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Climate Change: Bali Conference

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2007

My Lords, with permission, I shall repeat a Statement made in the other place by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the climate change negotiations in Indonesia. The Statement is as follows:

“Along with my honourable friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth, I attended the 13th conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the third meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Bali. After intensive, and at times difficult, talks, we reached an historic agreement in which for the first time all the countries of the world agreed to start negotiations on a new climate deal after the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012. These negotiations will begin next year and will be concluded in Copenhagen in 2009.

“The Bali action plan represents the most significant collective agreement to protect the world since the Kyoto Protocol was signed 10 years ago. It recognises the need for deep cuts in global emissions, as set out in the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“In addition, in the ad hoc working group on further commitments for Annexe 1 parties under the Kyoto Protocol, which forms part of what was agreed, we recognised the need for global emissions to be reduced by at least 50 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels and for developed countries to reduce their emissions by 25 to 40 per cent by 2020.

“The Bali action plan commits developed and developing countries over the next two years to negotiating a long-term global goal for emission reductions and to agreeing measurable, reportable and verifiable national and international action to mitigate climate change by all countries. These include commitments to emission limitation and reduction objectives by developed countries.

“The action plan will bear in mind the different national economic and social circumstances of developed and developing countries, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. Negotiations will take place in an ad hoc working group on long-term co-operative action under the convention, with four meetings taking place next year.

“In addition to the action plan, Bali also resulted in some significant breakthroughs on technology transfer, deforestation, adaptation and carbon markets, which will begin almost immediately. On technology, there was agreement on an ambitious work programme covering both mitigation and adaptation. A framework convention expert group will examine ways and means of speeding up technology development and transfer, and its funding.

“On deforestation, which is responsible for about 20 per cent of global emissions, the agreement in Bali will pave the way for incentives to reduce these emissions, and these will cover both wholesale deforestation and more gradual damage. The agreement will set the rules for projects which can be piloted to common United Nations-approved guidelines, so that what is learnt can feed into a future climate framework. I announced a United Kingdom contribution of £15 million to the World Bank forest carbon partnership facility, which will assist countries to try out this new approach.

“A decision was also reached on the governance of the adaptation fund, which will support developing countries in adapting to the climate change that is already inevitable. This will be funded by a 2 per cent levy on the clean development mechanism.

“On carbon markets, it was agreed to abolish registration fees and levies on clean development mechanism projects in the least developed countries and to approve the use of non-renewable biomass clean development mechanisms, which means that projects such as encouraging small cooking stoves will now be possible through the clean development mechanism. Changes were also agreed to improve the way that the clean development mechanism and its board function, and the United Kingdom announced the Africa Springboard Project, in which we will work with 10 UK financial institutions to try to increase the number of clean development mechanism projects in Africa.

“The success of the Bali conference was, I think, made both possible and necessary by the compelling clarity of the science contained in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, by the strength of the economic case for urgent action set out in Nick Stern’s findings, and by the way in which our changing climate has changed our world’s politics.

“I would like to pay particular tribute to the leadership of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, to the President and Government of Indonesia, to Portugal as holder of the European Union presidency, and to the recognition by every delegation that we could not let the next generation down.

“I would also like personally to thank officials from across the United Kingdom Government and from the embassy in Jakarta for their extraordinary knowledge, dedication and commitment.

“This agreement represents a successful outcome to extensive lobbying by the United Kingdom and the European Union over the past 12 months, building on the results of G8 summits and other meetings. It also very much reflects the elements of a future framework agreed by European Union Heads of Government earlier this year.

“The hardest stage, however, begins now, and we will of course play our full part over the next two years in seeking to reach a global climate deal that will take us beyond 2012. But, without what was agreed in Bali, there would be no negotiations and no possibility of a deal. That is the real significance of what the world resolved to do in Bali last week”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for repeating the Statement and for informing the House of progress on what has been a truly monumental issue. In particular, I thank him for interrupting a ministerial tour in order to present the Statement to the House. It is very much appreciated. I also thank him for the advance copy of the Statement.

It is reassuring to see that the Government are indeed working on the issue of climate change not only at home with a Bill in this House, but internationally at the negotiating tables. We on these Benches certainly welcome what seems to be progress towards a global solution to this global problem. It must be the right strategy.

