My Lords, I declare my interests. I am managing partner and managing director of Riverstone Holdings. This manages several energy-focused private investment funds, which hold stakes in two UK companies. I am also chairman of the Accenture Global Energy Board, a member of the advisory board of Sustainable Forestry Management Limited and a member of the climate change advisory board of Deutsche Bank.
The time for talking about climate change is over; it is time to get things done. I should like to make four points. First, climate change cannot, and should not, be tackled in isolation. It must be placed at the heart of society, integrated with other priorities. Secondly, we have in front of us an opportunity to create a 21st-century green industry in the UK. We should seize the moment. Thirdly, the UK’s energy policy needs to be retooled to deliver new, more diversified infrastructure; and, fourthly, we must strengthen international institutions so as to ensure that developing countries are tied into global climate change efforts.
The IPCC’s fourth assessment report provides us with a clear call to action: we must halve global emissions compared with current levels by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change recommends that the UK’s contribution to this goal should be an 80 per cent reduction in the same period, a target now enshrined in the Government’s pioneering Climate Change Act. I believe that both goals are appropriate and achievable.
A great deal of economic analysis and policy thinking has been done, and there is a remarkable consensus on what it takes to get there: taking energy out of global GDP by revolutionising energy efficiency; taking carbon out of energy by transforming the energy mix in favour of renewable and nuclear energy and by deploying carbon capture and storage; preserving carbon sinks through improved forest and land management; and helping vulnerable people to adapt to climate change. We also know, in theory, the policies necessary to achieve those ends in the long run, the most important being pricing carbon, incentivising technology R&D and deployment, and removing barriers, such as the widespread subsidisation of fossil fuels.
When it comes to implementation, however, our track record is decidedly patchy. The Kyoto Protocol has created a global market for carbon. Many parts of the world have adopted climate change targets, the most ambitious being the EU’s 20/20/20 package. National mandates and incentives have stimulated significant investment in alternative energy. Pioneering work has been done by scientists and engineers, many of them based in the UK. New low-carbon technologies have been created, and the costs of proven technologies have fallen. The business community has also stepped up, signalling its willingness to take action in a flurry of initiatives.
Yet, despite all this activity, global emissions have grown faster than even the worst-case scenario projected by the IPCC in 2000. Here in the UK, we will almost certainly miss our original ambition of reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 compared with 1990 levels, and we have made slow progress in scaling up renewables. Halving global emissions by 2050 will require what has been described as “an industrial revolution in a third of the time”. It is clear from every analysis that I have read that the greatest obstacles to getting there are not scientific or technological, nor are they related to macroeconomic cost; the greatest challenges are political.
My first point is that climate change cannot, and should not, be compartmentalised or pushed into the long grass. It is essential that climate change efforts are integrated with other social priorities—that environmental integrity is made a tangible part of economic prosperity and national security, at the centre of society. That means that all levels of government and all government departments need to be involved in the solution. It means making a much more determined appeal to hearts as well as minds. Environmental integrity is not an option or a luxury; it is fundamental for society to flourish. There are trade-offs between climate change and other priorities, which are felt particularly keenly by some interest groups. An example is the auctioning of carbon permits which are essential in imposing a meaningful carbon price under the EU ETS. Auctioning will impose additional costs on fossil-fuel-intensive industries and their customers. Yet I am convinced that these costs will be manageable.
This is not the first time in my career that a proposed policy change has prompted fears about competitiveness. As long as all players in the industrial sector are eventually treated equally, such concerns nearly always turn out to be exaggerated. There are also other trade-offs, such as whether to build new coal-fired power plants which would enhance energy security but harm the environment. There are also many areas of activity where economic prosperity, national security and environmental integrity come together. Building green energy infrastructure and improving energy efficiency are two examples. This is now being recognised in the United States where President Obama has promised to double clean energy capacity as part of his plan to stimulate the economy. A similar approach is called for by other Governments.
This is my second point. Here in the UK a green revolution in our offshore waters is a prize waiting to be seized. As the Government have affirmed, this is an area of activity where this country could differentiate itself by building on our world-class wind, wave and tidal resources and our expertise in marine engineering. New wind turbine plants, transmission lines, installation vessels and substations would create thousands of jobs that might otherwise find their way elsewhere. Enhanced clean-energy infrastructure, coupled with widespread deployment of smart meters and smart grids, would bolster energy efficiency. Current policies are not creating enough bite. To those who say that it is not the job of government to kick-start the industries, I say that it has been done before with great success.
The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry was created from virtually nothing during the 1970s and 1980s. I remember how, in the early days, companies such as BP had to rely on hourly workers from America because the UK did not have enough qualified technicians. Now around 300,000 people resident in this country are employed in the oil and gas industry. High oil prices provided a strong market pull, but Governments gave industry a helping hand, creating generous tax incentives and a supportive, regulatory environment in helping to build strategic infrastructure. There is even more cause for government intervention today because energy security and climate change mitigation are public goods. They would not otherwise be recognised by the free market. The alternative would be to leave new technologies to the vagaries of fossil-fuel derived power prices before they can stand on their own two feet.
That leads to my third point. We must fundamentally rethink the objective of energy policy in this country. As the Oxford economist, Dieter Helm argued in a recent report, competition—the guiding star of UK energy policy since the 1980s—worked well while there was a surplus of energy infrastructure capacity. But price competition will not deliver the new, more diversified infrastructure that we urgently need to bolster energy security and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. I remain convinced that the market is the most effective delivery unit available to society, but it will need a new strategic direction and a new framework of rules laid down by government. That starts with gaining a better understanding of how investment decisions in energy are made. The up-front capital outlay of a typical project is paid back over 20 or 30 years. That means that policies must possess above all else long-term certainty and stability. Policies must be clear, transparent and accessible to all players, not just specialists.
A good example is offshore wind. By insisting on a decentralised competition-based model, the proposed regime for offshore transmission licences risks falling short of the certainty, stability and clarity needed. A simpler, more strategic approach, such as the one adopted by Germany, should be considered as an alternative, at least for round 3 projects, with deliverability at the forefront of policymakers’ minds. Government must also recognise that the combination of high capital costs, falling power prices and scarcer, more expensive debt finance is leading to inadequate returns. There is a real risk that offshore wind farms will be cancelled. One way to help mitigate that risk would be for state-controlled banks to provide loan guarantees for green infrastructure projects, an approach similar to the loan scheme for small businesses recently announced by the Government.
All this will come at a cost, although the net impact on consumers is likely to be significantly less than the impact of the rise in fossil fuel prices that occurred between 2004 and 2007, and the costs could be mitigated by improving energy efficiency. Harnessing the very large potential to improve energy efficiency in the residential and transportation sectors is proving difficult, even though many of these savings would be at low or negative cost. New financing mechanisms, developed in partnership with energy companies, will be needed to unlock these savings, in tandem with targeted regulations and public education programmes to change consumer behaviour.
My fourth and final point is that the single greatest challenge we face is how to engage developing countries in a global climate-change agreement. It is estimated that the sum of national policies in the developed world is unlikely to achieve more than a third of the required emissions reductions by 2020. Developing countries represent the single biggest source of emissions growth, and they contain by far the most material opportunities to reduce emissions: two-thirds of the global potential, deliverable with half the capital expenditure. Yet on every measure of equity, it is unfair to expect developing countries to shoulder the same amount of effort as developed countries from the start. I believe the solution is twofold. First, developing countries must do what they can, focusing on areas, such as energy efficiency, that also enhance their economic prosperity and national security. Secondly, and in parallel, policymakers must harness the power of the market, putting in place strengthened international carbon-finance mechanisms. This was the central conclusion of yesterday's announcement by the European Union on EU climate change priorities. The CDM, with its project focus, has proved inadequate and difficult to scale up. It should be expanded, made less bureaucratic and significantly enhanced with carbon-finance mechanisms that apply across entire industrial sectors.
One of the key recommendations of the Government's Eliasch review is the need for a new financial framework for preventing deforestation and encouraging good land management. These activities alone could contribute half the necessary reduction in global emissions by 2020. Additional funds will also be needed to encourage the transfer of low-carbon technologies internationally, to build administrative and human capital and to pay for adaptation efforts.
Last year, rich nations spent more than $100 billion on overseas development assistance. A recent analysis suggests that flows of carbon-related finance to the developing world will, in time, need to be of a similar magnitude. This is a hugely ambitious and will be impossible without dramatically strengthened international governance. The answer is not to tear up existing institutions, such as the UNFCCC, and start from scratch. The evolution of GATT into the WTO suggests that, with the right support, institutions can widen and strengthen significantly over time. However, I believe that a new body, an international carbon fund, will be needed to act as a global central bank for carbon and to manage the exchange of multiple environmental “currencies” as national, regional and international schemes become linked together.
All that will require a great deal of diplomacy, and the UK will have a critical part to play. This country possesses a good deal of influence on energy and climate matters in the EU, which has spoken with a single and determined voice in recent negotiations. Our relationship with the United States could be pivotal as Barack Obama’s inauguration heralds a new era of US management. We hold close friendships with many of the most important developing countries. Several of those countries are in the G20, whose members are collectively responsible for 85 per cent of global emissions. With strong political leadership, the G20 could unlock a new global climate change agreement in Copenhagen this year.
