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Climate Change Act

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 10 September 2013

[Katy Clark in the Chair]

Five years or so ago, with apparently irrefutable evidence that the Earth’s temperatures were rising out of control as a result of carbon dioxide emissions, the then Government, with support from left and right, passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which committed the Government to cutting emissions by 80% by 2050. In order to do that, the Act introduced a series of measures, a raft of extra taxes and a whole bureaucracy, which have made it ever more expensive for home owners and, just as importantly, businesses, particularly large manufacturing industries, to buy gas and electricity. That has had the perverse effect of making cheap forms of energy, such as coal and gas, expensive and subsidising expensive forms of energy, such as solar and wind, so that they can operate.

The 2008 Act was based on the belief that reducing CO2 emissions would reduce global temperatures, or at least stop the increase that was apparently going on at the time. Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions are actually tiny; they are about 1.6% of total world CO2 emissions, which I believe is less than China’s year-on-year increase. Furthermore, the Government have argued—I respect the Minister greatly, but I am afraid we will have to disagree rather a lot this afternoon—that the costs will not be that significant.

A few years ago, the phrase on everyone’s lips was “peak oil.” The greens were setting up transition towns all over the place and arguing that we should go back to weaving baskets and driving horses and carts, because we were about to run out of oil. The following week, the same people would be complaining about all the oil and gas that there was, which I thought at the time was a bit strange. In any case, the idea of peak oil was one that we all followed and, to me at least, it made a little bit of sense to try to develop our own forms of energy.

Finally, of course, there was an argument about energy security. We all accept that there are good reasons for wanting to have our own energy sources so that we do not have to rely on other people. An argument was proposed that developing our own solar, wind and biomass energy would be good from a security point of view.

I am delighted to be one of the four remaining MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in the previous Parliament, all of whom are in the room today. Although my hon. Friend rightly wants to chastise the Government, does he acknowledge that the Act, which has done so much to add to people’s energy bills, was actually steered through Parliament by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who is now Leader of the Opposition? Does my hon. Friend also agree that the Labour party has played a huge part in increasing energy bills, and that it is no good for Labour Members to complain about fuel poverty when they have created so much of it?

Indeed, I do agree. I am sorry that I was not a member of the famous five who voted against the Act in 2008, but I hope I will now do something to put that right. I am pleased to see my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie) here, because he helped to steer the opposition to the Act at the time.

I must confess that I was one of those who accepted the arguments that were made—I supported the Act when it was passed. Of course, part 1 clearly states that the Act is open to amendment if the science changes or if significant developments in science become clear. I contend that, given what we now know about climate science, we have a strong argument for reconsidering the Act with a view to either revoking it completely or drastically amending it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Act is without doubt the most foolish piece of statute that any of us here is likely to see in Parliament? Does he further agree that the very principle of unilaterally re-embarking on a crash programme of carbon reduction can only have the effect of exporting our energy-intensive industries to places where they may emit more carbon, and that carbon reduction will have only a nugatory effect on the problem because, as he correctly states, the Chinese are increasing carbon emissions faster than we are succeeding in reducing them?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. He is jumping a little ahead of what I was going to say and has saved me the trouble of saying it, but he is absolutely right. It is ludicrous for us to embark on drastic reductions of carbon dioxide at huge cost to our manufacturing and other industries when nobody else will follow.

A lot has been said about how the science is settled and how anyone who denies the science is some sort of climate change denier, which is nonsense. The very last thing I want to do is to deny that the climate changes. In fact, the climate has been changing probably ever since the Earth was created 4.5 billion years ago. The real deniers are those who deny that change took place before about 300 years ago.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I promise not to interrupt him again.

Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that although the issue used to be called “global warming”, when the globe stopped warming the fanatics changed the name to “climate change” because nobody can ever deny that the climate changes? As he has just acknowledged, the climate always changes, and by changing the name they admitted that their previous hypothesis was wrong.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for very kindly giving way so early in his speech. I know that I will have some minutes to speak at the end of the debate, but I want to ask him this question now. Why does he believe that 97% of more than 4,000 peer-reviewed studies by climate scientists over the past two years agree, first, that climate change is happening, and secondly, that it is man-made?

First, as I have just said, climate change is happening, just as it has always happened. Secondly, we must consider the nature of what has been suggested is going on. Carbon dioxide is a warming gas—that is a scientific fact. There has been an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since we started industrialising—that is also a fact. Where I beg to differ is that it is not proven that the carbon dioxide that has gone into the atmosphere is responsible for the relatively small amount of warming that has taken place since industrialisation. The total amount of warming that we are talking about is some 0.8° C; it is a very small amount in the scheme of things.

When we started to industrialise, we were coming out of a very cool period known as the little ice age; it was so cold that the Thames used to freeze over and they used to have ice fairs on it. That is part of a pattern of cooling and warming that has been going on for several thousand years. We had a warm period during Roman times, and things became cooler again during the dark ages before becoming warmer during the mediaeval warm period. The temperature then became cooler before it started warming up again.

Some of the 0.8° rise has to be down to the fact that we were going to warm up whatever happened, because we were coming out of a cool period. Is the hon. Lady able to tell me how much of that 0.8° rise is a result of the natural warming that should have taken place? Perhaps she could also tell me why we cannot make a straightforward correlation between CO2 emissions and temperature. If she is right, as the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere increases, temperatures ought to increase, but that is not what happened at all. We have seen increases and decreases. Temperatures went up in the first half of the last century, but after the second world war, as we industrialised and started to pour much larger amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, temperatures went down again until, in the 1970s, everyone was predicting a forthcoming ice age. Temperatures then started to increase again until about 1997. Since then there has been absolutely no increase in temperature whatsoever, and that is with all the industrialisation going on in China and India.

Perhaps the hon. Lady can tell us—

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) is not here to answer his questions, and she will not be given an opportunity to do so by the Chair. I suggest that he does not direct all his questions at her.

I appreciate that. I am picking on the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) because she intervened last. Perhaps somebody, somewhere—maybe the Minister—will be able to tell me why there has been no warming since 1997.

I do not want to enter into a ping-pong match, so I will try to hold myself in until the end. I have brought a helpful graphic with me, which I will pass to my hon. Friend. The graphic might answer some of his questions so that we can have some cool analysis in this debate.

I also have a typical graph, and very worrying it is, too, because we see that over the past 150 years there has been a huge spike in temperatures, which would be enough to worry anyone—it got me going in 2008. The problem with it is that it does not take into account the fact that if one goes back 1,000 years, 2,000 years or 1 million years, one will see large increases and decreases in temperature and in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I was thinking the other day that we would need a graph going back at least 1 million years to get any idea of what is really going on. If we had one—1 million years is still only a fraction of the earth’s 4.5 billion-year history—we would see that most of the time, ice covered the northern part of the earth. We have been in an ice age for roughly 90,000 out of every 100,000 years. For 10,000 years, it would warm up, and then it would go back to being cold. We seem at the moment to be coming to the end of 10,000 or so years of relative warmth. It is an ice age that we should be worried about.

