1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The principal aim of this Act is to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to contribute to limiting the global average temperate increase to not more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels.
(2) The functions under this act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment received a hesitant response when it was first proposed in Committee because there seemed to be a great deal of uncertainty surrounding some of the wording. After much reflection, we feel that it is essential to bring the amendment back and I hope that I will be able to allay any of the previous concerns and anxieties.
As we consider all the amendments at this stage of the Bill, I hope that it is unnecessary to remind the House to keep in mind the historic nature of this legislation. No other country is passing legislation of this scope to tackle climate change. This is the first legislation of its kind and because of its purpose—its aim—it could be a model for legislatures and parliaments around the world. Other countries have laws on emissions; most developed nations are signatories on countless treaties, accords and protocols. However, what sets this Bill apart is that it is one country’s attempt to address and curb the entire scope of its domestic emissions in order to decrease global emissions—that is, it is one country’s attempt to do its part to stop climate change.
Our amendment ensures that this true purpose is reflected in the Bill. As I mentioned in Committee, the Bill, not our speeches and assurances in the Chamber, will show our intention. I trust that there is no disagreement in the House that this is to stop global warming, and thus on our side we feel that it is of the utmost importance to frame the decisions and actions that the Bill will lead to in their true and appropriate context.
The Minister told the House in Committee that,
“The UK remains committed to the European Union’s 2 degree target, but there is no simple relationship between that target and the UK’s 2050 target”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 130.]
That seems a curious statement. All the evidence that we have received suggests that carbon emissions are leading to global warming. There might not be a simple relationship, but there is certainly a very important one. If it is not the 2 degree target, then what is behind the 60 per cent emissions reductions target, apart from an outdated scientific report? We understand that this is not a precise science. We understand that we cannot control all of the globe’s emissions. We take the point that even if global emissions stopped today, there would be no guarantee that we will not exceed the 2 degree target. Yet we still think that we should be committed to doing our part in trying.
Even the Government seem to think so, as the Minister told us in relation to the EU’s 2 degree target, which he claimed in Committee had the full commitment of the Government. Why have the Government committed to a target in the EU that they will not commit to at home in the Bill? We hope that he will provide an explanation before trying to persuade us of the problems associated with a 2 degree target.
One of the challenges to our previous amendment was that the Bill was not the place for general objectives of this kind. I could continue, as I have done, by stressing the unique and historic nature of the Bill which requires new measures and new provisions. There is a clear precedent for stating such principles—the Sustainable Communities Act begins by stating:
“The principal aim of this Act is to promote the sustainability of local communities”.
Having a principal aim anchors policy around a central theme. This legislation creates a multitude of new powers and has a scope that will affect policymakers all over Whitehall. It must do that if it is going to succeed. Having the principal aim stated in the Bill will colour and shape the way that the Act works in practice. It is not intended to provide a test for individual decisions. Judges would not apply this as an applicable statutory test for individual cases. However, the amendment places a general duty that can be evaluated and has regard to the way in which the functions under the Act are exercised. This would certainly be a consideration in any judicial review challenging a particular decision or action, for example, as to whether regard had been given to all relevant considerations and that the decision or action had been taken in a reasonable and rational way.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to clarify the issue, if he is still unsure. The key is that the primary purpose of the Bill is not to seek carbon emissions reductions but to effect climate change. It is called the Climate Change Bill, not the carbon emissions Bill. It is our argument—a substantial one—that the new clause should be included in the principal aim of the Bill because that is what the Bill seeks to do.
I believe that a consideration would be made as to whether a particular action was reasonable or rational in terms of the nature of the Bill. Essentially the Government have put similar general aims on other legislation and have committed themselves to the specific aim of a 2 degree target in Europe. It is difficult to understand the Government’s reticence to be bold and place their noble intentions in the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach. There is a duty on us legislators to make legislation clear and obvious to the public—the electors and citizens of this country. One of the best quality ways to do that is to state in plain language what the legislation is about. The amendment would do precisely that; it says what the Bill is about. Considering what the Government have said about the Bill, they are in many ways selling themselves short in how it has been presented not only to us but to the world community in terms of its objectives and what we are trying to achieve. It is not as if the Government are not absolutely clear about what the degree change should be. The Prime Minister, in his speech on 19 November when he comprehensively laid out for the first time his environmental credentials, described the 2 degree target as one that was an “overriding” mission. That was the word he used. If that is the case, what better place to put it than at the beginning of the Bill? For all those reasons, that objective should be at the front of the Bill.
Will the 2 degrees cause problems to the Committee on Climate Change, which has to take that into account and which will give it greater clarity in its own work? Is it too small or too large to ask for? When I was travelling here on the train, I went through the fourth IPCC assessment report for policymakers, which describes the sort of changes that can happen with just a 2 degrees centigrade change. Perhaps I could remind your Lordships’ House of some of them. The first is aridity—greater dryness and desertification—on the globe. The one that really struck me is the much greater risk that 30 per cent of species could become extinct; that there will be an increase in malnutrition and infectious diseases; and that cereal growth will be retarded at mid and low latitudes. The factor that really came over to me was one that the IPCC coolly describes as water stress. That sounds very innocent, but the IPCC says that hundreds of millions of people on this planet will suffer more from water stress. Is that as a result of a 4-degree, a 5-degree or a 10-degree increase? No, it is a result of this 2-degree increase.
Another thing has changed almost since the start of Committee some time ago. I was quite sceptical about the scare stories of discontinuities as a result of climate change, whether in relation to ocean currents, whole ice sheets disappearing or major extinctions of species. Even since then, it is quite clear from reading the scientific press that there is a great deal more uncertainty about when those things, the effects of which we can never reverse, will happen. That is why 2 degrees is so important, and why it needs to be stated clearly in the Bill, for Britain and the global community, where we, and I hope the Government, stand.
My Lords, I do not think I was here when this matter was discussed in Committee, but surely the phrase “pre-industrial levels” is unacceptably vague and imprecise in any Act of Parliament. What exactly does it mean? I assume that it means pre the industrial revolution, which took place over an extremely extended period of decades or even centuries in different countries at different times. Indeed, it has not been going for very long in India and China, so I ask the noble Lord to explain, if he can, precisely what “pre-industrial levels” is meant to mean.
My Lords, I have not intervened before in our consideration of the Bill but I hope that the House will forgive me if I intervene briefly to explain why I cannot support my Front Bench on the amendment. It is misconceived for two reasons. First, as the noble Lord has just said, the notion that defining a temperature 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels is the right temperature is entirely without basis. The world’s temperature, as we know, has gone up and down through large ranges over history, and the notion that we can define a temperature as the optimum temperature is without basis.
Secondly, I certainly question the notion that the science is sufficiently defined for us to be able to define what level of carbon emissions would produce any particular effect on the Earth’s temperature, or indeed whether those would be the primary driver of any change in the Earth’s temperature. There is so much uncertainty about both the level and the quantity of change that would result from any particular set of emissions that to build into a Bill a set of objectives that try to define emissions to achieve some precise notion of temperature change again fails to take account of the unrealities and the uncertainties in the science backing this. With much regret, therefore, I do not think that the amendment is appropriate, although I understand the motives behind it. I suspect that a number of other noble Lords will find it difficult to support the Conservative Front Bench on this one.
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken. It is important to avoid in the description of the Bill anything that is controversial. So far as I can see, the amendment is entirely irrelevant. There is no legal requirement to spell out in legal terms what the Bill is about. That is important so far as the speeches are concerned, particularly on Second Reading. My noble friend has told the House exactly how important the Bill is, but I add another caveat. We are setting a very dubious precedent if we describe this Bill in the form that this amendment permits. In particular, it inevitably invokes a controversy, which we have witnessed already. For that reason, the Bill goes in the right direction and I oppose this amendment for the reasons I have said and for the reasons which have been articulated.
My Lords, I, too, oppose this amendment but for rather different reasons. First, I very much agree on the importance of this Bill. I am conscious of how much the Bill is supported internationally and of how much international interest there is in it, as I discovered at a meeting of G8 plus 5 parliamentarians on climate change in Brazil last week.
I support, too, very much the inclusion of the principal aim in this Bill and in other Bills. I agree, too, on the need for ambitious targets, but it seems to me that targets should be supported by the science and be within the capacity of the British Government to achieve. Amendment No. 3, standing in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Redesdale, meets both those tests, and I will be happy to support that amendment. But this amendment seems to meet only the first test. It is wholly conceivable that a target of 60 per cent or 80 per cent might be met, but that it could still be above the 2 degrees because of the action, or inaction, of others, which would put the Government of the day in an almost impossible position.
I would have supported a principal aim, framed in more general terms, such as to take action to avoid dangerous or irreversible climate change, but I cannot support an amendment which includes the specific aim of the 2 degrees.
My Lords, I echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jay. As framed, the amendment proposes that UK emissions aim to be set at a level to ensure that global emissions are not more than 2 degrees. In effect, if the United States, China and others decide to make little or no effort, what will be required by the United Kingdom will be truly astronomic. The amendment would put those countries which decide to make an effort in an almost impossible position and there would be little or no pressure on other countries to make that effort. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said, this is something with which I entirely agree, but it is an amendment that has to be opposed.
My Lords, I, too, oppose this amendment. It seems to me technically flawed that the mention of 2 degrees appears at only one point in the Bill. Currently, the Bill has a target specified in greenhouse gases as parts per million, followed by a number of procedures to reconsider that over time on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. But there seems to be no such mechanisms in relation to this 2 degrees. If, over time, scientific opinion changes upwards or downwards, we are left with 2 degrees in the Bill. If this is to be adopted, a whole series of consequential changes have to be made to allow for advice and reconsideration. For the reasons that noble Lords have put forward, it would be better for this not to be in the Bill.
My Lords, it is true that this is not the first time that this issue has been raised, but it is the first time that it has been raised in this way. During our previous discussions, I set out the Government’s concerns, which still stand, about proposals to add a purpose clause. I shall give several reasons why, many of which have been given probably more succinctly in the past few minutes. First, to go to the heart of the way in which we do legislation in this country, we are not legislating for the rest of the planet or for the European Union; we are legislating for the United Kingdom. General purpose clauses are generally unnecessary in UK legislation. I do not say that they have not occurred—examples have been given and I could give some myself—but they are generally unnecessary and we think that the purpose of the Bill is already clear. The proposed new clauses do not work. Although we are debating Clause 1, it is in some ways linked to other opposition amendments. We are dealing with it on its own at the moment. The underlying concerns that have prompted the amendment will be met anyway.
General purpose clauses are unnecessary. First, while there are exceptions, very few pieces of UK legislation have special purpose clauses because we legislate by drafting clearly, and interpreting through Parliament as best we can, so that it is crystal clear. Obviously, it is interpreted by the courts later. The system works very well and has done so for a long time. In our system of statutory law, primary legislation is drafted so that Parliament goes through it line by line, as we are doing here, teasing out ambiguities and complexities, so that the powers, duties and prohibitions contained in the Bill can be clearly understood and applied in a practical way. The courts then interpret on that basis. There is a fundamental difference between legislation setting out a purpose for a particular body or set of bodies, and a purpose for a piece of legislation as a whole. That is why some of the past examples that may be given do not quite square with this one.
A purpose clause for a piece of legislation as a whole is only relevant when the legislation is ambiguous. Generally speaking, UK legislation is designed not to be ambiguous, and this Bill is no exception. The powers, duties and prohibitions in this Bill are clear. If some parts around the margins are not, they will be clear by the time it has gone through this House and another place. That is why there is no need at all for a special purpose clause. There is obviously a desire in parts of your Lordships’ House to make clear statements of principle. I have to remind the House that the Bill is about making law. It is not pulling a paragraph out of a manifesto onto the statute book, which is how this could be interpreted because of the reference to “pre-industrial” and the rigidity of 2 degrees. There is that issue: it is not normally the way we do it. It was much criticised in the still very influential report on the drafting of legislation, which I remember being introduced in the other place by Sir David Renton, later Lord Renton, in 1975. Nothing has changed since then, as he constantly reminded us.
