My Lords, in 1992, there was a United Nations Rio Conference on Environment and Development. That was the point at which the Governments of the world broadly accepted the scientific consensus that the extra carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere would over the next century lead to a rise in the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans, with serious and damaging impacts on the health, environment and economies of most communities all over the world. It was nice that today we had Psalm 23 in the Bishop’s Prayers, which reminds us of the preciousness of the global environment; and that is what this debate is about.
It was agreed in 1992 that through the combined efforts of people, Governments, industry and agriculture it should be possible to curb this rise and perhaps even return the temperature and other elements of the environment to a pre-industrial state. Since then, some Governments, through further agreements and many types of action, have started on this path. The aim of today’s debate is principally to review the UK Government’s policies and actions, and those of British people, to reduce greenhouse gases to the 80% of their previous level that was in the 2008 Act. In this debate we shall want to discuss how Her Majesty’s Government will work with other countries at the Paris climate meeting in December to achieve these goals and make further progress.
We are also making use of the opportunity afforded by this debate to urge the Government to implement stronger environmental policies that should be an integral part of their policy on climate change. These stronger policies are urgently needed in urban areas, where air pollution is greatest and worsening. According to the World Health Organization, globally, each year more than 2 million people die from air pollution. In London in March, I and some others experienced air pollution at an uncomfortable level—a level which I had not experienced since the 1950s. My remarks follow on from that experience.
I am grateful to noble Lords who will speak in the debate and to the Minister for his interest and commitment to the issues before us. I declare an interest as a former director of the Met Office, where much of the key scientific research work was done. I am also a professor at University College London, and involved in a small consultancy.
The continued funding of research and data-gathering by the Met Office Hadley Centre, the Natural Environment Research Council and international programmes is absolutely vital because policies for dealing with climate change are continually updated as scientific understanding develops. As we have seen and heard in debates in this House, over the past 10 years climate change has been far from a steady process. Although there has been a steady rise in global carbon dioxide as measured on a graph that continually goes upwards, particularly the measurements in Hawaii, the data on the rise of surface temperatures across the world have been quite erratic. Indeed, this was predicted by some scientists as long ago as the 1990s and we are continually learning how to understand this variability.
This is not just a scientific matter. It is of extraordinary importance to people. We saw the extreme temperatures in Europe and the UK in 2003, when 20,000 or 30,000 people died in Europe. There were extraordinary heating events in Russia in 2010. The long-predicted warming of the Arctic and the melting of summer ice have begun to happen in the past 10 years. But what is perhaps new is that we have begun to understand in recent research in the United States that large continental fluctuations of the jet stream are related to the melting of the polar ice, which leads to extraordinary and persistent heating and cooling episodes across the northern hemisphere. I had to speak on the Korean radio. You hear the concerns in Russia and China, and last year there were extraordinary changes in the United States. Wind storms and intense precipitation have broken records, with rainfall in parts of the Far East now at 100 millimetres per hour and rising.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change emphasised the difficulty of understanding these precise processes but was quite emphatic in pointing out that the blanket of carbon dioxide that traps the outgoing heat from the earth is leading to the steady warming of the deep oceans. The temperature at the surface is varying, particularly across South America, with El Niño and La Niña. But the temperatures of the deep oceans are rising steadily and the consequence of this, plus the melting of ice in glaciers from Greenland to Alaska to Chile, is the steady rise in sea level.
If I may appeal to fellow parliamentarians, the parliamentarians in the central Pacific, Melanesia—
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the flow of the noble Lord’s speech. He referred to carbon dioxide. Some of us in this House who are not of a scientific bent have been surprised to read recently that carbon dioxide has contributed in a big way to the greening of the world and to improving agricultural productivity, whereas another gas, nitrous oxide—which again, we are told, is derived in part from diesel fuel—is a much more villainous piece. Can the noble Lord enlighten those of us who ought to know more about this sort of thing?
The noble Lord is quite right about the rising level of carbon dioxide having an effect on greening. But equally, the average amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising because of the release of heat by the combustion of oil and coal, and indeed from the burning of forests. Several studies have commented that there will be areas of the world where, to start with, this rise in carbon dioxide will lead to an increase in agriculture—for example, near the equator—but the point is made that as the temperature keeps on rising, this local advantage will be considerably overwhelmed by the increase in temperature. If we reach 3 degrees or 4 degrees—if we make no progress—that will have a devastating impact. So the noble Lord is right but it is also a question of the timeframe we are thinking about.
I want to comment on another feature of the rising sea level and its impact. There are areas of the world where the sea level is rising three times faster than the average. The islands that I mentioned are planning for their eventual abandonment. Noble Lords who know the history of this place will know that in the 11th and 12th centuries, we regularly had extraordinary floods in what is now our Parliament—but, fortunately, we are still here.
In the light of these increasingly hazardous impacts on societies worldwide, what would happen if the world began not merely to stop increasing the emission of carbon dioxide but to start reducing those emissions, over a few decades, back to the levels of 100 years ago? The evidence from computer models presented at the Royal Society in 2014 was that, for example, polar ice would return. When people ask why we should make these big changes to our lifestyle and reduce our energy use, the answer is that making them may well enable us to restore some aspects of the environment. If we do not do so, the environment could change more or less irreversibly.
The UK’s cross-party legislation in 2008 and legislation since then in other countries such as Mexico, along with the European Union’s political agreements, have introduced a timetable of steady reduction. It is good news that the European Union countries are on course to meet their reduction targets of 20% by 2020 and 40% by 2030. It is surprising as some rather major countries have been increasing their carbon dioxide emissions. However, that enables Her Majesty’s Government and our European partners to argue for the 150 or more countries assembled in Paris to introduce their own policies. It can be done.
One reason for some measured optimism at this time in the evolution of science and government regarding climate change is that China agreed at the previous climate meeting, in Durban in 2012, to introduce emissions reduction targets by 2015. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, is in his seat. We had many discussions about China’s position before the Copenhagen meeting in 2009. At that point, China was moving ahead with efforts to make its emissions more efficient—that is, having fewer emissions per unit of energy. Now, however, it is talking about targets to reduce emissions which will be implemented by 2020. Since then, China and some other countries have been increasing the practical measures they are taking. Moreover, despite the objections of the United States Congress to his policies, President Obama has targets and policies for emissions reductions of 17% by 2020.
What is needed in practice is to make breakthroughs in energy use and production. It was interesting to hear, at a meeting of European parliamentarians in Paris in September, a review of the different methods being introduced. In some senses, France is the leading country in Europe as it has the lowest carbon emissions per person because it uses all the technologies, such as nuclear fission, wind, solar and so on. To some extent, the UK is following in that path. Interestingly, the car industry—a major source of contributions, occasionally up to 30% in some countries—is talking about very great reductions in emissions and improvements in efficiency. Another way that we can reduce our energy consumption is to have more efficient buildings. It is extraordinary that high-performance bricks are imported to the UK from Switzerland and we have not developed our own industry in this really important technology.
The generation of renewable energy is another aspect of the issue. Although there has been much development of renewable energy in this country, there is also great concern about reduced subsidies for solar PV. We hear about many small businesses in the more depressed areas of the UK going into insolvency and bankruptcy. I hope the Minister will respond on that point. Government documents emphasise the business opportunities associated with introducing technology for reducing emissions. That is a very important feature, and one hopes that HMG will be displaying UK technology solutions at the Paris conference in December.
Another role for UK expertise, finance and industry is in helping to make countries more resilient against hazards and their impacts, and UK businesses are making a particularly strong effort in developing countries. It is very important that the UK science base is maintained at the highest international level to provide competitive advice. This week, the Japanese embassy noted the importance of collaboration with the UK on tsunami damage, and Japan wants to have a United Nations day for dealing with tsunamis, which of course have caused many tens of thousands of casualties. Tsunamis are not, of course, caused by climate change, but with sea level rises, the danger of further inland penetration is an important factor.
The other important point I wanted to make about environmental hazards—I have already touched on the air pollution aspect—is that, in many other countries of the world, one of the ways of dealing with these extreme air pollution events is by using the media to warn people and, in particular, to advise traffic and people controlling emissions to reduce those emissions. We in this Parliament have had several Parliamentary Questions addressing the Department for Transport but it has refused to use its abilities to communicate with drivers and urge them to reduce their emissions.
Similarly, the UK is an important member of the international—
I have to ask one more question from the lay point of view about some of the things that the noble Lord is saying. Is he saying that CO2 causes air pollution or that nitrous oxide causes it? He is absolutely right that CO2 causes global warming, but does it actually pollute the atmosphere? He seems to be saying that it does.
As I have said, this debate is about CO2 but also about air pollution, which is a health problem. If you drive on French motorways, you will see signs saying, “Drive more slowly: you will reduce pollution and reduce carbon dioxide”. We could do the same, but apparently the Department for Transport does not want to.
Finally, one further aspect of pollution and climate is shipping. As I have said several times from these Benches, the International Maritime Organization is across the river. Ships are responsible for something like 15% of carbon emissions. Many solutions have been suggested to make ships more efficient, such as having them go more slowly, but the British Government are not very strong in pushing this compared with other countries.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, on this matter. His work, throughout his working lifetime, and expertise are of great value to this House and to society in general. I congratulate him on securing this debate.
Quite often in this country when we talk about action on global climate change and what we should be doing here, people say, “Why bother? Our emissions are only a small proportion of those in the rest of the world, and we really ought to be worrying about China, India and many other countries”. There are two reasons. The first is that if everybody took that view, no progress would be made. The second is that leadership has to be provided. During the last Government—the coalition Government—this country was providing genuine leadership on climate change, led by the Energy Secretary at the time, Ed Davey, who of course is a member of my party, the Liberal Democrats.
At the beginning of the last Government, the PM announced that they were going to be “the greenest Government ever”. Whether they were or not is something we can argue about for ever, but what is absolutely clear is that during the coalition there were a very substantial number of green initiatives. Billions were invested in renewables, thousands of green jobs were created and ambitious climate change targets were agreed. Internationally, we were in the forefront of discussion at the Lima conference in December last year and, under the coalition, Ed Davey was arguably instrumental in achieving the European Union climate deal to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030. It is arguable that, had he not been there, that agreement would not have been achieved. He was certainly in the forefront of it.
The question is: have the new Conservative Government followed the work of the coalition? We can argue about particular issues during the coalition—there were many compromises and lots of arguments took place—but, by and large, they were a good Government in this area. Friends of the Earth has now criticised David Cameron and the majority Tory Government for dismantling the low-carbon policies of the past 10 years. It has been said that our Prime Minister has gone from hugging huskies to talking about “green crap”, to quote what he is supposed to have said.
