My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The Statement is as follows:
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I give the Statement on legislation I have tabled today to end our country’s contribution to global warming. There are many issues in this House on which we passionately disagree, but there are moments when we can act together to take the long-term decisions that will shape the future of the world that we leave to our children and grandchildren.
Just over a decade ago, I was the shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when the right honourable Member for Doncaster North secured Royal Assent for the landmark 2008 Climate Change Act. I was proud on behalf of my party to speak in support of the first law of its kind in the world setting a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels.
Today, I am proud to stand on this side of the House to propose an amendment to the same Act which will enable this Parliament to make its own historic commitment to tackling climate change—a commitment that has been made possible by many years of hard work from Members across the House of Commons and beyond.
I want to thank in particular my noble friend Lord Deben for his leadership as chair of the independent Committee on Climate Change, the committee’s members and staff, and the honourable Member for Leeds West and my honourable friend the Member for Cheltenham for their recent Bills that have also paved the way for today’s legislation. I also pay tribute to the extraordinary work of my friend and ministerial colleague the right honourable Member for Devizes.
Today we can make the United Kingdom the first major economy in the world to commit to ending our contribution to global warming for ever. The United Kingdom was the home of the first industrial revolution. Furnaces and mills nestled in English dales, coal mines in the Welsh valleys, shipyards on the Clyde and in Belfast harbour. They powered the world into the industrial age.
We now stand on the threshold of a new fourth industrial revolution—one not powered by fossil fuels, but driven by green growth and clean, renewable technologies. Once again the United Kingdom and all its parts stand ready to lead the way. It is right that economies like ours, which made use of carbon-intensive technologies to start that first industrial revolution, should now blaze a trail in the fourth industrial revolution. Whether it be through our global offshore wind industry, our leadership on green finance or our unrivalled research base that is leading the charge on electric vehicles, we are showing that the economic benefits of cutting emissions can help to grow our economy.
Through our industrial strategy, the UK is already forging that future, leading the way in the development, manufacture and use of low-carbon technologies. By responding to the grand challenges that we have set—including on the future of mobility and clean growth—we are already creating thousands of new jobs right across the country. We are showing that there is no false choice between protecting our planet and improving our prosperity. We can and must do both.
Low-carbon technology and clean energy already contribute more than £44 billion to our economy every year. In 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the UK reached their lowest levels since 1888. Last year, we secured more than half our electricity from low-carbon sources. Just last month, we set a new record for the number of days we have gone without burning any coal, since the world’s first public coal-fired power station opened in London in 1882. We have said that we will completely phase out unabated coal-fired power generation by 2025, ending the harmful impacts to our health and environment for good. Together with Canada, we launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which has now seen 80 national and local governments, alongside businesses and NGOs, join together in a pioneering commitment to phase out unabated coal.
If our actions are to be equal to the scale of the threat, nations across the world must strive to go further still. We in the United Kingdom must continue to fulfil our responsibility to lead the way. That is why in October, following the latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Government wrote to the independent Committee on Climate Change to seek its advice on our long-term emissions targets. Last month, it issued its response recommending that we legislate for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, taking into account our emissions from international air travel and shipping, so I am today laying a statutory instrument —in fact, it is already before the House—to amend the Climate Change Act 2008 with a new legally binding net zero emissions target by 2050. Ending our contribution to climate change can be the defining decision of our generation in fulfilling our responsibility to the next.
However, it will require the effort of a generation to deliver it, so I am grateful to all those business leaders, faith leaders, scientists and climate campaigners—and many Members of this House—who have written to the Prime Minister and me to express support for this landmark proposal. It will require government and political parties of all colours to work together with all sectors of business and society. We must fully engage young people too, which is why a new youth steering group, led by the British Youth Council, will be set up to advise government—for the first time giving young people the chance directly to shape our future climate policy.