Secondly, the Bill’s purposes are already clear. The Government consider that it is clear to anybody interested in it. We are not alone in this. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said on the final day in Committee that,
“the purpose of the Bill is made quite clear in Clause 1”.—[Official Report, 4/2/08; col. 908.]
Something must have changed his mind since then. If someone asks what the Climate Change Act is, they will look at the Short Title, which will be the Climate Change Act, and then at the Long Title, which clearly sets out that the Bill is to:
“Set a target for the year 2050 for the reduction of targeted greenhouse gas emissions”.
They will look at Clause 1(1), which sets out the duty to reduce the net UK carbon account by at least 60 per cent by 2050. If that does not make the purpose of the Bill perfectly clear, they can look at the debates in this House and the other place to understand the intention behind the words. That is another reason that a specific clause is unnecessary: the Bill’s purpose is already clear.
Thirdly, the Government believe that this proposed purpose clause could do more harm than good by confusing the message in the Bill. The problems, as have been outlined by more than one noble Lord in this debate, stem from the reference to a two degree rise in global temperatures. The first difficulty is that having any measure based on the global temperature would mean that we are dependent on what happens elsewhere in the world, and it is a principle of our legislation that we cannot legislate on an extra-territorial basis. We cannot tell other countries what to do through domestic legislation. We can show them what we are doing, but we cannot make them do the same. Likewise, other countries cannot tell us what to do through their legislation. There is a real problem with setting out a purpose that is entirely dependent on what other people are doing. What does,
“the level necessary to contribute”
to global temperatures mean? It would depend entirely on the actions of others, which we cannot control. This means that the purpose would have a different meaning as time goes by depending on what the rest of the world is doing, so it could obscure what we believe is the Bill’s already clear purpose.
The Government consider that that in itself is a good reason for not making any reference to global temperatures, but there is a further problem with the reference to two degrees centigrade. The science on climate change tells us that there are major uncertainties in attempting to draw a direct line of causation between our actions in the UK and the rise in average temperatures across the world. That is why such bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change use a range of probabilities to reflect the current level of scientific understanding. One has only to look at the panel’s reports and those of others to see that while this is a big issue—something is happening to the climate and the reasons are partly man made—there is an enormous amount of uncertainty.
The science tells us that we are talking about degrees of risk. Even if emissions around the world were to peak in the next decade and then decline to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, there is still a 60 to 70 per cent chance of exceeding the two degree goal. The UK represents only 2 per cent of global emissions, so even if we stopped all UK emissions tomorrow, the overall likelihood of reaching the two degree global goal would be barely affected. Instead, we need a comprehensive, ambitious, globally agreed framework to tackle climate change, and the UK is working hard to achieve it. We had a good outcome from the Bali talks last year and we are working towards an agreement on the post-2012 framework at Copenhagen next year. This is also a vital part of the UK’s contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change, but it is not mentioned in the proposed purpose of the Bill.
In moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that judges would not test each decision against the two degree purpose. Actually, they would. Subsection (2) of the amendment states:
“The functions under this act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act”.
Courts would be duty bound to look at any decision to see whether that had been done. I do not know what legal advice the noble Lord has taken, but the judges would take that into account if anyone wanted to pursue a judicial review at some point.
As we discussed in Committee and as the Prime Minister announced in October, one of the Committee on Climate Change’s first tasks will be to review the level of the 2050 target, and the Secretary of State has the power to amend that target in the light of the committee’s review. Some Members of the House may be concerned that the reasons behind a change in the target will not be clear and that the purpose of any change might get lost in the paper trail. I have tabled an amendment which I believe will address that, and we will come on to it shortly. My amendment would place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to publish its advice and the reasons for it. The Secretary of State would obviously either agree or disagree with it, and if he disagreed and set the 2050 target at a different level, he would need to explain his reasons.
Moreover, as I have said before but can say again today with more certainty, we are putting together a committee and asking it to do a job; we are not seeking to second-guess it. It was much more difficult to say that with any force when we did not know who would serve on the committee. Now we know who the chair is, and since last Friday we know who the first five members are. The quality of those who have been appointed is clear. I simply ask, therefore, that the House does not pre-judge the committee, bearing in mind that it is known that one of the first things the committee will be asked to consider is the 60 per cent target.
I do not criticise noble Lords for tabling the amendment but it is an incredibly clever way of trying to have your cake and eat it—in effect, to try to stick it into the 80 per cent. We have a good case for leaving it at 60 per cent and leaving it to the Committee on Climate Change, and that is what we should do. To accept the amendment would tie everyone’s hands; it would be as though the decision had already been made.
As well as many technical and legislative reasons for not doing so, there is a further reason. Now that we have appointed the Committee on Climate Change—obviously in shadow form until Royal Assent—it will be seen from the quality of its members that this matter is being taken extremely seriously. If your Lordships accept the Government’s amendment, the effect would be to put the purpose of any 2050 target even further beyond doubt and explain the reason behind it to anyone who needs to know. The Explanatory Notes to the order making the amendment will have to refer to the statement of reasons, so it will be easily identifiable and there would have to be debates in your Lordships’ House and in another place. In other words, the amendment that I will bring forward will make quite clear the role of the Committee on Climate Change and the role of the Secretary of State in agreeing or disagreeing to its advice. It will not be able to be carried out behind close doors and become a fait accompli—it will have to come back. So the issues will be fully aired and the debates and the statement will be more valuable than any purpose clause.
As I said, for technical reasons, the way in which the new clause is drafted could do more harm than good. I am sure that is not the intention of the noble Lord in proposing it and I ask him to think again.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for trailing amendments yet to come and we look forward to them with interest. However, I wish to focus your Lordships’ attention on the amendment we are considering at this stage. The question is whether the Climate Change Bill and cuts in carbon emissions are simply a means to an end.
I accept what the Minister said about a judicial review. Unfortunately, at that time I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and I may not have expressed exactly what I want to say. It would be a consideration under the terms of the amendment whether a particular decision or action had been taken with proper consideration and in a reasonable and rational way—I accept that. Indeed, it would be a driver, I hope, to reinforce the need for the Committee on Climate Change and the Government to do that.
I ask my noble friend Lord Blackwell and the noble Lords, Lord Jay, Lord Turnbull and Lord Woolmer, who all felt that the wording was infelicitous and not useful to the construction of the Bill, to read the amendment as printed. The objective is to play our part and ensure that we contribute to limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than two degrees. That is the essence of the Bill and, as far as I understand it, it is government policy. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made the point earlier about the Prime Minister’s comment.
I understand that the phrase “pre-industrial temperatures” is rather abstract and vague. None of us was around at the time to know how warm or cold it was. However, it is the accepted wording in international protocols and the standard reference point for defining climate change. It is a widely accepted concept and I make no apology for using it.
My Lords, I simply fail to understand why we have to incorporate the amendment in the Bill. If there is a duty on the Government to do something, that would be justiciable; but equally, if there is no duty, how do you go about it? Being justiciable requires a duty—and in that regard the Government are under no duty at all.
My Lords, as I hope I explained earlier to the noble Lord, the duty is to contribute to a reduction of 2 per cent. Carbon emissions are a mechanism. The duty of the Government is to influence climate change. That is certainly the policy of these Benches. In the light of the debate we have had, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 1 [The target for 2050]:
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, after “to” insert “promote policies and take measures, including the setting of targets and five year budgets, best calculated to”
The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 would change Clause 1(1). The provision states:
“It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 60 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline”.
With the amendment, it would state:
“It is the duty of the Secretary of State to promote policies and take measures, including the setting of targets and five year budgets, best calculated to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 60 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline”.
The use of the word “promote” is taken from Section 1 of the National Health Service Act 1946, and the words “best calculated to” come from the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946.
Unfortunately, I did not have the Marshalled List of amendments when I headed north to home in Scotland, and it was only when I saw the groupings at lunchtime that I saw that government Amendment No. 50 was grouped with this amendment. Had I known that earlier, I would have asked for the two to be separated, because the government amendment is actually nothing to do with this one. I have dropped a note to the Minister; I apologise for not letting him know earlier, but the information does not seem to percolate through to the north of Scotland. It could be said that this House is designed for those in the south of England rather than those in the north or indeed, in the case of the chairman of the Joint Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam—I wish him a happy birthday—on the west coast of Ireland.
The amendment would give clear legislative expression to the underlying purpose of the Bill, setting out its principal objective, goals and conceptual basis. It is deliberately linked to Clause 4, which requires the preparation of budgets. The Joint Committee that I have just mentioned considered the question of enforceability at some length. Indeed, it was my noble friend Lord Crickhowell—he sends his apologies to the House today—who led the argument that to impose a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that a particular target should be achieved in 2050 was absurd and meaningless and that such a duty would never be enforced by the courts. The committee shared those doubts about enforceability. The issue was raised again during the debate on the Queen’s Speech and again at Second Reading. My noble friend and I put down amendments in Committee to make Clause 1 a purpose clause that clearly set out the objective of the legislation, linked to Clause 4, imposing duties to achieve targets and five-year budgets, and underpinned by a clause establishing compliance mechanisms similar to those under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
The object of those supporting the amendment is not to weaken the Bill but to strengthen it. It also fulfils the objective of clarity that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned in respect of Amendment No. 1. Those who want the legislation to work are concerned that the whole exercise will be undermined when it comes to be understood that all the Government’s words about leading the world by imposing a statutory obligation that is legally enforceable are really no more than spin. Other countries will certainly not be impressed, but they will perfectly understand a regime based on compliance mechanisms, with which they are familiar; we will come on to those in Amendments Nos. 22 and 81.
It is interesting to look back and see how the Government’s arguments have shifted like sand on the question of enforceability. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said:
“Putting a duty such as this into law is important in itself. It is not just about the punishment in the event of failure; it is about trying to change institutional behaviour through a change in the law … By putting these duties into law, we are giving them a constitutional significance which will permeate down to every level of decision making”.—[Official Report, 27/11/07; col. 1209.]
In Committee, the Minister then made it clear that the clause was not drafted for the purpose of making it enforceable:
“The intention was to attempt to change the infrastructure culture in Government … We were trying to find a way to achieve behavioural change in Whitehall … That is the central objective”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 163.]
There is the whole reason for this amendment.
It seems extremely doubtful to me that civil servants will keep saying to themselves, “I must not forget Clause 1, and my Ministers and I may be held responsible in 40 or more years’ time”. It is much more likely that they will say, “There’s not a cat’s chance in Hell that the courts will want to get involved in making judgments about these extremely complex issues and actions, which in many cases will be outside the control of the Secretary of State”.
Also at Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, raised the possibility of a court making a stringent order, such as one ordering the Government to purchase credits to remedy a position. He then moved significantly from the propositions made previously when he said in Committee:
“We are saying that we do not accept using the law and judicial review as mechanisms to solve the problem. … we have taken on board the representations, which have been made again today, that we need to look at the provisions in the Bill for compliance”.—[Official Report, 17/12/07; col. 543.]
We then come to day three in Committee. The statement by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that compliance mechanisms might be important was a big step forward, but in response to an amendment from my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, produced what he described as “an absolute gem” from his brief, which established with devastating clarity—far more than I am able to give your Lordships—the very point that my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I had been trying to make about the legal duty in Clause 1. The Minister said that,
“A legal duty to implement the proposals and policies would be highly unusual in legal terms. Ministers can say all they like about implementation, but a legal duty—this is what my note says—would be highly unusual in legal terms. On another point, the amendment would be very restrictive. If the Government were unable to implement one element of the plan—through, say, unforeseen events—they would be in breach of the law. The same problem would apply if evidence came forward supporting a change in policy approach. It is not intended—this is not to demean the Bill at all—that the programme should be drafted as a legal document. It is therefore likely that any duty to implement would raise questions about precisely what the duty is and what needs to be done in order to fulfil it, and it would be very difficult to determine whether the duty had actually been fulfilled. Legal duties need to be set out in a way that shows precision and inflexibility. We do not want the proposals … to be drafted in this way. We want them to be understood and informative to the public”.—[Official Report, 8/1/08; col. 778.]
