My Lords, early in December, colleagues involved in climate change issues were telling me that they doubted that Copenhagen would resolve the problems. They said that the concluding agreement would fall short of what was needed and that the overwhelming effect would be disappointing. That is why I asked for this debate then, not because I feel expert in this field as there are giants in climate change in this House and I am looking forward to hearing what they say. No, where my expertise lies, as a retailer, is in knowing how people will react to events in the way that they eat, dress, spend their money and live their lives.
I knew that, post-Copenhagen, if we had scary, doomsday headlines saying that it was a complete failure, these would turn people off. Here are three of those predictable headlines:
“I blame Bono for the Copenhagen failure”.
That was the Spectator.
“Copenhagen was an all-out failure”.
That was Der Spiegel.
“Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure”,
stated the Guardian. The press know that doom-and-gloom headlines sell their papers, and that is their business. What we should be concerned about is that if people do not believe that world Governments can agree on what to do and set legal frameworks, that businesses, in making profits, are an essential part of the solution, or that campaigning NGOs will work with business and government to put things right, individuals will stop acting in a communal way.
However, the majority were on board. Last year, according to a Defra tracker, 91 per cent of respondents were recycling; 76 per cent cut their gas and electricity use; and 62 per cent of drivers used their car less for short journeys. But if these people think that we cannot manage the world process, they will stop all this and consider only self-preservation and the good of their immediate family and close friends. I hope that we can turn the tide a little in this debate by hearing some positive suggestions on what to do next.
Before I continue I must declare an interest. I was close to Copenhagen because I chair a charity, the Sindicatum Climate Change Foundation, which was set up to fund activities around the world that fall between two stools. We carry out projects that are considered either not profitable enough for business or too “commercial” to be adopted by NGOs. We get them both to work together. Before that, I helped found a business four years ago that reduces carbon emissions. From these involvements, I know that four sectors must co-operate in order—dare I use this phrase?—to save the planet. Their tendency, when there is apparent failure, actually is to blame each other. NGOs love to blame business; businesses blame government; Governments blame every other Government that went before them; and people blame all of the above. But now is not the time to apportion blame.
Around the world much positive activity is going on and it is not too late. It is close; but not closed. I shall say a few words about NGOs, businesses, Governments and individuals, and I hope that we can build on what is being done, not pull it apart. NGOs are not just talking, they are doing. I have seen in hospitals in Ghana how solar panels have replaced dirty diesel generators and, in doing so, not only have they reduced emissions, but they have helped facilitate life-saving operations that previously were impossible there. In India, in Delhi, thousands of tonnes of grass cuttings, previously sent to rot and emit greenhouse gases in landfills in the suburbs, are now being turned into biomass fuel for cooking in the city. In business, examples I have seen include the capturing and utilisation of coal-mine methane on a huge scale in Shanxi province in China to produce power. This methane was previously released into the atmosphere. Methane is 23 times more polluting that C02. In Indonesia, sugar cane husks and rice husks that were previously wasted are being used for biofuel. In the Middle East, where I was last week, a strain of tamarix tree that grows in salt water and in the desert, where you cannot grow food, is being produced to burn as biofuel to replace oil and coal. This may be the burning bush.
I hope we hear in this debate of many more scalable and sustainable projects that can grow rapidly, given the right resources and support. An example of resources needed is new mechanisms. Organisations in the field tell me that CDM is not capable of delivering the kinds of emission reductions that we need. Developers are focusing only on countries where CDM can be, or has been, implemented, rather than working in countries which lack the basic infrastructure to support CDM. They say that this is because CDM is at one end of the spectrum and cap-and-trade regimes at the other, and there is nothing in between to act as a ladder. Government should promote new mechanisms to fill the gap. Given the right incentives and mechanisms, the private sector will finance these kinds of initiatives.
I have mentioned British NGOs and British businesses. We can be proud also of our UK Government. We are leaders here, being the first to pass a Climate Change Bill. Here in this House we have world expertise. The Lord Speaker chaired a pre-Copenhagen debate, and we heard the noble Lord, Lord Rees, say that the science was solid and had been consistent on this for decades. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has calculated what needs to be done and said it is expensive but affordable. The noble Lord, Lord Turner, who apologises for not being here today, made it very simple and clear to me. He said that we need, as a species, to find alternative sources of energy that are cleaner and better, and that we need to find more efficient ways of using them and a different way to live. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, who is stuck due to the weather today, said that the politics were complicated but doable. I hope that we will now hear from some of these experts what the Government should do next.
Again, as a retailer and a negotiator, one thing that I know the Government must do is to put some leadership into the negotiating process. The Copenhagen process was clearly badly managed and that was a huge factor in not producing a binding treaty. We must, before Bonn in June and Mexico in November, know what the process is, specify the unified text on which we are negotiating and draw up realistic timelines. Hence, the Government must now demonstrate a real commitment to the Copenhagen accord, take leadership in managing the process, defining it before the next summit so that we can integrate the Copenhagen accord into the UN process, and develop a realistic administrative road map for negotiations on one central authorised text. We should strengthen co-operation on the UK-German axis and tighten co-ordination within the EU delegation. In that way, we can agree ambitious and binding medium and long-term targets for action that make the 2 degrees centigrade a realistic pathway; we can agree binding commitments by developed countries to deliver jointly on the $30 billion for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries from 2010 to 2012; and we can include a binding timeline and cost-sharing formula between developed countries. Then, we can agree a road map to pursue new mechanisms to promote cost-effective mitigation action, with their integration into the European Emissions Trading Scheme, and, finally, a binding timeline for the establishment and entry into force of a REDD-plus mechanism dealing with afforestation.
I am conscious that I have spoken a lot about mitigation, and there are those here who feel that it has already gone too far. In fact, I am sure that we will hear from some that what we should concentrate on now is adaptation for the United Kingdom.
Knowing that, I want to add a point which may seem odd and perhaps a little too spiritual coming from someone secular. Earlier, I referred to the heroic, pragmatic and positive actions of individuals, but there is also a human role for individuals in terms of context. We are wrongly led to believe by some quarters of science, business, the media and politics that we are each completely separate and responsible only for ourselves, our family, our friends, our colleagues or our country. It is true in a way that we feel physically, emotionally and intellectually separate. There is me, there is you and there is the rest of the world. However, the ancient wisdoms, the pre-monotheistic religions, monotheism, the philosophies of the East and even quantum physics have all known that actually we are one. Rabbi Hillel said:
“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”.
Geoffrey Bamford of the Society for the Wider Understanding of the Buddhist Tradition has said:
“Feeling as one isn’t a question of intellect and will. It depends largely on our frame of mind. Are we acting upon a situation here that is separate from ourselves? Are we trying to solve a problem, where we are merely external observers? No, clearly we ourselves are bound up in this process of environmental change and of adaptation to it”.
Everything that we do affects the universe, and everything that happens in the universe affects us. Today, each of us here can have a positive effect on the planet and the universe if, with good intention and with space to contemplate, we show what the Government, business, NGOs and individuals can do when we act together as one. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for instigating this important debate, on which I congratulate him. Two and a half years ago the Royal Society published a pamphlet entitled Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide. It stated:
“This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change”.
In other words, only doubters of science dispute or query the conventional wisdom. The authors overlook the proud motto of the Royal Society: “Take nobody’s word for it”.
I take nobody’s word for it. Scientists divide on the principle or pace of climate change. Unanimity does not exist. Professor Morner, former chairman of the International Commission on Sea Level Change, regarded Al Gore’s claims of 20-foot rises in sea levels by 2100 as a scare story. So too did Professor Lindzen of MIT, a leading climatologist. Nearer home, Sir David King, a former chief government scientific adviser, affirmed that if China and India continued to support the USA, the planet, apart from Antarctica, would be uninhabitable by 2100.
In the spirit of the Royal Society’s motto, I offer some observations. The G77 demanded hundreds of billions of dollars in addition to development aid. The notion that richer countries would be willing to surrender so much of their wealth in perpetuity was always for the elves. Nations are unlikely to be disposed towards policies with such high economic costs, least of all during an international recession, in spite of the rhapsodising by western political leaders, each purporting to be more virtuous and generous than the other. But then candour has never been at the heart of this debate. Take Canada, a Kyoto signatory. It has increased its emissions by more than the USA, a Kyoto dissenter.
David Miliband, when he was Environment Secretary three years ago, claimed that the scientific and popular debates were coming to an end. These words did not chime with stronger-headed businessmen before or during Copenhagen. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, pleaded for business to be given a clearer sense of direction. After all, businesses and taxpayers will bear the brunt of moves to low-carbon technology. It will be hard for the UK in our present plight, Europe or depressed Japan to continue to endorse policies or aims that burden economies by harming competitiveness.
The USA is central to what happens before and at Mexico. Congress and the White House remain preoccupied with other priorities: health reform, the deficit and, of course, the mid-term elections. President Obama arrived in Copenhagen declaring that the time for talking was over, but straight talking in the USA has not begun in earnest. Has the President dared to persuade people to pay higher taxes to subsidise China, with its aggressive currency policy, to become more energy-efficient and economically competitive?
The principle of comparative advantage haunts Congressmen and, of course, it is accompanied by the risks of green protectionism, already advanced by President Sarkozy. Surely our leaders grasp that China, the world’s number one emitter, avoids action because of its burgeoning energy needs and its efforts to join the ranks of the industrial powers when it would also be subject to the tougher restrictions under any future treaty, however unenforceable it might be in reality.
Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner in economics in 2008, stated that if an economists’ creed existed, it would be: “I understand the principle of comparative advantage and I advocate free trade”. This powerful creed will lurk just below the surface in Mexico, and it will be certain to influence the outcome.
My Lords, I add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for initiating this debate, and for doing so in an immediate way that put individuals on the spot. I declare an interest as the chairman of a start-up company seeking to promote the development of tidal power in this country.
I think that those who were shocked by the Copenhagen outcome must have had expectations that were beyond the reasonable. Global governance involving over 190 countries will not progress by a number of heads of state arriving and using megaphone diplomacy at each other. Copenhagen was in some senses an important gathering in so far as it underlined the widespread—indeed, now almost general—concern about climate change. It was, however, completely inadequately prepared. It could result in a protracted and inconclusive negotiation if the faults of the process are not recognised and considered very deeply by our Government, who have a long experience of attempting to take the lead in international negotiations.
Copenhagen is not alone in standing for the incapability of multinational organisations to produce satisfactory outcomes. In the past year we have witnessed the Doha round coming to a standstill in a most distressing fashion. Then as now at Copenhagen, there were multiple reasons for this. I think it is necessary not to be dismissed as a dewy-eyed utopian if one stands back and says that the modes of reaching global decisions have to be considered in a new way. I do not think that we are getting a lead on this from the United Nations or the leaders of the United Nations. I would commend the forum of the European Union as an appropriate one at least to seek to bring together the voices of developed countries, many of which have very strong ties to developing countries, and which are perhaps collectively less nationalist in their outlook than some of the other participants in the international debate.
It seems to me that Copenhagen was vitiated by the quite long parallel discussions going on in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Rio summit and the Kyoto Protocol directions. The fact that there was no success in bringing together those two parallel developments seems to me to be due largely to a lack of preparation. This is a subject in which we as a single country cannot lecture the Chinese, any more than we can lecture the President of the United States, on what their interests are or how they must conform; we cannot do it even within the 27 member nations of the European Union. However, we can engage in continuing dialogue and activity. It seems to me that that is what is principally lacking in the world governance development. The support systems for these periodic conventions are wholly inadequate. They are too ad hoc. I believe that a step in the right direction has been taken by the Lisbon treaty. I very much hope that the External Action Service enables Europe not to be sidelined at the decision-making moments, as it was at Copenhagen. It was absent from the discussion that was initiated and led to the accord. That is a pretty shocking indictment of the preparation that we in Europe put into this.
My Lords, I had not intended to talk about science today because the science was not seriously questioned at Copenhagen—it was not the issue. On the other hand, it is worth making a comment or two on it. When the former leader of one of the world’s important countries said, as he commonly did, that the science is not certain, that was pretty much a content-free statement. It does not mean anything unless you specify what question the science is supposed to answer. Although scientists, climatologists and so forth disagree about a great many of the details, the general direction of change is not seriously questioned by many.
It is very difficult to question the influence of our greenhouse gases in controlling the earth’s temperature and question the fact that during the past 150 years we have significantly increased those by roughly 30 per cent. People who deny that really have to recognise that they have to come up with a whole new theory for temperature distribution in the terrestrial planets, which has stood the test of time for about 100 years, if they want to throw out the concept of greenhouse gas perturbation. When you come to the precise consequences of this—how much ice melts where; whether we are talking about 2 or 3 degrees—there is much more scope for disagreement over modelling and between the different approaches taken. However, there is nearly uniform agreement on the general direction of change.
Turning to the Copenhagen conference, certainly the outcome was a disappointment to many. One cannot avoid the feeling that the approaches to the conference were buoyed up on a somewhat unsubstantiated froth of optimism. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is what I think it was. Certainly, many small and developing countries must have come away with a feeling of deep disappointment because they believe that they are the innocent victims of environmental damage which they had no part in creating.
One of the favourable outcomes of Copenhagen was that there appeared to be a willingness on the part of the developed world to recognise that and to help both with adaptation and mitigation. There is some way to go and a great many details have to be worked out. However, arguably, the most important consequence of the conference was that simply by going to Copenhagen in the numbers they did, world leaders demonstrated the importance that they attached to tackling climate change.
