Moved by Lord Oates
14: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—“Conditions for trade agreements: climate change obligations(1) The United Kingdom may only become a signatory to an international trade agreement if the conditions in subsections (3) and (4) are satisfied.(2) The Secretary of State may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the conditions in subsections (3) and (4) are satisfied.(3) The condition under this subsection is that a Minister of the Crown has made a statement to Parliament that the agreement is compliant with— (a) the Climate Change Act 2008 as amended by the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 (S.I. 2019/1056); and(b) the United Kingdom’s international obligations to tackle climate change, including but not limited to, the agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris on
My Lords, Amendment 14 is in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Purvis, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Hain. The amendment sets out the conditions that must be met before a trade deal may be signed or laid before Parliament. Its objective is to ensure that trade agreements that the United Kingdom enters into comply with our domestic and international climate change obligations and do not lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Proposed new subsection (3) of the amendment would require that, prior to signing a free trade agreement or laying it before Parliament, a Minister of the Crown would have to make a Statement to Parliament, confirming that the agreement is compliant with the United Kingdom’s domestic obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008. as amended by the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019, and that it is compliant with our international obligations, including, but not limited to, the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Proposed new subsection (4) would require a Minister to make a Statement to Parliament, confirming that the agreement will not give rise to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, or, if the Minister is not able to do so, to lay before Parliament a detailed schedule of measures to mitigate in full against any increase in greenhouse gas emissions arising from that agreement.
Mitigating any increase in emissions is the absolute minimum standard we should expect; wherever possible, we should be using trade deals to secure reductions in emissions. Some are sceptical that trade agreements can be used in this way; they believe either that increased trade must inevitably result in additional emissions and we just have to live with that, or that trade in itself is a bad thing that should be curtailed. As a spokesperson on climate change for the Liberal Democrats—a liberal green party that believes in the importance of trade—I reject both arguments. Just as trade has increased collective prosperity over centuries and seen millions lifted out of poverty around the world, the opportunity now exists to use our trade policy to play an important role in tackling climate change. However, we have to be willing to take that opportunity, and to make the climate and ecological emergency that we face central to our trade policy thinking.
Sadly, at present, we are not doing so. At best, we are tipping our hat in that general direction and then passing by on the other side of the road as far as matters of trade are concerned. For example, the Government’s impact assessment for the recently concluded Japan rollover deal suggests that the agreement will add 0.28% to domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and that it could increase fossil fuel consumption by the same percentage. The impact assessment does not indicate the impact on Japanese domestic emissions, although one might conclude that the increase will be significantly higher, given that the estimated benefits from the agreement are worth £15 billion, £13 billion of which accrue to Japan and just £2 billion to the United Kingdom. The assessment is also unclear on whether trade-related maritime emissions will increase due to the agreement; at present global freight shipping accounts for at least 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Whatever the actual figures, any increase in greenhouse gas emissions cannot be acceptable at a time when the world is already on course to see increases in global temperatures at a level that the International Panel on Climate Change warns us will lead to “catastrophic consequences” for our planet. We cannot just shrug off trade-related increases in emissions, whatever their size, and say, “Oh well, it’s an inevitable result of a trade agreement—nothing we can do about that”. If that were really the case, I might join those in your Lordships’ House who have a less positive view of trade, but it is not the case. If we choose to, we can work with our trading partners, and with the World Trade Organization, to ensure that trade agreements become an opportunity to tackle climate change, rather than vehicles that compound it.
In the first place, we should prioritise trade and trade agreements with countries that share a commitment to, and a sense of urgency about, tackling climate change. We cannot continue with an approach that celebrates our effectiveness in reducing carbon emissions in the UK when, in truth, we are simply offshoring them through trade that sucks in manufactured goods from high-carbon economies. We need to think carefully about how we approach our new trading relationships to ensure that they do not further exacerbate this trend, which is counterproductive to our climate objectives and damaging to our domestic industry because of the absence of—to coin a phrase—a level playing field. For example, there is much enthusiasm in government circles about the idea of the United Kingdom acceding to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, but have we really thought about what it will mean to be in a trade partnership with countries such as Australia, Vietnam and Malaysia, which remain heavily focused on coal-fired power generation and continue to invest in new coal-generation capacity? How would such a partnership be compatible with our climate goals? There is no point purporting to be committed to tackling the climate emergency if we continue to take decisions that will further fuel it. Equally, we should be clear that we will not pursue a trade agreement with the United States so long as the current US Congress’s fast-track Trade Promotion Authority is in place. As noble Lords may be aware, it includes as one of its objectives
“to ensure that trade agreements do not establish obligations for the United States regarding greenhouse gas emissions”.
Using our trade policy, by contrast, to prioritise agreements with low-carbon economies and support the decarbonisation of high-carbon economies could give an important lead to the world, not only in reducing trade-related emissions but in driving wider change in high-carbon economies.
