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Climate Change

Volume 808: debated on Monday 14 December 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the work of the Committee on Climate Change.

My Lords, the role of the climate change committee in providing independent expert advice to government is widely accepted as global best practice. Following the committee’s advice, in June 2019 the Government set a target to achieve net zero by 2050. We are very grateful for the committee’s recently published advice on the sixth carbon budget, which we will of course consider carefully ahead of setting it in legislation next year, as required by the Climate Change Act.

My Lords, the Prime Minister’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions from 57% of 1990 levels to 32% by 2030 is the same as the target set out in the committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget report. To deliver it requires a centrally led, comprehensive strategy and timetable for the current Parliament—preferably one that accepts that it can be delivered in 10 years only with decarbonisation technologies already at maturity. Do the Government have such a strategy? Will it be published? And will the Government find time to debate the reports of the Committee on Climate Change?

Whether time will be allowed is of course not a matter for me, but I will pass that on to the Chief Whip. Strategies, or elements of them, are being published today in the energy White Paper. A hydrogen strategy and a heat and building decarbonisation strategy are to come, so we are conscious of our responsibilities in this regard.

My Lords, the Government have made a number of statements, which, with the 10-point plan and the upping of the nationally defined contributions to the Paris Agreement, are very welcome. The Government’s manifesto commits to planting 30,000 hectares of trees per year. That is a really key target to aim for in relation to the climate change committee’s report, but it is one that we have missed by 71% in the last year and consistently over previous years. I much admire the Prime Minister’s ambition, but how are the Government to ensure that performance exceeds or matches that ambition?

The right reverend Prelate is of course correct to point out that meeting these commitments will be a difficult, long-term task. It will require commitment from government and also from Parliament, local government and other stakeholders, but it is a challenge that we are rising to.

My Lords, how many meetings do my noble friend and his ministerial colleagues have with the chairman and members of the climate change committee? Is the committee monitoring trade agreements to ensure their compliance with climate change obligations?

I met the chief executive of the committee only about two or three weeks ago. I am not aware of any comments or otherwise that the committee has made on trade agreements.

I declare my interest as a director of Peers for the Planet. Nearly half the recommendations made by the climate change committee require some kind of behaviour change by the general public, yet a recent BEIS survey showed that only 5% of people understand in detail what net zero even means. What concrete plans do the Government have to urgently educate citizens about actions that they should take in order to reach government targets?

The noble Baroness is of course correct to highlight the importance of behavioural change. Getting to net zero will require action from everyone—as I said earlier, people, businesses and governments—across the whole of the UK. It is vital to engage the public in this debate on the challenge, and we intend to do that in the run-up to COP 26 later next year.

My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Government are ending support for fossil-fuel projects in developing countries, but here at home the Oil and Gas Authority’s remit remains to extract every last drop through its “maximising economic revenue” policy. Does the Minister agree that this is incompatible with the Climate Change Act and our leadership of COP 26 next year? Will he and the Government support my Private Member’s Bill, the Petroleum (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to rectify this?

No, I do not agree with the noble Baroness. The oil and gas industry employs tens if not hundreds of thousands of people. It recognises the challenge, and the Government need to work with that to help it in the transition.

Given the Committee on Climate Change’s recommended target of a 78% emissions cut by 2035 in its report on the sixth carbon budget, can the Minister confirm whether the Government will now raise their national determined contribution commitment to COP 26 policies to align with that?

I admire the noble Lord’s ambitions but we only announced the NDC two weeks ago, so we are not about to revise it already.

My Lords, I want to follow up the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, about behaviour change. The CCC said that the majority of the things we have to do are going to require buy-in from the public. The Minister has said to me previously that the Cabinet Office had set up a dedicated engagement team for COP 26 but I have not yet seen anything about any actions by it apart from a general endorsement for businesses to race towards zero. That is very good, but what about the public? Will the Minister update the House on the progress of this team? I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, and I would be delighted to meet him if there is more information that he could give us on its progress.

I am pleased that the noble Baroness recognises the importance of public engagement, and I totally agree with her. Obviously we have been in the middle of a global pandemic so it has been very difficult for the engagement team to do its job properly in terms of engaging with the public, but she can rely on the fact that we have some ambitious plans to engage with the public before COP next year.

My Lords, heat pumps, offshore wind and installing installation at scale are all recommendations from the Committee on Climate Change, which does excellent work. These will help to create jobs and apprenticeships as well as helping us to get to net zero. The Government have certainly adopted this agenda but now they need to consider a serious step change in order to pursue it. Will my noble friend pursue these policies with even more vigour?

My noble friend makes a very good point; we will indeed. We already have the largest offshore wind capacity in the world, I think—certainly in Europe. We are world leaders in that technology and the costs have fallen massively. We will be conducting another contracts for difference auction shortly, and I think we will see even more ambitious progress. The targets have been set out and the money provided, and we are well on the way to meeting them.

My Lords, the Committee on Climate Change must be congratulated on producing a detailed achievable road map to net zero by 2050. It is now up to the Government to put in place the right policies to give investor confidence to the private sector and get the money flowing. When will the Government deliver the investment road map?

We only received the report from the committee a few days ago and we will be studying it carefully. We are providing lots of investment in this area. We have the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, delivering something like £12 billion of public investment and hopefully leveraging three times as much private money. We have investments in the green homes grant and a number of other schemes, so we recognise the challenge. As I am sure the noble Baroness will recognise, public finances are quite tight at the moment, but I think we have an excellent record of providing the money to meet our ambitions.