Thursday 20 November 2014
[Mr Clive Betts in the Chair]
IPCC Fifth Assessment Report
[Relevant Documents: First Report from the Committee on Energy and Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report: Review of Working Group I Contribution, Session 2014-15, HC 587, and the Government response, Session 2014-15, HC 732.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Gavin Barwell.)
Thank you very much for your advice about the proper way to dress for a debate in Westminster Hall, Mr Betts; I am particularly grateful to the second Clerk of my Committee for bringing along a spare tie for this occasion. I begin by drawing attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and in particular to my interests in companies involved in hydrogen fuel sales and the nuclear industry.
May I warmly welcome the Minister to the debate? She and a few of my colleagues have managed to tear themselves away from the alternative attractions in Rochester and Strood this afternoon. However, I have no doubt that we will all be hot-footing it there at the conclusion of these proceedings—and, of course, looking forward to a great triumph for the excellent Conservative candidate there, who certainly deserves to be the next MP.
I am delighted that we have the chance to debate the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth assessment report, which is an extremely important document. In my judgment, the world is potentially at a turning point in relation to policy on climate change; even in the last few weeks, we have seen a significant step up in the commitment of different countries to act in response to the threat that it presents.
The announcements from Beijing a few days ago by President Obama and President Xi are, in my view, of particular significance. The things that they said on behalf of their two countries would have been simply unthinkable as recently as three or four years ago. It is remarkable that we now have the two largest economies in the world committed to targets that they would not have dreamt of committing to until very recently indeed. I warmly welcome that.
People have been sceptical—largely, I think, because of ignorance—about the commitment of China in particular to moving to a much less carbon intensive economy. That is partly for domestic reasons, such as the hideous air and water quality problems that China suffers from and its vulnerability—far greater than the UK’s, for example—to the consequences of climate change. However, the fact that it is committing to targets is wholly to be welcomed.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who chairs the Select Committee, knows and recognises that having a commitment to reduce intensity is really a commitment to improve efficiency; it does not mean that less carbon dioxide will be going into the atmosphere. Does he agree?
Of course, that distinction is absolutely accurate, but it is also the case that China has said that it will see a peak in its carbon emissions, and it is suggested that that will happen in 2030. My observation of China and of the culture there is that if a target of that sort is set publicly and becomes the official policy, it is done in the Chinese Government’s absolutely certain knowledge that they will achieve that target and probably improve on it by several years. I would guess that we will reach a period within the next 15 years when China’s emissions stop going up and start to come down.
As Sir David King, the former Government chief scientific adviser and now adviser to the Foreign Secretary, said, the announcement by the US and China makes the possibility of an international carbon emissions pact “very likely”. I agree with that assessment, particularly when we see the progress—I will come back to this later —on emissions trading systems, investment in renewables and so on, and not just in China.
Last month, equally importantly in my view, the EU agreed a 40% target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels for 2030. That was, of course, exactly the outcome that the British Government were working towards and they deserve great credit for securing that outcome. They have got the target for overall carbon emissions to be reduced without having that overlain with what in my view are less rational targets for specific progress on renewables. It leaves countries free to decide how they are going to decarbonise their economies. That was exactly the right approach, and it is the approach that the British Government had taken a lead in fighting for. As the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change said:
“This is a historic moment. Europe has sent a clear and firm message to the world that ambitious climate action is needed now.”
The Prime Minister spoke at the UN climate summit in New York on 23 September and pointed out that the British Government are keeping their promise to be the greenest Government ever. I know that some critics say that that is not actually being achieved, but the truth is that the decision alone to confirm the fourth carbon budget from 2023 to 2027 was of great significance. Although there are lots of areas where we would like the UK to be going further and faster, that commitment alone—again, I will come back to carbon budgeting—strongly supports the claim to be the greenest Government ever.
The UK has more than doubled the capacity of the renewable energy industry in generating electricity in the last four years. That is a substantial achievement and a vindicator of the kind of incentives that have been put in place for investment in renewables. As we know, the UK has also played an important role internationally with its carbon finance commitments. However, we need the whole world to step up if we are going to deliver a deal that keeps the target of a maximum rise in average temperatures of 2° centigrade within reach. That is a big part of the agenda as we move towards the Paris COP—the conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change—at the end of next year. Above all, we need to make sure that policies are in place that give business the certainty that it needs to make investments in low-carbon technology. As the Prime Minister said,
“we need a framework built on green growth not green tape.”
We will need a good outcome from Paris next year, and a lot of work remains to be done to achieve that.
It is worth looking now at what the IPCC has done. It was set up in 1988 to provide assessments of the latest peer-reviewed climate science for policy makers. The fifth assessment report, which has come out in various stages for more than a year now, is the most recent output—in fact, the very most recent was the synthesis report published at the start of this month.
Overall, the fifth assessment report was the culmination of seven years of academic research—literally thousands of scientific papers and reports. There were three working group reports, and, of course, a lot of inter-Government negotiation as well. The most recent synthesis report concluded:
“Human influence on the climate system is clear”.
It also stated:
“Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”
Of course, with statistics, if we pick the year to suit our argument, we can produce all sorts of short-term pointers. Unfortunately, it remains true that the first decade of the 21st century—2000 to 2010—was the warmest recorded in modern times, so that does not seem to me to be convincing evidence of my right hon. Friend’s claim that the climate has stopped warming. In any event, I believe that it is still clear that there are impacts, as I have said, on human and natural systems that result from recent climate changes—when I say “recent” climate changes, I mean “in the last 100 years or so”.
Decarbonising electricity generation is a critical component of what we need to do if we are to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and, as the synthesis report points out, it is economically affordable. Effective implementation depends on policies and co-operation at all levels. That can be enhanced by the integrated responses that may come out of an agreement in Paris—responses that should link mitigation with adaptation and with other, broader objectives.
The Secretary of State said of the fifth assessment report:
“This is the most comprehensive and robust assessment ever produced. It sends a clear message: we must act on climate change now.”
That was also the view of our Committee.
We focused particularly on the contribution of working group I to the IPCC report. There were, of course, three working groups. One was on the physical science basis; the second was on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability; and the third was on mitigation. The conclusion of working group I was that it was now more confident than ever that greenhouse gas released as a result of deforestation and from fossil fuels has caused much of the warming seen in the latter half of the 20th century and, if unabated, those greenhouse gases will continue to drive climate change in the future.
The IPCC was criticised for being political and lacking transparency, so my Committee looked particularly into the process and the robustness of the IPCC’s conclusions. Our conclusion was that the IPCC report provides the best summary of prevailing scientific opinion on climate change currently available to policy makers. It is the most exhaustive and heavily scrutinised report so far. We also consider that there is a high level of statistical confidence in the report and that the overall thrust and conclusions of the report are widely supported in the scientific community.
Of course, as in all areas of science that involve highly complex and dynamic systems, there are uncertainties, but those uncertainties do not cast into doubt the overwhelmingly clear picture of a climate system changing as a result of human activity.
With regard to the criticisms of the IPCC, Professor Lindzen, Nicholas Lewis and Drs Curry and Wyatt, among many others, attended the sittings of the ECC Committee or gave evidence. Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain why he thinks such people were so critical of the IPCC in expressing their thoughts on climate change?
One would have to look at what they have actually said and written about the IPCC. They can probably justify their views better than I can. I recognise that there remains a group of people—I think that it is relatively small—who do not accept particularly the pace at which the climate may be changing.
I am not sure that it is quite a crowd mentality, but there is a very large number of academics and scientists who broadly accept the thrust of what the IPCC has been saying. Whether some people feel that that produces a peer group pressure to conform, I do not know. I have puzzled a bit over some of the comments and responses that we received when carrying out this inquiry. As I said, we recognised that in all areas of science, there are some doubts—some uncertainties—but the overwhelming consensus is right.
In particular, the credibility of the conclusions derives from the evidence, just as I hope the work of my Committee is driven by the evidence that it receives. The IPCC received and reviewed thousands of academic papers, which had themselves been peer reviewed, and the conclusion was that there was a clear, unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised. I thought that the report of working group I was very honest about the levels of certainty and uncertainty, and the “Summary for Policymakers”, which of course is of a readable length—it is a synthesis document—is published alongside the full document, which contains all the technical information on which the conclusions were based.
My Committee has recommended that in future a small team of non-climate scientists should observe the review process for IPCC reports. We also recommended a review of UK modelling facilities. I do not know whether the Minister will be able to give us any information about, for example, what the new Met Office supercomputer may be able to do.
By way of conclusion, what does the report mean for UK and international policy? First, it clearly reaffirms the scientific basis of the Climate Change Act 2008. Secondly, it has put forward the notion of a global cumulative carbon budget—a maximum level of greenhouse gas emissions for the world to emit safely. We must stay within that level if we are to have a chance of staying within the 2° C average temperature rise that is thought to be safe. Those two conclusions in the report underline the great merit of the UK’s carbon budgeting process. I believe that we can quite accurately claim to be leading the world in that and I think that other countries are getting interested in the way in which we are setting and implementing carbon budgets. That is absolutely in tune with the IPCC conclusions.
There is also now an overwhelming need for a carbon price. Whether that is derived from carbon taxation, emissions trading or a combination of the two does not necessarily matter. I personally hope that we can make cap-and-trade systems work, because I believe that market instruments are usually the best way to drive investment where it will be most cost-effectively deployed.
There is work to be done to improve the EU emissions trading scheme, but the inquiry in which my Committee is currently engaged, on linking emissions trading systems, has given us a much clearer understanding of the extraordinary progress being made in China. It is a bit easier to do things when one does not have to consult among 28 countries. The possibility—well, not the possibility, but the extreme likelihood—of a national emissions trading system in China being rolled out as soon as 2016 is astonishing, given that the first pilots are barely two years old.
We have also had this year the publication of the New Climate Economy report. Again, that is evidence based, and again it underlines the fact that climate change mitigation does not have to inhibit economic growth; the two can go hand in hand. We look forward to our evidence session next week with Nick Stern and Jeremy Oppenheim on that subject.
We feel that there needs to be a focus on cities, land use and energy. If we can maximise the use of existing low-carbon technology and find new ways to organise and innovate in those three areas, we can address climate change at the same time as continuing with sustainable development.
Finally, our report calls for, as I have said, the introduction of a strong and predictable carbon price. Anything that the Government can say to reassure us about that and their commitment to it will be helpful. I hope that the Minister can also touch on the prospects for the conference of the parties in Lima next month and look ahead to the Paris COP next year.
We are, as I said at the start, potentially at a turning point in climate policy, and the Paris COP will be a particularly important stepping stone. If we are to achieve the transition to a global low-carbon economy, a sustained commitment will be required from the Governments represented at Paris from 2015 onwards. If we are to succeed in tackling climate change, the world will have to achieve something that it has never managed before: a consistent annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Every year since the industrial revolution, we have had a consistent annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
I am confident that the science will continue to strengthen, and that the evidence of human activity leading to climate change will become stronger, not weaker. As a result, I expect that public concern, not only in this country but around the world, will intensify. The longer we leave the task of mitigation, the more expensive and disruptive it will be to accomplish. I hope, and indeed expect, that there will be a substantial carbon price in one form or another in the 2020s. The inevitable consequence of that will be that countries that have started to decarbonise their economies early will be more economically competitive, not less.
It is worth understanding what is meant when we talk about the scientific basis for climate change. Essentially, if the climate is changing, it is because the energy budget of this planet is altering. We are taking in more energy than we are radiating as a planet. There is no direct way of measuring that process, so we have to look at indirect measurement, which leads us into a number of difficulties. One only has to think about the ice ages to realise that the climate has always changed. There is natural variation, and if the planet is taking in more energy than it is radiating, that will inevitably lead to climate change that is not a natural variation.