That is exactly the argument in our amendment. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Crickhowell stood up immediately and mentioned that to the Minister, but the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, fell back to his previous defence that the clause,
“was drafted so as to send a signal to the Civil Service; the noble Lord knows how the culture of Whitehall works. That is what Clause 1, line 1 is intended to do”.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, produced another gem when he said that,
“a duty to implement a plan could be seen as a very broad enabling power for the Government to carry out any actions they proposed through the plan. I have no doubt the Delegated Powers Committee will have a look at that. I only say it “could” be seen to be a very broad enabling power. I do not think a power of that breadth would win the support of your Lordships’ House”.—[Official Report, 8/01/08; col. 779.]
The current situation is not satisfactory. We do not have a legally enforceable duty. The Joint Committee pointed that out, and its position has been reinforced. The wording that I propose tries to give that legal enforceability when combined with an amendment to Clause 4. I very much welcome the government amendment to Clause 4, although it does not go as far as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I wish to go, and we shall debate that. I beg to move.
My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, I support this amendment. I did not take any part in the lengthy proceedings in Committee and I do so now to make one short point only. I say at once that I do not like the drafting of Clause 1. In my view—this was said by others in Committee—it is meaningless to impose a duty on the Secretary of State that cannot be enforced. By way of contrast, many noble Lords present will remember the duty imposed on the Lord Chancellor under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, under which he is obliged to protect the independence of the judges. That duty is unobjectionable. If, for example, the Government were to attempt to oust judicial review—as they did in one of the many Bills dealing with applications for asylum—they could, on the face of it, be in breach of that duty and the question could then be tested by way of judicial review.
Clause 1 of this Bill is quite different. It could not be said that the Secretary of State who happens to be in office in 2050 was in breach of the duty imposed by Clause 1 until the very last moment of 2050, by which time it would be far too late for anybody to do anything about it. In the mean time, there is nothing that anybody can do—and certainly nothing on which the courts could possibly adjudicate. That applies to all Secretaries of State between now and then. So Clause 1 is what Roman law—it is a very long time since I studied Roman law—called lex imperfecta. It has no force and it has no place in this Bill.
There could, of course, be no objection to stating a target figure in the Bill to give meaning to government Amendment No. 50, to which we shall come in due course. But to express it in the form of a duty is, as I say, meaningless and wrong. So whether we agree with Amendment No. 2 proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, or with Amendment No. 50, I hope that we shall get rid of Clause 1 as it stands.
I have one other point. From what was said by the Minister in Committee, I gather that the real purpose of Clause 1 is, as the noble Earl observed, to give a wake-up call to the Civil Service. One could have no objection to that, but surely there must be other ways of achieving that desirable objective without putting something on the statute book the like of which I have never seen.
My Lords, I support the amendment, which emphasises for me the fact that the Bill, much as it has broad political support from us all, does only three things: it sets targets, sets up an advisory committee and enables further legislation. That is all that it does and all that it pretends to do. It is good as far as it gets, but one of the most important things that we need to bring into the Bill is policy. Unless policies follow the Bill, we have no chance of meeting the targets. I like the fact that the amendment relates the duties of the Secretary of State to policies. That is why we support the amendment from these Benches. Government Amendment No. 50, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 2, is also a considerable improvement, because it does exactly the same thing and relates the legislation to proposals and policies. However, it still uses the language that we criticised in Committee, albeit without much support from the rest of the Committee. It says:
“The proposals and policies must be prepared with a view to meeting”.
We believe that they should be “prepared to meet”; I do not understand that language.
My Lords, I, too, find the clause incoherent and the logic of the amendment compelling. Instead of imposing a duty to ensure that the nation reaches its target by 2050, it creates a separate objective and a duty to deliver everything that will make the objective possible. It is more sensible to attach the duty and accountability to the things that the Secretary of State does than to the way in which society responds to those things. The test becomes whether the Secretary of State, by action or omission, could be deemed to have behaved reasonably in relation to the objective in force. That could be in relation to the things that Secretaries of State do: they legislate, impose taxes and negotiate treaties, and they should be held responsible for those things.
The amendment’s merit is that you would attach the duty to the things that Ministers did, such as authorising a suite of coal-fired power stations without a legal requirement that they should have carbon capture and storage or reducing the caps under the various trading schemes when we were behind schedule.
The Conservative Benches have an in-house constitutional expert in the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth. I found his criticisms of the clause and his evidence to the pre-legislative scrutiny committee compelling. That is why we need to look at this again.
As a former head of the Civil Service, I do not agree with the Minister’s comments about the purpose being to make civil servants do something. Civil servants serve the Ministers of the day. Either that is binding on Ministers and civil servants or it is binding on neither. You cannot say that you are doing it to bind one and not the other. We should proceed along the lines put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.
My Lords, I am mostly reassured by what the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, has said. We probably spent more time discussing this issue in the pre-legislative scrutiny committee than any other. The broad consensus moved from being sceptical to being supportive. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has beautifully set it out. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is correct. What I like about this amendment is that it is crisp, sharp and precise. What I do not like about the government amendment is the phrase “with a view to”, which strikes me as bringing in an unnecessary ambiguity. I enthusiastically support this amendment.
My Lords, the past two speeches were extremely refreshing, if I may say so. Not having been present for much of the Committee stage of the Bill, I am struck by the fact that those people who have been taking part and who have been putting a lot of energy into it have gone somewhat native on the subject. The Bill has become a sort of cause for itself in the way in which it will make these great changes.
I was delighted that my noble friend won the first amendment. It seems to me that the public are looking for a reduction in temperature, because they all see the flowers coming out too soon and the potatoes shooting too soon and all the rest of it. They are very worried and they want the temperature reduced. They want this country to contribute to that. That is what the amendment says—that this country should contribute to it, but not do the whole thing. Now we have the means by which that will happen, through the promotion of policies and measures, including the setting of targets and five-year budgets. That is simple and crisp, as we have just heard. It is interesting when someone in this House who knows more than most of us about how civil servants react to legislation tells us that anything as simple as this is helpful. I very much hope that we will accept the amendment.
My Lords, I voted against the first amendment because I thought that it was inoperable. I think that the wording of the clause that we are now debating is inoperable, too, and that it would help the Government to achieve their purposes if they accepted the amendment.
My Lords, in a debate on a climate change Bill and in an era when a candidate for the presidency of the United States believes that the world began in 4004 BC, it is happy that we can take for our text on the amendment Genesis, chapter 27, verse 22. The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Today, the voice is the voice of Caithness but the words are the words of Crickhowell.
It is genuinely bad luck for my noble friend Lord Crickhowell that he should have been in Moscow for the first day of the Committee stage and is in Mexico for the first day on Report, but he is to be greatly admired for the extent to which he carries out climate change research on the ground. I shall not rehearse what I said in Committee about the British Library Bill but, unlike my noble friend Lord Caithness, I find both my noble friend’s Amendment No. 2 and the government Amendment No. 50 to be genuine and constructive responses to the debates that we had then and I could happily support both of them.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Caithness has usefully informed the House about this issue. It has also been useful to have the views of subsequent speakers, in particular the graduates of the pre-legislative scrutiny process. I wonder whether I ought to declare an interest as a flower grower who, faced with Mothering Sunday and St David’s Day coming in the same weekend, has a great interest in making sure that lots of flowers come out before the markets close.
We understand the purpose of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. As the Bill stands, there is a legal duty to ensure results. That is simply not within the power of the Secretary of State. Though we are in favour of placing the most stringent possible mandate on the Secretary of State and using the full power of the law to ensure that he does everything to achieve the targets, we understand that he has at his disposal only policies and programmes. However, mandating him to have policies that aim to reduce emissions and placing a duty for these to be sound policies by obliging him to submit them for approval to the Committee on Climate Change are enforceable and something that we would expect from the Secretary of State.
The government amendment, which is grouped with Amendment No. 2, only partially addresses the issue that my noble friend intends to address with his amendment. Indeed, on this side of the House we welcome the Government’s amendment, which requires the Secretary of State to draw up policies and proposals with the aim of meeting the budgets and targets. We are also grateful that the Government seem to have heeded the call that has long been coming from the Conservative Benches to have regard to sustainable development issues when such proposals are made. That is certainly to be welcomed. However, it in no way addresses the issue that my noble friend seeks to address. We want the Secretary of State’s mandate to be realistic. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I, too, regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, but I do not think that he is travelling between Moscow and Mexico by pony and trap, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, implied. A few gases were being put into the atmosphere there. I cannot put words into the mouth of the noble Lord, but I think that if he were here he would say, “Thank you, the Government have listened to what I said in Committee and have come forward with a practical solution”. Our amendment does not go all the way, but I do not think that anybody is ever going to ask for everything to be perfect. The one regret that he would express is that the government amendment is placed elsewhere in the Bill, after Clause 10, not in Clause 1. However, the amendments essentially cover the same area.
The noble Earl talked about the difference between the duty to meet targets and the duty to implement plans or policies. They are quite different. The duty to meet a target—a budget in this sense—is fairly clear, because we can see whether it has been met from all the emissions statements. Theoretically, therefore, whether you have met your duty can be ruled on. A number would be there; it would have been achieved. The duty to implement policies is not so clear at all. You can get a policy document written in what looks like precise terms but which turn out to be vaguer in implementation. In legal terms, the duty to implement a policy is much less specific. There is a difference, as I hope is accepted.
The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, raised another issue. This place is full of ex-heads of the Civil Service, but I am served by its present head and my notes are no different from the notes that I had in Committee. The central plank of Clause 1 is to change behaviour in the Civil Service, not just in government. That is intended to send the signal around Whitehall—I gave examples of ideas and submissions that come from Ministers and from the government machine—that the duty in Clause 1 will be instrumental in changing or guiding behaviour in work across Whitehall. Another point is that this is not a Defra Bill; this is a government Bill covering all departments. I made that point in Committee, too. It is true that the Bill is about changing behaviour in the Civil Service and in government, but that does not mean that judicial review will not be possible. If we had no doubt that a budget would be missed, the court might make a declaration to that effect. Therefore, this approach does not close that off completely.
We had a useful discussion in Committee about the importance of ensuring that Secretaries of State are bound by the requirement to meet the 2050 target. I said then that the duty to meet that target was fundamental to the Bill. The target is clear and quantified. It will encourage the action that is necessary for it to be met, and assessing compliance will be straightforward. Therefore, we would not want to accept an amendment that would replace the 2050 duty with what we believe is a weaker alternative. That is why we do not accept Amendment No. 2. Removing the duty to meet the 2050 target would in practice weaken the duty on the Secretary of State. By focusing on the process rather than the outcome, the Government could fail to stay within budget and still comply with their duty so long as they had developed what they thought were the right policies. I made that point in Committee and it is still valid.
The proposed duty under Amendment No. 2 could result in a situation whereby the proposals and measures individually had the objective of ensuring that we reduced emissions in general terms but without addressing the need to reduce overall emissions by a specified amount. The Secretary of State could discharge the proposed duty by developing two or three policies and take a few measures with the genuine objective of reducing emissions by at least the current figure of 60 per cent, but if the measures turned out not to be enough he would still have complied with his obligation. That cannot be right. Amendment No. 2 would weaken the Bill.
The important rationale for the Bill is to provide greater certainty about the UK’s direction of travel. Weakening the duty is not the best way to do this. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said when he raised these issues in Committee—I agreed that we wanted to take account of them and to get this as clear and as accurate as we could—we are keen to provide the strongest possible assurance that every Secretary of State between now and 2050, and beyond, will be under an equally strong duty.
However, it would be a mistake to look at Clause 1(1) in isolation. The overall effect of the Bill’s existing framework, as a whole, goes a long way towards relating short-term government actions to the long-term target. In particular, there is already a legal requirement that budgets from this year onwards must be set with a view to meeting the 2050 target and proposals and policies must be published to show how we plan to meet each budget. The Bill’s annual reporting framework will ensure that the Committee on Climate Change and Parliament have a role in scrutinising performance every year. That is an important point, which I probably did not stress sufficiently in our first debate today.
However, bearing in mind the debate that we had in Committee, we want to provide further reassurance on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. Government Amendment No. 50, which I shall move at the appropriate time, will therefore place an additional duty on the Secretary of State to bring forward proposals and policies that, in his view, are sufficient to meet the carbon budgets for the periods for which the budgets have been set. These policies and measures should be developed with a view to meeting the target for 2050 and any subsequent targets that may be set. To ensure that a UK-wide approach is taken, our amendment provides that in preparing the proposals and policies the Secretary of State may take into account the proposals and policies that he considers may be prepared by other national authorities. This is a better approach, which complements the duty to meet the 2050 target rather than replaces it.