The Secretary of State called the agreement reached at the Bali climate change conference “historic”. Although we on these Benches appreciate the significance of a commitment from all the countries of the world to start talks on a new climate change deal, his adjective does not quite seem apt. I would certainly argue that the important groundwork has been laid for what could be a truly historic achievement, but is his description not premature? Does the Minister agree, for example, that not agreeing to any binding targets represents a significant weakness?

Essentially, it seems that the Government have merely agreed to have potentially historic talks in the near future. It is important to note that we have not made history yet. The challenges of co-ordinating a global agreement on tackling climate change are immense and we appreciate the complexity of such an undertaking.

I have to ask whether enough was done by our Government at the conference and whether history could have been made. My understanding is that there was much discussion about binding targets. Given that the Government are bringing forward the first legislation to enshrine binding targets in law, would I be correct in assuming that they led the call for targets at the international level? There were reports that the UK helped the US to remove binding targets from the text of the agreement. Could the Minister comment?

I am sure that the Minister will join me in my satisfaction that the largest emitters and most rapidly developing countries—such as the US, China, and India—have signed up to the agreement. However, given the reticence of the United States to have binding targets, does the Minister feel that the US is playing its appropriate role? Would he explain to the House what further measures he would like to see the US taking to aid in the global fight against climate change? Does the United Kingdom have a leadership role in this process?

The Climate Change Bill certainly represents an attempt to take the helm by introducing legally binding targets. However, other countries have made similar commitments and with more ambitious targets. Did the Government take a different stance from the European Union, which was committed to seeking emissions cuts of 25 to 40 per cent by 2020?

We on these Benches certainly welcome the agreements that display a dedication by the more mature economies to take a leadership role in assisting developing countries. We welcome the agreement to review how developed countries can share clean, low-carbon technologies with the developing world. It is also with satisfaction that we note the agreement to help developing countries with funds aimed at meeting the challenges of adaptation, for it is the most disadvantaged that are already feeling the effects of climate change.

My abiding question for the Minister, however, regards our position in these negotiations. The consensus on the general aims of the Bill in this House must have put the Government in a very strong position. However, that might not have been the case. Although we are legislating for a reduction, have we met with any difficulties in negotiations because our own carbon emissions have risen in four of the past seven years? Is not the Government's plan to go ahead with new coal power stations, without carbon capture and storage, a substantial blow to our position at the international negotiating tables? Indeed, does it not represent a troubling refusal to follow through on our commitments? If we are to have historic talks internationally, we have to start by making history at home.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for making this Statement on one of the most important international meetings for some time. Like many of us, Bali disappeared out of the news because nothing seemed to happen in the first week and then as we came to the crescendo of the hoped-for agreement, we were all sitting on the edge of our seats to see whether anything would come out of it or whether the whole post-Kyoto process would fail at its first major hurdle. Of course, we just about got over that hurdle, but I suggest that we got through that process at the lowest level. However, we do not underestimate or understate the importance of that agreement having been made. We have an action plan or road map to get us to Copenhagen in two years’ time, but I believe it is a road map without any clear destination at the moment as regards emissions cuts or how the process will end, or what the shape of the post-Kyoto protocol or the Copenhagen agreement will be.

We particularly welcome a number of things from this agreement. The assertiveness of the European Union versus that of the United States is something of which we can be proud. There was an unusually adept, diplomatically well placed and well timed threat not to attend the Hawaii meeting early next year if the United States walked away from the process. That was well done and well timed and, to a large degree, achieved its result. The 25 to 40 per cent emissions reductions by developed states disappeared completely and so we now have no quantification whatever as regards the accepted goals by developed nations.

We certainly welcome the commitments towards greater technology transfer, which must be vital in terms of bringing developing countries on board and indeed it is our moral obligation as developed countries. The adaptation and the idea of the clean development mechanism percentage levy to finance adaptation in developing countries is also important. Ironically, deforestation in Indonesia alone has recently accounted for just under that 20 per cent figure of global emissions. That is also important.

