We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Amendment to the Motion

Part of Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 26th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 4:30 pm, 26th June 2019

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of the order. I was always fearful that proposing my amendment before the House could give rise to misinterpretation. The amendment has been carefully drafted. As the House well understands, there are only two mechanisms by which the House can signify a response to the Government concerning statutory instruments: either a regret Motion or an annulment Motion. A careful reading of this amendment will confirm that Labour very much supports the order. Indeed, it forms the basis of Labour policy and was called for in the other place as far back as a year ago by our party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the shadow Secretary of State for Business, Rebecca Long Bailey.

The amendment does not seek to block the order or frustrate the process. The order will go forward today. It is another step in the right direction, as envisaged by the drafting of the Act in 2008. As scientific knowledge advances and experience is gained, today’s momentous move to a permanent net-zero carbon economy can be put into effect by the order, which substitutes the figure of 100% for 80%. However, the text of the amendment lays bare that the Government are not doing it properly. It reflects the summary conclusion reached by your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s 53rd report, paragraph 12 of which states that,

“the Department should have acknowledged”,

in the Explanatory Memorandum this order’s far-reaching impact and summarised,

“the work that is underway to assess the significant costs and wider impacts of the transition, to inform Parliament’s scrutiny”.

The Minister in the other place, Chris Skidmore, did not take account of this in subsequent dialogue with the committee. Paragraph 10.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the order states:

“If the instrument makes provision different from that recommended by the Committee, the Secretary of State must publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision, pursuant to s3(6)”.

It could certainly be concluded that this order does not follow that recommendation and that the Secretary of State has not made adequate statements about that decision.

The most important feature is included under the third point of the amendment: that, once again, the Government have,

“not introduced regulations under section 30 of the Climate Change Act 2008 to include greenhouse gases from … international aviation, or … international shipping—

IAS

“as part of the emissions target”.

In 2012 the Committee on Climate Change recommended this only for Ed Davey, then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to reject it and say that it should be covered at international level. In 2015 the Committee on Climate Change again recommended the proposal for inclusion under the fifth carbon budget for the years 2028 to 2032. Once again it was rejected. Now again, in 2019, as part of the “net zero by 2050” target, IAS emissions are excluded.

In its recommendations, the Committee on Climate Change has proposed that emissions from international aviation should be added, based on the UK’s share of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme’s cap of flights departing the UK. In their interpretation of Brexit, the Conservative Government have signalled that they will remain party to the ETS. Can the Minister confirm this and state why this recommendation cannot go forward?

The committee recommended that emissions from international shipping be added based on projections of UK emissions in one of three options: bunker sales, trade share of the UK global trade percentage or activity based essentially by route. I will be happy if the Minister writes to me with a serious response to the recommendation. However, I point out to him the words of the Prime Minister’s office responding to questions on net-zero emissions by 2050:

“This is a whole economy target … and we intend for it to apply to international aviation and shipping”.

Paragraph 10.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum replies that the Government,

“will continue to leave headroom”,

—note the “continue”—for IAS emissions in carbon budgets while reduction strategies are,

“developed within International Maritime Organisation and International Civil Aviation Organisation frameworks”.

However, this is a hollow commitment, as the Government are already failing to abide with the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, which were drawn up within the pathway of reaching 80% carbon emissions reduction at 2 degrees of global warming. Let us state it again: this order is to reach 100% reductions to reach net zero at 1.5 degrees of warming. The latest, updated emissions projections from the department are that we are some 7% over the requirements for the fourth carbon budget and 13% over those for the fifth. What urgent steps are the Minister and the Government taking to get the UK back on track to meet the already-agreed carbon budgets?

The headline recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change report of May 2019 on net zero were clear: in order to deliver,

“a greater than 50% chance of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C”,

a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050,

“would respond to the latest climate science and fully meet the UK’s obligations under the Paris Agreement”.

It stated:

“A net-zero GHG target is not credible unless policy is ramped up significantly”,

and recommended:

“Delivery must progress with far greater urgency”.

There needs to be widespread collaboration across government with all sectors of the economy to deliver benefits for the environment, the economy, customers and citizens. Net zero will only be possible if the UK meets the challenge of decarbonising transport and heat; 2040 is already too late for the phase-out of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles. Battery technology development is urgently required. There is still no serious plan for decarbonising the UK’s heating systems. Carbon capture usage and storage is yet to get started and afforestation targets are not being delivered.

It is important to recognise that the committee declared the costs as manageable. As the cost of renewables has fallen, the cost equivalent of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050 is the same as its previous estimates of meeting the 80% reduction. It judged this cost affordable. The committee called for an early review by the Treasury to assess the plan for funding and a distribution of costs for business, households and the taxpayer. Can the Minister give an indication today in regard to the scope of this review, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already suggested opposition to the current 1% to 2% of GDP cost? This review should be comprehensive and include taxation, subsidies, incentives and customer costs, as well as the wider potential benefits and costs of inaction and climate events.

The Government also need to unblock the hurdles put before onshore wind’s participation and provide clarity to the nuclear sector. The importance of energy efficiency for homes and businesses needs repurposing, along with carbon-free housebuilding. That there is so much to propose and debate underlines the Government’s lack of policy proposals. The forthcoming energy White Paper gives the Minister the opportunity to answer these challenges and include the Government’s plans, with milestones, to achieve a minimum of net zero by 2050. Indeed, this target may need to be reassessed again. Having set this framework, the Government must introduce a comprehensive strategy of engagement across businesses, customers and the wider public. The Government deliver a wide range of services—through health and education, among others—and are well placed to lead the country’s response to achieving necessary targets. The Minister will remember that the House wished only to secure the achievements of a smart meter roll-out in debating that legislation last year.

It should also be recognised that the foundations are in place to enable the UK to reach net zero by 2050. Successive Governments have attained notable achievements and set up the necessary framework, within which measures can be brought forward at least cost. I refer here to the achievements secured through the capacity market and the contracts for difference framework.

The indicators for success are positive. Fifty per cent of electricity generation now comes from low-carbon sources. The country has just experienced an 18-day period of coal-free generation. I could not wish my amendment to be misunderstood any longer and we are making progress. We will continue to work with government and all stakeholders to meet the climate challenge, and we approve of the order. However, the Government need to recognise the urgency to make progress. Can the Minister assure the House that the energy White Paper will be published with enough time to review it and enable a debate to happen before the Summer Recess? Can he give the House confidence that goes beyond rhetoric that the Government will tackle the issue seriously and that our schoolchildren can now return to their studies with hope?

My amendment is clear. I approve of the order before the House but regret that the Government are not taking their responsibilities seriously. I beg to move.