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House of Lords Hansard

Paris Climate Change Conference

15 December 2015
Volume 767

    Statement

  • My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in another place. The Statement is as follows.

    “Mr Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to report to the House on the United Nations conference of parties in Paris last week. COP 21 has delivered a historic new global climate change agreement that takes a significant step forward towards reducing, on a global scale, the emissions that cause climate change. For the first time, nearly 200 countries have made a commitment to act together and to be held accountable. In doing so, this agreement will help protect not just our environment but our national and economic security, now and for generations to come. As the Prime Minister said in his speech at the start of conference,

    ‘instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today’.

    I am proud to say there are no more excuses. With the Paris agreement, we have shown that the world has committed to action.

    This deal is unequivocally in Britain’s national interest. It moves us towards a level playing field at a global level within which the United Kingdom’s society and businesses can thrive, as we transition to a low-carbon economy. This is a deal we are wholeheartedly committed to, recognising that action by one state alone cannot and will not solve climate change. It is what we do together that counts.

    I would like to say that this is a moment that all parties in this House can take significant credit for. Together, we passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which set an example to the world of what ambitious domestic climate action looks like. Together, since Copenhagen in 2009, we have supported a long, difficult and complex negotiation, which has brought us to this point. I want to pay tribute not just to the Prime Minister and my colleagues across government, but to my predecessors as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change for all the hard work they put in to bring us to this point.

    As a country, we should be proud of the role we have played, leading in the EU, working closely with major global players, including the United States and China, and leading many of the negotiations. My department, with the FCO and DfID, has worked tirelessly to build the political conditions and the capacity to enable countries to act. The United Kingdom team in Paris last week showed commitment, passion and resilience. When Laurent Fabius asked me to chair the finance session at 4 am on Friday morning, I was well supported, and when I left at 6.30 in the morning, the team stayed to write up the conclusions and send them to the presidency. That, Mr Speaker, is commitment.

    The United Kingdom played a key role in building alliances and shared positions, especially with the most vulnerable countries, to ensure that pressure for ambition could be maximised. This deal in Paris was not done to us; it was done by us. Indeed, it reflects many of the elements that we as a country have already committed to as part of the Climate Change Act. Of course, Paris is not the end of the road. We cannot sit back and say, ‘Job done’—far from it. Paris is the beginning. Now, the hard work to implement the agreement begins.

    I turn to what the nearly 200 countries have agreed. First, we have set out a clear long-term goal for the world to achieve net zero emissions by the end of the century. That long-term goal sends a strong signal to investors, businesses and policymakers that the shift to a global low-carbon economy will happen and it provides the confidence needed to drive the scale of investment required. We have confirmed our collective ambition to limit global temperature rises to below 2 degrees, and we have agreed a further aspiration of 1.5 degrees.

    However, the current level of commitments by individual countries will not meet that ambition. So, crucially, countries will come back to the table to assess overall progress towards the 2 degrees goal in 2018 and every five years thereafter. As investment grows and the costs of low-carbon technologies come down, the Paris process will provide not just the opportunity but the political pressure to step up individual countries’ emissions reductions targets. Starting in 2020, countries are expected to update their own plans to cut emissions and will be legally obliged to do so again every five years, thus providing regular political moments to scale up ambition.

    This agreement is not only comprehensive in its scope; it also recognises the role of both developed economies and emerging economies in helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries to protect themselves from the effects of climate change as they transition to a low-carbon economy.

    Over the last five years, the United Kingdom’s £3.87 billion International Climate Fund has been helping millions of the world’s poor to better withstand weather extremes and rising temperatures. At the United Nations Secretary-General’s summit in September, the Prime Minister announced a significant uplift to increase climate finance by at least 50%, with £5.8 billion of climate finance over the next five years to support poor and vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change and to curb emissions. This is part of a global commitment to mobilise $100 billion per year from both the public and the private sectors to protect the most vulnerable and support economic growth from 2020. Other developed countries, including Germany, France, the United States, Japan and Canada, have all recently announced increases in their climate finance as well.