So we have a vision for the future, and the work on policy design is complete. Now we must begin the hard work of implementation. My advice to policymakers is simple: place climate change efforts at the heart of society; embrace the opportunity to build a new low-carbon industry; retool energy policy to deliver the new diversified infrastructure we need; and focus as much, if not more effort externally on forging a global agreement underwritten by stronger institutions. With that, I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, on securing this debate and on the elegant and powerful manner in which he introduced it.
I want to take seriously the title of the debate—the political aspects of addressing climate change—and argue that climate change is a political problem like no other that we have had to face before. There are many reasons for that, but I shall mention just two primarily. One is what, with the indulgence of noble Lords, I call Giddens’s paradox. Giddens’s paradox states that, as climate change is an abstract and to some extent future risk, it is very difficult for ordinary citizens to relate to it in such a way that they are prepared substantially to change their everyday behaviour. However, if we wait until climate change becomes a risk that is visible in that way—if, for example, we wait until there is massive flooding of the dykes in the Netherlands—it is by definition too late because at the moment we do not know how to get the emissions out of the air once they are there. I suggest that that paradox infects most aspects of national and international policy-making on climate change.
The second key difficulty is what political scientists call free riding. Free riding is everywhere in the area of climate change policy. When I came into the House of Lords this morning I walked through the car park. There was one big SUV parked there, a big Mercedes parked there and a little Prius parked closer to the entrance. You could say that the driver of the Mercedes and the driver of the SUV are free riding off the driver of the Prius, who is at least making some attempt to reduce his or her emissions, but you could also say that the driver of the Prius is free riding off people like me who came on the Underground or who—like most noble Lords here, I am sure—walked to work. Free-riding issues are everywhere in the area of climate change.
I am a strong supporter of the need, as the noble Lord said, to produce international agreements to limit emissions and, like everyone, I hope that our negotiations stretching from Bali through to Copenhagen are successful, although I have my doubts about that. However, when one is talking about the politics of climate change, it is crucial to remember that negotiations on their own do not amount to very much, even if they should reach solid agreement. Those negotiations will count at the level of the state only if states actually have the policies to implement them. Furthermore, what the industrial countries do will be crucial, as we all know, because the large developing countries, China and the others, will not take significant action unless they are convinced that the industrial societies already have in place practical and consequential policies for limiting climate change.
The noble Lord, Lord Browne, touched only briefly on the policies of the industrial countries. I have three or four points to make about them. First, almost all the industrial countries that have been the most successful in limiting their emissions have been successful by accident, not through climate-change inspired policy. Those countries include Sweden, Denmark and Japan, which is at the head of innovative technology in some areas—technology that led, for example, to the Prius. Perhaps I should not mention the Prius in the House of Lords. These things were driven primarily by the oil crisis of the 1970s. These countries started to react at that time to reduce their dependency on oil and imported gas. One of the salutary features of this is that it seems to have taken some 20 years for such technological innovation to feed through. This is a little disturbing when you consider the climate change policy that is instigated now, even in a country such as Germany, which is in the vanguard of climate change policy among the industrial countries mainly because of changes in that earlier period rather than recently initiated policies. This is cause at least for some salutary observation.
Secondly, there are still yawning divergences between the industrial countries’ levels of emissions. Most noble Lords here will be well aware that the United States produces about twice as many emissions per head as the EU countries do, but even within the EU there are very large examples of free riding. Sweden, for instance, is one of the few countries in the world that has produced an absolute reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, emissions produced by Spain over the period since 1990 have gone up 19 per cent. So no matter what the European Union does with its policies—they are certainly well intentioned—it will be very hard to close that gap.
Thirdly, every country is struggling to produce consistent policy on climate change. This is very visible in my own Government—the Climate Change Act and the Energy Act are very important contributions, but I am not in favour of investing in further coal-fired power stations in the hope that CCS technology will prove effective, and I am not in favour of the expansion of Heathrow. However, not only this country is struggling with this issue. Germany is committed to the phasing out of nuclear power stations, but no rational observer can see that it can meet its climate change targets if it phases out nuclear power. Nuclear power is still a substantial proportion of the energy mix in Germany. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, rightly emphasised that you must have consistent policy within a range of other policies. It is not good having well motivated policies in one area and negating them by what you do in other areas. This problem is fairly formidable.
Fourthly, surveys of people’s attitudes to climate change show that Giddens’s paradox is alive and well. A lot of survey material in most industrial countries in the past 10 years shows that people express greater concern about climate change than they did before, but most of them are not prepared to change their behaviour and are not changing their behaviour. A recent and very good survey study by Defra in this country showed that about 17 per cent of the population are prepared to do something and are doing something in response to climate change, whether it is recycling, walking more or whatever. The vast majority, however, are not. For most people, climate change remains an issue at the back of the mind rather than the front. It will be difficult to propel it to the front.
There are three implications, which converge a lot with what the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, and I shall ask the Minister one or two questions about them. First, we need a new approach now. Fear is not a good motivator for change, especially fear of an abstract threat that most ordinary people find it hard to come to terms with. We should therefore switch, much as the noble Lord, Lord Browne, indicated, to an investment-generated policy. We should look for positives rather than negatives. We should recognise that this involves a transformation of the economy and society as a whole.
Personally, I should like to see a visible, advanced vanguard of business leaders committed to progressing environmental goals, who have much more prominence than such a group has at the moment, visible both nationally and internationally, and whose views reach the citizenry. I do not see why we cannot have, for example, national competitions for technology and innovation, where the winners achieve national recognition. I ask the Minster whether such policies are in prospect. Are the Government working on these issues?
Secondly, climate change goes through the whole economy. We must therefore do a lot of work on the future of the economy but I do not see where it is being done. For instance, you see pronouncements such as “Wind power will generate 100,000 jobs in the British economy”. That is probably not the case. Most technological innovations reduce the need for labour power. Anyway, if you generate more energy by alternative low-carbon sources, people will lose their jobs in the older industries. We need a thoroughgoing analysis of the economy. Have the Government a mechanism for providing that?
Finally, we need a lot more exchange between the industrial countries. Of course, we need something analogous to but better than the CDM. We need a lot more networking between the industrial countries, and a lot more technological transfer between them. Do the Government have plans to promote this?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, has brought unparalleled knowledge and experience of the energy industry to this question this morning. I, for one, am extremely grateful to him. He is absolutely right: this is, above all else, a political problem at this stage. For better or for worse, we do not know in detail what the solutions will be because everything is in a state of evolution. Not the least of our problems is that we must currently keep all options open.
I am a simple farmer. I have no interest to declare other than that, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, will be disappointed to learn, I drive a Mercedes. I do so because I cannot purchase the alternative that I want, which is only just becoming available on world markets. I want a hydrogen-powered car, which means needing not just the car but the fuel infrastructure for it. There, I defer to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, who will know far more about the possibilities of producing that than I could.
We must tackle this issue in a positive way. Too often, matters are discussed in the context of what we must stop doing. If we are to bring the public with us so that they do not react against the whole proposition of this hugely complex international subject, we must discuss it in the context of how we keep everything going. That is vital if we are to carry everyone with us. The negative question just opens the door for people to ride particular hobby horses, as we have seen already, by which they want to stop some things. Society did not develop in the way that it has, or to the point that it has, without a great deal of benefit to and meeting the needs of people in how they wish to live. We have an enormously high standard of living today compared with previous periods. Matters are made worse, dare I say, because we also have a rapidly rising population—not in this country perhaps, although it is rising too fast here. That is not an issue for politics today, but it probably will become a highly contentious political issue and will need to be dealt with.
Modern society demands high energy. It is very easy to say that we can economise on energy. Indeed, we shall and must do that. But I again draw the attention of the House to the 2005 report of the Science and Technology Committee on energy efficiency. It shows a very interesting graph with a steadily rising GDP; it shows the units of energy required per unit of GDP steadily falling. But, actual energy consumption remains relative and is climbing very slowly. We need to recognise that, while we must continue to work very hard on the efficient use of energy, this is not part of the solution. If we hold our energy consumption, and society’s development continues and we continue to improve our standard of living, we will do very well to keep our energy consumption at its present level.
The problem is not the energy that we use; it is the source of the energy that we use. Above all, that is what we have to change. I shall digress for a moment into carbon capture and storage, which all too often is held out as a panacea. Carbon capture and storage will deal only with large institutions producing large volumes of CO2. The vast bulk of our emissions come from the domestic, industrial and heating sectors, which is a very different problem to deal with. It is in that sector, above all else, where we have to make the main introduction of alternative technologies.
In addition, we do not know what the cost of carbon capture and storage will be. It is all very well saying that this is the technical solution, but if it proves to be economically uncompetitive, we have a problem. We have to consider that problem and recognise at this stage that we must keep all the technological opportunities open. Some will be very expensive and will have to be written off because, ultimately, they will not be economically viable even if they are politically acceptable. If they are not economically viable here, nor will they be in other parts of the world.