As regards the developed countries, existing climate change initiatives really must be pursued with increased urgency. Copenhagen simply means that a great deal more hard diplomatic work must go on in parallel. But for many developed countries, the climate change agenda and the energy security agenda are quite close. We in this country must continue to attach high priority to using less energy in a whole range of ways and, in addition to reducing our overall energy consumption, to obtain our energy from more sustainable sources. On top of that, as long as we are obliged to use fossil fuels, if we are to avoid calamitous climate change, we have to prevent the emissions from those fuels escaping into the atmosphere. The means of doing that is by carbon capture and storage. This country had a lead in that technology but one has to admit that through a combination of procrastination and lack of commitment we have allowed a number of other countries to overtake us. I declare an interest as the honorary president of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association.
A different and serious question relates to the pivotal role of the United States. Opinion polls suggest that in spite of US Government commitment to action and the extensive support that they are giving to work on many technologies that will be needed to tackle climate change, significantly fewer than half the US population believes that human beings have anything to do with changing the earth’s climate. For a mixture of complex reasons climate change has in the United States become embroiled in party politics. This is really serious and of great concern because it is hard to see any world accord being effective without the enthusiastic support and commitment of the United States.
However, public opinion can change. I watched a politically significant shift in Australian public opinion over a period of 12 months, triggered by a combination of extreme climatic events and a successful and well publicised lecture tour by Al Gore. It is not clear how a similar change could be achieved in the US, particularly in the face of overt hostility on the part of some news networks and even some indication of the spread of disinformation. It is clear, however, that the message has to be that action on climate change, taken in conjunction with the rest of the world, would promote rather than damage the US economy. Indeed I believe that there is an opportunity for all Members of this House to help this process by making these arguments whenever they meet opinion leaders and opinion makers in the United States.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the constructive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Stone, introduced this significant debate. Clearly, post-Copenhagen we need to find ways of making progress that will lift spirits. A recent Brookings Institution paper by Alex Evans and David Steven, entitled Hitting Reboot, is the best analysis that I have read, recommending 12 specific ways forward.
There are many other people in your Lordships’ House much better qualified to speak about the specifics. We have already heard the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, talk about the necessary work in transforming our global institutions and we have heard something about the confidence in the scientific consensus, which, if opinion polls are to be believed, is under threat. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Rees, in particular, reflecting on that.
The climate challenge starts with science but the action needed to deal with it depends on politics and, as we all know, politics revolves around the electoral cycles. Ed Miliband called for civil society to exert pressure, but the challenge is so complex and the canvas so vast that uncorking the kind of constructive passion that made a success of the Jubilee Debt Campaign on debt relief and the Make Poverty History campaign has been difficult to do. As we have heard, NGOs have been active, but what we need are mass civil society movements that are not afraid of messages about ethics and justice, sacrifice and solidarity—movements that have legitimacy and social influence around the world.
Religious organisations and communities are in touch with more than 85 per cent of the population of the globe. Even in Greater London, 650,000 Christians are at worship every week in more than 4,000 churches, not to mention substantial communities of believers from other faith traditions. Recognition of the potential of such communities lay behind the joint effort mounted by the UN and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation to organise an event in November as a preparation for Copenhagen. Under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General and the Duke of Edinburgh, a cross-section of world religious leaders unveiled their seven-year plans for their own communities. The plan for the Church of England is called Church and Earth.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt was another participant. He outlined a programme of teaching about climate change in Islamic schools. We heard earlier about the extraordinary importance of making profound common cause with the Islamic community, and he has been planning for climate change lessons in Islamic schools, using renewable energy in mosques and the inculcation of green habits in places of pilgrimage. The message is spreading. The Pope, in his New Year message, took as his theme, “If you want to cultivate peace, protect the creation”.
Ed Miliband has pointed out that, if Martin Luther King had said “I’ve got a nightmare”, rather than a dream, nobody would have taken much notice or followed him. The task now is to build a global movement that goes beyond G20 territory and embraces Africa and the poorest communities in the world, on which the burden of adapting to climate change is already being felt most acutely.
Polling evidence reveals a dispiriting picture of the growing numbers of people feeling bored, paralysed and disempowered by talk of climate change. Copenhagen was a demonstration of the limits of the global reach and capacity of our present institutions. The experience of the conference should challenge us all to find the wisdom and care for the common good capable of unlocking the vast resources of altruism and the resources of the knowledge that we have acquired through the progress of science.
It was in a speech to the UN 20 years ago, in 1989, that the challenge was most clearly expressed, by someone who is today a member of your Lordships’ House. These words continue to have enormous resonance for us. It was said then that,
“another of the beliefs of Darwin’s era should help to see us through”,
“the belief in reason and the scientific method ... Now we must use our reason to find a way in which we can live with nature, and not dominate nature. We need our reason to teach us today ... that we must not try to be … the lords of all we survey. We are not the lords, we are the Lord’s creatures, the trustees of this planet, charged today with preserving life itself—preserving life with all its mystery and all its wonder. May we all be equal to that task”.
The words were, of course, those of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher.
My Lords, I take no particular pleasure in saying that in my book on the politics of climate change, which was published nine months ago, I predicted what would happen at Copenhagen. In my five minutes, I want to make just four brief points about what I think are the implications, although there are many of them.
First, the collapse of COP15 marks the end of the road for Kyoto-style agreements. Nevertheless, the Copenhagen accord arrived by the back door at what needed to be done anyway. It brings the large polluters together and it cross-cuts the developed/developing societies divide. Two countries, the US and China, produce more than 40 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Six countries produce more than 80 per cent. We will need bilateral and limited multilateral negotiation alongside the accord in future. This should be explicitly linked to the G20, which is an emergent body that is quite close to being a representative body and, certainly in respect of climate change, includes virtually all the large polluters.
Secondly, Copenhagen expressed the weaknesses of the United Nations. The UN has done a significant job in promoting world consciousness of climate change yet, as all noble Lords are well aware, it tends to be paralysed by internal divisions. A crucial question facing us, therefore, is what the role of the UN will be. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, put it very well in a recent book, in which he discussed the weaknesses of the UN but also said that it is an indispensable institution. It remains so for what is a global task. There are many things that we will need the UN to monitor. For example, we will need an agreed framework for measuring emissions and a robust system to assess different countries. We have to keep the pressure on China. What Google did yesterday is significant. You cannot be a country that benefits from and faces the risks of global interdependence, climate change being the main risk, and yet stick with a very narrow notion of sovereignty.
Thirdly, the success or otherwise of the accord will depend to a large degree on the coherence of the plans to reduce emissions to be drawn up by the industrial countries by 31 January this year. I have frequently spoken on this in previous debates, as I have carried out an in-depth analysis of the climate change policies of the industrial countries. One can say bluntly that the industrial states have not lived up to their historic responsibilities in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a lot more hype than real action. We have a small number of countries, such as Germany, Sweden and Denmark, in the vanguard, but there is a long tail of countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada and many others, where greenhouse gas emissions have risen radically since the Kyoto 1990 period. This is not a demonstration to the rest of the world of effective climate change policy.
Fourthly, climate change sceptics have mounted an organised campaign around COP15; indeed, we heard an expression of that point of view today. We have to give a lot of thought to the political consequences of how we cope with the necessarily sceptical nature of the scientific enterprise. Science depends on scepticism; it feeds on disagreement, not consensus. We know that the impact of the climate change sceptics has been massive among the general public; a previous speaker referred to that. The proportion of the general public that is sceptical about the claims that climate change is dangerous and is caused by human activity is much larger than the proportion in the scientific community.
There are real issues to be confronted. Having written extensively about this, I am worried about the increasing political polarisation around climate change. Climate change is not intrinsically a left/right issue, but it is beginning to polarise around the left and the right. The situation in the United States, which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, mentioned, expresses this political polarisation. We have at least to consider looking again at the IPCC. We have to consider whether producing a single set of documents, even with different scenarios in them, is the best way of addressing the relationship between science as a sceptical enterprise and the need to convince the public of the crucial importance of action.
My Lords, I am not firmly of the view either way about climate change, but I am very concerned about the adverse consequences that may flow from Copenhagen from another perspective. I am anxious that we should not take the view that that failed, but never mind because there will be another conference along soon and we will catch that bus instead. I do not believe that that is a safe approach to take. The subtext of this dialogue is sustainability and green energy, and it distracts us from those two great objectives if we are overconcerned with the scientific proof in the short term. In the long term, it does not matter. We need sustainability and green, so let us get on with it. That is where I start my major concern.
Are we getting on with it? I do not think we are at the national level, the European level or the international level. Recently, I was hugely impressed when, along with a few other Members of your Lordships' House, I listened to a talk by Professor Niall Ferguson, the author of The Ascent of Money, who was asked what is the one thing we could do that would give us a more optimistic future. He said it is the achievement of a single, cheap, sustainable source of fuel. It would wipe out the cause of international strife, free up an enormous amount of GDP that would be sufficient to cure world poverty and bring peace and economic stability to the world. I buy that argument.
Where are we on that? The Government are concerned with building a vast amount of wind on a very cost-ineffective basis, for which we have no adequate grid structure to link up the resources. Beyond that, we do not have the grid at a level that would allow economic development of the other subsidiary sources of renewable energy that are available to us. At the moment, we are using only some 40 per cent of the biomass potential of this country. The other 60 per cent would add three or four points of our achievable target for 2020, but we cannot use it because it is not accessible to the grid. Similar restrictions apply to any commercial development of solar, which is emphatically the most cost-effective source and God’s great gift to the world. We should be using it everywhere we can. Finally, we have no commercial development of wave, for which we have the single greatest resource in the European theatre in the Dogger Bank, and we need to get that development going before Europe decides it belongs to it.
Beyond that, we have other developments that ought to be brought into effect. If we look across into Europe, the other great failure of Copenhagen was the total lack of a unified voice on behalf of Europe. No European strategy was identifiable from Copenhagen. That is a disgrace. This Government or the next need to take a major initiative in inspiring leadership of Europe. In general, Europe has the same problem that the UK has in microcosm. It does not have a smart grid.
I am grateful to the noble Lord. My point is that there is a lack of inspiration in getting on with it. This country should recognise that and do more.
I wholly agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. His words reminded me of the last sermon I got from the school padre on my last day at school. He said: “You’re all going out into this wonderful world. You will go in the company of a great and powerful God, but He has got very bored and tired of performing miracles to get you out of the messes you get yourselves into. Instead, He has given you all the materials you need to do it for yourselves. Now get out there and do it”. I do not think we are doing it. This House should have a Select Committee on renewable energy with the objectives I have defined. It may fit into the Europe committees or another structure, but it is long overdue. I like to think that we might now start to take that powerful initiative. The issues are sustainability, which we do not have, and green, which we can have.
The other great miracle we have available to us, which has been missed, is clean coal. Clean coal is wonderful. We have a wonderful plant in Hull, which noble Lords should go and look at. It is the answer to many of our prayers. It takes carbon and drives it through to drive out the carbon from whatever else is presented to it. You end up with captured carbon for the fuel you have treated and the fuel you started with and a clean product. Coal is very cheap, and we have a lot of it. It would buy us the time, on a cost-effective basis, to solve the longer-term problems. Clean coal is a huge answer, and I would like to think that this House will pay a lot of attention to it.
My Lords, it is sometimes said fatalistically that the UK’s stance on climate change is of marginal import because our emissions are only 1 or 2 per cent of the problem, but we have leverage in two respects. The first is political. Our Government have shown leadership both internationally and through the Climate Change Act. We also have leverage through science and engineering. We have the expertise to spearhead the technologies without which there would be no transition to a low-carbon economy for the world, and it is in our national interest to take a lead. We need to keep our own lights on, but beyond that imperative we should seize the chance to pioneer clean energy to meet the entire world’s growing needs.
What are the options? There is nuclear power. Many of us favour the UK having a replacement generation of power stations, but we also need worldwide R&D into fourth-generation reactors. There is wind, onshore and offshore. The technology is well tried, but the Government’s expectation of the speed of deploying turbines may be unrealistic. There is wave and tidal energy, on which the UK could lead; we have the geography and marine technology from North Sea oil and gas. There are biofuels, a field in which genetic technology may have a lot to offer. There is also the need for improved energy storage for transport and to complement unsteady power sources such as the sun and wind. Nuclear fusion remains an important area of long-term research. A widely favoured long-term bet for Europe is solar energy, with huge collectors perhaps in north Africa generating power that is distributed via a pan-European smart grid. Here, as the noble Lord, Lord James, has said, the urgency of the UK’s and Europe’s commitment does not match the scale of the challenge or the real opportunity.
Even the optimists among us worry about whether renewables can take over from oil and gas before the CO2 concentration has risen to a threatening level. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, has said, carbon capture and storage is crucial. It could be widely adopted by 2030, but there is a risk if that does not happen, so some argue that we should contemplate a plan B as a fallback: geo-engineering the climate to combat the effects of rising CO2.
The Royal Society—I declare an interest as president—recently published an assessment of schemes such as modifying clouds, putting aerosols into the stratosphere, or even deploying sunshades in space. Such techno fixes have an undoubted allure for some people, but our report emphasised that geo-engineering could have unintended consequences, as well as being plainly politically problematic. Our overall message was that geo-engineering merits some long-term research to clarify its feasibility, but it is not a substitute for the high-priority pursuit of the Copenhagen goals.