If we want to make policy based on graphs like this, we need to look at what is really going on. We need to go back 1 million years, and based on the scale of the graph that I have, we would need a graph 10 km long to get an idea. I did a 10 km race for charity on Sunday in Cardiff. It took me 42 minutes, which—I am not trying to brag—I am told is not bad for a 42-year-old. What has happened is as though I had run for every one of those 42 minutes past a graph showing peaks and troughs in temperature, and then looked at the last 3 cm and decided, based on that, to embark on a Government policy that would cost my country billions of pounds and thousands of jobs. That is absolute madness.

I really do not know where to start with this flat-earth love-in. Does the hon. Gentleman accept the observations of the Met Office Hadley Centre, or is the Met Office in on the conspiracy? If it is not, the recent papers that it published considering anthropogenic warming globally over an extended period demonstrate clearly that recent changes in weather, and pauses and reductions in temperature increase, in no way affect the underlying issues of global warming. The Met Office is clear about that, and about the effect of the overall increase in anthropogenic carbon dioxide on the overall temperature systems of the world, as well as on the atmosphere, the oceans and the surface temperature of the world as a whole.

No, I do not accept that at all. The Hadley Centre did everything possible to withhold its evidence and calculations from anyone who wanted to look at them independently.

I am not going to answer an intervention made from a sedentary position, but I have made my point. It is absolutely disgraceful that Government-funded bodies have tried to withhold evidence from people who want to examine it independently. I have tabled written questions to the Met Office while this Minister has been in office. I have had to table and re-table them, because I have asked for graphs showing what the temperature increases will be, and the Met Office has hidden them as well as it can on its website, because it does not want to make it plain that there has been no increase in temperature since 1997.

Maybe the Met Office should start explaining why its predictions are so wrong and why there has been no increase, despite the enormous amount of CO2 produced since then. Maybe it should tell us how much of the increase that has taken place resulted from natural warming as a consequence of leaving the little ice age.

Is my hon. Friend genuinely saying that he thinks the Met Office is a part of some conspiracy or has some hidden agenda? I have been to the Met Office and met the professionals there. They are distinguished people with excellent records. There is no uniform view on any single element of science; it deals with probabilities, and it changes. Is he genuinely saying that all those learned people are in on some conspiracy?

What I am saying is that they are unable to answer basic questions. I am sure that the Minister will have put this question to them; he is a highly intelligent man. It must have occurred to him that it is a bit strange that there has been no increase in temperature since 1997, despite the predictions in the ’90s that it would rise every year. He must have asked about that, and I am sure that in his speech he will tell us what the Met Office said.

At the same time, I am sure the Minister will have asked the Met Office how much of that temperature increase was due to man-made global warming and how much was due to natural factors. I am sure that he will have concluded, based on the facts alone, that some of that increase in temperature must have been due to other, natural factors, and that he will want to tell us how much.

My problem with the Met Office is that its entire model seems to be based on the following premises: x amount of CO2 has entered the atmosphere; there has been an increase of nought-point-something degrees in temperature; therefore, that increase has been caused by the x amount of CO2. The Met Office has then gone on to conclude that a similar amount of CO2 put into the atmosphere will create a similar increase in temperature, which is absolutely unproven. There is no reason to assume that just because a certain amount of CO2 has caused a certain increase in temperature, a similar amount will cause a similar further increase. The Met Office has also assumed that the increases in temperature will cause all sorts of feedbacks that will create further increases. Its models are based on that theory, and it is unsound science.

Nobody suggests that the definitive evidence for climate change rests on incremental year-on-year temperature increases. One must look at trends when looking at the science. We are dealing with long-term trends. We are not dealing with weather; we are dealing with climate. Although my hon. Friend is right that there has been no substantial absolute year-on-year increase since the beginning of the century, the fact of the matter is that in terms of average global temperatures, the 1980s were significantly warmer than the 1970s, the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s and the years 2001 to 2010 were by far the warmest 10-year period on instrumental record since 1850. It was not the same year-on-year incremental, but taken across the decade, it was by far the warmest, and I have here the graph to prove it.

The Minister is going back 150 years and showing me a graph. The point that I made earlier is that the graph would need to be 10 km long to give any real sense of what is going on with the climate. He himself said that we are not talking about weather; we are talking about climate. Climate is not something that goes on over a decade, or even 150 years. It takes place over millennia.

It dates from 1850 because that is when reliable instrument records date from. Obviously, there are data much further back, but I was dealing with instrumental scientific records.

Absolutely, but one of the problems with the calculations made by the Met Office is that they use tree rings, ice samples and all sorts of other things to calculate what went on before 1850, but the Met Office is not prepared to use similar methods to calculate what has gone on since then. It has married up temperatures from weather stations with data predating them, and then tried to make similar comparisons. It does not work.

I hate even to semi-defend the Met Office, but my hon. Friend is talking with certainty as though the science were settled in his favour. Does he accept that due to physics, CO2 and water vapour increase temperature? What we do not know is how much. We have two effects: natural and man-made CO2. They interact. On his point about the last 12 or 15 years, it is true that there has been no warming. That is because warming is non-linear. One explanation could be that there is one chance in 15 of the models being right and that happening. That is not insignificant.

There is another explanation, which is that they do not have a clue what they are doing. Based on the precautionary principle, perhaps we should not hobble the entire manufacturing industry in this country alone on the assumption that they have got it right. I accept my hon. Friend’s point about water vapour, which is important. Water vapour is a far more important warming gas than CO2, although neither is a pollutant. Without CO2, we would have none of the trees, plants and wildlife that the greens—and I, actually—love so much.

I will give way one last time and then move on, because there are people in the Chamber from whom I would like to hear.

The hon. Gentleman need not rely on a conspiracy between the Hadley Centre and the Met Office. He should look at the Oxburgh report on the Hadley Centre and the work of Professor Jones, who leads the centre. He will find that Professor Kelly from Cambridge said that Professor Jones’s methodology is

“turning centuries of science on its head”.

He also found, as the Oxburgh report found, that none of the work the Hadley Centre was doing under Professor Jones was replicable. As I understand science, one must be able to test it, so I hope the hon. Gentleman agrees that what Professor Jones was doing was not science but writing narrative.

I am grateful for the intervention and agree 100%. We could argue a long time about the science, but even if the Minister does not accept anything that I am saying—although I hope that he will answer my questions at some point—for us to embark on a unilateral policy, without anyone else in the world following us, is surely folly.

I am glad that my hon. Friend is moving on, because what worries me is our attacks on people’s energy bills—the poorest suffer most—and on British industry, because we have such penal energy policies. Tony Abbott recently won an important election victory in Australia saying that for him it was a referendum on the carbon tax, because he simply rejected dear energy for Australia. He was right about that for Australia, and should we not be doing the same here?

