Amendment 22

Fisheries Bill [HL] - Committee (1st Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Lord Grantchester:

Moved by Lord Grantchester

22: Clause 1, page 2, line 34, after “minimised” insert “, in particular through efforts to—(i) improve the environmental performance of fishing ports, and(ii) promote the decarbonisation of fish and aquaculture activities”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment strengthens the “climate change objective” by requiring action to improve the environmental performance of ports and decarbonise the catching process.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, in moving Amendment 22, I will speak also to Amendment 23. These amendments are tabled with slightly different intentions in mind, so while they may be grouped together, they address slightly different aspects of climate change. The addition of the climate change objective is very much to be welcomed, and must be fundamental to all policy developments, perhaps second only to the sustainability objective, as debated earlier tonight.

Amendment 22 would strengthen the climate change objective by requiring two sets of actions: one on land to improve the green credentials of ports and the other at sea to help the fisheries fleet decarbonise. Both are important and must reflect together the environmental sustainability practices on landed catches while making the industry undertake precise measures on decarbonisation. Either step or both would have a positive impact on the country’s net zero aspirations. The amendment was tabled to probe how action the Government propose to take will be specified and measured, including what support they will provide in the future to allow the industry to improve its environmental footprint. The Bill allows financial assistance to be provided for a variety of purposes, including many linked with the overarching fisheries objectives. Can it, therefore, be safely assumed that such support would be made available to fishers who wish to fit cleaner engines, and perhaps to ports and processing plants that want to upgrade equipment to run on low-carbon technologies?

Amendment 23 deals directly with achieving net zero in the industry. I was disappointed to see no link between this framework legislation and the legally binding targets for the UK to achieve net zero by 2050. Amendment 25, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, seeks to achieve a link and we support such a consultation. However, we propose that the Government are not taking action quite as seriously as we would like and need to proceed faster, with more urgency.

We have been told time and again, and will no doubt be reminded in the Minister’s response, that the UK is a world leader in the race to decarbonise, with this Government being the first to adopt a binding target to achieve net zero by 2050. However, I hope the Minister accepts and can forgive that, across your Lordships’ House, many are sceptical of the Government’s claims. Reference need be made to the court’s ruling only last week on Heathrow expansion to see that, just because an environmental target has been adopted, it does not necessarily filter through to everyday decision-making in Whitehall. There remains a gulf between stated ambition and reality. The UK, working alongside others, needs to do more to tackle the climate crisis before it is too late.

As part of that, industries such as fisheries should be encouraged to be ambitious by working to an accelerated timescale. Although it would require significant effort, we believe this could be achieved. If the Minister rejects the premise of achieving net zero in fisheries by 2030, or if he believes that decarbonisation is better dealt with in the upcoming Environment Bill, he at least needs to indicate what progress he would like to see made in the next decade.

With this in mind, what will our fishing fleet look like after nearly 10 years of the UK operating outside the CFP? What is the size of the Government’s ambitions? What gear will our fishers be using? How will the way that their catch is processed and transported be different from today? When will emissions targets be made binding on international shipping? These are but a few of the questions to which we need answers, and we ideally need them before either this or the Environment Bill reach the statute book. To include ambition in the Bill, the House must be assured that it will be key feature in the drawing up of fisheries statements and management policies. There is a climate emergency now and every sector should play its part in addressing it. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Crossbench

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 125 in my name, also in this group. I also lend my support to the two amendments spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. This is very welcome. I start by being positive about the climate change objective being added to the list of 12—or however many we have now. It is good to see it there. As I stated earlier, there really is no business as usual anymore. Climate change impacts are upon us and we are living through an age of consequences. This will permeate all the discussions around fishing policy that we bring on the back of the Bill. Fishing quotas will change, the availability of fish stocks will change and the resilience of the natural environment will be increasingly affected and diminished, so it is incredibly important that we take this seriously.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, rightly goes to the heart of the definition here. It seems a little lacking in ambition and specificity, as stated in the Bill, which refers to

“the adverse effects of fishing and aquaculture minimised”.

