Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve

– in the House of Lords at 4:17 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Lord Henley:

Moved by Lord Henley

That the draft Order laid before the House on 12 June be approved.

Relevant document: 53rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, two weeks ago, in laying this order, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made a Statement in another place, subsequently repeated here, setting out the Government’s ambitions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from a target of at least 80% to 100%. This draft order does just that by seeking to amend the Climate Change Act. The target, otherwise known as net zero, will constitute a legally binding commitment to end the UK’s contribution to climate change.

I note the attention the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has drawn to this draft order, specifically on the economic and wider societal implications. I thank the committee for its review of the order and will address these points in my speech. However, first I will set out the case for action.

Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report on the impact of global warming at 1.5% above preindustrial levels. In that report it made it clear that a target set to limit global warming to 2% above preindustrial levels was no longer enough. It made it clear that by limiting warming to 1.5%, we may be able to mitigate some of the effects on health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security and economic growth—

Photo of Viscount Ridley Viscount Ridley Conservative

My noble friend mentions “2%” and “1.5%”. Surely, he means 2 degrees centigrade and 1.5 degrees centigrade above preindustrial levels?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My noble friend is absolutely correct. I should have said 1.5 degrees centigrade and 2 degrees centigrade, and I am grateful for that correction.

The panel made it clear that countries across the world, including the UK, need to do more.

The House has heard of the great progress we have made in tackling climate change; of how we have cut emissions—on this occasion I will correctly give a percentage—by 42% since 1990, while growing the economy by 72%; of how we have cut coal from 40% of our electricity generation to less than 5% in just six years; and of our leadership role in sectors from offshore wind to green finance. That progress has been delivered by parties across this House and by communities across the UK. But we know that this is only the start and that we need to do more. That is why we commissioned our expert independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, to see if we should, and could, go further than our 80% target and set a target for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions. On 2 May the committee responded.

In its report, the committee has told us, quite clearly, that ending the UK’s contribution to global warming is now within reach. It has advised that a net zero emissions target is necessary, because climate change is the single most important issue facing us; feasible, because we can get there using existing technologies and approaches, enabling us to continue to grow our economy and to maintain and improve our quality of life; and affordable, because it can be achieved at a cost equivalent to 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. Due to falling costs, this is the same cost envelope which Parliament accepted for an 80% target back in 2008. That is before the many benefits, from improved air quality to new green-collar jobs, are taken into account.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee drew particular attention to the economic and societal impacts of this transition. While this statutory instrument does not in itself place a direct burden on any other body than central government, it is right that we understand how to meet the costs of this transition in a fair and balanced way. That is why the Treasury will be taking forward a review on how to achieve this transition in a way that works for households, businesses and public finances. The review will also consider the implications for UK competitiveness. We provide full impact assessments when we set carbon budgets and will continue to do so for the sixth carbon budget when that is set.

In its report, the Committee on Climate Change made it clear that 2050 is the right year for this target and is the appropriate UK contribution to the Paris agreement; it does not currently consider it credible for the UK to aim to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050. I thank the Committee on Climate Change for the quality, breadth and analytical rigour of its advice.

Recent months and weeks have been a time of huge and growing interest in how we tackle the defining challenge of climate change. Calls for action have come from across society, and we all know that in doing this, it is important that we take people with us. My message today is that we have listened and we are taking action.

This country has long been a leader in tackling climate change. Thirty years ago, the then Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher was the first global leader to acknowledge at the UN,

“what may be early signs of man-induced climatic change”.

Eleven years ago, Parliament—under a different Government, of a different hue—passed the ground-breaking Climate Change Act, the first legislation in the world to set legally binding long-term targets for reducing emissions. That Act, passed with strong support from all sides of both Houses, created a vital precedent on climate: listen to the science; focus on the evidence; pursue deliverable solutions. Today I believe that we can make history again as the first major economy in the world to commit to ending our contribution to global warming. I ask the House to come together today in the same spirit to support this draft legislation.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Chair, International Relations and Defence Committee

Before my noble friend comes to an end, does the measure address carbon consumption, as opposed to carbon production? Carbon consumption is increasing fast and will increase further under this measure. Is that not considered important?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My noble friend is of course correct: as he is aware, this is about carbon production. If we wanted to measure total consumption, we would need worldwide agreement with other countries and changes would have to be made. At this stage, that is not the case. We believe that this is an important moment to show the world what we are determined to do, and not to rest on our achievements.