There is strength of feeling on this issue and I understand why the noble Lord has tabled the amendment. We want to put our intentions beyond doubt in legislative terms. It goes without saying that climate change mitigation policies must not ride roughshod over the need to consider other environmental issues, such as biodiversity. In most of these cases, we would expect policies to seek win-win situations.
It is true also that the broad existing principle is well established and embedded in government policy making—I am thinking here of the sustainable development strategy, which was quoted back at me earlier. Given the sustainable development action plan published by government departments and the independent advisory advocacy and watchdog role relating to government operations that we have given to the Sustainable Development Commission, there is no need to make additional provisions in the Bill. We raised this argument in Committee, and government Amendment No. 50 meets the points that we made then. Amendment No. 2, however, would weaken the Bill. We can argue about the duty, whether it is supposed to send signals to the Civil Service, or whether that would be the appropriate mechanism, but the words in the amendment would weaken the Bill. That cannot be a sensible way forward.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, stands alone in trying to defend the Government on Clause 1(1). The score is 9:1—almost familiar to a game of football against Scotland these days, sadly. Having listened to what has been said in the House about Clause 1 being incoherent, inoperable and having no force, I am convinced that what my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I are trying to do is right. I acknowledge that government Amendment No. 50 makes a small response to our concerns, but we have to consider Clause 1(1). It is unenforceable; it is a spin on the actual situation, which does not set a good example. In view of the government amendment, it is right that I should come back with slightly revised wording to take it into account. I cannot do that now, but I give notice to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that his reply has not satisfied me. I do not think that it has satisfied the rest of the House; certainly, those of us on the Joint Committee are still not happy. I commend the Government for going some way, but perhaps between now and the next stage they might put another gentle foot forward. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out “60%” and insert “80%”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment goes to the heart of what, we believe, the Bill should be about, which is setting targets. Noble Lords have talked about the aim of the Bill as set out in Clause 1, but this short amendment looks at its core aim, which is the 60 per cent figure that was set out. Many noble Lords have talked about the science, and this figure was reached by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its 22nd report, Energy—The Changing Climate, which was published in 2000—seven and a half years ago. An enormous amount of work has been done on climate change since then. In understanding climate change and its effects, we have not even plumbed some of the intricacies of such things as feedback mechanism.
The issue of 60 or 80 per cent is important because that is our commitment. Many noble Lords have said that it makes no difference what we do, because a new power station coming on board each week in China will make our actions almost irrelevant. However, we have created an historical legacy of carbon in the atmosphere. People talk about pre-industrial levels, but it was inventors in this country who utilised the steam engine, and we have some responsibility for the vast amounts of coal that have been burned since then, which have added dramatically to the problem.
We should not look at moving up to an 80 per cent level as a problem; it is an opportunity. If we are to move to a low-carbon economy, we must look at adapting all our technologies. If every country in the world were also honour-bound to meet those obligations, it would give us a position in the market place that would be extremely helpful. We need only look at the Danes taking on the wind turbine industry to see that we missed out significantly in that area.
The real issue behind this, as we discussed at Second Reading, is whether the decision to go to 80 per cent should be taken by the climate change committee or in Parliament. It is an important point that we cannot get away from. I took on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that the decision could be the first indication that the climate change committee had teeth. However, that is a real problem. We are talking in a legislative chamber about a target that looks very bland on a piece of paper—this is an extremely short amendment—but that will have massive implications for how everyone in this country lives their life, for how laws are formed and for how local authorities set their own targets for meeting this objective. It will have implications, both financial and personal, for many people and businesses throughout the country. Turning it over to a committee is a major problem. The committee is a worthy organisation, but does it undermine the political push behind the 80 per cent target if that target comes from the committee? The target might well be based on science, but we should not fool ourselves. It will take an enormous amount of political will power to meet this target, and for that to happen, it must be set by the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and, if I can say this on his birthday, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said that this could be the first decision that the committee took; indeed, I hope that it will be the committee’s first decision if it does not get passed to Parliament. However, there is still a fundamental problem with passing the decision to a committee. It really must be taken in this House. When speaking to an earlier amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said that he was not going to second-guess the committee. I do not think that we should second-guess the committee; the committee should be given firm and direct guidelines that 80 per cent is the target that we believe will be met. The target is based on science and is the one about which most international observers are now talking. If we are not prepared to stick it in legislation in what is a very brave Bill, as has been noted, that undermines the entire case and the strength of the committee. On that basis, I beg to move.
My Lords, I certainly appreciate the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, to ensuring that the 2050 target for carbon emissions is robust. However, we do not think that this is the best way of gaining such a commitment. We certainly agree that the 60 per cent target is outdated. As we have noted in the House many times, that target is based on eight year-old science, and it is almost certainly not the right ultimate goal. However, we do not feel that parliamentarians should set the targets, which should be scientifically based. This is why we have tabled an amendment that would place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to set the targets. That has been part of our position on this side of the House from the outset: science, not politics, should be the driving force behind the targets for carbon emissions.
Last November, the Prime Minister said that the 60 per cent target seemed insufficient and that, in all likelihood, the overall target would be increased. We on this side of the House hope that any change in the target will be a reflection of the scientific deliberation of the Committee on Climate Change and not the result of a ministerial proclamation or even of an amendment voted on in this House. Thus, although we recognise the importance of having robust targets, we continue to insist that they must also be authoritative. Therefore, although we understand the spirit of the amendment, we cannot support it.
My Lords, we on the scrutiny committee discussed this at great length, and I thought that we came out at exactly the right place, for all the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.
The amendment is inappropriate because this is the golden opportunity for the climate change committee to establish itself. Furthermore, it will not have escaped your Lordships’ notice that this Bill, which affects every person in this country, is going through this House untouched and unnoticed by the media, which I find extraordinary. It is my sincere hope that, when the Committee on Climate Change comes up with the science to require that the target be moved to 80 per cent, it will be a sufficient wake-up call for the media. I hope that national newspaper headlines will cover it and that the media will realise the situation that the nation faces. For that reason, almost more than any other, I should like to leave this to the Committee on Climate Change, which will unquestionably make a lot of noise when it makes this decision—and I hope that it does.
My Lords, I hesitate to take a different view from that of the chairman of the Joint Committee, particularly on his birthday, but I support the amendment.
It is clear that 60 per cent is now widely seen as being too low a figure; the Prime Minister, a large number of scientists and some UN bodies have said that. My noble friend Lord Stern has said it, and he repeated it in a newspaper article a couple of days ago. Therefore, against all that background, if the Bill says 60 per cent, it will look and will be weak, which will destroy its credibility nationally and internationally.
I welcome the Government’s proposal to put a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to decide as one of its first acts what the target should be, but I am not convinced by the argument that that will strengthen the position of the committee as an independent committee—rather the contrary. There is a risk that, if the committee is asked to do something with a nudge and a wink from the Government that 80 per cent is the right answer, that may weaken rather than strengthen it. I would strongly argue that we should put 80 per cent in the Bill and that the committee should focus on other targets and on means of implementing that 80 per cent.
My Lords, I had not intended to speak on Report, although I spoke at Second Reading when I supported the 80 per cent objective. I have been persuaded by what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has just said. It is a great opportunity to say what we really think we mean, which is to go for 80 per cent and to have it in the Bill. So I support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and I am sorry that I shall not be taking the advice of my Front Bench.
My Lords, it is an index of the importance that our world attaches to climate change that the first global conference that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association ever held—under the auspices of the UK secretariat—should have been on climate change. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, chaired the first session of that conference at the end of November. I attended the conference, and I had to make up my mind on whether to attend the Second Reading of this Bill in the House or to go on attending the conference, and I chose to stay at the conference.
One piece of evidence to emerge from that conference was from the polling of 18 to 34 year-olds, which had indicated that they had no intention of reducing the amount of flying that they did, compared to that done by their elders and betters, and, therefore, were not initially instantly going to modify their behaviour. A briefing sent by the British Youth Council to all Members of your Lordships’ House in advance of Second Reading, which it reinforced thereafter, said that the target figure should be 80 per cent. That indicates a discrepancy. I acknowledge that the British Youth Council goes up only to the age of 24 and that its members are younger than the 18 to 34 year-old group, but there is a discrepancy in attitude to behaviour and attitude to aspirational targets. We are more likely to achieve our ultimate objective if we seek to change behaviour and to demonstrate it during the evolution of this policy, rather than if we put it in the Bill now and do not wait for the Committee on Climate Change to give us its advice. In those circumstances, I hope that the willingness of the nation to adjust its behaviour will be more likely to occur.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred to a “brave” decision. I do not think that we should be taking brave decisions. We need to take action to change people’s behaviour, but they have to be given a reason for it. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, putting 80 per cent in the Bill, whether in this or another place, is not sufficient to explain meaningfully the changes in the way people will have to live. I will give some financial examples in a moment. The Committee on Climate Change will probably be much better placed than this House to explain the reasons for decisions. This is the same amendment that we had earlier; the arguments are the same, save that we now have the membership of the climate change committee.
The level of the 2050 target will have implications for all sectors of the economy and at all levels of society. We have probably not spelt those out sufficiently here. The Stern report went some way towards doing it, but the Committee on Climate Change will be able to do a lot more on that. It is therefore imperative that work considering the level at which the target should be set considers a wide range of issues. The terms of reference by which the committee will conduct this review demonstrate the breadth of the issues that will be considered. Moving to another number, namely 80, ahead of the review, on the basis of a limited analysis, would not be appropriate. We are setting up the Committee on Climate Change to do this job, which is why we have tabled government Amendment No. 121, which we will come to later. This will probably be a theme of Report stage. Amendment No. 121 will place the review by the Committee on Climate Change on a statutory footing and set clear, legally binding deadlines, by which this review must be reported.
Placing the committee’s review in statute, as our amendment proposes, sends a strong signal that, while the Government understand that a reduction of 60 per cent may no longer be a sufficient level of effort for developed-world countries, it is absolutely essential that we base decisions on the level of the 2050 target on the best possible independent, and most up-to-date, advice. The terms of reference set out exactly what the committee will be expected to consider: all the relevant evidence to provide a thorough analytical study of the level of the 2050 target. We cannot do this in debates in this House or the other place. Until the expert committee has carried out its review, it would be premature to change that target to 80 per cent or, indeed, any other number.
These are big issues with serious implications, which is why I emphasise the use by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, of the word “brave.” The Defra analysis, published alongside this Bill, suggested that a 60 per cent target could cost 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2050, while an 80 per cent reduction could cost between 1.1 and 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2050, depending on the assumed level of future technological change, fossil fuel prices and the availability of particular technologies. This is only an initial analysis. These are exactly the kind of questions that the Committee on Climate Change will need to look at. It demonstrates the seriousness of the issue. Someone has to explain that you must change the way you live and work. It is much better that this should come from the advice of the Committee on Climate Change to Government, and then through Parliament, than from us simply putting in another number because the message is that at least 60 per cent is not sufficient and we ought to do the committee’s job for it. It is a fairly fundamental choice: get the evidence, take the decisions and explain them; or decide now and get the evidence later. The explaining process of the Committee on Climate Change will be absolutely fundamental. The former is probably the better approach, which is why I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment today.
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, responds, perhaps I may say that after 30 years in Parliament it requires very considerable skill to make a speech which is intended to be helpful to the Government but causes the Minister to believe that I am on the other side. Nevertheless, I shall read my speech again and see whether I was actually trying to help him.
My Lords, the Minister will probably guess that I am certainly not on his side on this issue. I was interested in how the Minister set out the way that the committee is going to have explain climate change—as if the Committee on Climate Change will be the only body in the country doing that. The committee will be an important body, but it will not be the only one. In fact, vast numbers of other bodies have talked about climate change. The Stern review examined it, we have the UN panels, and of course all the scientific evidence is looking at 80 per cent.