Secondly, once we prioritise the countries we wish to enter into trade deals with, we need the trade agreements themselves to have climate and the environment at their heart. That does not mean a few warm words accompanied by passing references to the international agreements that the parties are already signed up to. It means dedicated chapters setting out concrete new actions agreed to by both parties. These will obviously vary from agreement to agreement, but they could include preferential treatment of environmental goods, removal of non-tariff barriers to trade and environmental services and technologies, agreements to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies, commitments on decarbonising merchant fleets, concordats on joint approaches to environmental trade measures at the WTO, et cetera. We should also be joining countries such as New Zealand and Norway, which, with others, have been pioneering an Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability.
Whatever the precise measures, the key point will be to ensure that we have an ambitious negotiating agenda and to signal clearly to potential FTA partners that deals will not be concluded unless tackling climate change is at their heart. Sadly, the Government have demonstrated no such determination in their approach to date. In introducing the Bill in the other place, the Secretary of State did not refer to climate change once, and there is precious little evidence that the Government have even fully considered the opportunities offered by trade agreements to leverage action on climate change, let alone taken them.
I do not intend to divide the House on this amendment this afternoon, but the Government should understand that we will come back to these considerations very frequently over the coming months, and they will certainly be front and centre as we consider the merits or otherwise of future trade deals and, in particular, the Government’s proposals to join the CPTPP. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am very happy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and to support the amendment in his name along with the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Hain, as well as supporting the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. Both amendments seek to safeguard our environment and are completely consistent with all our international agreements under the Paris Agreement, which turned five at the weekend.
Trade is so much bigger than just imports and exports. It is arguably how we leave our mark on other countries. However, it is not something that most of us think about day to day. Trade deals are not usually rushed through. Many take absolutely years to happen and a lot of thought goes into them. They also last a very long time.
Having high standards is something we should be proud of, and the huge opportunity before us to trade on our own terms means that we must seize this moment to say no to other countries: “We will not trade with you if you are damaging the natural environment and worsening the effects of climate change”. We are at a junction now where it is not enough simply to partake in these practices at home—something we do well. We need to make sure that we are not indirectly causing them to happen abroad. People often use the phrase: “Evil succeeds when good men”—I would say women—“do nothing”. If we fail now to put these provisions in the Bill, we are as good as doing nothing in the face of all that we know.
I am proud that this country has led and continues to lead the way in decarbonisation. Some of this has been market-led. But 12 years ago we passed a Climate Change Act, and between 2012 and 2017 emissions from energy halved. That is not a coincidence; one logically followed another. Because this was legislated, successive Governments—we are on the fifth since it was passed—have absolutely had to pay attention to the process of decarbonisation. While it has not always been the number one priority, it has been absolutely impossible to ignore. To misquote Benjamin Franklin: “There are three certainties in our life: death, taxes, and now carbon budgets.” The comparison I am trying to draw is that when we have foresight of an issue and put it into legislation, we get the rewards. That is what we must do with our trade policy. We are literally writing the book on blank paper. It would be incredibly remiss of us to miss out this crucial chapter.
At previous stages, Ministers have mused on the importance of halting climate change, but why are they reluctant to put it in the Bill in case there are “unintended consequences”? I argue that the unintended consequences of not placing this in the Bill will be far greater. David Attenborough said to this very House in January, in the Royal Gallery next door, that we are at a tipping point and that “once we pass it, it will be impossible to come back from”. I do not think we have actually reached it yet but, as a responsible global leader, we need to say out loud and clearly, “We will not trade with you if you do not protect the environment.” I worry that without one of these amendments, and given the competing priorities the Government have about so many things, as we are hearing this afternoon, these considerations could end up falling by the wayside. The only way for the Minister to ensure that this remains a priority is to put it in the Bill.
These amendments are fundamentally useful, as they will ensure that whoever is negotiating a free trade agreement will have to stop and think about the impact it has on climate change and, in the case of Amendment 14, find a mutually beneficial way which produces fewer emissions or ensure that in some way they are offset. This could be a key moment when we stand up and say that from now on the UK will not enter anything that increases global emissions. To reach net zero we need to cut our current emissions as well as not making any more.
I understand that Ministers are reluctant to allow certain amendments as they think it would cause a lot of work in the departments, and I understand that a popular Minister may not remain popular for very long if his staff have to do this. However, in the case of Amendment 14, the work will already have been done. I welcome the Written Statement that the Minister’s colleague in the other place laid last Monday, which said that
“the Government will publish an independently verified impact assessment which will cover the economic and environmental impacts of the deal.”—[
While I am not sure whether that is the full net-zero assessment I asked the Minister about in July, I recognise that this is progress and I thank him and his colleagues for making this happen. My point is that environment includes climate change and biodiversity. If I understand it correctly, the assessment should cover the work needed for Amendment 14 and for the greater part of Amendment 21. By putting this in the Bill we can give it the permanence that a ministerial Statement, however well meant, absolutely cannot. I do not doubt the Minister’s sincerity or that he takes the issue seriously, but I worry that this conversation will have to be had every single time we have a reshuffle or a change of Government.