This country should not be in that position. In the five or six months since the coalition left office, the Conservatives have ended all government funding for the Green Deal, which was an attempt to do what is vital: to make homes more energy-efficient. Much better insulation of homes is a vital part of reducing carbon use, because it reduces the amount of energy needed. The Green Deal was in my view not perfect by any means, but it was a start. The Conservatives have scrapped subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar power. Noble Lords who have followed these debates will know that I am not a huge fan of terrestrial wind power because of the threat to the landscape in our uplands, but I am not saying that there should not be any. Maritime wind power should certainly have a great future, but the future of that industry is in doubt.
The Government have announced plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank. The green bank was never on the scale or ambition that our party wanted, but again it was a very useful start. There is now real worry that if it is sold off, its objectives will be rofit-maximising rather than green. The tax break for clean cars was abolished in the Budget. Rules on zero-carbon new housing have been scrapped in the drive to build houses regardless of the consequences. The so-called tax for clean energy—removing the exemption from the climate change levy for businesses that source renewable energy—has been done away with.
Meanwhile, the Government are putting all their hopes in what for many of us is the very worrying deal with China over the Hinkley Point nuclear plant—it seems to be wrong on almost every count and very worrying for the future security of this country—and in fracking. I have not been a total opponent of fracking; I have spent a lot of time looking into it and considering the position. It is absolutely clear that fracking in this country is not the answer to our future energy problems. The more I look into it, the more I think that it really is not the answer to anything very much at all.
The Government are going up the wrong tracks on all these matters and will possibly be the least green Government for a long time. There has been a total reversal of policies since the coalition. While I was not a fan of everything the coalition did, this area is one where the lack of Liberal Democrats in Government is something the country will come to regret.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend and fellow campaigner on these issues of securing a global agreement on climate change. Also, right at the beginning I declare an interest, not in personal advantage to me but because I was there in Kyoto in 1997 negotiating the agreement. I was there at most of the COPs where we have argued and had ups and downs. We thought we had a good agreement at Bali, it fell down in Copenhagen, then was restored again and we are now, with the possibility of a fundamental change since Kyoto, looking to a second agreement to replace Kyoto with, probably, the Paris protocol.
In those circumstances, I have learned quite a lot. First, the science is right and the objectives set by science and its connection between the production of carbon and the weather is something we have argued for and I believe in. To that extent, I will share some of my experiences from that time.
What is different from Kyoto is that we now have America and China on board. Australia went off and has come back. Canada, this week, has come back to the agreement. The signs are beginning to look good for an international agreement between 190-odd counties this time, not the 47 we dealt with in Kyoto. Things are changing and, I agree, looking good.
We argued at that time that, given the disagreements, there was an alternative. I have before me the document I produced two years ago on an alternative policy to the breakdown issues. For example, there was a big argument over whether there should be a legal framework imposed on everyone. The Government had the view that there should. We argued two years ago that that was nonsense: you cannot get that because the American Congress will not pass it, and nor will Germany or China. We suggested—it was originally unopposed—that we must have a legal framework within an international agreement. The only way you could do that is to do what we did in Britain when we led the world, well before the coalition came in, by bringing in the Climate Change Act 2008. I think that this conference is now about to propose something like that for every country. You legally look at the different policies but agree targets that you must be checked on. You cannot just rely on people saying, “Ah, we will do it at home”; there has to be an international framework.
Let us put that together with the other problem we had: will sufficient money be available for adaption and mitigation? Certainly, we are a long way towards the £100 million we said we wanted and we will find out about that. The French have made it a priority to get those resources to deal with and help developing countries as we move more and more to a low-carbon solution. That was right and there is movement on it.
As we approach Paris, there is one other significant factor. My noble friend Lord Hunt and I were involved in getting other nations in on this. We visited a lot of them; I have been to China 30-odd times to argue the case for why it should be involved. We have gone to 66 countries and asked them to pass climate legislation to press their Governments to support the agreement at Paris. With another body called GLOBE which did a lot of international work, we have seen the legislators at the bottom begin to force their Governments to agree, to be honest, nearly everything in that agreement. That was a significant factor. The legislators were beginning to have a voice. They worked the government delegation and together produced this report two years ago, which we launched at Durban and which has now been accepted. I am rather pleased that it was. If they do not do this, I will have to do an awful lot of crawling but I believe that it is happening. It is important that we get a global solution to a global problem. I think we are all agreed on that.
I must note some negative factors, particularly people who question the science. That goes on. There are a few in this House who come up and say, “We do not believe the thousands of scientists—they are wrong”. However, there is a lot of evidence that shows the scientists are right. Indeed, the latest finding now is to give greater protection to potatoes than to human beings. I will talk about that in a minute because at the end of the day it is about how and where air pollution begins to kill thousands of our people.
The scientists tell us about that; this is about the particles—and it is quite right that my noble friend asked whether that was just down to the carbon or whether it was down to the nitrogen dioxide. Yes, that is a problem. The same scientists told us that air quality has an effect on health. Here we are talking about actual deaths; we are talking not about whether plants grow or whether they are greener but about whether it has an effect on the lives of our people, which is one of our major responsibilities. It is a human right to be able to exist and to have clean, fair air. Basically, I cannot help but bring to noble Lords’ attention, under those circumstances, the recent announcement about air pollution in Britain. The Government have direct responsibility there, but they have left the leadership role—they no longer lead in Europe. We were the leaders in that, with the first Climate Change Act, and we achieved our Kyoto targets far more than anybody else did. That was an achievement. The Government have some responsibility for air quality, and we know that they can control it—and we know that the Supreme Court has just said that we are failing in our law and obligations on the control of these gases. As a medical report has pointed out, some 10,000 people die every year from air pollution, from the particles of diesel inside the car, and from the motor car industry. In that sense, we know that there are thousands of deaths, because our medical authorities have reported on it and our courts have said that it is illegal. The Government say that they will alter this by 2020, and in the mean time they will still pay the price of death. That means more people dying from air quality than from obesity, alcohol, tobacco—all those things—and that is in the control of government. So all this argument that the Government are leading is not the case, whether in the negotiations or in doing what we do in our own legislation. Curiously enough, some countries, such as Australia, tried to get rid of their climate change Acts, but it is statutory and they had to bring in the law, and the reason why we have not done that in this country is because they would have to bring legislation to this House. I do not know whether we would be allowed to debate that; is it all right in our constitution, or is that man supposed to—oh, I will leave it alone.
The science is one thing, but it is being ignored. The oil industry says that it needs to have an environment, then it sends people to drill in the Arctic, even though we have eight times more oil than we need for the limits imposed for environmental protection. I do not know where to start with the car industry; it has brought in more and more diesel cars, with more particles coming from that, contributing to deaths. The car industry gets its scientists and engineers to fix the engine so that it looks different from what is actually happening. That is illegal and fraudulent, and even bordering to some extent on manslaughter, if you can show the connection. So what are the Government doing about it? Absolutely nothing. They are before the Supreme Court, not providing leadership. One of the major contributions that came out of the conference was the suggestion that there should be more investment in low energy and renewables. What are we doing? The Government are paying thousands to the oil industry to survive, and cutting subsidies for renewables. That just seems crazy—and, in that process, we kill thousands of our citizens. Blimey, when I hear them talking about how carbon is good for growing potatoes—let us start thinking of our citizens first, and eat the potatoes but not necessarily fight to get more of them.
It is an argument about a human right. We are going to Paris, but the Government will not be leading any more, because they have given up—it is “green crap”, according to our Prime Minister. Well, they are wrong; they have paid subsidies to the wrong fuels, namely oil, and cut them back for renewables. That is not the spirit of Paris, and it is about time that they changed their position and started joining the rest of the world community in doing something about climate change.
I join noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, not only for his past work but for bringing this debate to the House today at a very important moment in international discussion. I refer to my own interest as an active researcher on these issues, and as a speaker, and I am involved, as a friend of the chair, in preparations for Paris.
Our understanding of international and UK action on this issue has to be founded on three basic propositions. First, the two defining challenges of this century are overcoming poverty and managing climate change—overcoming poverty as most recently expressed in the sustainable development goals agreed in July. If we fail on one, we will fail on the other. Clearly, if we fail to manage the climate properly, we will create an environment so hostile that we will stop, reverse and undermine the great gains in development we have made over the past few decades as a world. On the other hand, if we try to manage climate change by putting obstacles in the way of overcoming poverty around the world in the next 20 or 30 years, we will not have the coalition that we need to combat climate change. If we fail on one, we fail on the other.
That takes me to my second point, which is that the two objectives—overcoming poverty and providing sustainable development and growth on the one hand and managing climate change on the other—are complementary. They support each other. With good policy, we can make both happen together. The transition to the low-carbon economy will be enormously attractive. As in previous waves of technological change, such as the first Industrial Revolution, we will see waves of innovation, investment and growth. It will be very exciting. It is already very exciting. To that, we must add that we will live in much cleaner, less polluted, less congested, more productive cities in a much more biodiverse world. This is an enormously attractive route. It involves change and investment, but it is investment with very high returns.
The third point we have to understand is that delay is very dangerous. This is a flow-stock process: the flows of emissions move into the stocks of concentrations of greenhouse gases. The later you leave it, the more difficult it becomes. It is worse than that, because if we delay, we lock in high-carbon capital and infrastructure. That is a particularly severe lock-in problem in a world where the population of our cities is likely to go from about 3.5 billion now—50% of the world’s population—to about 6.5 billion in the middle of the century, when it will be about 70% of the population. That happens only once in human demographic and economic history.
If we get that wrong and build dirty, congested cities of the kind we have been building, we will be in deep trouble. This generation, managing the next 20 years of investment, change, transformation and growth, has an enormous responsibility, but it is, for the reasons I have already described, an enormous opportunity as well.
I shall not harp on the science. As the president of the British Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society, I encourage anyone who has new results to overturn 200 years of science and show that the risks are negligible to publish those results immediately in the learned scientific journals. I would sure there would be great interest in their new discoveries.
The stakes we are playing for are immense. We have not seen 3 degrees for around 3 million years, and we have not seen 4 degrees or 5 degrees for tens of millions of years. We have been here for a quarter of a million years. It would transform the relationship between human beings and the planet. Much of southern Europe could look like the Sahara desert, much of Bangladesh, Florida and so on could be submerged and many parts of the world could be battered by much more severe weather. Those are the stakes we are playing for. Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, would have to move and, if we have learnt anything, that would be likely to result in severe conflict. The stakes we are playing for are immense, but the alternative route is enormously attractive.