    As important as the Paris agreement is, we will achieve our ultimate ambition only if it acts as a catalyst for transformational action from all parts of society. That is why it has been so important to see real action over the last month from business and civil society. For example, a new international initiative, ‘Mission Innovation’, will see some of the biggest global economies, including the United Kingdom, the United States and India, doubling their investments in clean energy research and development. Crucially, private investors will join us in this endeavour to bring down the costs of low-carbon technologies.

    Here in the United Kingdom, we have committed to double spending in clean energy research and development, so that by 2020 we will be spending in excess of £400 million. This pledge has been matched by 19 other countries worldwide. This is in recognition of the fact that we will tackle climate change only if we find technologies that are both clean and cheap. Let me tell you that the announcement I made last month—that I would set out proposals to close coal by 2025 and restrict its use from 2023—added to the momentum in Paris.

    The Paris agreement truly marks a historic turning-point. It builds on the Kyoto protocol and, for the first time ever, provides the comprehensive framework in which not just developed countries but almost every country of the world has committed to take the global action needed to solve a global problem. Of course it was hard fought; of course it required compromise to bring everyone with us; of course it has not solved every problem in one go.

    Now, we have to set about implementing the commitments made, but we should not underestimate the significance of what has been achieved. All parties have recognised that economic and global security requires us to tackle climate change. All have come together to commit to a single goal: net zero carbon emissions by the end of the century. All have agreed to set out plans to curb emissions and be held accountable for their actions. We have made a huge step forward in meeting our responsibilities to this and future generations. As the excellent executive secretary to the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, said, ‘I used to say we can, we must, we will. Now I can say we did’”.

  • I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement today. He is quite right to celebrate the agreement’s achievement and the role that all recent UK Governments have played to bring this about.

    All Governments have agreed to the common goal to decarbonise their economies within one generation, to limit increases in global temperatures to below 2 degrees and to target 1.5 degrees. All Governments have agreed to achieve net zero emissions before 2050 and the end of the century to cut pollution and curb carbon emissions. All Governments have agreed to review progress and raise ambitions every five years to make sure that the job gets done. Developed nations have agreed to help fund the developing nations’ transition to clean energy with a flow of $100 billion a year beyond 2020.

    The commitment achieved by consensus is immense. The Paris conference witnessed the greatest get-together of world leaders, with 50,000 people in attendance and the dedications of scientists, campaign groups and interest organisations in mobilising public support to insist on an agreement being achieved. This historic achievement was won in a forum of one country, one voice; unlike other intergovernment forums dominated by richer countries, as in the G7, G20, OECD and OPEC. China, the US, the EU and India are responsible for 61% of global emissions but other nations have an equal voice at the UNFCCC. The French must be congratulated for facilitating the conference, working tirelessly to resolve disputes.

    The Minister is right to highlight the role played by successive UK Governments and the British Parliament. Now that this Government are the first Conservative Government for 18 years, this is not the time to abandon that consensus. It must be recognised that scientists still point to the dangers that even a rise of 2 degrees will bring and the trajectory that the world is on.

    This agreement needs to be followed up by outcomes. In this respect, I congratulate the Government on the decision to phase out coal-powered generation by 2025. Last week, the Minister stated that domestic policies do not resonate on an international stage. His Government cannot think that fine words need not be matched by deeds.

    In the Energy Bill 2013, the Government refused to set a 2030 decarbonisation target. There has followed a litany of reversals to important schemes designed to put the UK on track to a low-carbon economy. The UK’s commitment to reach renewable energy targets of 15% by 2020 is in jeopardy. PWC estimates that if the renewables contributions from heat and transport remain at their present levels, the UK will need to generate 52% of electricity from renewables to meet that target.

    The Government have attacked the cheapest options for achieving these targets, such as onshore wind, meaning that energy bills will increase by more than they need to. The Green Deal efficiency measures have been abandoned. Carbon capture and storage projects in Yorkshire and Scotland have been axed. Polluting diesel generators have been rewarded with 15-year contracts totalling more than £150 million in the latest capacity auctions.