As Professor Trewavas has said, there is not a scientist on the planet who can measure and distinguish between natural climate variation and anthropogenic climate variation, so we are in serious difficulty when we talk about the scientific basis of climate change. That has become an area of great controversy and enthusiasm from certain parties. I am—or at least I was—a scientist. As I have debated science in this place and elsewhere, I have come to the conclusion that science and politics are a bad mix, and that one tends to contaminate the other. Science is about the search for truth. Good scientists, if they are proved wrong, will shout, “Alleluia!” because they are pleased that the boundaries of knowledge have been pushed further. Politics is about winning the argument; it is about my side beating the other side.
Unfortunately, in the debate around climate change, some politicians and so-called non-governmental organisations have distorted the science and pushed arguments in a non-scientific way. A current example of that—it is not immediately to do with climate change although it could be—is the case of Professor Anne Glover, the former scientific adviser to the President of the European Commission. She has just failed to get her contract renewed because she took a view on genetically modified foods that Greenpeace and other groups did not like, and those groups lobbied to remove scientific advice from the Commission.
I think we will see that various activist groups have behaved in a similar way in the discussion about climate change. Because of that, I proposed a number of amendments to the Energy and Climate Change Committee report, which fell into three categories. The first was about the political nature of the report that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced. The second was about what passes for science, given the problem I talked about before of direct measurement of the planet’s energy balance and climate change. The third was about the consequences for this country’s energy policy.
Donna Laframboise provided a lot of written and oral evidence to the Committee about the political nature of the IPCC. In drawing up the final report, representatives of 100 Governments met in secret for a four-day session. They changed the report, reducing it by 700 words and increasing the number of pages. Astonishingly, given that the report was supposed to be based on science, they reverse-engineered it to make it consistent with a summary that was a series of political compromises, where words were put up on whiteboards and crossed out according to the agreement or lack of agreement between the representatives of the different countries.
That leads me to two conclusions. Why should an intergovernmental process that produces policies that may lead to trillions of pounds of expenditure around the globe take place in private? It should not. Why should a summary of a scientific subject be produced by Governments rather than by scientists? The IPCC claims that it is a scientific body, but it is not. It is an intergovernmental body that reaches compromises, just as politicians reach compromises. I would scrap the IPCC and move to a science-based body that published summaries of current climate science more frequently.
I would answer my hon. Friend in two ways. First, I would not detract from the basic scientific papers that lie underneath the report. Those papers are produced, by and large, by reputable scientists who are doing their best in a difficult area. Secondly, I ask him to consider the fact that the most significant, headline conclusion was that we should have more confidence in the IPCC’s conclusions now than we did previously. However, its prediction about global temperature increasing over the past 13 or 14 years has been wrong; it did not predict a flattening of the temperature curve. It is strange to conclude, when it has got something so badly wrong, that we should have more confidence in its results, and I do not. To say that I had no confidence would be very strong if that was based on decent scientists doing decent work, but I argue that the process is seriously flawed. That is the IPCC.
Staying with the science for a moment, one of the amendments that I proposed to the Select Committee report was to say that we do not really have 97% consensus that we are heading towards catastrophic climate change. I base that, although there are other areas that we can look at, on Robin Guenier’s evidence to the Committee. He carried out a survey of all the reports that consider the views of climate scientists, and he concluded:
“In summary, the inadequacy of useful evidence means that the extent to which the SPM reflects climate scientists’ views is both unknown and likely to continue to be unknown.”
That is because there has not been a decent survey.
“Therefore it’s impossible to provide a reliable answer to the Committee’s question.”
That question was whether there was a consensus.
“However, such evidence as does exist indicates that the answer would probably be that AR5 reflects the range of views among climate scientists to only a very limited extent.”
That partly answers my hon. Friend’s question.
The regularly cited figure of 97% consensus comes from a report by Cook based on an old survey of about 12,000 pieces of scientific literature. Cook looked at the literature, and if a scientist stated that they believed carbon dioxide to be a greenhouse gas, he claimed the paper in support of the consensus that catastrophic global warming is happening, which is a non sequitur—it clearly is not the case. When we look at the other papers surveyed by Guenier, which I can list if necessary, there are various views from different scientists and groups of scientists. No survey can be absolutely categorical about the views of climate scientists, but when those views are assessed, they certainly do not come out anywhere near 97% consensus that catastrophic global warming or climate change is happening. We can put that to one side.
If we look at where we are left with the science, given the previous problems, we have to consider climate models, because we cannot directly measure the planet’s energy balance. Some of the evidence given to the Committee seriously criticises the climate models. At the time of the report, the Committee did not have the views of Steven Koonin, an adviser to President Obama’s Government who is a specialist in such computer programs. He goes through in great detail where the problems are in the computer models. He points out that the resolution of the computer models is 60 miles, and there can be many types of weather and weather changes in a grid 60 miles square. To work out what is happening, the models start with basic figures and then begin guessing, and it is no better than guessing because they have to work out the average cloud cover based on the humidity and changes in temperature over such large areas, which have huge variations. Basically, the situation can be fiddled within the grid. By and large, the temperature changes over the past 100 years or so vary in such models by factors of three. That does not prove that one of the models is right, because some 55 models are being used out there, but it does show that there is no consistent modelling.
Do the models allow us to predict or understand what is happening? They predict the reduction in the Arctic ice cover but not the increase in Antarctic ice, which probably outweighs the reduction in ice at the north pole. The models do not predict the completely even rise in sea levels over the past 100 years—the rise has consistently been about 1 foot a century for some time. The models predict that the surface temperature in the tropics should increase, but it has not. There are many serious problems with the models, and one has to realise that there are fiddle factors.
The Chairman and other members of the Committee are convinced that the models are the basis on which we should predicate the whole of our energy policy. Our energy policy is to put up the price of fuel for the people I represent, and they are some of the poorest people in this country. We are trying to hit emissions targets on carbon dioxide, and at the same time we are deindustrialising the country, so we are not putting less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; we are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That policy—I do not want to overuse the word “catastrophe”—has perverse consequences. If people genuinely believe that carbon dioxide will lead to a global catastrophe, we should not be pursuing the policies that we are now pursuing. The drive for renewables, where there are indications that current research may lead to better renewables in future, is putting the security of our energy supply at risk. So the three key factors of the Government’s energy policy, based on many of the IPCC’s conclusions, are perverse.
I lost the votes on the amendments that I proposed to the Committee—I often lose votes, which I do not mind because that is the nature of politics—but I ask my hon. Friends and Government Members to address the points. There simply is not a 97% consensus. We are responsible for putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and there is a great deal that we do not know about what is happening in the atmosphere.
I apologise to you, Mr Betts, and to my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo) for arriving a few minutes late and missing some of his opening speech. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), who made an important contribution to this debate, as he does to the Committee’s deliberations. The report, of course, was not unanimous. Both he and I voted against it. I think we were able to secure the inclusion of only one of his amendments, but that is not because either of us denies the basic science of the greenhouse effect. He can speak for himself, but we are both scientists by training, which is a characteristic that is not shared by most members of the Committee. We do not dispute the greenhouse effect, nor did any of our witnesses. However, great uncertainties remain about how much warming a given increase in greenhouse gases will cause, how much damage any temperature increase will cause and the best balance between adaptation and mitigation in response to, or in pre-emption of, global warming.
The main bulk of the IPCC technical report recognises those uncertainties, and the report is simply a useful compilation of research in the field. My criticisms are about the summary for policy makers, which is far less balanced than the report it purports to summarise. The hon. Gentleman explained the process by which the summary was produced, which may be why it is so less balanced. The summary is essentially a document of advocacy, and it achieves its objective of influencing policy makers, as its title indicates, by the selective use of facts and the omission of quite a lot of the stuff in the main report, including some of the most significant changes, which are simply not drawn to the attention of policy makers. I am not the first to criticise the IPCC process.
Yes. I normally call myself a lukewarmist. I believe that the climate will warm a bit, which will probably be quite beneficial to parts of our country, although it could pose problems elsewhere. I do not deny that double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will increase the temperature by 1° and a bit, plus or minus any effect due to positive or negative feedbacks. However, I do not think that the evidence shows that the change will be very large. I will come to that.
It is not just climate sceptics and I who have been critical of the IPCC’s tendency to exaggerate. Following the discovery of inaccuracies, use of grey data and so on in AR4, the fourth assessment report, which forecast that all the glaciers in the Himalayas would melt in 35 years rather than 350 years, the InterAcademy Council—the council of all the main scientific academies in the world, including our Royal Society, the US scientific bodies and so on—carried out an investigation of how the IPCC worked. The IAC was critical, particularly of authors who
“reported high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence”.
It is not just fellow sceptics and I saying it; all the scientific academies of the world, which by and large have signed up under some political pressure to rather unscientific statements about global warming, have considered the IPCC report and concluded that some scientists, although not all, tend to report high confidence in statements for which there is little evidence. The IAC therefore recommends:
“Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs).”
No such basis for assigning enhanced probability was given when the most recent IPCC report came out. Its headline conclusion was that the evidence for human influence has grown since the fourth assessment report, and it went on to attach increased likelihood—categorised on the scale as “extremely likely”, rather than the previous “very likely”—to the possibility that human influence has been the dominant cause of the warming observed since the mid-20th century. That was the overall headline assessment to which the IPCC wanted policy makers to respond. However, it is hard to back up that conclusion from the substance of that report. Since the last report, we know what has happened.
I will make this point, and then I will give way.
Since the last report, the earth’s surface temperature has not warmed further; indeed, it has not warmed during the entire period of the IPCC’s existence, since 1997 or 1998. There has been a hiatus in warming, yet during that period since 1997, one third of all the carbon dioxide ever emitted by mankind has been pumped into the atmosphere. We have had 17 years to test the effect of a third of all the CO2 we have ever emitted, and there has been no increase in temperature. That does not mean that the global warming thesis is dead or wrong—I believe in it—but it does mean that it is not the dominant factor. It means that during that period, other factors were masking any warming due to the increase in CO2.
I would like to get something clear. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that the issue relates to the difference between “extremely likely” in the fifth assessment report and “very likely” in the fourth assessment report? That is, does he stand by the idea that anthropogenic global warming is very likely, although he might not stand by the idea that it is extremely likely, or is he saying that it was not very likely in the first place?
I never made that statement. I think that it is uncertain how much of the heating that has occurred since 1950 is due to CO2. Some of it is; perhaps half of it. I do not know.
It is the word “dominant” of which I am most critical, and the idea that human influence is the dominant factor. During that period, the whole lifetime of the IPCC, there has been no warming, yet a third of the CO2 ever emitted by man has been put into the atmosphere. That does not seem to be evidence for being more certain; it seems to be evidence for being a little more qualified in stating that CO2 may be the dominant factor. It clearly was not dominant during that period. By definition, a period with record emissions but no warming cannot provide further evidence that emissions are the dominant cause of warming.
A number of other, quite important factors have simply been omitted from the summary for policy makers. Although the IPCC says that there is increased certainty, it does not tell us, except obliquely in a footnote, that for the first time, the authors of the IPCC report are unable to agree on a best estimate of how sensitive the climate is to increases in CO2. In previous reports, they have always been able to agree a best estimate, but this time, there has been so much disagreement among them that they have been unable to reach one. When I was a Secretary of State being advised by experts, if there was disagreement among them, I wanted to know about it; I did not want it hidden from me. If the disagreement was new and had not been present in their previous advice, I doubly wanted to know about it. However, that was not mentioned in the summary for policy makers, which is not a good way to ensure that policy makers are well-informed.
