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House of Lords Hansard
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08 July 2019
Volume 798

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to adjust carbon budgets in the light of past performance and the Paris Agreement.

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My Lords, our existing carbon budgets are already among the most ambitious in the world. They continue to set the right level of challenge for the years ahead. Our priority is to deliver against these stretching targets through our clean growth strategy.

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One of the ways that we as a nation are cheating on our carbon budget at the moment is by importing some of the most polluting goods from abroad, which means that the countries producing them carry the carbon emission burden. Will the Government now commit to capturing those offshore emissions so that we can understand fully how polluting we are as a nation?

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My Lords, I do not accept the noble Baroness’s premise that we are cheating; we are following international rules on this matter. If we wanted to change in the manner that she suggests, which might be a way ahead, it would be worth doing only if we had international agreement from all sides.

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My Lords, in its report at the beginning of May the Committee on Climate Change made it clear that we had to “ramp up” our efforts in saving and getting carbon out of our economy quite substantially. It particularly criticised the Government’s target of ceasing the sales of diesel and petrol vehicles in 2040. Should we not get real here and say that if we are to meet our targets that date has to be brought forward, as many other nations have done, to 2030?

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My Lords, we have ramped up what we are doing; that is why, last week, we brought forward the order that moved us to a legally binding target of net zero by 2050, in line with the advice from the climate change committee. The committee made no suggestion that we should get rid of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, a very substantial change which would cause major problems for the whole automotive industry. I believe that the target we have set is about right.

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My Lords, what role will carbon offsetting play in the Government’s plans?

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Obviously, that will continue to be available but this goes back to the original supplementary question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. If we want to make any further changes to how we measure international emissions in relation to what we might import, we would have to deal with that internationally.

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My Lords, can my noble friend explain to me how it makes sense to cut down trees in North America, including Canada, turn them into chips, ship them across the Atlantic to Liverpool and then across the country to a power station so as to burn them instead of coal, while at the same time arguing that people should get rid of their wood-burning stoves?

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My Lords, my noble friend is slightly wide of the Question, but I accept that shipping wood across the Atlantic in dirty burning boats is sometimes not the best way to go about things—although, in the transition to getting rid of burning coal, it is a great improvement.

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My Lords, one of the best forms of energy for carbon budgets is nuclear. Our civil nuclear programme seems to be in complete disarray. What will we do to get it back on track, so that we can provide a third of the power the country wants from nuclear, which was the Government’s position?

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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that nuclear will continue to play a major part in what we are doing. He is right that it provides useful power with little carbon produced. We will continue to keep nuclear as an option, as I have made clear on a number of occasions.

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My Lords, we welcome the Government’s commitment to reduce carbon to zero by 2050, but we lack the detail of how it will be achieved. The answers today fall into the same trap. Is it not correct that the department has already published a report that says that carbon targets will be missed in the period 2023-27, and will be even worse in 2028-32? What proposals will the Government actually bring forward?

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My Lords, we met our first two carbon budgets. We are on track to deliver over 90% of our required performance for the fourth and fifth carbon budgets. We will look at what the Committee on Climate Change recommends for the sixth in due course. I hope it sets meaningful targets that we can meet.

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In the context of this Question, could my noble friend opine on the future of tidal power?

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My Lords, tidal power has been discussed at some length in several debates in this House. Again, we made it clear that we will look at options for tidal power, but it must be competitive against other forms. I cannot remember the precise figures for the most recent scheme that we looked at, in Wales, but it was going to produce power at around three times the cost of nuclear.

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My Lords, another less expensive form of renewable energy is wind. Are the Government now going to look seriously at changing the regulations that stop us from having onshore wind production, as well as offshore?

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The noble Baroness ought to look at the success of offshore wind. I am trying to remember how many years we have to go back to see how the price of that has come down. The opportunities for the price of offshore wind coming down are surely far greater than for onshore wind, because of the scale of the windmills that one can build at sea, compared to on land. We have no plans to review that policy.

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My Lords, the Minister has already mentioned shipping, but what about air services? Air and shipping together must be the most polluting forms of transport in the world. I know they are international, but is it not about time we included both within these targets?

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My Lords, we do include them in the targets, as I made clear, but emissions from domestic flights and shipping are covered by domestic legislation. The Committee on Climate Change accounts for international flights and shipping in its advice setting out our interim carbon budgets, and this will continue for the more ambitious targets ahead.