The assessment of the independent Committee on Climate Change is based on the latest climate science. It drives our ability to drive action on the international stage and considers current consumer trends and technologies. The committee concluded that a net zero 2050 target is feasible, deliverable and can be met within the exact same cost envelope of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050 as the 80 per cent target when it was set, such has been the power of innovation in reducing costs.
It is, however, absolutely right that we should also look carefully at how such costs are distributed in the longer term, as Professor Dieter Helm recommended in his report to the Government. The Government are also today accepting the recommendation of the independent Committee on Climate Change for the Treasury to lead a review into the costs of decarbonisation. This will consider how to achieve the transition to net zero in a way that works for households, businesses and public finances. It will also consider the implications for UK competitiveness.
In fulfilling the scale of the commitment we are making today, we will need technological and logistical changes in the way we use our land: for example, with more emphasis on carbon sequestration. We will need to redouble our determination to seize the opportunity to support investment in a range of new technologies, including in areas such as carbon capture, usage and storage, hydrogen and bioenergy. But as the committee also found, the foundations for these step changes are already in place, including in the industrial strategy and the clean growth strategy.
Indeed, there is no reason whatever to fear that fulfilling this commitment will do anything to limit our success in the years ahead—quite the reverse. In our industrial strategy, we have backed technology and innovation, including the UK’s biggest ever increase in public investment in research and development—the biggest that has ever taken place in the history of this country. The International Energy Agency report on the UK, published last week, found that:
‘The United Kingdom has shown real results in terms of boosting investment in renewables, reducing emissions and maintaining energy security’.
By doubling down on innovation in this way, we can expect to reap the benefits as we move forward toward meeting this target by 2050.
I believe that by leading the world and harnessing the power of innovative new technologies, we can seize the full economic potential of building a competitive and climate-neutral economy, but we do not intend for a moment for this to be a unilateral action. If we are to meet the challenge of climate change, we need international partners across the world to step up to this level of ambition. While we retain the ability in the Act to use international carbon credits that contribute to actions in other countries, we want them to take their own actions, and we do not intend to use them.
‘an inspiration for many countries who seek to design effective decarbonisation frameworks’.
Just as we have reviewed the 2008 Act in making this amendment today, so we will use the review mechanism contained in the Act within five years to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.
Finally, I do not believe that this commitment will negatively affect our day-to-day lives. No G20 country has decarbonised its economy as quickly as we have. Today, the UK is cleaner and greener, but no one can credibly suggest that our lives are worse as a result. Quite the reverse, we are richer in every sense of the word, for being cleaner, for wasting less and for cherishing, not squandering, our common inheritance.
We may account for less than 1% of the world’s population and around 1% of global carbon emissions, but by making this commitment we can lead by example. We can be the ambitious global Britain that we all want our country to be. We can seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle one of the biggest threats to humanity, making this a defining and unifying commitment of an otherwise riven and often irresolute Parliament—a commitment that is agreed by all, honoured by all and fulfilled by all.
In the first industrial revolution, we applied the powers of science and innovation to create new products and services in which this country came to excel, but which came at a cost to our environment. In this new industrial revolution, we can innovate and lead all over again, creating new markets and earning our way in the world in the decades ahead, but in a way that protects our planet for every generation that follows ours. When history is written, this Parliament can be remembered not only for the times it disagreed but for the moment when it forged this most significant agreement of all. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made earlier in the other place, which we welcome. I am pleased to hear the Government confirm they will be adopting Labour’s policy, announced at our 2018 conference, to target net zero emissions before 2050. I look forward to examining the statutory instrument that legislates for this target, and hope that time is found as soon as is reasonably possible to give it appropriate debate. Can the Minister confirm when it might be timetabled?
This has become a generational issue. Parliament and Government must recognise the growing challenge of climate change. Meeting the target of net zero emissions by 2050 is the only way to avoid a climate catastrophe and the horrors that could be realised if the world does not come together to prevent a 1.5 degree temperature rise. Net zero emissions by 2050 must not be left as an ambitious aim; it must become a real achievement. The Government are not even on track to meet their existing climate targets, so they have a long way to go to engender confidence. We need only look to the comments made by the Committee on Climate Change and official BEIS statistics to see that the UK is far from meeting its fourth and fifth carbon budgets at present. The Government must show immediately that there is a genuine commitment to this new goal.