Nor does the summary mention that in the body of the report, the IPCC’s medium-term forecast for temperature increases to 2035 is below that given by the climate models. In other words, the experts used their judgment to say that in their opinion, the climate models are wrong. They came up with a forecast below the models, and they explain that the reason is that the models have been overheating. Their forecasts have not conformed to the facts. I would have liked to have that pointed out to me in the summary for policy makers, but it was not. I would also have liked some explanation why, after 2035, the IPCC assumes that the models will be right and will no longer overheat. If they have overheated in the past and are expected to overheat until 2035, why are they expected to be right thereafter?
The overheating is serious, and it is not just during the period of the hiatus. Over the past 35 years, the models studied by the IPCC have collectively run an average of 15% too high. They are significantly in error. That, too, is something that I would have liked pointed out in the summary for policy makers, so that one would know, when talking about model estimates, that they have been consistently and significantly wrong for 35 years. But that was not pointed out.
According to one of our witnesses, the most significant fact in the whole AR5 was the new evidence about the impact of aerosols. We now have evidence from satellite observations that provides more certain estimates of the prevalence of aerosols in the atmosphere and their impact and suggests that they produce less cooling than was previously assumed. However, there was not time to use that information to rerun the model—sometimes the models take months to run—so none of the models takes into account the latest information on aerosols. Had they done so, they would have produced an even higher forecast for future warming, because the future warming forecast involves the warming created by CO2 less the cooling created by aerosols. If there is less cooling by aerosols, the forecasts would be higher—that is, more wrong—in the past, and probably even more wrong in future.
Indeed, given that we know what the actual amount of warming has been, if that warming—0.8° C since the industrial revolution—is the result of carbon dioxide, the model suggests that if it had been down to CO2 alone, the warming would have been something like 1.2%. However, because of the old estimates of aerosols, an offset of 0.4% is assumed, which is why we observe the 0.8° C figure. We know the 0.8 figure is true. If we now have better estimates, so that instead of 0.4% the offset is 0.2%, that means that the CO2 effect should have been forecast as being 1° C rather than 1.2° C or 1.4° C. That is a significant change—new evidence—that should have been brought to the attention of policy makers but was not.
Nor was the fact that most recent empirically based studies of the sensitivity of the climate to CO2 have come out with lower figures. Indeed, since the report came out, a study of all the estimates of the sensitivity of climate over time has been made—in the form of a chart—and it shows that the estimates are progressively coming down. In other words, the likely feedbacks must be less and less, as estimates become more accurate and indeed the period with no warming extends. Again, I would have liked to know that in the SPM, rather than it being hidden away in a 1,000-page report, which by definition the policy makers are not expected to read.
We know that there has been a pause in global warming since 1997. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk says that is somehow a statistical fabrication. If I want to know how long this table is, having climbed up the steps to get to it, when I get to the level bit, I measure that to see how long the table is; I do not include the rise before and I do not exclude some of the flat bit. The length of a plateau is the length of a plateau, and it is 17 years. That is quite simple.
If over that 17 years, the effect of CO2 has been offset by other natural factors—I am not denying the effect of CO2; I am saying it must have been offset by other factors. [Interruption.] Presumably, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) agrees with me; if he would like to intervene to disagree, he is welcome to.
I merely pointed out—unfortunately, from a sedentary position—that it is a little dangerous to start talking about plateaux in the context of what has been probably several hundred years of anthropogenic effects. Indeed, at any particular stage, it would have been possible during that period to select particular years to make particular points. However, that is not the greater point that needs to be taken into account; that is about looking at the overall effects over a period. The right hon. Gentleman persists in talking about plateaux when, in overall terms, that is what happens on occasions in a much longer period, and it can be easily demonstrated over the period.
I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. There are periods when temperature has been rising and periods when it has been falling, for example from about 1945 to the early 1970s. Then there was a period of about 25 years when it was rising and everyone said, “That 25 years is very good evidence.” They did not say, “25 years is far too short a period.” They said, “Oh, that’s it. That’s going to go on.” The Met Office gave us forecasts for a single decade of how much things were going to change; it was confident that this was a continually rising trend.
However, there is a period when it has been flat. But if the underlying greenhouse effect has been rising, that means that natural factors are of the same magnitude, and those natural factors—over the long term—will cancel out other factors. Therefore, the upswing in natural factors may have been contributing to the warming in the 25 years of warming, and that should have been brought to the attention of policy makers but was not.
The hon. Gentleman says that I go on about flat periods. However, far worse than the SPM is the press release issued by the IPCC itself, which says:
“Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
It goes on to say that the period of
“the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface.”
So it is talking about warming.
The fact is that the warming since 1950 has not been unprecedented; it is almost exactly the same, over exactly the same period, as the warming that occurred from the end of the first world war up to the second world war. How can we explain the fact that there was a similar amount of warming when there was very little emission of CO2 to a period with an identical amount of warming when there was a lot of CO2? It must mean that other factors are relevant, and those other factors are of the same order of magnitude in their impact on the climate as CO2.
All I am saying is that these things should be drawn to the attention of policy makers. Policy makers should not be treated as children; they should not be fed a line; they should not be given a document that purports to be a scientific document, but is actually an act of advocacy, achieving its end by selective use of facts and omission of a lot of the evidence that the experts who produced it took a great deal of time and a thousand pages to assemble. Sadly, that is why the report from our Committee sounded more like cheerleading than holding to account a body that must be held to the highest standards, and not excused if it happens to agree with our own opinions.
Mr Betts, I also have to apologise to you for my late arrival this afternoon, and in particular for my inability to hear the contribution to the debate of the Chair of our Select Committee. Nevertheless I predict, although not with absolute certainty, with a fairly high level of certainty that I will probably agree with him in what I say.
I was detained in coming to this important debate by a discussion I was having on Japanese knotweed; to be precise, it was a discussion on Radio 2. On arriving here, I was thinking that perhaps Japanese knotweed is not such an awful metaphor for our debate today, inasmuch as it is here, there is a considerable amount of disagreement about its effect and there is a lot of scientific activity going on at the moment to try to clarify and qualify that effect, including studies to see what insects predate on Japanese knotweed. And there is some uncertainty about whether the effects of insects on Japanese knotweed are real, and about whether “urgent” action needs to be taken, or just “reasonably urgent” action, or “not very much action at all”. So there is quite a lot of debate about Japanese knotweed.
However, what we do know, with a reasonably high degree of certainty, is that Japanese knotweed is very invasive; it uproots our houses and properties, and needs to be dealt with. Indeed, if a surveyor came along to me if I was attempting to deal with my house repairs and said, “It’s very likely that Japanese knotweed is undermining the foundations of your house,” I probably would not say, “I’m not going to do anything about this, because I want to wait until I know that it’s extremely likely that it is undermining the foundations of my house. So I will just let the stuff get on with it until I am absolutely certain, on scientific grounds, that it is extremely likely that my house will be done over.” Instead, I would probably say, “Well, ‘very likely’ is pretty much good enough for me. I’m going to do something about this, and get my house sorted out.”
That in particular was why I intervened on the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) during his contribution, which was about the difference between the fourth assessment report and the fifth assessment report on the degree of likelihood. While it is true that there has been a change between those two reports in what the guide for policy makers is indicating in terms of just how great a degree of emergency we face as far as the effects of anthropogenic global warming are concerned, the assessment has indeed moved from “very likely” to “extremely likely”. As I have underlined, even if someone did not really think that “extremely likely” was absolutely the starting point for taking any further action, they might be rather alarmed by what has happened previously.
What I then worry about is those people who look at the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, just as the Select Committee has done, and who start to raise concerns about it in the way that we have heard today. It is not that those concerns are illegitimate or necessarily entirely out of court, in terms of discussion. However, after that we have to say, “What might some of those concerns amount to, depending on how they are depicted, as important or otherwise, to what is—as IPCC’s fifth assessment report is—a transition of a series of scientific documents, discussions and conclusions, into a document that has some relevance as far as policy makers are concerned?” Indeed, that is precisely the equivalent of a discussion on the science of Japanese knotweed and the surveyor’s report.
It is better that a report produced for policy purposes is a synthesis of what scientists and others are saying and concluding. Indeed, that is exactly what our report concluded.
Beyond that, we then come not to the question of what concerns there might be about some of the detail of the fifth assessment report and its policy summary, but to one important element of scientific method. I should say that I am a social scientist, not a scientist scientist, but I certainly would always have regard to scientific method in my researches and thoughts on a matter, and would be pretty much guided by scientific method and principles of probability and various other things such as those. The important element is that there are always outliers in any scientific discussion. How could it be otherwise? That is what science is about. Science is never unanimous. Indeed, the whole of scientific method is to take something that looks unanimous and test it to destruction and see whether a new consensus emerges from that—and that in turn is tested. There are always outliers and always people who are testing science, and always people who will disagree with a conclusion.
In terms of what science does in informing policy makers, the question is how to best get to the best science that there is, currently, to inform something that will not have 100% certainty behind it but which is, as I have described in terms of what people do about their house, an imperative that they may have to act on, without 100% certainty, but with a high degree of probability behind their actions. That is essentially what the IPCC fifth assessment report is about.
I intervene to offer the hon. Gentleman some advice on surveyors. If a surveyor is asked to do a report, the probability is that he will find some damp, some rot and something to do, because that is his job; he is a professional alarmist. I have a surveyor coming in a week’s time and I am paying him a fee just for the survey, so that he has not got an incentive to create work. In a sense, the IPCC is a bit like that. It is in the job of producing things that show that CO2 is an alarming proposition.
The right hon. Gentleman is exactly right, but I think that perhaps he slightly misunderstood the process that follows that. If people get a surveyor in, it is quite possible that they will find some things wrong with their house. The probability, in terms of that surveyor’s professional background, is that even if the surveyor finds a few things wrong with their house that they do not think are particularly wrong, he is probably right. The question is to what extent they take action following what the surveyor says. The right hon. Gentleman appears to suggest—I would not put words into his mouth—that people can safely say, “This surveyor is just after his own interests in surveying my house, so I can confidently put this in the bin and purchase the house down the road that the surveyor told me is a complete turkey, safe in the knowledge that he is trying to make money. Therefore I can completely disregard what he said. And then, when my house falls down, I will be sorry about it, but I am safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t taken in by that beastly surveyor, who was trying to make some money.” I am not sure that the argument really follows in its fullness. I want to concentrate on that for a few moments in respect of the IPCC report.
One concern about picking small holes in a report and bringing outliers on board in emphasising the size of those holes is that, eventually, people might say, “Perhaps those holes need to be looked at”—indeed, the Committee in its report identified a number of areas in the procedures of the fifth assessment report and the summary following it that did need looking at and action for the future—and they fairly soon elide into talking about conspiracy theories and asking, why would people have falsified data and put things into this report? Or why would scientists from across the world have congregated together to overthrow their own scientific method and start putting bogus material into reports and trying to smuggle such material into summary reports, to falsify those and affect the gravity of action that may be required for policy makers?
The problem then arises of people moving away from citing holes and difficulties to saying that the whole thing is therefore a bunch of falsified bunkum. I have to say that hon. Members contributing to this debate in a contrary position from that of the fifth assessment report and the Committee’s conclusions seem to be sailing rather close to the wind on that. As soon as people get into the area of conspiracy theories, that is the complete overthrow of science. Conspiracy theories and science are mutually self-destructive.