What does “minimised” mean when, really, they should be eliminated? In fact, any economic activity now taking place specifically within the natural environment should not just seek to have zero emissions, it should be seeking to be a positive sink. We will have to use policies and the framework for managing the natural world to ensure that we are not just reducing our outputs, but seeking to enhance the ability of the natural world to absorb carbon dioxide.

That has to be an aim because we have left it so late. We are about 20 years behind where we should be in reducing emissions on a global level, so the challenge now will be that of eliminating emissions in a decade. Thereafter it will be about soaking out the greenhouse gases that have been emitted. The oceans and the marine environment are a huge component of that, so we should be ambitious. I think that the bare minimum should be to achieve net zero, not simply minimising adverse effects and adapting to climate change.

My third point is about accepting that we may have to implement the precautionary principle, which states that for the period we are in, where there is so much uncertainty, we will be allocating below scientifically determined maximum sustainable yields because of the risk of climate change that overlays everything. We might have to get used to allocating quota on a very precautionary basis because we are entering uncharted waters, if I may be excused the pun.

I turn to my Amendment 125. Amendments that seek consultation always feel a bit redundant in primary legislation, but my point is that, under the powers granted under the Climate Change Act 2008, we have the ability to introduce a policy. Before any activity that causes a net contribution to greenhouse gases, we can simply consult and then use secondary legislation to introduce that policy. If the Government were minded to get going on achieving the net zero target, simply asking for public consultation would be the trigger to introducing secondary legislation to bring in very targeted, market-based policies to encourage investment in low-carbon activities. The Government now have the opportunity to consult on how we can best make this sector carbon neutral and use the powers that already exist to bring in those policies; hence the quest for a public consultation.

It is worth stating that, at the moment, the fishing industry has an effect on climate change in a number of ways. It is not just about how vessels are propelled or the energy choices made by processing plants, it is also about how the degradation of the natural environment can release greenhouse gases. Trawling activities, for example, can disturb the sediment at the bottom of the ocean, which releases otherwise stored carbon. There are plenty of examples and reasons why one would want the sector to take this issue seriously.

This is an opportunity to do something really positive. We must think about the provision of licences to cover the activities that take place in this environment with a positive vision that will create jobs and allow activities to be carried out in the natural world that will help us as we seek to combat climate change. There is no reason why fisheries cannot be part of that process. There are particular types of fish stocks and particular ways of fishing that can lock carbon up while low-impact aquaculture can make a net-positive contribution to our carbon budgets. I hope this is not seen as an imposition; rather, it should be seen as an opportunity.

Again, to finish on a positive note, seeing this objective included is very welcome. I happen to be in the camp of thinking that sustainability is the primary objective, so this climate objective is integral to that. However, we need to see a little more action and commitment to some of the specifics of what making this a primary objective would really mean for how we manage our fisheries. I am glad to have had the opportunity to discuss these amendments.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee

I put my name on the amendment and am pleased to welcome it. One message from the climate change committee was that we cannot do decarbonisation and net zero sequentially; we have to do it all at the one time. That must include this industry.

My only word of caution is that fish oil is used as an energy source on some occasions, and could be described as renewable. It is used as biodiesel, like fishmeal. That should be excluded completely. We do not do that in this country, but I have a feeling the Danes have occasionally done it before.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 9:45 pm, 2nd March 2020

My Lords, this Government have committed to ambitious action to tackle climate change, including reaching net zero by 2050. To support this objective, it is right that we have included a climate change objective in the Bill.

The Government share the ambition of Amendment 22, which is to make sure that we take meaningful action to decarbonise fishing and aquaculture activities and the infrastructure that supports them, as we must do across our economy. Indeed, I believe we are the first major economy to include an objective of this kind in legislation in relation to fisheries.

Evidence of the links between fishing and climate change continues to grow, and our approach must adapt to follow new evidence over successive iterations of the joint fisheries statement. Therefore, while I agree that action to support decarbonisation of ports and fishing activities must form part of our policies, I am reluctant to prioritise these in primary legislation ahead of the full development of, consultation on and scrutiny of the joint fisheries statement. This is also an issue for other departments, and we will work together to ensure that our functions under this legislation and other specific climate change and environmental legislation are carried out effectively.