I like government Amendment No. 121 because I think it will achieve one of the objectives. However, it is almost a bit much for the Minister to say that while the Government will base the level on the science, Amendment No. 121 will make sure that the climate committee comes up with the figure straightaway, so everything will be all right. We are a scrutinising Chamber. To say that it is quite acceptable to go for a figure we know is going to be changed is in fact unacceptable. On that basis, those noble Lords who care about the scrutiny of this legislation and do not want it to be weak in any way should not see this as a political manoeuvre—there are no politics in this because all sides of the House are looking at the science—because there is nothing to be gained from specifying either 60 or 80 per cent. But I believe that this should be on the face of the Bill and on that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
4: Before Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to set a new target for 2050
(1) It is the duty of the Committee to recommend to the Secretary of State within six months of its constitution a new target for the minimum percentage by which the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 must be lower than the 1990 baseline.
(2) It is the duty of the Secretary of State as soon as practicable after the making of a recommendation under subsection (1) to lay it before both Houses of Parliament and make a resolution for its approval.
(3) On the approval of a recommendation under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must make an order amending the percentage specified in section 1(1).”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 4 is grouped with a series of government amendments. Our amendment seeks to place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to propose a new 2050 target within six months. This is a straightforward transfer of responsibility from the political to the scientific. The proposal would still be subject to approval by Parliament and thus there is no concern about a democratic deficit or about handing too much power over to bodies outside Parliament. It simply places the recommending power where it should be with those who know how to do it.
The Government have obviously noticed that there is a problem with this aspect of the Bill. There needs to be a larger role for the committee in regard to scientific issues. However, in our view, the Government’s amendments do not go far enough and still leave the ultimate decision regarding the target in the hands of the Secretary of State. Their amendments place a duty on the committee to advise the Secretary of State. In our view, this is too weak. Under the Government’s scheme, the Committee on Climate Change will give its advice on the new targets and publish it. The Secretary of State will then lay a resolution before Parliament to change the target percentages or, if he chooses, he can foolishly ignore the advice entirely. The Government’s amendments rely on the Secretary of State not being so foolish as to ignore the advice. While I hope he would not, there still seems to be scope for him to do so.
Much of the Bill deals with setting out the framework for policies. Our amendments are part of an attempt to beef-up the role of the committee. I have asked that some of these policies and orders be subject to the committee’s scrutiny. We have no interest in cutting out the Government and replacing them with an all-party, oligarchic committee. Ministers get advice from all kinds of committees and departments, much of which is published. At the end of the day, the public perception is that these are ministerial decisions. We want to avoid this perception. By placing the burden of target setting on the committee we ensure that the 2050 target is not only genuinely authoritative but that it appears to be so. A Minister agreeing with the committee’s advice and proposing precisely what it recommends does not possess the same degree of authority.
In practice, all of this might not matter tremendously under the Government’s amendments. We appreciate the Government heeding the advice of the House on the need for an increased role for the committee. Their amendments are a step in the right direction. With their amendments, ideally the Minister will follow exactly the published advice of the committee; our target will be more robust and, more importantly, scientifically validated. If this is what the Government truly have in mind, it seems strange that they were not willing to go that extra mile, be a little more courageous and pass the job of setting the targets more fully into the hands of the committee. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend’s amendment and the government amendments go a long way towards meeting the concerns of the Joint Committee. Although I like my noble friend’s amendment, I am quite attracted by the Government’s amendment. My noble friend’s amendment seeks to place a duty on the committee to recommend to the Secretary of State within six months of its constitution, whereas the Government’s amendments seem to establish a rolling programme for the committee to advise the Secretary of State and there may well be further changes in due course. If my noble friend’s amendment was amended to be a rolling one, I would give it my wholehearted support.
My Lords, setting targets is now very much up to the Committee on Climate change. On the whole, we on these Benches prefer the Government’s amendments in terms of the balance between the committee, the Government and Parliament. We believe that ultimately it is up to the Government to put proposals to Parliament. We hope that the advice of the Committee on Climate Change will seldom be changed or ignored; that is why the publication requirements we shall come on to later are so important. We certainly support the Government’s amendments in this area.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment. Earlier in our debates, the Minister clearly identified that the committee would have an important role once it was up and running and that it should not only be up to the Government to sell the Bill to members of the public, whose support we need to gain for it to work effectively. In reflecting upon my noble friend’s amendment, does the Minister accept that it seeks to put a duty on the committee within six months—it could be sooner but obviously within a six month period—to set a new target and recommend it to the Government?
It is difficult having the government amendments within this group because the Minister will not speak to them until we have sat down, and we cannot come back to him in the same way that we can in Committee. I would be grateful if the Minister would tell us more about his amendment at this stage and how he sees the difference between my noble friend’s amendments and the government amendments. If it is left until we come to, let us say, Amendment No. 121, in its proper slot at Report stage, my understanding from past experience is that the Minister will move it formally and we will not debate it. If history has moved on since I took my last Bill through and I am wrong, I will not be so anxious. However, I am anxious that we should have a chance to debate the Minister’s amendments within this grouping before we find ourselves in a position where we cannot question the Minister directly.
At this stage, I would like to place on record my support for my noble friend’s Amendment No. 4, and I shall listen with interest to hear what the Minister has to say about his amendments in this group.
My Lords, I will do my best within the rules of the House to answer any questions as they come up. As he is moving Amendment No. 4, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will have the last word on this debate anyway. I will speak to that amendment. Basically, we do not like it, because it cuts the Government out completely. We did not use these words, but, to be honest, it is doing exactly what we said we were opposed to: giving the climate change committee an executive function. That is, root and branch, what we are opposed to; it should have an advisory function. We are sympathetic to the aims of the amendment, as indicated by the group of amendments we have tabled. If I may be a bit nitpicky, Amendment No. 4 does not address the consequential issues of carrying out the review, which the government amendments do—but then I have probably got a bigger team than the Opposition. The central issue, however, is that the amendment would cut the Government out.
I will explain the Government’s amendments in some detail. As I indicated earlier in the debate on the 2050 target, we have tabled amendments that will place a review of the 2050 target by the Committee on Climate Change on a statutory footing. That will improve the transparency of the process, and I understand that it will be welcomed as evidence that we have delivered on what we promised in this respect.
The Prime Minister announced that the committee’s review of the 2050 target should consider whether it should be tightened up to 80 per cent. We have committed to ensure that the review will take place as soon as possible, and the committee should report at the same time as it produces its advice on the level of the first three budgets. Government Amendment No. 121 delivers on both those promises, and actually goes significantly further by making the review statutory—that is, a legally binding obligation.
Last week, we published the terms of reference for the review, which add further transparency to the whole process by showing exactly what we want the committee to consider. The terms of reference make clear that the climate change committee will consider important associated issues including the impact on the 2020 target, whether the target should be extended to cover all greenhouse gases and the implications of including international aviation and international shipping emissions. We debated all those issues at various stages in Committee. I hope, therefore, that this shows we were in listening mode, in that we specifically want the climate change committee to look at these issues. That will allow us to take decisions on the level of the 2050 target, based on the best possible independent advice. As I have said, we do not consider it appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of the review by putting the different target in the Bill now, as proposed in Amendment No. 3.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 19, 151, 164, 172 and 173. As I mentioned, the other amendments in this group address the consequential issues relating to the timing of the committee’s first budget advice, its first progress report and the government response, and the guidance and directions clauses of the Bill. Following discussion with the shadow Committee on Climate Change—because there has been a shadow secretariat there for some time—we believe that December 2008 is a realistic timetable for the committee to complete its review of the 2050 target. That has a number of knock-on effects. It makes sense for the committee to give its advice on the first three budgets at the same time as its advice on the 2050 target, so Amendment No. 151 delays the committee’s advice on budgets for three months; that is, from September this year to December this year. It is a three-month extension to the deadline in the Bill as currently drafted. We do not consider that to be an inappropriate delay, and it will give the committee enough time to complete its work.
As the committee’s advice on the first budgets will be three months later, government Amendment No. 19 also extends the deadline by which the Government must set the first three budgets by the same length of time, to 1 June 2009. That ensures that the Government have as much time as previously proposed—that is, six months—to consider the committee’s advice, consult the devolved Administrations and set the carbon budgets. Because the Government will not set the first budgets until June 2009, it makes no sense to ask the Committee on Climate Change to produce its first progress report in the same month. Government Amendment No. 164 extends the deadline for the committee’s progress report, and Amendments Nos. 172 and 173 extend the deadline for the Government’s response.
I assure your Lordships that those proposals are there purely to reflect the proposed timing of the 2050 review, and would apply only to the first progress report and the first government response. Every future progress report by the committee and response by the Government would need to be published to the deadlines set out in Clauses 28 and 29 in the Bill as drafted.
Amendments Nos. 179 and 180 are consequential amendments that simply make specific provision for any guidance and directions relating to the 2050 review to be given by the Secretary of State alone following consultation with the devolved Administrations. That simply reflects the existing arrangements for the committee’s advice on budgets or on any of its other functions.
In due course, I will formally move those amendments, but I hope my explanation is sufficient within the rules. If there are questions, I will gladly give way.
My Lords, will my noble friend answer a simple question and place his reply on the record in simple language? The Conservative amendment says, in subsection (2),
“make a resolution for its approval”—
in other words, make a resolution for the approval of the recommendation made by the committee. The Government’s amendments do not do that. They do not require the Government to approve the recommendations. They therefore potentially invite drift on a recommendation by the climate change committee. Is that true?
Absolutely, my Lords. I have not sought to hide that at all. The Conservative amendment takes the Government out of the process completely, save for laying the order. They have no power either to reject it or to amend it. The Government’s position has been all along to get the best possible independent advice, act on that advice and bring a decision that the Government make, having had that advice, to Parliament. In the main, one would assume that we would follow the advice, but there may be occasions when we do not. My noble friend is right.
My Lords, may I then pursue my noble friend further down this route? He talks about the best possible advice. The assumption I had made was that the best possible advice would be the advice given by the climate change committee. Does that not suggest that there is other advice that might be treated as more significant and more valid than that given by the climate change committee? Does that not equally invite drift? Does drift not worry my noble friend?
My Lords, it would do. I am sorry; I should stick to the brief, really. “Best possible advice” means the climate change committee. The point is that the committee is small, but it itself will draw in advice in forming its position to come back to the Government and Parliament. It is not as though the five or six people appointed now will work in isolation; they themselves will be taking advice. As we know from the rest of the Bill, there can be sub-committees of other people. That is what I meant by “the best possible advice”.
I meant to say to my noble friend that the best possible advice is not the hunch of a Minister, or the hunch of a pressure group or some lobby group—it is the transparent advice from of the climate change committee. If that is not accepted, the procedures in the Bill are such that Ministers will have to be up-front at the Dispatch Box and very clear about why they are not accepting it. The default position is that the climate change committee’s advice will be accepted, and, if it is not, Ministers will have to explain to Parliament why not.
My Lords, that is precisely the problem in this Bill. We will come to my amendments some time next week. This brings us to what happens in conditions of drift. Ministers will explain to Parliament why they are not prepared to implement a recommendation or follow the advice of the committee. At that point the debate may well stop and that is where the problem of drift arises.
My Lords, the committee has been set up with particular terms of reference and people have accepted appointment on the basis that they understand that the legislation can always change as it goes through and that the committee is in shadow form. There may be cases where the Government do not accept the advice and have to come to Parliament to get approval for something else. However, the advice of the Committee on Climate Change will be open and transparent for all to see. The committee would have a view—quite a serious view—if the Government decided not to accept its advice. My noble friend uses the word “drift”. I do not think this is drift at all—this is what normally happens. This is an advisory climate change committee, which will give independent advice to Government and, through Government, to Parliament, because it will be published and transparent. It is not an executive committee. It is not making the decision, The implication of what my noble friend is saying is that it should make the decision and there should be no choice whether Government accept it or not. Our view has always been that the Government should make the decisions and be accountable for them to Parliament.
My Lords, I can understand the Minister being somewhat confused at this stage. I have been heartened by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because they reinforce our view that the key to getting this right lies in that balance between Parliament on the one hand and the climate change committee and the Government on the other. We have that other great body, public opinion, on the outside. To some degree, the Minister has called on that fourth force in suggesting that no Minister is going to publicly override a recommendation from the climate change committee because it would be so electorally difficult.
