK emissions. The Bill team did not seem to understand this—albeit that at the time the department was not DECC but Defra—and nor did the Ministers particularly take an interest in it. I think that the trouble was that, once those in the Treasury understood it—at least, they certainly understood it well ahead of anybody else—they decided that they did not want this at all. Ironically, that was under a Labour Government. However, as the noble Baroness said, the Climate Change Act was a great thing.

This amendment provides an opportunity to put right something that was wrong then. As I see it, it aligns our international obligations with how we measure our own carbon budgets and our own Climate Change Act targets. They come into one in that they mean what everybody would understand them to mean—that is, what the emissions of UK plc are. It would get rid of all those strange accounting distortions and bring us back to common-sense accounting and what people would understand carbon budgets and our own carbon emissions to be.

That is why I am delighted that the amendment has been brought forward. It concerns a matter that I have felt strongly about since 2008, when the Climate Change Bill became an Act and, at the time, was a world leader. This gives us an opportunity to cement that leadership in this area, even if, unfortunately, we are rather backtracking in others.