We do not know what the absolute costs of going nuclear will be. We do not know what the costs of dispersed generation, which will become very important across society, will be. We do not know what the cost of tidal barrages will be. They will require novel funding because, unlike most of our energy-generating installations which involve a 40- or possibly 50-year timescale, with tidal barrages the timescale is possibly 200 years. As I say, a novel approach to funding would be needed. We do not yet know the real costs of organic waste digestion, which can produce methane to turn to electricity.
We do know that all the green sources of energy lead to electricity. We in society want to maintain our present mobility, on which we are very dependent. Modern society relies on a great deal of transport for the movement of people and goods, so we need fuel systems that can be carried on vehicles. It is easy to say that battery-powered vehicles are the answer; they may be, but they will not plough my fields and they will not deal with the amount of road transport we have. I am afraid that we are not going to get back to moving everything by rail. That is why I want my hydrogen-powered car. I have no problem with motor manufacturers; indeed, I want to see them continue in business, but I want to see them continuing by producing emissions-free vehicles.
To do that, we must come back to the energy sector. It has to make a transition on an enormous scale, with investments that involve the whole of society. Governments rely on investments from the energy sector, and the investment world itself relies on investments in the energy sector because they regard it as a safe investment, but suddenly all that has to change. It is politics written in large capital letters, and it will be politicians who have to will the solution and create the conditions for this to happen.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, for his recent work with the Climate Change Committee because he has made the task a bit easier. The committee recommended that we must reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. That makes the picture of what the economy must look like in 2050 somewhat clearer. In my view, by then the only carbon dioxide emissions that will be acceptable will be those for which there is no physical alternative. I can give three illustrations and, although perhaps the first is the most stupid one, it is none the less real: we can do nothing about cows; we may be able to reduce slightly the methane they emit through dietary changes, but in the end we can do very little about the fact that cows produce quite a large proportion of this country’s global warming emissions.
Aviation will continue to be a problem, although I want to see the industry continue. The problem with aeroplanes is energy density, so it is difficult to see an alternative to fossil fuels except, possibly, biofuels. I say “possibly” because I am sceptical about biofuels, and as a farmer I regret having to say that. However, the harsh reality we have to face is that there is not enough land to provide mankind’s energy and his food.
We have a dreadful responsibility here. We unleashed the Industrial Revolution on the world and in my view we now have the responsibility to show that a solution is possible. I would love to know that, when my grandchildren reach our age, the solution will be within their grasp. At the moment, a combination of political and economic inertia make that prospect look rather poor. But matters are improving slowly.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Browne, on introducing this debate. It is topical and urgent and there is no one better qualified than the noble Lord to introduce it.
I wish to make a general point about the way in which the Government tackle complex engineering and technological issues because it relates to the likelihood of our success in dealing with climate change. It is apparent that over the past four decades we have lost competitiveness in many areas of technology in which we used to be strong and had profitable companies based on home-grown technological advances. It has puzzled and distressed me why our national strategies have produced this unfortunate result. In retrospect, the strategies have frequently been inadequate both in the goals that were set and in the time allowed to reach them.
We have, however, sustained some outstanding industrial capabilities—the accomplishments of Arup and Rolls Royce are shining examples—but these companies have survived, at least over the past two decades, largely on their own and almost in spite of government direction. But I am not suggesting that all engineering issues, such as the supply of clean, low-carbon power, can be tackled solely by private enterprises. Government must be involved because initially the commercial incentives will not be sufficient.
The protection of the atmosphere is a very long-term task without immediate commercial benefit. It took state and federal regulation in the USA to introduce pollution controls on road vehicles. There was insufficient commercial motivation for Detroit to act without regulation. Fortunately, the government-enforced regulations proved effective and practicable, and were relatively rapidly taken up worldwide. There is the opportunity for the UK to show similar leadership in aspects of climate change.
The science of climate change is reasonably well established in many areas, and it is now up to engineers to develop practicable solutions. By “practicable” I mean technologies that not only reduce pollution and carbon dioxide but which are economically sensible, sustainable from a maintenance point of view and can be implemented on a timescale that meets our goals. So far some of the proposals that have emerged from the Government have failed to be practicable. I cite the overambitious expectations for offshore wind, which the noble Lord, Lord Browne, mentioned, and which have now been generally accepted as unrealistic.
From whence do these recommendations come? I am naive in these matters but it seems certain that they are not the collected recommendations of competent engineers. Too often the Government seem to turn to individuals with little professional engineering experience to chair inquiries that, as a result, almost inevitably come up with recommendations that stand little chance of passing my practicality test or, on the other hand, are too commercial and short term and try to avoid the high initial cost of really tackling the problem. An example of the latter was the transport strategy that emerged at the end of 2006.
Within government departments, many who draft recommendations have no science, let alone engineering, qualifications. In addition, most departments have science advisors when they would be better off with engineering advisers. The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee, in gathering evidence for its inquiry into engineering in government, asked me whether I thought it would be sensible to have chief engineering advisers alongside the chief science advisers in some government departments. My response was that it had it the wrong way round and that the question it should be asking was whether it was necessary to have science advisers to work alongside engineers. The chair then asked me what my answer to that question was. I replied that the answer was probably no, because to be classed as competent, engineers should have a thorough knowledge of the science of their specialism.
Engineers are, in effect, scientists who have gained the additional knowledge necessary to make science useful. It is engineers who are needed to fix our economy and come up with the practicable solutions to the supply of, for example, carbon-free energy. Science forms the base for engineering and it is essential to maintain a strong science base. As my noble friend Lord May and others have pointed out many times, we have a very strong science base, but it is not scientists who will fix the economy, it is engineers. As has become painfully obvious over the past few months, it is not financiers either.
I was pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, make that point in this Chamber two days ago when talking about the automotive industry. He said that, for the future, Britain needs an economy with less financial engineering and more real engineering. Creative engineers are needed if we are to give our automotive manufacturing facilities unique capabilities that will encourage their overseas owners to sustain and grow them, rather than phase them out when the going gets rough.
I recommend that in future the Government turn more to engineers, whether to individuals, the Royal Academy of Engineering or the institutions, to gain advice and develop strategies. I of course declare my interest as an engineer and a former president of the Royal Academy of Engineering. We have a large cohort of talented senior engineers in this country, real engineers who have participated in the technical design of successful high-technology products and not just managed others doing the same. However, it may be wise to turn to the international community to gain advice.
Last year I participated in a committee drawn together by the US National Academy of Engineering that was charged by the US academies to come up with the grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century. There were 18 of us, including a majority of well known Americans such as Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, and Craig Venter, whose innovations speeded up the decoding of DNA. There were also three of us from overseas. If any nation could claim an adequacy of engineering talent, it is the USA, but it none the less used overseas advice to complement its own. We should do the same.
We have too many people standing around waffling and talking about blue-sky ideas. Will the Minister please ensure that we select professional engineers such as those in Arup and Rolls-Royce who have demonstrated that they know how to practise successfully in the real world of modern technology to help us determine how we will meet the challenges presented by climate change?
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Browne, on putting this hugely important issue in front of us. As chairman of the Environment Agency, I have a passionate commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment on which we all depend. We all have to understand and recognise that the prospect of climate change is by far the greatest challenge that any of us faces environmentally over the coming years. I listened with great interest to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Broers; I see that CP Snow’s “two cultures” are now being redefined as the cultures of engineering and science. I am delighted to say that the Environment Agency has some outstanding engineers and some outstanding scientists among those who work for us.
There is now broad agreement across the scientific world and most of the political world about the importance of facing up to the challenges that climate change imposes on us. It is of course happening faster than we think. Arctic sea ice is declining much more rapidly than was projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its fourth assessment report. Many scientists now believe that the complete disappearance of Arctic ice in the summer months could happen by 2030, which brings the prospect of dramatic changes to the oceans’ circulation and even more rapid absorption of solar heat on to the earth’s surface. The US Geological Survey has recently published research that estimates that global sea levels could rise by up to 1.5 metres by 2100, which is 50 per cent more than we are currently allowing for in coastal defence projects and three times as much as the IPCC projected.
Many of the consequences will be with us sooner than we think. One of the most startling facts about climate change is that, even if the globe stopped producing any carbon dioxide tomorrow, climate change would carry on for another 30 years because of the time lag in the building-up of gases in our atmosphere. We are already beginning to see some of the consequences, even in the UK, such as increasingly erratic weather patterns. Given my role in the Environment Agency, I am starkly conscious of the increasing frequency and severity of flooding in many parts of the country. We are seeing storm surges coming down the North Sea, exacerbating and hastening the erosion on parts of our eastern and southern coasts that has been happening for many centuries. During the past decade we have seen six of the hottest years ever recorded. These things are happening here and now.
Most political attention is focused on the economic crisis that we are all living through, but we must not in the course of it lose sight of the climate crisis. If there is one message that I hope will come from our discussions today, it is that we should not use our current economic difficulties as an excuse for burying the climate issues that we need urgently to address as well. We will, God willing, come out of the economic crisis in due course. When we do, the climate crisis will still be there and the clock will be ticking even faster than it is now.