Our understanding of climate science must be progressed. No one seriously disputes the rapid anthropogenic rise in CO2 concentrations: nor that, if this continues unchecked, it will lead to secular warming that is superimposed on all the other long-term trends. None the less, there is still uncertainty in the actual rate of warming and in the probability of positive feedbacks. It is therefore crucial to improve the database and the models. This is being done in the UK, which is strong on this. I hope that those who need to be assured that scientists are giving climate change critical scrutiny will attend some of the lively discussion meetings at the Royal Society, which are open to all, at which these issues are regularly debated.
Finally, let us not forget how ambitious a goal it is to halve carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching it would be a momentous achievement in which all major nations acted together in the interests of a future beyond the normal political horizon. Ironically, the political response to the financial crisis offers me some encouragement for the future. Who would have thought two years ago that the world’s financial system would have been so transformed that banks were nationalised? Likewise, we surely need outside-the-box international policies to make progress, and the UK should not lose focus on the goal of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, both in our own interests and in those of the wider world.
My Lords, I will focus my contribution on the developing world, and declare my interest as a member of the council of the Overseas Development Institute.
After Copenhagen, it is important to re-emphasise the disaster for development if we do not go on working together to find more successful and comprehensive ways to manage climate change. It is now clear that the challenge of overcoming world poverty is inextricably linked to the challenges of global warming; if we fail on one, we fail on the other. The vast populations that now live in dire poverty and produce the lowest emissions of carbon will undoubtedly suffer the most.
One of the most recent sources of alarming prediction in this area is the 2010 world development report, Development and Climate Change, by the World Bank. I highlight this report because the World Bank is after all an organisation that is dedicated to driving free market growth and free enterprise; it is not an environmental pressure group or a body that is happy to see limits on technology, and it cannot be accused of a green bias. The World Bank lists the particular vulnerability of the developing world region by region. For example, it notes that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa is especially exposed to increases in floods and droughts, threatening the agriculture that employs 70 per cent of the population. In east Asia and the Pacific, one of the major drivers of vulnerability is that millions of people—40 million in Vietnam alone—live in low-lying coastal areas that are liable to disappear under rising sea levels. In the world’s driest region—the Middle East and north Africa—per capita water availability is predicted to halve by 2050, with a devastating impact on food production which accounts at the moment for more than 80 per cent of the region’s water use.
The results for already fragile food security are obvious. Even in middle-income India, crop yields could decline by up to 9 per cent in the next three decades. Not surprisingly, food and water shortages lead to related predictions of more debilitating diseases such as cholera and malaria, progressively undermining gains in public health and life expectancy. The World Bank states starkly that even the modest 2 degrees centigrade increase in warming could mean that up to 400 million more people are at risk of hunger, and that 1 to 2 billion more people may no longer have enough water to meet their consumption, hygiene and food needs.
One of the most positive outcomes of the Copenhagen accord was the agreement by developed countries to commit $30 billion immediately to the developing countries to tackle some of these challenges, and to provide $100 billion more a year by 2020. I congratulate our Prime Minister on leading this commitment, but in general the Copenhagen accord could call only for “a goal of mobilising” long-term funding. Nothing is binding. Since Gleneagles, we have learnt, perhaps not to our surprise but to our concern, that other countries constantly fail to meet their promises. Only half the 2010 targets that were agreed five years ago in Scotland have been achieved. Post-Copenhagen, there is also absolutely no clarity about what will count as special climate mitigation aid and whether what is promised will be new money that is additional to existing overseas development aid. I would be very grateful if the Minister could clarify the UK’s position on these two points when he replies. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Stone, and other noble Lords who have spoken, in saying that we must look again before the next meetings at the possibility of reforming international decision-making. I am glad that Ed Miliband has already called for this.
The UN principles of universality, transparency and accountability should be maintained in all these discussions, but work should now be done on possible changes to those broad principles. There is a case for using the UN multilateral forum for a discussion on financial mechanisms to mitigate climate change. These are the most relevant matters to the developing countries, which obviously must have a voice and a vote. At the same time, the hard negotiations on legally binding reduction targets could be handled by a smaller group. I have been interested in suggestions that this should be the G20; I am quite clear that it should not be exclusively the G2.
The most pressing challenge this year before the Mexico meeting is to maintain momentum, and above all to strive for a higher level of trust between the developed and the developing world. Perhaps the Commonwealth could have a role to play in this. If we can achieve this greater trust, we may be able to move fairly rapidly towards the most significant milestone: a binding and enforceable legal treaty.
My Lords, hitherto most of the debate around climate change has revolved around limiting the increase of greenhouse gases and shifting to a low-carbon economy and other technologies, some of which have been mentioned. Although this is important, while we wait for the new technologies to deliver, climate change strategy that does not take into account human dimensions and population dynamics will in my view and that of many others not succeed. In this context, that includes the relationship between the sexes and, importantly, the well-being of women.
Per capita income and population numbers are important factors in CO2 emissions. At 11.46 am today, the population of the world was recorded at 6,902,586,727. There are 220,990 births each day and 27 per cent of the world’s population is under the age of 15. World population has increased from 300 million 1,000 years ago to 1.6 billion in 1900 and 6 billion in 2000; according to UN projections, it is heading towards 10 billion by 2050. The majority of the increase will be in the developing countries, where the per capita contribution to greenhouse gases today is low. As a result of industrialisation and patterns of consumption, that is changing. For example, according to a recent report, the number of new car sales in China has outstripped that of the USA for the first time. Some of the developed countries, such as the UK, are also growing demographically. Our population is estimated to rise to 70 million by 2030 and 77 million by 2050.
The developing world, with four-fifths of the world population, has legitimate aspirations for better standards of living, but that also constrains the necessary debate related to population stabilisation. A yearly increase of 80 million in world population adds 90 million tonnes of emissions, which is equal to another Brazil or Australia. The current level of population growth would require a per capita emissions reduction of 1.2 per cent per year. We have not achieved even a 1 per cent reduction over the past 40 years. Recent data on population management are better. In 1970, there was a growth rate of 2.1 per cent, while today the rate is 1.2 per cent. It could be improved even more if strategies for reducing unintended pregnancies and the education of girls were more universally promoted. Without strategies for population stabilisation, any targets for the global reduction of emissions will not be met.
My questions for the Minister are quite simple. Why was there no discussion related to population stabilisation? After searching the material from the Copenhagen meeting, I found barely a mention of it. Does the Minister agree that population growth has to be included in any debate, if not at Copenhagen, then subsequently? Does he also agree that any funding arrangement should support strategies of population stabilisation, particularly the education of girls?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for the opportunity that this debate gives. I declare an interest as a member of the climate change adaptation committee. I am notably a gloomy person, but I am desperately trying to be positive about Copenhagen. First, I should like to commend the efforts of the Government and the leadership that was shown to take forward the climate change agreement in what was an unsatisfactory negotiating process. I am afraid that I have to confess that I am a fully paid-up member of the Ed Miliband fan club.
Copenhagen was unsatisfactory, but who even a year ago would have believed that we would be in a position where the United States of America, China and many of the developed and developing countries would, if not stating targets, commit themselves to adopting targets and to monitoring them? However, that is not enough and we need to continue. Many clear suggestions have been made today about how the process can be taken forward past 31 January, past the Merkel process and into Mexico, in order to get an ambitious, fair and binding deal in 2010.
Even if there is a deal, CO2 reduction targets notably slip. Even now, there is enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause impacts. Plan B is even more vital now than it was before. This is not the techno-fix plan B of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, but the plan B for how to adapt to the impacts of climate change. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for clearly outlining the impacts on a global scale. The UNFCCC negotiations on adaptation made progress in Copenhagen, but they were not concluded. The green fund is only a start.
In the UK, the Government stated a clear commitment to planning to adapt to climate change and to consider what may happen to us as a nation and to our economy as a result of increased heat, drought or floods and their impact on health, biodiversity, land use, infrastructure, food security, farming and migration. There could be opportunities—for example, increased tourism. Indeed, I continue to rile the people of Aberdeen by saying that climate change is the only thing that might make Aberdeen habitable.
Action needs to be taken at many levels, including at the national, regional and local government levels, as well as by the utilities and infrastructure providers. We need to take adaptation action. A perception of what needs to happen to mitigate the risks of climate change impacts should be threaded through the work of all these bodies in the planning and implementation of their day-to-day activities.
I should like to highlight four forthcoming domestic opportunities. The climate change risk assessment that is being undertaken and its associated economic appraisal will report early next year. There will be national and regional versions of this. This process needs not just to be an academic appraisal of climate change risks in this country but to engage and involve those who will have to take action over the forthcoming years in order to ensure that they are fully involved, understand their roles and begin to get a sense of excitement and challenge into their work.
Secondly, there will be a government adaptation action plan, which will need to be a clear plan with targets and timescales. There needs to be real action and not just something on paper.
The third domestic opportunity is that, in the spring, each government department will produce a departmental action plan. Again, they need to be about real activity and real action with targets and timescales; they must not be as limp as lettuce—a phrase that I got from Mr Miliband last night. There is a possibility that departments will fail to grasp the importance of their work on adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
Last but not least, your Lordships skilfully put into the Climate Change Bill a reporting requirement on more than 100 key bodies. Again, we want to see action from that reporting requirement; it must be about real activity and not just going through the motions of reporting. The activities that all these bodies need to undertake to meet the impacts of climate change should be able to deal with uncertainty, should be no-regrets actions and should be value for money. They should be about doing things differently and not necessarily about doing additional things. They need to integrate across sectors. Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord, Lord Stone, that I am not talking about adaptation instead of mitigation.
Will the Minister give assurances that the Government will continue not only to show vigour and leadership in mitigating climate change, but also to inject a similar degree of vigour and leadership into pushing forward here and internationally plan B, the actions that we need to ensure that the nation adapts to the impacts of climate change?
My Lords, while, along with my noble friend Lady Young, we can garner some consolation from bits of Copenhagen and perhaps flagellate ourselves about raising expectations too high, we should not forget that the real position of Copenhagen was that of a gigantic historic failure and a missed opportunity. As a number of noble Lords have said, it was a failure of international process and of national will in a number of different countries. We are running out of time. We are now over 20 years on from Rio and 10 years on from Kyoto, but global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.
If we accept the scientific consensus, which, along with the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, I do, we are already on track for a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees, which in itself will bring some drastic changes to our weather patterns and therefore to our ecology and land use. Moreover, if we do not turn the corner by reaching a peak of greenhouse gas emissions before the end of this decade, together with achieving a pretty steep curve of decline thereafter, because cumulative emissions matter more than annual figures, we will fail completely to limit the rise in temperature to 2 degrees by the middle of the century. Most calculations now suggest that we need to be over the peak of greenhouse gas emissions by around 2017. That is seven years away. It is only six years away by the time we reach Mexico and, on the heroic assumption that we get an enforceable agreement there, around five years by the time any new mechanism comes into effect and, at best, four years before it has any real effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
International mechanisms are vital and we need them, but the reality is that in the short term, and for their effect on the long term, it is national actions and perhaps cross-national actions at the EU and other regional levels that will, we hope, deliver the returns that we need at the beginning of this process. The outlook post-Copenhagen is slightly better on that front, because we at least have generalised commitments from the US, Canada and China, as well as commitments from the developing countries to take action. We may well also get some serious and aggressive targets from those countries against which national trading schemes and fiscal and regulatory policies can be set and which may therefore deliver.
Not only do we have to look at the emphasis on switching—through the use of nuclear fuel, through carbon capture and storage and through moving over to renewables—away from fossil fuels for the generation of energy and transportation, but we need heavy investment in other areas, by which I mean both capital investment and political investment in terms of leadership to reduce emissions, to buy us some time and to protect us from the worst effects of inevitable climate change.
The biggest of these challenges is, of course, to reduce the demand for energy in the first place. I have spoken many times on energy efficiency and I declare an interest as honorary president of the Combined Heat and Power Association. It is not only in heating that we need to achieve greater efficiency; we need to do so in relation to buildings, transport and virtually every aspect of our behaviour from the domestic to high-level industrial. That involves behavioural change on the part of consumers as well as business and here I declare an interest as chair of the organisation Consumer Focus. In order to get consumers to change, however, the Government have serious responsibilities in terms of regulation, fiscal intervention and education policy. These are somewhat outwith the zeitgeist. Neither tax nor regulation is regarded with great affection by the population or by our political leaders, yet their effective use in these fields is vital.
I do not want to cross swords with the might of the Royal Society in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, but we have to pay some attention to issues that can buy us a little time in terms of geo-engineering and techno-fixes. I do not say that that is an immediate position but, if we find ourselves well off target in 2020, 2025 and 2030, we will regret not having put at least some effort into developing some of the more Professor Brainstorm versions of geo-engineering, which may or may not work but certainly need serious investigation.
Finally, we need a programme of adaptation; the committee on which my noble friend Lady Young serves will be a vital part of that. In the end, some climate change is inevitable, so not only how we mitigate and avoid it but, more important, how we adapt to it will determine how humankind and, indeed, life itself can survive on this planet. Like my noble friend, I am an admirer of Ed Miliband and, obviously, of Martin Luther King, but I am not sure that the right reverend Prelate was entirely right. We need a dream, but the vision of a nightmare is important in motivating people as well. If we do not take action, the nightmare scenario may well eventuate.