I hope that a certain other Australian who works closely with our leader is taking note.

I have tabled a lot of questions to the Minister on the issue. In reply to one, he has said that by 2020 around 23% of household electricity bills will be as a result of climate change policy. I have also tabled questions to find out, thus far without success, how much of the NHS electricity bill goes to support wind and solar farms. Another of his answers, which I do not have to hand, suggests that every person in the country will be paying between £4,700 and £5,300 a year towards the Government’s climate change policies. We have embarked on a hugely expensive course of action, which no other country in the world shows any signs of following.

I am anxious about what those policies will do to manufacturing jobs. I spoke recently to people at Tata, which is a huge employer in Wales, and they said that the costs of electricity and labour in this country mean that they are thinking of relocating abroad. When they do, they will be taking the factories with them, which will still emit the same amount of CO2 globally, but the jobs will be elsewhere and the foreign exchange will be going out of the country instead of coming in.

Of course we have to be careful about the costs levied on industry, wherever those costs come from. My hon. Friend’s argument would hold more water, however, were it not for the fact that Germany, Europe’s manufacturing powerhouse, has increased its share of the global market in manufactured goods every single year since the beginning of the century—it has massively increased its global market share—and is at the same time the largest European producer of renewable energy. Germany produces far more renewable energy than the UK, and has paid more for it, because it was an early adopter.

I remind the Minister that he will get the opportunity to respond at the end of the debate. This is supposed to be the time for Back Benchers. I also remind all Members that interventions are supposed to be brief. Every intervention so far has been lengthy, so perhaps any further ones could be shorter.

I will take that as a hint, Ms Clark.

I know Germany extremely well, and the German politicians that I have spoken to about that think, in private, that it is barking. They will tell anyone that Germany has to buy in energy—nuclear power from France—because it simply cannot get enough from wind.

The hon. Gentleman talked about our country legislating for this area and leading alone, but will he peruse the GLOBE International report on 33 countries, 32 of which are making what I would call progress—I am sure he would not—in the area? Britain is not doing things alone; 32 like-minded countries are passing legislation to similar effect.

Germany’s global carbon emissions are 20% higher per capita and per unit of GDP than ours, and the reason is that, notwithstanding its renewables, it burns much more coal than we do. Germany is accelerating coal production in order to bring electricity prices down.

I will perhaps draw my remarks to a close.

With all due respect to the Minister, one of the things that makes me most suspicious is the attitude of the greens themselves. We can offer ways of providing cheap and reliable forms of electricity without carbon. For example, nuclear power provides 70% of the electricity in France, but the greens do not want to know about nuclear power; as soon as anyone mentions nuclear power, they jump up and down in a rage. Fracking for gas has driven down not only energy prices in America but its carbon dioxide emissions. America is one of the few leading countries in the world to have reduced CO2 drastically, because it is fracking for gas, instead of getting coal. As a result, manufacturers are now looking to relocate to the United States of America. Surely that is something that the greens should be pleased about.

I have heard what my hon. Friend has said with interest. He has a history of support for nuclear power, but can he provide a single example from the past 20, 30 or 40 years of a nuclear power plant being built, anywhere in the world, without the use of public subsidies?

I do not argue that nuclear is the cheapest form of electricity generation, but it does generate electricity without carbon dioxide emissions. A recent report by the Royal Academy of Engineering suggested that nuclear power was certainly cheaper than offshore wind and probably cheaper than onshore wind. No one is arguing that nuclear is the cheapest form of electricity. If we want cheap electricity, we can burn coal; we have loads of it in Wales. There is no problem getting cheap energy; the trick, to keep everyone happy, is cheap and reliable energy without carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear is one way of achieving that, fracking and using gas is another, while yet another way might be a Severn barrage, although I am not sure whether the economic case stacks up. A barrage could certainly generate a large amount of the UK’s electricity without any carbon dioxide emissions, but what is the response of Friends of the Earth? They are all running around worried about natterjack toads. They are not living on the real planet.

With all due respect to the Minister—he is a Conservative, as I am, and he understands how the free market works—it makes no economic sense for him to be subsidising industries that are uneconomic and punishing industries that are economic. The Minister need not think that any of those policies will win him friends in the green lobby. Whatever he does—he could cut CO2 by 80%, 90% or 100%, but it would make no difference—those people are not his friends. They will never support him. They are the same ban-the-bomb, left-wing socialists whom we remember from the 1980s and 1990s, and they have reinvented themselves in this environmental guise, because it is about the only way in which they can impose their economic world view on an unwilling populace.

I hope that the Minister will put my questions to the Met Office, or give us answers today. I urge him, however, in the light of all the evidence that has come out about the lack of any change in temperature over the past 15 years, to think again about the Act and to revoke it, amend it and support home owners and British businesses.

Six Back Benchers have indicated in advance that they wish to speak, so I am imposing a time limit of six minutes on speeches.

May I respond to the questions of the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), first about temperatures over the past three decades? They have been warmer than all preceding decades since the 1850s, so the first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest on record. He also suggested that we look back beyond 150 years. Analysis of the paleoclimate archives indicates that in the northern hemisphere, for which we have the best data, the period from 1983 to 2012 was, according to the scientists, “very likely”—with a 90% or greater probability—the warmest 30-year period of the past 800 years. They have that fact with high confidence, but they also have it as “likely”—greater than 66% certainty—to be the warmest 30-year period of the past 1,400 years.

On 27 September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish its fifth assessment report on the physical science basis for climate change. It is a piece of global collaboration between 259 authors from 39 countries. It will provide the most authoritative scientific understanding of what climate change is and why it is happening. It has been through an exhaustive multi-stage peer review process involving experts and Governments and, critically from the hon. Gentleman’s perspective, has been open to review by proclaimed sceptics. Already, however, the climate change deniers are lining up to rubbish it. This debate has been good humoured and there has been a lot of laughter at what the hon. Gentleman said. It has been clubbable, but we must begin to pay attention to the science.

I have read the draft summary of the report that has been made available to policy makers. Its 31 pages leave me in no doubt that the window of opportunity to limit global warming above pre-industrial levels to 2° C is about to close. The figure is important, because beyond that 2° threshold, the effects of climate change clearly begin to degrade the ability of our existing social and ecological systems to support human life. Indeed, the parties to the United Nations framework convention on climate change are now carrying out an urgent review of whether it might be necessary to limit the rise to just 1.5° C. That report will be concluded in 2015

The IPCC shows that since 1901, the average global surface temperature over both land and oceans has risen by 0.89° and since 1950 there has been a 0.6° rise. The report concludes with 95% confidence that most—more than 50%—of the global warming that has occurred in that 63-year period has been the result of human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that before industrialisation, there was a lot of global warming and then global cooling? Can he tell us what caused the global warming before man generated CO2?

