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COP 26

Volume 807: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the response by Lord Callanan on 20 October (HL Deb, col 1414), what plans they have for the campaigns taking place before COP 26 relating to behaviour change and the environment.

In preparation for COP 26, the Cabinet Office set up a dedicated engagement team to facilitate engagement with businesses, wider civil society, cities and regions on COP 26. The brand, Together for Our Planet, was unveiled this month, marking the milestone of one year to COP 26. Many people from all over the UK are already doing their bit on climate change. The Together for Our Planet campaign will inspire more to join them.

I thank the Minister very much for that reply, but I would like to press a bit more for some details. Some 62% of the emission cuts needed to reach net zero require societal or behavioural change, so I would really like to know what areas this initiative will cover. Have the Government done any assessments of the areas likely to have the most impact? For example, will one of them be related to diet and, in particular, to a reduction of meat and dairy intake, which was recommended by the climate change committee? Of course, these are really ambitious proposals, which we are all very grateful for, but can the Minister tell me whether we have a big enough budget in order to deliver them over the course of the next 12 months?

The noble Baroness makes some valid points, but, as I am sure she is aware, all campaign spend will be released in line with the usual Cabinet Office spend data publications. The idea of the campaign is to work through partnerships where possible, but further support may be needed working with other groups, and we will endeavour to take the campaign forward in as many different areas as possible.

My Lords, I refer to my interests in the register. Before your Lordships’ House is submerged in a tsunami of uncosted virtue signalling, can the Minister confirm that zero carbon will cost trillions of pounds? In the privacy of this Chamber, may I raise the politics of this? The further north you go, the cooler it is and the higher people’s heating bills are. People’s incomes are lower, so more is absorbed by energy costs and more jobs depend on energy. If they are less receptive to campaigns telling them to become vegetarians, ride bikes and forgo foreign holidays while being unable to sell their cars in 10 years’ time, will this help retain the blue-wall seats?

I thank my noble friend for his question; I know he takes a close interest in these matters. The important thing to do is to convince people across the country that there are an awful lot of jobs riding on this as well, and that pursuing green initiatives, as we are doing with the 10-point plan that was announced today, will enable thousands of jobs to be created in many of the communities that he is talking about.

My Lords, I am really pleased to hear that we are tying the green issue into the problems of today, with possibly 1.5 million people unemployed. I would like to see the Government grasp this moment and expand completely the green job market. That is the most practical thing we can do. The other practical thing we should do is convince most people that plastic and rubbish and the general environment that we live in need to be bought into by everybody, so we need much more vigorous education. We need schools to teach our children from the very beginning that we are in this perilous world, and it is all to do with nature. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that there are too many tick-boxing, simple things that do not really change people’s consciousness.

The noble Lord, then, will have welcomed our announcement today that will generate the tens of thousands of jobs to which he refers. The idea of the campaign, of course, is to try to educate and change behaviour.

My Lords, will the Minister not accept that the Prime Minister’s new 10-point plan is not a plan but a wish list of future developments based on undeveloped technology? It is not new, because it is largely recycled commitments and resources. Will he confirm that the actual new, additional amount is £4 billion—not £12 billion—which does not begin to address the scale of the problem and does not bear comparison with our colleagues in France, Germany and elsewhere?

I am not sure that the noble Lord is being entirely fair with his critique of the announcement. Many of the initiatives are based on new and existing technologies. We are building on many of the initiatives that we already have going, for instance the green homes grants system, which is proving so successful and popular and is building on an existing scheme. I think that noble Lords in many parts of the House would accept that we should go further on things such as hydrogen and elsewhere.

My Lords, the catastrophes of climate change are already with us. We need urgent action and must pull all available levers to stop putting even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Will the Minister say why proven, here-today technologies, such as solar PV and onshore wind, have been ignored altogether in the 10-point plan?

Solar PV has made immense progress in this country and we are looking to see how we can build on that further. Onshore wind has, of course, been controversial in some cases, but with existing turbines it has proved to be successful. The main gains to be made, however, are through offshore wind, the costs of which have fallen dramatically.

My Lords, under the Paris Agreement, the nationally determined contributions outlining the UK’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have focused on announcements to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030. However, can the Minister explain how the scatter-gun approach of the 10-point plan will lead to effective behavioural change without a comprehensive transport strategy within an overall energy White Paper—both of which have yet to be published?

Well, the energy White Paper is forthcoming shortly; the noble Lord will have to have a little bit of patience on that. I think we have a Private Notice Question on the 10-point plan tomorrow, so that might be a more appropriate time to debate these matters.

My Lords, in order to obtain behavioural change, people need to understand what the problem is and how it should be tackled. Is the Minister aware of the recent survey that showed that more than 50% of Britons still do not understand recycling labels, despite some of them having been in existence for nearly 40 years?

My noble friend makes a very good point. I struggle to understand some of the labels myself, and have to look up the table to find out what has to go where—so his point is well made.

My Lords, Ban Ki-moon, then General Secretary of the UN, said that the Paris climate change talks were the largest and most complex talks he had ever been part of. Some 12,000 people were in the discussions, with another nearly 50,000 gathered around them. What steps are the Government taking to ratchet up the engagement of the faith communities and other NGOs around the climate change talks that will take place in Glasgow, and what steps are they taking to strengthen the diplomatic efforts to make the talks more successful?

There is a huge diplomatic effort ongoing with all parts of the world to try to ensure the maximum success of those talks. I am sure that we will be very keen to involve faith communities and others in the run-up to the summit.

My Lords, Article 12 of the Paris Agreement says that signatories must

“co-operate in taking measures … to enhance climate change education … public awareness … participation and … access to information”.

What action have the Government taken, in particular with the Department for Education, to fulfil this, and to ensure that all signatories will have acted on it before COP 26 in Glasgow later next year?

That is the purpose of the campaign that we discussed earlier, and the Department for Education is fully on board with all of these campaigns.

My Lords, the success of COP 26 is absolutely vital for the reputation of this country. One of the ways in which we could, perhaps, reinforce those efforts is by using parliamentarians to help get the message out, abroad and at home, of how important this conference is, and to help make it a success. We have almost 1,500 parliamentarians, but I do not see the Government trying to involve us. The majority of us believe that climate change is a crisis and that we need to solve it. How are parliamentarians going to be involved in the process of making COP 26 a success?

I am sorry if the noble Lord does not feel involved in the campaign, but parliamentarians, alongside members of the public, are all very welcome to get involved in all of these campaigns, because they require all of us to work together to achieve our aims.

My Lords, as the original Question said, at the root of this there is a need to change our behaviours. Can the Minister tell me more about the Government’s plans to help us spend more of our holidays within the United Kingdom, rather than flying abroad? Much of our hospitality infrastructure has been gathering dust, to put it mildly, over the past 50 years as people have got used to Mediterranean and further-afield holidays. I am sure that the Government could find constructive ways to rapidly improve the level of our domestic tourism offering and ways of promoting it to our people.

My noble friend is tempting me on to dangerous ground with this question. I agree with him that it would be great if more people took their holidays using some of the excellent facilities that are provided for in this country. Of course, however, people should also be free to go on foreign holidays if they wish to do so. One of the purposes of the plan is to see how we can spend more on areas such as decarbonising jet fuel so that aeroplanes in the future will not be so polluting. Hopefully, when we get to our ambitious targets, people will be able to take advantage of excellent holidays either in the UK or, if they wish to do so, abroad.