New Clause 1 - Carbon emissions in local authority areas

Energy Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 21st June 2011.

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‘(1) The Committee on Climate Change shall advise the Secretary of State about the contribution to emissions reduction needed in local authority areas to meet each national carbon budget.

(2) The advice given under subsection (1) should include but not be limited to—

(a) carbon emissions from a local authority’s own buildings and operations;

(b) carbon emissions from the local area;

(c) local renewable energy generation;

(d) national carbon reduction initiatives delivered at the local level.

(3) The Committee on Climate Change may advise the Secretary of State on local level adaptation to climate change.

(4) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a response to the advice given by the Committee on Climate Change under subsection (1) or (2), within six months of receiving the advice.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

(a) “budgetary period”, “carbon budget” and “national authorities” have the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008;

(b) “local authority” means a county council or district Council in England, or a London Borough Council, or the Council of the Isles of Scilly.’.—(Gregory Barker.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 2—Climate change strategy for local authority areas—

‘(1) Local authorities must develop and promote a climate change strategy for their local area.

(2) In preparing the strategy, local authorities must take into account any advice given by the Committee on Climate Change on local action to meet carbon budgets.

(3) In preparing the strategy, local authorities must consult with local residents, businesses, social enterprises and co-operatives and other institutions.

(4) Local authorities must publish and promote their local climate change strategy, publish an annual report on progress towards carrying out the strategy and engage with local citizens and community groups.

(5) The Secretary of State must work with local authorities and the Local Government Association (LGA) to assist them in producing and implementing their climate change strategies, taking into account any relevant advice from the Committee on Climate Change.’.

New clause 28—Sustainable energy plans—

‘(1) A local authority must consider whether the drawing up and publishing of a sustainable energy plan would have either of the following effects, namely to—

(a) increase its efficiency regarding; or

(b) in any other way assist with the discharge of its functions.

(2) If in the opinion of a local authority the drawing up and publishing of a sustainable energy plan would—

(a) have either of the effects specified in subsection (1); and

(b) assist with the purposes of this Act then it must draw up, publish and implement a sustainable energy plan.

(3) Without prejudice to the generality a plan must specify the steps that the local authority proposes to take to promote—

(a) energy efficiency;

(b) microgeneration;

(c) renewable energy;

(d) combined heat and power; and

(e) cost effective action with or by residents, local organisations or businesses that would assist with the reduction of greenhouse gases, the achievement of energy security or the mitigation of fuel poverty.

(4) A plan prepared by a local authority may—

(a) request such new functions as in the opinion of the council would enable it to make a greater contribution to achieving the objectives specified in subsection (2); and

(b) make a recommendation to the Secretary of State for a transfer of functions from another body to itself provided that no such recommendation may be made unless the council has consulted the person to whose functions it relates.

(5) Within 6 months of receiving any request pursuant to subsection (4)(a) or recommendation pursuant to subsection (4)(b) the Secretary of State must—

(a) either adopt and implement, or take the necessary steps to commence the process of implementation,

(b) or reject the request or recommendation and in either case shall give reasons for his decision.

(6) Where any functions are conferred or transferred pursuant to this section, the Secretary of State shall ensure that the monies necessary for the discharge of those functions are provided or transferred.

(7) Any principal council on which functions are conferred or to which functions are transferred under this section must determine how the functions are then performed.

(8) Where the Secretary of State is spending money in an area covered by a plan in order to achieve any of the objectives specified in section (1), and in this opinion—

(a) any measure contained in a plan is a more efficient way of achieving his objectives; and

(b) offers better value, then he shall provide resources for the principal council to implement those measures in its plan.

(9) Where any person submits to his local authority a proposal that would in the opinion of the authority be a cost effective method of assisting with—

(a) the reduction of greenhouse gases, or

(b) the achievement of energy security, or

(c) the mitigation of fuel poverty, the authority must include that proposal in any plan prepared pursuant to this section or, if it has not prepared such a plan, implement the proposal.’.

New clause 29—Communal schemes—

‘(1) Local housing authorities shall be empowered to arrange, with green deal providers, energy saving schemes that cover the whole or a part of housing estates, roads, districts or other local communities. They will negotiate on behalf of improvers so as to obtain savings that arise from economies of scale, which will be passed on to individual improvers.’.