    The UK still requires significant investment in low-carbon technologies. Investor confidence is now undermined by continual sharp policy shifts such as are proposed in the latest Energy Bill. Friends of the Earth states:

    “It will be outstanding hypocrisy for the government to trumpet the new climate change agreement unless it does a U-turn on energy policy”.

    Will these green policy reversals now be reviewed in the context of the commitments given at Paris? Will the Minister ask the independent Committee on Climate Change to review the progress towards and likely achievement of the UK’s renewable generation target, and whether there should be further policy initiatives to get the UK back to achieving 15% of energy from renewables by 2020?

    In Paris, the global ambition has been set to reduce temperature rises from 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees. What further measures does the Minister’s department now consider are necessary?

  • My Lords, what a great result for all sides of this House, for the nation and for the international community. I do not think that we can say more strongly than has the Minister how great this result is. After the pessimism—the omnishambles, we could say—of Copenhagen in 2009, this is truly a good and remarkable result. We should certainly congratulate the French Government, and Laurent Fabius in particular, on their stewardship and their achievement at this conference.

    The great thing is that those of us who believe that climate change really is one of the greatest issues facing this planet can be positive again, since for the past six years we have been rather on the defensive and pessimistic about outcomes. What we have here is an agreement not just between 196 nations but an agreement particularly that China, the United States, India and Europe have agreed to. That is quite something and it would have been unbelievable just a few years ago.

    We also have something else to celebrate. In 2014, the globe’s emissions were roughly the same—they levelled out for the first time during a period when there was global economic growth—and, this year, we hope that there will be something like a 1% reduction in carbon emissions. So we can move forward with confidence that we are achieving something and perhaps prove wrong the pessimists or disbelievers among us, not just through the science but by showing that real-world Governments, including in the developing world, are taking notice that this is a problem that needs to be solved.

    I welcome particularly in this agreement the integration between developed and developing nations—there is not the big divide that there was under Kyoto and China’s emissions this year are falling by some 3% to 4%. I welcome, too, that we will have a proper review programme every five years, starting in 2018—we are not waiting for five years until we start that process—and that we realise that, for those island states in the Pacific and elsewhere, the real challenge should be 1.5 degrees and not 2 degrees, difficult though that will be. Those are great achievements and I welcome the Secretary of State’s Statement, and in particular her thanks to previous Secretaries of State—I think of my former right honourable colleague Ed Davey in that regard.

    But we have a problem here: we need those nations to move forward on those agendas, and that includes the United Kingdom. While I agree with the Minister entirely that we have had a positive reaction in ridding ourselves of coal emissions within the next 10 years and increased investment in technology around the green agenda, so far this year we have had a reversal of a number of policies that are really important for driving our commitments forward in this area. The House does not have to believe me because the chief executives of companies such as Panasonic, BT, M&S, Tesco, Vodafone, Ikea and many others have written to the Government saying that this policy change has been in the wrong direction and needs to change. Those are real challenges.

    We will come to the fifth carbon budget and I hope that the Government will move forward positively when it comes to decisions, unlike with the difficulties that there were— particularly from the Treasury—when we looked at the fourth carbon budget in the past.

    On behalf of my Benches, I welcome this agreement. As the Minister said, it is not the end but it is the beginning of reaching a solution to climate change on this planet. It is the most important way of going forward. Of all the policies that are most important for implementing this agreement, perhaps the cheapest and most effective is the one of energy efficiency. The Government’s move away from zero-carbon homes for 2016 and commercial buildings for 2019 was one of the most negative policies that they could have implemented. My challenge to the Minister is to ask the Secretary of State to reverse at least that one policy so that we can start on the road to fulfilling this agreement.

  • My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for his comments and welcome him for the first time to the Front Bench in this House in his new role. I wish him well.

