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Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse Gases) Order 2022

Volume 825: debated on Tuesday 15 November 2022

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, this order was laid before the House on 19 October. It will amend the Climate Change Act 2008, expanding the definition of greenhouse gases under the Act to include nitrogen trifluoride, which I will refer to as NF3. The order will make NF3 a targeted greenhouse gas. This means that NF3 emissions will be included within the scope of emissions presented to Parliament annually, and within scope of the full accounting period for the UK’s third and subsequent carbon budgets.

Tackling climate change is, of course, of the utmost importance to this Government. Internationally, we have taken a leading role to promote action through COP 26 and have considerable achievements to reflect on. Through our leadership, we delivered the Glasgow climate pact, wherein 197 countries reached a consensus on the need to urgently tackle climate change. Net-zero commitments now cover 90% of the world’s economy—up from 30% two years ago, when the UK took on the COP 26 presidency. We have continued to champion the need for action in the COP 27 conference taking place as we speak and will strive to ensure that the historic Glasgow climate pact is at the forefront of international co-operation, keeping alive the ambition of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees.

Domestically, we have achieved a great deal on our road to net zero already. Between 1990 and 2019, we grew our economy by 76% and cut our emissions by 44%, decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. Our domestic target is also consistent with the Paris agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees centigrade and pursue efforts towards 1.5 degrees centigrade.

Our legally binding carbon budgets are in line with the latest science and put us on a trajectory to achieve net zero by 2050. In June last year, the Government set the sixth carbon budget, for the first time incorporating the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions, an important part of the Government’s decarbonisation efforts that will allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.

I will take a moment to talk through what this order will do. The Climate Change Act 2008 was the first of its kind and made the UK the first country to introduce a legally binding long-term emissions reduction target. This order updates the Act by introducing nitrogen trifluoride as the seventh targeted greenhouse gas under the Act. NF3, primarily used in the production of electronics, is considered a potent contributor to climate change, and estimated to be 17,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This order will rightly introduce new duties on the Secretary of State to report on these harmful emissions.

Happily, I can assure the House that NF3 emissions have been captured in UK greenhouse gas emissions national statistics and international reporting to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since 2015. NF3 is also in scope of the UK’s nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement. This order will, however, ensure that the Climate Change Act and statutory reporting pursuant to the Act are aligned with our greenhouse gas inventories and international reporting practice, and that our domestic targets continue to align with the latest science.

I assure the House that this statutory instrument does not put our domestic targets at risk. Representing less than 0.0001% of total UK territorial emissions in 2020, this inclusion in carbon budgets does not make a material difference to the challenge of meeting them and can therefore be tackled without reviewing the levels of the legislated targets.

I place on record my thanks to the Committee on Climate Change for its advice in this regard. It similarly holds the view that the addition of NF3 to the Act will not jeopardise our ability to meet our carbon budgets and net-zero target. Recognising the important role of measuring and reporting energy use and carbon data, the Government introduced a streamlined energy and carbon reporting framework on 1 April 2019. This reporting framework sets a light-touch reporting regime, setting out minimum mandatory emissions reporting requirements for all quoted companies and large businesses, which will, as a result of this order, now also cover NF3 emissions. Due to the very low use of NF3 in UK production, and as existing reporting methodologies, such as the widely used greenhouse gas protocol, already require NF3 to be included in companies’ inventories, I assure the House that the impact on business from this instrument coming into force will also be minimal.

I place on record my thanks to the Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for their support during the consultation process in bringing forward this legislation. I am grateful to the Welsh Minister for Climate Change, who has also tabled a statutory instrument consent memorandum before the Senedd, stating that this order is the most practicable legislative vehicle for the provision in question to apply in Wales. My officials will continue to engage with their colleagues in the Welsh Government and I hope that, by the time this order leaves the other place, an SI consent Motion will have been passed by the Senedd.

The Government want to ensure that, as we transition the economy to net zero, the Climate Change Act evolves with the necessary developments in science and our international commitments. Therefore, I commend this order to the House.

My Lords, I have to admit that I never came across nitrogen trifluoride in my chemistry lessons, or at all before I read this SI. Although I very much accept the Minister saying that we have very small emissions in this area, as he says, it is some 17,000 times more potent than CO2. It also lasts in the atmosphere for something like 500 years.

What I do not understand is how we measure these emissions. They are used in LCD screens. Although we do not manufacture many of those in this country, can the Minister explain whether this gas escapes in disposal of those electronic items, and whether we then measure that? Our consumption of those products is much greater than our production, so I would be interested to understand how that works and whether we have a bigger problem than he stated. I am not saying that this is the case but am trying to understand. If it is the case, do the Government have any means to manage this? Also, the SI mentions pensions. The Minister did not mention anything about this. Why are the regulations on those coming along later, as I understand it from the Explanatory Memorandum, rather than now?