I have tried to show that when something is put in legislation it creates certainty and unlocks investments. This will not be a hindrance. The summit we hosted on Saturday shows the direction the world is going in. We have said that we will no longer invest in fossil-fuel projects abroad. Low carbon is our future, and the countries that are not on board risk being left out in the cold—or, indeed, in the increasingly hot world.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and her powerful speech, which clearly outlined why one of these amendments should be on the face of the Bill. Ministerial commitments are just words which apply only to that person in post. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for outlining Amendment 14, for which I express my support, but I will speak to Amendment 21 in my name, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for her support for it.
Given that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, has already outlined Amendment 14 so clearly, I will briefly reflect on the practical reality of it. A radio talk-show host was talking to me and complaining that “Everyone talks green now.” She got a little upset when she saw that I was smiling when she said that. As I said to her, although talk is great, there is a lot of truth in that statement, as it is only hot air until we have delivery and commitment. It is clear that the Government are making these commitments; as the chair of COP 26 they are taking their place at the forefront of the world’s talk on these things. It is therefore hard to see why they would have any objection to either amendment. Amendment 14 in particular is on the climate emergency, on which the Government claim world leadership, and surely that leadership should be reflected in every Bill that goes through your Lordships’ House.
I will focus mostly on Amendment 21. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, has already started on this point but I will go back to the words of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, who on our first day of debate on these amendments answered an Oral Question from the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. The Minister said:
“The key principle of the convention on biological diversity is that biodiversity should be mainstreamed”,—[Official Report, 7/12/20; col. 950.]
which means “present in everything you do and everything that is done”. Biodiversity on its own does not entirely cover every environmental aspect we are looking at—there is obviously the COP next year on biodiversity, matching up with the COP on the climate. There are many other issues to raise, from soil health to plastics, but those are two good places to start.
I admit to your Lordships that Amendment 21 is rather long, so I will not go through it all in great detail. I will refer just to some of the key points. It is about
“the maintenance of the United Kingdom’s levels of statutory protection in relation to … human, animal or plant life or health … animal welfare, and … the environment.”
It is about
“achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050”, and the
“goals and targets contained in an Environmental Improvement Plan, including the 25 Year Environment Plan”.
It is about the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. What is notable about all those things is that I am not setting out some wonderful Green Party targets for a transformed world. They are all things that I am sure the Government would tell your Lordships they have enthusiastically embraced and signed up to. This is about the Government living up to their own commitments and legal responsibilities.
We know—and your Lordships’ House has played its part in ensuring—that when the Government skated up to dodging their international legal responsibilities in other Bills, they were then pushed away from doing it. That has done real damage to the UK’s international reputation, so putting an amendment such as this into the Bill would go some way towards restoring the UK’s international reputation.
I have one more point to reflect on, because it has been a long afternoon and may be a longer evening. At the moment, in the midst of a global pandemic, there is of course a huge focus on public health. Amendment 21 refers to public health, but it is not that public health and the environment are two separate things. We can have a healthy society, and have our people being healthy, only if they live in a healthy environment. These amendments are closely linked and essential to restoring the public health and well-being of the people of Britain, not just the environment as a separate category.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a co-chair of Peers for the Planet. I express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for tabling these amendments and for the way in which they introduced them, and for the speech of my noble friend Lady Boycott in favour of them.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate about how climate change obligations and aspirations can be integrated into the UK’s trade agreements going forward. As has been stated, if the Bill remains silent on these issues we could risk offshoring our environmental impact, increasing emissions and undermining UK producers by allowing goods produced to lower environmental standards to be imported into the UK. But by being clear about our commitments on climate change in the Bill, we can do more than simply preventing harm.
In the last two weeks, we have heard a great deal about building back better and greener. The Government have published their Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. The Committee on Climate Change’s report on the path to net zero has set out a detailed plan to take us to 2050. The energy White Paper was published this week, as was the report of the Economic Affairs Committee of your Lordships’ House on post-Covid economic recovery. All these reports point to the opportunity and the urgent need for that green industrial revolution, and for it to be on a global scale. The need to ensure our future economic well-being and the need to address the climate crisis are not in conflict or extraneous to trade policy.
In their 10-point plan, the Government made clear their aspirations:
“As the world goes green, we will seek to put the UK at the forefront of global markets for clean technology.”
The CCC has estimated that the economic opportunities that low-carbon goods can bring amount to more than £1 trillion a year, so it is doubly disappointing that the Bill remains silent on climate issues. The only hint of recognition of the importance of addressing climate change came, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, just said, in the Written Ministerial Statement on
“When a signed treaty text is laid in Parliament, it will be accompanied by … an independently verified impact assessment which will cover the economic and environmental impacts of the deal.”