    The noble Lord is right to talk about the significance of Paris. It is crucially important. He is also right to talk about the importance of small states. All nations came together and during the debates and negotiations there was as much, if not more, mention of the Maldives, Tuvalu and the Seychelles as of many larger states—and quite right, too, as they are very vulnerable countries that should touch the conscience of the world. The United Kingdom had a particular interest in guarding their interests, as the Prime Minister set out at the start of the conference.

    The noble Lord is right also to say that we should pay tribute to France for what it did, not only for its diplomacy, which was extraordinary, but for managing the conference, particularly given the particular security and terrorist problems that it faced. It was an outstanding achievement. I thank him also for what he rightly said about the consensus around this issue among the parties here. That was right.

    On domestic policies, I can say with all honesty that, as far as I am aware, the only time at any of the meetings I attended when domestic policies were mentioned was in the context of the closure of coal. This was borne out by our negotiators to whom I spoke. It certainly captured the world’s imagination. That is not to say that other issues are unimportant, but it was significant and a key moment when this country moved first on that issue.

    The other important point in relation to what happened in Paris is that it gives a clear investment signal to the whole world which will help reduce costs still further. They are on a cheap spiral and are coming down anyway and no one wants to see subsidies for a long period. There may be disagreement about when they are phased out, but a clear message was sent out. I note what the noble Lord said about Friends of the Earth—they have never been particular friends of any Government—but I stress more the importance of the strong welcome given by the CBI to what was agreed.

    We were fully signed up to and pressing for the 1.5% goal to which the noble referred. It did not come as something that we did not want; it was good news. Not all countries were pressing for it and I can certainly remember attending meetings where I spoke up in favour of it, as did many other EU countries and progressive allies. We certainly wanted it and we will now develop policies in the light of the challenges that we face. However, they are already on course to deliver this sort of change.

    Moving on to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I thank him for his kind words and the warm welcome he has given to the conference; it was very gracious and generous. He mentioned the role of France, and both Laurent Fabius and Ségolène Royal played an enormous role in organising this agreement so successfully. He mentioned global emissions peaking in the near distance moving forward, which is absolutely true, as well as the slight blurring of the issue between developed and developing countries. That is right and it is something that the EU and the UK were pushing hard for because many states are developing quickly, and, without the invidious dimension, some do not look like developing countries any longer, thank goodness.

    He also mentioned domestic policy. I can only refer him to what I said earlier, but I can reassure him on the two issues he finished on. First, Paris is not an end in itself: that is true. It is the road through Paris that is important, hence the five-yearly stock-take that will start in 2018 when we will assess how much progress we have made in relation to reducing emissions on a global basis, as well as the other five-year cycle when we will come back and, it is hoped, ratchet up our ambitions—or, in the case of some states, perhaps restate their ambitions.

    The noble Lord made a point about energy efficiency, and I agree totally that it is the energy we do not use which is important. As a country, we probably need to do more on demand management. There is a manifesto commitment to insulate or improve 1 million homes in terms of their energy efficiency, and we are certainly committed to that. The smart meter programme, which I was looking at this morning, will help deliver energy reductions, as will our work on boilers and cars. All this continues.

  • Does the noble Lord agree that the UK delegation, including himself and the Secretary of State, played a strong role in what happened in Paris? They were everywhere and the UK’s position was largely respected. I was fortunate enough to be badged with the French delegation, and they were enormously appreciative of the work done by the UK. That appreciation is founded on two things. One is respect for our climate legislation and the great institutional strength that that gives to this country in its clear commitment to bring down emissions. I hope that the noble Lord will also agree that it is founded on our commitment to 0.7% of GDP being spent on overseas aid. That puts us in a stronger position than some other countries and allows us to contribute very powerfully.

    I hope that the noble Lord will agree that the private sector contribution to the Paris meeting was very strong, and that private sector leadership is the growth story of the future in terms of the transition to a low carbon economy, as it will be at the top of the agenda at the World Economic Forum to be held in Davos in January. Again, I thank the noble Lord for the part he has personally played in that outcome.

