Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:12 pm on 2nd May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 12:12 pm, 2nd May 2019

My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Climate Change Committee. I have come directly from the launch of the net zero report, asked for by the Government—the first Government in the world to ask for the mechanisms to meet what we agreed to in the Paris Agreement. I feel passionately that all-party agreement is the most important part of our system. I am also concerned lest all-party agreement becomes an excuse for a degree of unwillingness to move fast enough; a complacency sometimes comes from all-party agreement.

I have constantly objected to people who try to make party politics out of this, which is why I objected to my noble friend’s Daily Telegraph article talking about climate change and the Conservative Party, and why I think that last speech did not contribute to the debate at all. I do not care who has done it; I care about what is being done and what will be done. That is why the Climate Change Committee answered the Government’s request today. They now have to answer the facts, which are that we can reach net zero, not merely in carbon but in greenhouse gases, and that we can do so by 2050. We have made that clear and the mechanism is there. If the Government do not accept that, they will be saying that they accept neither the science nor, indeed, the best mechanism for doing so that has ever been produced. This is 600 pages of ground-breaking work that has already been recognised as a total game-changer—as important as the Stern report, if not more so—because it sets us all a real challenge.

But it means action now; it does not mean hanging about. There is a series of things that we have to do. I am pleased about the protesters, students and so on because they are saying to us, “You have a responsibility not to destroy our future”. I declare another interest, in the form of three grandchildren and two more on the way. I want their future to be guaranteed and it is we who can do that. It means that we must stop building crap houses which do not provide their owners with proper energy efficiency. It means having the kind of heating that does not need fossil fuels. It means doing something about the appalling condition of our soil. The fertility of our soil must be recovered because we need it not only for farming, but even more in order to sequestrate the carbon that itself is part of the soil fertility circle.

We need to bring aviation and shipping into the figures—and indeed, that is what we have insisted upon. There can be no sensible policy if we do not cover all those things. What we do must be market driven because otherwise there will not be strength enough to achieve what we need. But the market itself has to be driven by the terms under which it operates. The Government have to make sure that the occupancy advantages do not stop the change we need. That is a role of government. Regulation is not about the nanny state; it is about ensuring that the needs of the next generation are taken fully into account now, when we can make the necessary changes, which we have adumbrated in detail in this report.

Curiously, the new generation is threatened in a way that is utterly different from the threat we faced when I was growing up. Then, we were threatened by nuclear war, but it did not happen. Climate change will happen: it does happen. It is not a threat in the sense of being possible; it is happening now and unless we intervene, it will overwhelm us.

As I go around the country, I am fascinated to note that people no longer ask whether climate change is happening. The deniers have lost the battle because the science is so fundamentally clear. The new battle is not to make people believe in climate change; it is to take the steps that are necessary. We can take them and we can do so within the financial envelope Parliament set aside when our aim was 60%, let alone 80%. We can do it within the costs that we have allowed for today because government action has brought down the price of what we need to do, and further government action will continue to do that.

I finish by saying to my noble friend that we do not want fine words. We do not want comments about what we did, or why the Liberals or the Labour Party did not do what they could have done. What we want is a very direct statement. You asked for this report. You have got it. You put it into action.