We have to accept, surely, that this IPCC fifth assessment report was carried out by honest scientists from around the world, who honestly put forward what they did because they had found it to be so in their view, and that the collocation of those various views—a difficult process in its own right—was also undertaken by honest people coming to particular conclusions. Unless we think otherwise, we will eventually be in the position of saying, as I have mentioned, not necessarily that it is extremely likely that anthropogenic action on the climate is the cause of global warming, but that it could be “Very likely”, “Maybe”, “Extremely likely”, “Maybe not”, “A bit between the two”, or “Very likely that it is very likely”, and then we are in no man’s land. At that point, people may start saying, “If they are all fabricating these things and the evidence really is a tissue of misrepresentation and lies, then we have no guide at all for policy in future,” which is, after all, what we ought to be discussing in this Chamber.
Normally, the hon. Gentleman is good, in that he follows the logic of my questions through, sometimes to points that I did not want him to reach, but here he is putting words into my mouth that are the exact opposite of what I said. I did not say anyone had falsified anything; I simply said they had excluded material that was in the main report from the summary for policy makers. I hope he will clarify that. I was not accusing anyone of inventing falsehoods.
The right hon. Gentleman is right. He will recall that I said that it sounded to me a little bit like that was the direction in which some of the contributions might be moving. I do not personally accuse the right hon. Gentleman of taking that position. However, a number of other people—not he—have taken and do take that position and it seems to me that they are, as a result, hopelessly adrift in terms of what we might or might not do.
I hope that my hon. Friend does not mean me. I hope I made it quite clear that, as far as I am concerned, the scientific papers are produced—unless evidence shows they are not—by scientists of integrity. Where the problem lies is that representatives of Governments take a large amount of that science and reach political compromises, which is bad for the production of a document. That should be done by scientists, because they would produce a different document. Because they represent the view of their Government, Government representatives stop information from those scientific papers getting into the report. That is not a conspiracy; that is political process.
My hon. Friend sets out a process that seems remarkably similar to every single bit of policy work that ever takes place anywhere in the world on pretty much anything. There is a scientific process and if scientists wish to inform policy makers who are involved in that process, those policy makers will be involved in a process that is less than perfect in relation to what the science says. It is a combination of what is possible, what the policy is that is informed by the scientific process and, most importantly, whether the policy makers should wait for the science to be absolutely perfect before they do anything. My hon. Friend is coming close to saying that unless the science is perfect and scientists can have a sign-off on absolutely everything that goes on to the desk of the last policy maker, we should do nothing.
I am probably the only person here who is not a scientist. Politicians who, like me, are not scientists rely on evidence from scientists on both sides of the argument, because we, as politicians, make decisions based on what the scientists tell us. Where does that leave me?
My hon. Friend is in exactly the position that I have just described. He is a policy maker who has to be advised by the best science. Given the full and informed contributions that he has always made to our Select Committee considerations, he is the complete embodiment of that process. Policy makers have to combine how they see the landscape with what the science is advising about the landscape and make judgments about what should be done in relation to those two facts in their role as policy makers. That is not and should not be a surprise to anybody. There is a real link between what the science is telling us and what we as policy makers have to do about it.
My hon. Friend is being generous with his time. The British Government do not follow the same process as the IPCC when it comes to scientific advice. The Government have a scientific adviser who gives independent advice to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister. Each Department has a scientific adviser and specialist committees. They do not wait until there is certainty; they produce the best available science at the time and Ministers take decisions on that advice. If the IPCC followed that process, I would be a much happier person, but it does not do that. It introduces politicians into the scientific process. That is where it goes wrong, and that is not describing a conspiracy.
My hon. Friend describes the sort of process at an international level that to some extent goes on in Her Majesty’s Government. The document that he refers to, which was referred to by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden, is headed, guide for policy makers. It does not purport to be the scientific document. The scientific documents, as we have agreed, are elsewhere.
It is a summary and a guide for policy makers. If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the document, he will see that that is exactly what it says in those documents. That is how it was announced and how it was reported to the United Nations. Indeed, it is how the United Nations Secretary-General described it. It was specifically set out on the back of the various documents and the detailed material that it was a further document over and above that work, forming a bridge between the scientific material and the guide for policy makers, and that is exactly how it should be seen.
As far as I am concerned as a policy maker, the fact that the IPCC report concluded that the anthropogenic effect on global warming is either “very likely” or “extremely likely” impels me to act, for all the reasons I have described. The Select Committee report was attempting to ascertain the overall veracity of what the IPCC’s fifth assessment report was about, how it translated into policy, possible difficulties and what needs to be done next. That is essentially what our report talks about, and that is good enough for me.
We need to take decisions on how we deal with the decarbonisation of our energy and on limiting as radically as possible the emissions that will add to anthropogenic global warming. Those are the direct policy implications that this House needs to look at closely, and we will unpack that further to say, “We may have disagreements about exactly how we limit the decarbonisation of our energy supply and the many different ways of doing it, but we will have a separate policy makers’ debate”—as my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) has alluded to—“on the best method of doing that.” Unless we have an overarching guide where we are clear about what we are doing, most of the rest of that conversation will not make a great deal of sense.
The best endeavours of pretty much all the scientists involved in this area around the world are to get to grips with finding out what is happening, why it is happening and what we should do about it, and we in this Chamber should commend that work and not seek to draw false conclusions from it or pick holes in it that are of no relevance to the overall policy making thrust. I commend what our report says to Government. I hope that they will be able to take on board what is said and ensure that they use it to guide their policy formation, whatever vicissitudes there may be about exactly how we will get there.
As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate the Energy and Climate Change Committee and its Chair, the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), on the important work it does in this area and especially on the report we are debating. I have to say, not as a scientist—I am a social scientist—that I found this one of the most interesting and contentious debates I have witnessed in this place. The last debate I responded to in this Chamber from this Committee was on how the media report this subject and the clarity with which they report it. With the references to Japanese knotweed, surveyors, facts, not facts and plateaux, I would love to see how they report this debate, but I suspect that they will probably not bother.
I will refer to some of the comments that the Chair of the Select Committee made, which I totally agree with. Positive things are going on and the world is at a turning point. The announcements in Beijing in the past few weeks were encouraging and showed that the USA and China are looking at this issue more seriously. Things have moved forward. As he said, an international carbon emissions pact is much more likely than at any previous point. The whole world needs to step up towards Paris next year, and we need to do everything we can in this place to get ready for that.
I start by looking at where the report concludes. We can be more confident than ever that human activity is the driving force behind the warming of our planet, and that the dominant cause is greenhouse gases. For me, there is therefore no scientific basis for downgrading, diluting or delaying the UK’s ambition to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
I welcome the clarity of the report’s conclusions. It is right that IPCC reports are placed under strict scrutiny, as they are at the core of the UK and global response to the threat of climate change. It was, of course, the conclusions of previous IPCC reports that underpinned the previous Labour Government’s Climate Change Act 2008, a world-leading piece of legislation with targets of 80% emissions reductions to be achieved through interim carbon budgets. The carbon budgets are crucial, and it would have been deeply damaging had this Government not fully implemented the fourth carbon budget, as was threatened just a few months ago. I welcome the fact that the Government have now assured us on that.
Given the fundamental underpinning of the IPCC reports for the UK, it is important that they be analysed in terms of UK energy policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) has rightly stated that climate change is the greatest global threat facing our generation, requiring leadership and resolve. Indeed, the Energy and Climate Change Committee’s report quotes the Prime Minister as saying that
“manmade climate change is one of the most serious threats that this country and this world face”.
Yet the lofty rhetoric is not always matched by the actions of Government and certain Secretaries of State. As a rich country and a significant emitter of carbon, the UK can show global leadership abroad only if we take bold action at home. The UK has a vital role to play in international negotiations on climate change, but we cannot and will not be taken seriously as global leaders if we are not seen to be taking action at home.
Labour has committed to setting a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target, which is crucial for stimulating the investment in clean energy that will boost capacity and drive down costs. Yet this Government have refused to set such a target, which is frankly incompatible with what the report sets out. Furthermore, when the UK Government threaten a moratorium for onshore wind or when the Minister states that solar farms are not particularly welcome, it damages not just our clean energy economy, but our credibility abroad.
The IPCC report shows just how important it is that we rebuild the low-carbon consensus. Having listened to the debate, I think that seems an interesting prospect. Just five MPs voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008 yet debates on climate and clean energy can often be hijacked by those who do not view climate change as a threat. The science has not changed. Indeed, the Committee’s report demonstrates the rigorous, evidence-based work that has gone into the IPPC report.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) said that politicians change, alter and manoeuvre how the science is reported. Politicians interpret and they do so as policy makers, not scientists. One scientist will never totally agree with another, just as one politician will never totally agree with another. The issue is about interpretation and there is a value judgment on the evidence that is presented, which will always be the case. The science has not changed. The IPCC has provided overwhelming and compelling scientific evidence that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity and that it will have disastrous consequences if urgent action is not taken to cut our carbon emissions and invest in mitigation.
I am grateful to the Energy and Climate Change Committee for its work in evaluating the IPCC report and setting out recommendations, and I urge the Government to ignore pressure from their Back Benches and to ensure that the UK is best placed to help secure a legally binding agreement in Paris next year.
[Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo) on securing this debate and thank the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change for its report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s working group I report on the fiscal science basis of climate change. The Government welcome the Committee’s finding that it provides the best summary and guide of the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change currently available to policy makers.
This interesting debate has considered the roles of scientists and politicians. Like the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), I am not a scientist, but I agree with the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) that that does not—I hope—preclude us from making the right policy judgments as we go forward.
The IPCC’s fifth assessment report provides an unparalleled assessment of the latest climate science. There is no comparable process in terms of scope, rigour, transparency or level of Government engagement. The IPCC does not generate new climate science; it assesses peer-reviewed scientific work from thousands of practising expert scientists from around the world. The working group I report was produced by 809 authors, who assessed more than 9,000 scientific papers. The UK is fortunate to have world-leading expertise in many areas of climate science, and I am proud to say that some 100 of the authors were from the UK. The draft report underwent two rounds of review, overseen by a team of 50 review editors, whose role is described in the IPCC’s procedures.
It is true, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) pointed out, that the IPCC for the first time moved away from providing a best estimate as it was felt that it was misleading to have a single figure for an uncertain quantity. The IPCC scientists’ increased confidence in their findings is based on the conclusions of the large amount of wide-ranging literature published since the fourth assessment report. As a result, we can be assured that the latest IPCC assessment represents a true consensus of climate science expert opinion from around the world.
The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) spoke of his concerns about the IPCC. I reassure him that the four-day synthesis meeting to which he referred was not held in secret and that the Government consider IPCC plenary meetings to be sufficiently transparent already through the presence of a number of observer organisations and detailed daily reports. There are 62 non-governmental organisations that are approved observers, as well as several inter- governmental and UN observer organisations.
The Government have considered the Committee’s findings and, as we set out in our official response, seek to take forward a number of recommendations. The Government also strongly support the Committee’s recommendations, which is why we published our vision for the new global deal to be agreed in Paris next year. Our Paris 2015 vision document highlights the strong business and NGO support for securing a global climate change agreement. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk highlights the importance of reaching an agreement at Paris 2015 and I share his dedication and increased optimism, to which the hon. Member for Sunderland Central also referred, following the recent European deal and the good signs from China in the recently announced US-China deal.
Following the IPCC’s report—this guide or summary—there is no doubt that we need to take action. I share the view of the hon. Member for Southampton, Test about Japanese knotweed that action is best taken early before the house collapses. He also wisely cautioned against conspiracy theories, which are sometimes prevalent in this area. In the UK, we are taking action, focusing on the long term and using the carbon budgets to ensure that we deliver on our commitments.