  • I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stern, for his kind words, and I am certainly happy to accept the compliment. I welcome very much the role he has played. Indeed, when I last saw him on the television, he was featured not only with the French delegation but also with the former Vice-President of the United States, Al Gore. The noble Lord has done seminal work which demonstrates that we can have falling emissions and economic growth, and I think that that is now widely accepted. It was an absolutely prescient report.

    It is true that the position we play in relation to overseas aid is crucial. It gives us a powerful means of talking to many other countries and seeking to be as helpful as possible. I mentioned earlier the small island developing states and the particular challenges they face. The legal framework we work within is also important. Finally, the last point he made about private sector leadership is vitally important. The Governor of the Bank of England spoke powerfully at the Paris conference, which is not something that has happened previously. The private sector demonstrated leadership, particularly when Michael Bloomberg, Paul Polman and many others said that this is an agreement which they warmly welcome. It is not just about non-governmental organisations and politicians, it is very much about the business world as well. Again, I thank the noble Lord for the role he played at the conference, which I know was considerable.

  • My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Minister on the achievements in Paris and the part that the UK Government played. The faith communities organised, among those from the wider public sphere, to gather in Paris. Forty-four pilgrims walked from London; seven walked from the Danish-German border; and 22 cycled from Copenhagen. As they travelled on the journey to Paris, they gathered with them the support of the communities through which they travelled and in which meetings were held. This culminated last week with the presentation of a petition, with signatures from 1.83 million people, to Christiana Figueres and President Hollande by 20 of us in the faith communities. This is a deal that many people wanted. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, said that it was the most complex and largest talks he had ever been part of. The sense of achievement is therefore very great in having pulled off the Paris agreement. The UK’s contribution through climate finance was particularly significant.

    However, over these last months, the Government have given mixed signals about the commitment to renewable energy. Therefore, there is a question about how the Paris agreement will be implemented domestically. That which was hard fought and hard won now needs to be hard wired. I would like to ask the Minister how, over these next few months, he sees the Government acting across the areas of public policy in order to make sure that this agreement is hard wired into all our thinking and acting across the whole area, not just within DECC and those involved in the environment and climate change. What steps will be taken to ratchet up the UK’s ambition in the way that the Paris agreement envisages so that we become more ambitious about what we are trying to achieve?

  • I thank the right reverend Prelate very much for his kind words and note, in particular, the lead that he has given through the Lambeth declaration and the fact that that pulled together people of many faiths. There was also a massive role of the Muslim climate group in supporting this. The participation of faith in all this, not least from His Holiness the Pope, was significant. I thank him also for what he said about climate finance. The contribution that this was able to make to the debate, and speaking to people, certainly was significant. Obviously, it is important for developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable countries, because there are degrees, as we are all aware, of poverty. Some small island states in particular need an awful lot of assistance on adaptation as well as mitigation.

    The right reverend Prelate asked about the domestic agenda. Again, I refer him to what I said previously about falling costs, which is certainly true. The costs, particularly of solar, are spiralling down very quickly. Given the very clear signal that has been sent out worldwide, we can expect that to continue. The Paris agreement is significant in many respects. It is significant that the world has come together in the positive way in which it did but, on the specific, it is very important that it signals the end of the carbon economy. It is only a question of when. That message going out worldwide to business and being welcomed by business will mean that costs fall.

    What are we doing within DECC? First, many DECC officials are taking a little bit of a break, having been up around the clock for the past couple of weeks. That said, work is already going on to see how this is delivered but, of course, the work had started before. We are already looking across government at what we need to do on cars and housing to meet our carbon targets. That work will continue but it is important that this is not just a one-nation issue; this is across the whole world. Hence, the importance of the five-year stock takes and the five-year reviews.

  • My Lords, I hate to pour cold water on this love-in but perhaps I may remind the Minister that the only thing legally binding on countries which are increasing their emissions in this agreement is that they must produce voluntary plans. Paris therefore represents the end of a 20-year attempt to get agreement to legally binding emissions targets. Will he confirm that this leaves the UK as the only country with a legally binding target on emissions? Will he remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s pledge that this country should go no faster in this respect than other countries? Will he therefore consider adjusting our policies to fulfil that pledge in the interests of those working in the industry and those struggling to heat their homes this winter and in future winters?