I will not respond to the right hon. Gentleman’s question simply because of lack of time, but I assure him that there was of course global warming and global cooling. We are looking at anthropogenic global warming, which is what we must be concerned about. He will accept that if we go over that 2° threshold, it will have damaging repercussions for all of us.

As significant as the 2° threshold is the report’s conclusions about a budget of future greenhouse gas emissions. It concludes that to reduce the chance of breaching that 2° limit to just 1:3, the total cumulative amount of carbon that is emitted in the atmosphere as a result of human activity must be less than l,000 billion tonnes. Some people would say that a 1:3 chance of our planet going wrong is still far too high, but let us work out the implications of the numbers.

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that things that used to cause global warming no longer operate, and can he quantify the impact of non-human factors at the moment?

No, because we are debating the Climate Change Act 2008, which specifically deals with anthropogenic global warming.

The scientists tell us that since the industrial revolution we have emitted between 460 billion and 630 billion of that l,000 billion tonnes. That means that we have parking space in the atmosphere for a maximum of only 540 billion tonnes of carbon if we are to stand a two-thirds chance of avoiding dangerous climate change. Annual global carbon emissions are approximately 32 billion tonnes. The maths is simple. We have less than 17 years left before we bust our carbon budget, and that is on the rather optimistic assumption that annual global emissions do not rise before 2030.

In the face of that extraordinary scientific consensus, is the hon. Member for Monmouth seriously asking Parliament to consider downgrading the UK’s 2008 Act because of the costs it imposes in moving to a low-carbon economy? Let us examine what the report says about the consequences of failing to meet that budget.

I will not give way because I have little time left.

The report considers four different models under different greenhouse gas concentrations over the rest of this century. It specifically states that even on the lowest concentration model it is likely—the probability is 66%—that in the 20 years to 2100 the sea level will be between 26 and 54 cm higher than during the same period to 2005. The report does not point out, but I will, that it is estimated that more than 1 billion people live in low-lying coastal regions around the globe. The effect on those populations of even a 1 metre rise would be wholesale dislocation of refugees. Besides the human tragedy, the estimated cost of the breaching the levees in New Orleans in 2005 is $250 billion. The hon. Member for Monmouth will therefore see that costs are involved in breaching that 2° threshold.

The report states specifically that as global temperatures rise, heat waves are likely—the probability is 90%—to increase, and extreme rainfall events will become more intense as well as more frequent in localised areas. The report does not point out, but I will, that 52,000 people in Europe died as a result of the heat wave in 2003. Besides that human cost, it caused damage of $15 billion in the farming, livestock and forestry industries as a result of drought, heat stress and fire.

The report also states specifically that it is virtually certain—the probability is 99%—that the resulting storage of carbon by the ocean will increase ocean acidification. The report does not point out, but I will, that the destruction of coral reef by ocean acidification would eliminate the essential spawning, nursery, breeding, and feeding grounds of up to 25% of the fish in the sea. Their total biodiversity value alone has been calculated at $5.5 billion a year.

The cost of inaction in the face of climate change is enormous, and the benefits of taking it seriously are that we will create new jobs and technologies that can drive our economy forward. In 2011, just 6% of our economy—the green economy—provided 25% of all growth in the UK. The idea that we can ignore climate change because the costs are too high can be suggested only by a man who is prepared to put his wallet on one side of the scales and his children on the other.

The hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) based much of his contribution on what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, but he ended by saying that the costs of action were far less than the benefits. That is not what the IPPC says. It says that analyses of the costs and benefits of mitigation indicate that they are broadly comparable in magnitude, so it could not establish an emissions pathway or stabilisation level at which the benefits exceeded the cost. The hon. Gentleman’s messianic certainty is not based on what the IPPC said.

Governments make their worst decisions when both sides are united for the simple reason that no one exercises the proper function of scrutiny, which is what happened in 2008. The passage of the Climate Change Bill was a perfect example, and the measure became the most expensive, most ambitious and most uncertainly based legislation that the House has introduced during my time in Parliament. It was introduced with no discussion of cost. I was the only person who considered the impact assessment before the debate, because the Table Office told me that I was the only person to have taken a copy of it. It showed that the likely cost of the then Government’s measures, based on their own figures, and even excluding transition costs and the cost of driving industry overseas, were twice the maximum benefit. That was not discussed at any stage during proceedings on the Bill, not even when, in a spasm of self-flagellation, the target for reducing CO2 was increased from the 60% on which the costing had been made to 80%.

When the Bill was enacted, the Government produced a revised estimate of the costs and doubled them, but were stunned when I pointed out that the costs had exceeded the benefits and raised the benefits tenfold. From almost nowhere, they found another £1 trillion of benefits that they had previously overlooked. I can claim to be the greatest benefactor of humanity ever known because I caused £1 trillion to come from nowhere. That provides an idea of the Alice-in-Wonderland world in which such calculations are performed.

The Bill was introduced after scant discussion of the feasibility of decarbonising by 80% in 40 years, yet every other transition from one fuel to another—from wind to coal, from coal to oil, from oil and gas to nuclear—has taken far longer or been much less complete over a similar period. All were driven by a step reduction in the cost of cheap fuel driving out a less reliable and more costly fuel. However, the Climate Change Act 2008 requires us to replace cheap fossil fuels with energy sources that are at least twice as expensive and less reliable, which will be difficult to do; it is like driving water uphill.

So far, we have replaced 4% of our energy sources with renewables, against our target of replacing 15% by 2020. In other words, we are just over a quarter of the way there, and one twentieth of the way to our 2050 target. Other things being equal, the extra cost of moving to renewables will be four times higher in 2020 and 20 times higher in 2050.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will not mind if I congratulate him on making such a persuasive case for the repeal of the Act without even going near the science.

Yes, but I am just about to.

The Act was introduced with no consideration of the uncertainties. Projections from climate models were taken as if they were infallible. In 2007, just before the Act was introduced, the Met Office Hadley Centre said:

“We are now using the system to predict changes out to 2014. By the end of this period, the global average temperature is expected to have risen by around 0.3° C compared to 2004, and half of the years after 2009 are predicted to be hotter than the current record hot year, 1998.”

As we know, the pause that was already well established in 2008 has continued since then. There has been no 0.3° C rise, and all the years since then have been cooler than 1998.

I asked the previous Government in 2006 how long the pause would have to continue before the Met Office amended its model to take the reality into account. They sent people from the Met Office to come and see me in my office, and we had an interesting discussion. However, the answer was—this answer is also in Hansard—that they would not alter the model, because the model is right. If the facts are rebutted then, in the words of Hegel, so much the worse for the facts. That has been people’s attitude about it all. It is not science, because it is not refutable.

That does not mean to say that the greenhouse effect does not exist; I am a physicist by training, and of course it exists. The question is: how big is it? If it is of a modest size and it has been offset over the past 15 years by natural variations, is it not possible that in the previous 20 years, when there was a rise in temperature, some of that was due to the opposite movement in natural factors, adding to and amplifying any minor global warming due to CO2?