As I conclude, may I point out that it was 25 years ago that a scientist and politician, Margaret Thatcher, who appreciated the need, became the first leader of any major nation to call for a global treaty on climate change? There can be no doubting this Government’s commitment. In September, the UN Secretary-General engaged world leaders at a climate summit in New York, where the UK was represented by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and me. We are leading from the front and we will hopefully be present next year at Paris 2015 to secure the international agreement that the vast majority of us want and that scientists support.
Thank you, Mr Walker, and welcome to the Chair. It will be a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I particularly wish to draw attention to the fact that I am correctly dressed.
To reflect on this helpful and revealing debate, I should say that I am sorry that we have not attracted the interest of anyone who is not, as it were, under duress to attend for one reason or another. Nevertheless, I dare say that a few dedicated outsiders will read our proceedings.
May I mention to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) that the IPCC was established in 1988, not in 1997 as he suggested? I find the notion of a giant conspiracy fascinating and in some ways rather hilarious. The idea that thousands of scientists and politicians are somehow colluding is difficult to regard as credible.
I think that my right hon. Friend bases his view on omissions from the “Summary for Policymakers” of some of the contents of the full report. It is, however, a strange form of conspiracy if a few policy makers get together and say, “Okay, we’re going to publish thousands of pages of documents, papers and the conclusions of an endless amount of work around the world in their entirety, so anyone can look at them. But then we’re going to get together and, because we don’t want all this work to be actually read, understood or communicated outside, we’re going to publish a summary that does not reflect accurately what is in the main document.” In my experience, that is not how most conspirators proceed.
May I make it absolutely clear that my hon. Friend has invented the idea of a conspiracy? Neither the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton nor I have mentioned any conspiracy. All we have said is that the summary is a work of advocacy and, in common with most such works, it leaves out factors and bits of evidence that do not reinforce the case that it wants to get over. That is all.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reassurance that he is not alleging that any conspiracy has taken place. I am sure that those people who mistakenly thought that that was what he said will now stand duly abashed.
I believe that the IPCC process is an extraordinarily open one. It could hardly go to greater lengths to ensure that every bit of evidence is available for public scrutiny and that every conclusion has been examined, re-examined and peer reviewed almost endlessly. For the avoidance of doubt, I should say that my conclusions about the IPCC process—and, I believe, my Committee’s conclusions about the fifth assessment report—are based on our careful consideration of the actual report in its entirety. We have not relied for any of our conclusions on a mere scrutiny of the “Summary for Policymakers”. That is all I need to say about that debate, so I will move seamlessly on to our second debate.
Carbon Capture and Storage
[Relevant Documents: Ninth Report from the Committee on Energy and Climate Change, Session 2013-14, HC 742, and the Government response, HC 638.]
Once again, I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and in particular I declare my interests in a company developing a hydrogen fuel cell and in the nuclear industry.
As we mentioned earlier, the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change introduced the concept of a global carbon budget, a total maximum level of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted safely consistent with a 2° average rise in temperatures. The report stated that the maximum carbon that can be released into the atmosphere compatible with the 2° target is 1,000 gigatonnes.
We have already emitted half that budget. Between the start of the industrial revolution and 2011, 515 gigatonnes of carbon were emitted into the atmosphere, which is a little more than half the carbon budget. We have, however, an enormous amount of fossil fuel still available to burn. According to the International Energy Agency, the total potential emissions from the remaining fossil fuel reserves in 2012 amounted to 780 gigatonnes of carbon which, added to the 515 gigatonnes that we have already emitted, take us well in excess of the budget identified in the IPCC report. In effect, more carbon dioxide is locked up in the fossil fuels that we have not yet consumed than can safely be emitted in order to stay within the global carbon budget.
The International Energy Agency has therefore argued that without a significant deployment of carbon capture and storage, a substantial proportion of the fossil fuel reserves that are proven to be available cannot be commercialised if the temperature rise is to be limited to 2°. According to my arithmetic, less than two thirds of the available reserves may safely be consumed.
All that would change if we had an economically viable form of carbon capture and storage. CCS could allow continued fossil fuel use while staying within the carbon budget. In 2005 the IPCC estimated, for example, a technical potential of at least 545 gigatonnes of carbon storage capacity in various geological formations around the world. Using that potential would transform the prospects of the fossil fuel industries.
Carbon capture and storage not only would allow us to consume more fossil fuels, but has the potential to reduce the overall cost of decarbonisation. In 2009, International Energy Agency analysis suggested that, without CCS, the overall cost of reducing emissions to 2005 levels by 2050 would be 70% higher. Unfortunately, however, the high energy and financial costs involved in CCS at the moment make the process uneconomic. That is why we need to look at whether any policy interventions might be able to overcome the problem.
The carbon capture and storage cost reduction taskforce’s final 2013 report estimated that the first set of CCS projects in the UK could have costs in the range of £150 to £200 per megawatt-hour, which is roughly three times as expensive as using fossil fuels without CCS. That is actually considerably more expensive even than some of the more expensive low-carbon technologies now being supported with money from the levy control framework. Those CCS prices are significantly higher than the strike prices even for offshore wind and nuclear.
The challenge therefore is to find a way of getting the cost of CCS down to levels that make it economically viable. Unfortunately, at the moment, momentum on CCS around the world is pretty slow—in my view, much too slow to offer a realistic prospect of a rapid cost reduction in the near term. Some of the other solutions to climate change have seen a transformation in their costs, such as in the case of solar power. Costs have been driven down to an extraordinary and largely unforeseen extent by the huge scale-up of the solar industry and by the cost reductions achieved by manufacturers in China.
The Global CCS Institute’s 2014 progress report stated, however, that in the whole world at present only 22 projects were in operation or under construction. The next few years are therefore critical if the development of CCS is to be accelerated sufficiently for it to become a significant part of the solution to the challenge of climate change.
I think there is more consensus on this report than the previous one. Does the Chairman of the Select Committee share my optimism about the combination of power production and carbon capture in such novel production facilities as NET Power’s in Sheffield, from which the Committee heard evidence?
I am hopeful rather than optimistic, but I certainly do not underestimate the potential for either that or innovation in other areas. We underestimate at our peril the potential impact of technological innovation in a number of ways. Certainly, one of the reasons why I am not despondent about our ability to decarbonise our economies without constraining economic growth is because I am confident that technology advances will continue to surprise us all. The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) said that we might have more consensus in this debate than the previous one. That is not setting a demanding threshold, but I hope that we achieve that.
The CCS technology road map produced by the International Energy Agency in 2013 highlighted seven key actions needed in the next seven years to create a solid foundation for starting to deploy CCS by 2020. That is a demanding—and perhaps slightly optimistic—target, but at least we are seeing a few more positive signs of progress. Indeed, the Committee has seen a couple of those signs in its work.
On the Committee’s visit to Canada last year—I did not take part and therefore I do not know as much about it as some other members of the Committee—it saw the flagship CCS initiative in Saskatchewan that started operating last month. More recently, on the Committee’s visit to Guangdong province in China, we saw the work carried out on what is referred to there as carbon capture, utilisation and storage in which there is significant UK engagement.
In the UK, we have a particular interest in developing CCS for several reasons. First, obviously it is potentially a key technology that will help decarbonise our power generation and industrial sectors, which are, and are likely to continue to be, significantly reliant on fossil fuels—perhaps in the future that will be more on gas than coal, but it will still be fossil fuels. Secondly, potentially enormous wider economic benefits will flow from the development of economically viable CCS.
The export potential is enormous. Indeed, one of the reasons why I am a little pessimistic about rapid progress on CCS is because the financial opportunities open to any organisation that creates economically viable carbon capture and storage technology are such that it will have the most massive market. When one looks around the world at the amount of coal that exists and could be burnt in China, India, Australia, America and even Europe, one can see that the rewards for developing that will be breathtaking. Given that many businesses in the energy industry have research budgets that run into not millions, but billions of pounds, I am concerned that none of them seems willing to risk much of that money on trying to develop CCS on their own: they all have their begging bowls out and are saying, “This has got to be paid for by the taxpayer” to some—or even a large—extent. Nevertheless, let us not underestimate the potential rewards to be had. If the UK is a leader in developing economically viable CCS, we will get a particular benefit from it.
Thirdly, we should focus on CCS in the UK because we have a significant geological advantage in that, close to our shores, we have the potential for enhanced oil recovery, which greatly improves the economics. Therefore, in our research we should focus particularly on that potential advantage. Other parts of the world, including China, also have that advantage, but if we could show that enhanced oil recovery makes the economics of CCS more viable—if it is brought down close to the price of solar—we should focus on that.
There are, however, barriers to making progress that need to be overcome. The first is the absence of a carbon price. If we had a significant carbon price, that would transform the prospects for CCS. As I said in the previous debate, I am confident that, by the end of the 2020s, we will have a significant carbon price, but that is still 10 or possibly 15 years away and it would be better if we could get on with developing CCS in the meantime. Secondly, it would help if we had a clearer global agreement to tackle climate change. As my hon. Friend the Minister said, and I agree, there is at least a possibility of that emerging from Paris next year. Without that, it will be a struggle and a great deal more Government effort will be needed to develop CCS, especially if we are doing it largely on our own.
Progress in the past 10 years or so has been patchy, to put it no more strongly. The competitions unveiled in 2007 were expected to deliver an operating CCS project by this year, but initially they did not manage to support any projects at all. We had something resembling a lost decade. In 2012, an NAO report on this matter criticised the Government’s handling of the competition, and a second competition, which was announced in that year, is now looking to fund two projects that we hope will be operational between 2016 and 2020.
Despite that slightly faltering start, I am pleased with the recent attempts to move a bit faster. The Government’s response to my Committee’s report stated:
“The Government is committed to facilitating the development and deployment of cost-effective CCS by the 2020s.”
I am reassured. I would have been disappointed if they had said any less than that, but that is at least an earnest of good intentions. The publication in August of “Next steps in CCS: Policy Scoping Document”, which set out the Government’s plans to support the industry, is also helpful.
Looking ahead, there is a clear possibility that the UK will be overtaken by other countries and thereby we might relinquish some advantage that we once had. That would not necessarily be a complete disaster: any country or company that develops CCS will rapidly want to share its technology—though no doubt at some sort of cost—with other potential users.
I welcome and support the Government’s efforts in a number of respects, but I conclude by reiterating some of the key aspects of the Committee’s report. It would be desirable to have contracts for difference available for first-of-a-kind CCS projects. It would be useful to support projects beyond those for which there have been competitions. We would like longer term clarity about the funding framework that may be available in the 2020s. It would be helpful if the tax regime incentivised enhanced oil recovery. I believe there are issues about building public confidence in relation to storing carbon dioxide, on which some people express concerns that seem to me somewhat irrational. Any update that the Minister can give us on any of those matters would be useful.
I have sometimes been publicly sceptical about the potential role of CCS. I do not want to be negative about it; I very much want it to succeed. It seems to me to be the one technology that the world most urgently needs if we are to overcome the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. However, I do not believe that progress has yet been sufficient to enable Governments—here or anywhere—to base their energy and climate change policy on the assumption that an economically viable form of carbon capture and storage will be available in the near future, or, possibly, even the next decade.
I will happily answer to pretty much anything, Mr Walker.
I want—unsurprisingly, I guess—to agree once again with the distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo), about how important carbon capture and storage will be in future to any form of mineral energy burning at all. I also want to draw attention, as the report does, to related issues: the development of carbon capture, the competition, what happens after the competition, and how CCS may sit in our energy economy in the years to come.