The economic and political circumstances that we are living through are an opportunity as well as a challenge. They give us a chance to think seriously about the sustainability of what we do and the consequences for climate change of how we run our businesses, our lives and our economies. The Government, I am pleased to say, have shown some welcome determination in this area. The publication of the Stern report changed the terms of debate about the importance of the environment in relation to the economy. The passing of the Climate Change Act is a world first in placing legal responsibilities on present and future Governments to work to mitigate climate change. The commitment to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 is enormously welcome, as is the creation of the new Department of Energy and Climate Change, explicitly linking those two parts of government policy together in the same department. Some of the energy efficiency programmes that have been put in place are welcome, too—it is just a pity that the Government made the wrong decision about Heathrow.
However, we need to do more and I put four proposals in front of your Lordships today. First, let us take a lesson from Barack Obama and see green technology and green jobs as being central to the answers to the economic difficulties that we are going through. I have been hugely impressed, during President Obama’s campaign, his inaugural address and subsequently, by the way in which he has seen a coherent, concerted and determined effort to develop green technology and green jobs as a central part of his economic package. We should do the same here. We have had some welcome bits and pieces of initiatives from the Government, but we have not as yet had the determined, coherent and cohesive national programme of green economic development that we should aim for.
Secondly, we need to aim for the complete decarbonisation of power generation by 2050, which means looking seriously at the development of a whole range of renewable technologies. We have done some things on wind power and hydropower, but there is a lot more that we could do. One area in which we need to put a lot more research effort is tidal power and the ways in which it could be harnessed without causing unacceptable damage to the ecology and environments of coasts and estuaries. I am very pleased to hear in the Government’s most recent announcement that they have put £500,000 into research on tidal fences and reefs. We need to do much more.
Thirdly, we need to make a serious effort to develop carbon capture and storage. If we are to have coal-fired power generation into the future, it would be environmentally unacceptable for it to be without integral carbon capture and storage. It is not enough to say that Kingsnorth can go ahead provided that it is carbon capture-ready. If it is to go ahead as a coal-fired power station, it must include carbon capture and storage as a major, large-scale demonstration project from the word go. One of the iron laws of the market economy is that, if one places requirements of that kind on the private sector, it will deliver, but one has to ensure that those requirements are in place. It will be difficult and expensive—the technology is as yet in its infancy—but we have a real opportunity not just to get Kingsnorth right but to take a global lead in developing a technology that the world is going to need.
Fourthly, we need to prepare for the Copenhagen summit later this year, because international endeavour in getting a carbon budgets and trading system right for an international agreement on tackling climate change boldly and effectively is a priority.
These are difficult things to do. Some will be expensive, but many will reap huge dividends in the future. They are difficult but not impossible. We have succeeded in environmental improvement before. Sulphur dioxide emissions are down by some 90 per cent on 20 years ago—we have virtually solved the problems of acid rain and we have improved water quality enormously. We now need to apply the same political, economic and environmental will to what is quite simply the most important challenge that our generation faces. Yes, we must do it, and, to coin a phrase, “Yes, we can”.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Browne of Madingley is to be congratulated on three counts on initiating today’s debate. First, he is to be congratulated on its timeliness, coming as it does just after the Government’s climate change legislation has completed its passage through both Houses and at the beginning of a crucial year for the international negotiations on post-Kyoto arrangements leading up to the UN Copenhagen conference in December. Secondly, he is to be congratulated on steering us away from the already well trampled ground of the scientific and economic cases for early action to slow down and reverse climate change. Thirdly, he is to be congratulated because, in his time as CEO of BP, he gave a notable lead in facing up to the challenge of climate change when many of his colleagues and competitors in the oil industry were still in a state of denial on the subject.
The past few months have brought both good news and bad on the prospects for a successful outcome to the post-Kyoto negotiations. The best news is that the last two developed country hold-outs against the need for early action—the United States and Australia—have now, following their 2008 elections, joined the consensus for taking such action. The only slightly less good news is that the European Union, whose leadership is vital if these negotiations are to succeed, has managed to sort out its own internal arrangements, without which its earlier commitments would just have been so many empty words. However, it was a close-run thing and, as was observed after a different battle, we cannot afford many more victories of that sort.
Still in the good but not very good news category is the fact that the main developing countries, which had earlier tended to treat this issue either as a developed country fad or as something that these countries would have to sort out on their own, now recognise the need to negotiate seriously about their own commitments. However, this recognition is offset by a notable tightening of their negotiating stance as the time for taking decisions approaches.
In the clearly bad news category is the world’s financial and economic turmoil, which is giving rise to siren voices arguing that we cannot now afford to take on serious new commitments over climate change and that we should postpone all that until we have sorted out the mess that we are in. However, the longer we postpone decisions on climate change, the greater the pain will be.
The worst news of all, and not yet generally recognised as such, is that time is getting very short if we are to have any hope of achieving a successful outcome at Copenhagen. It would be foolish to believe that 192 countries can come together there and settle matters if the building blocks for a settlement have not been put in place ahead of time. That was the experience at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, when what was achieved—the climate change and biodiversity conventions—was settled in advance, and what was not settled in advance, on desertification and forests, was not satisfactorily sorted out there. We really are in a race against time.
I intend to direct my remarks on the international political aspects of climate change to three main issues: burden sharing; research and technology transfer to developing countries; and institutions. Of these three, burden sharing is far the most complex and most likely to cause the shipwreck of the whole enterprise if it is not satisfactorily resolved. It can relate, of course, to a regional grouping such as the EU or to a sharing of the load with the other developed countries, such as between the EU, the United States and Japan. Most sensitive of all, it can relate to the balance between the developed and developing countries.
It would be helpful to hear from the Minister about the Government’s thinking on the second and third aspects of burden sharing. How do the Government foresee negotiations with the new United States Administration, who are still in the process of working out their policy on climate change? How do they see it moving ahead? Does the Minister agree that the burden sharing between the two largest carbon emitters—the United States and China—will be crucial to the outcome of the overall negotiations? How does the UK intend to square the circle of burden sharing between developed and developing countries more generally? Can he assure the House that the Government will not flirt with the dangerous concept of threatening the imposition of trade barriers on emitters that do not accept a share of the burden? Surely that would be a most risky and unwise approach at this time, when general protectionist pressures are on the rise.
Possibly every bit as important in achieving a balanced outcome between developed and developing countries will be the question of technology transfer. For technology transfer to work, you need to have something to transfer, which will surely require a major increase in the energy-related research expenditure of this country and the EU, as well as of other developed countries. Do the Government agree that narrowing the gap between the much higher amount of energy needed to achieve a unit of production in the developing countries and that needed to do so in developed countries is at the heart of the effort to handle climate change?
We hear a lot about the creation of green jobs, but we do not hear an awful lot about the specifics of it. How do the Government intend to put some flesh on the bare bones of their rhetoric? Are we really doing enough to boost research in the key areas? The whole question of carbon capture and storage is central, offering as it does a potential key to using the massive coal deposits in China, India and eastern Europe without driving a coach and horses through our carbon emission objectives. Are we devoting enough resources to that crucial area of research and bringing enough urgency to the matter? No one who heard the recent Question Time exchange in this House on that point can confidently answer that in the affirmative.
Then there is the matter of institutions, which is probably not on most people’s priority list at this stage, but which is essential if commitments entered into at Copenhagen are to be creditably maintained, equitably implemented and monitored properly. One thing is certain: the present UN institutional arrangements for handling environmental issues will be completely inadequate for that task. The UN Environment Programme, known as UNEP, has neither the mandate nor the resources and capacity to do that. There will need to be a fully fledged UN agency of the sort that we have to handle health or refugees to manage the post-Copenhagen follow-up. If a more robust and wider mandate with more resources is to be agreed, would it not make sense to bring issues relating to energy within the ambit of any new agency? At the moment, energy issues, which are more and more closely related to environmental ones, have no real home within the UN system. Will the Government give the House some idea of their thinking on these institutional matters?
None of these issues will be easy to resolve and none will get any easier if the international community procrastinates or becomes deadlocked in the negotiations. Quite the reverse—the longer we postpone taking effective action, the costlier it will be. The Government have an important role to play both within the European Union and more widely and I hope that the Minister will be able to assure the House that they will continue to give a lead, as they have done hitherto, and bring to these negotiations all the energy and imagination that they can muster.
My Lords, I start with a bit of history. The Thames Barrier was conceived in the 1960s and completed in the early 1980s. It was a pioneering example of a major investment, more than £1 billion in today’s money, as an insurance policy against a very unlikely event—the flooding of London—which would have an economic impact many times larger. The debate that led to the barrier was a micro and localised version of the global issue confronting us today.
The far-sighted committee that advocated the barrier was chaired by Sir Hermann Bondi. He seemed an odd choice for the task; he was an academic in my own field—a cosmologist. I do not dissent from anything that the noble Lord, Lord Broers, said about engineering, but I draw some comfort from this precedent when venturing into a topic far from my area of expertise.