New clause 46—Local carbon budgets—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall—

(a) within 12 months of this Bill receiving Royal Assent, report to Parliament with proposals for the introduction of a system of local carbon budgets consistent with meeting national Climate Change Act 2008 carbon budgets;

(b) introduce the local carbon budget system to begin at the start of the second national carbon budget period;

(c) report to Parliament annually about the contribution of local strategies to meeting UK Climate Change Act carbon budgets;

(d) determine circumstances in which two or more councils may develop a joint strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in their areas.

(2) The Secretary of State shall request advice from the Committee on Climate Change about—

(a) the scale of action need in local authority areas to help meet UK Climate Change Act carbon budgets;

(b) climate mitigation and adaptation policies that are effective when locally coordinated by councils;

(c) ensuring that individual local carbon budgets are both appropriate for the circumstances of different local areas and that the totality of all local carbon budgets is consistent with the requirements of subsection (1)(a).

(3) The proposals to be reported under subsection (1) shall include a duty on local authorities to—

(a) develop a strategy, through consultation with those groups and individuals listed in subsection (3)(b), for cutting greenhouse gas emissions across their local area in line with meeting their local carbon budget;

(b) work in partnership with local residents, businesses and stakeholders, including social enterprises and co-operatives, community groups, schools and hospitals, and other institutions in drawing up and implementing the strategy detailed in (3)(a);

(c) wherever possible, develop proposals consistent with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in their local authority area of 90 per cent. by 2030, compared to 1990 emissions levels;

(d) publish and promote an annual report on progress towards meeting their local carbon budget; and

(e) request additional powers or financial support from the Secretary of State as they consider necessary to meet the duty set in section (2), which shall not be unreasonably withheld.

(4) Any regulations or order made under section (1) shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by, resolution of each House of Parliament.’.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Thank you, Mr Leigh. After that energetic burst of legislating, this group of new clauses deals with the role of local authorities in addressing climate change and delivering the green deal. I cannot agree more that local authorities have a vital role to play if we are to meet our national carbon reduction targets and maximise the benefits of the green deal. I will therefore inform the Committee of what we are doing to ensure that all local authorities step up to the plate.

I note that there is already considerable enthusiasm among many local authorities to engage with the climate change agenda, which is embodied in the memorandum of understanding between my Department and the Local Government Group. Many councils are already making great strides on the agenda, and I am delighted that under the memorandum of understanding the Nottingham declaration partnership plans to make a new declaration on climate change in the autumn.

The original declaration covered more than 90% of councils, and I understand that the new declaration will enable local authorities to set self-imposed carbon reduction ambitions and demonstrate that councils can take the lead without central Government intervention. That should give us considerable confidence on the role that councils will play, but we have reflected on the issues raised in earlier discussions on the Bill.

I am mindful of the potential need to have some mechanism at our disposal to encourage all councils to play a full part. That is why I have decided to retain the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, as we discussed under amendments 66, 67, 75 and 81. Much of the effectiveness of HECA will lie in the guidance that DECC provides. That will give us the opportunity to work with the grain of the voluntary activity already under way but also, where appropriate, to focus with greater discipline on councils through the guidance on the specific areas set out in our new proposals.

The principle of the Committee on Climate Change

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

On a point of order, Mr Leigh. I do not want to be a pain in the neck—I know that I am sometimes—but the new clauses were tabled in the names of Back Benchers and Opposition Front Benchers in the expectation that the Minister would respond to their points. We are hearing a peroration in anticipation of points that may be raised subsequently. Is that correct? If it is, I am fine with that.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission

I apologise. I think that it is my fault; I should have called other members of the Committee first, but everyone will have a chance to speak. The Minister will say his piece now, and then I will call the Opposition and the Minister can reply, but everyone will have their chance.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I assure the hon. Member for Ogmore that I am acting only at the direction of the Chair. I am happy to respond again, as I have on previous occasions in this rather free-wheeling Committee.