Unlike the Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and I visited the first operational CCS plant in the world. It was not quite operational then, but it has been since spring, and is working well and effectively capturing the plant’s whole production. That is significant, because it demonstrates, contrary to one strand of the debate in recent years, that CCS really works. The question of how well it works economically is a second-order issue, but is nevertheless important.
Clearly, CCS in itself will not make anyone a load of money. Indeed, in terms of traditional energy economics it clearly does the opposite, but interestingly on our visit to Canada we learned that some clever circular loops have been built into the CCS process at the plant at Boundary dam in Saskatchewan. That makes the process much more economically interesting than was suggested by early studies on how it would work.
In the UK, where mercifully the first two plants—the competition plants—are, I hope, going ahead on the basis of a substantial degree of underwriting, the question to ask about CCS’s importance to the wider energy economy in future is what happens about plants three to eight. How will the UK get them under way, and make sure that the elements of CCS in which we already have a substantial lead will be part of its worldwide benefits, which the Committee Chairman described?
To roll one stage back, it is instructive to consider where we stand now with our energy strategies, and the role that mineral fuel may play in them. The recent DECC gas strategy included a series of potential scenarios for the role of gas in our future energy economy. They are predicated on a relatively high carbon figure, given as parts per kWh of energy produced—200 grams; or a lower-level scenario, with a figure of 100 grams; and, indeed, a very much lower one of 50 grams. I cannot remember exactly what page of the DECC gas strategy that is on, but an instructive chart shows what the scenario might consist of.
That shows simply that if we want, overall, a reasonably decarbonised energy supply by 2030, then probably—since it is not just likely but pretty essential that there will be an element of gas in the energy mix, balancing other forms of energy that will come forward—there will be room for perhaps 26 GW of new gas-fired plant to come on to the system, but running at a very low level, to back up and balance the working of the rest of the low-carbon energy economy. Perhaps it might run at about 18% to 20% capacity.
If, on the other hand, we want to overshoot that and double the level to 200 grams—and, to allude to the previous debate, we now know from the IPCC assessment reports that that outcome would be intolerable for our climate change goals—we might have room for 43GW of new gas-fired power stations running pretty much at full tilt. In neither scenario, incidentally, would we have room for coal-fired power plant.
The problem with the lower-level scenario is that it would mean suggesting, now, that a number of companies should invest over the coming period in gas-fired power stations that would run for hardly any of the time. That will probably not happen. At the moment a capacity auction is under way precisely to try to get investment in new gas-fired power plants. We are providing capacity payments over a 15-year period for investment in and building of those plants, which, under the relevant scenario, would not run very much.
My view is that investment on that basis simply will not happen. It is possible that no new gas-fired plant will clear the present auction process. We will get underwriting for some existing gas plants, on an annual basis, to continue to supply, but there will probably not be investment in any new gas plants. It is quite possible that without considerable financial assistance there will never be any investment in gas-fired plants in the medium term.
If that is what is ahead, might it be a better to invest in bringing forward CCS, so that the gas plants could run at the appropriate level over the relevant period—and some coal plants could run as well—than to seek the will-o’-the-wisp of providing increasing amounts of money to supply gas-fired power plant providers so they can develop plants that will not run much? Economic policy is directly relevant to the idea that we get on with carbon capture and storage, beyond the first two plants that have been subject to the competition reward, and underpin it over the next period. To my mind, that is the only way in which mineral-based fossil fuel can continue to run on our systems to any great extent over the next period.
I am not the only person saying that. The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney—I was going to say that he is my good friend, but unfortunately he is not; I wish he was—warned just a few weeks ago that on the present arrangements, industry was in danger of backing stranded assets. He told a World Bank seminar that the “vast majority of reserves”—that is, fossil fuel reserves—“are unburnable” if global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2°. He meant that under present circumstances, we simply will not be able both to burn those fossil fuels and reach the 2° target. With carbon capture and storage, however, the scenario starts to change.
I am enjoying listening to my hon. Friend’s analysis. I would be grateful if he answered two simple questions. How much of that analysis depends on obtaining a legally binding agreement in Paris next year? What does he think the implications of his analysis are for the development of shale gas?
To answer the first question, I think a great deal is riding on there being a legally binding contract in Paris next year. Clearly, if Paris turns out to be a complete fiasco and everybody goes in their own direction, we will have to contemplate a future roughly like the one the Governor of the Bank of England thinks we may be facing. As for the potential of an agreement in Paris, I am encouraged by the combination of bottom-up and top-down measures, which may be a rather better way of getting a world agreement than some of the other arrangements there have been in the past. That is why it is particularly important that we contemplate serious bottom-up measures in this country.
On the second question, my personal view is that not only is shale gas in the category of reserves that are unburnable but at present we already face the likelihood that known fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground if we do not do something about how we burn them—never mind us fracking rocks apart to provide new sources. The position with the carbon budget is that serious, as the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee pointed out. That is why, from a wider point of view, I question whether drilling large amounts of shale gas out of the ground to add to the pile of unburnable fossil fuel is necessarily the best long-term policy idea anyone has ever had.
What may change some of those scenarios, however, is, as I have mentioned, the extent to which we move on to the ambition that I think we should have, namely that a good proportion of the new gas-fired power plants—and, perhaps, some coal-fired ones—are properly equipped with carbon capture and storage, as at Boundary dam, Saskatchewan. That way, they can properly play their role in our energy mix while keeping us to our carbon targets.
My view—one also emphasised by the Committee—is that if we are to do that, we cannot simply hope that over the next few years those arrangements will be economic from the market’s point of view. We need to give carbon capture and storage a continued policy leg-up, which can best be done through a device such as contracts for difference for the next few plants to come through after the first two competition plants. To do that, we have to look carefully at the levy control framework we have at the moment, particularly as it moves from the period up to 2020 into the period of 2020 to 2025.
It is urgent that we clarify what a levy control framework will look like over that next period, and, in particular, one that includes carbon capture and storage and other forms of energy assistance. That way there will be certainty in the market so that those developments can take place, as we move forward. At the moment, the levy control framework not only does not have room for even one more large wind farm but disappears off a cliff in 2020 in any event.
I add to the wider philosophical debate about the advantages of carbon capture and storage the practical point that we need urgent thought about just how we support CCS over the next period, so that we have the investment in it that we know will be needed if the outcomes I have described do not come to pass. We need investors to be secure in their minds that they can make carbon capture and storage a reality of the British energy scene, with the benign consequences I have outlined this afternoon.
As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Walker. This has been an interesting debate, as was the previous one—you missed most of it, but we discussed scientists and whether we agree with different views on energy.
I am from the ultra-modern school of the National Union of Mineworkers. I was a coal miner. I worked on the coal face and I really enjoyed that occupation—that is why I sit on the Energy and Climate Change Committee. I am not a scientist, but I am guided by scientists. That is probably the right way to be. When I was in my heyday cutting coal under the North sea, I was under the impression—it is what people had told me—that coal was the fuel of the future. I believed that then and I still do now—coal is extremely important. I was not bothered then about whether coal was burned with carbon capture and storage, or whether it was burned cleanly. It was my livelihood, and the livelihood of people in my community and in communities up and down the country.
That was the way we dealt with the situation. We opposed nuclear, renewables—every single thing—because coal was what we did. It was our livelihood. But as time went on and scientists explained that the planet was being destroyed by gas emissions from fossil fuels, I began to believe and understand that perhaps they had a point. That was against the grain, of course, but it was politics against the scientists. Now, I think the scientists are probably right, but the political situation is not where I would want it to be.
We have been talking about carbon capture and storage for 30 years. It is what we used to talk about as young men in the pit: “How can we burn coal cleanly? If we can get the technology right and the Government begin to invest in carbon capture and storage or some type of clean-coal technology, perhaps we will have a future and will be here for many years to come.” That was topical and we are still talking about it now. It was 30 years ago.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) has given me a cartoon showing a scientist behind a rostrum in 1990—I think it has “IPCC” written on the rostrum—saying, “So, this climate change thing could be a problem.” The cartoon then shows the same fellow in 1995, five years later, with the same specs and same beard, saying, “Climate change: definitely a problem.” It then shows the same fellow six years later saying, “Yep, we should really be getting on with sorting this out pretty soon.” It then shows him in 2007 saying, “Look, sorry to sound like a broken record here.” It shows him in 2013 saying, “We really have checked and we’re not making this up.” Then it show the same bloke a lot older than he was at the beginning; he was tapping the microphone and saying, “Is this thing on?” I thought that was very amusing. It highlights the fact that we have not taken carbon capture and storage seriously for generations. I have been involved in the matter and have been hoping and praying that it would save the industry I loved so much, was brought up with and miss so much.
The Minister said that Margaret Thatcher did x, y and z. I will not get too political about Margaret Thatcher and the coal industry despite the fact that she absolutely demolished it. However, I remind the Chamber that in 1988 Grimethorpe colliery had a demonstration fluidised bed combustion plant and clean coal technology plant in operation and it was closed because of the finance—£38 million. Look at what we are talking about now—£1 billion for two projects. If that project at Grimethorpe had continued, who knows where we could have been?
We all waited after that for the Longannet complex to come into operation. It took years and years by successive Governments to finalise the details and it was withdrawn at the last moment. We have been there or thereabouts for about 30 years and it is about time we got a move on.
It is interesting listening to scientists. The argument is, “Should we listen to scientists or should we not?” If the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is discussing mad cow disease, which affects farmers, experts in the field are listened to and I say that with good humour towards my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer). Of course we are guided by people with knowledge in the field on which the inquiry was focused. We look at a number of things regarding carbon capture and storage, and the contribution that it can make to decarbonisation in the UK.
On the contribution it could make, the Energy and Climate Change Committee estimated that the UK’s decarbonisation power sector will require approximately 18-20 GW of CCS for coal and gas by 2030. The Government’s independent advice from the Committee provided an energy scenario to reach the UK’s 2030 energy decarbonisation target. The power sector currently accounts for around 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. The general mix to achieve a carbon intensity of 50-l00 grams/kWh by 2030 suggests that the energy mix that should be in place is in the region of 40% nuclear, 40% renewable, 15% CCS, and around 5% unabated gas-fired generation. With power generation capacity of about 125 GW by 2030, that equates to 18-20 GW of CCS for coal and gas. Is that realistic? My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test mentioned emission level targets: the 100 grams/kWh and the 200 grams/kWh. I think it will be extremely difficult to reach such targets. Perhaps we should look at them and concentrate on them.
Ministers and Members generally say that things are looking far better now because we are getting rid of coal, which has emission levels of roughly 850 grams. Gas has less than roughly 450 grams.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton mentioned the potential for shale gas. The reality is that we are crying out for shale gas, but we must be careful what we are looking at. If we exploit shale gas and extract as much as has been suggested, we will need carbon capture and storage or we will miss every target that we have set ourselves. That is the reality. Carbon capture and storage is not just for coal; it is for fossil fuels. Shale gas is a fossil fuel and natural gas is a fossil fuel. That is why there is a real need for carbon capture and storage.
The Committee on Climate Change estimated that the power sector will capture a larger amount of CO2 per year than industry until 2040, when power and industry are projected to capture similar quantities annually. The Committee said that,
“there is a growing role for CCS in industry through the 2020s, which by 2030 reduces emissions by around”
5 million tonnes of CO2. So a lot of information is being pressed and put forward by the Committee on Climate Change; but I do not agree with all of it, and neither does the Select Committee.
The second issue concerns the potential benefits that the UK could get from the ability to export carbon capture and storage technology and techniques across the world. I have the latest figures in front of me and they suggest a major green-growth opportunity for the UK and:
“If CCS opportunities develop as anticipated, benefits for UK-based firms have been estimated to be between”
£3 billion and £6.5 billion a year by the late 2020s. That is fantastic.