The politics of climate change are far more intractable than the science. It is clear that broad and sustained consent in many nations is a prerequisite for any effective action on climate change—as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, has emphasised. Indeed, the noble Lord has spelt that out in a forthcoming book which he was too self-effacing to mention in his speech. However, there is zero chance of political consensus unless the public are confident that the scientific basis for the policies is firm.
Some things in science are uncontroversial. There is no significant doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas—indeed, Sir John Tyndall first recognised that 150 years ago. It is also uncontroversial that the CO2 concentration has been rising for the past 50 years and that if you pursue business as usual it will reach twice the pre-industrial level by 2050 and more than three times that by the end of the century. The higher its concentration the greater the warming and, more important still, the greater the chance of triggering something grave and irreversible, such as rising sea levels due to the melting of the Greenland ice-cap, runaway release of methane in the tundra, and so forth.
It is still substantially uncertain just how sensitive the climate is to the CO2 level and what regions of the world will be affected most. It is the “high-energy tail” of the uncertain probability distribution that should worry us most—the small probability of a really drastic climatic shift—just as for the Thames Barrier the main justification was “insurance” against the rarest and most extreme tidal surges.
Global warming involves long time lags. It takes decades for the oceans to adjust to a new equilibrium and centuries for ice-sheets to melt completely; so the main downsides of global warming lie a century or more in the future. Therefore, as in the context of the Thames Barrier, we have to ask what discount rate we should apply. Should we commit substantial resources now to pre-empt much greater costs in future decades?
There is a second feature of the climate change problem, and it is very different from the Thames Barrier. The effect is non-localised: the CO2 emissions from this country have no more effect here than they do in Australia, and vice-versa. Indeed, the worst effects are likely to be in Africa, Bangladesh and other places that have contributed least to the problem. That means that any credible regime where the polluter pays has to be broadly international.
To ensure a better-than-evens chance of avoiding a potentially dangerous tipping point, it is widely agreed that global CO2 emissions must by 2050 be brought down to half the 1990 level. That is the target espoused by the G8 and the EU. It corresponds to two tonnes of CO2 per year from each person on the planet. For comparison, the current European level is about 10 and the Chinese level is already over four. To achieve the 2050 target without stifling economic growth is a huge challenge. For us in the UK, the 80 percent cut is enshrined in the Climate Change Act.
In the years beyond 2050, the world may indeed have shifted to a low-carbon economy based on new technology and drastically changed lifestyles. But that is not soon enough. Unless the year-by-year rise in annual emissions can be turned around by 2020, the atmospheric concentration will irrevocably reach a threatening level.
That is the real problem. Even optimists over the prospects in solar energy, advanced biofuels, fusion and other renewables have to acknowledge that it will be at least 30 years before those can fully take over. Coal, oil and gas seem set to dominate the world's ever-growing energy needs for at least that long. That is why an immediate priority has to be to develop carbon capture and storage—CCS. Carbon must be captured from power stations before it escapes into the atmosphere and then, somehow, it must be stored underground.
To jump-start CCS technologies and implement a co-ordinated plan to build the 20-plus plants needed to test all the options might require $10 billion a year of public funding worldwide. That expenditure would be a small price to pay for bringing forward, by five years or more, the time when CCS could be widely adopted and the now rising graph of CO2 emissions turned round. Without CCS there is no prospect of avoiding a rise in CO2 above 500 parts per million, which is getting in the danger zone.
Current R&D in the entire energy sector worldwide is far less than the scale and urgency demand. There is a glaring contrast here with health and medicine, where the worldwide R&D expenditures, both public and private, are disproportionately higher than those for energy. Surely this imbalance should be corrected. The Obama Administration have pledged an expanded effort, and in this country energy R&D has been cited as one way of stimulating the high-tech economy, although far more needs to be done. Indeed, I cannot think of anything that could do more to attract the brightest and best into engineering than a strongly proclaimed commitment by this country and by the US and Europe, to provide clean and sustainable energy for the developing and the developed world.
What is the role of nuclear power in all this? I am in favour of the UK and the US having at least a replacement generation of power stations. However, proliferation concerns make us worry about this happening worldwide until we have some kind of fuel bank and leasing arrangement.
Countries such as the UK can progress some of the way towards our targets by measures that actually save money. But globally, as my noble friend Lord Stern and others have emphasised, the costs will fall on the fast-developing nations; but they will have to be transferred to the developed West. My noble friend Lord Turner and others have estimated those costs as 1 or 2 per cent of our GNP. That seems manageable and has been widely presented as such. However, I admit to some pessimism.
To take another example, we are aware of the underfunding of overseas aid, which has not reached the 0.7 percent target despite the clear humanitarian imperative. That perhaps augurs badly for the actual implementation of the measures needed to meet the 2050 carbon emission targets, where the payoff is less immediately apparent than it is in overseas aid. Perhaps that is an over-pessimistic comparison, because there are extra shorter-term and less-altruistic motives for doing what is needed—energy security and diversity in particular.
Some pessimists argue that, as a fallback against not reaching the 2050 targets, the international community should contemplate a plan B: to be fatalistic about the rise in CO2 but somehow intervene globally to combat its warming effects, for example by putting aerosols in the upper atmosphere or even huge sunshades in space. Such geo-engineering would not solve climate change but would at best buy time, probably at inordinate cost. Indeed, it is by no means clear that any such scheme is feasible. The political problems may be overwhelming. Any effective adaptation policy depends on being able to anticipate not just the mean global temperature rise but also the actual regional impacts. Even more confidence in those predictions will be needed before venturing actively to change the climate. The Royal Society has embarked on a study of geo-engineering. We think that it is at least worth while to clarify what makes sense and what does not. Our study may well put a damper on some enthusiasms and reveal why there is no realistic alternative to mitigation efforts.
Finally, I add my voice to other speakers in emphasising that 2009 is an especially crucial year. Political decisions made this year at the G20 and in Copenhagen will resonate decades ahead. That is why today’s debate is timely as well as important, and why we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for initiating it. The UK is only 2 per cent of the problem—that is our projected share of global emissions. But we can surely contribute far more than 2 per cent to the solution, both through our scientific and technical expertise and through our political influence in international fora.
My Lords, I join others in expressing appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for initiating this important debate. I declare some interests. The noble Lord, Lord Rees, and I strongly identify with the Royal Society’s interests and energetic activities in respect to climate change. I am also a member of the Climate Change Committee.
I want to focus on two aspects of the political challenges of addressing climate change. Some will find the first a rather quirky or perhaps excessively abstract comment on some of the basic underlying evolutionary-related aspects of the problem. On the other hand, the second is very practical and I hope will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Broers, that I have not forgotten my undergraduate training as a chemical engineer.
At the heart of the political challenges that face a global response to ameliorating climate change is what an evolutionary biologist would call the problem of the evolution of co-operation. It is the largest and most important unsolved problem in evolutionary biology. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, touched on it. In this year in which there is a plethora of activity commemorating the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the Origin of Species, it is interesting to remember that in his day evolutionary biology confronted many problems, not least the fact that the sun could not have been burning for more than a couple of million years. Those huge problems have all essentially been resolved in broad outline with the exception of an understanding of how co-operative behaviour in complex societies appeared and is maintained. Among prairie dogs or marmots one individual will be the guardian issuing warning calls which benefit the whole community but put that individual at extra risk. Individuals in these small groups take turns to issue the warning calls, paying a small cost for a much bigger benefit. Why does it not work? It is because the individual who cheats and does not give calls is at less risk and leaves more descendants. That paradox has been resolved for small groups of closely related individuals and probably worked for us when we were hunter gatherers. However, the origins and maintenance of our complex societies are not at all understood.
There is a huge and expanding volume of academic research. If you are an evolutionary biologist, it is cast in metaphors of the prisoner’s dilemma. If you are an ecologist, it is cast in metaphors of The Tragedy of the Commons. If you are an economist, it is cast in metaphors of the free rider problem. Essentially, however, all this work deals with co-operative alliances among equals. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us, our problem in relation to international co-operation on climate change is further complicated by the fact that we need the world’s nation states to collaborate in equitable proportions. To underline that, the OECD countries have a seventh of the world’s population, own half the GDP and are putting half the CO2 into the atmosphere. In addition, 80 per cent of the carbon that has been added by burning fossil fuels, and which is typically resident for 100 years, has been put there by the OECD countries. Therefore, we need to act but in equitable proportions. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, reminded us, we come together with no evolutionary experience, neither biological evolution nor cultural evolution, of acting today on behalf of tomorrow. Therefore, it is not surprising that when political leaders get together, their horizon is the next election, not the next generation. It is not surprising that “I will if you will” shades into “I won’t if you won’t” or even, as we have seen recently in the EU, “I won’t even if you will”.
That is a fairly gloomy beginning. Against that background my second theme is a good deal more positive. The UK is, indeed, a leader on this issue internationally. We forget that Tony Blair’s first party conference speech in 1997 majored on climate change. He asked me, as the then Chief Scientific Adviser, to prepare an essay to hand out at the party conference, which was against the Civil Service rules. Commendably and with typical wisdom, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, found a way to square that circle.