This is an interesting debate to which we may well have to return at Third Reading, because it involves matters of principle. I recognise the strength of the Minister’s commitment to increasing the role of the climate change committee while reserving the authority of the Secretary of State—I think that summarises his position. We are also pleased that the arguments that we presented in Committee have manifested themselves in a series of Government amendments. It is in the interests of the House and the Bill that we encourage the Government in their listening mode. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2 [Amendment of 2050 target or baseline year]:
5: Clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) Those powers may only be exercised—
(a) if a recommendation to make an order under this section is made by the Committee;(b) if the recommendation is approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament;and they must be exercised as soon as practicable after a recommendation is so approved.( ) It is the duty of the Secretary of State as soon as practicable after the making of a recommendation by the Committee to lay it before both Houses of Parliament and make a resolution for its approval.”
The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Clause 2, the Secretary of State may by order change the 2050 target and change the 1990 baseline. While I am sure that a Secretary of State would not make these important changes out of political expediency, we want to ensure that they are made with the blessing and recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change. Our amendments are designed to ensure that the committee is playing a central role in terms of the overall scientific framework—that is, the targets in the baseline year. Orders to amend these shall not be made unless there is approval of the committee. In that respect these amendments are very straightforward.
I concede that Clause 2(2) says that changes can only be made if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change. The Minister talked about “best possible advice” in the debate on the previous amendment, which of course means the Committee on Climate Change, and I am rather hoping that when he responds to this he will come up with the same thing. When there is a reference to scientific knowledge about climate change, it means scientific knowledge from the climate change committee.
We do not want to allow the Secretary of State the leeway of ignoring the Committee’s advice, or indeed not seeking its advice at all, on these very important issues. We do not see these amendments as taking away powers from the Government. We simply feel that how much carbon emissions need to be reduced, by when, and how that is to be counted, are wholly scientific matters. Of course, how the Government go about doing so is up to them. We will come to the committee’s role in this later on.
As my noble friend Lord Taylor said, we want a balance between the roles of the committee, the Parliament and the Government. We called it a triangular relationship in Committee. The amendments seek to ensure that the appropriate emphasis is placed on the appropriate side of the triangle and that these scientific matters need to be considered by the committee. I appreciate that the Government do not intend to build a situation in which they can ignore the committee. We are just trying to guarantee that this does not happen. I beg to move.
My Lords, I can be brief because my arguments are exactly the same as on the previous amendment. If one simply takes the effects of Amendments Nos. 28 to 30, the Government would have to follow the committee’s recommendations and the only alternative is not to act at all. If either House of Parliament rejected the committee’s recommendations there would be complete stalemate and nothing could be changed. It may be triangular to the noble Lord, but it is giving the committee executive functions.
We want the committee to give advice and the Government to be accountable to Parliament. This is the very last point my noble friend was asking me about. I agreed with him that it Parliament would take the decision and not Ministers, because Ministers would have to come to Parliament in any event. Therefore, we had these discussions at some length in Committee. We want to ensure that we design a system that has some element of democratic accountability. The proposals put forward in this group of amendments would mean that the Committee on Climate Change would essentially be responsible for taking the decisions. As I have said, decisions about how we reduce carbon emissions will have far-reaching consequences which, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will require brave actions. It is only right these are made by an elected body. Delegating such decisions to the unelected committee undermines democratic accountability.
The committee’s role is to provide the best possible advice on the level of budgets and to hold the Government and the country accountable for progress towards them. The Government’s view is that the committee should not have a role in choosing the policy mechanisms most appropriate to meet the budgets. The climate change committee will be incredibly influential. In this respect, it will be much more powerful than some advisory committees. I hope that good heart has been taken from the members who have been appointed to the Committee.
I cannot accept the amendments but I promised in Committee to consider how we can ensure that the committee’s advice is given full prominence and that the Government’s response is fully transparent. In particular, it needs to be clear where our views diverge, if and when that happens. We will debate the Government amendments separately. We are proposing that the Government should be required to seek and take account of advice from the committee in three additional situations. We are tabling amendments to propose that the Secretary of State should be required to explain if he disagrees with the committee’s advice on targets, greenhouse gases and budgets, and we will come to those at the appropriate time. But that is largely why we cannot accept this group of amendments. They fall into the same trap as the previous amendment.
My Lords, I think that this issue—this relationship—is at the heart of the Bill. I ask noble Lords to consider for a moment what happened with the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. I remember being advised as a humble Labour Back-Bencher at the time that we could not trust the politicians and that we needed an independent body to take a major decision affecting management of the economy, whereby prior to elections we would not put interest rates down and after them we would not put interest rates up. It was as simple as that; that is how it was presented. I accepted it on that basis and I think that my noble friend probably accepted it similarly on that basis. I cannot see the difference here. The policy of raising interest rates after elections and putting them down before is the policy of drift, and it does not work. The Labour Government’s greatest success in all these years has been to take that one decision which removed from us that responsibility. It did not provide for drift. This is another amendment which is trying to tie us down and tie us in to a decision taken by the committee; whereas, alternatively, some of us believe that drift is inevitable.
I remember some weeks ago when my noble friend stood there and told us that, one day, he would return to the Back Benches. I have a vision of him standing on the Back Benches in a number of years’ time hectoring and belabouring the then Government—not necessarily a Labour Government—over the fact that they have allowed drift to interfere with the committee's decisions and that we will not meet targets because they have allowed electoral considerations to interfere when the real decisions have to be taken.
My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I think that he has misread the analogy with the Bank of England. The true analogy is that the Government take the fundamental political decision on whether we are a high-inflation or low-inflation economy and on the degree of rigour. The Government set the target and then assign the task of delivering that target to an operational body. The analogy is not the same in this case. What is being proposed is that the target should be set by the committee. That is a completely different constitutional position. The position set out by the Minister is therefore right. The target is set on advice and then various people may be given the task of implementing it. I think that the evidence of the Bank of England actually leads one to exactly the opposite conclusion.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours will undoubtedly repeat variations of his remarks throughout the two to four days of this Report stage. We may therefore rehearse them again. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, says, it is not an exact analogy at all. Far from a tripartite arrangement, it is not at all clear—as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said—what role the Government would serve here other than as a post box. The opposition Front-Bench proposals throughout the Bill effectively involve the climate change committee taking decisions about a whole range of things. If it made a recommendation on the emissions from energy generation of a particular scale and rigour and those could effectively be met only by nuclear generation on a large scale—and that is not impossible—it would mean that the Government of the day, even if opposed to it, would have to accept the target knowing that the means of achieving it was something to which they were diametrically opposed. That seems—although I would personally be in favour of such a policy—nonsense.
The climate change committee will make proposals based on judgments it has reached through its scientific and rigorous assessment, and those proposals will have implications. The Government of the day will have to face the question of what they will recommend to Parliament, and they may have to take a different view. That is the role of government. The Government of the day have to weigh up a whole range of complex issues as well as the expert scientific advice. I cannot imagine a situation where any Government would want to be bound in this way.
I finish with the following conundrum. If Parliament rejected what the climate change committee recommended, who would negotiate with the committee to change the situation? Would it be the Government, who are a post box for a disagreeing Parliament? With which House of Parliament or party would it negotiate? It is the politics of the madhouse. The Government of the day ultimately have the responsibility of proposing to Parliament. That is their political responsibility. They will agree or disagree. But if Parliament rejects the proposal, it is then clearly the Government's duty to negotiate with the climate change committee. If the Government are simply a post box, the Secretary of State will be in a totally invidious position. He would have no locus or authority. The climate change committee would say, “It’s no good negotiating with you because Parliament has rejected it”.
My Lords, when we had the debate on Schedule 1, particularly on paragraph 1, where there was a reference to the experience that the committee would need in terms of their individual contributions, I raised the issue of the absence of change making. The Minister, to his very courteous credit, not only responded in the debate but kindly wrote to me thereafter saying why the Government did not believe that it was necessary. In that debate I said that the Government might well believe that their ability to calculate the process of change was inherent anyway. If change making is not going to be in the experience which is looked for in the Committee on Climate Change, and will therefore be supplied by the Government, then I can totally see why the Government would wish to retain the possibility. But they will obviously have to defend any occasion when they are at variance with recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. I therefore find the Minister's observations convincing.
My Lords, as things stand in the Bill, the Secretary of State can amend the 2050 target or baseline year if it appears to him—and that seems to be a hunch to me—that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change. We were trying to tie the Minister down that it will be the Committee on Climate Change that gives this scientific knowledge to the Secretary of State. I think that we can take some comfort from that and I thank the Minister for setting out his stall on this. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]
9: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Statements of compatibility
(1) A Minister of the Crown in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament must, before Second Reading of the Bill—
(a) make a statement to the effect that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the principal aim of this Act (“a statement of compatibility”); or(b) make a statement to the effect that although he is unable to make a statement of compatibility the government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.(2) The statement must be in writing and be published in such manner as the Minister making it considers appropriate.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was very pleased by the positive reception that this amendment received in Committee; by and large, many noble Lords seemed to think that the idea behind the amendment was a sound one. I return at Report with the same amendment, hoping that, having had time to consider it fully, noble Lords will give it a similar welcome not just as an idea but as a point which your Lordships will seek to include in the Bill. The Minister agreed to take the idea away for consideration and even said that,
“it ought to be possible for a body of legislation, a range of legislation, to be covered by such a statement”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 212.].
Although the Minister did not make any commitments to bring back anything on Report, I was slightly dismayed when I looked at the Marshalled List and did not find a government amendment attempting to do what our amendment does. I therefore look forward to hearing from the Minister. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right that I was sympathetic. Yet even where I have made no commitment to look into an issue, we have had the best brains in Whitehall looking seriously at what your Lordships have been saying because, as I constantly remind my ministerial colleagues, the Government do not run the Lords, so we have to listen. I also explained that in a letter that I sent.
I also said in Committee that the idea of a compatibility test would have a limited practical effect, and that it would be difficult if not impossible ever to demonstrate that a single act of legislation was, on its own, incompatible with the aims of the Bill. Even if particular legislation would lead to an increase in emissions, that would not in itself be incompatible with the 2050 target, as there would be nothing to stop compensatory action being taken in another area to reduce emissions. In practice, then, we could honestly say that every piece of legislation was, if looked at in isolation, compatible with the aims of the Bill. This has been looked at very carefully, and therefore the amendment would achieve nothing at all.
As I said in Committee, we agree that an important point—about making sure that we take account of the full range of government policies—underlies the amendment. As I emphasised earlier, this is across the Government and not just Defra. The full range includes those that might put up emissions as well as those that might bring them down. As I said in my letter covering the Government’s amendments, there are already robust processes in place within government to ensure that the carbon impacts of policies are assessed at every stage of their development process. That is important as legislation is often made toward the end of policy development, so a test applied only at that stage would not, in itself, achieve much.
We have looked further since being in Committee. I can assure the House that the Government are committed to amending the guidance on Explanatory Notes that accompany primary legislation. That change will require the section of the Explanatory Notes covering the impact assessment to refer specifically to the more detailed carbon impact assessment carried out for that legislation. By explicitly detailing each policy’s carbon impact in the overall cost-benefit analysis and, where applicable, the package of parliamentary documents, we should be able to signal the carbon impact of the policy to as wide an audience as possible.
I hope that the new change to the Explanatory Notes, which has come about following our debates in Committee, provides sufficient reassurance about the robustness of the existing mechanism to assess the carbon impacts of policies—not just legislation—so I am grateful to noble Lords for bringing this up. I hope that with the spirit having been there in Committee, as I indicated then, bringing this about in practice with such a change to the Explanatory Notes will go some way to showing that we have, first, listened and, secondly, done something practical about it.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I hope that it will be possible to keep this matter under review to see how we can make sure that the information is made as public as possible, so that it comes into the public domain and is not just privately circulated among relatively few individuals. However, we are pleased with the Minister’s reply to the extent that it imposes a discipline on government, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 3 [Consultation on order amending 2050 target or baseline year]:
10: Clause 3, page 2, line 33, after second “the” insert “Advisory”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment No. 10 and, with it, consider Amendment No. 11. I have been enormously impressed and persuaded by my noble friend Lord Rooker on this issue. Although he gave no undertaking in Committee, I think that he was sympathetic to what I was proposing. He said that the committee,
“is an advisory committee … but I remember that when ACAS was set up it was not called ACAS—I was on the Standing Committee in the other place—and the “A” was added during the course of the legislation. The suggestion made by my noble friend is welcome, but I cannot comment on it today”.—[Official Report, 14/1/08; col. 1070.]