The Statement said that some of these mechanisms and changes can start almost straightaway. If that is the case, I would like to understand more clearly how we will halt the deforestation that is taking place in a number of nations. How will that happen relatively quickly and how will we ensure that we do not wait for the next two years? How will the adaptation programme be properly funded? What sort of amount of funds are we expecting to be transferred under the adaptation programme? What role will the British Government play in the Hawaii discussions, brought together by the United States, and what are our and Europe's objectives in those discussions and debates in January?

My Lords, I shall do my best to respond to what I believe is a welcome for the Statement. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for what he said. I managed to complete a successful visit to the Copas turkey farm at Maidenhead, which I visited nine years ago. I wanted to see the expansion of a really good production facility which is going full pelt at the moment, but I missed my visit to the RPA headquarters, which I was planning to make. Nevertheless, that was important.

It is historic in the sense that our key objective was to get the start of comprehensive and global discussions with everyone at the table. That key objective was achieved. I know that around the edges there can be all kinds of arguments about that, but the fact remains that to get every country signed up and agreeing to start discussions is important, although not everyone will agree with what everyone says. In the past few days, I have seen the television and press reports like everyone else, but when one looks at the United States Government's view, one has to remember that different things have been happening there—especially in California and in Florida compared with the rest of the country or compared with the attitude in Washington.

By the way, we did not assist the United States in removing binding targets for developed countries. In fact, the United Kingdom and the EU pressed for the reference. Contrary to what the newspapers say, the figures have not completely disappeared. I have not got the figures in front of me, but my note states that the numbers for the 25 to 40 per cent reduction by 2020 are in both tracks of the road map. In the Kyoto track, the guideline range of 25 to 40 per cent is clearly in the text, and in the convention dialogue track the same numbers are referred to on the first page of the preamble. The footnote clearly points to several pages of the intergovernmental panel’s fourth assessment report and to the table that includes the 25 to 40 per cent range. So the figures have not completely disappeared, and those who want to go for them can point to them.

The discussions will start in Copenhagen and will conclude by 2009. By then, there will be new Governments in some of the major democracies and new heads of government—in one in particular. I make no comment on which way things will go, but there will clearly be a change in the head of government in the United States in November next year. I cannot say anything about why; I am not keyed up on that.

It was a breakthrough, and I need better advice on deforestation and what can happen now. To get all the countries of the world signed up and agreeing to start discussions was a key objective. I realise that there were people with other objectives, but it would be very difficult for people to walk away once those discussions start. That is what it is all about: discussing it around a table with a commitment to get an agreement. If key players were not at the table, it would be a problem for the rest of the world. It will not be, because they will all be there, and the objective will be to get agreement on figures and on a timetable.

My Lords, in congratulating the Government on their role in the successful negotiations in Bali, I urge my noble friend to do his best to persuade the Government to think bigger and bolder when it comes to the development of known and developing renewable energy technologies. We know where we are going with wind and we are beginning to know where we are going with waves. I hope that we will get a successful outcome to the study of the Severn barrage. We must think bigger. If we think bigger and bolder, by 2040 we can end up making a much larger contribution to the amount of energy we get from renewable sources than looks possible at the moment.

My Lords, my noble friend is right: we need to change substantially. It is our intention to up the range of energy from renewable sources. He is quite right to point to the potential of the Severn barrage, which could provide 5 per cent of our energy requirements. The two nuclear power stations that closed on New Year’s Eve last year provided just under 2 per cent of our energy requirements, so that is the potential of the Severn barrage. However, it will not be a one-size-fits-all. We will still need a mix of fuels and energy sources. We need to increase renewable sources substantially. There will always be difficulties: people do not like the windmills, and they may not like the environmental impact of the Severn barrage. Those are some of the issues that have to be dealt with. They cannot be fudged; we must make decisions, and we need a substantial increase in renewable energy resources.

My Lords, the Secretary of State’s Statement, which was repeated by the Minister, is interesting, but it strikes me as extraordinarily one-sided. Does the Minister realise that for those of us who are not scientists but who nevertheless study what many people are saying, it is worrying to see the sentence,

“the compelling clarity of the science contained in the recent IPCC report”?