The principle of the Committee on Climate Change providing advice on local emissions to assist local authorities in setting their ambitions, as set out in new clause 1, could be explored further. I am pleased to say that, as I alluded to earlier in our proceedings, in the past few days I have written to Lord Turner, the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, to explore his initial views on the role that his Committee might play in providing such advice. In light of his reply, I will be happy to say more on Report, if not before.

On the formalities of obtaining such advice, section 38 of the Climate Change Act 2008 establishes a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to provide advice, analysis, information or other assistance when asked by Ministers or Ministers of the devolved Administrations. Under section 14, the Secretary of State must report to Parliament on carbon budgets and on proposals and policies for meeting them. Statutory provision to that effect is therefore unnecessary.

The spirit of the new clause is in tune with existing powers and the coalition’s policies. Those existing powers and our proposals to retain and reinvigorate HECA can achieve what, in principle, new clauses 1, 28 and 46 seek. Ultimately, we are on the same page on this important issue.

Turning to new clause 28, I note that a similar amendment was moved in another place. As I have noted, the action already under way and the proposal to retain HECA can deliver a great deal of what that new clause seeks. I would add, however, that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government introduced the Localism Bill to provide councils and local residents with greater freedom to deliver local priorities, without Whitehall directing them on what they must and must not do and how.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Will the Minister clarify whether part of his objection to this group of well-intentioned new clauses is the fear of over-regulation placing burdens further down the line?

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

What is the Minister’s response to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to whom he just referred, who has been reported in the papers yesterday and today as describing opponents of environmental regulation as “zealots”? Surely, he is not referring to members of his own Front-Bench team.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

No, I do not think that he is. Once again, the hon. Gentleman is correct; the answer is contained in his question, and I thank him for that.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Perhaps I can extend my Aristotelian logic to ask what the problem is with the group of new clauses. If they do not significantly increase burdens and if they simply put in place what the Minister is trying to do, clearly they are sensible. If environmental legislation is sometimes necessary—the Secretary of State thinks that such legislation is often necessary—why are the new clauses unnecessary?

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

If I was asked to define a zealot, I would probably look across the Committee aisle, because that is where I would see the zealot for new legislation and unnecessary additions to the statute book.

As I hope that I have explained to the Committee, the broad thrust of the new clauses is contained in existing legislation, and it would be zealotry, to coin a phrase, to try to gold-plate that by introducing a further layer of unnecessary statutory complexity. We will not shrink from legislating where necessary and will do so, but we take a far more sensible approach to the burdens that legislation can impose and therefore will not legislate where it is not needed or called for. Although we are on the same page in relation to what we are trying to achieve, we think that, in this instance, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are in danger of being over-zealous in their attempts to write this into the statute book.

On new clause 29, I thank the hon. Member for Norwich South for highlighting the benefits that can be gained from rolling out energy efficiency programmes across whole communities. Many examples of the benefits of doing that can be found across the country, because local authorities and housing authorities already have powers to do so. I fully expect to see many more such measures under the green deal, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that nothing in the Bill or, so far as I am aware, in any legislation prevents that.

I appreciate the sentiment behind the amendments and understand the concerns that members of the Committee will no doubt express. I share their ambition, but we believe that, on balance, nothing further needs to go on to the statute book, because good provision is already available on the issues.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I am delighted to be able to speak to new clauses 1 and 2, which are designed to work together to ensure that local authorities draw up local carbon plans. I will explain later why the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 and the current legislation do not do exactly that. The plans under new clauses 1 and 2 would be based on data from the Committee on Climate Change and would, in effect, be a road map for how a locality would reduce its carbon emissions.

In a letter to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt), Lord Turner, the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, estimates that drawing up that advice would take it about three months. Nationally, the Government would work with councils to ensure that the net scale of the local emissions reduction was sufficient to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets. The proposals are not intended to place unnecessary burdens on local councils or to create meaningless targets; they are simply a logical extension of our national emission reduction policies to ensure that they are delivered locally.