When we discussed this last Monday, I think that the Minister signalled informally that I was correct to infer that “environmental” encompassed climate, and that the assessment could therefore include looking at the effects on the UK’s net-zero commitments. He gave me a nod when I said that then, but it did not make it into Hansard. Rather than asking him for a wink today, can he make that explicit when he comes to wind up this debate? I would be very grateful.
The UK’s contribution to the fight against climate change will be measured not only in the quantity of the emission reductions that we make but in the quality of the leadership that we give. We need to lead by example in every piece of legislation that we pass and every policy that we endorse in the run-up to the G7 and COP 26 next year, and beyond. We can do that by making it clear to our current and future trading partners that the UK wants to grow in a way that allows economic benefits to flow—which means a growing market in low-carbon goods—but that also does not hinder our net-zero and environmental obligations and ambitions. The climate crisis is a global issue; what better place to align with our goals than in the context of our global trading relationships?
My Lords, I support both amendments in this grouping. Amendments 14 and 21 are important because they are about aligning our climate and environmental targets with our trade agreements. I spoke on these issues in Committee and reinforce the point that these amendments would enable us to be an effective environmental leader. I commend the Government for their increasing attention and leadership on environmental issues, which will not just protect our health but drive our economic growth. This has been shown in the recent spending review and 10-point plan.
These are positive amendments, which will help us to have a proper green industrial revolution. In the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution began in the United Kingdom and by the 1830s, it had spread to Europe and the United States. I hope that the green industrial revolution can do the same and that the UK can become a true leader in green growth. In Committee, my noble friend the Minister said that this Government have done a huge amount to protect and improve the environment. I completely agree that they have done so. However, this should not mean that we sit on our laurels. Amendments 14 and 21 will help drive our green agenda forward.
Amendment 14 would mean that future trade agreements cannot be signed or approved if they are inconsistent with our climate change obligations. This includes being compliant with the Climate Change Act 2008, and our international obligation to tackle climate change under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This amendment will help us reach these emissions targets by making sure that we have considered the impact of trade agreements on the climate. For example, subsection (4) states that a Minister would have to make a statement on any agreement
“confirming that the agreement will not give rise to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”
By doing so, we are sending a message that not only do we take emissions seriously but that we are helping to reduce our environmental impact. I welcome subsection (4)(b), which means that if a trade agreement leads to increased net emissions, detailed mitigation measures must be laid before Parliament. So, if we are at risk of emitting too much, we have the chance to put it right, not just for the benefit of our targets but for our own health and well-being. Given that the UK was one of the first major economies to set a net-zero goal, Amendment 14 means that we can properly commit to achieving this target and be a true leader in the run-up to our COP 26 presidency.
At the virtual Climate Ambition Summit 2020 last weekend, the United Nations Secretary-General asked nations to make their promise of a net-zero world a reality. During the summit, the Prime Minister announced the UK’s ambitious targets to cut emissions by at least 68% by 2030, and this is the first time we have put forward our national climate plan separately from the European Union. Furthermore, in its sixth carbon budget report, released last week, the Committee on Climate Change said we need early action and key policy building blocks to reach net zero by 2050. This Trade Bill gives us a chance to do that and to shape our own trade policy. Amendment 14 allows us to be explicit about where we stand on slowing down the rate of climate change and should be supported.
The risk to the environment from poor trade policies is significant, but trade can play an important role in reducing our environmental impact. This is also something the Government said in their 25-year environment plan: environmental sustainability should be at the very heart of global production and trade. Amendment 21 means that future international trade agreements can be ratified and implemented only if their provisions are consistent with the achievement of our environmental and climate change commitments. Again, this is a positive amendment that will help us do what we set out to do and not hinder us. I am glad that subsection (5) outlines a range of commitments and agreements that are relevant to this amendment, including those to protect biodiversity and natural capital and to improve environmental quality, which has a direct impact on our quality of life. This is not limited to this list, so any new or updated commitments will also be relevant.
Amendment 21 requires that reports be made to Parliament. The first is
“a report that explains whether, or to what extent, the provisions of that international trade agreement … are consistent with” achieving our environmental or climate change commitments and maintaining the protections outlined in subsection (3)(b). A trade agreement is eligible for signature or ratification only once a report has been laid before Parliament. This is very important in protecting our health and environment by making sure that sustainability is not an afterthought. The amendment also requires that a report be made to Parliament within 12 months of ratifying an agreement or making regulations assessing its impact on our commitments. This shows we are committed to being green leaders and are taking our impact on the environment seriously. Furthermore, these reports will incentivise deals and stimulate greater collaboration; for instance, on developing green technologies.