My Lords, for many observers, the Copenhagen accord, signed at last month’s climate conference, is a failure. Targets for global emissions are conspicuously absent, and while national targets are included, they are set only on a voluntary basis. The failure to acknowledge an ongoing process for converting the accord into a legally binding treaty is disappointing. But despite falling short in these respects, the agreement makes significant progress in others. It commits all major polluters, not just developed countries, to take action on reducing emissions and to submit their plans to international oversight. The agreement enshrines a joint target to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade and it promises tens of billions of dollars for developing countries over the next decade, financed through private and public channels.
This momentum must not be lost. As we look to the next major climate change meeting in Mexico City and beyond, I believe that three points are critical. First, policy-makers must pay attention to the requirements of business, whose job it is to deliver the transition to a low-carbon economy. Direction setting is important, but until the Copenhagen accord is translated into detailed policies, it will fail to have an impact on investment decisions. From a business perspective, carbon offsets are a practical way to reduce emissions at low cost. Yet the current system is too bureaucratic and lacks sufficient scale to fund the commitments envisaged by Copenhagen. Reformed carbon offset mechanisms, along with new policies to leverage private capital such as loan guarantees, will be needed to mobilise flows of carbon finance across borders.
A second lesson is that expectations of what can be achieved through the current UN process need to be realistic. Big-tent multilateralism still makes sense in several areas; for example, transparency and adaptation funding. But differences of fundamental principle are best settled in smaller groupings involving heads of state, as demonstrated at Copenhagen. Deals to share low-carbon technologies may need to be brokered in even smaller groups or bilaterally. Initiatives within national borders, such as the promotion of strategic industries, should be given greater recognition and be learnt from by others. There is an opportunity to work with the Mexican Government, a member of both the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate and the G20, to develop a new multi-track approach.
This brings me to my third point. The UK must target its diplomatic influence effectively. We must be pragmatic about the areas where this country can have a real influence; for example, over the design of carbon markets and international financing mechanisms. Whatever one’s political orientation, it makes sense to work much more closely with Europe on climate change matters. The EU is the world’s third largest polluter and yet it was absent from the room when the decisive deal was struck. Europe needs to present a more ambitious, unified front if it is to have influence commensurate with its importance in combating climate change. I agree with the recent suggestion by William Hague that the EU should direct more of its budget towards climate change. The protection of tropical forests is one area where this enhanced funding could be effectively deployed.
With enduring political and financial support, I believe that the Copenhagen accord will go down as a cornerstone text in the history of mankind’s efforts to combat climate change. To ensure that it does, my advice to policy makers is simple: keep the requirements of business in mind when drafting policies; embrace a new multi-track approach to climate diplomacy; and focus the UK’s efforts where our influence is the greatest, working at the heart of Europe, not at its fringes.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Stone, on introducing the debate and on his opening remarks in which he said that we should think about the political and social aspects of how people are reacting to these great events. I declare an interest as a member of Globe and as an emeritus professor of climate modelling.
On the Government’s achievements, it was important that at Copenhagen there was an acceptance of the need to control global temperature by limiting emissions and preventing deforestation and that there should be help for developing countries. The mere fact that there was this accord at Copenhagen enables the United Nations system and all kinds of international bodies, businesses and industries to continue the general direction of work to reduce emissions, adaptation and work on the effects of climate change. If there had been a total failure, many of these important ongoing activities would have come to a stop.
However, there were some bad aspects and outcomes at Copenhagen. One of the features is that it was seen to be too much of a bureaucratic, governmental organisation. Some countries, particularly in the Far East, have realised that dealing with climate change requires visionary, practical, visible, symbolic changes. In Japan, the Prime Minister no longer wears a tie; in extremely hot conditions it has changed the temperature in its buildings. We still fail to do that in this building. Similarly, in China there is a one-child population policy, which, of course, has some flexibility, and there is no heating in buildings south of the Yangtze. It is incredible. These countries are making extraordinary gestures and we should recognise that those kinds of symbolic gestures help people to understand what the Governments are about.
At a political level there was great disappointment but, as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, there was also an understanding that there was unrealistic optimism about the meeting. If Cassandra had tabled a PQ to ask, “What about this horse outside Troy?”, undoubtedly the answer would have been, “Don’t worry”. I tabled a PQ and I went to China in May. It was absolutely clear what was going to happen: the Chinese published their climate change documents in English. These had not been read by anyone in Whitehall or by the Met Office. It was absolutely clear what was going to happen, and it happened.
This has led to political embarrassment for this and other countries. Why was no public warning given about this information? Why was there not some indication that a plan B was going to be necessary? Pretending to be optimistic to the last minute was not good politics and I hope that there will be a change of heart in that strategy when we come to the next phase.
There were some disappointing features about the Copenhagen process from a scientific point of view. Once again, the only graph presented to decision- makers by the World Meteorological Organisation showed, as we have commented before, a flat value of the global average temperature in the past 10 years, and the only explanation that was given was “variability”. We know what it was: the temperature was rising over the land and there has been a considerable reduction of temperature in the oceans because of the important dynamical processes that can happen over periods that may last 10 years. The way in which this was presented was unfortunate.
On a Statement made in this House on 5 January, the noble Lord, Lord Reay, commented that we could not believe any of these models because the Met Office cannot forecast this winter. That is the level of understanding with which we have to deal. It is true that variability, particularly in the UK, is difficult. In fact, the reason we have the best Met Office in the world is because we have the most variable climate—perhaps noble Lords had not realised that—and we have to deal with it. However, when the Met Office forecasts seasonal changes in other parts of the world it is sometimes 80 per cent or 90 per cent accurate. The Met Office has successfully modelled the change in climate and global temperature over the past 150 years and has related that to emissions. So, from the global point of view, we should accept this climatic science as being the basis for policy.
We need to work with other countries much more closely. The degree of scientific co-ordination with China needs to be considerably improved. Another important feature is that in order for countries around the world to deal with and make their own policies on climate change, they need to understand how the climate is varying. The level of data and information is inadequate, both within cities in developing countries and developed countries. For example, the World Bank is now promoting programmes of “metrics for sustainable cities”. It is gratifying that the DfID programme, with the United Nations, is finally enabling African countries to improve their measurements so that we will have a more accurate understanding of what is happening and the effects of the changes.
It is very important that we work more closely with the United Nations system. Some noble Lords have commented that the United Nations is a broken reed and we should not deal with it, but all the agencies are working very closely together, whether on health, water, nuclear energy and so on. We must be positive about that and work closely with them.
My Lords, many of us remember Barbara Ward and the authors of the Brandt report, where we learned that world poverty is the responsibility of rich and poor acting together. Climate change is surely a new manifestation of this partnership. Even if no solution is in sight, our key objective must be to save lives in the short and long term. Many are even using the term “climate justice”.
My starting point is, therefore, quite simple: how can this latest agreement improve the position of the poorest countries? These countries, which have been highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will certainly welcome the pledge of finance up to 2020, with the caveat she mentioned. Whatever the heading under which funds are raised, whether climate change or millennium development goals, they will be used to reduce poverty and ill health and to mitigate against many other effects of climate change. I congratulate UCL and the Lancet on their joint programme of research.
Climate change in the poorest countries is nothing new; it has simply been made worse by industrialised countries. That is all the more reason why those countries should take the major responsibility. This was the key plank of the Kyoto agreement. Carbon reduction is irrelevant in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa; climate change is not. Funding is rarely free of strings and this is where conditionality comes in. I have tried to learn the meaning of “adaptation” and have come up with, “adjustment in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment”. “Mitigation” is defined as “any action taken to permanently eliminate or reduce the long-term risk and hazards of climate change to human life and property”. Both definitions fit in with poverty reduction.
But what does, “in the context of meaningful mitigation” mean? Does it imply carbon cuts for these countries or can it equally apply to coping with the effects of climate change? It is still a confusing picture. If it means the former, there is a real risk that the funding will go to middle-income countries which qualify, and which can afford to set up their own mechanisms for reducing carbon emissions, and not to countries which may potentially be in greater need of assistance.
Copenhagen appears to place all the legal requirements for emissions cuts at national domestic level, with no legally binding international commitments. This pushes greater commitments on to developing countries, which have less responsibility and capacity to respond to climate change.
What therefore is the status of Copenhagen in relation to the Kyoto Protocol? Only 49 of the 192 countries in the process have signed the accord, and there are no new binding obligations or targets. I presume that those who did not sign the accord are not excluded from it. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.
There are then the questions of new money, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and additionality. Are the new funds simply a statement of intent? Donors’ so-called “new” pledges often simply replace previous promises. The Government have pledged that no more than 10 per cent of official development assistance will be used for climate change. Have the Government committed to any financing that does not come from the aid budget, and do they plan to do so in the future? What are the current estimates of our aid funding in relation to climate change? What conditionality is attached? The definition of climate change, as we have seen, is fairly broad. From the recipient’s point of view, labels can be meaningless. Accounting procedures in the poorest countries may not easily distinguish funds sent for different purposes. Something labelled “climate change aid” could equally mean “agriculture” and be recorded twice or not at all. Will the Government provide a definition of their budget lines that will be quite clear to those countries?
Unlike the right reverend Prelate, I am encouraged by the massive public interest generated by Copenhagen, even if it does not have all the answers. The noble Lord, Lord Stone, spoke of the highly focused NGOs—I mention also Saferworld and its new report on climate change and conflict in Kenya. There is a powerful lobby among NGOs. One organisation claims to be,
“the largest global online citizens’ movement in history”,
with nearly 4 million members. The climate change movement has therefore already commanded enormous support in the country.
My Lords, for once, I can say that I am not being wise after the event, because I wrote an article for The House Magazine before Copenhagen on reasonable predictions and reasonable measures of success. I wrote:
“There are three complementary elements … price/tax rises for [greenhouse gases] to choke off demand for carbon intensive forms of production and consumption … promoting new low carbon technologies - and demand for their output - in the same timescale … [and] an agreed financial formula or key”—
as the European Council put it—
“for equitable global implementation”.
“But the idea that in 2009 we can finalise in detail the financial mechanisms which can ensure that we meet hugely ambitious carbon tonnage reductions stretching to 2050 – and to which all future generations of politicians are bound by treaty – is a bridge too far. Indeed, there is a danger that we will denigrate what will in the longer term probably be seen as substantial progress. The multi-layered complexities of the exercise can only be compared with Rubik’s cube. It is self-evidently an incremental one – a huge negotiation with 192 countries with 192 different economic attributes, whose energy emissions and outputs range from reliance on ruminant animals to nuclear power … A rough guesstimate is that half the financing will come from the international carbon market and half from international public finance/tax, which of course means the taxpayers of Burton-on-Trent … It is of decisive importance that the tax regime is not regressive; the average working person must not pay more percentage-of-income than the wealthy. This is a political necessity if the whole strategy is to succeed – but it is one to which so far insufficient attention has been paid. The EU Council is proposing that all the countries of the world— except the least developed—contribute to international public finance though a global distribution key, based on emissions totals and GDP. In practice this can be described as a carbon equalisation tax”.
Those who are realistic—not NGOs, which just shout all the time from a pulpit without having any responsibilities—recognise that interests have to be reconciled in the world. The immediate priority for the UN mechanism in the next six or nine months is to look at the financial key in a quieter atmosphere. My only experience of the UN system is having been on the UN Commission on Transnational Corporations for about three years. You need on an ongoing basis to make sure that you have shop stewards from each part of the world in the lead-up arrangements; you cannot just leave it to top dogs to agree something when you have to deal, for instance, with Bolivia as well at the next meeting.
Scientists have to be a little more respectful of the political process. The University of East Anglia episode was damaging. The Met Office has not done itself a favour by having been associated with a campaigning mode; indeed, the present top person there is a former head of campaigning at the World Wildlife Fund. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patel, in saying that population must be included. If we double the population in the next 20 years, we double the number of greenhouse gases. How can the Vatican say that it is now very involved in the process of sustainability while having a theologically dubious policy on contraception? I speak as a member of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development, handing out condoms to women in villages in Niger. There is a demand there—it is not just western propaganda—and we have to bring that into the equation. We lack courage if we do not press that.
The noble Lord, Lord Stern, will speak later. I have great sympathy with the views put forward by Professor Dasgupta of Cambridge University on what is summarised as the discounting problem. He has written:
“Where the modern economist is rightly hesitant, the authors of the [Stern] Review are supremely confident. But their cause is not served when parameter values are chosen to yield desired answers”.
Those are provocative words, but I gave notice to the noble Lord, Lord Stern, that I wanted to hear what he had to say about them.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Environment Agency, the day-by-day work of which gives us direct experience and evidence of how our weather, our climate and our environment here in England and Wales are changing. We may not yet be able to attribute directly to climate change the fact that the most intensive rainfall in a concentrated period of 24 hours ever seen in England fell on Cumbria last November, causing, as we all know, the devastating floods that overwhelmed Cockermouth, Workington and Keswick, or the intense heat that is currently being experienced in Australia, or the droughts that have occurred recently in Kenya. However, there will be many more such events as change develops during coming years.