I was not coming to an end, because now is the time to say a word or two, particularly as it came up in various interventions after Question Time, on the Motion—

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

Before the Minister goes on to a different subject, as I understood him the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was asking about carbon production. I do not think the Minister addressed that. I think his noble friend was talking about issues such as afforestation, so that we do things other than cutting out boilers in houses. Does the order address those aspects of climate change?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

The order addresses setting a new target. Obviously, we will have to address the questions about how we achieve it. As I understood my noble friend’s question—I may have misunderstood him—he was concerned about our production of carbon as a country. He was addressing consumption and what one could therefore say was displaced production: consumption by means of importing things that might otherwise have been produced in this country. That is what I was trying to address, and I hope that the noble Lord will accept that. On his other point about the means by which we do that—whether we can also reduce levels of carbon by planting trees, carbon capture and storage, or whatever—I imagine that all these matters will come up, but that is another issue and not for the order.

I turn to the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, because it might help if I say a few words now in advance of him, presumably, moving his amendment and then making a decision on what he wants to do with it. I believe that his amendment is unnecessary and that a bipartisan approach to the order is very important. As I put it earlier, this is something on which the bipartisan approach and the need to take people with us is important. Perhaps I can deal with the three points that he makes in his amendment.

On the first, I direct the noble Lord to the detailed and analytically rigorous report we have had from the Committee on Climate Change and assure him that it is just the start. We will build on the frameworks set out in our clean growth strategy and industrial strategy to deliver that target. As the climate change committee has acknowledged, those provide the right framework for action. In addition, our forthcoming White Paper will outline the Government’s vision for the energy system to 2050. On his second point, we are using the powers set out in the 2008 Act—an Act introduced by the Government of whom he was a supporter, and which again had cross-party support. The climate change committee’s report has also shown that that target is now feasible and deliverable, and can be met within the same cost envelope as the 80% target. I have also announced that the Treasury will publish a review on that point. On his final point, although emissions from international aviation and shipping are not formally included within the legislative target, we have made clear the need for action across the whole economy, including international aviation and shipping. As he knows, emissions from domestic flights and shipping are already covered by our existing domestic legislation—

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

If I may finish this sentence, I will give way. They are already covered by our existing domestic legislation and the Committee on Climate Change accounts for international flights in its advice to us on setting interim carbon budgets. That will continue to be the case for our more ambitious target.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative 4:30 pm, 26th June 2019

Does my noble friend wish to emphasise the fact that, under the arrangements here, shipping and aircraft emissions are included in our estimates and budgets so that, although how we will do it internationally may still be a matter for argument, the Government have committed that the net zero will cover emissions from aeroplanes and shipping?

Photo of Lord Henley Lord Henley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My noble friend is correct. I was trying to distinguish between domestic and international in the legislation that we already have. As I and my noble friend have made clear, both of them will continue to be covered in our interim budgets.

Today is just the start. We have laid a strong foundation in the clean growth strategy and the industrial strategy—a point borne out in the independent advice from my noble friend Lord Deben as chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. As I think all noble Lords will accept, achieving net-zero emissions will require hard choices and leadership. It will require us to agree on the ends and strive for consensus on the means, which is why I stress how important it is to take people with us. It will require us to continue to transform our economy, our homes, our transport, our businesses and how we generate and use energy.

Our forthcoming energy White Paper, which noble Lords must wait for, will outline the Government’s vision for the energy system in 2050 and a series of actions to enable that system to evolve during the next decade to achieve our 2050 aims. We will lay out plans across other sectors in the months and years ahead. With continued cross-party support and collaboration across all sectors in society, we can deliver this. I commend the draft order to the House.