As the noble Lord, Lord Browne, reminded us, it is also true that the Government, faced with the paradoxes that the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and I have just put in more abstract terms, have acted somewhat more slowly and diffidently than many would have wished. However, we should not forget that the Government established the Climate Change Committee a year before it formally existed so that it could produce its first report within a week or two of the Climate Change Bill passing into law.
My second point derives from that. I do not think that we emphasise sufficiently strongly that even if international co-operation lags, many, and arguably most, of the things that are outlined in the first report of the Climate Change Committee, and which the Government are thereby more or less committed to carry out, will benefit us and will have advantages for the UK, even if others do not do their bit and we fail to hold global warming below thresholds such as the aimed for 2 degrees or even 3 degrees—an outcome which I fear is quite likely. That is to say, even if others do not play their part, the cost of many of the activities foreshadowed for us is not necessarily a positive one. It can be a negative cost, a benefit, but is not necessarily a competitive disadvantage. I give some examples. Some of them even resonate with putative solutions for aspects of the financial crisis. Public spending could be directed at retro fitting houses with better insulation and introducing tighter regulations when the building industry recovers to enable it to build houses that are more fit for tomorrow’s purpose. That will involve an initial small cost but it will not happen unless we tighten building regulations, train inspectors to enforce them and change planning laws to stop developers building on floodplains. Benefits could be delivered within the lifetime of the people buying such houses. We should take those beneficial actions no matter what others do.
Decarbonising electricity, of which many noble Lords have spoken, offers clear benefits in energy security in a world in which oil will become pricier, albeit with fluctuating prices, as it becomes less abundant and we pass “peak oil”. Better transport in and between cities can offer improvements in the lives of those who live in overly congested cities.
One of my hobby horses is that we too easily forget that when we were hunter gatherers, we spent typically a tenth of a calorie of metabolic energy to put a calorie in our mouth; 100 years ago, with the advances of scientific agriculture, we spent a calorie of fossil fuel energy subsidy—subsidised energy—to put a calorie on the table. Today, we spend 10 calories to put a calorie on the table. Much of that is used at the production stage and some for transportation. The production stage wastes energy by taking the nutrients out to make things snap, crackle and pop and then uses a bit more energy to put something back in. We could contribute to combating both climate change and obesity by looking hard at what we do with food.
In summary, the political, economic and quality-of-life costs if global co-operative activity falls short are very real and very serious, but many benefits will accrue if we remain firmly committed to what is embodied in the Climate Change Act. All we need here is firm political leadership.
My Lords, I was totally dazzled by the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Browne, in his opening speech. I will have to read it to understand much of it, because just by listening it was not terribly easy for someone who is not knowledgeable in the subject to understand everything. Today, as ever, there have been some amazing speeches. It is a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord May. On the other occasion when I followed him, I was also absolutely gobsmacked—not a very parliamentary word—and so interested in what he said. He says it very clearly and plainly and people like me can understand him. I thank him and other noble Lords for what they have said today.
I have no expertise, experience or real knowledge on this subject, but I am going to talk about an issue which is very closely connected but which is not talked about when this issue is discussed. Today, only the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has mentioned the “P” word—population,—which is what I will focus on. We are asked to change light bulbs, conserve water, recycle, have cleaner cars and so on, and we should be doing all those things anyway. They are good for us, good for our neighbours and they are good things to do. Why should we waste resources? That follows a general way of thinking. I am sure that many people are still not doing those things, and that is sad.
The PC—politically correct—lobby has made sure that we do not talk about a very important reason for the changes in the world’s climate: population increase. There has been an enormous population increase in the past 100 years, and it is a factor globally, particularly in developing countries. It has an enormous impact in all sorts of ways, certainly on global warming and on social collapse. How many times do you hear population increase connected with environmental degradation, water shortage and global warming? It leads to all those things, but we do not talk about it.
We are now 6.7 billion people, and it is projected that there will be 2 billion more people on earth by 2050, which is one of the target dates that we have been discussing when we talk about how we are going to reduce carbon emissions. If there are 2 billion more people, they will need to be fed and looked after, and they will need water. At the moment, there are still a lot of people who survive on food aid. Is it possible that 2 billion more people, who are likely to be in the developing and the poorest countries, will be able to survive on their own? They will not. We need to think about this and how we will look at this issue and bring it out into the open and discuss it.
I have written here that the liberals—with a small “L”—said that the poor consume less. I will not say that now, because the noble Lord, Lord May, has said it; and indeed they do consume less. But that is so because they have less. There is no more for them to consume than what they have. They are cutting down the woods and they are collecting whatever is available. A woman has to collect wood to cook food for herself and her children. She has to take water wherever the water is from, and she has to look at her life as surviving another day. It is not like she has access to things and is holding herself back from consuming; they have nothing. The deserts will grow, the amount of rainfall will reduce, droughts will come—they are already. We know what is happening in the world. Disease is increasing, particularly in Africa, and, as one of your Lordships’ reports has said, that is because of population increase. People are living closer together, so there is disease. We must take these things into account when we talk about global warming and environmental degradation.
Africa’s population is set to more than double by 2050. It is 1 billion now, and it is expected to become 2.3 billion. We are sending food aid now. What will our grandchildren be doing in 2050? What will the countries that now send aid be trying to do? Africa cannot feed itself now. Will it feed itself when it has more than double the population? I think not. The political will is not there in Africa to look after its people. To me, that is one of the saddest things about Africa.
A poor woman has very little access to the real necessities of life. She has very little access to take control of her fertility. Fathers do not take responsibility for family planning; they never have done, not even in developed countries. It is always the women who look after these issues, and the women in poor countries do not have access and they do not have power. In families in Africa, it is very often the woman alone who brings up the children. Would it not be better for her to have fewer children and give them better health and possibly get them to school? We need much more action on these sorts of issues.
Former President Bush unilaterally decided to stop funding the UNFPA, because it supported China’s one-child policy. That was such an amazing decision. The UNFPA had nothing to do with China’s one-child policy; China itself decided that policy, which has stopped 300 million more Chinese from coming into the world. When we look at China, we must accept that it would not have had the growth that it has had if it did not have the one-child policy. However, I am not advocating that. I am simply advocating that we bring this issue out into the open. It is a major contributor to all the things that everyone has been talking about. Unless we do so, there will be no change of any kind. We need to make that change.
I finish by referring to the seventh millennium development goal: to strive for environmental stability. The targets it sets are to integrate sustainable development into policies and programmes, reverse the loss of national resources, improve access to safe drinking water and improve the lot of millions living in slum dwellings. It is as plain as a pikestaff that none of those can be achieved without tackling the population issue.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for initiating this debate. I shall probably disagree with many of his points, but I shall discuss that later.
The politics of climate change has been dealt with in minutiae by many of us who have taken part in these debates over the past few years—we have had the Climate Change Bill, the Energy Bill and numerous debates. It is most encouraging to speak in a debate in which there has been no question that climate change is happening. That is a step forward in this House, where it has been much more a question of how fast changes should take place. My problem with the politics of climate change is that we are still discussing targets, as thought setting them will be the solution. I realise—and the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made it clear—how important these targets are at an international level and that they have their place.
However, I have an issue which was borne out when dealing with the Energy Bill and through going to a large number of conferences. We are setting targets that might not be achievable for a number of reasons—technology, and because we and other countries are setting targets that we know none of us will meet. That is a real problem. My view of the politics of this is that we should instead be thinking about building the infrastructure. We should also understand what the targets really mean, because we are talking about an 80 per cent reduction in emissions. Some scientists are talking about an even greater reduction, because we may well have already passed the tipping point.
That means, in reality, that people will be unable to live their lives in the way that they are now. We must seriously change how we live our lives, but that is not being taken on board. It is not a bad thing—for example, SUVs were not around 10 or 15 years ago on the school run, and they probably will not be around in a few years. People will have to change how they lead their lives.
I found the recent announcement on the Heathrow expansion very depressing, but perhaps it is only me who feels like that. Although the arguments were put in favour, I have been to many conferences where there was talk of us running short of peak oil in the next 20 or 30 years. However, the Heathrow expansion will take at least a decade to come into commission and it will have a certain lifespan. Where will the traffic for Heathrow come from in 20 years? There certainly will be no cheap awayday flights to Prague. Flying will, by necessity, become very expensive and we will probably return to the situation of 30 years ago, when only a small number of people could afford to fly. Therefore, we will be building an infrastructure which will break our carbon barriers, but will never live up to expectation. It is a short-term commitment to how we view growth in the economy.
This is why I have a slight problem with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Browne. I very much take on board that the only game in town is the ETS and carbon trading. It is to be welcomed that President Obama is talking about widening the trading fields. However, perhaps unusually, I am a carbon-trade sceptic. I do not believe that carbon trading itself will lead to a reduction in the amount of carbon dioxide produced, because there are many flaws and pitfalls in the system. If we are to throw ourselves at market forces, we only have to think about the banking crisis to realise how that can go horribly wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, mentioned recession. How often have I seen reports in the press recently that big green projects were under immediate threat because of recession? We are saying, “Okay, we have market forces, and we have these targets, but if there is a problem in the economy we cannot meet the targets because we cannot afford them”.