But there are smaller things, too, that are happening here in England. For example, damselflies and dragonflies are now found much further north, at higher altitudes and in greater numbers than ever before. There is a slim, rare, blue-green fish called the vendace, dating back to the ice age. It has disappeared from its stronghold in Bassenthwaite lake, and is having to be reintroduced further north in colder waters in Scotland. The coldwater arctic char is disappearing from Lake Windermere. Over the past 20 years, our testing of river water across England seems to indicate that there has been an average rise of water temperature in our rivers of 0.6 degrees centigrade over 20 years. These are small signals but, like the canary in the mine, signals of what may well happen in future. That is why Copenhagen was so important and why the outcome of Copenhagen was such a disappointment.
We knew that we were unlikely to achieve a legally binding treaty instantly, but I thought that we would be further along the road towards it than we now are. However, the worst possible response to Copenhagen would be to give up the fight and abandon the search for a clear international agreement at the very least among the major polluting countries. There is a real danger that some people will use the outcome of Copenhagen as an excuse for giving up the fight, while others will feel so frustrated that they will retreat from the challenge altogether. Others, as the noble Lord, Lord Stone, in his excellent opening remarks observed, will stop doing the little things that each one of us can do as individual citizens which, taken altogether, can make a genuine difference.
So what do we need to do? First, we need to press forward with every redoubled effort to achieve a firm international agreement and seek to do so before the end of this year. Secondly, as a nation we need to continue to do our own work to reduce emissions, even though it may not yet be clear what the rest of the world will be doing. That means developing carbon capture and storage and a new generation of nuclear power; it means investment in renewable energy and decarbonising as much electricity production as we can over the next 20 years. It means switching to electric vehicles and high-speed rail networks across Europe—and it means a major national programme of energy efficiency work. We should never underestimate not only the importance of doing all this as a country but the power of example. We must show here in the UK that these things are possible and that we can reduce emissions and seize the genuine willingness of the business community to change, find new ways of developing economic success and well-being and show how low-carbon prosperity can be achieved. If we do not continue to try to do that, no one else will.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, whom we have just heard. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Stone on raising this monumentally important issue. Certainly, the results of the Copenhagen conference were deeply disappointing. I share the view, on the other hand, that all is not lost. Without intense preparation, to conceive of a possibility of an agreement being reached with 192 participants was profoundly illusory. As it was, there was no commitment to produce a legally binding agreement, and this is unlikely at the next meeting in Mexico unless the major countries come to their senses and reach out for a worthwhile compromise. That would involve a change of mind and purpose, principally by China and the United States.
China must understand that, confronted by little or no change, she, like others, will face a catastrophic situation. Over time, no one will be spared. Among the other major players is the United States. Despite the advances contemplated by President Obama, an arid battle within Congress lies ahead. Some, perhaps a majority, of congressmen take the view that the United States will avoid the ill effects of climate change; I believe that they are utterly wrong. Some will argue falsely for the industries that they continue to champion. Others will say that action to combat climate change has to be taken immediately. All this amounts to a recipe for inaction.
So is there no hope? I believe that there is, provided that the major polluters come to their senses soon, which is a big if. Surely we have to pose the argument that, even if at the end the sceptics are proved to be right, which I believe is an extremely remote possibility, what do we have to lose? Time, a great deal of money, the probable improvement of man’s well-being? But if the sceptics are wrong and their myopia is unjustified, devastating consequences might be avoided. I believe that the sceptics are likely to be proved wrong and that urgent action needs to be taken. In my view, the noble Lord, Lord Stern, who we will hear from later, is absolutely right. The Mexicans, who are the hosts of the next conference, should take urgent action before it is too late and call together some 20 representative countries to work on a potential treaty. Nothing should be sacrosanct; all the outstanding issues should be confronted. Consensus needs to be built; time is not on our side; the future of the planet is at stake, and we have to think anew.
My Lords, on the spectrum between success and failure, the Copenhagen conference surely has to be placed nearer to the latter. We should have no illusions about that. To delude ourselves that the outcome was really quite good, with clichés about half-full and half-empty glasses, is to underestimate the length and difficulty of the road that the international community still has to travel if it is to handle successfully the challenge of man-made climate change. Such an approach will be likely to programme another more costly failure when the negotiations resume this year. We need to remember, too, that settling for an inadequate outcome on climate change, in contrast with some other multilateral negotiations, such as those on trade or nuclear disarmament, where half a loaf can genuinely be worth more than no bread, is likely to bring in due course a reality check in the form of catastrophic global warming, which it will be too late to mitigate and much more costly to handle.
What should our priorities be? I suggest that we—and I include in that “we” the European Union and not just the UK—need a twin-track process, with an implementation track and a negotiating track. On the implementation track, we should work to give effect promptly to those political commitments that are contained in the Copenhagen accord or which will be tabled under it by the end of this month. That will mean this country—at the national level and as part of the EU—ensuring that we are on track to achieve a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020, that we devote enough funds to research, and that we are achieving nuclear build and a greater use of renewables. It will also mean putting serious money into programmes and projects that will help developing countries adapt to lower-carbon economies, and helping to finance the plan for reversing deforestation that was basically agreed at Copenhagen. If we can make a serious effort on that implementation track in 2010, that should considerably enhance the credibility of the negotiating track as we move toward the Mexico City ministerial meeting at the end of the year. Conversely, if we fritter away the year in bickering and inaction, that will seriously undermine the negotiating process. Clearly, what happens in the United States on cap and trade will be crucial to that implementation track.
On the negotiating track, I suggest that we have three main objectives. First, the EU should pursue and not resile from the more ambitious objectives that it set out before Copenhagen, which were then brushed aside in the scramble to save something from the wreckage of that meeting. That means that we should remain firmly set on achieving a legally binding set of agreements at the end of this year, because only a rules-based system will stand up to the wear and tear of the many decades that lie ahead. Then, we should continue to push for 30 per cent emission reductions by 2020 if others are prepared to raise their sights. We should not give up on the setting of a longer-term reduction for 2050. Pushing an ambitious agenda like this will require a great deal more of a concerted diplomatic effort by the EU than was forthcoming in the months leading up to Copenhagen, when it was preoccupied by its own internal arrangements. The EU’s role in this negotiation is to set the bar high, but not unrealistically high. If it does not do that, it will be a race to the bottom—to the lowest common denominator.
Secondly, we should pay much more attention to the architecture and detail of the arrangements for verifying and monitoring the commitments entered into in any legally binding agreement than has hitherto been the case. Copenhagen showed that this could well be a make-or-break issue. The Chinese position of refusing any international machinery for verifying and monitoring commitments is not sustainable, and not compatible with a successful outcome at Mexico and beyond. Without such machinery the US and, probably, others will not ratify any legally binding agreements. In any case, over the long term they will not hold. Would it not therefore make sense for the European Union now to put on to the negotiating table a fully worked out set of arrangements for international verification and monitoring? I should like to hear the Minister’s view on that.
Thirdly, I suggest that there are of course issues of process that bulk large—some would say too large—in any such complex negotiation. A great deal of heat was generated at Copenhagen over whether any agreement should be attached to the Kyoto protocol. There was also a great deal of umbrage taken about the accord that was reached in a smaller group. These process issues can be a bit exaggerated; we should not all be sitting around wasting time and waiting for somebody to produce a magic solution. I agree there with my noble friend Lord Browne of Madingley when he said that we need a more multifaceted process that makes use of everything, and we must not throw out the 192-country framework completely. We must not lose the baby with the bathwater, but we need other groupings. The G20, which will be meeting twice at summit level this year—it will I hope be better prepared than it has been in the past—and other groupings should all be brought together. I hope that if that is done, and if the building blocks can be put together before we get to Mexico, there should be a real chance at the end of this year of grasping the prize which eluded us at the end of the last.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for the opportunity to discuss the Copenhagen conference. Personally, I am not sure whether its failure was a disaster for the future of the planet or a fortunate rescue from dangerous commitments. Time will tell. I want to focus today on global warming, which is allegedly occurring on an unprecedented scale and is allegedly caused by man-made carbon emissions—the majority view is certainly that way.
First, I should declare that I have no training in physical science, although I have in social science from I was when an academic at the LSE, and I am aware of the use and misuse of statistics. I should also emphasise that I believe it is of prime importance to protect our planet from pollution of its earth, skies and oceans. I am also convinced that climate change is, indeed, taking place; it always has. There is nothing new there, although the volatility may now be much greater. However, climate change may not be the same as unprecedented global warming, although there is of course a link.
I am not yet convinced that such warming is, in fact, occurring on an unprecedented and catastrophic scale—although I am aware of the weight of scientific opinion being that way—nor has it, to me, been convincingly forecast to continue in a devastatingly upward curve as the global warming alarmists claim. I am neither a “flat earther” nor a so-called denier—a nasty word, being linked with Nazis denying the Holocaust. The facts of the Holocaust are tragically well established. However, the facts of onward global warming seem less secure. I am not a neo-Nazi but a questioner. It is about those facts of global warming that I wish to ask a few brief questions.
First, on the state of global warming science, would the Government and the preachers of global warming orthodoxy please stop asserting that the scientific evidence is decisively settled and that virtually all scientists support the warming orthodoxy? The science is not yet settled, and some questions are unsettled; nor are all scientists unanimous in support of the orthodoxy or its theology. Five hundred scientists, for instance, gathered recently at a conference in Washington to express their dissent. Their views can be found massively on the internet, although no British media and especially not the BBC reported the conference. Their dissenting views should be addressed, not suppressed.
Secondly, concerning the conclusions of the scientific evidence, specifically, is the global warming of the late 20th century demonstrably different and more threatening than the natural cycles of earlier times? The 300-year long medieval warming period was as hot, or hotter, than our recent experience. Grapes grew on Hadrian’s Wall and the Vikings cultivated the green fields of the then green Greenland. Is the recent warming significantly different and sure to rise continuously and catastrophically? Related to this question, what has actually happened in the first decade of the 21st century, when the Met Office constantly forecast mild winters and barbecue summers, which did not materialise, and we currently have the worst winter in at least 30 years? That may be a blip—and I suspect that it is—but it raises questions.
Even more worrying questions have been raised about the integrity of some statistical sources for future global warming forecasts. The University of East Anglia’s climatic unit, a major source of the world’s global warming forecasts, has been exposed in practices which may not display the best values of objective science. Why did it perform a trick—its description—to,
“hide the decline in recent temperature”?
It admits using “adjustments” to data, but one man’s adjustments can be another’s manipulation. It is particularly worrying that it strove to resist freedom of information requests and so has prevented scrutiny of its data.
In relation to the media coverage of this important issue, the BBC should follow its charter and cover global warming impartially, not as a cheerleader for the alarmist side. It is counterproductive and provokes, like manipulation of statistics, the kind of public scepticism which the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, fears. As for the Met Office, it should go back to objective science and try to get its forecasts right and cease blatant campaigning for one side. I note that it has just inevitably forecast that 2010 will be a very hot year—noble Lords should stock up on their long-johns and fur boots.
Why should we be wary of forecasts? One reason is that meteorology is clearly a very difficult science and the data are inevitably imperfect, but there are two other reasons. First, for too many this issue has become more a question of faith than of science. I am wary of zealots. Secondly, the forecasting black boxes are unreliable. We should remember the banks forecasting that their toxic debt had no risk. As a former Minister of Agriculture I recall that the black boxes forecasted thousands of human dead from CJD.
In conclusion, this debate should not be between those who allegedly nobly wish to save the planet by radical decarbonisation and the selfish deniers who do not care for the future of the world. We must continue seeking practical ways to cleanse our environment. Above all, we must seek for objective science to establish what is happening to our ever-changing climate. I hope that we will not rush into panic measures that fatally damage our western economy. We must make sure that we get the scientific facts right and that our policy responses are ones of proportionate adaptation.
My Lords, I join those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Stone of Blackheath on having secured this debate and, indeed, on having opened it so well. If ever there was an example of how the future of humanity depends on recognising our total interdependence with the rest of the world and the priority of building up strong, effective systems of global governance, climate change is just that. Of course, we need convincing national policies across the world. We need effective UK/Irish co-operation. We need firm commitments by the European Union. But none of these can alone resolve the issues that threaten the species.
It is an urgent imperative to have in place global policies that will deliver. Gordon Brown and the UK Government have recognised this and their leadership has been impressive. This is a human rights challenge of the first order. At stake is not only the survival of our children, grandchildren and future generations, but also the plight of the vulnerable right now, as we debate. We must make Copenhagen a spur for decisive action. It is estimated that, by the time of the Mexico talks next December, 150,000 people will have died and 1 million more will have been displaced as a result of climate change. There will have been still more destruction of Bangladeshi coastal communities, still more inundation of island communities and still more Cockermouths, and this process is accelerating.
The consequences of insufficient action will be devastating economically, will lead to massive flows of migration by climate refugees and will inevitably produce political tension, extremism and yet more terrorism. That is the harsh reality. Clearly, short-term, market-dominated ideology will not provide the answers. The imperative is a long-term, inclusive, mutually supportive plan with precise undertakings for action and with firm target dates. Preparation for this will surely necessitate more frequent meetings than the mere two planned before Mexico. There will have to be high-level, authoritative ministerial representation at them all, able to speak for Governments as a whole. There must be specific target outcomes for each meeting and these outcomes must be reached however many nights it takes. There should really be just one meeting place where all these meetings take place to provide the concentrated effort required and to build up the administrative resources essential for success. Above all, there must be visionary and courageous political leadership able to rise above the destructive cynicism of the media at their worst. Again, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have been demonstrating what it takes. They deserve our full-hearted support.