I shall focus on cities. We know more or less what to do. As I said in the Stern Review, we must deal with the biggest market failure the world has ever seen. We know how to do that. We need clear, strong, credible policies around carbon prices, legislation, support for innovation and so on, but government-induced policy risk is the biggest underminer and destroyer of investment around the world. To hesitate, to wobble or to U-turn kills investment, and this is a moment where we need infrastructure investment on a big scale.
We need more compact, connected cities with stronger public transport. We understand how to do this. We need more broad-based carbon-free energy, including zero emissions globally by mid-century. We know how to do that. China is planning more or less to do that. These are attractive policies that make sense and that we understand. We will learn like mad along the way. This is a process of innovation and learning, and we must invest much more strongly in innovation than we have as a world, including in the UK.
I will not dwell on Paris—I have been working hard on that and we are likely to get a good outcome. It will not be as strong as many of us would wish—over the next 15 years it will see emissions rise, not fall—but, nevertheless, it will set us off on a good path and lay a basis for the acceleration that will come.
The gains to cities from all this will be enormous. Others have mentioned air pollution, and I will emphasise that because it is so important. A recent Berkeley Earth study said that in many Chinese cities breathing is like smoking 40 cigarettes a day—woman, man and child; the children never recover. This is an enormously important story. India is much worse and, as we have heard already, our own country is pretty bad. In the
UK, we kill 15 times more people with air pollution than with road accidents, so it is now a big issue here.
The burning of fossil fuels kills people on a massive scale now—a WHO study last year suggested about 7 million people a year, partly internal, partly external. That is an extraordinarily large cause of death. It also kills people in the future, due to the very damaging effect of climate change. Why would we want to do that when we know how to do things differently? It would be criminally irresponsible to continue along the path we have embarked on—and we do not have to.
Finally, the UK has a very special position in this. Obviously our own cities, to our own gain, can be much more healthy and productive. Where everything is mobile—capital, labour and ideas—people move to the places that are most attractive. To build better, stronger, cleaner and less congested cities in the UK would be very good for our own economy, and, of course, a world that acts will be much less vulnerable to storms, floods, droughts, and so on. Particularly in London, on a flood plain, we can understand how important that is.
However, it is bigger than just those parts of the story. The UK—as I say, I come from a university background—is very good at R&D, urban architectural design and engineering. We have skills to bring to the table and our political positions, particularly around 0.7%, gain us great credibility in the world. I have worked as chief economist to the World Bank and the EBRD and have seen the respect that the UK gains from its moves in this direction. The Prime Minister led strongly on the sustainable development goals and we should offer him great respect for that. This is a great opportunity for the UK: a time to lead, not to wobble or hesitate. If we carry on our leadership, we will gain something that will be very good for UK cities, our health, the economy and the world.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for this debate and for his clear setting out of the complexities of the basic science, which so often get distorted in media commentary and occasionally even within this House. It is also a bit daunting to follow such great contributors to this area as the noble Lord, Lord Stern, and my noble friend Lord Prescott, who have done a lot to bring the whole issue of climate change up the agenda. We are now focusing on how the UK Government can contribute not only domestically but also to the geopolitics which precede the Paris conference and those at the European level.
It is of course true that none of this is easy. There are conflicts between short-term economic goals and some of the decisions on investment priorities that we need on the climate change agenda. In addition, as has already been pointed out, there are some conflicts within the environmental objectives. For example, the development of biofuels and biomass can conflict with land-use objectives and sustainable food production and, as has already been said, some of the immediate measures on air quality—particularly on diesel—can be in contradiction to those you would need to take if you were focusing only on climate change. However, in the long run, if we do not tackle the climate change agenda nationally, locally and internationally, none of these things will be able to be resolved either.
At the global level, Kyoto was a binding legal agreement and we will not exactly be replacing that at Paris. My noble friend Lord Prescott made a major contribution to a successful outcome at Kyoto. In passing, in view of some sad news last week, I pay tribute to our then colleague, Michael Meacher, who also made a big contribution in that respect.
Copenhagen was in some senses a disappointment. Although some success was retrieved at the end of the day, it meant that binding agreements were no longer on the agenda. However, as my noble friend Lord Prescott said, we are now looking at a framework of national or regional commitments from all nation states, developed and developing, and a proper system of verification and enforcement, which could ensure that those national agreements are met. That is different from Kyoto; nevertheless, it is a practical political and geopolitical outcome, and we need to ensure that it is met.
Of course, we have a central underlying problem, which is the dependence on fossil fuels by so much of the world and so much of our industrial complex. A couple of years ago, the IEA pointed out that the level of subsidies for coal and oil was substantially higher than that for renewables or nuclear. At the same time, we have had the fracking bonanza distorting the relative economics of fossil fuels against renewables and nuclear. Now, the fall in the oil price has again distorted the economics. The Modi Government in India, for example, are now making exploitation of their coal resources the major driver for economic revival. That is not helpful.
On the other hand, we have had Australia coming back into the discussion. One hopes that after last week we will have Canada coming back into it too, and we have had the Obama initiative in America. In Europe there have been a few hiccups. The 2020 European targets will largely be achieved. On the other hand, the European ETS is a failure, and in parts of Europe—in Poland, in eastern Europe and, indeed, in Germany since it abandoned the nuclear option—there is a growing dependency on coal. That needs to be reversed if Europe is to make a major contribution, which it always has done. We need to ensure that the environmental agenda which Europe is capable of delivering actually can be delivered and that it is one of the great examples of European co-operation which, one hopes, will affect people’s consideration of our future within Europe over the next year or two.
However, all around the world the burning of fossil fuels will continue over the next few decades. With a continuing dependence on fossil fuels, the only way of ensuring that the targets are met to achieve the 2050 outcome is to develop a genuine system of carbon capture and storage. I am not sure that we can achieve that, but we need to invest scientifically and with capital investment to try to bring carbon capture and storage into full effect so that the continued burning of fossil fuels does not have a proportionate effect on the carbon in the atmosphere. There will continue to be some dependence on fossil fuels in the world, including in Britain and Europe, but if we can develop carbon capture and storage—which really ought to be a much greater government and European priority—we can square the circle.
My final point concerns the urban environment, to which others have already referred. It is a slightly different issue from climate change but the two are interrelated. It is not just the visible pollution in Chinese and other Asian cities but the invisible pollution that affects people here in London, with the appalling levels of air pollution and the deaths, which others have already mentioned. Here, there is a conflict with some powerful manufacturers. German car manufacturers stalled or diluted earlier decisions in Europe on the targets and standards for pollution in diesel cars. It turns out that, even then, they were prepared to fiddle the system. It is known to almost everybody that the on-road emissions have been five times that which was predicted from the tests. We now know that there was serious corruption by at least one company, and I do not honestly believe that Volkswagen was entirely alone in this.
I was distressed to read in today’s Times that the new limits being discussed at European level have been made easier following yet more intensive lobbying, primarily by the German car manufacturers. We cannot allow these vested interests to override the health and long-term survival of this planet, neither on air quality nor on greenhouse gas emissions. I hope that the Government are taking that lesson into account in their agenda in Paris and Europe.
My Lords, I quickly remind the House that this is a time-limited debate. It is a fascinating debate and I know that people have a lot to say, but, for the benefit of later speakers, if they could try to keep their speeches within the time limit, it will not cut into the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton for initiating this debate so ably and responding so well to the plodders—the prodders, I should say. Both prodders seems to have disappeared; I am not sure whether that fits with the conventions of the House or not.
It is unequivocally the case that climate change is real; it is unequivocally the case that it has been driven in the recent period by human intervention into nature; and it is unequivocally the case that it offers huge threats if left unaddressed. Of course, there are substantial areas of uncertainty about the true level of risk. Some argue that it is low—much lower than almost all climate scientists believe—in terms of its consequences for our societies. Yet uncertainty cuts both ways: the level of risk may well be higher than most in the scientific community currently believe and also more proximate. I have worked on the politics of change for the last seven or eight years. I am not a climate scientist but my inclination is to take this view. This is a matter of risk, and the risks at the top end are huge. The IPCC is very likely a conservative organisation, given the fact that it has to reach a consensus and is subject to such concerted attack. We are talking, in other words, about potentially catastrophic risks of an awesome kind at the top edge of risk facing our future.
Those who wish to downplay those risks say that nature is robust and nothing that human beings might do will affect it very much. The alternative view, as we have been reminded by Hurricane Patricia, which hit south-west Mexico last Friday, is that nature is like a wild beast and we are busy prodding it with sticks. To me, that metaphor is an appropriate one: nature is awesome and we are intervening in a systematic way, the first civilisation ever to do so in human history in this fashion.
Even those who worry a great deal about climate change tend to see it as an issue somewhere down the line, and that is one reason that it is hard to get political traction against it among the public. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, might disagree, but I think it is crucial to see climate change as a here and now threat, and not just a threat 20 or 30 years down the line or a threat to our grandchildren. Some of us speaking here have grandchildren. Therefore, it is a threat to us today. This is because climate change is already progressing, but also because it overlaps with other large-scale risks that are unique to our civilisation: population growth, which might reach 10 billion; the global depletion of resources, especially water scarcity and drought in troubled areas of the world; and the existence of weapons of mass destruction. That point was made with some force and with a great deal of backing material in a famous television series in the United States called “Years of Living Dangerously”, which fortunately played to pretty large audiences.
Action on a global level is urgent. Like other speakers, I wish the UN meetings in Paris in December every success. Other noble Lords speaking here today, like myself, were in Copenhagen in 2009 and will recall all too well—although my view may differ a little from others who have spoken—the fiasco that ensued there. Some 180 political leaders, including the President of the United States, attended, but there was no overall agreement. There was just a single sheet of paper at the end of that meeting. We must avoid anything like that again. The very fact that that happened will concentrate minds this time and some formal agreements will likely be reached.
I suppose that I differ slightly from one or two other noble Lords who have spoken because I remain a little dubious about the practical outcome. There will be agreements but, in practice, international law has no teeth. There is no mechanism for global enforcement of international law and there are no effective sanctions. For that reason, at least in my opinion, bilateral negotiation will be just as important. China and the US produce something like 42% of total global emissions. They are working closely together. The Chinese have changed their views substantially, so that at least will have to exist alongside whatever formal agreements are made. Whatever happens in Paris, a great deal of action will have to be bottom-up. Here, cities, towns and even small communities can have a prime role.
I will try to observe the six-minute limit for speeches. One of the great transformations that is happening in our age, which I have studied intensely, is the digital revolution. It makes it possible for even small committees to interact on a global level with others in ways that even 10 years ago were not conceivable. It makes it possible to jump stages in renewable energy, as happened in Africa with telephone lines. I welcome any comments from the Minister on the British attitude to how we might further international collaboration along those lines.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of the British Lung Foundation.
