Skip to main content

Climate Change (Sectoral Targets)

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 11 February 2009

Motion for leave to introduce a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to set targets relating to energy generation and consumption; to make provision for the sectoral targets to be met; and for connected purposes.

The Bill focuses on the energy efficiency of residential accommodation; the level of energy use in the commercial and public services; the quantity of electricity generated from renewable sources; the amount of combined heat and power capacity; the number of dwellings with one or more microgeneration installations; and the level of carbon emissions from existing and new homes. It would set initial targets for those sectors, and would require the Secretary of State to specify further targets, especially if so advised by the Climate Change Committee or any other body established by Act of Parliament to advise the Government on climate change.

In addition, the Bill would require the Secretary of State to consult and seek agreement with organisations representing environmental interests, organisations representing business interests and, especially, organisations representing the energy efficiency industry, the renewables industry, the combined heat and power industry and the microgeneration industry. Within a year of deciding on his targets, the Secretary of State would have to publish, and then implement, a strategy for delivering them.

The central aim of the Bill is to help us meet our 80 per cent. CO2 reduction target and thereby play our part in limiting the increase in the average temperature of our planet in order to avert disaster. It is also about trying to ensure that the energy needs of our country can be satisfied in the future.

This Bill owes much to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen), who introduced a similar measure in the last Session and also sought to cover some of the same territory in a new clause that he proposed to the Climate Change Bill—now, of course, the Climate Change Act 2008. His expertise and dedication on the challenge of global warming are recognised across the House, and his new book—it is entitled “Too Little, Too Late” and it was launched last night—is now available.

It costs £7.

The Bill is about providing a way of meeting our CO2 reduction targets and protecting energy security by the establishment of a series of specific targets for energy saving and sustainable energy generation.

The 2003 energy White Paper described the energy that we do not need to use as the cheapest energy, and improving energy efficiency delivers just that. This is the low-hanging fruit on the climate change tree, but to date we have not harvested it anything like as well as we should have done—or, indeed, as well as some other countries have done.

The Bill sets an initial sectoral target for energy efficiency in residential accommodation of a 20 per cent. improvement on 2010 standards by 2020. The target for energy use in commercial and public services is a reduction of 10 per cent. on 2005 levels by 2010, and a further 10 per cent. by 2020. The target for combined heat and power is to have 10 GW of capacity installed by 2010. The target for microgeneration is that the number of dwellings with one or more microgeneration installations shall be eight times the figure pertaining in 2007. The Bill sets 2016 as the date when all existing homes shall be low carbon and all new homes zero carbon, and it also sets other targets with regard to building regulations.

The House may find the targets that I have just listed familiar; in fact, all of them are already stated Government objectives. What is new is that, if enacted, this legislation would make them binding, in the way that the targets set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 are binding.

I believe that we now have to move from aspiration to delivery, and the best way to do that is through establishing clear requirements in law that can be revised as more information about the scale of the challenge becomes available and as new green technologies are developed and improved. One of the major benefits of passing this legislation would be to give the industries responsible for those technologies a firmer platform to build on and more certainty about future opportunities.

Good firms involved in the manufacture and installation of insulation and other energy efficiency measures, as well as companies in the microgeneration industry, combined heat and power and renewables, would all benefit from the underlying certainty provided by a combination of legally binding targets and policies. That would positively impact on their plans and investment decisions, and that in itself would take us forward.

The Stern report made the point that earlier action to limit the rise in temperature would be most effective and least expensive. Much of the climate change science since then has pointed in the direction of still greater urgency. According to any number of indicators—such as the rate of thinning of the Arctic ice, the impact of the loss of reflection of solar energy as snow and ice cover shrinks, the intensified drought conditions in places such as sub-Saharan Africa and, of course, eastern Australia, the melt-rate of the Greenland ice cap, the slowdown in the gulf stream, insect migration, extinction rates in vulnerable habitats and the degrading of carbon sinks—the evidence is growing that time is running out, and probably doing so faster than we thought even a few years ago.

We need to act, locally as well as globally, and this Bill could help. First, it would mean that the Government had to meet their targets in the sectors identified. They would have to plan to make sure that they achieved them, and that would lead directly to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Secondly, the Bill would also send out a message about our resolve to move away from the high-carbon economy. At present, there is a bit of a credibility gap between what the Government and Parliament say about the threat of global warming—that it is the greatest challenge that we face and that, if we do not tackle it, the consequences could be cataclysmic—and what is actually being done.

That perception problem exists in other nations and in our own population. Of course, this fairly modest Bill will not, on its own, turn that around, but it could help, because by enacting it, we would be saying, “We will not just try to improve energy efficiency, energy saving, and renewable and sustainable energy; we are committed to succeeding.”

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr. Martin Caton, Colin Challen, Mr. David Chaytor, Dr. Ian Gibson, Mr. David Heath, Dan Rogerson, Alan Simpson, Dr. Desmond Turner, Joan Walley, and Mr. Michael Meacher present the Bill.

Mr. Martin Caton accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 8 May and to be printed (Bill 61).