I have met a large number of carbon traders who have not given me a great deal of hope on the issue. However, carbon trading could work well on a macro level. I do not believe that market forces will be the real driver; it will be regulation by the Government. I have spoken to a large number of power companies over the years which have talked about what type of power stations they will build and how they will meet the so-called decarbonised electricity grid. Most of the companies say that they are hanging back and not making decisions because of the real issue of whether they can meet the carbon targets set by the Government, who have not come forward with them. That creates a real problem in the system, because if no new power stations are built, we cannot see how the electricity sector will be developed.
I very much hope that we look at this issue in the future. My problem is that while I believe that coal should not be part of the mix because of its carbon content, I cannot see a way of meeting our energy requirements without including coal. Therefore, the only way that we could include coal would be through carbon capture and storage technologies. However, the problem is that we are only talking about one demonstration plant. We are not realistically saying how we can use that technology in all power stations within a certain time frame. We are talking about 20 or 30 years ahead. The world does not have 20 or 30 years. I very much welcome the efforts undertaken by the Chinese Government. They have already put forward, and are starting to construct, more than one demonstration plant. It is unfortunate that a few years ago we said that we were going to build a demonstration plant and export that technology to the world, whereas it very much looks as though that technology will be exported to us over the next few years.
Looking to the future, the Government have made some positive gestures. We talked at Question Time about the use of light bulbs which will save some 5 million tonnes of carbon. It is one of the changes that people will have to get used to. Indeed, there will be a spur to the marketplace; the papers today reported a new type of light bulb which will be extremely bright for 75 per cent less energy. That is important.
There are areas where the Government have failed, especially in the Energy Bill. I was disappointed that the Government have not moved forward on smart meters, considering the speed that such a programme could be rolled out. One issue is that Ofgem has not worked out what sort of market model there should be—whether meters should be given to individual customers or whether the programme should be carried out street by street. Holding that system up on that basis is unfortunate, because that would be one of the greatest ways of bringing about behavioural change.
We shall have to bring about behavioural change. I have been doing a great deal of work on energy efficiency in houses, especially regarding energy performance certificates. The Government, in meeting their targets, will have to introduce regulations that produce more than the carrot of economic benefit for people if they carry out the change. At some point, they will have to think of imposing a regulatory stick if people do not change: for example, not allowing them to complete on conveyancing if a house is not insulated to the correct levels, and making it impossible to sell a house with a G-rated, rather than an A-rated, boiler. Such changes could be simple to make, and if they were put into the process, people would carry them out without thinking about them. As with light bulbs, they would be a requirement and, therefore, people would undertake them.
Some future technologies could help and one of them, in which I declare an interest, is anaerobic digestion. I have just become the chairman of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, whose aim is not to set up a working group to discuss what sort of standards it should be reaching but to build, over the next 10 to 15 years, 1,000 AD plants in this country. This is an old technology. Germany has more than 3,500 plants; Austria and Italy have 400 plants apiece; Denmark has a few hundred; and, of large-scale plants, we have 10. When we talk about carbon, we should think not only about the electricity grid but about the gas grid as well, because that is a massive source of carbon dioxide. It has just been shown by the national grid that 50 per cent of our domestic gas could come from anaerobic digestion. If Germany can produce that many plants, we should be able to do so. It is a mature technology that can be brought here to deal with many of our waste issues.
I want to end by talking about the politics of this matter. There is one big problem affects every Government. We talk about moving forward as quickly as possible but every single industry involved in energy efficiency, low-carbon products or microgeneration that I have talked to always has problems with regulation. Yesterday, I was lobbied by a company called Living Fuels, which takes waste chip oil from prisons, schools and other organisations and puts it through a power station that can produce six megawatts of power. I should declare that when I met the people from that company yesterday, I paid for tea. I say that just in case, in the present climate, people think that I am doing this for any other reason.
The company uses a fuel called LF100. The problem is that there was a court case to decide how the fuel should be designated, which affects how it should be dealt with. It was decided that the fuel should be designated in a specific way, and the court said that the Environment Agency and Defra should work out regulations to allow the company to move forward. The trouble is that the company has now been waiting eight and a half months for those regulations to be brought forward and, until that happens, it cannot do anything. That could kill a fantastically good industry. The trouble with waste oil is that it goes down the drains and costs the water companies millions of pounds to clear. I will pass on the details to the Minister and hope that he can meet representatives from the company. One problem with the politics is that sometimes regulation gets in the way of moving towards a low-carbon economy.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, for initiating this timely debate on the political aspects of addressing climate change. I have witnessed something of a masterclass here today. When I think that in your Lordships’ House we have some of the greatest scientists and engineers in the world, I sometimes wonder what the press are worrying about.
I shall confine myself to five questions, which I hope the Minister will be able to answer either today or, if time is short, in writing. The questions capture what I want to say.
I am sure we would agree that the international community must act with real urgency to reach agreement on a successor treaty to Kyoto in order to reduce global emissions, keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic climate change. Therefore, my first question is: what action has the Minister’s department taken to engage with countries such as the United States and China to ensure that they are on board at the next round of discussions on the post-Kyoto framework in Copenhagen?
Today, we have heard that at home the Government have already conceded that they will miss their target to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2010 against the 1990 baseline. Does the Minister agree that the Government must achieve more in tackling climate change at home in order to lead by example on the world stage?
In March 2008, the Sustainable Development Commission found that,
“government as a whole needs to take radical action to put its own house in order if it is to be in a position to lead by example”.
More than half of all government departments have increased carbon emissions since 1999-2000 and nearly two-thirds of departments are not on track to meet their carbon reduction targets. So my next question is: what steps is the Minister’s department taking to tackle this issue head-on and reduce emissions from the civil estate as an example to us all?
I am with the noble Lords, Lord Smith and Lord Redesdale, in not joining the Government in their approval of a third runway at Heathrow, regardless of the fact that the additional greenhouse gas emissions from the expansion will compromise the Government’s legal obligation to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 under the Climate Change Act. Does the Minister agree that his Government are saying one thing while doing another on climate change policy and that, unless there is joined-up policy right across Whitehall, it will not be possible to achieve the legal obligations of the Climate Change Act?
I come to my last question. The new United States Administration under President Barack Obama is showing very promising signs not only on domestic action on clean energy technologies but also on a determination to re-engage with the international community in securing a post-Kyoto deal. However, at this key moment of hope, we see that the European Union, which until now has been recognised as a global leader on climate action, is weakening that position due to lobbying from some of its member states. The World Wildlife Fund stated that the European Union played its “worst role ever” at the Poznan climate summit last month. Can the Minister assure the House that his Government will do all that they can to ensure that action on climate change remains a top priority at European Union level and that our collective voice will not be watered down at this vital time, when the United States is finally to re-engage on this issue?
The noble Lord, Lord Browne, said in his very fine speech that climate change must be a vision for the future, at the heart of society. He said that we cannot go forward in isolation. On this, I think we all agree. However, in order to win hearts, all people will need to understand the language that we are speaking. In this country, we need plain English so that we can all join in the debate, take ownership of it, see the opportunity for jobs and training and the potential to save money, and see that for us it will be a better life.
Finally, moving forward in the ways that we have heard today will cost the earth. Therefore, the political aspect of climate change is one that Governments all over the world will have to face, and that is to win the hearts and minds of the voters.
My Lords, this has been a remarkable debate. Like other noble Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, for securing it and congratulate him not just on the excellence of his opening speech but on his track record, in which he has shown true global leadership. We are indebted to him. The debate has been extraordinarily wide ranging. As the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, said, we have extraordinary expertise, including on science, engineering and diplomacy, and we have heard an extraordinary range of speeches on issues from world population to security of energy and all the critical problems that we need to face in dealing with climate change.
The debate comes at the start of what we hope will be a momentous year leading up to the discussions and, I hope, agreement at Copenhagen in December. If there is one message that comes home to us all today, it is that we have to work harder than ever to build the political will and economic conditions necessary to convince the world that a shift to a low-carbon economy is not a threat but a global opportunity.
As my noble friend Lord Smith and other noble Lords have shown, the latest scientific evidence is clear that climate change is a bigger and more urgent challenge than has previously been understood and the effects are with us now. Last year’s report from the independent Committee on Climate Change has surely shown an even stronger link between human activities and climate change. We know, too, that the impacts of climate change pose a threat to the very security, prosperity and development of nations. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Browne, that action must be taken now.