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the point that I was trying to make earlier to the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), who seemed to be unwilling to consider it? If one wishes to establish the impact of human CO2, one needs to understand all the other factors driving climate change, which might be up or down, and be able to quantify them. Otherwise, one cannot calculate the human effect.

Absolutely. When people say that there is a scientific consensus that all or the majority of heating that has occurred over the recent decades is due to man-made emissions, there is in fact no such consensus. If one drills down into the questions people ask, one will see that the questions in the first study included, “Do you believe that man-made emissions contribute to warming?” Yes, I do. “Do you believe that that is largely due to CO2?” Yes, I do. However, that does not make me an alarmist, and it does not justify anyone else pretending that every scientist is an alarmist—they are not.

The Act is not just the most expensive, impractically ambitious and uncertainly based piece of legislation that I have ever known; it is unique in being legally binding and unilateral. No other country has followed us down that route. Since we went down that route, Canada and Japan have resiled from Kyoto, and Australia has just abandoned its carbon tax. It is time we looked critically at the Act, repealed or revised it, and do not allow ourselves to be slavishly, legally bound to continue doing something that no longer accords with the evidence or goes along with what the rest of the world is doing.

All reason and self-critical analysis go out of the window when people address this subject. When I was the Environment Minister in Northern Ireland, I refused to use some of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s scary propaganda and adverts, and I was censured by the Assembly. When I pointed out to the mover of the censure motion that he had driven to the Assembly that morning in a 4x4 that did about 12 miles per gallon; that his mileage claim for the previous year would have taken him twice around the globe; and that his carbon footprint was enormous, he did not seem to see any irony in the fact that I did not believe what he believed about climate change and the man-made contribution to it, or in the fact that he was moving a motion against my position.

That is one of the problems. Even in today’s debate, we have exchanged the science, the figures and the graphs, but people still do not want to believe what they see before their eyes. I do not want to go into all the figures that have been given today, other than to say that, if the Minister talks about trends, is 150 years not a long enough trend? Yet the increase over 150 years is 0.8° C, even though masses of carbon has been put into the air. If we look at short-term trends—when the Climate Change Bill was passing through Parliament, we were told to look at the short term as well—over 10 years we have seen a 0.08° C increase, despite the fact that carbon emissions have gone up.

I do not want to get into the premise behind the issue; I want to get into the cost behind the policy. I started looking at the Treasury’s Budget 2013. The costs were never hidden; at least we were always told that there would be costs—£18 billion a year. Let us first look at the cost to industry. If we look through the Budget book, there are a number of costs. First, there is the carbon reduction commitment, which affects service and manufacturing industries. It costs more than £1 billion a year and rising. There is the carbon price floor, which wipes out—in fact, by more than double—the impact of the reduction in corporation tax this year. Over the life of this Parliament, it will take £4.4 billion away from industry. The climate change levy will cost £1.5 million this year. Put together, miscellaneous environmental levies will cost £6.7 billion this year, and that is only the cost to industry.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the problems with speaking about such figures in these hallowed halls is that we have forgotten that £1.5 million is quite a lot of money?


Let us put the cost in terms of jobs in the steel mills that have left Scunthorpe, the aluminium works that have left Anglesey and the brickworks and chemical factories that have closed down. The European Union has warned that there will be—I love this euphemism—carbon leakage. That leakage amounts to millions of jobs in the chemical, fertiliser and other industries. That is the cost that we have to consider when we look at the 2008 Act. There is uncertainty behind it, yet there are real pressures on our economy.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the cost is not just financial but environmental? For example, the construction of the proposed Navitus bay wind farm off the south coast of Dorset will be an absolute excrescence. That is an additional cost as a result of the policies.

I look at my own constituency of East Antrim. The Environmental Minister in Northern Ireland is one of the green zealots who want to see wind farms all around the place. Some of the most beautiful tourist areas are now being destroyed. We market Northern Ireland on its scenic beauty, yet we destroy it. Of course, that impact is unquantifiable.

Let us look at the cost to consumers. Last week in the Chamber we debated the cost of electricity to consumers. Taking DECC’s own figures on the impact of climate change policies on business electricity bills, bills will be up by 22% this year, 46% by 2020 and 66% by 2030.

I have already used most of my time, so I do not want to give away any more time.

Domestic consumers’ electricity bills are up by 17% this year, and they will go up by 33% by 2020 and 41% by 2030, but we complain about fuel poverty. There is an almost schizophrenic approach to this question: on the one hand, we complain about the effects; on the other hand, we vigorously pursue a policy that produces those effects.

Every time we go on our holidays, we pay for climate change. Every time we pay our council tax bills, we pay for climate change. In 2007, £102 million was set aside for climate change advisers, climate change managers, carbon reduction advisers and so on, and the situation is probably far worse now. Whether we are paying our council tax or electricity bills, or looking at jobs, the impact is quite dramatic.

People say, “Oh, but the other side is that there are all these green jobs,” and that those jobs will somehow offset the problems. Actually, all the studies show that, for every green job, 2.2 jobs are lost in other sectors of the economy. Every green job created in Europe—this was in a European study—costs about €600,000, which is far more than jobs in other sectors. For the capital we have to invest to get one green job, we could get 4.8 jobs in the wider economy. The myth that green is somehow good for growth is not, therefore, backed up by the facts or even by reports from those who drive many of these polices.

I am glad that there is at least a wider debate about the issue. The one thing we know is that the general public have not been convinced; that is why there have been scare stories about food stocks running out, cities being submerged, 20-metre increases in tides and wildlife being wiped out. Indeed, Professor Schneider and Sir John Houghton both said we needed scare stories, because that is the only way to focus people on the issue. Of course, in their boldness, the likes of the Met Office and the BBC have given their scare stories far too short a time period, and they are now being proved wrong. It is okay if people say something will happen in 100 years, but if they say it will happen in 10 years, people will remember, and if it does not happen, the scare will not have much of an effect.

Let me close with the words of the Chancellor, which I hope will prevail in Government policy. He has said that we make up less than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, so we should not try to save the planet by putting business in our country at risk. That is why this is a good debate and why we need to keep pressing on this issue.

Up until now, there have been two main groups in the debate: those who accept that man-made global warming is happening and, therefore, that we need the Climate Change Act; and those who repudiate the idea that it is happening and who think, therefore, that we do not need the Act. I am actually in a third set: I am prepared, on the balance of probabilities, to accept that man-made global warming is happening and needs to be addressed, but I have some severe reservations about the Act, and particularly about the thrust of climate policy in this country.

Why do I accept the science? First, I am ignorant. Frankly, there is too much certainty on both sides of the debate. I agree that the science is not settled, but Members on both sides of the debate talk as if they were more certain of everything than I am of anything. My ignorance on this issue leads me, under the precautionary principle—I have a degree in applied science, although that does not make me an expert—to accept that much of the balance of science, as has been correctly said, says that man-made global warming is happening.