  • My Lords, I am also disappointed that my noble friend has ended the “love-in”, as he calls it. If this is regarded as something that states will just cast away, it is significant that it was such a hard agreement to drive and achieve—if it really was, as he perhaps implies, just a piece of paper and not worth the paper it is written on, why was it so hard an agreement to reach? Only one state stood apart from this process and that is North Korea. I suggest that this is no time for strategic alliances with North Korea. This is a world problem that needs a world solution. The agreement is a step on that road.

  • My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on the role he played in Paris, alongside the right honourable Amber Rudd and her team. I also pay particular tribute to Pete Betts, who was the lead negotiator of the DECC team and, indeed, represented the entire EU in the negotiations. He has been an amazing builder and crafter of consensus on this issue.

    It is clear that Paris marks a watershed and a new beginning because it is the first time that 190 countries have said that they are all on the same page and they all will take action on this. The noble Viscount pointed out that this is a different deal, and it is for a reason. It is a fantastic example of catching the exact balance between ambition and flexibility to allow maximum participation. We would have achieved nothing in Paris if we had gone trying a top-down, dictatorial approach to bringing emissions down. It is only by building consensus in the way that Paris did so successfully that we have managed to achieve this deal.

    I will touch on one issue relating to the implications of this for the UK and, indeed, for the EU. It cannot be the case that Paris is such a significant moment, yet we say that there is nothing more to be done here and that we are already doing everything that we can. Indeed, the text in Paris is quite clear: all countries that can reduce emissions must do so, including before 2020. My question to the Minister is: will you instruct the Committee on Climate Change to look again at our framework to see whether we can do more? I am certain that we can; we have certainly been overachieving our targets in the first of our budgets, carrying a lot of hot air forward. Let us take that hot air out, increase our ambition and continue to lead. It is only through leadership that we can show the rest of the world that this is possible, as we have been doing to date and continue to do.

    Once again, I congratulate everyone involved on achieving such a huge and monumental result, including the noble Lord, Lord Stern, who was one of the great architects of this approach, which has delivered a fantastic result.

  • I thank the noble Baroness very much indeed for her typically generous comments and associate myself with what she said relating to the noble Lord, Lord Stern, and the entire team in DECC. She rightly mentioned Pete Betts. I spoke to him today; he is up and fighting the case, even given the massive involvement that he had. I also mention in that context Ben Lyon, who was also a key negotiator. They and the entire team worked incredibly hard.

    The noble Baroness is right that this process at Paris represents a bottom-up approach, rather than the top-down one that we had in Kyoto. I therefore think that it is entirely the right approach. It is not right to say that this is not legally binding. Finance is obviously connected with performance. This is a treaty that we have every reason to believe will be adhered to. As she says, it is important that the United Kingdom steps up to the plate. We have provided strong leadership and we will continue to do so. We in the department are looking at ways to reduce demand on electricity, as we always do: we are looking at the cars issue across government, at what we can do through DCLG and so on.

    The noble Baroness mentioned the Committee on Climate Change. My noble friend Lord Deben is in his place. As I understand it, the committee previously wrote to us and indicated that if it needed to reassess in the light of Paris it would do so and come back to us in the new year. I presume that that is still the position. Again, I pay tribute to what he did out in Paris because I know that he was also very strong there in supporting what was happening.

  • Would my noble friend accept that the Paris result was remarkable and unprecedented, and that those who would cast doubt upon it are only undermining the way private industries know that they will have to change if they are to meet the world in which they will have to compete? The Climate Change Committee will give advice to the Government on what changes need to be made but, in the mean time, I hope my noble friend will accept that the fifth carbon budget is a crucial part of this continuum and that we need to have legislation on it as rapidly as possible. Does he also accept that he has promised that we will look again at the way we insulate homes and deal with energy efficiency? Will he also make sure that it is part of the policy that no new houses are built which have to be retrofitted very soon because they do not meet the sensible requirements of the Paris commitment?