Will the Minister outline in detail the immediate steps the Government will take to ensure that the public can be confident that these targets will be met? The UK most emphatically needs a green industrial revolution to answer key questions and target causes of emissions today.
First, what policies does the UK need to clean up our gas supply? We need to develop carbon capture and storage and enable industry to use clean sources. Fracking is not an answer to today’s challenge. Secondly, the Government must dismantle the blockages to onshore wind. They need to make sure that the cheapest form of renewable energy is able to contribute, and support new, innovative projects, low emissions and renewables, as the House discussed last week in relation to tidal power. Instead of closing down options, such as feed-in tariff schemes, the Government must enable commercial solar development to flourish.
Thirdly, what is the Government’s policy on nuclear energy? What is the appropriate response on size of schemes between the Hinkley Point development and small modular reactors? We need urgent answers. Fourthly, what are the immediate plans of action for transport? Last month’s electric vehicle registration figures show that new registrations are down almost 5% on last year and the use of buses is in freefall. Is the Department for Transport signed up to this target? Does the department realise that it needs to develop new policies? Can the Minister confirm what steps the Government will now take to increase the uptake of environmentally friendly forms of transport? How will they ensure that clean transport becomes affordable to working families so that they can feel engaged and contributing, not remaining chained to expensive polluting fuels?
There are many issues right across government. Another example of where clarity is needed is on zero emission homes. Home insulation measures have fallen by 98% since 2010. The UK needs to deal with immediate problems, and any policies put forward on offsetting emissions must be developed not to export or bypass our problems but as a route to going further and faster. The UK must look even further into the future towards paying back its carbon debt.
The threat facing the world from climate change is the greatest in human history, and responsibility for addressing it crosses all departments. While I welcome the Government’s Statement and the target of zero net emissions by 2050, it must be realised that every government department should report back to Parliament on how they are contributing to reaching our climate targets.
My Lords, this is obviously a very welcome Statement, and all the more so because it is such a surprise. It has been a real conversion on the road to Damascus by this Government, which as a general rule have not featured environmental issues and climate near the top of their priorities. In fact, the Government have been keen to abandon a number of policies introduced during the coalition Government by Ed Davey when he was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. That has led to a loss of impetus in the renewable energy industries. In practice, 2050 may still be too late, especially if the Government and their successors adopt the tactic of leaving the heavy lifting until last. They cannot simply reach for a few easy plastic straws; they have to tackle the really difficult issues at the start, and there has to be a very steep trajectory of change if this is to have the impact it should.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, referred to transport policy. That will certainly need to be one of the first government policies to be revolutionised as a result of this new approach. Will the Government now rethink their leisurely approach to ending the manufacture of petrol and diesel cars? The date they have set is 2040. The industry is going to get there well before then, but it needs to have the Government supporting and encouraging it as well as pushing it along the way, so 2030 would be a much better date. Will the Government rethink their decision to reduce subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles and their approach to the abandonment of the electrification of the railways?
Turning to energy, will the Government reconsider their opposition to the Swansea tidal lagoon? It has a huge contribution to make, along with subsequent lagoons around the coast once one is built. As I say, that could make a huge contribution to renewable energy in our country. How can the Government expect to reach this target when fracking is still a UK energy source?
Finally, what steps are the Government taking to encourage other nations to follow suit and to pursue ambitious global targets to mitigate the effects of the climate emergency? The Statement refers to the importance of working with other countries. I would be grateful if the Minister gave some specific examples of the way in which the Government will approach this in future.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their—I suppose I ought to say “relatively”—positive welcome for this Statement. I think I heard a slightly more positive welcome from their colleagues in another place when I listened to my right honourable friend make the Statement I am merely repeating. Anyway, I got some sort of welcome.