Given that the whole House seems to accept that the climate is changing, does my hon. Friend feel it is legitimate to debate whether we should spend taxpayers’ money on renewable energy schemes or on mitigating the damage climate change could do to our communities?

That is a different matter, namely adaption. I have a lot of sympathy with that point, particularly given the world’s record in failing to get people to agree to act over the last decade or so. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) said, the science is clear: greenhouse gases and water vapour increase temperature, and other things do too. What we do not know, and what the whole debate in science is about, is the weight of those factors.

There are people, who are probably cleverer than anybody in this room, wrestling with that issue, and I do not intend to get into it, other than to say a couple of things. It is probably true that the temperature has not risen for the last 10 or 12 years. Does that, in itself, undermine the thrust of the science and the models? It does not. There will always be a probability of such things, given the noise in the data. However, the Minister or the Opposition Front-Bench speaker might like to tell us how many years of no warming we must have before we seriously question the models. At the very least, the fact that we have had so many years of small amounts of warming tends, under Bayesian probability theory, to take us to the lower end of the forecasts.

As I say, I accept the science. We have seen the Stern report, warts and all, and the costs involved. Parliament put in place the Climate Change Act and the 80% reduction to try to keep the temperature rise to 2° C by 2100, and it was helped in that by five Budgets. There are some good things in the Act. First, it focuses on carbon, not renewables. EU legislation focuses almost entirely on renewables, which is why we are sucked into the false impression that countries such as Germany, which produces significantly more carbon per unit of GDP or per capita than us, are the good guys, who can burn coal and have renewables. Frankly, if a country wants to reduce carbon, it does not have renewables, it stops burning coal. So that is a good aspect of the Climate Change Act. The Act is also clear and hard to fudge. It is also inflexible, which is a strength and a weakness.

The issues I have with the Act are threefold. First, it is, broadly speaking, uncosted. Secondly, it is inflexible, and I will return to that in the light of some of the facts, which are changing. Thirdly, and most importantly—I disagree with the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) on this—it is, broadly speaking, unilateral: nobody else has put in place anything as stringent, and if I am wrong, I look forward to the Minister telling me so at the end.

On the Act being uncosted, it may well be right for the world to address the issue of climate change, but that does cause fuel poverty. That might be a price worth paying, although that case has not been made very much, and the Government might pursue it a little more. Of course, carbon leakage also means, at the margin, that we are losing jobs in some industries—particularly heavy industries in the north—because they rely heavily on power. It always strikes me as a little odd, at a time when we are trying to rebalance the economy, that we are putting manufacturing at a potential disadvantage, although that has not wholly happened yet, and we will see how things pan out.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is not just jobs in manufacturing that are being lost? For example, it is estimated that a medium-sized data processing company will pay £500,000 in tax under the carbon reduction commitment—a tax, of course, that the Government now keep, rather than recycling.

I do accept that, and that cost of £500,000 translates into jobs lost.

The real problem is that the Act is unilateral. It has been said that Britain produces 1.5% of the world’s emissions, which is about the amount China’s emissions increased by last year. The Act was predicated on the assumption that we would take a world leadership position in all this stuff and that the world would follow us. However, it increasingly appears that the world does not wish to follow us, and we are seeing that in a number of ways; there are words and there are actions. The Minister mentioned Germany, and I alluded earlier to its decision to abandon nuclear power, build dirty coal stations at great pace and to refuse to use carbon capture and storage technology, despite the fact that its carbon emissions are higher than ours.

Even more significant, however, is the fact that the EU has recently voted to abandon its emissions trading scheme.

I have taken two interventions already.

That was an astonishing decision and it is a very worrying one, because there is no flexibility in our policy to respond to that.

I mentioned that the Act is inflexible. Lord Deben has just written to the Secretary of State, who requested that the climate change targets be changed, because the EU had failed to meet the 30% target that it had set for 2020. He wrote that the Act was “not premised” on the EU meeting its target by 2020, and that therefore that could not be the basis for changing the budget. So, in the end—just get on with it, guys.

What will happen? We could build something like one nuclear power station every three months for the next decade. If we could do that it would just about get us there, but we do not appear to be moving that quickly. A second possibility is that there will be no further global warming, just as there has been very little in the past decade, and on the balance of probabilities and the models the people at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are studying the issue will begin to revise their view. I do not know. Thirdly, the lights could go out. Perhaps that is a price worth paying instead of having further gas stations and carbonisation. We have got our Act: let our lights go out. Fourthly, there could be some kind of industry and consumer revolution, as has happened in Germany. Whichever of those things happens—I think it is likely to be the last of them—it will happen in the next Parliament, and we shall be living in interesting times.

We have only four minutes left for each of the remaining two Back-Bench speeches, so I suggest that Alan Whitehead may wish not to take interventions, so that both those speeches can be made.

It is difficult—certainly in four minutes—to know where to start. As has been said, if someone does not believe that climate change is happening, and believes that it is all conspiracy, they are hardly likely to believe that there should be a Climate Change Act or that it should affect either how people act in the economy, or how legislation proceeds—exactly as a businessman who believed the earth was flat would not sponsor a round-the-world yacht race.

I understand how far back we are going in the debate; but I think that, as far as where it is heading, it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what science does. There is no final, settled scientific position on climate change; nor is there such a settled position on virtually any other major issue in science. That is how science works. It is based on hypotheses and their refutation, and further hypotheses. As far as scientific hypotheses go, and as far as the debate in the scientific community is concerned, the idea that anthropogenic global warming is clearly producing substantial change in the climate—not the weather, but the climate—is, relatively, one of the most certain.

For example, there are continued debates about the nature of gravity. We are not certain how it works. There have at times been fluctuations in the gravitational field but I noticed hon. Members being careful to take account of gravity when they entered the Chamber and to keep their actions on the right side of science. That is what we need to do in relation to global warming. We shall shortly see from the IPCC fifth report that there is an overwhelming, if not complete, case for considering that substantial global warming not only happened through the industrialisation period, but is cumulatively in store for the world, as the result of anthropogenic activity.

It is incumbent on us to take note of that science, in relation to the questions of adaptation and mitigation. I do not say that we should opt for adaptation rather than mitigation. The Climate Change Act 2008 has stood the test of time since it was passed in informing our policies in that respect. The question of scrapping it now goes to the heart of what we, as legislators, are here to do. We must take account of what science says, and decide politically what to do about it. That is why it is essential to continue to support the Act, in deciding how to proceed with policy on energy and wider environmental issues.

That was the first part of what I wanted to say, but my four minutes are up. I hope that we shall continue to inform our policy on the basis of the science that is before us. To do otherwise would be to fly in the face of the problem that we know we shall have if we do not take action over a period.

I just want to make three simple points.

