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Climate Change - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:14 pm on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 4:14 pm, 6th February 2020

My Lords, the world will need substantially more energy as it grows and prospers and living standards improve. But at the same time, we need a sharp reduction in carbon emissions for there to be a good chance of meeting the Paris climate goals. There is no simple solution to this challenge, but any viable, sustainable path for the energy system needs to take account of both elements—more energy, less carbon.

The UK FIRES report does not include any role for carbon capture and storage or hydrogen as a source of energy in its description of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the Committee on Climate Change states that those technologies will be key in reducing the UK’s net carbon emissions. Will the Minister comment on that? The FIRES report, Absolute Zero, states that, rather than breakthrough technologies,

“the only solutions available in the time remaining require some change of lifestyle.”

Do the Government not agree that it should not be either/or? It should be both: technologies and a change of lifestyle. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for initiating this debate. This UK FIRES research document, funded by the Government for £5 million, is about achieving the reduction in emissions by 2050 and talks about resource efficiency.

The conversation that is now taking place is long overdue. As vice president of the CBI, I draw attention to our recent report, A Decade of Delivery, which set out our policy and the fiscal decisions that must be made over the next 10 years in order to set the UK on a trajectory towards net-zero emissions by 2050. We are currently off track as a country. They include: setting the policies in an attractive investment environment, good governance of the low-carbon transition, export potential and a just transition. Some of the major hurdles to decarbonisation, such as improving energy efficiency and switching to low-carbon heat sources, will require a significant increase in skills provision to enable the delivery of new investment in technology, and the Government must adhere to this moving forward. Does the Minister agree?

It is incredibly important that we have this discussion now, when climate change sits at the forefront of the public and political agenda. Last year, 2019, was a banner year and we have a world first: a net-zero by 2050 target brought into law by us. We have seen the images coming to us from Australia and Jakarta, and 2020 will be a really important year. How we deal with this now will make a huge difference. It is five years since the Paris agreement and we will have the COP 26 summit. We must not forget that a lot of this—the net-zero target, the strong proactive action—is being driven by the private sector. We are off track to meet our carbon budgets and there is a lot of work to do, and this year will be crucial.

The changes needed are physical and practical. Heating homes and businesses will be one of the biggest challenges to decarbonise. Some 24 million homes have natural gas boilers that will need to be replaced with a low-carbon alternative. We await progress from the Government on their heat road map due this summer. Will the Minister give us an update? It is clear from the work that the University of Birmingham and the CBI are undertaking into the policy frameworks required that we will need not just a national approach but clear responsibilities, power and resources at a local and regional level to plan effectively for this major infrastructure challenge that will require so many solutions—a long-term, credible plan, with the required inward investment by the private sector.

As we have heard, transport accounts for 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the University of Birmingham, where I am proud to be chancellor, we have developed a hydrogen train. The Centre for Railway Research and Education, which recently won a Queen’s Award, designed the Hydrogen Hero, a demonstrator train, in 2018, which has proven the technology possible. It is ready to be developed with an industrial partner. So it is possible to have more environmentally friendly technology with similar performance.

We can also make progress with aviation. BP, for example, has BP Biojet, which uses recycled cooking oil blended with conventional jet fuel. It helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 60% compared with conventional jet fuel. BP Biojet is already available at airports in Norway and Sweden and has been used in the United States, in Chicago. Do the Government agree that these sorts of developments in aviation are possible?

Finally, the UK does not have a clear picture of its real emissions. We currently measure only territorial emissions and not consumption emissions. The CBI strongly advocates for the UK to begin measuring both consumption and territorial emissions so that we can have a true and clear picture of our impact on the rising emission levels. This will have wider- reaching impacts on what the UK chooses to import and whether we tax high-carbon products. Does the Minister agree?

To conclude, at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Forest Research we have created an “impact of climate change and environmental change woodland”, where we have built a free-air carbon enhancement experiment set in woodland that will improve our climate projections. The most famous statue in the world is the Statue of Liberty; next to that should be a statue of responsibility. We have a responsibility and I am proud that the UK is leading the way.