    The Minister ought to be congratulating himself. It is not a love-in to say that Britain has played a very important part in an unprecedented decision. The whole world has said that we know we have to act and those who refuse to know are undermining the future of our children and grandchildren. I say that particularly to those of my colleagues who continually undermine the duty we have.

  • My Lords, nobody should doubt the commitment of the Prime Minister and the Government to this agreement. The Prime Minister was out there at the start, clearly underlining support and the importance of protecting the small island developing states. He has welcomed this strong agreement. There is no shame attached to this country giving a lead on these issues, as we have on many others over the ages: we should be proud of it. I note what the noble Lord said about the fifth carbon budget. We will be looking at that and responding to it in the first half of 2016, according to the deadline which is set out. There was a commitment to insulation in the manifesto and there are ongoing developments in energy efficiency. The smart meter programme, which is coming on and will be delivered in totality by 2020, will be a strong driver of that policy.

  • My Lords, this is a very considerable achievement. I have been haunted by the image of being at a meeting of the Pacific Island forum and a Minister having to leave suddenly, her parents’ house having been inundated because sea levels have risen much more rapidly than anticipated. The small islands in the Pacific have been on edge about the consequences. The Minister referred to the need for investment. What measures are the Government prepared to take to restore the confidence of the investment community in this country? Just three or four weeks ago, a major investment in carbon capture and storage was pulled out from under their feet. A member of a board which has proper respect for due governance and risk analysis would have to take into account the uncertainty there is now about energy investment decisions. What measures are the Government prepared to take to restore that confidence?

  • My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right about the importance of the small islands in the Pacific and elsewhere, such as the Seychelles and the Maldives. It was brought home graphically to me when I met representatives from Tuvalu in the House of Lords during the summer. They said that two degrees was not going to be enough to save them from total obliteration. Although there is a measure of self-interest, it is to the credit of the world that there was a sense of international responsibility for these issues when they came up in Paris.

    On the investment issues which the noble Baroness rightly raised, £122 billion is spent annually in the UK on the low carbon economy. It is of extreme and growing significance and we are well aware of it. I repeat that this global agreement has been much welcomed. It gives certainty and sense of direction worldwide, not just in the UK. We have significant investments in the UK which have taken heart from the Government’s decision. An example is Siemens in relation to offshore wind. The point is well made that economic leaders need certainty. I would not disagree with that and it will, obviously, inform our policy.

  • My Lords, the problem is that the Statement that my noble friend read out bears only the most tenuous relationship to what is actually happening in the real world. Is he not aware, for example, that back in the real world India has just announced plans to double its coal production by 2020? Is he not aware that in the real world, more than 2,500 coal-fired power stations are under construction, particularly in India and China but elsewhere around the world? Whether he wants to see decarbonisation or not, does he agree that, bearing in mind the effect on fuel prices, which affect fuel poverty and the competitiveness of British industry—one thinks of the recent closures in the steel industry in this country—it makes no sense whatever for us to decarbonise faster than the rest of the world?

  • My Lords, I am very well aware of the massive deployment of coal. That is one reason why the world needed to come together to see how it will address that issue. It is also true to say that in both India and China there is massive deployment of renewables. I think that the deployment of solar is about to overtake coal in India, so I recognise the issue. That is why we need to address it. I hope the noble Lord agrees that we do need to address it; I was not sure whether that was the inference of his question. I understand the particular problems with steel, for example, that he mentioned, but this issue is not related simply to energy but also to overproduction. I also recognise that every country has to protect its own patch and its own interests. As I said, there is an element of self-interest in different countries coming to this agreement in different ways, but there is a real sense of international responsibility and a real sense that if we had not acted in the way we did in Paris, we would face very serious problems in the future. There are still challenges but this was a very important milestone, and a very important milestone for the United Kingdom in the role it played.