The UK has ambitious emissions reduction targets, thanks to the Climate Change Act 2008. In the fourth carbon budget a few weeks ago, the current Government  extended them until 2030, following the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. Setting national targets, however, is relatively easy. The real challenge is to ensure that the targets are met in a way that is realistic and fair. That is what these new clauses are about—fairness. Without local plans, it will fall to national Government to determine how emission reductions will be divided across the country. We could therefore easily end up with arbitrary targets imposed from the centre, with little regard for local communities, circumstances or economies. Local carbon plans, by comparison, would offer a reasonable and flexible approach to reducing emissions. Rather than bureaucratic Government telling local authorities, “You must do this,” this is about local communities saying, “We can do this.”

The idea is not new. In January 2010, the previous Labour Government introduced a pilot programme involving nine councils, and campaign groups such as Friends of the Earth have been long-standing supporters of the idea. For many councils the plans would build on the work that they are already doing. From pledging to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2020, to rolling out grant-funded renewable installation schemes, councils of all political colours—from Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Brighton, Islington, West Sussex and Bristol—are leading the way.

In Manchester, “A Certain Future” is a fantastic action plan for the entire city. Everyone has their part to play and its successful delivery will rely on the entire city working together, whether home owners, community groups, businesses or public agencies. The plan was written by more than 100 organisations and outlines how the city can reduce its emissions by 41% by 2020.

In Birmingham, the energy savers scheme is a city-wide energy efficiency and renewable energy scheme led by the city council, so it has a different colour from that of Manchester. The scheme will eventually be extended to up to 100,000 home owners and 100 businesses. Residents and businesses are offered loans to improve the energy efficiency of their property—similar to the green deal—together with free solar panels, and they therefore benefit from cheaper energy bills. The loans are repaid as energy bills come down, and the council and its partners collect the feed-in tariffs for the solar panels, so the scheme is self-financing.

Although some councils, such as Manchester and Birmingham, are making good progress, considering that around 80% of our emissions come from local activity, it is clear that other councils across the country need to do more. We need every council to do its bit. Indeed, the Minister said only about an hour ago that all councils must take action, “not just the keenest.”

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park 12:30 pm, 21st June 2011

Does the hon. Lady know how much of that 80% is in the power of the local authority, as opposed to simply happening in a local area?

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I will provide further detail later about what proportion of that figure comes from business and small businesses—it is estimated to be 20% to 30%. If we consider Manchester, it produced a carbon plan in  concert with businesses, and everyone signed up to it. If hon. Members look at how the scheme is working, it is a fantastic example of how local authorities, businesses, communities and housing associations are working together to deliver energy efficiency targets and emission reductions.

I am hopeful that the amendments will receive wide support from the rest of the Committee. The hon. Member for Norwich South is a long-standing supporter of local carbon plans. Indeed, just last week, I was reading an article in the Eastern Daily Press that details how the hon. Gentleman signed a Friends of the Earth pledge during the general election campaign calling for the introduction of local carbon budgets. He is in very good company. The hon. Member for Richmond Park signed the very same pledge before the election. I remind those Members that they pledged to support:

“A local carbon budget for every local authority: that caps CO2 in the local area in line with the scientific demands for emissions cuts and local circumstances.”

In April last year, the Energy Secretary also declared his support for the pledge. He said that he pledged to support:

“A local carbon budget for every local authority: that caps CO2 in the local area in line with the scientific demands for emissions cuts and local circumstances.”

Just last November, the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle said:

“We need local people, local authorities, local communities to be empowered. In order to be really empowered they need the right information, they need to understand how that locks into the national picture and local carbon budgets are going to be a key part of that.”

As well as cross-party support in Westminster, these proposals have a broad range of support across local government. In March, 40 council leaders from all parties called for the introduction of local carbon plans.

It is not just political support. The Federation of Small Businesses, which is not normally a supporter of environmental measures, backs proposals for local carbon budgets. It argues that SMEs understand that action to cut energy can save them money, but that they need a framework to help galvanise action. It says:

“Small businesses are keen to go green but are not getting the help or incentives they need to do so”.

It says that they need

“a framework that is flexible and supportive to encourage small business rather than penalise them.”

Local carbon budgets provide such a framework. They provide certainty about the scale of carbon reductions locally, while retaining flexibility for the local authority in how they go about leading those cuts. As well as Friends of the Earth, which I mentioned earlier, the FSB, the TUC , Good Energy, B&Q and the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition all support councils taking the lead in driving action to tackle climate change and create low-carbon jobs.