The amendment would also have broader unintended consequences. For example, it could lead to future fisheries funding having to prioritise subsidies for fishing port energy efficiency measures that may better be delivered through measures other than fishing policy, such as planning and energy efficiency regulation, over measures to support directly the industry-focused infrastructure such as auction halls and landing sites. It could also lead to future fisheries funding having to priorities support for energy-efficient engines over more targeted fishing gear. The Government should be able to change their priorities for a future funding scheme in consultation with stakeholders so that it best delivers the government policies needed in response to the conditions at the time. We should always take an evidence-based approach to deciding which areas to prioritise in achieving this objective. We believe that the best way to do this is through the joint fisheries statement, rather than in the Bill.

Amendment 23 enables me to highlight that the UK—as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said—is at the vanguard of global ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, having last year committed to achieving economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050 through the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019. While I fully support the noble Lord’s ambition to transition to net-zero emissions in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, we have a clear target already enshrined in primary legislation. To introduce a further acceleration of that target in the Bill would create a sectoral disparity that could unfairly disadvantage an industry already facing challenges to adapt to the impacts of climate change. This is not to say that we should not seek to be ambitious as we work towards decarbonising our fisheries and aquaculture operations, but rather that we take a measured approach that supports the sector through the transition on a timescale achievable for all—from small, single-vessel operators to large processing operations. Legally binding policies will be contained in the joint fisheries statement, which will set out in more detail the steps we will take to deliver against the objectives in the Bill.

Turning to Amendment 125, I take the opportunity to set out some of the work already going on across the UK to support the fishing industry’s progress, along with the rest of the country, towards achieving economy-wide net-zero emissions by 2050. I apologise to noble Lords who were aware of this, but I shall put this on the record.

The national adaptation programme—NAP—sets the actions that Government and others will take to adapt to the challenges of climate change in the UK. Published in 2018, it sets out key actions for the following five years across a wide range of sectors, including fisheries and aquaculture.

The UK Clean Maritime Plan, published by the Department for Transport, sets out a national action plan for the whole of the UK maritime sector. The plan includes commitments to support maritime innovation, establish a maritime emissions regulation advisory service and consult on how the renewable transport fuel obligation can be used to encourage the uptake of low-carbon fuels in maritime sectors. The aim of the plan is to achieve zero-emission shipping by 2050, as set out in the Government’s Maritime 2050 strategy. This recognises the need to take action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement and the UK’s 2050 net zero ambition. Together, both plans ensure the fishing industry will effectively contribute to the target for zero net emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 2050.

The climate change objective in Clause 1 will support this ambition by requiring the fisheries administrations to consider these matters in consultation with industry and interested parties, as they develop the policies that will sit in the joint fisheries statement. I recognise, and I am pleased, that a number of noble Lords have recognised, in the hurly-burly of the exchanges, that we did insert this new climate change objective. It is absolutely right we did so, because it is at the very heart of what we have to do. For the sake of tonight, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and I take it entirely in the spirit in which he makes it. We are all committed to this objective, and we all work as fast as we may. We will study the Bill’s words very carefully, to look at where it is appropriate to put in a little more ambition, and whether it is right to leave it to the fisheries statement or whether we could devise some plan to escalate it up to being a stronger commitment. But at this stage—

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Crossbench

Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, I want to comment on the Minister’s list of activities that relate to this. It is welcome to hear about the marine plans and the alternative fuels. We also need to integrate into this that the Government are pursuing nature-based solutions and carbon stored in the natural environment. We are doing that in the Agriculture Bill, and will be talking about it a lot as we go into the Glasgow talks, but the definitions the department is thinking about in the fishing sector are quite limited; for example, just the propulsion of the vessels. We are not thinking holistically about nature-based solutions, which are very important. When we have discussions following on from today’s debate, I encourage us to think about this holistically to make this a positive thing the maritime sector can help deliver, as we think about the net zero question.

Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, for reminding me of the important issue of nature’s ability to store carbon at sea. This is part of the wider implications of what we are seeking to achieve through amendments to the Bill’s climate change provisions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 22 withdrawn.

Amendment 23 not moved.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 9.54 pm.