I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for tabling this important debate. He is absolutely right to highlight the need for action on global climate change. We as individuals can, and should, do what we can to help. We should turn off the lights when we leave the room, turn the heating off when we are not indoors and so forth. As a country, too, we should do what we can to help without paying over the odds and impoverishing bill payers. But the truth is that the difference we can make as individuals is tiny, and indeed the difference we can make as a country is tiny, in comparison with what is needed.
Countries such as China and India are growing at a rate of knots and are burning fossil fuels so quickly that any UK national strategy to curb climate change is rendered useless within hours. We know that China has had the biggest increase in CO2 emissions and therefore any work to stop that growth at the UN conference in Paris later this month could be extremely valuable. So I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important issue.
I read recently that the London Weather Centre is about 1.8 degrees warmer than southern England and it has been since 1981. That of course has nothing to do with global warming: it is because of the London heat island. But if we add the 0.8 degrees average global warming, then central London is presumably about 2.5 degrees warmer than it once was. When we consider that much of the debate on global warming is about the disastrous effects of a change of 2 degrees, it is important that the discussion is level-headed and that we remember statistics in context.
Even so, there are much bigger decisions that we can take to help reduce emissions globally. Some of them involve being bold at home. For instance, we should fully embrace shale extraction. But equally as important is encouraging others to do the same to reduce reliance on coal. Sharing shale gas technology will allow it to develop as rapidly as possible and be used worldwide. A paper for the Centre for Policy Studies entitled, Why Every Serious Environmentalist Should Favour Fracking, by the noted University of California, Berkeley scientist Professor Muller, who I should declare I know personally, shows that shale gas extraction will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A global switch to natural gas would be a big step forward.
While CO2 may indeed be a global villain, air pollution is undoubtedly a local villain. Particulates hurt lungs today, right now on the streets of our towns and cities, particularly the lungs of children, so the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is absolutely right again to highlight the urban environment in this debate. In the early 2000s, the focus was on CO2 alone, but the evidence is now showing that that was a mistake. As part of the strategy to reduce carbon emissions, the Government encouraged people, using tax breaks, to switch to diesel cars. The RAC Foundation estimates that these tax breaks have helped to encourage UK citizens to buy an extra 2.7 million diesel cars since 2009. And, of course, exhaust fumes are poisonous. The poison may no longer be filled with lead, but it is particulates that we should worry about the most. Particulates bypass the human throat and, just like cigarette smoke, go right down into the lungs where they can cause the most damage. So the single-minded pressure on reducing CO2 meant that engineers produced more diesel cars, which then led to higher particulates. That means we now have a disastrous air pollution level.
Volkswagen was one company that made a big switch to diesel at the turn of the millennium, but as tests for air pollution became more demanding, that company and probably other manufacturers decided to cheat. VW allegedly set up 11 million of its vehicles with “defeat devices” so that it could tell when they were in test conditions. The cars then temporarily emitted less toxic gas. But independent analysis showed how they emitted up to nine and a half times more toxic nitrogen dioxide when they were on the road. This scandal shocked and concerned me and millions of others. What is equally concerning was the news at the weekend that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs may have known that manufacturers were gaming the system as long ago as 2009. This weekend’s Sunday Times reported that Defra commissioned research which showed that when on the road, diesel cars were producing much higher levels of air pollution than was expected as a result of tests. Another report was allegedly submitted to Defra in 2011 which identified serious concerns with the testing. If those reports were submitted, then Defra should have acted, but of course VW should not have cheated. I hope that the reports, if they do exist, will be released and that in the future we will see real-world emissions testing to root out the bad guys. Moreover, instead of championing one type of fuel over another, perhaps we can look at ways of encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles, such as allowing them into bus lanes.
The evidence is now showing that it was a mistake to concentrate on CO2 alone, as we did in the early 2000s. Air pollution is now a pressing problem and it has been greatly exacerbated by our focus on reducing CO2 emissions. So while we should indeed take a global view on climate change, we should also do so on air pollution. Indeed, the presence of PM2.5 in the air currently kills more people annually than AIDS, malaria, diabetes and tuberculosis combined. But while local action on climate change does not make much of a difference, local action on air pollution can and would make a big difference. If the UK is to succeed in improving air quality, it needs to be embedded across all government departments. They all have some role in tackling what is an extremely serious problem.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for initiating this debate, which is so timely. I should also say that I chair the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, and recently I was invited to co-chair a working party on climate change and human rights. We reported last October and the report is now the subject of international debate and is being used by the United Nations in preparation for the Paris talks.
Climate change is one of those cross-border issues that presents serious challenges to all nations, so requires multinational responses. It is just like international terrorism or international trafficking of people or indeed any of those things that crosses borders. We need to have collective responses and, as the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, described, we need an international framework in which nations and national legal systems then act. It is important to recognise that—just as the noble Lord, Lord Stern, was saying, about the UK being very good at research and development and good in leading the way in so many areas—the UK is also very good at law. We have led the world, particularly in areas of law which we sometimes shy away from. We have led the way on human rights but we have also led the way in commercial law. People look to the United Kingdom courts and the arbitration system that we have set up to deal with disputes which cross borders. That has made international markets and globalisation possible. We should learn from commercial law that, where there is the political will to make things work, it can work. We really have to develop the political will around this issue to see the role that law can play.
Many serious human rights issues come out of all this. There is the right to life—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, referred to it—which covers all the things that we know are necessary for a real human existence. There is the right to shelter, food, clean water and so on. People in the poor world, in particular, suffer from the changes that we see taking place. Sitting on that commission, looking at climate change, we really had to be persuaded by the signs. People who are in denial on this really have to get to grips with what the scientists of our world are telling us.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stern, said, people in low-lying regions, such as the Maldives and Bangladesh, are seeing their oceans rising and are living in fear of the consequences of the melting polar caps. People everywhere living on the water’s edges whose livelihood comes from fishing and so on are seeing those livelihoods destroyed. Indeed, we see the consequences of aridity and desertification of whole stretches of our land mass, and the effect of that on people’s lives. What people do is move. Yearning to survive means that people get moving, so having been alarmed by the sight of refugees on the Mediterranean drowning, we will see much, much more of that in our world as this problem increases. I do not think that we should allow those who are dismissive to seek to control of any part of this debate.
Our report was published and one of the things that we said, as lawyers entering this arena, was that we should develop the arbitration system internationally, just as we have done in commercial law, to deal with those cross-border issues that will arise almost of necessity. I want to ask the Government whether they have taken note of a case that has just been decided in June in the Netherlands where a citizens’ organisation got together. Under an NGO called Urgenda—obviously accepting the notion that this was an agenda that had some urgency attached to it—it brought a case against the Dutch Government saying that they had failed to reach the targets to which they had committed and had a duty to protect. It invoked tort and human rights law and this case was won by a three-judge court, deciding that the state has responsibilities to protect. Indeed, national law can be invoked within that international human rights framework. It has implications for all of us, because you can be sure that activists the world over on this issue will be bringing cases against their nation state. We are likely to see it here; the Government should be alert to that. I hope they will recognise that turning to law should be a last resort. We should be leading the way on all this.
I urge the Government to look at the report from the International Bar Association. It is highly measured—lawyers on the whole do not tend to be very radical. However, one of its suggestions—on which it has sponsored work that is now being done—is to create a model statute, to be drawn down by nation states, to turn international commitments into national law. Rather like our own Climate Change Act, this will ensure consistency of law internationally and that nation states can be held accountable for their commitments.
There is inevitably a role for law in all this. When discussions take place in Paris, I hope that Britain—which has such a proud legal record—will lead them and will argue for a commitment across nations, bound by an international framework, to draw down laws that call Governments to account.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for initiating this timely and important debate. I would like to change the focus slightly by looking in very specific detail at what the UK Government are doing to tackle their obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. I do so as a member of the Committee on Climate Change—the statutory committee set up under the Act to monitor the Government’s progress—and as chairman of its adaptation sub-committee. In July we published our statutory report to Parliament on the Government’s progress both on mitigation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation, preparing for the inevitable consequences of climate change.
I would like to focus on our recommendations for the built environment, looking first at mitigation. Buildings account for 32% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore clear that reducing emissions from the built environment should be an essential part of the Government’s strategy for achieving the reductions that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, referred to. This comes in two parts. Of the building stock that will exist in 2050—when we have to reach our greenhouse gas emissions target of at least 80% below 1990 levels—80% has already been built. They will need to be retrofitted to be made more energy-efficient. At the same time, we need to ensure that the other 20% of the building stock that will be there in 2050 is built in an energy-efficient way. In our report, we concluded that the Government are not on track with either of these objectives.
For example, retrofitting of home insulation is important not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing buildings, but also to help to alleviate fuel poverty, since many of the poorest people live in the least well-insulated homes. However, the rate of home insulation has slowed down recently, as a result of changes in government policy. Another example is low-carbon heating, such as heat pumps and district heat schemes. These currently provide less than 2% of heating in buildings. It is not clear how the Government intend to achieve their ambition for 12% of heating to come from low-carbon heating.
The problem is that the main policies aimed at improving energy efficiency in the built environment—namely, the green deal, the energy company obligation and the zero-carbon homes initiative—have been, or are due to be, ditched. Nor is the future of the renewable heat incentive beyond April 2016 at all clear. In their response to our report, the Government were disappointingly vague about what they intend to replace these initiatives with. I hope the Minister will give us more information on the development of the new policies and the timescale for their publication.
With regard to new buildings, the Government have rejected the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation to continue with a zero-carbon homes policy as being too onerous for the construction industry. In light of this, will the Minister tell us how energy efficiency standards of new homes in England compare with other countries in Europe, including Scotland, Germany and Denmark?
I turn briefly to adaptation. The main risks to the built environment that will arise from future climate change are flooding and overheating. Currently, about a quarter of a million properties are in high flood-risk areas, either in riverine or coastal flood plains. This figure will increase in the decades ahead, as a result of rising sea levels and increased intensity of rainfall. What is more, we are making the problem worse: new properties are being built at a rate of more than 4,500 a year in areas that are currently at high risk or are likely to be so in the decades ahead. The good news is that most of these buildings are protected by flood defences. However, the bad news is that, even though the Government have invested substantial sums of money in improving flood defences, that will not be enough to prevent the risks of flood damage to properties increasing in the future.
The Government’s response to our report is confusing. On the one hand, Defra says that it is now looking into the need for a new strategy; on the other hand, the joint response from DECC and Defra states that the Government do not see the need for a new strategy for flood risk. I ask the Minister for clarification. Who is right: Defra, or DECC and Defra together?