I will deal with some of the points made on the negative side of their so-called welcome—first, the allegation yet again that we are failing to meet the existing targets. We have met the first two carbon budgets, are on track to meet the third and are over 90% of the way to meeting the fourth and fifth. Many of the policies and proposals in the Clean Growth Strategy published a little under two years ago are taken into account. Obviously, there is more to be done, but we are making progress, doing what we can and will continue to do what we can. As advised by the climate change committee, we now want to set stricter and more testing targets as necessary.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked what steps we are taking. He knows about the 2017 Clean Growth Strategy. I hope he is awaiting the energy White Paper that will come out later in the summer, and we will probably have a chance to discuss this matter in greater detail when we get the statutory instrument. He asked when that will come before the House, and at this point I have to say that that is beyond my control. I am awaiting advice from the usual channels and will be ready and available to debate that with all noble Lords as and when it is ready.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, then posed a number of specific questions about various forms of renewable energy, such as why we could not do more onshore. I point him to the success of offshore wind: we have seen a dramatic decrease in the costs of offshore energy, are now the world leaders in offshore wind energy and are making great strides forward. He asked what we are doing about nuclear. As I have made clear in a number of recent debates in this House, we are still committed to nuclear, which can provide carbon-free energy and the baseload we need at this stage. We will continue to pursue the possibilities of nuclear, but not at any cost—as my right honourable friend made clear when he made the announcements about Moorside and Wylfa. Again, we will continue to look at possibilities for expansion regarding small modular reactors, advanced modular reactors and so on.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, then asked about transport. I can assure him that the Department for Transport is signed up, and we will continue to pursue the policy of phasing out petrol and diesel cars by 2040. I do not think it is right and proper that we should bring that forward. To answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the automotive industry deals in quite long periods of time. To disrupt it in such a way, as it is beginning the process of moving to electric vehicles, would not be good for that industry. We have seen the problems that Bridgend is facing; a Statement on that was made only two days ago. To bring forward that sort of disruption before the industry was ready would not be right or responsible.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness asked about buildings, homes and so on. Again, I point to recent debates we have had on statutory instruments bringing in new obligations on landlords to ensure that their homes are suitably insulated. We have announced the future homes standards, with new-build homes being future-proofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency by 2025, along with the energy efficiency regulations I referred to.
The noble Baroness also asked about Swansea tidal; again, I do not want to repeat everything I have said about that. We have debated that matter, and we debated the general aspects of tidal lagoons only last week. Yes, it is possible, if it can be done at an affordable price, but there is no point building a lagoon that is going to cost probably two or three times as much as nuclear power when one also has to take into account the carbon footprint of building things such as Swansea tidal. In effect, concrete and other matter is simply poured into the ground. Concrete, as we know, also has a fairly big carbon footprint, so do not think that tidal is going to be the be-all and end-all. It might be, and we will continue to offer help and research in that area, but it is not necessarily the answer to everything.
The noble Baroness also asked about fracking. It is right that we should continue to pursue a policy of looking at shale gas extraction. Gas is obviously going to continue to be a major part of our energy mix for some time. Shale gas extraction has a role to play as a transition fuel, and I hope all noble Lords will bear in mind that it offers us the possibility of greater energy security as we see quantities of gas in the North Sea decline. Is it not far better that we use our own gas, rather than import it from countries of a rather dubious sort in other parts of the world? I would have thought that the answer is yes, and we will continue to pursue the possibilities of shale gas extraction as we can.
Lastly, the noble Baroness asked how we are going to encourage others. My right honourable friend made it clear in the Statement that we are very keen to host COP26 next year. He also mentioned the praise we have received from the International Energy Agency for what we have achieved so far. We are the leading G7 country in this field and we can provide a good example not only for this country but for the rest of the world, and we will continue to do so.
