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Climate Change: Global Temperatures

Volume 815: debated on Wednesday 27 October 2021


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published on 9 August; and what policy areas they intend to reassess in response to the finding that global temperatures are rising faster and will have worse consequences than previously predicted.

The IPCC report reaffirms the importance of net zero. On 19 October, we launched the net-zero strategy, supporting up to 440,000 jobs and leveraging up to £90 billion in private investment by 2030. Our strategy sets out clear policies and proposals for keeping us on track for our coming carbon budgets and our ambitious NDC.

How on earth does that and the Government’s net-zero plan fit with the fact that the Chancellor has just given us a Budget that is so carbon intensive that we should all just give up everything that we are bothering to do? He has reduced the duty on domestic flights, which are the most carbon-intensive form of travel, and he has frozen the fuel-duty escalator for the 12th year. This Treasury does not understand the climate emergency, and the noble Lord, who hears us all here, has to take that back.

Of course I always take the noble Baroness’s comments back to the department for discussion, as she well knows. I think that she is being a little unfair with her comments and I know that she would not want to be. The Chancellor has also announced £3.8 billion-worth of funding for domestic low-carbon heat installation systems, social housing decarbonisation and public sector decarbonisation—we talked about that in our statement a few days ago. It is important to bear in mind that many communities in the UK—people who live on remote islands et cetera—rely on their air services. Domestic aviation accounts for less than 1% of UK emissions. I also remind the noble Baroness that the Chancellor recently announced considerable funding—something like £180 million—for sustainable aviation fuel.

My Lords, working with the devolved Administrations, could the Minister indicate what new policy proposals the Government will bring to COP 26 next week, in respect of financial innovation, green finance and technology, to ensure that a comprehensive scheme of carbon capture is in place to assist with climate change mitigation by the Government’s 2030 target, over and above the Budget today, which was rather limited in this respect?

Some noble Members opposite have obviously listened to a different Budget from the one that was actually announced. We have £1 billion-worth of funding for carbon capture, usage and storage proposals. The noble Baroness will be aware that, only the other day, we announced the first two clusters in north-west and north-east England. These are world-leading, exciting proposals; no one else in the world is being as ambitious as we are on CCUS.

My Lords, returning to the issue of domestic air passenger duty, does the Minister recognise that short-haul flights are the most carbon-intensive form of travel? Ahead of COP 26, what signal does the Minister believe it sends to announce a cut to domestic air passenger duty while presiding over a record rise in rail fares—one of the least carbon-intensive forms of travel?

I refer the noble Lord to the answer that I just gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. Many communities in the United Kingdom rely on air travel for international and internal connectivity. Some parts of our nation are islands, separated by water that trains do not go across. Therefore, it is important to retain connectivity. At the same time, the Chancellor also announced an increase in long-haul air passenger duty.

Is not the premise of the noble Baroness’s Question—namely, that global temperatures are rising faster than previously predicted—the reverse of the truth? When the IPCC was established, it forecast that over the ensuing 30 years, now complete, the global temperature would rise by 0.3 degrees per decade. In fact, it has risen by just 0.17 degrees per decade—barely half that amount—and all 39 models used by the IPCC produce estimates higher than reality. Reality is actually quite reassuring.

I can see that the noble Lord has the House with him on that one. Even putting aside his scepticism about the accuracy of the IPCC report, surely even he would agree that, given the current spike in gas prices, for instance, it is a good thing to reduce our usage of carbon-intensive fuels. If we can generate more electricity domestically in a renewable and green way, that has to be a good thing because it reduces our reliance on importation.

My Lords, can we park the constant sideline bickering over China’s CO2 emissions? The discussion pre-COP 26 is unbalanced. We hear endless criticism of China for its 6.5 tonnes per capita emissions record, while there is a deafening silence over the record of the English-speaking world of Australia, Canada and America with their average emissions of 15 tonnes per capita—two and a half times those of China. The China bashing needs to stop. No wonder it may not attend COP 26.

I am sorry, but I just do not agree with the noble Lord. China is responsible for one of the largest emissions totals in the world. This is very much a global problem and, if we are to make any progress, every nation has to make its contribution, including not only the English-speaking world but also China.

Can my noble friend say whether any of the pumps that are being suggested to substitute for gas boilers in our homes are yet in a state to be widely used?

I can reassure my noble and learned friend on that basis. Heat pumps are a mature heating technology and currently the market-leading low-carbon option. I am also delighted to tell him that the largest UK manufacturer, Mitsubishi in Scotland, produces 10,000 of them a year.

My Lords, the unpredicted intensity of freak events such as the heat dome in the US and Canada has left scientists reeling. Oceanographers are monitoring with concern the anomaly in the Gulf Stream, which helps to regulate our world’s weather, and the cold spot south-east of Greenland is particularly worrying. Does the Minister accept that it is time to stop dicing with the future of our planet, to keep fossil fuels in the ground and therefore to ditch the abominable policy that places a legal duty on our Government to extract every last drop of oil from the North Sea?

The Committee on Climate Change has made it clear that we still need fossil fuels for the transition. I remind the noble Baroness that the UK is responsible for only 1% of worldwide emissions. Yes, we must do our bit, which we are—we are a world-leading power in that respect—but we also need to work on a worldwide basis with other nations, because just stopping emissions in the United Kingdom will not solve the problem.

My Lords, the Government had four key objectives for the summit next week in Glasgow. The third of those, and the one that was in many ways among the most important because of the failure to deliver it over the past decade, was the objective on finance and delivering $100 billion per annum of support for those developing countries that would miss out as a result of moving towards net zero. The Government have admitted this week, in advance of the summit, that that objective is not going to be met. Does the Minister agree that one reason for that might just be the fact that our Government—our country—withdrew on their commitments to the world’s poorest people this year and that that might just have affected the atmosphere around decision-making and the commitments that might then be made by others?

No, I do not accept that, because the UK, even after the recent reduction, still has one of the largest international climate finance facilities in the world. Again, on international finance, we are world-leading as well. It was an immense diplomatic effort to get many other nations on board—credit goes to the Prime Minister and to Alok Sharma for managing to do that. We have got the commitment, albeit maybe not as early as we would have hoped for, from 2023.

As the noble Lord is probably well aware, under the heat and buildings strategy, another of the Chancellor’s announcements last week, we have allocated hundreds of millions of pounds to the public sector decarbonisation scheme to go with the £1 billion that we have already spent in the past year on the PSDS. I could point the noble Lord to numerous examples across the country, both in London and elsewhere, of excellent schemes where the public sector is using these funds to deliver meaningful carbon reductions.

The Minister mentioned the carbon capture and storage facilities that have been approved. He will also be aware that the one that was most ready to go ahead is at St Fergus in Aberdeenshire, but that was not given approval. Why? Are the Government deliberately setting out to upset Scotland and the Scottish Executive?

I think that the noble Lord knows the answer to his own question. A rigorous process was gone through to determine which schemes should get the go-ahead. It is not true that the scheme to which he referred was the most advanced. An independent panel of experts studied all the bids. It is not the case that we are not going ahead with the scheme; it is on the reserve list. It will almost certainly proceed, but just not in the first wave.