Surface water flooding is also likely to increase as a result of climate change, with increased heavy rainfall events. Current patterns of development in our towns and cities—including paving over gardens, infill development and the use of impermeable paving—are making the problem worse.
The Pitt review that followed the severe floods of July 2007 recommended that all new developments should have sustainable urban drainage systems. Eight years later, that has still not been implemented. Moreover, most local authorities have not yet finalised their local flood risk management strategies, as required by the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. I would appreciate the Minister’s comments on these specific problems.
I would also like to say a few words about overheating. Climate models suggest that summer daytime temperatures in the upper 30s may be the norm in this country by 2050. Living in many of our current buildings will be intolerable in those conditions. It is not just homes; an estimated 90% of hospital wards are of a design—with large windows that cannot be opened, and poor ventilation—that makes them prone to overheating. This will be a real problem in the future, but the Government’s response does not consider it necessary to take any further action. We need to act now to prepare for the effects of climate change in the decades ahead.
My final point on overheating is that we are losing urban green spaces. Some 7% of urban green space has been lost since 2001. We all know that green space is an important element of the urban environment, which reduces the effects of overheating.
The Government clearly recognise the importance both of mitigation and of adaptation. In many areas good progress has been made. However, if our buildings, towns and cities are to be both carbon efficient and adapted to the future climate, additional urgent action is needed. I hope the Minister will reassure us that the Government have got the message and are prepared to act.
My noble friend has drawn our attention to climate change on many occasions. He is absolutely right to do so again in anticipation of the summit in Paris. The Paris agreement is intended to make sure that increased warming does not exceed an internationally agreed limit of 2 degrees centigrade. Of course, you cannot force countries to cut their emissions, so, in preparation for the Paris agreement, nations have been submitting voluntary plans to show how they propose to cut their emissions from 2020.
To help understand what is going on, the Financial Times has produced a handy climate change calculator, which I have been looking at. The calculator shows that the best pledges come from the United States and the European Union, and the worst from India, Russia and, yes, China.
That is what the calculator shows. Only Brazil is pledging to match the efforts of the European Union and the United States, while other countries are somewhere in-between. The calculator also shows that, if all pledges are kept, warming will be restricted to just under 4 degrees—well above the target of 2 degrees. While I welcome the Government’s ambitious pledge to reduce emissions, do they have any thoughts on how we can persuade other nations to be more ambitious and increase their promises to cut emissions?
Calculators of this kind are good at giving a general picture, but the regular curve implies that climate change is a gradual linear shift over the years, which, of course, it is not. As my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Stern, explained, the shifts will be sudden and erratic. They will be unpredictable and may not always be in one direction. One region can suffer rising sea levels, causing homelessness, water shortages and inadequate harvests. In another, sudden surges in temperature and drought can lead to a lack of food supplies, and to disease and epidemic. These are changes that will have the practical effect of compounding the problems of poverty, poor health and, in particular, weak government. My noble friend Lady Kennedy explained that these changes would force even more people to migrate across the Mediterranean or through the Balkans. The case for action is not simply humanitarian; it is also economic.
The Government have made a real effort to seal a climate change accord in Paris. They have promised to contribute nearly £6 billion over five years to help the climate change fund and we are doing quite a lot to phase out coal. Why, then, did we go in the opposite direction of cutting support for wind and solar power? If subsidies have to be withdrawn, surely they should be withdrawn from the fossil fuel industry.
To help support the US pledge, President Obama obtained the support of 81 major American corporations. There are many British corporations that take a similar view. Will the Government take steps to acknowledge and work with them? In their recent paper Fixing the Foundations, the Government commit themselves to:
“Reliable and low-carbon energy, at a price we can afford”.
This can only be done jointly with business. How? First, convince people that climate responsibility is not in conflict with economic growth. Why? Because the present path is not sustainable. A low-carbon, cleaner environment is. This is the message from companies that have pledged to support a cut to carbon emissions.
Decarbonising the economy can take many forms and offer many economic possibilities, but individuals can help, too. At home we have virtually stopped using the car and we are the proud owners of electric bicycles.
My noble friend Lord Hunt and other noble Lords are concerned about protecting the urban environment. They are right. Air pollution is already causing a large number of premature deaths and serious illnesses. As my noble friend Lord Prescott reminded us, in places our level of pollution is above EU limits. A Supreme Court judgment earlier this year requires the Government to submit plans to make us compliant. There are now both moral and legal arguments for us to act.
The recent consultation document has a number of welcome elements, such as a national framework of clean air zones, retrofitting and alternative fuels for vehicles, as well as electric cars. I draw the Minister’s attention to the work of the Environmental Industries Commission—I declare an interest as a past president. Member companies are actively engaged in air pollution control. These firms show how cleaner air can be achieved more speedily in practice by using more cost-effective technologies, and which technology is right for which geographical area. Adopting these technologies, instead of buying them in from elsewhere, would help to drive the growth of the UK air pollution industry.
I return to the Paris summit. I have tried to show that we can have rising living standards while taking a responsible attitude towards the management of air pollution and climate change risks. Let us hope that the Paris summit is a start to the world acting together.
My Lords, I join with those who thanked my noble friend Lord Hunt for introducing this timely and vital debate. We should also thank him for his lifetime of hard, committed work and leadership in this sphere. We wish him well for the continuation of that.
Britain led the Industrial Revolution. We therefore were the leaders in the accumulation and acceleration of the destruction of the environment, with pollution and all the huge issues that we are discussing. That demands of us a leading role in ensuring success in Paris. We cannot just go to Paris. We cannot just have hard-working, committed civil servants negotiating like mad; we have to have political leadership with commitment on this score. I want to hear from the Minister an assurance that the Prime Minister himself will focus on and go to Paris, and that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development will go.
My next point is: let us not just think that it is a matter of leaving it just to DfID or the Department of Energy and Climate Change to get on with it. As has been said very well—not least by the Minister’s noble friend Lord Borwick, in what I thought was an incredibly interesting speech—this demands disciplined and committed support and work by almost every government department. I do not see the signs of that at all. In fact, I see a contrast. On the one hand we take security threats extremely seriously. I congratulate the Government on having concentrated on setting up a security council of its own that brings a cross-section of ministries together to work on that issue. But this is a far bigger threat than terrorism or anything else that we are discussing. It is the survival of the species. If that is the case, where is the evidence of disciplined, interdepartmental leadership on this—to which, of course the Prime Minister’s commitment will be essential—and of the drive that is necessary?
We have talked a great deal about hopes of an agreement in Paris. I, too, hope that there will be agreement in Paris, but if I have learned anything in my life—in public life, in Parliament and, indeed, in government—it is that there is a hell of a difference between an agreement and the effective application of that agreement in practical policy. That is why we must resist any intellectual or theoretical temptation to say, “If we get agreement, that’s victory”. It is not at all. It is essential that we get agreement, but the agreement is the gate to the action that will then be necessary.
I will make one other point. We have regretted the failures in international negotiation in this sphere in the past. I have regretted them, too, but, because of my work in what we have traditionally called the third world, I have not been surprised. That is because what we are doing is asking the majority of humanity to sign up to a strategy devised by the advantaged industrial nations and to produce a contribution which is essential to success. Let us look at that in perspective for a moment. Those nations are being asked to sign up to, and get involved in, the disciplines which will be necessary before they have even begun to get access to what we take for granted in our way of life and our economic and industrial organisation. They have to do that, of course; that necessity cannot be escaped. However, that demands of us imagination and real commitment to ensure that this agreement is as fair as it can be in the burden that it places—of course, burdens can create opportunities for humanity—on the poorest people in the poorest countries in the world. Therefore, redistribution of resources to enable those people to organise their society in such a way that they are helped to make that contribution is absolutely crucial.
My last point is that it is not just fairness and justice that will be important in this sphere; there must also be a sense of ownership across the international community. If it is felt by the leaders of the majority of the world that this is something devised by others with which they are having to co-operate, we are in danger of having a minimalist approach to its application. However, if those leaders feel that it is something in which they have participated and which they own as a policy, we are in a strong position. Therefore, I repeat that the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and, of course, the Secretary of State for International Development, and the full-hearted commitment of leaders and Ministers in many other spheres, are absolutely indispensable.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I very much welcome the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, set out the terms of this debate on climate change and the urban environment. It has inspired colleagues outside your Lordships’ House to contribute to my words today. I will focus on fashion and I am therefore grateful to Professor Dilys Williams, director of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at University of the Arts, Gillian Mead of Hubbub and Dr Andrew Brooks from King’s College, London, for their helpful comments on this subject.
Cities are hungry beasts. Given that the percentage of the world’s population living in cities is now 53%, and that, according to World Bank data, 82% of the UK’s population lives in urban areas, with this figure set to rise, how we learn to live in cities will shape how well we are able to live in the world. While many people now seem to have accepted the science of climate change, lifestyles played out in our urban environments do not reflect this understanding. Our production, consumption and management of waste associated with fashion in particular is problematic.
As co-chair of the APPG on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion, as a member of the advisory council for Fashion Revolution and a board member of Cotton Made in Africa, I have heard from a wide range of people working in all parts of the fashion industry’s long, complex supply chain, and all agree that there is a huge problem that needs urgently to be addressed. You do not need to be a climate scientist to understand that.
In so many ways the British fashion industry is a huge success story, contributing more than £20 billion to the economy and employing 800,000 people. Fashion enables us to express our identities and its importance is economic, social and cultural, but our rates of consumption are unsustainable. In 2010, the global apparel industry produced more than 150 billion garments—enough to provide more than 20 new articles of clothing for every single person on the planet. Here in the UK, where 90% of our clothes are made overseas, we are importing finished products made predominantly from oil-based materials, or land-intensive and water-intensive cotton. And after all that growing, processing, use of toxic dyes, transportation across the world, what happens? We wear the garments briefly, clean them excessively, then discard them, creating low-value waste. According to the WRAP report in 2011, we throw away 350,000 tonnes of clothing into landfill each year. One senior Marks & Spencer executive told a recent APPG meeting that 10,000 garments went into landfill every five minutes in the UK.
The way in which we produce, consume and dispose of clothing not only has negative environmental impacts for us but affects those in other, vulnerable parts of the developing world. If our unwanted clothing does not go into landfill, what we do not want is exported to other markets, where local industries, often in south Asia or sub-Saharan Africa, may be diminished and local creative and craft talent frustrated by the lack of opportunities because of a clothing market saturated with the West’s unwanted clothing.