My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s Statement, and the Government’s decision to set a target. Both are welcome, but the Minister and the Statement are implying profound changes in the lives of everyone in this country, including in housing, transport and workplace experience. The Statement needs to be underpinned by a sector-by-sector approach to how this will be achieved and delivered.
One thing that cannot happen—the Minister and I had an exchange about this earlier this week—is achieving this without a contribution from civil nuclear power. The world, never mind the UK, is not going to get by without civil nuclear power. We have abandoned our own ability to build a nuclear power station. I do not blame the present Government for this; other Governments are culpable, including the one I was a Minister in. The Government should set up a task force to see how we can recreate that ability on our own account, because depending on the Japanese, the Chinese or the French is a high-risk business. I hope the Government will give that serious consideration.
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first point, he is right that these are great challenges and that there will have to be a change in behaviour. We should go about this in the right way, taking people with us because a great deal of this will involve changes in individual lives. We are already seeing this through a decline in car use by many people. I have certainly noticed that younger people are purchasing fewer cars and so on. Again, this is disruptive for the automotive industry but if we want to make these changes these things will happen, and changes are happening. We will need to take people with us. However, the Government must offer help in both innovation and research, and we will do that. On the noble Lord’s point about nuclear, I have made it clear it that we have not abandoned nuclear but we want it at the right price. As we made clear in the nuclear sector deal last year, we will continue to put research into all aspects of nuclear, whether small modular, large nuclear or whatever.
My Lords, when we passed the original Climate Change Act in 2008, the UK was the first country to pass a legally binding target for reducing our climate-damaging emissions. I am glad that in setting that example we triggered action from other countries; Sweden and New Zealand have now also legislated. Now that we are taking this bolder step to remove all our domestic emissions, we will see others follow. In the past few weeks, both Chile and Japan have committed to moving to net zero targets. I commend the Government and everyone who has contributed to getting to this position. The UK is taking the morally correct path. We are showing leadership at a time when the world is completely distracted by the rise of nationalism and populism. We are saying that there are more important issues that unify us as citizens of this sole planet that we share. We must take every step to ensure that this is not just a paper target but is backed up by policy. We have decades of examples of how we have done this; we are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. We have shown that we can decarbonise fastest among all OECD countries without it affecting our growth or economic development. We are a shining of beacon of hope in fairly dark times. I sincerely hope we will take our message to the UN in September, to Washington and Beijing, and that we will see others stepping up and increasing their ambition. It is easier and cheaper to do this than it has ever been. The technologies are there, the political will is growing and the children are out on the streets demanding that we do more. I am delighted that the Government are showing such leadership. Now we need to take it to Parliaments all around the world.
My Lords, before the Minister replies, I suggest that questions be kept succinct and short to enable as many Peers as possible to speak in the time available.
My Lords, I shall try to keep my answers short. I accept what the noble Baroness said: in 2008 we were the first country to legislate and we are now bringing forward tighter proposals to take us to net zero by 2050. I think the French have just brought forward legislation on this. Let us see if we can pass ours before the French.
I declare an interest, as in the register. Has my noble friend seen yesterday’s reports that last year worldwide carbon emissions rose faster than for many years past? Indeed, the amount by which carbon emissions increased is said to be the equivalent of putting 400 million new motor cars on the road—that is an additional third of all the cars on the roads on the planet. Energy consumption rose even faster—to record levels—last year. Does this not indicate that whatever we do here, however admirable it is and however we try to promote our example, the fact is that the fundamental approach—even despite Paris—to world carbon emissions is not working. Is not a totally new approach now needed?
My Lords, my noble friend is right to say that what we do on our own about emissions will not make that big a difference. However, the leadership we can show is important. That is why we are committed to going further and trying to secure the hosting of COP26 next year. We will do all we can to continue to show leadership in that area.
My Lords, I strongly welcome the Government’s commitment, particularly given the Chancellor of the Exchequer apparently trying to argue that they should not make it. This is an important moment, supported across the House.