It is vital that businesses play a key part in tackling climate change. According to the FSB, as I said in response to the hon. Member for Richmond Park, at least one third of the UK’s emissions are from business, and the Carbon Trust estimates that 20% of the UK’s emissions are from SMEs. The FSB also calculates that,  if all UK businesses and public sector organisations undertook energy efficiency measures, at least £3.6 billion could be saved every year.

As well as helping business to cut energy usage and reduce costs, estimates of the potential for low-carbon job creation are significant. According to DECC, the global market for low-carbon goods and services stands at an estimated £3 trillion, and is estimated to grow to more than £4.3 trillion by 2015. This growing market represents huge opportunities for every part of the UK. The LGA estimates that meeting the 15% renewables target could generate between 122,000 and 133,000 jobs in the manufacturing, construction and operation of the new technology. More significantly, research by Carbon Descent estimates that 70,000 jobs could be created throughout local government areas in domestic energy efficiency and renewable energy if all local authorities set about reducing emissions in their local areas by at least 40% by 2020, which is what the councils involved in the pilot are already doing. Given that potential, and as the idea of local carbon budgets is not new, I am surprised that the Government did not propose them in the Bill, especially as the proposals could complement the green deal.

We will hear more from other hon. Members about their proposed new clauses in a moment, but I will refer to them. First, new clause 28 includes a more prescriptive plan than ours, but it does not mandate all local authorities to produce local carbon plans, leaving the same problem of councils being able to opt out. I refer to the Minister’s comments again: we are not looking only for “the keenest” to take part but for all councils throughout the country to do so. Nor does new clause 28 ask the Committee on Climate Change to provide information on how councils would go about drawing up their plans, as the Government have scrapped the national indicator set for local government, which recorded such information. We agree with the aims of the new clause, but its proposals would not be as effective as ours, because without the data from the Committee on Climate Change, they would not be workable in practice.

We would like to support the plans in new clause 29 tabled by the hon. Member for Norwich South, but we are keen to hear what he has to say and will need some reassurance that the approach would not be so prescriptive as to override the rights of home owners and tenants. We are keen to know how his new clause would work. Would it be along the same lines as a compulsory purchase order, when councils can override the wishes of local residents? Might that approach lead to houses being renovated when the owners or tenants did not want that to happen? Has the Minister considered such an approach, and what discussions have taken place?

New clause 46 was tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion. It is largely similar to our new clause, with more detail about how the plans would be drawn up. We have left more flexibility to ensure that the plans are based on advice from the Committee on Climate Change, but we support her new clause.

In conclusion, a change in local action is needed if we are to meet our national emissions targets. The vast majority of UK emissions—around 80%—result from local activity: how we heat and power homes and workplaces and how we get around. As well as getting the big national decisions right, reducing local energy use is critical. Local action to cut carbon is cost-effective.  Just as importantly, local people, businesses and institutions such as schools and hospitals will be able to shape their own low-carbon futures. Local government should be at the heart of our low-carbon drive. We must not allow some councils to be left behind. We need everyone pulling in the right—and the same—direction. We want all councils to take action and, again, not only “the keenest”. The challenge of climate change is too grave and urgent to be left to those councils that choose to prioritise action.

The nationwide system will support councils, ensure our emissions come down in every locality and boost the take-up of the green deal. We have heard the Minister’s response but, for reasons I have given, I urge him to reconsider and to support our proposals. I also hope that those Members who signed the pre-election Friends of the Earth pledge in support of local carbon budgets will support our new clauses.

Photo of Tessa Munt Tessa Munt Liberal Democrat, Wells

The aim of new clause 28 is to give local citizens and their councils a key role in drawing up sustainable energy plans for their areas. The Government support localism and recognise the importance of community initiatives. However, the Bill does not establish a clear role of that kind for councils. I hope that the Minister’s words will give a clear indication that DECC is minded to consider the matter. In the House of Lords, Lord Marland certainly gave a positive account of the new clause:

“Having heard the arguments…we are going to consider inserting…a new clause under which local authorities will be required to produce a sustainable energy plan to help in rolling out the Green Deal.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 26 January 2011; Vol. 724, c. GC231.]