The toxic processes of the fashion industry are devastating, as demonstrated by Greenpeace’s Detox report. On receiving an award for her creation of an ethical and sustainable fashion brand at a recent event, Eileen Fisher told the audience that fashion was the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. And let us be clear about the impact of pollution. As a number of noble Lords have said, it kills. Pure Earth claims that in the developing world more people die as a result of pollution than die from disease.
One area where government could work more effectively with the industries concerned to help the public to change their choices and habits is with respect to the care of clothes once they have been bought. I would like to hear from the Minister his sense of what more the Government can do in this respect. A 2009 Defra report, Reducing the Environmental Impact of Clothes Cleaning, points to evidence gathered in France which shows that the use phase of a pair of jeans contributes between 35% and 59% of climate-changing greenhouse gases and water eutrophication, and between 10% and 34% of ozone layer depletion and water consumption. Washing, drying and dry cleaning clothing use large amounts of energy, thus contributing to global climate change, and can cause air and water pollution and toxicity that have a significant impact on urban environments.
Everyone has a part to play in diminishing the impact of these destructive practices. Behaviour change such as reducing washing temperatures from 40 to 30 degrees can help reduce the problem. Less frequent washing and cleaning of clothes would also help. Recently, cleaner alternatives based on water and natural soaps rather than toxic chemicals have been identified for use for clothes that would otherwise be dry cleaned. More and smarter campaigns targeted at specific markets are needed to raise awareness of “clever care” in the public at large.
More generally, there are some signs of hope within the industry and of change. For example, collaborative consumption in fashion that creates wider social benefits, such as Rentez-Vous and Swishing, are examples of social interaction through the exchange of fashion; Antiform in Leeds and Here Today Here Tomorrow are examples of businesses based on creating community cohesion and operating as a hub rather than as just another retailer; and business models based on the whole life of a product, such as Nudie, offer a mending and alteration service as well as a take-back scheme for its jeans.
Action on climate change and the protection of the urban environment depend critically on what citizens consider to be socially acceptable habits. We need to make taking action on climate change more visible, the social norm, culturally appropriate and enjoyably creative.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, not only on introducing this debate but on his lifetime of work on this issue, and I am going to continue the theme that he mentioned at the beginning of the debate—Psalm 23 and the preciousness of the global environment. Why do I say that? Last week, I attended an event hosted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Two trustees of that organisation, my noble friend Lord Donoughue and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, gave a very critical response to the papal encyclical Laudato Si’—or “Praise be to you”, taken from the canticle of St Francis, “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore”. Their conclusion was that the gentle idealism in Laudato Si’ meant that the Pope and others wanted to see cats no longer chase mice. That so misconstrued the encyclical.
I am not sticking up for the Pope but I am sticking up for the message that is in Laudato Si’. The essence of the encyclical is an invitation to every living person on the planet to enter into a dialogue for the care of our common home. As a background, Pope Francis spent his vocational life in the marginalised areas of Latin America, where he saw the impact of the rainforest being logged, the oceans being overfished, the fresh water being polluted and the mines scarring the landscape and poisoning the habitats.
That environmental degradation is something that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, referred to in his excellent book, Why Are We Waiting?. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has given great service in this area. As chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, I was very grateful to him for coming along over the years and educating us on this issue. He and Pope Francis share the same goals, in that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, says that one of the overriding humanitarian goals in the 21st century will be,
“the elimination of mass poverty and risk of catastrophic climate change”.
Laudato Si’ does not address just a single issue but the great global challenges of our time—yes, pollution and climate change, but also water, biodiversity loss, the quality of human life and global inequality. As someone with a science background, I think that the science is compelling, particularly that presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which says that the “severe and pervasive” impacts of climate change will be felt everywhere. Even in our own country, the Governor of the Bank of England, at a meeting of Lloyd’s of London in September, stated that,
“climate change will threaten financial resilience and longer-term prosperity”.
He said that,
“once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late”.
He said there was still time to act but that,
“the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking”.
It is important that we have the best possible outcome from the Paris conference, where we will have 196 countries together. I do not think it will be possible to deliver a credible path away from potential disaster but it may slow the pace of us approaching such a point.
Laudato Si’ also mentions social problems. It says:
“Social problems must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds”.
Its twin aims are an “ecological conversion” and a “community conversion”, upon which not only the physical survival of the poor but the spiritual welfare of the natural world depend. Many religious and non-religious people agree with that point.
Laudato Si’has reached out to a global constituency and the message is liberating and empowering. Its call to protect and respect the beauty of creation is one that was taken up by George Monbiot—no fan of the Pope—when he said:
“Pope Francis reminds us that our relationship to the natural world is about love, not just goods and services”.
I am reminded of another Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, who visited the area that I represented for 23 years in the House of Commons, Loch Lomond. His poem “Inversnaid” encapsulates that reverence for the scenic beauty of nature:
“What would the world be, once bereftOf wet and of wildness? Let them be left,O let them be left, wildness and wet;Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet”.
Francis has provided us with global moral leadership. If we do not heed the scientific evidence and the rational voices that we have heard here today and elsewhere, I suggest that not only will the wet and the wildness be bereft, but our children, grandchildren and future generations. Action is important and I hope that the Government help in that process.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton. We have had some really excellent speeches. I think we are unanimous in expressing concern about climate change and urban air pollution—and I would add the failure of the government policies to support them. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, and others gave us a long list of what I would call policy failures or changes, including the built environment—maybe that is pandering to the builders, who do a lot of funding for some parties; flooding; and sustainable urban drainage systems. I have been fighting a long time for SUDS to be part of an alternative to the Thames Tideway Tunnel—cheaper, less risky, more environmentally friendly but of course not so good for the bankers and the building industry. There is also air pollution and, of course, energy. It is rather a long list.
I fear that the lack of interest of this Government is evident from the lack of Tory speakers—except, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, who gave a really good speech. He could have been sitting on any of the Benches, really. He gave similar opinions to those of many other noble Lords. He must be feeling a little bit lonely on the Back Benches today. Is he the only Tory Peer who actually believes in the environment, air quality and global warming? We will see.
Indeed. As my noble friend Lord Judd said, it needs political leadership. If the lack of support from the Back Benches in this House is rather evident, I hope that does not put off the Minister and his colleagues from having the courage to do what I think all speakers have urged them to do in the coming months.
I certainly believe that we have a serious problem with climate change but, as other noble Lords have said, it must not be at the expense of other pollutants, which, according to a press release from the European Parliament yesterday, cause more than 400,000 people to die prematurely each year across Europe due to poor air quality. That is a different figure from that given by some other noble Lords, but it is a very big figure. I am pleased that the Parliament and the Commission have now agreed to fix national emissions ceilings on several important pollutants—not just one—to fight air pollution. I hope that gets taken forward because, as other noble Lords have said, it is not just CO2.
The Volkswagen scandal is probably just the tip of an iceberg because people believed that the silver bullet of reducing CO2 would sort out all the other problems. But as other noble Lords have said, PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxides are really serious. The worrying thing is that the European engine emissions standards are not technologically neutral because the EU has set much looser emissions standards for particles and oxides of nitrogen—NOx—for diesel vehicles than petrol ones, which is the opposite to what is happening in the United States.
Yes, people have realised that diesel is a problem these days, but it is very much worse than petrol.
Transport for London says that diesel cars emit somewhere between 90% and 95% of the most harmful exhaust emissions from cars in London. That is a very big percentage.
Another myth that I would try to put to one side is that Euro 6 standard engines will solve the problem, because they will not. There is already plenty of evidence that real driving emissions for Euro 6 standard diesel cars are about four times worse on average than for the current Euro test standards. As one or two other noble Lords have said, let us not listen to the manufacturers who are lobbying very hard for what I think they call a conformity factor to reduce the limits or change the way that the tests are done. This is really serious.
I agree with the Clean Air in London campaign, which has said that:
“Diesel is … the biggest public health catastrophe”, in UK policy history. It will be interesting to see whether the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants—I cannot pronounce its acronym, COMEAP—produces a most authoritative first national estimate of the mortality attributable to nitrogen dioxide. It may also update its estimate attributing 29,000 deaths in the UK to PM2.5 in 2010. That figure might go up and, as other noble Lords have said, it is an awfully large number.
One of the solutions is for the Government and a lot of other people to look at this as a one-atmosphere problem instead of trying just to reduce one gas, CO2, important though that is. Perhaps they could have a policy hierarchy that would start with lifestyle changes such as driving less and using bicycles. My noble friend Lord Haskel uses an electric bike but he also uses ordinary bikes for shorter distances. Provided that electricity is generated, it is probably all right. There are many things like that, such as travelling less and using more public transport, but the key is to have a much more stringent ban on diesel cars in the centre. Let us also not forget that although particulates in big cities such as London are important, an awful lot of pollution comes in from outside through shipping, farming and other things that need to be addressed. I hope the Minister will look at this one-atmosphere idea and try to turn it into a win-win package of emission reductions and health benefits. That would both benefit climate change and protect the UK’s environment in the short term. I can only hope that Ministers will pursue this, with or without the support of some of their Back-Benchers.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for this debate. On a personal basis, I also thank him for his great contribution to the Arctic Select Committee, whose report we are debating next week. I am not going to go through the list of all the things in green and environmental policy on which the Government seem to have gone into reverse. My noble friend Lord Greaves did that very adequately at the beginning.
However, I would like to ask the Minister about something where I have a real concern: the recent announcement by the Treasury during Report in the other place on the Finance Bill about changing the tax regime on community energy schemes. I know that in my own area, the south-west, community volunteers in the Exeter area have spent some two years building up these schemes. They have no chance of getting to where they need to be by
I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised a specific area that does not otherwise feature in this Government’s policy. It did not feature during the coalition period either but I would like to raise it too. For most of this year, I have been privileged to have been asked by the University of Birmingham to chair a commission for it on “doing cold smarter”. This is the opposite side of the coin to heating as it is about refrigeration and cooling, which are increasingly important. I will illustrate that in a minute but, clearly, we use cooling for ourselves through air conditioning in our homes and cars. We use it increasingly for our data in data centres worldwide. We use it for keeping food eatable and at the right temperature, through refrigeration in our supermarkets and homes. But perhaps even more importantly for some of the themes I will develop, we use it in transport, for medicines and for various scientific processes and implements as well.
