Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:39 pm on 2nd May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Prescott Lord Prescott Labour 12:39 pm, 2nd May 2019

My Lords, I offer my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Rooker on securing this debate and on the excellent and, as usual, inquiring speech that accompanied it—and on the controversy. There is always controversy over climate change; it was certainly notable in the negotiations of the Kyoto agreement.

There was great emphasis by my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in another excellent speech, on partnership. One of the first things I did when I was appointed the European negotiator for Kyoto was to invite the noble Lord, Lord Deben, to join our delegation. That was the first example of the last Secretary of State joining the new one in partnership to deliver what was essential for climate change. His speech today shows us the excellent work that has been done by his committee, which has laid down the roadwork for the next stage of climate change and the move to a low carbon economy.

That was controversial at Kyoto, but then it was all about the science. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is not here today—he must have accepted that the science has changed. But at the end of the day there is no longer an argument about the science. The evidence is clear to us and the public have accepted it. The demonstrations now reflect much more than that—they reflect the anger that we are not implementing what the public thought we should be doing and what we set out that we would do.

I think they have been unfair in their criticism. Greta Thunberg was not right to say that things were not done. A global problem requires a global solution: it requires a global agreement, which was done at Kyoto; it requires a national one, which was agreed at Paris; and, as I will say in my speech, we need a regional agreement also, which I tried to implement at the COP in Poland.

To that extent, we have a framework. It is not right to say that nothing was achieved; something was certainly achieved internationally. Britain led the way, and continues to do so, through setting up a statutory committee to judge the Government on the policies they have said they would implement to cut carbon. That is a major change—it did not happen in any other country—and was at the first stage, so I am delighted about that. However, Greta was right that we are not moving urgently enough or with enough of the detail we get in the policies from the climate change committee. We need the political judgments to get on with it and implement the policies.

It is quite clear from that excellent report that controversy will continue—it is about targets, timetables and policies. I do not look forward to debates over the next 20 years about whether we have the targets, which direction we are going in, what needs to be done or whether we got 10% or 15%. For God’s sake, can we move on from that argument? This is an emergency. We have to do what we promised—probably even more—but that will be a big problem when we start talking about transport and housing. It is not just about money; it is an essential part of the requirement to get down to a low carbon level. As we all say, rich countries that poison the world with high levels of carbon need to produce low carbon economies. That means fundamental changes.

There are things we can do beyond just having arguments for 13 years—we will still have them, they will not go away, but we need something that provides more proof than people’s judgments. I propose my constituency of the Humber area. The Humber estuary is now moving towards being one of our great rivers of energy. Why? Because the new industrial revolution—that is what it is—is based on wind and water, as the last one went through all its stages based on coal and iron. Now it is about renewable energy—that means you need to have the low costs that come with renewable energy and an estuary to get out. That is because the real low costs come from a continental shelf out at sea. If we want to develop new energy sources, we have to have an estuary to go on. They provide us with a unique way of beginning to develop a low carbon economy.

I say to the Government that we must all get together to try to plan. We should not just rely on the climate change committee; it can show us the way forward, but why do we not produce a living lab? Why do we not look at an area that will implement that programme? The Government talk about an industrial strategy and they have talked about places of growth. Let an estuary become a place of growth. Why? Because it is unique, not only because it is an area which has the wind power.

Yesterday, I addressed a conference of 350 people in Hull where they are today planning the next stage of the growth of renewable energy. Any new industrial revolution is bound to be based on renewable energy. That requires access to the sea. The Americans were at this conference, because they now realise that renewable energy brings with it the technology for the development of the new carbon economy. This is a new industrial revolution. That is what we have to get over to people.

As I explained at this conference, the Humber offers a good opportunity for estuarial development. I am arguing this within the international framework at present. The Government have an industrial strategy—having caught up on all the debates at the moment about Brexit—which says that there should be places of growth. Let the Humber become a place of growth. We now have the new source of energy, the land for the new technologies and the supply industry that come from it and the traditional maritime infrastructure—ports and fishing—which now service that industry. We have the science. We have a river base that offers water power. You need an estuary to get out to the seabeds to get the low energy. The Humber has all of that. We even have holes in the ground for carbon capture. The North Sea industry gas was taken out and pipes were taken to the town. Let us take the carbon capture and dump it back in the North Sea, in the holes that are empty. That is another asset belonging to an estuary like the Humber.

There are many things we can do; some we still need to identify. I will finish on this point. We have to recognise that an industrial revolution is taking place. It requires certain location factors, which are all found in the Humber. I ask the Government to consider the idea of the Humber as a place of growth. We could call it the living lab, so that when arguments with the climate change committee are going on, we have some way of seeing whether those policies are working in this new, low carbon industry. It is a practical test against a lot of the hot air about targets and timetables. We need to be more practical. This would be the first step towards an emergency step to deal with the carbon and climate change problems we have at the moment.