The provision is meant as a friendly proposal that enables local authorities to draw up sustainable energy plans if they think that is a cost-effective way of dealing with climate change if, for example, there is a cash saving. The measure also enables them to come up with ideas, which is localism in its purest form, which can be implemented if they are cost-effective. I draw on the fact that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government said when introducing the Localism Bill:

“This long-awaited new power will mean that rather than needing to rely on specific powers, councils will have the legal reassurance and confidence to innovate and drive down costs to deliver more efficient services.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2010; Vol. 520, c. 64WS.]

That is the spirit in which the new clause was tabled.

Photo of Simon Wright Simon Wright Liberal Democrat, Norwich South

I will speak very briefly. New clause 29 is effectively a probing measure in recognition of the fact that our strongest potential partners in delivering the green deal across communities are local councils. They know their areas better than anyone else, from the estates within their districts down to the individual roads. They know better than the utilities or other providers where to focus their efforts, which is why it is important to involve them and to expect them to be drivers of change within communities.

I was encouraged by the Minister’s comments today and in previous sittings about local authorities’ enthusiasm for playing a role in delivering the green deal and acting as providers. I am encouraged by the announcement  today about retaining the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 and about the guidance to local authorities that will be issued. Further detail will appear in secondary legislation. It is important to remember that one reason why local authorities are so important is that they are trusted by their communities. They can play a fundamental role in strengthening consumer confidence in the green deal from day one. My concern before our debate was that a handful of pioneering local councils would take the lead but that the majority would not. I have been reassured by much of what I have heard today.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said and the spirit in which his new clause was tabled. Will he address directly the issue of whether he supports the other new clauses, which are in line with the Friends of the Earth commitment that he made before the election?

Photo of Simon Wright Simon Wright Liberal Democrat, Norwich South

I will not support the other new clauses if they are pressed to a vote. I certainly supported Friends of the Earth in its efforts to ensure that local authorities play a fundamental role and I have been encouraged by some of the comments that I have heard. I have also been encouraged by the fact that the Minister is in discussions with the Committee on Climate Change. I am content with what I have heard today. I look forward to seeing the thousands or tens of thousands of households in Norwich benefiting from the green deal. I will work with the local council in my area to ensure that those plans are taken forward locally within the communities so that estates across Norwich benefit from this plan. I thank the Minister for his comments today and I look forward to the conclusions of these debates.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

Let me start by saying that although I tabled new clause 46, I fully support new clauses 1 and 2, and my clause complements them. New clause 46 focuses slightly more on a mandatory target and gives some more detail. That is because if we are to measure progress, build on best practice and deliver real results, we need targets, not just strategies.

The Minister spoke earlier of the success of voluntary initiatives and said that there was no need for any further statutory duties. I argue that the urgency around climate change means that we must meet targets even more quickly, even more ambitiously and even more certainly than is now the case. That is why I believe that we need further measures.

There are many examples of councils already delivering inspiring projects to cut emissions. At the end of 2009, a report highlighted some of the best examples of that work. In Kirklees, for example, the local authority delivered an energy efficiency scheme called the warm zone. That programme offered free loft and cavity wall insulation to every household in the area. It created at least 80 local jobs and brought an estimated £50 million of economic benefit to the local area by retrofitting more than 60,000 homes. The scheme received £11 million of support from Scottish Power. That funding was centrally mandated by the Government’s CERT scheme, but Kirklees actively shaped it to boost both local energy saving and regeneration.

That kind of example shows the possible win-win situations: it is good for emissions reduction, for jobs and for tackling fuel poverty. However, in order to have that kind of programme rolled out with the necessary ambition, the new clauses are needed. It is clear that many local authorities have the will to make important contributions, but new clause 46 seeks to take that best practice and roll it out across the country.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons) 12:45 pm, 21st June 2011

Does the hon. Lady agree that it is not the many who want to do this that is the real worry; it is the few who may not? We are aware that the debate in this country has been polarised, and there are people in this country who do not believe that climate change is a reality. Another issue facing councils is that if they are not mandated, it will be another thing that they must deal with at a time when they are facing huge economic pressures. They might prioritise other things.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. One advantage of the approach that I am setting out is precisely that it demonstrates that there are good economic, as well as environmental, reasons for such work. Those two things come together beautifully, but to ensure that all local councils realise that and take the proposal up, we need more of a boost behind it, which is exactly what the new clauses seek to do.