Does the Minister agree that there is no unanimity on the science in this matter? Has the Minister read, as I have, the letter from a hundred scientists, many of them immensely distinguished, which was sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 13 December? Is he aware that there are many differing views about the causes and the incidence of climate change? I yield to no one in my view that we should cherish the environment and make better use of energy. As far as the UK is concerned, I would be much more convinced than I am by pieces of paper such as this if the Government had by now tackled the real need in the United Kingdom, which is a new nuclear programme, because otherwise there will be a huge gap in our electricity supplies which will put the lights out. After 10 years, it is really rather shameful that the Government have got no further than consulting, consulting, consulting.

My Lords, I tend to agree with the latter part of the noble Lord’s speech. The Government have not yet made a decision on the increase in nuclear power, which is responsible for almost one-fifth of our electricity. In 20 years or so, if the lights do not go on when the switch is pulled, someone will get the blame, which is why we need a mix of energy. I understand a decision about that will be made very early in the new year. At the moment, about 74 per cent of our electricity comes from high-carbon fossil-fuel generation—coal, gas and oil—and only 4 per cent comes from renewables, so we have some way to go. All our nuclear power stations except one will probably close within about 20 years, so we will lose one-fifth of our electricity unless we do something about it. This is a serious issue.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, that the only thing that is not clear in the Statement—my only criticism—is the length of some of the sentences. He picked a sentence, and I know there is an argument about this, but the 4,000 or 5,000 scientists who make up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have delivered to the world the best and broadest range of scientific views that something is happening with the climate and that we are putting future generations and the planet at risk if we do not take some action to deal with it. I realise that not every scientist is signed up to that, but I rest my case—it is a one-sided case, if you like—with the intergovernmental panel’s view that we need to take some action. It is the view of the Stern report that if we take some action now, it will not be cost free, but it will be a lot cheaper than doing nothing. Having to take massive action in 20 years will wreck our economy and those of a lot of other advanced nations. I am not prepared to advise anyone in government to take that risk.

My Lords, while I wholly support the sentiments that my noble friend has just expressed, does he not agree that certain aspects of the compromise deal at Bali are not entirely satisfactory? I agree that poorer countries can expect real hope from the deal on global warming and help for forestry, but is it not a fact that the United States has stood in the way of making the sort of progress that is demanded from the world today? Accordingly, does my noble friend agree that influencing the possible change of government in that country is vital? What is he going to do about it?

Very, very little, my Lords. Bali is just over and not all of the reporting is clear—there were a lot of journalists there. The fact is that if all the developed countries cut their emissions to zero—the United States and Europe, including ourselves—the planet would still be in trouble. There must be action elsewhere. It is self-evident that emissions are increasing. If one measures the global total emissions from some countries, they are enormous, but if they are measured on a per capita basis, they are tiny compared with what are being churned out by Europe and the United States. The fact is that even if developed countries cut to zero emissions, the planet would still be in trouble, so action has to be taken. It is for the people of various democracies to influence their choice of government. But, as I have said, the United States speaks with more than one voice; I invite noble Lords to look at what has happened in California and what is planned in Florida, and compare it with attitudes in Washington.

My Lords, perhaps I could follow up on the last comment of the noble Lord. My noble friend mentioned that the United Kingdom is not reaching its target, and has not done so in four out of the past seven years. I raise two issues. One is deforestation. Did the agreement decide how checks and balances would be made against a target set to reduce deforestation? Will an overall body be set up? Who is responsible for monitoring that?

Secondly, and particularly on the section where the noble Lord dealt with the Bali action plan and was talking about the negotiations of a long-term global goal for emission reductions, my question is exactly the same. The Statement says that the plan was,

“to agree measurable, reportable and verifiable national and international action to mitigate climate change by all countries”.

My question there is exactly the same: who at the end is responsible for checking what is going on in different countries to make sure that the very worthy aims internationally will be achieved?

Thirdly, does he agree with me—I think that he will—that the one thing we must not do in this country is export our own responsibilities? Clearly, if we use carbon trading schemes in a way that helps us nationally but which places greater difficulties on developing countries, I am sure we shall have failed at the same time ourselves.