I work in development, housing and renewable heat. I should declare that, but I do so because I am deeply concerned that, while a car may last a decade or so, the houses we build today will—we hope—last a century or much longer. Between now and 2025, when the Minister said we would introduce the new regulations, we will have built some 2 million more homes. Retrofitting old homes to meet zero carbon targets for heat and water is extremely difficult. We have that problem for all those we have already built. We should not build millions more without making that long-term decision now. The Committee on Climate Change has pointed that out and asked for urgent action. London has shown that if you bring in new standards, the market quickly moves to them. Will the Minister bring forward the changes that he has indicated will not come through until 2025?
My Lords, on his first point, the noble Lord is wrong to say that the Chancellor was trying to squash this: he was merely pointing out potential costs. As was made clear in the Statement, the climate change committee estimates that the annual cost of delivering a net zero target is within the same range as the 80% target was when it was set in 2008. Our own assessment of costs is within that range. It is right that the Chancellor takes an interest in the likely costs—after all, he is responsible for these measures.
The noble Lord is right to point to the importance of what we do about homes. We have an appropriate target and have announced what we want to do about energy efficiency by 2025. We will stick to that date, which will allow us to meet our target.
My Lords, in the Statement the Minister spoke of a review in five years’ time. Why is this necessary, particularly after what the noble Baroness said? Surely this will be interpreted as showing less commitment? It would provide an excuse to delay investment for five years because it provides too short a timescale. Will the Government give this more consideration?
My Lords, the noble Lord will remember that the idea of a five-year review was part of the original 2008 Act—which I am sure he supported, because the Act was introduced by a Government of which he was probably part at the time. We will continue with this idea, but we can review matters further if there are changes and developments as we commit. We are bound to review every five years but could do so earlier.
My Lords, I welcome this aspiration—that is what it is. I notice that air travel was not mentioned, although it leaves a particularly big carbon footprint. Can my noble friend help me: which of this country’s political parties does he think will put in its next manifesto that it will stop the good people of this country going on holiday to the Costa Brava or Florida, or, indeed, flying back first-class from Los Angeles to take part in demonstrations in this country? That is contributing greatly to the carbon in the atmosphere.
I can give my noble friend an assurance. If he had listened carefully to the Statement, he would know that our plans cover net zero for the whole economy, including aviation and shipping. Emissions from domestic flights and shipping are covered by our existing domestic legislation. The Committee on Climate Change accounts for international flights in its advice on setting our interim carbon budgets. This will continue to be the case for the more ambitious target.
My Lords, an impact assessment is made by the climate change committee. At this stage, departments—this will involve a whole array of them—have not produced individual ones. As each suggestion is made about where we have to go in each area, appropriate impact assessments will be made.
My Lords, I draw your attention to my interest as a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. The Government have embarked on a policy that will result in one of the most expensive programmes since the introduction of the welfare state, without first carrying out a cost-benefit analysis. Is that not extraordinary given that when the previous target was raised from 60% to 80%, in the Government’s estimates the cost more than doubled? Going from 80% to 100% will certainly more than double it again. The Chancellor believes that it will cost a trillion pounds, which could otherwise be spent on welfare programmes, health and education; the UN climate committee believes it will cost at least twice what the Treasury estimates; and the New Zealand Government have estimated that it will cost five times as much relative to their economy, as has been suggested. Given that, is it not irrational to enter this, as any, policy programme without first estimating the costs and calculating the benefits? Why are we doing it?
My Lords, the Committee on Climate Change, as I made clear, has given us its vision of the likely cost of delivering a net zero target; that is within the same range as the original 80% target set out in 2008. It is equivalent to 1% to 2% of GDP by 2050, and our own assessment of costs is broadly within that range. One has to add that the impact of this could be partly offset by the many benefits, such as economic growth, green-collar jobs, reduced air pollution and reducing the risks and potential costs of catastrophic climate change. We will continue with that and, as was made clear in the Statement, the Treasury will also make its own further assessments of the costs. It is quite right that we should take those into account. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, it is very important that as we pursue this policy, which we believe is entirely necessary and agreed on most sides of the House, we take everybody else with us.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that, whatever it costs, we have to tackle climate change effectively if we are to avoid catastrophe? Given that all other policies that Parliament is concerned with are trivial by comparison, will the Government put this right at the top of their priorities?