If the UK is to play its part in preventing mean global surface temperatures from rising by more than 2° C, all councils will need to act with more ambition. The latest science suggests that we should be staying below a 1.5° C increase, which is a fearsomely ambitious target. If we are to meet that, we need greater urgency than is presumed by the current legislation.

Local councils have a particular responsibility for some of the sectors where they can deliver the quickest and easiest wins, such as local transport, where the changes are relatively low cost and pain free. If they are not given the powers and support necessary to do that, the Government will have more work to do at a national level, which is often harder and more expensive.

The Minister will no doubt see my new clause as a top-down imposition on local authorities, but I stress that that simply is not the case. Local carbon budgets, which are supported by council leaders of the three largest parties, may require local authorities to have a tough target, but they leave the means of delivering it to local decision makers. What is more, new clause 46 explicitly states that the Secretary of State cannot unreasonably refuse a request for

“additional powers or financial support” from a local authority seeking to meet its target.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

The hon. Lady raises a good point in her peroration. New clauses 1, 2 and 46 are not seeking to prescribe how the proposal would be delivered locally. How best to act is left up to local determination, including where the optimum generation of jobs and economic opportunities would be. If that were in transport, energy generation or any other area, it would be locally determined. It is localism in action. It is simply a logical extension of what we have just done with signing off the fourth carbon budget.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

The hon. Gentleman is exactly right. Of course, people at a local level are best placed to know where they can make those win-win decisions. The new clauses would build on that.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

What should happen to those local authorities that fail to meet the budgets imposed on them or set? What would be the sanction?

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

We have not set out specific sanctions; I do not think it the right place to put them. Debate and discussion between local councils and national Government would be needed to work out why local authorities have failed to meet targets. There are plenty of examples and there is a range of legislation that could be looked at for suitable sanctions. I seek to set the principle rather than get to that level of detail. It is important for the hon. Gentleman to make the point. Unless there is a degree of sanction, the bite that I seek to achieve in proposed new clause 46 would not be there. I envisage sanctions, but the discussion about what they should be is for another time.

Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine Conservative, Winchester

I have listened carefully to the hon. Lady, as always. To follow on from the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park, could that sanction be financial on a local council that did not comply with the top-down targets?

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

I am reluctant to go down the road of deciding what kind of sanctions there should be. I imagine that for some local councils, one reason why they might not have reached their target is resource constraint. In that case, it might be counter-productive to levy a further fine, so I am not suggesting that. I urge hon. Members not to get down to that nitty-gritty, but to stay at the level of principle.

Photo of Huw Irranca-Davies Huw Irranca-Davies Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I agree entirely: these new clauses go to the point of principle. In the spirit of much of the Bill, we can deal with those issues in secondary legislation after consultation. That includes how we would deal with local authorities that have been very progressive—including my own of Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot, where they have invested extensively, not only in energy generation but energy efficiency, demand reduction and so on. We could discuss when we consider secondary legislation how to recognise appropriately what has been done within the past few years, and whether that can be done, but not here when discussing the Bill.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

The hon. Gentleman is right. There is an irony, considering the vagueness from the Government about so much of the legislation, that now there is a sudden desire to drill down to a level of detail that we have frankly not reached in any other debate so far.

I return to my key point: the urgency of the need to cut emissions means that we are beyond the point, I hope, of debating whether there should be strong targets for cutting emissions locally. Instead, we should be discussing who is best placed to ensure that those greenhouse gas savings are delivered most equitably and efficiently. That is where I agree again with the hon. Member for Ogmore. Local authorities are best placed to ensure that local climate change strategies are tailored to the needs of local communities.

Many others support that view. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree cited a number of eminent people from across the political spectrum who support the principle of carbon budgets. I would add Louise Goldsmith, the Conservative leader of West Sussex county council, who makes it clear that

“Local carbon budgets would not be another top-down directive. They would provide an essential framework to help councils respond to a global challenge with locally tailored solutions.”