I made inquiries earlier, on this occasion, and I understand that my noble friend is likely to say that the advisory committee has wider functions and cannot be confined simply to being an advisory committee. Yet, if I may remind him of it, ACAS also has wider considerations.
While I am not prepared to go to the wall on this issue at present, the Government should think again about it for the reasons given in Committee. I stress, then, that the word “advisory” is all-important. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am of course grateful to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis for his attempt to assist the Government. We sought to clarify in Committee, as I want to now, the nature of the Committee on Climate Change. My noble friend suggests that its having the word “advisory” in front might assist. My noble friend Lord Rooker indicated in Committee that he would certainly look at this but, as he put it, he liked the ring of “Committee on Climate Change” and the element of authority and importance which that represented.
We are wary about changing the name of the committee when we have the opportunity to spell out its exact role and how it will work. I recognise that my noble friend’s amendment is relatively minor, as when, in that earlier debate, we debated whether it should be called a “Commission” rather than a “Committee”. The only reason for changing the name of the body, in our view, is if there is a difference in view about what sort of body it should be.
We have had several opportunities this afternoon to clarify these issues, and we are quite clear about the nature of that committee. It will be an advisory, non-departmental public body by classification and, as my noble friend Lord Rooker has already emphasised, it would not be appropriate to give it executive functions. That was the burden of debate earlier today and in Committee. However, the committee will be an extremely influential organisation and, in that respect, a much more powerful body than some other advisory committees. In terms of influence, it may be compared to the Monetary Policy Committee, although it does not have the same executive powers. We are talking about an extremely influential body, by whose membership we have also shown how influential we intend it to be.
My Lords, I thought that my noble friend might be fertile in referring to significant bodies that also have “advisory” in their title. I take his point. However, as we shall discuss later, we are tabling amendments further to strengthen the role of this committee. In particular, we are proposing that the Government should be required to seek and take account of advice from the committee in three additional situations of great import in relation to international aviation or international shipping emissions, greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide and carbon accounting. We are also tabling amendments to increase the transparency of the relationship between the committee, government and Parliament, which was the burden of the debate we had a few moments ago.
In addition to strengthening the committee’s responsibility, we have taken steps to ensure that it is distinct and has significantly more autonomy and influence than a very large number of advisory committees. For this reason, the Committee on Climate Change is unusual in having powers to enter into contracts of its choosing and to appoint its own staff. I recognise that my noble friend is seeking to be helpful in an area where we are engaged in important debate. His intention is obvious enough; he accepts the Government’s position as regards the advisory nature of the committee. As far as the Government are concerned, the Committee on Climate Change has a perfectly suitable name. We do not think there is a compelling case to change it. However, we consider that it is important—the House is making this clear—to spell out with greater accuracy the committee’s powers and its relationship to government. Therefore, I am grateful to my noble friend but I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am enormously unimpressed by the case put forward by my noble friend. He is usually very accommodating and reasonable, but on this occasion he is utterly unreasonable. The committee is undoubtedly an advisory one, so why should it not be called an advisory committee? We ought to be logical but we are not being logical on this occasion. The noble Lord talks about ACAS but that body employs its own staff. Why did my noble friend mention ACAS at all? ACAS is able to enter into contracts. Why did he not mention that fact? In fact, he argued the contrary. I am profoundly unimpressed by what he said. The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that I ought to come back to it. I hope that my noble friend will reconsider this. It is an advisory committee. There can be no doubt about that. However, much against my better judgment I shall withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]
13: Clause 3, page 2, line 38, at end insert—
“( ) As soon as is reasonably practicable after giving its advice to the Secretary of State, the Committee must publish that advice in such manner as it considers appropriate.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 13, I wish to speak also to the other government amendments with which it is grouped.
At present, the Bill states that where the committee provides advice on the level of a carbon budget, and the Secretary of State decides to set the budget at a level different from that recommended by the committee, the Secretary of State must state his reasons for doing so. Government Amendments Nos. 14, 34 and 92 extend that requirement to apply to other aspects of the Bill, including where the Government propose to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas”.
This means that for most amending actions the Secretary of State takes under the Bill, he would be required to make his reasoning very clear in relation to the committee’s advice. I believe that picks up on the intention behind the noble Lord’s Amendments Nos. 33 and 39, and hope that he will be satisfied with that response. I shall explain why the government amendments take a rather different approach.
Government Amendments Nos. 13, 32 and 89 have a similar rationale. The Bill already places a clear statutory obligation on the Committee on Climate Change to publish the advice that it gives on budgets under Clause 27. It is also bound by the Freedom of Information Act to disclose most other material on request. I believe that, to further improve transparency, it would make sense for more of the committee’s advice to be published proactively. These amendments would therefore require any advice from the committee on government proposals to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas” to be published, as soon as reasonably practicable after giving the advice. This would also be subject to exemptions—as in Clause 27(7), for instance—for information that would be protected under the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations, or by other legislation. The exemptions are set out in our Amendment No. 136.
I will say a little bit more about government Amendment No. 136, which is connected with government Amendments Nos. 132 and 156. These merely tidy up the Bill. When we decided to increase the number of duties on the committee to publish various pieces of advice, we noticed that this would lead to the usual exemption provisions being repeated over and over again. So government Amendment No. 136 adds a general exemption provision that applies to all of the committee’s duties to publish advice. Government Amendments Nos. 132 and 156 remove a couple of specific exemption provisions as a consequence.
Government Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 also just tidy the Bill up. Government Amendment No. 37 amends Clause 9(1)(a) to refer directly to the committee’s budget advice under Clause 27, removing any unintended implication that some other kind of advice is needed as well. Government Amendment No. 38 recognises that the committee is already required to publish its budget advice under Clause 27(5).
Government Amendments Nos. 15, 35 and 93 make very minor consequential amendments to reflect the fact that the Secretary of State will be making statements, not just one statement, under Clauses 3, 7 and 17.
It will be appreciated that the Government are involved partially in merely tidying up the Bill here and in making clear crucial points with regard to a target, a baseline year and the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas”. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a question relating to government Amendment No. 14, although I think that it also relates to other matters we have discussed. Under Amendment No. 14, if the Secretary of State does not agree with what the committee has recommended and proposes something different, he has to,
“publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision”.
Under the present arrangements that Secretary of State is presumably the Defra Secretary of State. This is a matter for the Westminster Parliament; it is not a matter for the devolved Administrations. At later points in the Bill—my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and I have tabled an amendment to that—the devolved bodies are specifically given duties. But this is simply a matter of the Secretary of State responding on behalf of the United Kingdom.
In this case, it seems to me that the difference between what the committee is recommending and what the Secretary of State says might well affect a great many matters devolved to, say, the Scots Parliament; for example, matters of planning and transport—different matters through which the change might be implemented. How will the Secretary of State ensure that he is carrying the whole country with him when many of the functions that will be affected are devolved? I may be asking a legitimate question; perhaps I should know this. In trying to picture how this will work I see that there could be problems in Scotland. The Scots Parliament disagrees on a lot of environmental issues and other matters with the United Kingdom Government. There could be problems. Will the Minister explain how it will work?
My Lords, it is a little while since the noble Baroness and I have exchanged points across the Chamber. As she knows, I always quake when she rises, as she always makes a pertinent point and often one difficult to respond to. The noble Baroness will appreciate, and I want to emphasise, that the arrangements between the devolved Administrations and the Secretaries of State in their UK responsibilities have been already subject to prior agreement. The devolved Administrations support the Bill. Within that framework, the “Secretary of State”—it may not be any particular Secretary of State; it depends on the issue—will be acting on a UK basis. That is the arrangement that we have on the Bill with the devolved Administrations and that is the overriding consideration.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
14: Clause 3, page 3, line 2, at end insert—
“( ) If the order makes provision different from that recommended by the Committee, the Secretary of State must also publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision.”
15: Clause 3, page 3, line 3, leave out “The statement” and insert “A statement under this section”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 4 [Carbon budgeting]:
16: Clause 4, page 3, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) to set within each of the five years within a budgetary period an annual amount for the new UK carbon account (the “annual target”)( ) to set in every calendar year until 2044 an annual amount for the net UK carbon account for the year six years ahead (the “rolling annual target”), and”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, our amendments in the group set up a mechanism for yearly milestones, which addresses a serious gap in the Bill. The Government have obviously recognised the gap but, in our view, have made an unsatisfactory attempt to address it. The rolling annual target mechanism provides for both flexibility and accountability in the budget process. The problem with the budgets as they are in the Bill is that there is no way of ensuring that the first few years of the budget period will see serious attempts and efforts on the part of Government to meet their targets. We would like to think that any Secretary of State will busy himself with reducing emissions from day one of a budget period, but that will be difficult. There is the obvious problem that if there is no accountability within the five-year period, it will be very easy for a Government to blame missing a target on the previous Government, or to have decreased motivation for achieving a target if it seemed likely that the next Government would take the heat. If we are to ensure that reductions happen, there needs to be steady pressure and constant accountability.
Objections were raised about the variations that can occur from year to year that may make numerical targets difficult to meet annually or give the wrong impression about the success or failure of an Administration’s efforts. The rolling factor takes care of that. Each year, the following six years would have their annual targets adjusted, to take into account things such as cold winters, to ensure that the budgets are met on time. Likewise, the rolling factor can take into account successes that, by happy coincidence, occur in a Secretary of State’s tenure. If a series of heavily polluting power stations were phased out at the beginning of a budget period, the Secretary of State could rest on his or her undeserved laurels and still achieve the budget without making any other serious attempts at tackling emissions.
One of the main objections was that it was difficult to set a single figure for a year because of too many contingent factors that would influence emissions. All targets are like that. We have no interest in setting off alarm bells unnecessarily, but the annual report gives the Secretary of State or, we hope, the Prime Minister a chance to explain. All government targets are contingent; the public realise that and we are kidding ourselves to think that there is not a widespread realisation that the nature of a target in general is a goal to be worked towards and one that will be met if appropriate actions are taken. There is not an extraordinary circumstance that derails it. The rolling feature of our proposed targets will provide the most realistic and robust goals and thus accountability.
Consider applying the same argument to taxation and the PBR. Just because the fiscal budget is on a five-year period, it does not stop an annual report from being a useful tool for scrutinising a process. Like the rise and fall of emissions due to temperature, the Government’s fiscal budget has to account for any number of extraordinary circumstances. Would we accept the argument that we should not have an annual budget presented by the Chancellor because it is difficult to pin down where we should be for any given year?
The Government’s amendments propose yearly indicative ranges of temperatures. This seems to be a fudge. How can it work in practice? For arguments sake, let us say that the first year’s indicative range is a reduction by between 3 and 5 per cent. What would that amount to? It would amount to 3 per cent becoming the target. Any Government would take all the credit that they could—the press officers overworked with reporting that the Government had delivered on their promises. The top end of the scale would become meaningless. A lot depends on how those ranges are set. If there were a minimum gap for the range, it may make the amendments more sensible. An indicative range of 3.00053 per cent as opposed to 3.00063 per cent would seem more persuasive. We want the targets to be at the upper limit of possibility, pushing Ministers to find ways to ensure that they are achieved. At the end of the day, or at the end of the budget period, doing just enough to meet the minimum requirement may not be good enough. We do not want Ministers continually to be able to justify their failures because of bad weather. Annual targets need to send clear signals; these ranges are anything but. It is like running a race with a victory ribbon that moves or, more aptly, it is like running the 200 metres but saying that anything between 175 metres and the finishing line will do. While we appreciate the Government’s recognition that there needs to be more accountability, the mechanism that they propose is too deeply flawed to represent even a step in the right direction. We strongly believe that if we are going to have genuine accountability during the budget period, it should come in the form of rolling annual targets—the rolling annual targets that we propose. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I enjoyed his sporting analogy. I do not know whether he will be joining me on the Westminster mile for Sports Relief on Wednesday when we can get some energy out and support a charity. On these Benches, we started during Committee and at Second Reading on the basis that five years was too long. We felt strongly that because of the political cycle and of concentration on achievement rather than just setting targets, three years was more appropriate. Not having received rapturous applause from the other sides of the House, we have not put that proposition forward at Report stage. We believe that with five years still there it is critical that we should have distinct annual targets within the Bill. You cannot have a void over a period of five years for a subject as important as this. We were persuaded by the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in Committee, for rolling targets. That is a useful addition; hence our support for the amendment.