We should have no illusions. Without a legally binding agreement in Mexico in December, we shall be back on the road to the catastrophe that awaits us. We must have the agreed means to control emissions, ensuring no more than a 2 degrees centigrade rise; otherwise, we are set for 4 degrees centigrade at least, with all the nightmares that will follow. Without an agreement, there is a real risk that the rich country emissions will be higher in 2020 than in 1990.
As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, pointed out so well, a key contextual issue simply has to be addressed if failure is to be averted. We have to understand that vast numbers of people in the underprivileged world resent being constantly told by the affluent nations what they must and must not do in the cause of humanity’s survival. They see us as the people who literally polluted our way to wealth. They already pay the price in the vicious effects of climate change. But they are not mad. They are not to be patronised. What they want is a real and substantive shared ownership of the agenda and the outcomes, not coerced acceptance of these outcomes. It is not enough to want to provide them with help in preparing for negotiations, worthy though that may be. It is not enough to be enlightened towards them in negotiations. What is indispensable is a reality in which the agreed agenda is as much theirs as ours and reflects their priorities as well as ours. The $100 billion so far promised to address their special needs is reckoned by most informed front-line operators to be only half of what it should be and there is no transparent evidence that it will be additional to funds already pledged for development. The industrial world has to do better than this if the prospects for success are to be strengthened.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a director of the renewable energy companies listed in the Register.
The recent abrupt and startling rise of CO2 in the atmosphere means that levels are now twice as high as the previous peak some 130,000 years ago. This should make us profoundly nervous. However, putting the brake on will not be easy in a world facing rapid rises in both population and prosperity. We saw at Copenhagen just how politically difficult putting on that brake will be. That should not surprise us. As we know, the whole fabric of our economies and our societies is bound up at every turn with energy overwhelmingly produced from hydrocarbons, distributed by long-developed infrastructures and harnessed via myriad machines, technologies and devices. Changing these embedded structures and, indeed, how we live and work from day to day will be very hard and, unavoidably, costly.
We need now to explore those measures that will ease, if not eliminate, the awesome political challenge that the world faces. The biggest, though certainly not the only, opportunity is likely to be to use electricity to supply the bulk of our energy needs and to produce that electricity from nuclear and renewable sources. Carbon capture may be part of the answer, but I would not yet bet the ranch on that. Perhaps one day in the next half century fusion technology may unlock the boundless energy present in every atom and truly ride to the world’s rescue, but in the near term a focus on electricity from nuclear and renewable sources is the safety-first approach.
The consequences of that are profound. Perhaps all Governments should agree a target that all the world’s travel by, say, 2040 should be powered by electricity or hydrogen. That would mean electric cars, for instance, and a suitable infrastructure to support them. Perhaps China would find it easier to agree that. Though normally I am a profound believer in the virtues of market mechanisms, in this instance I think that the world will need to supplement a market framework on carbon pricing with some such agreed measures and a coherent approach to investment in research and development.
We need to focus on the enormous whole-system energy loss—some 80 per cent—that occurs between the energy source and the final productive use worldwide. We need the obligatory and internationally agreed designing-out of chronic energy inefficiency in many household devices. We need to identify what a modern national grid in a world of dispersed energy sources would look like. We need to invest in technologies that effectively and efficiently harness wave, tidal and solar power. We need to consider how to approach the manifest waste of energy—for example, empty office blocks illuminating the night. Finally, I suggest that, after the so-called chaos of Copenhagen, there is a pressing need for some new global institutions to underpin the world’s efforts and to address the biggest collective challenge that this planet has yet faced.
My Lords, two years before the Copenhagen conference, the UN Secretary-General wrote in the Washington Post:
“We must set an agenda—create a road map to the future, coupled with a time line that produces a deal by 2009”.
Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, wrote in June in The Road to Copenhagen:
“December 2009 is a make-or-break moment for the future of our planet”.
I repeat: “make-or-break”. Those challenges manifestly have not been met and the responses to the outcome of Copenhagen range from disappointing to disastrous. Key questions remain unresolved, including bankable emission reduction targets, the level and timing of financial and technological transfers to the developing world, on which my noble friends Lady Jay and Lord Judd spoke so well, and even transparency in monitoring and verification.
What will future historians make of the conference? Was it a depressing stage on the route to a massive failure by the international community or, let us hope, the best deal in the circumstances—a necessary part of the journey to a binding and verifiable legal treaty? I shall make three brief points.
First, the conference was an illumination of the change in the world power balance. Certainly historians will note that it marks such a transition, as evidenced by those countries that reached the Copenhagen accord. It was also significant for the relative lack of impact by the European Community.
Secondly, the starting point is, of course, the recognition by so many countries that the pollution over the past century and more leaves a great debt to the developing world by those of us who have benefited from pollution in the past. My noble friend Lord Giddens stated that the US and China account for 40 per cent of emissions.
Yet there is also a responsibility on the developing world. The conference failed to address many other causes of carbon dioxide increase, including from world population growth, a subject that did not figure in the accord. That is all the more surprising given that the UN Population Fund had just published its report The State of World Population 2009, showing a link between population growth and climate change that is complex but real. It is in part about our growing numbers—now approximately 7 billion, an increase of 200,000 a day or 80 million a year, which outpaces the earth’s capacity to adjust. The UN report states that greenhouse gases would not be accumulating so haphazardly had not the number of the earth’s inhabitants increased so rapidly and that the connection between population growth and the accumulation of greenhouse gases has barely featured in scientific and diplomatic discussions. The report mentions the importance of stabilising population by,
“Universal access to voluntary family planning”,
as a key intervention. The status of women is central in that. This is a sensitive factor, which, perhaps, explains why so many countries shied away from this linkage.
Equally, there should be a recognition that the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere results from a number of sources, not just fossil fuels but those related to human activity. These include unsustainable farming and forestry methods that promote the loss of vegetation—“sinks”—and the release of greenhouse gases. At the conference, there was some genuflection on reforestation. It is surely relevant in this context that the population of Africa is projected to double to 1 billion. How many of its delegates to Copenhagen accept the case, for example, for moderating that increase by giving women increased status and the facilities to choose their family size?
What are the lessons for the future? How do we prevent the momentum generated at Copenhagen from stalling? Could the conference have been better prepared? How do we avoid the procedural chaos? Is there a case for separating the discussion into regional and thematic groups, as suggested recently in the Economist? Objective observers praised the role of the UK Government and we now need to prepare for the coming conferences in Bonn and Mexico, recognising the necessity of dialogue and of avoiding accusations of diktat to the developing world and seeking creative ways of preventing the recurrence of the procedural wrangles that characterised Copenhagen.
Finally, we should recognise the gap between the necessary reduction and the pledges. In short, we should seek urgent agreement on the next steps, so that the UN Secretary-General’s call two years ago for a road map for the future can be produced with clear timelines. I look forward to hearing the Government’s response from my noble friend on the Front Bench.
My Lords, as always, it is a privilege to take part in a debate in this House on this subject. I speak as a farmer who has endured too many wet harvests to be unduly concerned about a couple of weeks of somewhat gloomy weather coming out of a place called Copenhagen. There is always next week and next year. I hope that the Minister, in his reply, will clearly indicate how he sees the process of moving the international agenda forward, because it is clear that with 180-odd nations meeting together for a fortnight, which, in itself, was a major achievement, and with at the end a general agreement for action, this area of international work will be vital.
It is worth noting that the world’s two greatest economies, which are inevitably the world’s two greatest producers of greenhouse gases, are also the world’s two greatest investors in sustainable energy. Perhaps that is inevitably just a matter of scale, but we need to be a little careful about how we castigate places for not being interested in this subject. Those countries are, of course, the United States and China. The USA is blessedly open in its information systems and it is a fact that it has allocated $150 billion from its economic recovery programme to create jobs in the sustainable energy field. The USA actually has a target of producing 10 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2012—that is the President’s ambition—and that 25 per cent of its electricity should be produced from sustainable resources by 2025. If the President has his way, which I shall consider in a moment, he would wish to have in place an economy-wide emissions trading scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent from the 2005 position by 2050. I have no doubt that Congress will have a great deal to say on this, but the fact of the matter is that a great deal of scientific and political opinion in the United States would support that position. We should not denigrate it. With regard to the United States, we also need to recognise that, rather unlike this country, which is now very unitary, individual states can also act, and do.
Sadly, there is less information about what is happening in China. China would greatly enhance its reputation internationally if it had the sort of open system that the Americans have. We know pretty much what the situation is across Europe. The European Emissions Trading Scheme works very well in some ways but it has been a profit centre for some of our industries because of the allocation of certificates. This morning, I received a very disconcerting report on the potential for fraud within that market. We shall need to think about that.
However, I emphasise that the three largest economic or trading groupings in the world are now all trying to move in a similar direction. If that is the case, my view is that, even if there is no international agreement, the inevitability of the consequences of that major move will drag the rest of the world along, despite anything that countries might feel. We live in a global economy. The businesses and industries that survive will be those that are capable of universal application across the whole planet and of being economically viable across the whole planet. We cannot absolutely predict where the road to 2050 will take us but we are travelling along it, perhaps slightly more slowly than we would have wished post-Copenhagen, but we are none the less travelling along it. We may not know the exact destination but we are certainly making progress.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for initiating this debate. I was at Copenhagen for the second week of the conference. I was there as an independent, as a professor at the London School of Economics and as chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and I was working very closely with Governments from Europe, Africa, the United States, India and others. I pay tribute to the leadership of the UK authorities—the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State—for their very strong input.
The outcome was disappointing in many respects and chaotic in others but there was significant progress. At Copenhagen we laid the foundation for future work. It is very important to be specific about that, not general and hand-waving, and I should like briefly to talk specifically about what was achieved and where we go from here. I look forward very much to sitting down with the noble Lord, Lord Lea, and looking at questions of discounting and economics. I have sent him some literature and we are going to go through it together. I have dealt in print very robustly with the points that he makes.
For those who raised questions about the science, let us remember that this is about risk. This is 19th-century science, which is very well founded on basic physics, and it shows convincingly that the risks are very big. Is everything tied up? Of course not, but the argument that the risks are very big is clear. Although questioning is very good and should happen, those who want to do nothing on the basis of questioning the science will have to show that they are very confident that the risks are small. That is a very hard ask, given the evidence.
So what were the positives at Copenhagen? There was agreement on a figure of 2 degrees centigrade. The United States and China got together, with great difficulty but specifically and for the very first time, to discuss and propose action, along with other key players—in this case, Brazil, India and South Africa. On the road to Copenhagen, many targets were proposed by individual countries—indeed, most of them. I could go on. On transparency and monitoring, there was progress. Setting up work to show how new sources of funding can generate at least the $100 billion a year that we should be looking for was progress too, and I worked closely with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia in trying to take that forward. I could go on but those are specific things of real value in the Copenhagen accord.
What were the negatives? There was no explicitness on overall emissions targets, although they follow very quickly from the issue of the 2 degrees centigrade, and there was no requirement for the individual country commitments to add up to the overall targets that we need. Those are serious drawbacks or negatives, and of course the Copenhagen accord drawn up by those five countries was simply noted by the assembly. Those were the negatives but we should not lose sight of the clear positives that came out. Our analysis of the way forward follows directly from the foundations that were laid.
I want to say one or two words on the substance and one or two on the process. On the substance, we have to get specific on what the 2 degrees centigrade means. It means at least 50 per cent cuts for the world as a whole from 1990 to 2050, going well below 20 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2050. That is the implication; let us just acknowledge that explicitly and then make sure that the individual country targets add up to be consistent with that. Some of us have done some work on what they do add up to. The targets are not near enough yet but they are not so far away that with strong further commitment, with people going to the upper end of their scale and with some tightening in key countries we could not set ourselves on that path by 2050. However, it will need strong action.
There are many things to do in demonstrating what does and does not work. However, there are many examples of countries and communities making very strong investments and investments in R&D. I join my noble friend Lord Browne in emphasising the importance of private firms in this regard. We should also recognise that some of the countries that have been criticised as a result of Copenhagen—I think particularly of China—have invested in railways and solar and wind energy,
Those are examples of where we have to go forward. I hope that the high-level panel on finance will be established before too long and that it will get down to doing its work. One could go on, but all this extra work following Copenhagen has to be based on a recognition not only of the great dangers of inaction but also of the huge opportunities from setting forward strongly on the path of a new energy revolution. In my view, it is an energy and industrial revolution that will be more dynamic than that of the railways, electricity or even, more recently, information technology. There is a huge opportunity to avoid the great danger that we face.
Very briefly on the process, we must use small groups. I agree very much with the sentiment expressed by my noble friend Lord Giddens and others. A small group was put together in Copenhagen. It happened a bit late—more or less on the Wednesday night/Thursday morning of the second week—but it exists and it could be taken forward. I hope that the Secretary-General of the UN will do exactly that, together with Calderón, who will chair the next COP. Europe must get together much more strongly. I think that it can, and indeed must, in order to be more effective as we go forward.