We are living in austere times when young people need employment, skills and apprenticeships. We live in a low-wage economy. Developing carbon capture and storage and using young people, skills, apprenticeships and so on is so important for what we could do to lead the world of carbon capture and storage, and to export those technologies. We should be focusing on that as a priority.
The third issue is the international efforts to mitigate climate change and the role that UK CCS could play in that. CCS is acknowledged to be a crucial transitional technology for climate change mitigation. The UK has a crucial seedbed role to play. We are told that there is a clear danger that other countries will move ahead more rapidly, and that the UK could lose what might be perceived to be a technological advantage in market leadership. I think we have already lost that. We keep saying that we are leaders in this and leaders in that, but we are not particularly leaders in much in terms of energy.
The Select Committee had a fantastic, very informative visit to China only two or three weeks ago. We keep telling the Chinese that we are leaders in carbon capture and storage, but we do not have a plant and they have, and we keep telling them what they should be doing. Last year, we went to Boundary dam in Canada to look at the carbon capture plant that my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test mentioned. We keep telling them that we are leaders, but we do not have anything in place yet and we are not likely to have anything in place in terms of carbon capture and storage until 2020 at the earliest—that is if we get our skates on. Even though we should be leaders, we are not, but we keep telling people that we are, when it is really not true.
The Boundary dam project has been completed; it was estimated to start some time in March this year, although I believe that it started slightly later than that. It is a 110 MW coal power plant with retrofit CCS technology, and the total cost of the project was estimated to be about $1.24 billion, with $240 million from the Federal Government. We were very pleased to see it, because the Committee discussed carbon capture and storage many times without actually seeing a plant with more than two or three bricks. We have been there and done it. We have looked and got advice, and the report, in my view, is exactly what we need.
The Chair of the Committee said that despite the claims that there are many plants globally, there are only 22 projects in the world, and that includes China. Interestingly, we were in China, which burns about 1.3 billion tonnes of coal a year, largely, if not entirely, unabated. The technologies that are being developed there are fantastic. We have seen massive progress in China on renewables and nuclear, and there is a real desire to move away from coal. I think it will be extremely difficult, in the next 50 years even, to get China to convert what they are now burning in coal to other types of alternative energies—to green energy and renewable energy. We were in Beijing, which was unbelievable. You could only see 50 yards ahead of you, Mr Walker—this was a really sunny day, or they said it was sunny; you couldn’t see the sun. Somebody said that the toxins in the air should be measured at about 20 to 50, according to the World Health Organisation, but on the day we were there, they were 500. It was unbelievable, and it was mainly because of the energy and power being generated in the area.
We have a huge role to play, and although we keep saying we are market leaders, we need to be market leaders. It is so important that we get on with it and develop what we said we would almost 30 years ago. There are a few barriers, and a few key players have suggested that they might be interested in moving into the market, apart from the two big projects that have been set up. However, the four key issues for potential investors in CCS projects are the operating costs, the contractual terms and the involvement of contracts for difference, the storage performance risk and the CCS development timelines, which I have already mentioned.
We have to get on with it. We have to make sure that when we say we are the leaders, we actually are the leaders in carbon capture and storage. It is not just for the coal industry; it is for the gas industry, too, whether that is natural gas or shale gas. We and the European Union have set ourselves some very harsh emission-level targets for the future, for 2020, 2030 and 2050, but we cannot achieve any of those targets unless we have carbon capture and storage up and running in this country.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship here, Mr Walker, just as it is in other forums of the House. I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the contributions from members of the Select Committee to this interesting debate. The Committee’s report was timely, coming as it did alongside further interest from the Government in some of the other documents that others have touched on, including the Government’s scoping document.
I was here for most of the previous debate, although I missed the opening comments from the Chair of the Select Committee—whatever state of dress he was in. The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) also spoke, but he is not here now. Although I have not read the full 1,000 page report, I have read some of the summary documents that were referred to. I do not think that those documents were seeking to mislead anyone in making clear the importance of carbon capture and storage for the future. These debates follow on from each other in quite a relevant way.
I have taken part in most of the debates on carbon capture in this House in the last four or so years, first as a Back Bencher and then as a Front Bencher. My view is that CCS is an absolutely vital technology in our transition to a lower-carbon economy—not just for the generation of power, but in terms of a number of energy-intensive industrial processes.
Some people argue that it may well be possible to generate power in various different ways that mean that carbon capture and storage proves to be too difficult or expensive or becomes something that happens further into the future. However, without carbon capture and storage I do not think that there is any realistic option or alternative for a number of industrial processes to reduce significantly their carbon emissions while continuing to be part of our industrial space and foundation industries for the manufacturing base and other sectors in this country.
It is important that we make sure the focus in the Select Committee’s report on industrial clusters is not lost in this or any other debate about carbon capture and storage, because it is vital. As I have previously remarked, power can be generated from wind, wave and solar, but no one has yet demonstrated how to manufacture steel from sunshine. That is unlikely to be the case in our lifetimes and for that reason, apart from any other, CCS remains vital.
I say that because one of the frustrations in our various discussions of CCS over the past few years is that every now and then, it becomes something that people alight and comment on, saying it is important and wanting to demonstrate commitment to it, but then the subject disappears again and when it reappears we find that we have not moved far along. That is not all the fault of the current Government or the previous Government; some of it is to do with technical issues. It is, however, vital that there is a sense of serious and significant engagement from the Government in the existing situation and into the future.
In August, the Government published their scoping document and there is a lot to commend in it. Interestingly, it also refers to carbon capture and utilisation, as well as to carbon capture and storage, which is another important and interesting aspect. There is no denying that many in the nascent CCS industry were disappointed with some of the content—or, more accurately, lack of content—in the scoping document about some of the big issues that my hon. Friends the Members for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) and for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) have touched on, particularly on the way in which contracts for difference will work for CCS technologies and how that will be taken forward. There was a level of expectation that things would at least begin to be addressed in that document in a way that, actually, they were not.
I am conscious that there have been some announcements this week. I am not sure whether the members of the Select Committee know—I was made aware of this while listening to the previous debate—but the Government have today released to the CCS Development Forum some proposals in relation to phase 2 projects that seem, from the summary that I have just been able to get by e-mail, quite interesting.
It is welcome that the Government propose to establish an expert group—the Minister may be able to help me if I have got some of the details wrong—that will probably meet before Christmas and will provide evidence to Ministers by April on the way in which phase 2 projects could be taken forward. I presume that that will be a matter for whoever the Government are post the general election.
That is a welcome development. I am also pleased that the UK Government and the Canadian Government this week signed a joint statement on a number of issues relating to CCS, but particularly about cost reduction, to which the Chair of the Select Committee referred. Other issues include the ways in which intelligence, expertise and experience can be shared to meet shared goals.
I was struck by the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck made in his description of the series of cartoons about climate change. We could apply that to many different areas of energy policy. The point that I will make is that, often, the longer we leave decisions, the fewer options we have and the more expensive they become. That is certainly relevant in this case. My hon. Friend referred to the lead that the UK claims to have in relation to carbon capture and storage. He is right: we say and have said that frequently. We may not be in the lead, but we do have very significant academic and industrial expertise, which is important. We have the experience of earlier projects, including Longannet, which Scottish Power pulled out of a couple of years ago, for a range of reasons. Some were financial, but some were technical, so there is valuable experience from that.
We have something else that I think is quite important—potential storage capacity that, to other places in Europe, may well be very attractive. Depleted oil and gas fields are available and could potentially be sites for storage. The Select Committee Chair referred to some of the issues in relation to public acceptability. Members of the Committee will be well aware of the situation in Germany, where the public antipathy or opposition to carbon capture and storage was very strong from the very early stages because people were not comfortable with the idea of carbon dioxide being stored underground. However, if we have the opportunity to offer storage sites, a wider economic advantage could come with that.
There is a huge amount of opportunity, which we should not seek to underplay. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck also touched on this issue. The opportunities in relation to economic activity are also potentially very significant. Not immediately but in the second half of the 2020s and beyond, this could be not just an enabler of industries continuing in parts of the country, including—not quite in his area—in Teesside and the cluster of industrial activity there; it could be, in and of itself, a significant employer. There is real potential, which has been highlighted by various bodies.
I do indeed. I think that I recall discussing that very issue with my hon. Friend when the decision was made. It was an absurdity to have the top-rated project in Europe and not to achieve the NER 300 support because of the inability of the UK Government to find match funding when they had been saying that £1 billion was available at that point within that comprehensive spending review period. We later discovered, of course, that that was moved to other infrastructure funds and was not then available. That is one of the frustrations that there have been along this bumpy road in recent years.
There have been other frustrations. Some are down to the attitude and commitment of the Government. Some are due to technical reasons and some are due to financial reasons. We have had a situation over many years—it predates this Government; it also existed under the last Government—in which confident predictions are made about how quickly CCS will be available and operational, but we have not met them. That makes the urgency of seeking to meet them all the more important in the years ahead.
The hon. Members who took part in the visit to Saskatchewan referred to the project there. I am struck by the comments just today from Michael Monea, the president of CCS initiatives at SaskPower, about the level of commitment required to ensure that it got the first project up and running. That is also an important point.
Hon. Members have referred to the 22 projects that there are currently around the world. There were previously about 70. Then the number went down to about 50 and now it has gone down to 22. The danger that we may have is that where CCS projects get up and running, they become almost engineering curiosities, isolated from anything else.
We should be very aware of the need to take the programme forward for further projects, because although the competition and the two projects that are undergoing their front-end engineering design studies at present—the Peterhead project and the White Rose project—are important, we want them to be the start of something, rather than just curiosities, as other things have been in the past. That is why I genuinely welcome the information that I got just a couple of hours ago about the work on phase 2 projects. I think and hope that that indicates real commitment to taking those forward, because without that, we will not achieve many of the things that we want to achieve.
The other point to make about industrial CCS is that of the 22 projects, only three are power stations; the remainder include industrial facilities manufacturing iron or processing other things and projects at natural gas processing facilities. That underlines the point about the importance of making progress on industrial CCS. Again, the Select Committee report highlighted that. Indeed, it concluded that there has not been the necessary level of commitment from Government in terms of promoting clustering and the benefits from that.
A range of difficulties are associated with seeking to do CCS for industrial processes, because there are, potentially, a number of different industrial companies on a site or within a geographical area. They will almost inevitably be operating at different points in their own economic cycles, and the capital available will be different. In some ways, it is probably conceptually easier to think about CCS for a power station than for a series of industrial processes in a geographical area, but that makes the case for greater Government discussion of and interaction and engagement with such projects, because for those reasons they are more difficult.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to take part in this debate on a subject that I personally find fascinating and interesting. I apologise for going on for a slightly longer time than I was probably allocated in order to expound some of my views. Carbon capture and storage is a vital process. Everyone who has taken part in the debate has made it clear that they see the importance and urgency of seeking to achieve it. There are different levels of optimism, but I think that we would be in a much worse position if CCS was not something that remained a realistic possibility.
I believe personally that in the long term CCS is a necessity, rather than an option, and that this and future Governments should engage in facilitating and helping to ensure that we manage to achieve that opportunity—for the benefit of our environment, our energy security and a number of different industries, which I very much hope will continue to be part of our economic model in the United Kingdom.
