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Green Economy - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:16 pm on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland Conservative 5:16 pm, 12th March 2020

My Lords, as a former Minister for Energy and Climate Change in the coalition Government, I have a degree of nostalgia for these debates.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens—who has heard me many times and who I have had to listen to many times—is now leaving the Chamber. He has had to listen to me so many times that he knows what I am going to say. He can leave, because I know that he needs to go to the loo, or something like that.

The only thing that has changed is that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkins—someone else who is not in her place—has replaced her admirable father-in-law, and talked so openly about the subject. Having heard her brilliant speech, I wonder what she is doing. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, who entertained us so well, and whom we thank for this debate, was very much part of the debate we had in those wonderful coalition years. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, is winding up for the Opposition; he was, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, my then opposite number. We were all happily enjoined in this one endeavour. This one endeavour is, of course, cross-party. I believe that party politics should be cast aside here, except for when I decide to criticise my own Government, which I will do in a few minutes.

I worked in happy coalition with Chris Huhne, who deserves a great deal of credit. He alone kept COP going when it was falling apart in South America. We developed quite a few wonderful things, including the Green Investment Bank; we put in enhanced subsidies on a number of things, and disappointingly we had to stop them for solar panels, largely because—I do not know whether many of you have been outside recently—the sun does not shine as much as it could do in this country, and there were more efficient forms of energy.

I can respond to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, because I was the Minister responsible for CCS. I can help the Minister by saying this. The reason it collapsed—despite huge efforts and despite the Government, with no money, committing £1 billion in investment to it—was that Iberdrola, one of the three partners involved, was caught up in the financial crisis in Spain and was unable to fulfil its commitments, so the talks collapsed. But I do believe that it was incredibly important, and I spent a huge amount of time trying to do it.

Since that point in 2012, when I was tasked with another ministerial job, I have to say that although the talk has continued, there has been little action, and we now find ourselves globally in a worse place than perhaps we were then. That is despite the fact that, domestically, we are in a far stronger position and we are moving in the right direction. It is to the credit of everyone in the room that we are.

Perhaps I may talk about the global need and my frustrations about it. There is demand worth £328 billion for sustainable investments between now and 2030, with $13 billion in the Caribbean alone, which I shall come on to later. We have set up agencies around the world. The biggest of them, the Green Climate Fund, has £2 billion of funds invested in it. On average, it takes two years to get the fund to make a commitment to an investment, and it does not really look at investments at under $100 million. The Global Environment Facility supports national policy priority projects, but the unreliability of some of the Governments involved has prevented it really welling into the need. The clean tech fund has $5.4 billion but has hardly committed that money to any great extent. We find ourselves hearing lots of announcements for huge amounts of money but with very little being done.

One of the most needful things is that of supporting small and medium-sized companies with no access to finance. In the Caribbean, for example, there is no correspondent banking; if you are in the Maldives, interest rates are at 18%, as they are in Sri Lanka. The businesses themselves cannot green their organisations. There are manifold reasons for this gap, and I shall quote from a report by the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council, in which I declare an interest as chairman. They include, “shallow domestic capital markets and low private investment coupled with high perceived and/or real risk are the main impediments to private financing of climate change mitigation and adaptation for projects that involve small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Not to be deterred, and wanting to find real solutions, my organisation persuaded the Commonwealth Heads of Government to announce that they would commit to a fund for the small island states. Some 52 heads of state signed up to it. They empowered my organisation and the Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit, led by Justin Mundy, who has provided remarkable support, to deliver a fund that would support the small island states. This support for 52 countries was a positive step by the pan-Commonwealth for the Commonwealth. We set out to prove the need for support for the small island states. Exhaustive research was carried out, and we had endless calls with government representatives in all of the 52 states. However, I point the finger at our own Government, and very strongly at the civil servants in DfID, because they put a stop to it, despite the Prime Minister insisting that it should be a project. That is a woeful thing and an indictment of that department’s global outlook.

Not to be deterred, I have gone to the commercial markets to set up this fund. We have proved it again, using the largest and most important advisory firm in Washington. We have chosen to take the Caribbean as a test case for delivering the fund. We have produced a terms sheet, we are in the process of selecting a manager, and we have seed funding to start the fund. It is our hope that we will start the Commonwealth Caribbean clean investment fund in July of this year.

My point for the Government is that the time has come for them to start taking these investments more seriously. It is the topic of the moment. There is a huge groundswell of support to find commitment. The Government are the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations, so they can show real leadership here, but time is running out because in July that will come to an end. For many years, the Prince of Wales has been a lone voice on this particular subject. He has led from the front for this fund, and he deserves the support of the Government in creating a pan-Commonwealth programme of greening these economies in order to teach them about the benefits so that, in answer to the noble Baroness, we can import from those countries.