The major thing that I want to understand, which the Minister mentioned, is the contradiction in the context given in the Explanatory Memorandum, paragraph 6.4 of which says:

“As of 2021, all international reporting practice has been to include NF3 as a targeted greenhouse gas.”

However, paragraph 7.2 says:

“In 2013, the UNFCCC mandated the inclusion of NF3 in all national greenhouse gas inventories”.

Therefore, I am rather confused as to whether this all happened in 2021 and will be reported in 2023 or whether we have done all this since 2013. It would be useful to understand that.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument, and send apologies from my noble friend Lady Blake, who was due to be here but is currently supervising the birth of her latest grandchild—good luck with that.

The instrument extends the scope of emissions captured and reported under the Climate Change Act 2008 by including nitrogen trifluoride—I had not heard of it either, until yesterday when preparing for this—as a targeted greenhouse gas. Following on from the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I point out that this means that NF3 emissions will be included within the scope of emissions for the annual statement of emissions for 2021, to be published by 31 March 2023, the full accounting period for the UK’s third carbon budget—CB3—and for subsequent carbon budgets. I am not sure whether that is the answer, but that is my understanding of what we are dealing with.

We on this side of the House have no objections to this instrument, but we have some questions. The Climate Change Act requires the Secretary of State to reduce the amount of net UK carbon emissions to at least 100% below the 1990 level, and to set a carbon budget for each five-year period, to report each year in line with international reporting practices. As we have heard, NF3 has a global warming potential that is 17,000 times or thereabouts greater than carbon dioxide, although I am not sure that you can smell it, taste it or see it. Therefore, it is right to include it in the annual emissions reporting.

The Climate Change Committee highlighted that the volume of current NF3 emissions is so low that it is not likely to impact on achieving the 2050 target, as the Minister said in his introduction. However, I am interested in whether the Government have made any assessment of the likelihood of this changing and whether there should be any increase in NF3 emissions. Also, what is likely to affect the increase in NF3 emissions into the atmosphere?

As we are coming to the end of the third carbon budget period, I would appreciate it if the Minister could update the House on the current expectation going into the fourth period next year. Given that these budgets were set long in advance—the third in 2008 and the fourth in 2011—they require long-term policy planning, and while the Climate Change Committee in June this year stated that the prospects for meeting the fourth are better than for meeting the fifth and sixth, it has also highlighted the dependence on short-term macroeconomic trends and the extent to which emissions rebounded following the pandemic.

On a wider note, the Climate Change Committee’s report in June emphasised that delivery is undermining the Government’s policy ambition. What steps are the Government taking to address this and to ensure that the positive words are met with the required delivery actions? The report also emphasised that action to address the rising cost of living should be aligned to net zero, yet we have seen the Government favouring non-renewables, with their loopholes to the oil and gas levy, while continuing their apparent ban on onshore wind.

We have asked for this to be considered many times, but I would be interested to hear the Government’s assessment of the impact that these decisions will have on their ability to hit forthcoming carbon budgets.

First, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. The points raised demonstrate the need for the Government to continue to press ahead with our world-leading climate goals.

The Climate Change Act was indeed a landmark piece of legislation globally, placing the UK at the forefront of climate change action. The Act requires the Government to ensure that our emissions reporting meets standards set internationally. I am proud that this Government are doing exactly that in bringing forward this legislation, and that was recognised by both speakers.

It is worth restating my thanks to the Committee on Climate Change for its support, advising on this legislation and its compatibility with those carbon budgets already set. I further thank our devolved Administrations for their responses to the consultation on this order and, as I said, to the Welsh Minister for Climate Change for her support in bringing forward the statutory instrument consent memorandum in the Senedd.

The Government are intent on delivering a UK economy that is greener, more sustainable and more resilient. Having handed over the presidency of COP 26, we will work with this year’s presidency, Egypt, to make sure that international commitments secured at COP 26 under the Glasgow climate pact are honoured.

The pact remains the blueprint for accelerating climate action in this critical decade to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade in reach. This is a pivotal moment to redouble our efforts, resist backsliding and ultimately go further and faster using the Glasgow and Paris commitments as the baseline of our ambition. Domestically, we will continue to keep abreast of developments and make improvements where needed to ensure that the Climate Change Act 2008 continues to provide the basis for our world-leading, legally binding emission-reduction targets.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked a very reasonable question: why are we only now reporting on NF3 from 2020-21, when we have previously included it from 2013 in the Explanatory Memorandum? The Government have been reporting NF3 emissions in their official statistics and as part of our international reporting obligations since 2015—with a two-year lag—when nitrogen trifluoride was included under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change guidelines. This legislation extends that reporting to statutory reporting requirements to ensure that NF3 emissions can be captured by our domestic as well as international reporting. Given the high potency of NF3, we must recognise the importance of ensuring that we reduce its impact through its inclusion in our climate targets.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, posed a number of other questions. If the noble Lord will forgive me, I will come back to him on those in writing. I commend this order to the House.

Motion agreed.