It is estimated that in this country now, some 16% of our generated electricity is used to cool rather than to heat. Globally, it is estimated that some 10% of total carbon emissions come from refrigeration and cooling. Internationally, that is important and a good thing because some 50% of vegetables and fruit in the developing world are wasted or spoiled before they get from field to market. This area will grow over the next few decades, partly because in developing countries, particularly in cities, the middle classes and those with greater disposable income will use more refrigeration and air conditioning. This is why the urban environment is important as part of this debate. The most recent statistics I could find were for 2010, when 50 million air-conditioning units were purchased in China alone—in just that one country in one year—because of rising affluence and the issues of temperature and personal comfort which the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, mentioned.
It is estimated that by 2060 the world will use more of its generating capacity for cooling down than it does at the moment for heating, so this is a real issue. I am pleased that the Committee on Climate Change mentioned it in this report. It is the only area of policy and political debate I am aware of that focuses on buildings being designed to dissipate heat in future, as well as to conserve it for fuel poverty and keep it in winter.
One challenge of this area is not just that growing demand, which, to come back to what we are discussing, is particularly in urban areas. It is about much dirtier and more toxic technologies than what else is in our energy landscape. I have to admit that I have blood on my hands because most of my business career was in the freight sector. Latterly, I operated fleets of trucks nationally that were temperature-controlled to distribute to supermarkets. Those of your Lordships who know that industry, or who even look at the streetscape when you walk outside, will know that the majority of refrigerated vehicles have diesel units on the front, which essentially keep the temperatures right for the products inside. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, mentioned the Euro 6 standard. The fact is that those standards do not apply for transport refrigeration units. In fact, to come back to the important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, about nitrous oxides, they create something like 30 times more nitrous oxide emissions than diesel engines. They also perform very badly when it comes to particulates. We do not do that smartly but there are fantastic technologies coming forward in the United Kingdom to challenge some of these problems. I hope that the Minister can take an interest in this area, as I am sure he would want to, and discover some of those differences.
One other area relates particularly to the urban environment. I expect all noble Lords who have been to cities in the developing world but also in North America and other places will have walked down a street and seen all these air conditioning units sat outside windows, banked up on high-rise buildings as part of the urban landscape. Of course the outcome of that is that the residents inside manage to remain cool—at huge energy cost—but you also have whole heat islands in urban landscapes, which cause urban heat to rise, so you have this cycle and spiral in terms of energy needs, emissions and everything else.
There are answers to this and ways round it. For instance, although we are not very successful at them, we talk about local district heating networks. There are opportunities for district cooling networks as well—that is one of the technologies we could do. We should be able to change, through liquid air and other technologies, how these refrigerated transport systems work. I was fascinated by the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, relating to fashion. Supermarkets will not, on the whole, put doors on their cooling units and displays, because we as consumers would then stop buying as many of those products. Supermarkets therefore have shelves without doors in order to keep their sales up. I cannot criticise that as such—it is our consumer behaviour that maybe is the problem.
When I was very close to Ed Davey and others in the coalition Government, I have to say that I did nothing about this issue—I am guilty. But this is an area where there are big, serious energy challenges into the future, particularly around the urban environment, and about not just carbon pollution but nitrous oxide pollution. This is something for the future. I commend the Committee on Climate Change and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for bringing this to people’s attention. We really need to pay attention to this in the future and I hope the Minister will take this up and pursue it. I am very happy to help him to do that.
My Lords, I lend my voice to the many before me in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for securing this debate and indeed for his lifetime of contribution to this important area. We are a matter of weeks away from the Paris negotiations and this is therefore a very timely debate to be having, which has shown some of the strengths of our House. The Government Benches have perhaps been slightly underrepresented, but there may be other things happening today that we are unaware of.
Notwithstanding that, it has been an excellent debate. I always find when I sit and listen to debates in your Lordships’ House that I learn something new, and today has been no exception. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for introducing a whole new topic for me, about the fashion industry and its relationship to this. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, for her perspective as a lawyer on the things that we need to start preparing for, such as how arbitration will be carried out and what we can look forward to in terms of legal cases and the tools that we will need to enable us to see proper justice in this area. That was fascinating.
I am not going to be able to do justice to all noble Lords who have spoken in the 10 minutes that I have, so I apologise. I always hear new acronyms: the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, introduced SUDS—sustainable urban drainage—to my vocabulary, for which I am very grateful. We have had fantastic speeches with great use of imagery. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, gave the apt analogy of us prodding the environment with a stick. We are conducting a global experiment which we do not know the consequences of. That is something we must take very seriously. I was also fascinated to hear the eloquent defence by the noble Lord, Lord McFall, of the Pope’s encyclical and the call to arms that it represents. Like him, I am no great defender of the Pope, but the symbolism of what he said and his overarching call for us to take more care of our common home and to have more respect for it resonated with everyone from every religion.
In addition to these wonderful new additions and perspectives, we heard from some of the greats in our ranks today. The work that the noble Lord, Lord Stern, is doing in every area is absolutely remarkable. Knowing that he is a friend of the chair and is working with Christiana Figueres to secure a deal in Paris makes me feel very confident that we will make progress in December. I wish to mention everybody and apologise if I have skipped over anyone. I should mention the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and his role on the Committee on Climate Change, which has to be one of the best aspects of the UK’s governance structure for climate change. The Climate Change Act 2008 created it as an independent committee, and it has served us very well, helping to depoliticise what is essentially an overarching priority for a Government of any hue. The Committee on Climate Change does excellent work, and I know we will be meeting soon to discuss the setting of the fifth carbon budget. I am sure we will return to that debate in the coming weeks and months.
I apologise if I have missed anybody out. The role played by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, in the Kyoto negotiations and since then with the GLOBE network in visiting countries such as China and India, to forge a consensus and to build the sense that we are not working in isolation but that this is a global effort, has been most remarkable. I think I will mention everybody now, because I have almost done so, but I apologise again if I miss anybody. I would also mention the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, introduced a whole new concept about cooling and how we do cold, which, again, is a new area that I have not paid too much attention to. I am grateful to him for bringing that up.
In the remaining six minutes, I hope to pick up some of the themes that have been discussed and ask the Minister to offer us some insights into the Government’s perspective. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, used the phrase “disappointingly vague” to describe the Government’s response to some of the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations or at least the Government’s thoughts on where they were going. I am optimistic and hope that this new Government, despite perhaps having got off to a bit of a shaky start, will come forward with a clearer plan for what they intend to do in relation to energy policy. At the moment, if you are simply observing from the side-lines, it does look like a big reversal in the direction that was set under the last, coalition Government. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, set out some of the examples of where we have seen some unhelpful—or perhaps just misinterpreted—events in recent months, which have given the impression that the Government are no longer committed to solving climate change or to the low-carbon agenda.
I hope and suspect that is not the case, but I also suspect there is a rather large battle going on within the Government about the mechanism by which we decarbonise, which is what is causing the friction. I imagine, as with everything, that it will be the Chancellor and the Treasury who are playing a hugely important role in this debate. It is incumbent on all of us to put forward a vision that the Treasury can accept and embrace. I say that because although it is of course interested in longer-term issues, its focus will primarily be on short-term economic issues. The problem is that climate change is not a short-term issue. The timescales involved are very lengthy, which makes it very difficult politically for it to compete with the shorter-term, pressing political priorities that the Treasury or the Prime Minister may be facing on a day-to-day basis.
For example, we need look no further than the steel problems of this week, which we have all seen in the media. We are losing industrial activity in the UK, with obvious social and economic impacts. That is bound to press on Ministers’ minds, but we must always bear in mind that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global environment and that we should not see climate change as a purely environmental issue—it is a social issue and an economic issue as well, and is of overriding importance. As the noble Lord, Lord Stern, has said, the stakes are incredibly high. We are talking about whether we can keep a habitable planet. This is the only habitable planet that we have yet discovered. We inhabit a unique planet, from all that we can see so far. Our generation bears a huge responsibility for ensuring that that planet remains habitable.
It falls to our generation because 20 or 30 years ago, some people may have been aware of the impact of burning fossil fuels and deforestation on our global climate, but it was a marginal issue. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, began his brilliant speech by bringing us back to Rio in 1992, which was the first point when the global community started to wake up to this issue. Since then, we have seen faltering moves forward to try to address it, but still not the urgency or co-ordinated effort that we need. I am very hopeful that Paris will see the beginning of that. Paris will mark a real watershed in our approach to climate change, because it is the first time that we will have all the major emitting countries in the same room debating the same set of commitments. I am delighted to read today that 155 countries have now submitted INDCs, representing 88% of the global population and 87% of global emissions. It is clear that there has been a change. We are now moving forward in a much more holistic and equal way.
That is not to say that it will be adequate because, as we know, the sum of the pledges does not add up to a safe climate. It is imperative that the Minister and his colleagues, when they go to Paris—indeed, we hope, the Prime Minister himself, when he attends—stress the need for a proper ratchet review mechanism to be included within the new deal. We cannot lock ourselves into lengthy targets which we know now to be inadequate; we must be able to revisit them, certainly within five years, to ratchet them up. Why should we do that? Because almost every target that has ever been set on climate change has been beaten. We always find that it is easier to deliver than we first thought. That is true of the UK and of Europe. We are already ahead of our 2020 targets on climate change, and we can go much further. Let us bank what we have at Paris, but let us make sure that we create the right framework not to lock ourselves in but to enable more ambition as things progress far faster than we can now imagine.
I want to end on this. As we sit here today and consider our roles as legislators in this great House, what can we contribute? Some of us will be attending Paris, which will be an historic contribution. For those of us who do not attend, our job lies in monitoring, scrutinising and advancing expert opinions on the laws and regulations which pass through this House. We have already seen with the Energy Bill how well this House can work in embedding the issue of climate change into government thinking. Together, we have improved the Energy Bill in its passage through this House, and I hope that we can hold on to some of those improvements until it returns here. It is not just the Energy Bill: there is the Enterprise Bill and the Green Investment Bank issue, the Bank of England Bill, which I spoke about because I consider this to be a financial as well as an environmental and social risk, and countless future regulations and laws that we will need to pass to tackle this issue.
The UK is at the forefront with the Climate Change Act. We are a seeding ground for good ideas. We have fantastic lawyers, policymakers and politicians. We have already contributed a huge amount and we can go on to do a great deal more, but it will need political consensus, and we should ensure that that remains. I hope that the Government will do all they can to reassert that consensus in the coming weeks.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Chesterton, for raising this very important topic in the House and for all he has done in relation to meteorology and the Hadley Centre, which is much valued in government. He has made an outstanding contribution.
This has been a debate of extraordinary quality with contributions from people who really know an outstanding amount about this area—people such as the noble Lords, Lord Stern and Lord Krebs—and statesmen who have been involved in it for a considerable time in relation to Kyoto, such as the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, and who really understand it. There is an awful lot in this debate which I will try to address.
