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Climate Change

Volume 720: debated on Tuesday 6 July 2010

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to implement the recommendations in the report of the Committee on Climate Change published on 30 June.

We welcome the committee’s second annual report on the UK’s progress in meeting its carbon budgets. The Government believe that climate change is one of the most serious threats that the world faces and we are committed to playing our part in moving to a low-carbon economy. The Government will consider the report in detail and formally respond to it by 15 October 2010, as set out in the Climate Change Act.

I am glad that the Government welcome the report, which argues that the voluntary and light-touch regulation has not really worked. The committee’s strong and urgent recommendation is for much tougher and stronger regulation. How do the Government reconcile this with their free market policies and their promises of less regulation?

I thank the noble Lord for his question but, as I said, we will look at the report in detail and respond in October. We will have a debate on that in the Lords, as we did last year. If I may say so, that debate held this House in very good shape. We had a strong debate of all the arguments from both side of the House. Obviously, I have read the report and, in fact, have it in front of me. We agree with many of the recommendations that the committee has made, particularly the main one that we must not rely on the recession to meet our targets. The report gives us a platform from which to accelerate and we clearly need to have a step change. All these things, including regulation, will be considered by us in greater detail as we take on board what the committee has said.

My Lords, one of the key areas for action in the report is road transport travel, which accounts for 25 per cent of emissions. How do the Government intend to fulfil the coalition agreement and set up a system of national charging networks for electric vehicles without putting undue pressure on public expenditure?

I thank the noble Lord for that. The electric vehicle charging network is a very key and fundamental part of the coalition’s policy, but it cannot be done by magic. It needs detailed planning and a lot of work needs to be done, including assessing what it will cost the taxpayer and what incentives are needed to establish it. As I said, we shall look at that in the recess to establish what is required.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Government’s own adviser, Mr Bob Wigley, has added his recommendations to those of the Committee on Climate Change? Included in his recommendations are increased rates for companies that do not take energy conservation measures and penalising householders who fail to undertake insulation measures. Are the Government telling us that we will have to wait till October to hear their view on their own adviser’s supplementary recommendations?

My Lords, I have to point out that Mr Bob Wigley is not a government adviser. He was set up to deliver—

Yes, he was, absolutely. I thank noble Lords for listening to what I am saying. That is a great start. He was encouraged to set up a plan for the Green Investment Bank, which he has done. Therefore, he is not a government adviser. He has pointed us in a number of directions in terms of reforming the climate change market and we are grateful for his views.

My Lords, in the debate on the Queen’s Speech, I drew the House’s attention to the recently published Hartwell paper, which argues that there needs to be a new approach to dealing with the huge problem of climate change, to which my noble friend has referred. Will he give me an undertaking that the Government will study the Hartwell paper, as it seems to me to have a good deal of wisdom in it?

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for inviting me to comment on the Hartwell report as I have studied it, which gives me a few brownie points. It raises a number of points of interest, some of which we agree with and some of which we do not. Among other things, it draws attention to the need for energy efficiency, which is high on our list of priorities, and investment in non-carbon energy supplies, which again is high on our list of priorities and is hard to argue against. A lot of things in the report were agreeable but some were not. We shall consider them in the recess and bring them together in a debate in the autumn.

My Lords, in reading the report has the noble Lord looked at the section relating to the committee’s concern about the delays in the development of wind farms due to delays in the planning system? He will know that the previous Government established the Infrastructure Planning Commission as a way through this. Why are the Government now abolishing the IPC? Will that not bring about the very concerns about which the committee has complained; that is, insecurity and indecision inhibiting the development of wind energy in this country?

I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was not present at yesterday’s Question Time—of course, we missed him—when that question was posed by noble Lords on his Benches. We disbanded the IPC because it was not making enough progress on planning. As the noble Lord rightly said, planning is critical. However, it has been slow and logjammed. We intend to change that.

We cannot hear both noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has already asked a question. Why do we not hear from the noble Earl, Lord Onslow?

My Lords, can my noble friend explain why temperatures have not increased at all—if anything, they have slightly reduced globally since 1998—while the amount of carbon dioxide introduced into the air has increased enormously?

I do not know where my noble friend gets his information from, because temperatures have increased by more than 0.15 per cent per decade since the mid-1970s, and since 1997 we have had the hottest 10 years on record. So I am afraid that I cannot answer his question.