We have great potential in advancing offshore wind, driving the growth of the hydrogen sector and accelerating the shift to zero-emission vehicles. Amendment 21 would enable us to grow the market for low-carbon goods and provide a level playing field for British businesses, because our industries will not be undermined by foreign industries that do not meet our standards. Now we are leaving the European Union, we should of course control our own green agenda, but we need to ensure that our trade agreements support us in doing so. As a businessman, I can see that supporting Amendments 14 and 21 is a sensible business decision and the Aldersgate Group, which represents many major businesses, has also shown its support. The Committee on Climate Change has shown that by 2030, the market for low-carbon goods will be worth more than £1 trillion a year. More and more frequently, consumers in the UK are considering the environmental impact of their purchases. Is it not time to make this a key part of our trade agreements? Together, Amendments 14 and 21 can strengthen our economic competitiveness and truly make us a global leader in the environmental field.
I know that the Government have said they are committed to protecting the environment and mitigating climate change, but I say again that these amendments will allow them to do so. I think that these are fair amendments and I hope that the Minister will consider supporting them.
My Lords, to pursue the analogy made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, earlier, that a nod is as good as a wink, I shall nudge my noble friend a little further as to whether these amendments, the contents of which I support in principle, are actually required.
I understand that sustainable development and protection and preservation of the environment are already fundamental goals of the World Trade Organization; they are enshrined in the Marrakesh agreement that established the World Trade Organization and they complement the World Trade Organization’s objective to reduce trade barriers and eliminate discriminatory treatment in international trade relations. So, while there may be no specific agreement dealing with the environment—and therefore, I understand, with climate change—under WTO rules, members can adopt trade-related measures aimed at protecting the environment, provided a number of conditions to avoid the misuse of such measures for protectionist ends are fulfilled. That is something that I welcome.
If, in the course of negotiating future free trade agreements, rather than rollover free trade agreements, this is something that other parties raise, would the Government look favourably upon it? We see that President Macron of France made a statement today, offering a referendum on climate change so that climate change will actually become part of the French constitution. This is something that seems to be happening among many of our erstwhile partners, so while I can see the thinking behind Amendment 14 on climate change obligations and Amendment 21 on environmental obligations, if this is already covered by the World Trade Organization itself, and protocols thereunder, is this needed, or is it implicit in what the Government’s approach to free trade agreements will be?
My Lords, there are very few doubters about climate change left in Parliament. I salute the efforts of the Government to reach the targets originally set out in Paris five years ago, but we all need to keep up the pressure. In Glasgow next year we will know whether the world as a whole has a chance of meeting the targets. The indications are that it will not unless considerable efforts are made by the USA, India and some countries in Europe which still depend on fossil fuels.
I was encouraged to hear about the forthcoming agreement with India, a country with which we will undoubtedly work well and closely on climate change. I support this amendment, which has been ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. It derives from my discussions about the recent UK-Japan agreement. I felt that the DIT was merely repeating the mantras of climate change. The EM said all the right things, but they are not in the agreement and nowhere are the parties committed to actual change. Indeed, the DIT has since admitted that the Japan agreement actually means that more greenhouse gases will arise from more economic activity. I had intended to say that in the debate on the agreement, but I was not able to take part in it.
It would have been good to see more practical examples, more encouragement of alternative energy sources such as electric vehicles, which were specifically requested in the evidence from the North East England Chamber of Commerce, as the Minister will remember, on behalf of car manufacturers in the area who will stand to benefit from this directly. The industry needs some encouragement. Does the Minister accept that there needs to be a lot more engagement on this issue in future agreements?
I spoke in Committee about new opportunities that are coming up in New Zealand and beyond, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Prime Minister is now sounding much more serious about climate change—inshallah—and that new enthusiasm should be reflected in all our trade agreements.
Finally, I was cheered to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, in his usual form on the previous amendment. He knows that, at this time, I am very sympathetic.
My Lords, I will be brief. I shall speak to Amendment 14 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Oates. It is a privilege to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, whose knowledge and experience is so impressive on these matters.
The issue of climate change is dominating our lives. It is already, quite rightly, impacting on the way we live, and will do so increasingly. The Government have set ambitious targets, as has already been mentioned, to reduce carbon emissions by banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions nationally by 2050. In the farming sector, the NFU has set a net zero target by 2040. These are challenging targets, but it is my impression that the farming sector, businesses generally and the wider public are now willing to try to rise to the challenge and find solutions in order to adapt and thus reduce our carbon footprint.
It would be bizarre indeed if, having committed to meet these targets, we completely ignored the carbon impact of imported products. Meeting the climate change targets will not be achieved without significant investment and added costs on the part of businesses and disruption to our lives generally. It would be inconsistent to place domestic industries in an uncompetitive position by importing products that are not subject to the same ambitions. Not only could that negate progress, it could lead to the undermining of innovation and investment, which would be to the detriment of the UK economy.
If we do not accept this principle, the Government risk being accused of delivering conflicting messages: a commitment to the climate change agenda and taking a leading role in COP 26 on the one hand and being willing to undermine the progress of our domestic industries by allowing the import of products that are not produced to the same ambitious standards on the other. I hope that the Minister will consider this important amendment.