First, is the Act working in its own terms? I often think that that is the best way to approach arguments—not to start with one’s own premises, but to consider those of the opposition. The Act is supposed to be bringing down carbon dioxide. Is it doing that, or helping to do it? The facts are that since 1990, instead of producing an extra two parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere per year, we are producing three. In Europe, the production of carbon dioxide since 1990 is down by 15%, but consumption is up by 19%, so in fact more carbon dioxide is being put into the atmosphere as the result of activity in the European Union. To put the matter at its simplest, if there is a carbon tax in Europe—if we charge for carbon—and not in China or India or elsewhere in the world, we are giving those countries an export subsidy. If that were to be put down as a straightforward argument, or motion, in the House of Commons, no one would support it. To put things another way, the policy is one of deindustrialisation, as the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) said.

Secondly, is the policy affordable—for the country, as well as for individuals? There is an excellent paper by Liberum Capital, which I would advise anyone to read, on capital markets in utilities, and particularly energy, in the next 15 years. The paper expresses a belief that there will be several critical points in the next 15 years when the lights may well go out. To take the analysis at its simplest, replacing the current energy-producing power plants would cost the country an extra £250 billion. I remember when £1 million was a lot of money, but £250 billion is, as a friend of mine used to say, a very lot of money, and capital markets cannot produce it—or are most unlikely to. I shall send the Minister the paper, if he would like to look at it. [Interruption.] I cannot give way. We have got ourselves into a policy of absolute minimum flexibility to deal with investment and changes elsewhere in the world.

Thirdly, I do not think political forums are the greatest place to discuss science; it is complicated, and I am a scientist by background. Many things have been said that would require further examination.

As a member of the Science and Technology Committee, I had a very close look at what was happening at the university of East Anglia and the two inquiries that went into it at the time. Looking at it closely, we see that there was not science going on there. There was a group of enthusiasts who were pretending to be scientists, because what they were doing was not testable. In terms of the critical things that were in the public domain, Muir Russell’s report did not ask the basic question about whether e-mails had been deleted in the university of East Anglia, and the Oxburgh report, which was supposed to look at the science, did not, but it did turn up the fact that they were not using the best statistical methods of analysis and they could not reproduce their work.

It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Clark. This has been a very revealing debate on a very important topic. Let me begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) on securing it, although I disagree with everything that he has said this afternoon. I am grateful for the opportunity to place on the record the Opposition’s position.

I am very proud to be speaking today in support of the Climate Change Act 2008, which was seminal legislation. Passing the first legally binding climate change target showed that Britain was serious about tackling one of the greatest challenges if not the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), I am proud to belong to a party that took action to secure our planet for future generations when we were in government. I am prouder that Parliament passed the Act all but unanimously, with just five Members voting against it. I note that some of those five are in the room with us today. There was a clear cross-party political consensus that something needed to be done and a clear will to get on and do it, so I am saddened by the tone of parts of today’s debate. It reminds me of a film that was released just a few months after the 2008 Act became law. Many people in this room may have seen it. It was called “The Age of Stupid”. The plot is set in 2055 in a world savaged by the effects of global warming. It focuses on a lead character looking back to the beginning of the 21st century and wondering why we did not combat climate change when we had the chance. I am not sure whether the producers are planning a sequel, but at times I have felt as though certain speakers that we have heard today have been auditioning for a starring role. It is very disappointing that the hon. Member for Monmouth, who introduced the debate, is on record as describing the overwhelming scientific evidence and agreement on climate change as “codswallop”.

Let me spell out some basic facts; we have heard them reiterated by some Members taking part in the debate today. One hon. Member talked about an apparent plateau in world temperatures, but he neglected to mention the fact that the 12 warmest years on record have all come in the last 15 years. Since 2000, the UK has experienced its seven warmest years. Our average annual temperature has increased by about 1° Celsius since 1970. Last year, temperatures in some parts of our oceans were the highest ever and Arctic ice retreated to its smallest size on record.

I think that the Met Office is an organisation to be respected and I look at its reports very closely. Its record of global average surface temperature shows an increase of 0.6° C since 1950. I did not have an opportunity to intervene at the time, but there is research, including that published in Nature Geoscience in 2011, that shows that three quarters of the rise in average global temperatures since the 1950s is due to human activity.

A number of hon. Members referred to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is to deliver its fifth assessment report. As my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) said, it is expected to report a 95% probability that the global warming that we have experienced since 1950 is man-made. I agree with my hon. Friend that we should take note of that report. It is compiled by 255 experts from 38 countries. The weight of evidence is extraordinary, so I am disappointed that that has not been reflected in some Members’ contributions this afternoon.

Back in 2008, the year in which the Climate Change Act was passed, the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Prime Minister, promised:

“We are not going to drop the environmental agenda in an economic downturn.”

He said that it was

“not ‘green’ or ‘growth’, but both.”

In the same year, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about the “fierce urgency of now” and promised that the Treasury would lead in

“developing the low carbon economy and financing a green recovery.”

I could not agree more with the statements made then by those right hon. Members.

If we fast-forward to now, I regret the fact that the Chancellor is presenting us with a false choice between tackling climate change and growing our economy and that one Energy Minister—not the one in front of us, but the other Minister of State—has described climate change as a matter of “theology”.

I think that we need to deal with some of the risks. The fact is that the impact of climate change is already threatening to put more people in harm’s way up and down our country and across our planet. The Foreign Secretary’s climate adviser has described the security threat alone as being as grave as the threat from terrorism and cyber-attacks.

Let us take one example—flood defences. According to experts at the university of Colorado, sea levels are already rising at more than 3 mm a year. Just last week, a new study by the Met Office—I reinforce the fact that I respect that organisation; I do not think that it is putting out propaganda—showed that climate change exacerbated half the extreme weather events that happened last year. That has huge implications for us here in the UK and particularly for our flood defences. Last year was Britain’s second wettest year on record. Insurers had to pay out on £1.2 billion-worth of claims for flood damage across the country. Currently, 370,000 homes in England and Wales are at significant risk of river or coastal flooding. According to the “UK Climate Change Risk Assessment”, that number could increase fourfold by the 2050s.

The hon. Lady’s analysis would be completely correct if, by our reducing our carbon emissions, there would be that effect on our own climate. The difficulty that we have is that the rest of the world does not appear to have the same analysis as she does—at least judged by their actions, if not their words.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. In a moment, I will show that countries across the globe do think that there is a problem and are investing massively—investing more than we are. That is all the more reason for us to come together with other countries at the future Paris COP—the conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change—to secure that global climate change agreement. It is not that we should be doing it in isolation. Of course other countries should be doing it too, but that does not mean that we should not be doing it.

Let us consider what the opportunity is for a low-carbon economy. I am not sure what report the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) was referring to. I referred to the CBI, which has estimated that of the little economic growth that we did have last year, more than one third of it came from green businesses. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North highlighted, the low-carbon sector was responsible for 25% of the growth in our economy last year. The view of the CBI is very clearly articulated. It has said:

“For UK business, climate change is no longer a threat to be feared, but an opportunity to grow the economy and lead the world”.