Once again, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr Yeo) on securing the debate. We have had some interesting contributions, and it is reassuring and encouraging to see that there is so much commitment to the subject.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry and report on carbon capture and storage highlighted several important issues. In the Government’s response, we welcomed the Committee’s report and set out the action we are taking in the field. I welcome the opportunity to set out in more detail our work to develop that important technology and our longer-term vision for CCS. I also welcome the opportunity to celebrate the important CCS milestones that have been reached since the Committee published its report in May. Those milestones have reinforced the message about the potential of that important technology.
CCS has the potential to be a critical part of the Government’s plans for future growth in a low-carbon economy, and the need for it is absolutely clear. CCS offers us the chance to enjoy the energy security and resilience benefits of fossil fuels, including our indigenous fossil fuel resources, without the associated emissions. CCS could help us meet our emissions targets in a cost-effective way, allowing us to manage the costs of decarbonisation. The Energy Technologies Institute estimates that successfully deploying CCS could cut the annual cost of meeting our carbon targets by £32 billion by 2050, and it creates opportunities for jobs, growth and exports. The global CCS market is predicted to reach £100 billion by 2050. Because of its potential to contribute to an affordable and sustainable energy mix, its advantages for energy security and resilience, and the growth and investment opportunities it represents, we are committed to working with industry to develop and deploy CCS at commercial scale. We are taking forward a comprehensive package of measures, with significant funding, designed to develop CCS in the UK and ensure we can seize the benefits that that exciting technology offers.
We anticipate that there could be three phases of development of CCS in the UK. The first phase is the current CCS competition, about which we have heard something this afternoon. Through that competition, we want to support up to two CCS projects through to construction, but it will deliver more than that. Those projects could prove the technology at scale in UK conditions, drive down risk, lay down critical CCS infrastructure and demonstrate successful commercial arrangements for CCS. In the second phase, further CCS projects will build on the foundations of the competition, before a third phase in which we hope to see the transition to commercial cost-competitive CCS. Our policies are designed to help bring CCS to that final phase, which is the point at which it can compete with other low carbon technologies.
The Government are working hard to get the first projects up and running in UK conditions. Our £1 billion commercialisation programme is designed to help that to happen, and we have made good progress with the White Rose and Peterhead projects over the past year. In December last year, together with Capture Power Ltd and National Grid, we signed the multi-million pound front-end engineering and design contract for the White Rose project. That innovative proposal is to build the world’s biggest oxyfuel power plant at the Drax site in Yorkshire with full carbon capture and storage, which could bring clean electricity to more than 630,000 homes. That will link into the planned development of a CO2 transportation and storage infrastructure called the Yorkshire Humber CCS trunkline, which could have capacity for additional CCS projects in the area and provide the foundation for further CCS projects in the region. I hope that that will also address the clustering issue that the Select Committee referred to.
In February this year we signed a contract with Shell for a FEED study of its Peterhead CCS project, which could become the world’s first commercial-scale gas CCS project. The proposal is to attach carbon capture technology to the existing gas power plant at Peterhead and transport the CO2 for permanent storage in the depleted Goldeneye gas field. The project could bring clean electricity to more than 500,000 homes and capture 1 million tonnes of CO2 each year.
Gas will continue to play a significant role in the UK’s future energy use. It is important for our energy security, because it provides secure but flexible generation to complement other intermittent low-carbon sources. The UK has established gas resources in the North sea, and there are also exciting opportunities from shale gas. The Government are working hard to bring forward investment in gas through the capacity market, but in the longer term, being able to use CCS on gas will be important to help us meet our emissions reduction targets. Not only do our chosen projects help to commercialise different generation and capture approaches, but they develop important transportation and storage infrastructure. White Rose involves building a new pipeline and storing carbon in a saline formation, and Peterhead intends mostly to reuse existing North sea infrastructure and a depleted gas field. That approach could allow us to commercialise and de-risk a variety of CCS-related approaches which will help pave the way for the projects that follow.
We have set aside £1 billion to support the first CCS projects in the UK, and we are investing £100 million of that now in the development of detailed engineering and planning designs for those projects. That is essential work, which the companies must carry out thoroughly, and they require time and support to do that. That work will provide information on costs that will allow the companies and the Government to take sensible final investment decisions, which we expect to be taken in late 2015 and early 2016, on whether to proceed with the projects. I hope that that will reassure hon. Members about our commitment to developing CCS and our determination finally—we appreciate that we have waited a long time for this—to achieve the production of CCS.
Our vision for CCS in the UK does not stop at those projects. We want a strong and successful CCS industry that can compete on cost with other low-carbon technologies in the 2020s, and that deploys up to 13 GW by 2030. We published “Next steps in CCS: Policy Scoping Document” in August. The document sets out the steps that we have taken so far to develop CCS and our views on the issues that must be addressed in order to bring forward future phases of projects. We are now reviewing the responses to the document to help inform future decisions. The consultation covered a range of issues that we believe will be important in setting the policy framework for further CCS projects.
I reassure hon. Members that we are ambitious for the UK to be at the forefront of the technology, and we are always thinking ahead to ensure that we can support innovation in that field. This morning, I visited Imperial college in Kensington to look at various projects, one of which was described as carbon negative. It was not simply CCS; it actually removed carbon from the atmosphere. There is a lot of innovation in the field, and we are keen to support it. The hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) referred to seeding new projects, and that is exactly what we are doing. We are the only EU country where Government funding is supported for that, so I believe that we are leading in the field. We are working with 13 CCS projects in depth, and we have supported them with a total of £20 million. Many of those projects are based at other leading UK universities. This is an exciting and innovative science, and we must spread our support around to ensure that we back the eventual winner.
The Minister is talking about other projects. Can she enlighten us about when the Government will be able to explain how contracts for difference will be adjusted to become workable for future CCS projects? That is a big barrier to potential and partly developed projects.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s question, and I will address it as I proceed.
The electricity market reform programme will provide a route to market for CCS projects. The reforms are specifically designed to bring forward investment in low-carbon generation, including CCS. One of the key elements of EMR is the introduction of contracts for difference to incentivise investment. In recognition of the fact that the first CCS projects require specific support, the first CfDs will be agreed through the competition process. We are also looking at how EMR can help subsequent projects, and we are working with CCS developers to understand the support that they need to bring their projects forward.
In July, we decided to hold back a significant part of the levy control framework budget, retaining almost £1 billion available by 2020-21 for allocation to renewable and CCS projects, including up to two CCS competition projects. That will ensure that later projects, which may be better value for money, have a potential route to funding.
The hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) referred to industrial CCS, and we agree that CCS could be important for supporting the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy-intensive industries. Those sectors are not only major employers in the UK but vital for a low carbon economy. Wind turbines need steel, cement and chemicals, and we are making progress in that area. In December 2013, the Prime Minister announced £1 million for a feasibility study on CCS for industrial emitters as part of the Tees Valley city deal. Our engagement on that with the energy intensive sectors continues. Officials from my Department and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills held two workshops earlier this month in London and Teesside, building on the report we published in May on the current state of technology and costs for CCS in four key sectors: steel, cement, chemicals and refining. The first outputs from the Tees valley work will be available in 2015, and we will also be publishing broader work on how to decarbonise key industrial sectors in early 2015.
The review led by Sir Ian Wood on maximising recovery from the UK continental shelf was published at the same time as the Peterhead announcement in February. The review recognised the exciting opportunities that CCS offers for the North sea, turning depleted oil and gas fields into CO2 stores and presenting new opportunities for our world-leading offshore and subsea industries. Sir Ian encouraged further collaboration across industry, with DECC and the research community, as the most appropriate means to promote growth in this area. The UK has extensive, well mapped capacity for offshore storage, and developing that potential would be mutually beneficial for the CCS and North sea industries. Sir Ian was also interested in the role CO2 could play in enhanced oil recovery in the UK. We saw in north America how EOR played a critical role in the development of CCS.
Building the supply chain is another key part of our vision for CCS. We want to maximise the potential to contribute to UK jobs, growth and exports. So far, more than 20 front-end engineering and design subcontracts have been awarded, supporting both the Peterhead and White Rose CCS commercialisation programme projects, and the Government are supporting partners such as the Energy Industries Council to facilitate contact between the projects and companies through supply chain events.
We are now also seeing exports. A key US CCS project at Kemper county, Mississippi is due to go into operation next year, and it will be powered by $2 million compressors manufactured by the Howden Group at Renfrew in Scotland. In addition, our world-class £125 million R and D programme is developing better, cheaper CCS technologies, including finding new uses for CO2 rather than simply storing it deep under the sea bed. Econic Technologies, a small company based in London, secured a further £5 million at the end of last year from industry partners to continue work funded by DECC to develop new plastics that use carbon dioxide. Those examples give a sense of the opportunity we have through CCS to support economic growth in this country and to establish the UK as a world leader in CCS technology and innovation.
Before concluding her remarks, will the Minister clarify what she means by £1 billion being left in the levy control framework in 2021 for CCS? As far as I understand from the material recently published by DECC on the passage of the levy control framework, £1 billion will be left in the framework only if the cumulative consequences of previous allocations of levy control framework-based technology are not taken into account.
I thank the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) for his question, but I will have to come back to him with a full answer.
I will conclude, as I want to leave my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk some minutes at the end. I want hon. Members to be in no doubt that we are committed to CCS and that we are working with the two winners of the competition to give them as much support as we can to develop this technology so that we can become the world leader, not only the leader in the EU. We also feel that there is opportunity to support innovation in this area. I reassure hon. Members that my Department is working with various universities on a number of projects. I have looked at some of those projects, and they are incredibly exciting. Science is moving forward, and although I share the Committee’s frustration to a certain extent—the word “frustration” comes up a lot in the Committee’s comments about CCS programmes—we have to manage taxpayers’ money carefully to ensure that we are stimulating development and supporting the production of CCS in a way that is economical and ambitious so that we can become the world leader. Of course, to stick to our ambitions we have set targets, which we intend to meet. We believe that CCS is an important part of that.
I thank everyone who has taken part in these two debates, particularly my hon. Friend the Minister, for her responses. We will hear from her again on another subject next week, when she gives evidence to the Committee for the first time since her appointment. I also thank the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex) for his contribution. There is a fair degree of bipartisan consensus on CCS, which is helpful in an industry where decisions have to be taken for investment purposes on a very long-term basis.
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) on his speech and his obvious and passionate pride in the industry in which he worked. The first parliamentary election I fought was in a south Wales mining constituency more than 40 years ago. I remember the extremely vibrant engagement I had with many people who worked in the industry at the time, when of course it was a vastly more important employer in south Wales than it is today. One of the most astonishing statistics is that just over 200 years ago in, I think, 1800, 98% of the coal being mined in the whole world was mined in the UK. The ability to move that coal from Newcastle to London, which at the time was the centre of the manufacturing industry, made that possible. Our leadership in mining and using coal was one of the principal factors behind the industrial revolution, so it would be fitting if, having led the world in the exploitation of coal, we could also lead the world in the technology that makes it possible to go on using coal during the rest of this century.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) and I often agree, and I hardly ever hear him say anything that I would not have said myself. The point he just raised with my hon. Friend the Minister, was exactly the point that occurred to me, so I too look forward to the response. The question goes to the heart of some of our concerns about the long-term future of the levy control framework, which is absolutely essential to supporting low-carbon electricity generation. To give the Government credit, investment in low-carbon renewable energy has increased enormously in the past few years. That is a great success story, and we want it to continue into the 2020s. To do that, we must be clear about how the levy control framework will work beyond 2021.
I am grateful for those contributions. This has been a useful debate, although I know it has not been hugely well attended. I repeat my thanks to the second Clerk of the Committee for his assistance at the start of this sitting, and I am grateful to you, Mr Walker, for your courteous and elegant chairmanship.
Question put and agreed to.