My Lords, I support these two amendments. There is an overlap between them and the next ones tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed. As my noble friend on the Front Bench will remember, I highlighted the environment as one of the key areas in which ISDS could cause problems for the United Kingdom. I will say a little more about that in the debate on the next amendment.
Suffice to say on this amendment that we must realise that the trade deals we are making now will have a huge impact on each and every one of us. They are much more complicated than they were in the past. Some 80% of our fruit comes from Europe, along with 50% of our vegetables. If we do not have a sensible trade agreement with Europe which takes that into account, it will cause increased problems for the Prime Minister’s campaign against obesity and the problems that the poorest in our country are already suffering with malnutrition and poor-quality food. It is well known that obesity rates increased in both Canada and Mexico after signing free trade agreements with the United States of America because the nutritional quality of food was lower than before. These free trade agreements are going to impact on us in all sorts of ways.
I am reminded that when we discussed this Bill on the first day of Report, my noble friend Lord Grimstone said that public health considerations would be excluded by the Trade and Agriculture Commission, although reports about them would be taken into account. Perhaps I may therefore press my noble friend: who or which institution is going to provide those reports on public health? We do not know. Public Health England is about to die a death. Which organisation will produce those reports? That is important. The reason I raise this is because the words “human” or “public” health are included in the proposed new clause in subsection (3)(b) of Amendment 21.
The other important area when it comes to health is the traffic light system that we put on packages to notify people about the nutritional quality of food. We all know that the United States of America hates the idea of a traffic light system and thoroughly disagrees with it. However, if we are trying to improve the quality of the food that we eat and get rid of some of the dependency that we have on processed foodstuffs, the traffic light system, which is currently the subject of further discussion, will play a hugely important part in that. This was part of the discussion and recommendations made by the Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee, whose report we have yet to debate. However, if we do not get things like this right, we will pay a huge price, and it is for that reason that I support these amendments.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for supporting what I said on the earlier amendment. It encourages me greatly, because the campaign for our rejoining the European Union is gaining momentum day by day.
Returning to this amendment, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, I am also a member of Peers for the Planet, an excellent organisation, involving Peers from all parties, for raising awareness about the dangers of climate change. Indeed, it was the noble Baroness who recruited me to that organisation, and I agree with absolutely every word that she said and have very little to add.
Just to underline what the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, I add just one thing, in relation to the United States of America. It will now be much easier to have a trade deal with the United States that incorporates these requirements. The election of President-elect Biden—and we can all, I hope, rejoice in the fact that he has now been confirmed as the President-elect—is a great step forward in that regard. He has pledged that one of his first actions in office will be to rejoin the Paris climate change agreement, and the United States could therefore formally be a member of that agreement before the beginning of March 2021. His transition website suggests an aspiration for net zero by 2050, which is a great improvement even on what President Obama agreed. President-elect Biden has named former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special envoy for climate change, with a seat on the National Security Council. That is very important, because it underlines the fact that climate change is also a national security issue.
I look forward to being around, if not in, Glasgow next November and welcoming to Scotland and the United Kingdom delegates from all countries from around the world in the COP 26. I say “welcome to Scotland”—I know that the Minister will agree with me wholeheartedly on that. We hope, expect and believe that it will remain part of the United Kingdom for many years to come.
My Lords, these amendments are like that Christmas nightmare, whereby you anticipate a guest bringing—or perhaps this year sending through—a case of high-quality Yorkshire ales because they promised the Christmas booze, but what is in fact delivered is a small bar of chocolate liqueur.
I hear that even the chocolate liqueurs will not be put to the vote today. It is a shame that that opportunity has been missed, and I obviously share the blame for not tabling a stronger amendment, because the green case for Brexit is absolute. I appreciate that those will not be welcome words here in remain central. However, the case was put here, and in the other place, repeatedly—for example, of the car industry, and Toyota cars. A single part would cross the channel 25 times that way and 25 times back—50 journeys per car part. That was put as a case for why we should stay in the European Union, even when the people had voted to leave.
It struck me both before and after the referendum that the green case on manufacturing was absolute. The future winners competitively would be those countries that reconfigured their industry and services not to be global in terms of absolute requirements but to be localised. I have always shared Schumacher’s philosophy that small is beautiful. The worst entity for big and bold is beautiful was the European Union, with its entire structure dictated by trade across large borders. Now, as we leave, Parliament is obsessing again about trade agreements.
I want to see the new industries and technologies developed in this country. I want to see food and manufacturing parts not transposed over many borders and thousands of miles, because the planet cannot sustain that, as is self-evident, but localised supply chains and investment, and decisions by this place that facilitate that change—along with an energy policy not reliant on Russian gas and, thankfully, no longer reliant on Chinese coal. I look forward to celebrating that. I can see two of the last six coal power stations from my house. One has now shut down and I look forward to the second going. That is what these amendments should be about.