We know that the competition is fierce. If we take the decisions that we need to now, the UK can still get ahead of the curve. We can create a new kind of economy, create huge numbers of jobs and secure our energy future. But if we do not—if we delay—we risk being left behind. Again, I refer to what other countries are doing. In fact, the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), in his remarks, talked about evidence. In America, the investment has increased by 155%. In China, it is up by 63% and, contrary to the examples put forward—I listened to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley)—China is also proposing a cap on its carbon emissions for the first time. If we continue to lag behind, we risk becoming more heavily dependent on single imported sources of energy that come at a higher price.

I am conscious that I have only a minute left. Delivering a green economy is about not just seizing opportunities but managing the risks. The hon. Member for East Antrim talked about scare stories. I would ask him to talk to America’s first climate change refugees—the hundreds of people who have been forced to flee the Alaskan village of Kivalina before it disappears underwater.

I shall conclude with this thought. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Monmouth has said, there are countless reasons why it is right, sensible and in our best interests to acknowledge the gravity of climate change and to acknowledge that it is man-made and that we should commit to tackling it sooner rather than later. The Climate Change Act 2008 provides us with a clear framework for doing just that. The Government now need to push on with achieving those targets, not hold back, because a plan is only any use if we keep to it.

Aside from the practical case, something more basic is at stake. I visit many schools in my constituency and have many conversations with children. It is clear that they understand the issue. We have a responsibility to hand over our planet to future generations in the same state in which we found it. There is not only a practical and financial case for action, but a moral case, for our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren. It would be selfish to do anything else.

I am glad to be able to respond to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) has performed a useful parliamentary service in allowing the issue to be aired. Although profound climate scepticism may be only a minority interest, such sceptics voice a view shared by a number of my constituents and people in the newspapers. It is a view heard on the Clapham omnibus and it is right that we hear such views and debate them in the open. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) that a cloying consensus in Parliament does no service to legislation or national debate. However much I profoundly disagree with some of the arguments, it is right that we have the chance to air them in Parliament.

We have agreed here that science proceeds by conjecture and refutation, so in an attempt not to have a cloying consensus, will the Minister fund some climate scientists who wish to refute the current thesis?

I am afraid that I do not have a budget for that sort of research.

I do not accept the premise that my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth put forward that somehow there are the Conservatives and then there are greens. He makes a political point, but I say something quite different:

“It’s we Conservatives who are not merely friends of the Earth—we are its guardians and trustees for generations to come. The core of Tory philosophy and for the case for protecting the environment are the same.”

Those are not my words, but the words of Margaret Thatcher at the 1989 Conservative party conference. She went on to say:

“No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease.”

We have seen an unprecedented increase in the pace of change over the past 100 years: unprecedented growth in population and the spread of industry; dramatically increased use of oil, gas and coal; and the continued cutting down of forests. Those factors have created new and daunting problems, and hon. Members know what they are: acid rain and the greenhouse effect. In 1989, Margaret Thatcher used a huge slice of her party conference speech to talk about threats to the environment and the specific challenge of climate change, which she took very seriously. She went to the UN, where she was the first world leader to call for concerted international action on global warming. Asserting that that is at odds with being a Conservative is profoundly wrong.

I do not rely on hon. Members for my science. I am not a scientist. I do not profess to understand all the science, let alone to be a definitive arbiter on climate change, but it is incumbent on politicians, particularly Ministers, to take advice from the most respectable and reputable scientific institutions and academies. My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth did himself no service by talking down the Met Office. It is not perfect; none of us are and nor is any human institution, but it is an excellent institution, with an excellent global reputation in its field.

Climate change is not a British conspiracy theory of climate science. Hon. Members should look to the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the World Meteorological Organisation; our own Met Office; the European Science Foundation; the American Physical Society; the Polish Academy of Sciences; the World Health Organisation; the national science academies of the G8 plus 5; our own Royal Society; the American Geophysical Union; and of course the IPCC. It is not true to assert that there is unanimity among scientists—there never will be, because science constantly evolves—but the great weight of scientific opinion, and certainly the expert opinion on which Ministers should draw when framing public policy, is clear on where the balance of risks lie. Of course, there is a risk that we have got it wrong, but the prudent action based on the greater risk is to take steps to avert dangerous man-made climate change.

I agree with the point the Minister makes. Would he care to reinforce it by pointing out that the IPCC does not simply represent a consensus of scientists, but talks about degrees of probability, levels of confidence and the percentage of risk? It does not try to say, “Everybody has agreed”, but varies the stated risk depending on the level of agreement and the certainty of each contributor.

Well put.

The other key suggestion is that we are acting in isolation. If that were the case, I would have some sympathy for the arguments made. We may have been a leader in climate change legislation, but 32 countries, from China to Ethiopia and Vietnam, now have some sort of climate change framework. Mexico and South Korea have modelled their climate change Acts and legislation on those from Westminster. India’s 12th five-year plan incorporates a range of recommendations from its low-carbon expert group. Indonesia has just passed a ministerial regulation, based on climate science, to expand thermal energy. We may be at the forefront, but we are not totally alone. We must make more progress. The world has a last chance in 2015 to get its act together and come together with effective, concerted international action if we are to have any chance of keeping the rise below 2°.

I have little time left, so I am afraid I will not give way.

We will ensure that we drive the negotiations to the most successful possible outcome in 2015. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) alluded to the 2008 Act. She can be proud of the leadership shown by the previous Government on that Act. I was involved as a Front Bench spokesperson and served on the Committee that considered the measure. She mounted a sensible defence of the strong weight of science behind the arguments and pointed out the massive trend in global investment. China anticipates spending $450 billion on renewable energy, dwarfing our expenditure.

I must take issue with one figure; the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) said that climate change policy would add one-quarter of a trillion pounds to our projected energy spend. The widely accepted figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that, taking everything into account, we will have to spend something in the region of £110 billion in total over the next decade on energy measures. I do not recognise that quarter of a trillion figure. We must bear in mind the fact that the £110 billion investment will not only help us to prepare for a low-carbon energy economy, but pay for energy efficiency measures, which I hope hon. Members support whatever their views on global warning. Energy efficiency is the surest way to help the fuel poor. There is no good excuse for wasting energy, however it is generated. We should be ever mindful of the need to drive energy efficiency as a way not only of reducing carbon emissions or helping people to cut their fuel bills, but increasing the economic competitiveness of UK plc. The Government have put a greater emphasis on energy efficiency than any of their predecessors.

It is not true to say that it is climate costs that are driving up energy bills. In the past three years, the biggest single rising cost on energy bills for consumers, who are worried about the cost of living, has been the rising price of wholesale gas. We are committed to ensuring that we have a resilient energy economy, helping consumers and—