Finally and most importantly on the subject of the process, we must, as a rich country, work together much more closely with the developing world. A fundamental mistake in the run-up to Copenhagen was that the rich countries got together, worked out what they thought and then tried to put it to the developing countries. They may not have thought that they were doing that, but that was certainly the perception of the developing countries and there is some evidence for that view. We have to ensure that proposals are put together in a collaborative way that recognises that the two defining problems of our century are overcoming poverty and managing climate change, and we have to deal with them together. Confrontation with people who are seen as miscreants, difficult or recalcitrant just will not work. The propositions and processes have to be collaborative.
My Lords, it falls to me as the last Back-Bench speaker to thank my noble friend Lord Stone on having stimulated an extremely informed and informative debate.
The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was probably unfairly billed as the last chance for world leaders to agree an international climate agreement that would prevent global temperatures increasing by 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels—the figure that the International Panel on Climate Change recommended as being the safe limit. It is worth noting that it is a figure that is already viewed by many of the more obviously vulnerable states as being too high.
It is divisions such as that between developed and developing nations that illustrate the difficulty in driving forward any effective global response, with the result that, in the short term at least, the future of our planet remains very much in the hands of individual Governments, businesses and communities. To borrow a phrase from Shakespearean tragedy, the “corrupted currents of the world” have worked in such a way as to ensure that the response of a minority of nations to this unparalleled threat has been little more than an exercise in the worst form of geopolitical cynicism.
So, as ever, it will all come down to people: people in the form of bold political leadership and consistent upward pressure from across the whole of civil society. It is my hope that the democratising power of technology will enable citizens—most particularly young people—to make their voices heard in such a way as to make it impossible for the world’s political leaders to ignore them.
At national level, the UK is already legally bound by the Climate Change Act to reduce greenhouse emissions by at least 34 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050 when compared to 1990 levels. A series of five-year carbon budgets established by this House will hopefully ensure that these long-term goals are met. This means that, regardless of what replaces the Kyoto Protocol, we as a nation are already committed to the type of tough emission reduction targets that are likely to involve substantial and difficult changes to society as we know it.
Until now, that has been a very hard sell politically. People are understandably reluctant to change aspects of their lifestyle that they have come to enjoy and take for granted. They also, equally understandably, cling to any thread of hope that encourages them to believe that perceptible sacrifice might prove unnecessary. I was reminded of this at the weekend when reading Max Hastings’s excellent recounting of Churchill’s war years. On page 112 of his book he quotes the MP Harold Nicolson as remarking that:
“As long as Britain appeared to face imminent catastrophe, its people displayed notable fortitude … it was a striking feature of British wartime behaviour that the moment peril fractionally receded, many ordinary people allowed themselves to nurse fantasies that their ordeal might soon be over and the spectre of war had been banished”.
By exploiting this all too human trait, those who for many years cynically promoted the belief that there was no proven connection between smoking and lung cancer were able to spin a web of confusion, leading in many cases to fatal delay. It is my personal belief that their direct successors, those who promote the interests of nations and companies to whom global action to avert climate catastrophe represents a similar commercial threat, will be exposed over time in the same way as have the tobacco kings and their lobbyists who, by spending millions actively peddling ignorance, now stand guilty for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.
In the United States, there is even disturbing evidence that some of the cancer deniers and the more recent climate deniers are in fact one and the same. I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Donoughue does not like the word “denier”, but I would be happy to share the evidence with him.
It is to be hoped that science and common sense will see off this pernicious fifth column. However, if we are successfully to tackle climate change, we must assiduously promote the opportunities that a low-carbon economy will create and enable people to see the tangible benefits of changing their behaviour, not just for themselves but for successive generations. Only by supporting a bottom-up approach to climate change mitigation as well as a top-down one will we in this country unleash the type of powerful entrepreneurial community spirit that is capable of delivering financial and environmental returns to the benefit of our own people and of the planet in general.
The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, of which I had the privilege of being founding chair, has done exactly that through its Big Green Challenge, a competition to encourage local communities to reduce carbon emissions by offering a £1 million prize. The initiative triggered a response from more than 350 community-led organisations, 10 of which over the past year have received specialist support and start-up funding as finalists. Yesterday three joint winners were announced: the Green Valleys, based in the Brecon Beacons in Wales; the Household Energy Service, based in Ludlow, Shropshire; and the Isle of Eigg in Scotland, along with an admirable runner-up, Low Carbon West Oxford. During the past year alone, these community groups have cumulatively cut CO2 emissions by an impressive 15 per cent—a figure that is set to treble within the next three years, representing a significant step towards achieving the Government’s 2020 target.
As I see it, the success of the competition provides all the evidence that you could need for a new, or at least additional, approach by policymakers, one in which small, cost-effective and scalable initiatives are able to demonstrate the vital role communities can play in tackling climate change. In Europe, similar community-based schemes have been reducing emissions for years, most notably in Denmark and Germany where favourable tax and regulatory incentives encourage people to invest in local renewable energy schemes. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Germans have invested in citizens’ wind farms, a sector that now employs 90,000 people and generates 8 per cent of that country’s electricity.
Copenhagen has shown that to achieve a consensus among the world’s nations can be as tortuous as it is time-consuming; time that the world simply does not have. While politicians squabble over targets, serious and sensible communities everywhere are beginning to roll up their sleeves and take responsibility for the crucial business of reducing emissions on their own patch. But they need support, and that support has to be both financial and regulatory. Following the disappointment of Copenhagen, surely this is the very least that we can do in our attempt to secure the future of generations as yet unborn.
My Lords, I had not expected to be able to speak in this debate, and I apologise to the five speakers whose contributions I did not hear. I declare an interest as a director of energy companies.
What prompts me to intervene is what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, who has rather greater experience of the energy sector than I have. He stressed the importance of thinking now about the structure of carbon markets and financing mechanisms. I agree that this is a priority task now, for three reasons. First, if we are to have a global market in carbon permits and offsets, there will need to be a global regulator verifying them. Secondly, more controversially, if we are to have monitoring of national commitments to emissions reductions, there will have to be an international monitor verifying that the reductions happen. Thirdly, if there is to be substantial investment in developing countries, as I hope there will be, the donors will insist on some verification mechanism to ensure that the investments paid for actually happen.
The United Nations is not ideally suited either to drawing up blueprints for any of those three tasks or to carrying them out. The IMF and IBRD precedents are much more relevant, with their qualified majority voting and constituency arrangements as well as the experience of the SDR.
I am struck by the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, whose expertise on the United Nations is well known, is clearly of the same view; he calls for the Government to ask the EU, well before Mexico City, to draw up a proposed blueprint for the global monitoring and verification mechanisms. That is an extremely good suggestion, and I will be interested to hear how the Minister responds to it.
I have one other point. We do not need to waste too much time in gloom about the absence of so-called legally binding commitments, or a treaty, coming out of Copenhagen. What is the meaning of a legally binding commitment if there is no law, no verification and no enforcement authority? It does not mean anything; it is like passing a law that says we will reduce the deficit by so much by a particular time. It is what you do, not what you say, that matters. All our Governments across the EU are not yet doing nearly enough on carbon capture and storage, on clean coal, on hydro and, perhaps most of all, on nuclear, to deliver the reality that would match the rhetoric. It is not terribly important whether we commit ourselves to 20 per cent or 30 per cent rhetorically; what matters is whether we have any underlying intention to deliver the reality.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for this debate. I apologise that I was not here for the first 30 seconds of his address to us.
I am afraid that I belong to the Lord Whitty school that believes Copenhagen was a failure. The quotes from the President of the United States, from the Prime Minister of India and from South Africa show that many of the participants who brought the accord together are probably of the same view. Having said that, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stone, that out of that failure come more opportunities for the change that is needed to make future agreements more robust than they might otherwise have been. We should remember that Kyoto, which we look back to as the first model, has hardly been a great success in delivering climate change action since it was agreed in 1997.
In Copenhagen we saw a major shift in geopolitical power which perhaps points the way to the future. The agreement was brought together primarily by the United States and China, with South Africa, India and Brazil there as well, and the European Union very much on the sidelines. The European Union had been unified and set the pace on climate negotiations but it was left outside during that crucial period. I think that that will have consequences. Huge improvement is also needed in the United Kingdom’s future performance. Its leadership is undoubted, but Europe will need to look at this carefully.
One of the main things to come out of this debate were the contributions by the noble Lords, Lord Ryder and Lord Browne, on business. Copenhagen undermines business and industry’s investment and forward thinking about whether this agenda will last. The decisions that they make in the world’s corporate boardrooms will reflect this agenda into the future.
I should like to ask the Government some specific questions although I realise that they will not have exact answers after a conference which was held less than a month ago. In terms of signatories, the accord has two blank pages at the end. It also simply notes the agreement. Do the Government know who will be signing the agreement by the end of this month, which is the deadline?
Verification is one of the most positive moves in the accord. I recently read a history of the Reagan Administration. Although he is not one of my role models, one of his watchwords during the negotiations with the Soviet Union on mid-range missiles was “trust but verify”. I think that that very much reflects the current view not only of the United States but of the European Union. China may have agreed the principle of that, but it does not like it. There is no way forward for a robust agreement without that working. I would be interested to hear the Government’s views on it.
One of the sectors which has not been mentioned at all is international aviation and shipping. Where will that go from here? It was left out of Kyoto and we need it as part of the future agreement. Will it be included as a separate sector and will it be part of national targets? Do the Government believe that it will be included, and will they press for its inclusion?
One of the other more positive areas was the great progress made on deforestation. How do the Government think practical action on the momentum built up in Copenhagen—in what was in many ways a separate track—will develop in the short term so that the momentum is not lost? As for the developed world’s commitment to developing nations, on which there were numbers in the accord, I would be interested to hear the Government’s view on whether there will be new money or whether it will come out of the Environmental Transformation Fund announced, I think, in 2009. It is important that there is a new money element.
The biggest question has to be whether there is a real chance that there will be what we call a legally binding agreement where people actually make written commitments to deliver. That is of great importance. But will China and some of the developing world ever agree with that? Pragmatically, we need to take action on climate change as a global community. The United States, China, Japan, the European Union and India create two-thirds of the world’s emissions and contain more than half of the world’s population. If nothing else, let us take action there, through the G20 or wherever. One of the things that worries me most is that the parties process will become a Doha process—the Dohaisation of Copenhagen. That would be its death. It might not matter to the world community whether we have a free trade agreement in the next two or three years but it is vital that we have a climate change agreement.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for calling this debate, which has allowed the House the opportunity to discuss the outcome of the Copenhagen conference. I declare an interest in that I am governor of Imperial College, one of the world’s leading universities in the study of climate change. Climate change is without a doubt the biggest global challenge to mankind. At present we are on track for at least a 2 per cent or 3 per cent rise in global temperatures which, if ignored, would have a disastrous outcome for all. After the many great speeches we have heard today, no one could argue how important it is that we protect the environment and make real efforts to reverse the damage that has already been caused.
Last year’s Copenhagen conference was attended by 110 world leaders, including leaders from the likes of China and America, which combined are responsible for almost half of all global carbon emissions. There is no question but that climate change will be central to the political thinking of every country on the planet.
The Copenhagen conference had, and has, huge potential to facilitate truly historic global deals that could greatly affect the health of the planet for generations to come. Meanwhile, delays in reaching such deals will come with increasing human, environmental and economic cost. That is why it is such a great shame that this last meeting achieved such limited success. Some progress was made but the accord is far from the set of arrangements necessary to make real headway. It is defined chiefly by what is absent from it and, as we all know, it is not legally binding. It is vague about where the funding for adaptation will come from and contains nothing to indicate the scale or timing of the carbon reductions required of the world, or, indeed, of any particular country.
In the days after the conference the Prime Minister said that the negotiations had been held to ransom by only a handful of countries. Newspaper articles described how China’s most senior delegates snubbed the leaders of the developing countries by walking out. A poor leadership and an unconvincing level of ambition have been blamed for the failures of Copenhagen. This must not be repeated at talks in Mexico later this year. What plans are the Government putting in place to improve relations between countries and correct some of the issues that stunted development last year?
The failings of Copenhagen require us to face up to the fact that we need countries such as China and India on board. These and other parts of the developing world cannot simply be overlooked or assumed away. No meaningful global deal can be done without them. Does not the Minister see that it is crucial to find a solution to the question of how cutting current and future emissions can be compatible with development? What we need to do now is understand why these nations considered a real deal to be against the interests of their own people. Although the process was flawed, COP15 did not fail just because of process. There were significant and genuine differences of opinion which even the most perfect process could not have hidden. It is very important for us to know what the Minister is doing to bridge those differences of opinion and priority. Blaming these nations for being obstructive is not the answer. It is clear that we need to amend our methods both around the negotiating table and in the public domain.
Has the Minister considered how we can change our approach to the politics of climate change and make our country’s policy clear to all, thus giving it the best chance of being successful—not least, of course, to businesses? As the head of corporate sustainable development at E.ON said:
“Having long-term targets in place is absolutely critical to energy companies … we’re making investments now for 30 years or more into the future”.
I am sure that the noble Lords, Lord Browne of Madingley and Lord Kerr, and my noble friend Lord Ryder would support and sympathise with this view of business needs. As has been said several times today, we need new international bodies to ensure that there is a level playing field for all of us to be able to get out there and go for the best deals we can for our own countries.