We got derided for saying “British jobs for British workers”. Perhaps the slogan should have been “Green jobs for a green economy”, with local markets and supply chains. Nevertheless, even with the little chocolate liqueur of greenness on offer, should there be boldness from the Liberal Democrats in putting the amendment to a vote, they will have my vote.
My Lords, I understand the arguments in support of these amendments, but I do not believe that it is in our interests to seek unduly to restrict the list of countries with which we may choose to enter into trade agreements. The more that we interact with and trade with less developed countries—those least able to comply with the climate obligations that we have undertaken—the more we will assist them to raise their populations out of poverty and become prosperous. It is only by becoming prosperous that they will be free to accord the same importance to emission reductions as we are able to do. Furthermore, how on earth can a Minister of the Crown make a statement to Parliament confirming that any agreement will not give rise to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions? The expectations of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and the co-signatories to the amendment are surely unrealistic.
Amendment 14 would be counterproductive and could limit the volume of trade with many developing countries, which would negatively impact their ability to introduce climate policies similar to our own. Amendment 21 is unnecessary and possibly counter- productive. We have rolled over continuity agreements with 59 countries, and none has eroded our domestic standards on the environment, food safety or animal welfare. I have not heard any noble Lord cite an example of a domestic standard that has been undermined or an international agreement not adhered to. In the case of food safety standards, it is for the Food Standards Agency to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high food safety standards and consumers are protected from unsafe food. Decisions on those standards are a matter for the UK and are made separately from any trade agreements. We are a world leader in environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety. Could my noble friend confirm that the Government are committed to maintaining those positions and that he agrees that these amendments are unnecessary and inappropriate?
My Lords, this has been a very good debate, and we have ranged far and wide across the issues raised originally by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and picked up later by the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Bennett, with their amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Oates, makes good points about future trade agreements needing to tie us to the net-zero carbon and other environmental standards that we have and points out the need for consistency of government policy across all the areas involved, not least trade, to achieve that. We need to think very carefully about how our new trading agreements, which the Government are very keen to see signed, and which we support, will use the climate change focus as they move forward.
When the Minister responds, he will undoubtedly say that we have very high standards and will never negotiate them away, but he must admit that the Agriculture Act 2020 has a non-regression clause covering environmental issues. So we look to him to reassure us that our standards are high and will not be diminished, but also to say why he is not prepared to see these broader issues, such as the environment and others, included in the Bill, because that seems to be how the Government are thinking with this policy.
Other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate have argued that we should do more than simply respect our own standards in the trade agreements and deals that we want to do. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, was very strong on the need to live up to our role as a leading advocate of decarbonisation and to lead the way for others. Again, her argument was that putting that in the Bill would be key, since it would show the world not only that we have the arguments and are practising what we preach but that we have a proselytising role to play in relation to the wider world.
It was good to hear the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry, supporting points that have been made in this debate—particularly the view of the noble Earl that there are very few doubters left in Parliament. He may be wrong about that; I think there are one or two scurrying around. He also points out that the department has a bit more to do before it is walking the walk. We should think about that. He made a good point about the recent agreement with Japan and the lack of alternative energy proposals within it. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, also made a good point about how not just farmers, whom he mentioned, but the wider public want the Government to reach further on this to find zero-carbon targets in all that they do—and that of course applies to imports.
I look forward to hearing the noble Lord’s response. He will understand that we think we will come back to this, perhaps not in the form of this amendment but on other related issues about non-regression of standards, as we progress through the Bill.
My Lords, Amendment 14 in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Purvis, alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, seeks to prevent the Government from signing international trade agreements or laying an international trade agreement under CRaG, unless they confirm to Parliament that the agreements are compliant with domestic and international environmental obligations.
I assure noble Lords that we remain firmly committed to upholding high environmental standards. We understand and share the public’s concern about protecting our natural environment. Having been lucky enough to visit both Antarctica and the high Arctic in the last five years, I can relate to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who cited Sir David Attenborough’s deep concerns about our planet. She is right and he is right. I have seen climate change for myself and it is real.
I take great pride in stating again that none of the 28 agreements signed with 57 countries has diluted standards in environmental protections. We have voluntarily published parliamentary reports for your Lordships’ reference, alongside every continuity agreement, which provide evidence of our commitment to environmental protection and sustainability. To be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Curry, over 130 hours of debate on the Bill and its 2017-19 predecessor, no Peer or Member of the other place has been able to identify a single example of any of our continuity agreements undermining our domestic or international environmental obligations. I do not believe that any example was provided in this debate either. My noble friend Lord Trenchard made this point in a powerful speech, and I believe he is right.
The Government have been very clear that any future trade agreements must uphold high standards in the protection of the environment. We will not compromise on this. I remind your Lordships that the EU (Withdrawal) Act already provides legislative underpinning by transferring the EU’s rigorous standards on environmental protection and sustainability on to the UK statute book in full. Our high regulatory standards are not dependent on EU membership.