In short, there are four areas where the Government are determined to drive forward progress. First, we need robust mechanisms in place at national, EU and international level to secure a global deal in Copenhagen. Secondly, we must have ambitious targets, but we need to accelerate action to make sure that we meet them; I am not as pessimistic as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on that. Thirdly, we have to demonstrate that we can be pro-growth and pro-fairness as we tackle climate change. Fourthly, and extremely relevant to the title of today’s debate, we have to take public opinion with us.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that part of doing that is using a language that people can understand. As someone new to this field, I still struggle with the words “climate change mitigation” and “climate change adaptation”. The problem is that only a small group of people understand and talk this language; if they think that anyone else understands it, I can tell them that we do not. We need to work hard if we are to meet the challenge identified by both my noble friend Lord Giddens and the noble Lord, Lord May. We have to think about the language that we use in the future.
The remarks of the noble Lord, Lord May, and his record as chief scientist and as a member of the Committee on Climate Change speak for themselves. It was a remarkable contribution, in which he talked about the evolution of co-operation and the requirement for nations to collaborate in equitable proportions. He reminded us of the responsibility of OECD countries in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. I thought that his analysis of why small upfront costs for this country could produce major paybacks, whatever others do, and show some early returns was a positive message, which was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Rees. The advice of the Committee on Climate Change indicates that the costs to this country of meeting the 80 per cent target are affordable. The implication of its advice is that the sooner we get on with this task, the lower the end cost will be.
My noble friend Lord Giddens talked about the political issues and the challenges of taking action in relation to a long-term risk. He spoke of the problems of getting public support for action, which, if delayed, could make catastrophe unavoidable. He called it the paradox. I thought that we had an example of that this morning with the Question on light bulbs. If ever there was a no-brainer of a decision, it is the one taken on light bulbs. Yet we need only contemplate the opposition even in your Lordships’ House—a more rational place is not to be found anywhere, I am sure—to see that such a matter runs into trouble and difficulty. That shows the scale of the challenge.
I agree with my noble friend that too much focus on fear is perhaps not likely to produce the change in behaviour and attitude that is required. Equally, going back to what the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, said, we must have a straight conversation with the people of this country in a language that they can understand. I pay tribute to the Environment Agency and my noble friend Lord Smith, as they have a major role to play in this communication. Flooding is a particular area of the Environment Agency’s expertise. I also mention the extraordinary work at Hadley with the UK climate projections that are due to be published in the next few months. Although it will be sobering to see the forecasts and their impact, none the less they may enable us to have a serious conversation not just with the public but with all the businesses and public sector organisations that have to think now about the changes that they will have to make in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. It is extremely important work in parallel with that of the Environment Agency.
My noble friend asked about visible and progressive business leaders being seen to take a leading role. I agree that we have business champions but clearly they do not have the visibility at present. He has set us a challenge to see what more we can do. The great benefit of the Stern review and the Committee on Climate Change, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Turner, is that they comprised, if I can describe them as such, hard-headed people who did not come with any particular angle but were seen to do robust analysis. That has had a huge impact in getting people not just in this country but in many others to recognise that we face a most serious problem.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that of course I accept that government departments must practise what they preach and that we have not done all that we should. The development of carbon budgets over the next year or two will be a powerful way of ensuring that they do just that. I reject what she and the noble Lords, Lord Smith and Lord Redesdale, said about Heathrow. That was well debated in the other place yesterday but the point is that—apart from the stringent controls on any further development at Heathrow—under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme the expansion will not lead to any increase in emissions. We have also announced a new target to get aviation emissions in 2050 below 2005 levels. I understand where the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is coming from, but he does not like the target approach in the first place. Provided that the target approach has integrity—I agree with him about that—there should be flexibility within it.
The noble Lords, Lord Browne, Lord Hannay and Lord Smith, referred to the international negotiations. Clearly the next few months will be critical. I note the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about the recent European negotiations. He was right to identify that they were challenging. None the less, we have reached agreement on strengthening the EU ETS and we have secured political agreement on the EU renewables directive. However, the critical decisions and negotiations are ahead of us. I believe that the UK can play a leading role not least because of the passage of the Climate Change Act and the 80 per cent GHG emission reduction by 2050. One should not underestimate the impact that that has had. I know from my discussions with Ministers in a number of other countries that it has been noticed. We have to make the most of it.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, rightly referred to burden sharing. Developed countries have to take the lead and there is a need for differentiation of actions between developing countries. It will then be a challenge to agree on how those actions can best be measured, reported and verified. However, we are very anxious to do that.
Climate change is already a reality, so adaptation must be considered a priority and part of the Copenhagen agreement. Part of that must be for developed countries to improve access to new, additional and predictable financial flows and to help developing countries to build their capacity to meet their commitments. I say to my noble friend Lord Giddens that part of our work with other countries is done under memorandums of understanding. Since I have been in this job, I have been impressed to know how much we are doing on that.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, also talked about supporting developing countries. It is interesting that, in the negotiations around the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the Council adopted a political declaration indicating member states’ willingness to spend at least half of the revenues to tackle climate change in the EU and developing countries.
We all have great expectations of the new US Administration. We are looking forward to working with them and offering any support that we can towards the US taking early domestic action on climate and energy and engaging in international negotiations. We are also keen to share UK and EU experience on climate and energy policies, such as carbon trading.
On the economy, I agree with all noble Lords that the key message from this debate is that the economic downturn does not, cannot and should not mean a retreat from equally important longer-term objectives. Indeed, they can and must go hand in hand. The Stern review of the economics of climate change demonstrated the consequences if we were to fall for the argument that in the economic downturn we cannot afford to invest in climate change mitigation and adaptations. We cannot go down that path.
I believe that building a low-carbon economy in this country offers great prospects for our future. It is clearly the way we should be going. I know that a number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Smith, were concerned about whether the Government have got their act together in this area. We will set out our vision of how companies can take advantage of the green opportunities in our economy in our low-carbon industrial strategy in the summer. I echo the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Broers, that, just as we rely on our extraordinary science base, I acknowledge the expertise and brilliance of our engineers. His point about ensuring that the advice of engineers is fully to hand in policy development was very well made.
It is remarkable that, whatever the debate, we often come back to energy supply, energy security and future requirements. It is clear that we are going to need a wide variety of technologies, whether renewables, nuclear or carbon capture and storage, as well as coal. The signs are generally positive on future investments, although, given the global downturn, there are some immediate issues that need to be faced up to. The takeover of British Energy by EDF was the foundation for the new nuclear that is starting to be built, with the first new station due to be online in 2017. Other companies are now interested in new nuclear. We are also seeing investment in gas storage facilities.
We have been set a tough target on renewables. We need to do everything that we can to make sure that we reach it and take advantage of the renewables technology that we have developed in this country. My noble friend Lord Smith talked about tidal power and marine power. I agree that we have a technological lead. Let us make sure that, in contrast with previous efforts in the energy sector, we take advantage of that.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, spoke about the interesting link between farming, energy and climate change. He reminded us that farming can have a positive role in relation to adaptation. We need to focus on that. For example, many farmers have taken the initiative on anaerobic digestion. I will refer the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale; I understand that it is a matter for the Environment Agency, to which I will make sure that his remarks are referred.
I say to the noble Lords, Lord Rees and Lord Dixon-Smith, that we are one of only four countries that are committed to supporting a commercial-scale project demonstrating the full chain of CCS. When it is operational in 2014, it is likely to be the first commercial-scale demonstration of the full chain of CCS with post-combustion capture technology on a coal-fired power station. This is very expensive, but we have been active in promoting the competition and in negotiating in Europe. I was disappointed by those remarks that suggested that in some way the UK is behind the curve on this.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, about energy saving. Alongside the other changes that need to be made, much can be done in the energy saving field. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord May, who suggested that it was an example of where some smallish upfront investment would show returns very quickly. He will know that that argument is frequently made to our friends in Her Majesty’s Treasury, but it is sometimes difficult to convince them. It is a good example of how, although we talk about climate change—certainly its worst effects—being a long time ahead, some small changes now can make an immediate improvement. That is one way of countering the danger of pessimism that could inhibit appropriate action. It is one of my worries that, when we talk about targets and people talk about the possibility of never reaching them, there is a danger that people think that it is not worth trying. Part of being realistic with the public is to remember that actions can be taken that can show an immediate effect.
I thought that the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, about population issues were very interesting, particularly in the face of the population predictions over the next 10, 20 or 30 years. Alongside energy security and food security, population is an important matter to consider.
At the beginning of my speech, I said that I thought that the debate had been quite remarkable. I end by saying that it has been a real privilege to have taken part in it. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, has done us a great service. Climate change represents probably the biggest challenge that we will all face. It is a huge challenge. It presents many difficulties for politicians. Some of them are immediate, because of the difficult decisions that have to be made, but we should be in no doubt that this Government are determined to make the right decisions. We are in a good position to give global leadership, but there is an awful lot to be done, particularly over the next few months leading up to Copenhagen.
My Lords, I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. I had hoped that this would be an opportunity to take the debate forward, to keep the subject at the centre of society and to think of the global opportunities, not just the threats. In those matters, I was not disappointed. I thank the Minister for his response. This Government have done a lot to promote the issue of climate change on the international stage—I hope that that continues—and have displayed serious ambition with the targets adopted in the Climate Change Act. I am in no doubt that we have the right vision of how to tackle climate change. What still remains is to overcome the political challenges that stand in our way. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.