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Climate Change

Volume 754: debated on Tuesday 17 June 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to strengthen global co-operation in order to meet the challenges of climate change and to ensure that the United Kingdom is an example of effective support for environmental protection and emission reduction.

My Lords, the Government work through multilateral organisations such as the UN, the G20 and the G7, among others, to encourage greater co-operation in tackling climate change, including through the UNFCCC, where we are seeking to agree in 2015 a new international and legally binding rule-based agreement to limit global emissions post-2020. The last UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Warsaw at the end of 2013 saw all nations agreeing to start or intensify domestic preparations for a global climate change deal in 2015 and to work on a programme and timetable for this progress.

Would the Minister agree with the estimate that to avoid catastrophic consequences global warming must be contained to 2%? Would she also agree that as things stand, the world is on track for 3% to 5%? Is it not therefore absolutely essential that the Government stand firmly by their 50% carbon reduction target and do not in any way back-track? Is it not essential that they use this commitment within the European Union to persuade the Union to move beyond its totally inadequate target of 40%? Would she also agree that at the UN climate summit in September this year, we should use that commitment to galvanise the action necessary for a successful agreement at the world leaders’ summit next year?

The noble Lord is of course right that we need to have ambitious but cost-effective targets. We need the European Commission’s 2030 framework to be urgently agreed, which will adopt the 40% that the noble Lord mentioned. However, we have a more ambitious target to work towards—50%—in the context of an ambitious global agreement. That is what the United Kingdom is working hard to get.

My Lords, is it not high time that the Government recognise that there is no point in damaging British industry and hurting the poor by setting an example which most of the rest of the world has not the slightest intention of emulating?

My Lords, I am always grateful for my noble friend’s interventions. They are helpful because they allow me to raise a couple of serious issues. One of those is that unless all countries globally sign up to reducing carbon emissions, we will leave a bad place for future generations. Therefore, while I disagree with my noble friend’s premise about the intervention, it also challenges us to be able to respond in ways that allow competitiveness to grow while dealing with climate change issues.

My Lords, is it not clear to those who wish to see that if the Government are to reduce emissions and meet their existing targets and obligations, let alone to match even more onerous ones in the future, they have been right to embark on a new programme of civil nuclear power in this country? They should be encouraged to continue that programme. Indeed, whoever forms the next Government in this country should be encouraged to continue that programme. The Government should be congratulated for another important reason: it will reduce our dependence on imported oil and gas and improve energy security in our country.

Does my noble friend the Minister agree with me that President Obama’s announcement that there will be strong emission controls on major energy plants in the United States was significant? Therefore, in the spirit of the Question, will the UK work closely with America to make sure that there really is a global agreement in 2015?

I agree completely with my noble friend, but I am also pleased that China and India have also made sure that in their own domestic plans they are looking at ways and means of reducing carbon emissions.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that developing countries are urgently asking for at least $15 billion in pledges to kick-start the UN Green Climate Fund and that, regrettably, developed countries are reluctant to specify how and when they will increase donations, preferring to wait until the climate fund’s rules and regulations are in place? Will the Minister specify when developed countries are likely to increase their support for the UN Green Climate Fund in order to ensure that the target of $100 billion by 2020 can be met, and that the profound risks and dangers that poor countries face can be averted?

The noble Baroness is of course right that we need to talk about climate and finance. We are already scaling up climate finance through our own investment in the International Climate Fund and other programmes. The UK has committed nearly £4.5 billion to international climate finance between 2010 and 2016, of which £3.87 billion is in the International Climate Fund.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her reference to China. In fact, Premier Li Keqiang is in the UK today. Could the noble Baroness confirm that the Prime Minister will raise the issue of climate change with the Premier, or would he dismiss it perhaps—I paraphrase—as green nonsense?

My Lords, I am sure the Prime Minister will have a number of discussions, and I am sure climate change will among them.

My Lords, if there is a chance of reaching international agreement, will the Government do their best to avoid some of the defects of the Kyoto agreement? Britain has reduced its carbon emissions and has increased its carbon consumption, because many of the things we used to make are now imported, having been made abroad with coal.

My Lords, the noble Lord raises a number of issues in the round. Whatever each country is doing, it needs to work towards making sure that it is working towards cleaner energy. What we are trying to do in the UK is to encourage not just ourselves to do it but our member state partners.