My Lords, on that latter point, I have nothing to add to what was said yesterday about carbon trading being supplemental to what we have to do. The test will be whether we can get direct carbon reductions in the UK economy. I have no doubt that we will come back to that in the new year in the discussions on the Bill.

There is not the time to explain what was said on the Bali action plan and the road map. I mentioned in the Statement how it will work. The processes—it would take me as long to read them out as to read the Statement—will take place under a new subsidiary body under the convention; namely, the ad hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. It will complete its work in 2009 and present the outcome to the conference of parties in Copenhagen of that year. Work will begin without delay. The first session will be no later than April next year. The UK is looking to see how we can support the process both financially and intellectually, in the sense of the help the Government can give.

I cannot answer the question on deforestation. I cannot find the note on that. I am sorry.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s Statement. Will he elaborate on the incentives against deforestation? Will he also answer the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, about who will be monitoring the whole process to ensure that these targets are achieved?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I will do my best to answer. I have not had time to go though the brief. The Bali discussions set in motion a pilot process to identify the best approach, including the best market mechanisms and government arrangements to feed into Copenhagen in 2009. In other words, this is how to get an agreement and how to monitor the work on deforestation. It has been set up as part of the discussions at Bali. A mechanism has been set up organisationally to make sure that we can monitor that. But it will take from now until Copenhagen to report back to get detailed arrangements. As I have said, work will start straightaway and the first meeting will be in April next year.

My Lords, we are approaching another anniversary of the terrible tsunami. That reminds us of the burden carried by developing countries. I would like to congratulate not only the cricketers for inaugurating the new pitch at Galle this morning but also the people of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India who over the past months and years have all overcome those terrible events we saw on television.

My question again is on forestry. Can the Minister help me with a contradiction? We are talking about developed and developing nations as though we were not globally joined. Take the case of Brazil; are we not as a Government still putting pressure on the Brazilians to create more ethanol as a substitute fuel? Is not the effect of that to create more deforestation in the Amazon? How is that being tackled? Was it mentioned in Bali?

My Lords, I do not know whether it was mentioned in Bali. The transport renewable fuels obligation will come into operation in April. Biofuels have to come from sustainable sources. We have some biofuel production in this country. It is sustainable. There is no question about that, because it is not replacing agriculture as it is coming from over-produced sugar beet. Therefore, chopping down forests to plant seeds for creating, say, palm oil and other things is not sustainable. It is not acceptable. That should not be allowed to be covered by the transport fuels obligation. That is what we have been saying. So the mechanism for stopping it has to be a market mechanism. We cannot tell the Brazilians what to do, but if we say, “Sorry, we are not buying your product because you have chopped down the forest in order to grow the biofuel” that is the market mechanism which would change behaviour.

My Lords, while welcoming the outcome of the Bali conference, is it not the case in substance that what we have achieved is an agreement to enter into further discussions? In the event of those further discussions not leading to any substantive outcomes in two years’ time—I hope that that does not arise—is there anything in the agreement that will take forward the process of dealing with climate change?

My Lords, I suspect that the answer to that is no. The key objective was to get an agreement that every country, bar none, would enter into negotiations. That agreement was achieved. So no one can walk away; they are walking away from the rest of the planet if that is the case. I suspect that there might be some further thoughts there. The key objective, if you like, to corral everyone to the table was achieved.

My Lords, I welcome and applaud the enthusiasm the Minister has displayed for action, something we were debating last week in your Lordships’ Chamber. I wonder whether he could infect that enthusiasm to other parts of government. We now hear that the scoping study for the Severn barrage will not be ready until August next year.

My Lords, I did not know that. I do not have the details. I know that there is work going on on the Severn barrage. The short answer to his question is “Yes, I will see what I can do”.

My Lords, following up on the question of my noble friend Lady Byford, can the Minister help the House by telling us who are the individuals who make up the Bali action plan, or is there an identifiable body that is tasked with the duties given to it?

My Lords, the individuals will be both officials and Ministers who have passed through Governments from time to time. I do not have a list of names. I do not think that is necessary. The countries and the scientists representing the countries would be involved in that. I described in the Statement the organisations that were set up at Bali. Those are the people who will take it forward, monitor it and subsequently be accountable for it.