Indeed, in 2007, the Local Government Association’s climate change commission stated that

“Our unanimous view at present is that a statutory duty should be imposed on those councils that, within the next two years, do not respond to climate change.”

That was passed four years ago. In all, around 40 council leaders have come out in favour of local carbon budgets.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Is the hon. Lady aware that the council in the Prime Minister’s constituency supports local carbon budgets?

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Leader of the Green Party

I was not aware of that, but I am happy to be alerted to that fact. That being the case, it will focus the minds of Ministers.

I will draw my comments to a conclusion because I think we are all driving in the same direction. It is interesting that council leaders from all the main parties, the Federation of Small Businesses, unions, business, the Secretary of State—quoted by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree—are all saying that this is a good idea. Now that we have the opportunity to translate all these fine words into action and into legislation, it would be immensely irresponsible, if not hypocritical, not to do so. I hope that the Minister takes the proposals very seriously.

Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

I shall make a few remarks on new clauses 1 and 2. I agree with many of the Opposition’s comments about the importance of local carbon reduction plans. My own area, Dudley, is not cited in any of the examples of councils that are commonly regarded as way out ahead. I speak up for the area, however, because it is a strong follower. In ’08 it established the Dudley climate change group, which hopes to have reduced emissions by 3% by the end of the year, and it is becoming more ambitious.

Opposition Members have discussed the importance of getting business on board, the employment imperative and the business sense that that all makes. The incentives offered by the green deal itself add to the momentum that will get behind the mission. On the business side, a company in my constituency, Overton Recycling Ltd, has contracts with various authorities for plastics recycling, among other things. I have been working with the company to try to get more local authorities in the surrounding areas to use it to recycle plastics, but some of them are still sending plastics to Africa. It cannot be right, but I detect some movement.

In his usual persuasive style, the hon. Member for Ogmore very nearly sweet-talked me into supporting new clause 1. I had to resist, however, because although we are almost in a bubble in this enjoyable Committee, the Government have a wider strategy, of which I am a wholehearted supporter. We want to use incentives and  encouragement, we want to bring together many parties with an interest in our direction of travel, and we want to move away from setting targets for everything.

Luciana Berger rose—

Claire Perry (Devizes) (Con) rose—

Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

I shall give way to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree, because I saw her first.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

What, does the hon. Lady believe, are the incentives in the Government’s provisions on HECA? How does HECA deal adequately with local carbon budgets and the proposals in our new clauses?

Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

There are incentives in HECA, and at least we are retaining it. However, the essence of the green deal initiative is that local authorities can deliver some of their other business and employment objectives by becoming a partner. As the Minister said, there is nothing to stop local authorities from becoming a partner in the green deal, so a number of incentives to stimulate the right action are inherent in the Bill.

Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry Conservative, Devizes

Does my hon. Friend agree that another important aspect that supports our agenda, about which we all agree, is transparency? If someone sits in a council meeting it will be clear that Wiltshire council is paying attention to what the council in Oxfordshire is doing—it is talking to other councils and understanding, for the first time, what they are doing. That is a very powerful motivating tool.

Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I agree that much more information is generally available and it is the Government’s duty to encourage that transparency, which will bring up the outliers to the standards of those councils that are in front.

To conclude, although I shall not formally support the proposals, I endorse the spirit behind them—particularly that behind new clause 1. I am told that the Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change has said that it would cost only £100,000 to provide the advice necessary to guide councils. I hope that the Minister will encourage the Chairman of that Committee down that direction of travel.

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

I also support the sentiment behind some of the amendments. My hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge mentioned new clause 1, which raises important issues. I have mixed views, however, on the amendments as a package. I would be reluctant to impose more reviews, strategies and so on, on local authorities, because it would be so easy for that to become yet another expensive, box-ticking exercise. We have seen that over and over again in so many different areas.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Those councils that have already been doing that are saying, “It is working.”

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Chair, Public Accounts Commission, Chair, Public Accounts Commission

May I say that it has been a great pleasure to chair the Committee? It has allowed me to burnish my green credentials without saying anything of any substance.

The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put (Standing Order No. 88).

Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.