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Climate Change

Volume 753: debated on Thursday 3 April 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

My Lords, the Government welcome this expert and comprehensive appraisal of climate change impacts. Unmitigated climate change poses a risk to natural ecosystems, human health, global food security and economic development. A combination of adaptation and mitigation will help to reduce the scale of the risk. Even under all those scenarios, some risk will remain. The report represents a consensus of 310 scientific experts.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Would she agree that the first way in which people are likely to experience climate change is through food—its shortage and its price? The report suggests that wheat yields over the next decade will go down by 2% and over two or three decades by 25%; fish stocks in tropical areas will be down by 40% to 60%. What intergovernmental institutions and organisations are in place to plan for this scenario? What role are the United Kingdom Government playing in that?

My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord poses a number of serious issues that are facing us. As he is aware, the UK has a lead on many of these issues. We work very closely with our EU and international partners to ensure that all of us are signed up to trying to mitigate as much as we can the impact climate change will have on food, but—let us not be in any doubt—unless we bring forward processes, we will face huge difficulties in the future.

My Lords, this latest report clearly states that the impact of climate change by the latter years of the century is likely to be less than 2% of global income and will be small relative to other factors such as economic development. Given that the co-chair of that report, Chris Field, is on record as saying that the really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about management of climate change, would my noble friend agree that the time has come to congratulate my noble friend Lord Lawson, who has been saying exactly this for eight years? I declare my energy interests as listed in the register.

I am extremely grateful for my noble friend’s intervention highlighting the great work my noble friend Lord Lawson does in this field. However, as the noble Viscount will accept, I may not always agree with both noble friends. The report highlights the great risk of not doing anything. Whether you are sceptical of climate change or not, what we cannot allow to happen is to do nothing. It is really important, when leading scientists have produced evidence, that we respect that evidence and ensure that we respond to what is being told to us.

My Lords, given that the noble Baroness recently replied to a debate on promoting a low-carbon economy, would she spell out the huge business opportunities that arise from promoting that low-carbon economy? What are the Government doing to help those opportunities arise?

The noble Lord is absolutely right. Of course, we have seen a real increase in the low-carbon sector; in the renewable sector itself we have seen since 2010 over £36 billion of investment come to the UK. It is a £3.2 trillion global marketplace out there, of which we have a fair share of £128 billion. There is much more to do. There are great opportunities. As last week showed, Siemens sees the UK as an ideal place for investment, by investing over £300 million in Hull.

How will the results of the intergovernmental panel affect the position that the Government and their European Union partners are developing for next year’s framework convention conference in Paris?

My Lords, my noble friend knows of course that we work very closely with our European partners. We will of course push those that are slightly slower in coming forward in reducing their carbon emissions to do much better. We all need very ambitious targets. I hope that the conference will see that.

Is the Minister aware of the number of organisations asking for a single voice, or person, in government whom they can approach about, for example, taxation on different fuels, which does not take into account the advantages and disadvantages in terms of their impact on climate change? That is a particularly important point and the Government could move on it. Will the Minister listen to those many organisations that want a place to go in government with a single message about what government can do to relate to their need to improve performance?

The noble Lord is of course right to raise that, but I assure him that climate change is embedded in thinking across all departments.

In that case, my Lords, perhaps it might be time for the noble Baroness to comment on the fact that we have a climate change sceptic leading our environment department. How can that be?

My Lords, that would be unfair, given that the coalition Government have signed up to ensuring that we have made the largest investment in the green sector during our tenure.

My Lords, en passant I express my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Ridley. If I may say so, the Minister is quite mistaken in suggesting that the alternatives are either decarbonisation or doing nothing. The IPCC report says very clearly, first, that climate change is far less serious than other changes affecting the world at present and, secondly, that the most sensible response is adaptation, something that, as my noble friend said, I have been advocating for the past six years.

My Lords, if my noble friend had listened to my original Answer, he would have heard that it was about adaptation and mitigation. They both work hand in hand, rather than either/or.

My Lords, my noble friend expressed appreciation for the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. Would she like to take this opportunity to say how much we appreciate the enormously hard work undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and his committee?

Absolutely, my Lords. In this House we have experts from both sides of the argument, which is why it is crucial that when debates take place we hear and challenge both sides when we think that there is a challenge to be made.

My Lords, would it conceivably help if the Minister could persuade some of the deniers to go down to the West Country and the Levels to help with the dredging and digging?

My Lords, what we have witnessed is a severe weather event. What we need to do is to have mitigation systems in place to ensure that those local residents do not have to suffer again as they have done.