At the outset, along with others, I would like to say how valuable the intervention of the Pope has been on this issue—and not just the Pope but other faith leaders, not limited to Christianity. Our own right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury was part of the Lambeth declaration, which involved many other faiths, including the Islamic and Jewish faiths. That needs to be recognised: they, too, have an important role to play.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for what I thought was an outstanding contribution. I absolutely agree about the need to build consensus on this: there is more at stake than domestic political differences; this is an area where we really need to take united action, not just within our country but globally.
In that connection, this debate has raged over a massive number of government departments. Those people who have been in government—I know that there are many of them in the House—will recognise the silo nature of operations in Whitehall and Westminster, so I will ensure that the debate is circulated to other government departments so that they are aware of the impact that all government departments have in this area.
I will try to address all the remarks that have been made. In so far as I miss any, I will ensure that a letter goes to all Peers who participated in the debate picking up any points I miss or where I undertake to write because we do not necessarily have the answer immediately or it is a more complex issue than can be covered in a short period.
First, I shall say a few words about the domestic situation, which is important but only in so far as it feeds into the international position. I shall say something about the domestic position from the perspective of energy and climate change, then about air pollution and then about the international position. Noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned the importance of the Climate Change Act. He said that it is crucial that we are committed to carbon budgets; I entirely agree with that comment, which was made by other Peers as well. The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, mentioned the importance of that, as did many others by inference because of their involvement—the noble Lords, Lord Stern and Lord Krebs, and so on.
Turning to our domestic position and our priorities as we try to develop policy for this Government, we are not turning our back on renewables. Renewables will remain of crucial significance. We will actually be spending more on renewables this year than we did last year. I met some industrialists this week who were keen to go forward with renewables on a no-subsidy basis, because the cost of renewables is coming down. That is a very good sign. I have discussed this previously with the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. Renewables will continue to play a key role, and so will nuclear.
I think that nuclear has not been mentioned in this debate, or barely—I beg your pardon; it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his introduction. Nuclear power has a key part to play. We will not get to where we need to be—I know that the noble Baroness opposite agrees on this—without the impact of nuclear, and that will remain the case. We are looking at other types of nuclear, small modular reactors and thorium—we had a very good debate on that last week—and that is being taken forward.
CCS has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and others. It is an important part of our policy. As the noble Baroness mentioned, it is being embedded into the Energy Bill. I again pay tribute to the cross-party and Cross-Bencher involvement in trying to develop consensus on that; I think we have consensus that that is of key importance.
Air quality is of course a Defra lead, and it is consulting on draft air quality regulations to make us compliant as quickly as possible with the legal position. The diesel challenge in London and elsewhere, but particularly in London, is considerable. That is an important issue, as my noble friend Lord Borwick reminded us. I pay tribute to the British Lung Foundation, which he mentioned; it does fantastic work on what is a real issue. It is not just a domestic issue, as these issues rarely are. Countries such as Singapore and Malaysia take domestic action—certainly Singapore does—but are badly affected by forest fires in Indonesia. Nothing can better illustrate the fact that we need international agreement on many of these issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, made the point about the importance of a legal order here.
Picking up the point on rules-based systems, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Giddens. We need a firmer rules-based approach. That is being developed at Paris. It is certainly key to ensuring that we have an effective scrutiny and review system to make sure that these rules are applicable and followed.
I just make it clear that I am fully in favour of a rules-based approach, but in international relations there is no system of enforcing those rules in the way that there is in the national legal system. Therefore, power counts for an awful lot. What the large powers do could really be crucial, alongside the Paris agreements, if we are to get traction in countering climate change.
I thank the noble Lord for that—it was a fair point. It is also fair—I entirely agree with the noble Baroness opposite on this—that in practice there has been overdelivery on this area by countries. That is certainly true of the
United States and China. Yes, of course there need to be review and rules-based systems. That is very much the way that the United Kingdom is approaching this, and many other countries as well. It is something that is very much discussed.
Let me say something about the international position ahead of Paris. I think we all accept the need for action, and that Paris is important and a step change very different from Copenhagen in that we have 155 countries already which have declared their INDCs—their contributions in relation to emissions. That will grow and there will be more of them. It represents the vast majority of emissions but other countries will join in with that process. It is very different.
I pay tribute to the way that the French have approached this. They have organised this conference very effectively. To illustrate the key role we have played at DECC, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Amber Rudd, has played a leading part on finance, working with Ségolène Royal in response to requests from the French to try to put an effective financial provision into what will happen at Paris. That is a vital part of what will happen there.
Noble Lords will be aware that the question has been raised about the commitment of the Prime Minister. He personally made the commitment at New York of £5.8 billion—a significant amount, widely welcomed throughout the developing world—towards adaptation and mitigation. It is split 50:50 because we recognise that both adaptation and mitigation play a key part in this—a point quite rightly made to us by small and developing island nations. There is a particular challenge for small island nations. I met the Prime Minister of Tuvalu and representatives from the Maldives. Even if we get agreement on the 2 degrees, it will not be nearly good enough for them: they will still cease to exist as countries unless we go beyond that.
I am optimistic about Paris, but it is a staging post. It will not get us there on its own. We need to look beyond Paris. It is certainly a step on the process towards getting things right, but we need to move beyond it. Ensuring that we have a road map as well as review and rules-based systems is essential if we are to protect countries such as Tuvalu, the Maldives, Bangladesh and so on, which we must as a moral imperative—hence the need in the mean time for the adaptation to help those countries. That is a real part of the approach of the United Kingdom.
I will pick up some points made by noble Lords. As I said, any that I miss I will pick up in writing. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, talked about a government commitment on fuel poverty. Some 1 million homes will be insulated under this Government. That is a manifesto commitment and we are obviously committed to following that.
The noble Lord, Lord Stern, rightly referred to the interconnection between the economy and the environment. The two can go forward together. He spoke of addressing poverty and the challenge of climate change. That is absolutely right. The noble Lord’s seminal report demonstrated just how right it is that those two can go forward together. They are doing so at the moment. Indeed, emissions are at the moment falling slightly and the economy is growing. That illustrates what can be done. The annual turnover of United Kingdom firms in the low-carbon sector was £122 billion in 2013. That demonstrates the opportunity that exists for—
Of course I do: there is no shortage of challenges here.
Just to bring us back to the reality, which was again outlined by the noble Baroness opposite, there are three key aims for the department. I do not think they have changed from the previous Government. Those aims are affordability, security and decarbonisation. Noble Lords will recognise the reality of government that sometimes hard decisions must be made. There is no better example of that than the steel industry. I was at the steel summit. Many Labour MPs, understandably—and, in one sense, rightly—argued that there should be relief for those businesses. We seek to go forward with all three aims together. I do not disagree with that.
All I am saying on this particular point is that there is a massive opportunity for British businesses. I will come on to that in a minute. It is not just the Government that must address these issues; it is also cities, businesses and individuals. We have touched on all that. A massive part of the UK economy is already low carbon. If we translate that, say, to the opportunities for zero-carbon cars, again we are already the second-largest producer of those. This is another massive opportunity for the United Kingdom. Work is being done on this, but again it is not simple. It is a question of ensuring that we have battery storage and so on. This work is going on.
It is a challenge and there needs to be cross-departmental thinking, but I always feel that at the heart of this is the Treasury. A positive statement from the Chancellor on the kind of approach that the Treasury wants us to take—that is, least cost, focusing on those win-win situations where we can attract inward investment into the UK—would be enormously helpful to reassure people ahead of Paris that the whole Government share this agenda. Could the Minister commit to speaking to the Chancellor to get him to say something positive on this, please?
The noble Baroness is not wrong about the need for messaging. My right honourable friend the Chancellor has on many occasions spoken of the importance of addressing the two challenges of climate change and the economy at the same time, and noted that we can go forward on the two together. I will endeavour to get her copies of that. Of course the Treasury is central to this. It is central to it in any Government. That almost goes without saying.
I addressed the points from the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. I understand the points she made about the great advantage we have with the United
Kingdom’s strong position on law and order, and the importance of the legal system, and so on. I absolutely agree with that.
To illustrate the fact that this is being taken forward internationally, and that not only the United Kingdom has moved on in climate change policy, since 1997 there have been globally 750 new policies enacted. Now, we all know the challenges in making sure that those translate into action, but at least there is a recognition internationally of the nature of this challenge. That is really one of the very heartening things about the position at the moment. Of course there are differences of opinion on the way forward in the sense that each country will want to puts its own particular case, quite naturally, but there is an international recognition of the nature of this challenge.
I certainly do not need convincing about the scientific case. I do not believe that the great bulk of the overwhelming scientific evidence is wrong; it is right. I do not believe that 155-plus countries are wrong; they are right. This is a massive challenge and one we need to address. Indeed, it is one we are addressing. I was talking with representatives from South America yesterday, and there is recognition across the board that this is a crucial issue that needs addressing quickly.
I shall pull my comments to an end because, although I have not got to the end of my 20 minutes, I think that the debate has run out of time. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, also raised the issue of economic growth and climate action going forward together, and I entirely agree with that.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has vast experience of overseas matters. He asked, perhaps slightly mischievously, if the Prime Minister will be going. He will know that the Prime Minister’s diary would not be public at this stage—but, suffice to say, the Prime Minister, DfID, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the Foreign Office are all very closely involved with this, and all regard it as imperative. We have had a state visit by President Xi, when these were discussed. We are about to have a visit from Prime Minister Modi of India, when these things will be discussed. These are all crucial.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, asked some very interesting points, although I was slightly blindsided because I had not thought of this dimension. I shall get a detailed response to her on those points, but it is certainly true to say that she raises relevant issues on air and water pollution and the use of energy.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord McFall, for endorsing the Pope’s encyclical in this regard; that is entirely right.
On domestic adaptation, we are doing many things domestically; it is partly about mitigation and change of policy and partly about adaptation. That means things like coastal protection on the east coast, in Clacton, and flood measures in Leeds, as well as the Boston barrier. We are looking at how effective the Thames barrier is. Thank goodness that we have it, but we need to look at it again in the light of changing circumstances.
I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in relation to the tax regime on community energy schemes, because I do not have the answer to hand. I have a feeling that it was recognised in the consultation as a special case. However, I may be wrong on that and I shall write to him in detail.
This has been an excellent, first-class debate. I shall make sure that a detailed response goes to noble Lords on points that have been discussed and that I have not covered, and that those points will go to all government departments. Once again, many thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
I thank the Minister and other noble Lords for their participation in this debate. We have had very interesting speeches—I am looking forward to hearing about whether the fashion dimension will also go to Paris and upstage the conference—and many other important aspects were introduced.