My Lords, this goes back again to that point about the importance of taking people with us. So much of what needs to be done comes down to individual decisions about how people live their lives and how they are taxed. If we can take people with us it will be much easier to meet those targets. I agree with the noble Lord that it is a very pressing issue and one of the most important in front of us.
My Lords, I declare my energy interests as listed in the register. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that the people in denial in this debate are those who think we could meet such an ambitious target either by renewables or by asking people to wear a hair-shirt and reduce their consumption of such things as foreign holidays? Given that solar and wind provided 3% of world energy last year, and only a little more in this country, it is unrealistic to assume that they will make a significant contribution to meeting a target like this, as people such as Dieter Helm and the late Sir David MacKay have said. Does the Minister agree that the only way we would hit such a target in an affordable manner would be if we took carbon capture usage and storage, as he has mentioned, and made that into a realistic prospect, in which this country has a definite selective advantage because of the existence of the North Sea oil industry, which could be used to store carbon?
My noble friend makes the point that it is important that we take people with us. As he says, people are not going to wear hair-shirts or give up their holidays. I agree with him that gas will continue to play a major part in this. That is why one occasionally looks rather hopefully over to the Liberal Democrats and others to seek their support for such things as shale gas extraction. He is also right to refer to the importance of carbon capture and storage. We will continue to research matters in that area. We should also look at further research into the storage of electricity and other forms of energy; again, this came up only recently.
Would the Minister accept that research bodies and universities have to play a central role here? This is to do with not just the climate change gases that we produce but the rapid melt of the permafrost in the northern hemisphere. We are seeing some effects of this even in north Scotland, with some fires burning out of control, which did not happen previously. Controlling the use of climate-changing gases is important, but the ability to extract them from the atmosphere is particularly important.
The noble Lord points out how important it is that we continue all the research we do. A great deal of research is going on into the areas he talked about. I could also take him through research I have seen into wave power, tidal energy and a whole range of other areas. We will continue to support that. Innovation is at the heart of what we seek. It potentially has great benefits for this country, as well as in reducing our carbon dioxide production.
My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register, particularly my interest as president of NEA. I am not a scientist; could my noble friend explain how we square the circle between reducing carbon emissions and fracking for shale gas? Can he also assure us that there will be joined-up government in the Bills coming before this House, particularly the Agriculture Bill and the environment Bill? Can he assure us that many of the policies he has set out today will be on the face of those Bills?
My Lords, I assure my noble friend that both the Agriculture Bill and the environment Bill will be very important in this field. On shale gas extraction, I made the point earlier that it is very important that gas continues to be a major part of our fuel for a considerable time, as a transition fuel as we move towards clean energy, coupled with carbon capture and storage. It also has the advantage of providing us with the energy security we need. If she does not want shale gas extraction as we see a reduction in gas coming from the North Sea, it means we have to get our gas from rather peculiar places, as I made clear earlier.
My Lords, earlier today this House discussed the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali. The Statement refers to the UK’s bid to host COP 26, but does the Minister agree that it is important to raise these issues with other countries? We want to lead and ask our own citizens to take action, but we also need to discuss this with other countries, particularly the Commonwealth, and encourage them to make this a priority.
My Lords, it is not for me to say what CHOGM should discuss, but the noble Baroness is quite right to stress the importance of that meeting. We are very lucky to be members of a body such as the Commonwealth that offers us the chance to influence and, I hope, provide leadership in this area. COP 26 also provides an opportunity to do this and that is why we will continue to try to secure the hosting of it in the coming year.