The remarks of my noble friends Lady McIntosh and Lord Trenchard hinted at our approach. We are using trade policy to promote the clean growth and climate change objectives of Her Majesty’s Government, helping to deliver the full economic benefit of the UK’s shift to a low-carbon economy. The energy White Paper, published just this week, underlines our ambition in this space, and your Lordships will be aware that a Statement will be repeated in the House tomorrow on this very subject.
The UK has often been a leader in the development of environmental standards, and we go significantly further than our trading partners. The UK was the first country in the world to introduce legally binding greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets through the Climate Change Act 2008. We were also the first major economy in the world to set a legally binding target to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 2050. In our outline approaches to free trade agreements with the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, we have committed to securing provisions that will help trade in low-carbon goods and services, supporting R&D and innovation in sectors such as offshore wind. My noble friend Lord Sheikh cited the importance of this sector in his remarks.
The UK is already a global leader in offshore wind, with the largest installed capacity in the world. The UK aims to produce enough offshore wind to power every home, quadrupling how much we produce to 40 gigawatts by 2030. The UK could also establish a first-mover opportunity to develop advanced operations and maintenance services in wind farm decommissioning, which could become a £53 billion market by 2050.
Additionally, as many noble Lords are already aware, on
These are not the actions of a Government intent on reducing environmental standards—far from it. This is one of the most ambitious climate agendas in the world. I wholly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Oates, who said that we just offer warm words on climate change and no action plans. He could not be further from the truth on this. I was particularly pleased to see that the former Vice-President Al Gore, either today or yesterday, praised the UK’s leadership in banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.
I remind your Lordships that we are seeking only to replicate EU trade agreements to which we already enjoy access. If this amendment applied to our continuity programme, it would result in up to 40 ministerial Statements, all of which would be nearly identical, confirming that we are replicating the status quo.
Amendment 21 is in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Boycott. As I have explained, our continuity agreements, the implementation of which is provided for by the Bill, are fully aligned with environmental obligations such as the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris climate change conference, and will remain so, as the Bill seeks to replicate existing EU agreements. It is indeed good news that President-elect Biden has iterated his support for the Paris Agreement, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, remarked.
ClientEarth, the Trade Justice Movement, the NFU, the CBI and others all agree with the objectives of this work. As set out in the 25-year environment plan, our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than we found it. As I reassured your Lordships not long ago, our continuity agreements are in full compliance with every other international convention named in the amendment, whether it was passed at the UN level or through other multilateral fora.
This amendment would also require the publication of an environmental report for every continuity agreement that we signed, and then additional update reports to be tabled every 12 months. This would result in over 100 reports over the lifespan of this Parliament, for a set of continuity agreements that simply replicate existing FTAs to which we are already a party. Surely noble Lords will agree that this is neither necessary nor proportionate. I listened carefully to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, but I will have to write to my noble friend Lord Caithness, who asked questions about what the reports were, where they were coming from and whether they would report on health and the environment. I pledge to do that.
We already publish a parliamentary report alongside each agreement laid under CRaG, setting out our approach to delivering continuity, and will continue to do so for all remaining continuity agreements that we sign. These reports confirm our replication of sustainability chapters in EU agreements.
The Government have always been clear that we are wholly committed to the preservation and improvement of the environment. The continuity agreements we have signed thus far maintain our commitment to vigorously defending and upholding environmental standards. As such, I ask the noble Lord and noble Baroness not to press their amendments.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate for their contributions, and I thank the Minister for his response. He said that no evidence had been offered that the Government had ever not met their obligations, but the Government’s own impact assessment of the recent trade agreement with Japan, for example, says that this will lead to a rise—albeit a small one—in greenhouse gas emissions. That does not seem to me to be the way we should be using trade: we need to use it to bring down emissions. He also said that it was unfair to say the Government did not have action plans. The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, admitted to me following a question from the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, a few weeks ago that the Government did not have a credible short-term action plan and that, according to Hansard, one would be forthcoming soon. So I am not sure about the Minister’s point on that.
The Minister did not address the important point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. She was referring, I think, to Section 42 of the agriculture Act under which the Government are required to report that measures in an FTA are consistent with the maintenance of levels of statutory protection in relation to a number of issues, one of which is the environment. Could the Minister please tell us definitively—or he can write to us—whether, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, asked, that covers climate change, because that is important?
It will not be a surprise to hear that I do not really agree with a word that the noble Lord, Lord Mann, said. As I set out in my opening remarks, I believe in free trade—that it has brought many benefits and raised many people in the world out of poverty. I do not take the protectionist approach that he does, but I share his regret that he did not table his own amendments and I look forward to seeing them at future points in the Bill.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, we led the world with the Climate Change Act and we could lead the world again as the champions of free, fair and green trade. As she said, words and targets may be positive—I do not decry for a moment that we have set these very positive targets—but as long as they are just targets, they are just words. What we need now is action across the piece, including on trade. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 14 withdrawn.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 15. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once, and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this, or anything else in this group to a Division, must make that clear in the debate.