Despite the gruelling and disappointing process that culminated at Copenhagen, the accord helps to define a pathway that closes the gap between the current state of affairs and a set of agreements that are robust enough to prevent dangerous anthropogenic global warming. It is essential, as we have heard many times here today, to have a clear strategy. That is what we seek. We cannot go on like this. If stronger agreements are not made, if a broadening of the conference is not achieved, and if a profound change of approach from the world’s wealthiest countries to secure a genuine, strong and fair agreement is not reached, we will be condemning millions of the world’s poorest people to hunger, suffering and loss of life as climate change accelerates.
The noble Lord, Lord Stern, said that it is all about risk. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London reminded us that making profound common cause, as faith communities worldwide are striving to do, is how we will find the wisdom we so badly need and how we will care for the common good of our people and the safety of our planet.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for allowing us to have an interesting and important debate. The Government have listened carefully to the constructive comments that have been made by noble Lords as we decide what further action we need to take in the next few weeks and in the lead-up to Mexico. I appreciated my noble friend’s positive message and thoughtful comments. We went to Copenhagen seeking an ambitious agreement. As the noble Lords, Lord Browne and Lord Lea, suggested, they were very challenging goals. It may be, as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, said, that we were buoyed on a substantive froth of optimism, a view which my noble friend Lord Giddens did not share.
I believe that it was right to be ambitious and I would defend that position very much indeed. However, we did not achieve all our aims. As the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, said, the process of managing negotiations was unwieldy and it inhibited progress. Many countries present felt a sense of exclusion from the progress made in other forums in the run-up to the summit, and we could not bridge the gap between key developing countries on a legal treaty.
I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that the Government are not complacent about the outcome of Copenhagen. As the noble Lord, Lord Browne, suggested, we should not allow our frustration to obscure the progress that was made. As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, suggested, the appearance of so many world leaders was in itself significant. The accord was agreed by a group representing 49 developed and developing countries, which together account for more than 80 per cent of global emissions. That accord endorsed the limit of 2 degrees of warming as the benchmark for global progress. Unlike in other previous agreements, not only developed but many developing countries agreed to make specific commitments to tackle emissions to be lodged in the agreement by 31 January. For the first time, we can be assured that countries are acting as they say they will. All countries signed up to comprehensive measurement, reporting and verification of progress.
On finance, which I shall turn to in detail in a moment, there are significant short-term and long-term commitments made by the rich world to developing countries, including immediate finance worth $10 billion a year by 2012, with a total of up to $2.4 billion from the UK. As the noble Lord, Lord Stern, said, we need to work on that. We have made some progress and we need to work with it.
As regards aviation and shipping, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that I understand that at Copenhagen there was a lot of discussion which did not make it into the accord. The high-level panel that is to be established to look at sources of finance can look at ways of raising finance from that sector. He will know that the EU has taken significant action in that area.
I also take on board the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London about the work of community and religious organisations. I hope that globally they will continue to work and influence, will spread the message and unlock the resources of altruism, as he said, and pressure. My noble friend Lord Puttnam talked not only about the pressure that we should encourage communities to put on their leaders, but also the local ingenuity of communities to rise to the momentous challenge that we face.
Some interesting comments have been made about what might be described as the international architecture for agreement on climate change. My noble friend Lord Giddens in particular talked about the potential role of the G20, and that was echoed by my noble friend Lady Jay and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. My noble friend Lord Anderson suggested the potential of other groupings of countries. Those were all most helpful suggestions and comments that we will need to consider as we take forward progress in the next few weeks and months.
I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Maclennan, about the role of the EU. It is important that it continues to show leadership in this area. Some noble Lords have expressed disappointment about the role of the EU in Copenhagen, but it is fair to say that it was at the formal meeting on the accord. Noble Lords commented about various side meetings that took place during that process and, clearly, we want the EU to be a major player. I believe that it was in the lead-up to Copenhagen and it is important that it continues to do that. Nowhere is that more apposite than in relation to the 30 per cent target. The EU always made it clear that it would move from 20 to 30 per cent reductions by 2020, provided that others make comparable commitments. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said that he wants Europe to be able to go to 30 per cent as part of our work to encourage maximum ambition from other countries. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that we certainly want to avoid a race for the bottom. That is why it is important for the EU continues to be ambitious.
As regards the UN, its process can be slow and unwieldy, but we have to work within that and other suggestions that have been made. It is the one forum that brings all 192 countries together and we should welcome Ban Ki-Moon’s announcement for Copenhagen to establish a high-level panel to look at an international institute of architecture for climate change and development which will report in 2012.
We have debated climate science on a number of occasions. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, and my noble friend Lord Donoughue, who are not convinced of the science, that the overwhelming majority of leading climate scientists agree on the fundamentals that climate change is happening and has recently been caused by increased greenhouse gases from human activities. It is worth pointing out that 2000 to 2009 was the warmest decade on record. And, yes, the climate has varied naturally in the past: the medieval warm period and the little ice age have often been quoted as examples of previous temperature change. However, I do not think there is evidence that either of those periods of temperature change were seen globally—they were seen only in the northern hemisphere—whereas today’s changes are so observed. As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, said, the science was not an issue at Copenhagen, and the general direction of change is not in question. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis asked whether, in any case, we could really take the risk.
With regard to UEA, it is better for us to await the announcement of the independent review by Sir Muir Russell. It is worth saying that the work of the CRU at UEA has been confirmed by institutes in the US. I do not share the view of my noble friend Lord Lea of the Met Office and I respect its robustness and integrity.
The impact of climate change sceptics, as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, has been considerable in relation to the public and politicisation. He talked of the risk of politicisation of left and right, which I believe we must be wary of. Remarks were made on the role of the IPCC and we will need to reflect on that, but I understand that the IPCC involves many eminent scientists from many countries. There is extensive peer review and I understand that the process is very robust.
The noble Lords, Lord Oxburgh, Lord Ryder and Lord Dixon-Smith, all discussed the role of the US, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is fair to say that the US has moved a long way on climate change. It played an important part in the negotiations in Copenhagen and showed its willingness to contribute to longer-term climate finance. Let us hope that that is built on in the future.
On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ryder, that the US would not give money to China because of concerns about competitiveness, I understand his point. Anyone who has followed debates in the US Congress will understand that. It is worth saying that the US already contributes to a range of multilateral funds from which China benefits. I do not think that climate change is intrinsically any different, but the objective is to ensure that finance is allocated to the poorest and most vulnerable countries, particularly for adaptation. On the question of green protective zone and trade measures, we believe that border adjustment mechanisms, as they are colloquially described, are unhelpful, because they can have protectionist undertones. They also raise issues of complexity and bureaucracy and issues for business. We are wary of going down that path.
My noble friend Lord Hunt raised the issue of China. He felt that we were overoptimistic, but it is difficult to predict what will happen at the end of any multinational negotiation. Throughout 2009, we had regular and constructive conversations with most of the key players, including China, about their policies and the prospects for Copenhagen. We did not go to Copenhagen in any naive sense. This engagement suggested right up to the last moment that we could make progress on many of the key issues and that it might be possible to secure a timetable to a legal treaty. It is right, as I said earlier, that we remained ambitious and optimistic to the end. The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is right that we should not ignore the fact that China has already come forward with a mitigation offer. The noble Lord and my noble friend Lord Hunt are right to say that we have to continue the dialogue with China, and we will do so.
My noble friend Lady Jay and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made some powerful comments on the relationship between the developed and developing worlds and the relationship between poverty and global warming. My noble friend Lady Jay quoted extensively from the World Bank report. My noble friend Lord Judd also gave a number of explicit examples of the issues with which the poorest, most vulnerable developing countries are faced. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, talked about the significance of the relationship between poverty, developing countries and climate change, which has to be reflected in the negotiation architecture and process. That is a most important point.
Population growth is significant, too, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. A range of factors contribute to climate change, including population growth, but the real challenge, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, is that economic growth over coming decades will be dwarfed by the increase in carbon due to population. None the less, the Government fully support a rights-based approach to reproductive health, and I agree with him that it is important for the international community to engage in a progressive debate about population growth and climate change alongside other issues.
On the question of resources, I make it clear to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and my noble friend Lady Jay that of the £1.5 billion to which I have already referred, £700 million is new money. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, referred to the Government’s decision on where the climate finance is coming from, and he is right to say that some of it will come from existing official development assistance commitments, but we believe that a ceiling should be placed on that. As he said, we have agreed to limit such expenditure to up to 10 per cent of our official development assistance and no more. We are working towards this limit being agreed internationally. I shall reflect on what the noble Earl said about providing more clarity on this to developing countries, which was a very important point indeed.
My noble friend Lord Lea talked about the impact of climate change policies on life in this country and the cost and impact on individuals in terms of prices. Clearly, there is a debate to be had there. But we cannot ignore the impact and benefit of a low-carbon economy, because that is how this country can make huge advances in our economic prospects in the years ahead—to the energy sector, in particular.
That is a very helpful intervention, and I agree with my noble friend. However, I still think that we must focus on the benefits of a low-carbon economy. The noble Lords, Lord Oxburgh, Lord Rees and Lord James, talked about the potential of carbon capture and storage. I want to lay to rest the view that somehow the UK has suddenly lost its leadership role and that other countries are making much more progress.
I say at once that there is a lot of talk, but the UK remains a global leader in promoting the development of CCS. We are one of only five countries committed to supporting commercial-scale projects demonstrating the full chain of CCS. I understand that the UK is ranked second, after the US, in the Ernst & Young index of most attractive countries for accelerating the development of CCS. We also see great potential in the development of new nuclear. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rees, about worldwide R&D and I will do what I can to make sure that the UK plays a role. We should perhaps not debate wind today, but we are in a good position to exploit our wind resources. Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rees, on marine and tidal.
On geo-engineering, we agree with the view of the Royal Society report published in October last year that none of the geo-engineering options offers an alternative to emission reductions, but some may be useful in future to augment continuing efforts to migrate climate change through emission reduction. We will keep that under review, and I hope that that reassures my noble friend Lord Whitty. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, spoke about the need to focus on electricity. He will be aware of the Government’s policy, particularly in relation to transport, to do that. I agree with him about energy efficiency. We see smart meters as a great foundation for a smart grid, which I hope will allow for the kind of efficiencies to which he drew our attention.
Of course, we need to ensure the integrity of agreements by MRV and compliance, monitoring and verification. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, always has some very apposite points to make. I particularly noted his comments about whether the EU ought to put proposals on the table. I prefer not to give him a substantive response today, but I would like to consider that. That is interesting; I certainly accept that the EU can play an important role in the mitigation offer. We think that progress was made in the accord in that area, particularly in the reporting to which countries have agreed, but, at the end of the day, we must have integrity in monitoring and reporting.
The noble Lords, Lord Browne and Lord Teverson, raised the issue of forestry. We are committed to reaching agreement to reduce tropical deforestation by at least 50 per cent by 2020, and we think that the Copenhagen accord provides the basis for setting up a mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. A commitment was also made in the Copenhagen accord to provide financial support to address deforestation. I hope that noble Lords will accept that some progress has been made in that area.
Let me finish on adaptation. As my noble friend Lord Whitty said, some climate change is inevitable. My noble friend Lord Smith gave some very good illustrations of what is happening at the moment and why, alongside mitigation, adaptation measures must be taken. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her work on the adaptation sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change. The adaptation plan, which is to be be published in spring 2010, will be very important. All government departments are contributing to it. I very much echo the noble Baroness’s comments about the statutory responsibility being placed on public bodies, with an equivalent responsibility on local authorities, to prepare plans for adaptation. That will be significant in ensuring that, as infrastructure is developed, public authorities make decisions now based on climate change factors that are likely to impact on infrastructure in the years ahead. The role of the adaptation sub-committee, and the fact that the Government have to report to Parliament on those measures, will be a powerful way to ensure that adaptation is taken seriously, not as a substitute for mitigation, but very powerfully alongside it. I know that my colleagues in Defra regard the adaptation responsibility of that department as being of a very high order, and I very much echo that.
We did not achieve all that we wanted to achieve, and there is palpable disappointment. None the less, the accord provides some measure of achievement; it is very important that we work on it. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that I will not forecast here today how many more countries will have signed the accord by the end of the month; we must be ambitious. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, asked me about the Government's view of what we need to do. She is absolutely right: we must reflect on the things that did not go so right, on our negotiating strategy and how we can work in partnership with developing countries. These are matters that we need to take forward urgently. We will do so with vigour and enthusiasm, and with a degree of optimism. This has been a very helpful and useful debate, and I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part.
My Lords, I was urged to call this debate by warm, caring and sensitive friends and Members of this House who said that, even if this is not my area of expertise, what was needed now was a natural optimism and a tendency towards co-operation, collaboration and conflict resolution. It has been that kind of debate, and it will lift spirits. I am so grateful for all the knowledgeable, pertinent, informed and pragmatic contributions that we have heard today, and I thank my noble friend the Minister for his full, positive, substantive and embracing reply. His energy and drive is refreshing and effective.
My overall impression of this debate, this issue, this process, is similar to my deep feeling about another complex, large-scale, world-threatening condition in which I am somewhat involved—the conflict in the Middle East. In both these scenarios, people will suffer in their thousands and continue to die, experts know what should be done, the resources can be made available, but what is missing is the positive political will and co-operation and collaboration binding countries together.
Together with individuals and their community leaders, NGOs and their trustees, businesses and their management and Governments and their Ministers, bearing in mind that we are all interconnected and knowing that by acting together with dynamism and optimism, we can turn this to the betterment of all beings. I am heartened that there are many in this House who know that, speak it and live by it. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.