My Lords, it is accepted that from one year to the next there can be a great deal of variability either in greenhouse gas emissions or temperature. The particular feature here is that much of that variability within a year would be difficult to explain; much more difficult to explain than variations in the government accounts. That makes this rather different. Therefore, I support the Government’s proposal of having a quinquennium, a base year, a target year and a trajectory in between, which is very much the methodology of the delivery unit.
Suppose that, after the annual target, there is one year in which we are below trajectory, by which I mean on the wrong side of whatever trajectory we are trying to achieve. The implication is that you are then setting another set of targets on the basis of that one year’s change in evidence, much of which will be noise rather than signal. The right response may not be to act immediately. If one’s antennae begin to detect something going wrong, it may be prudent to start researching or maybe start preparing what your response would be. Very often, it would not be a good idea to act. Suppose in the next year this variability reverses itself. What do you do? Do you then reset the targets back in the other direction?
I also find rolling targets confusing. Take the year 2017. This will have been set in the initial target setting of the initial quinquennia. It will then appear as year 5 in the 2013-17 period. It will appear again as year 4 a year later. It will appear again as year 3 in the next year. The public will be thinking, “What was the target for 2017? It has been reset six times in its lifetime”. Part of this mechanism is to provide clarity so that you can see where you stand.
Philosophically, I am unsympathetic to the hyperactivity and pot-watching that the amendment implies. I am sure that many Members of this House have been highly critical of Ministers for initiative-itis; for not spending long enough looking at the evidence. Yet this amendment promotes exactly that kind of impatient policy-making.
Let us remember that we are engaged on a 40-to 50-year journey to decarbonise our society. What is required is purpose and persistence and not a flurry of initiatives. The outcome will be decided by the way in which society—business, families and public organisations—responds. They need a clear set of guidelines and a predictable framework, not one that is dodging back and forth from one year to the next. For those reasons, with the addition of the trajectory—which I think is called the indicative guidelines—that has been proposed, this is the basis that we should support in the Bill.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in responding, could clarify two or three queries that I have about the meaning of his amendment. First, are these indicative targets, or targets in the meaning of the rest of the Bill? Secondly, does the annual target apply for 15 years ahead? It refers to five-year budget periods and there are three five-year budget periods always in play. Is he asking for 15 years to be published, but for the rolling target to apply only for the next six of those years?
Thirdly, what are the means at the disposal of the Government of the day to fine- tune on this annual basis? Taking into account the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, the implication that I remarked on in Committee of having targets in the meaning of the Bill is that there are policies that can address those. If we are to go down the annual target route, and for that to be in some sense meaningful in its impact on policy, the Government of the day and the committee advising them must have some levers and tools by which they can respond on an annual basis, as opposed to setting a clear trajectory and a clear strategy with clear policies aimed at achieving that. What are the corresponding annual policies that could fine-tune in that way?
My Lords, it has been very seldom during the passage of the Bill that I have disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, but on this occasion I think that the Government have done very well. They have listened, and their Amendment No. 49 is not at all a bad attempt to deal with a tricky problem. All I would suggest to the Minister is that the term “indicative annual range” is a little broad. It would help enormously if that range could be narrowed to a point where people could have some confidence that it would be so, give or take 5 per cent either side of the range. As my noble friend Lord Woolmer said, the Government are rightly offering the opportunity to fine-tune, but fine-tune means just that. The phrase used at the moment in the amendment is a little broad and is probably broader than is intended.
My Lords, I will get off on the right foot. Subject to the government amendments being approved, I am always happy to look at their technical drafting, in answer to my noble friend, who speaks with the experience of chairing the Joint Committee. First, I apologise for the length of my response. A lot of key points have been made, and I am keen to explore why we think the opposition amendments are not a good idea and to get that across in a way that I hope the House will accept.
We had a detailed discussion in Committee on annual accountability, when I tried to explain the problems inherent in setting single-point annual targets, whether or not they were legally binding. We have looked again at the arguments presented in that debate, and it is clear that there is a good deal of common ground about what we are trying to achieve. That is to say, annual transparency and accountability about progress towards meeting the budgets are crucial for all of us, and some indication of the Government’s expected trajectory for reductions over the budget period would help in providing this. It is important that there is no divide between any sides of the House on that.
I note that the Bill already provides a strong annual accountability framework through a number of its existing provisions. Every year, the Government must publish a statement of emissions for the previous year. The climate change committee must then report to Parliament on progress towards meeting the budgets, and the Government respond to the committee’s report. Since our helpful discussions on this issue at Committee stage, we have considered ways in which still greater clarity can be provided about how the accountability framework will work in practice, because it has to work in practice. I will come to those shortly.
First, I want to look at the opposition amendments. Amendment No. 16 would require the setting of both an annual target and a rolling annual target in terms of the net UK carbon account. Amendment No. 18 makes the annual target set under the first paragraph of Amendment No. 16 legally binding. However, the rolling annual target, set under the second paragraph of Amendment No. 16, would not be legally binding. We have to ask: how is it possible to have two separate targets for the same thing in the same year? Let us take the year 2009. The Government would be required to have both a legally binding annual target and a rolling annual target that would not be legally binding. That looks like a recipe for total confusion.
Amendment No. 21 would mean that the Government could set both the legally binding annual target and the non-binding rolling target only at the level recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. Again, these amendments would cut the Government out of the equation, which is another reason why we cannot accept them.
The more fundamental problem with the opposition amendments is that we simply think that a single-point annual target does not work. It is too blunt and inflexible. Instead, the Government have tabled proposals that have at their heart government Amendment No. 49, which requires that the report on proposals and policies to meet budgets should include an indicative range for the trajectory of emissions over the budgetary period. We believe that the idea of an annual indicative range is superior to proposals for an annual single-point target. As I said in Committee, emissions can fluctuate from year to year for a variety of reasons, many of which, such as the weather, are out of the Government’s direct control. There is also an inevitable uncertainty between the forecast of the impact of a given policy and actual emissions, again for reasons that may be beyond the Government’s direct control.
We need a system of annual accountability that can deal with these real-world fluctuations and uncertainties but which still provides sufficient clarity about progress to ensure that the Government of the day can be held to account appropriately. We believe more generally that single-point targets, whether annual or rolling, are too inflexible and are likely to lead to regular false alarms. Instead, setting out an indicative range for the net UK carbon account for each year of the budget period combined with greater clarity about the timescales for policies to take effect, as required by government Amendment No. 53, will ensure that the Government of the day can be properly held to account for progress during each year of the budget period, not just at the end of the period.
Within the package of government amendments, Amendments Nos. 67, 68, and 70 are consequential and relate to the annual statement of UK emissions required under Clause 12. These amendments require that the annual statement must give total amounts of carbon units credited to or debited from the net UK carbon account for each year, rather than for the budgetary period in which the year falls, and totals of the net UK carbon account. Without this information, there would be no way of measuring progress against the indicative trajectory.
Since tabling these amendments, I have been asked what my expectations are for the range. How will it work and how wide is it likely to be? Those are critical questions if an indicative range is to provide the right balance between the need to take account of the likely variation in emissions from year to year and the need to provide a robust framework against which to assess annual progress. Clearly, a range will not fulfil its function effectively if it is so wide as to be meaningless. Therefore, we need to look at the likely effect of the main factors creating uncertainties about annual emissions.
One factor is, as I have mentioned, the weather. UK emissions are sensitive to variations in the temperature above or below the average. There will be increased use of heating, for instance, in a particularly cold winter and increased use of air-conditioning in a particularly hot summer. Population growth is another factor. The Office for National Statistics provides annual revisions to population forecasts that directly affect projected emissions. If the number of UK households goes up, UK emissions are likely to increase. There is also the question of policy uncertainty. Not all policies deliver the exact emissions savings that we expect when we design them. Some will deliver more, others less.
Variability in emissions as a result of these factors can be seen clearly in the UK’s annual inventory since 1990. For example, if you look at figures for emissions of all the Kyoto greenhouse gases, you see that the reduction was 6.5 per cent in 1996 but 14 per cent in 1999, against a 1990 baseline, with emissions for surrounding years being somewhere in between.
There is also the wider European and international context. Around half our emissions are already capped by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which operates on a multiyear basis. Actual emissions in any one year could therefore differ from our assumptions because companies have decided to bring forward or put back their emissions or abatement action as a result of changing carbon prices or other economic factors outside the Government’s control. Referring again to historical figures, we can see that in 2004-06, when emissions trading was introduced, the effective reduction in the UK’s net carbon account from the 1990 baseline almost doubled. This demonstrates the potentially significant effect of introducing big new policy mechanisms. As the international framework develops, other mechanisms may come on stream over time that will also influence our level of flexibility in how we reduce emissions. The range will also need to change over time as, for example, our understanding of the underlying factors behind UK emissions trends improves.
It is not possible at this stage to put a definitive figure on how wide the range will need to be because of these factors. However, we believe that we are looking at a variation in single-figure percentages overall. That is as accurate as we can get and is not pie in the sky. We are looking at single-figure percentages rather than tens of percentages. We cannot see that it would need to be a great deal wider than that. Obviously, I accept that that is a broad estimate and that more detailed work needs to be done. However, we believe that that represents a much better way forward, which will reflect the nature of reality rather than the spurious precision of a single-point annual target.
I regret that I have had to give such a lengthy response to this issue. In summary, we have problems with the practical effects of the opposition amendments. I say the practical effects and I genuinely mean it because I have been on the other side as well. Sometimes you want to do something but, if it is impractical, it is not right to put it into legislation. It may not be accepted that this is impractical, but I hope that I have explained that it is. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, reinforced that point.
I also believe that, as a whole, our proposals for an annual indicative range provide for even greater transparency on an annual basis about the Government’s expectations and progress while also maintaining the flexibility that we need in the five-year budgetary period. We are at one on that. We want to have that annual accountability within the five-year period, but the question concerns how we go about doing that.
Finally, I do not believe that the points made in favour of annual targets outweighed the problems that those targets would bring, or that such targets would add value beyond the proposals that we have brought forward. Obviously, our amendments are as a package designed to achieve the objective in a practical way. I hope that I have made the point that the opposition amendments are basically impractical. We are trying to achieve the same thing. I ask noble Lords to consider their position and not to press their amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response and for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I will try to respond to comments made by other noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, warned that the amendment could lead to impatient policy making. However, a rolling target provides a constant re-evaluation of where you are going. Indeed, I suspect that part of the purpose lying behind the government amendments is to make sure that there is a constant focus on the issues involved. I am not in favour of Whitehall knee-jerking, as I explained in my introduction to our amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, asked about the form of a rolling target and whether it would have the same authority as the five-year target period. It is not designed to replace the five-year target, which is a crossroads, if one might take a pedestrian view of the issue, whereas the milestones are on the way. This is not meant to replace the five-year budget period; it is intended to provide a path.
I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the Minister that I recognise that by introducing their amendments the Government have recognised the argument that we were making; I appreciate that. However, we should not be worried about accepting the amendments from these Benches because these indicative targets will induce a degree of numeracy on this issue. Our biggest problem in tackling issues such as climate change is that they should not be discussed only in government circles. They should have a popular buy-in; there should be a sense that the whole nation is seeking to achieve an objective. The displaying of road casualty figures at the side of the road is designed to reduce the number of dead and injured, although we all know that figures will vary from year to year for all sorts of reasons other than the way that people drive. They are designed for a purpose. I believe that these rolling targets can have the same impact.
I remain confident that our amendments would strengthen the Bill in a direction that it needs and I wish to test the opinion of the House.