Motion to Take Note
My Lords, I would like to begin by paying tribute to Peers for the Planet for all it has done over nearly three years to keep pressure on the issue of climate change, and for the regular briefings it has provided. These briefings recognise that facing the crisis involves every aspect of our public policy. I much look forward to hearing from your Lordships, who I know will raise questions across a range of areas.
António Guterres at the opening of COP 27 defined climate change as the defining issue of our time. Few will disagree with that. COP 27 was one of the defining moments in meeting that challenge. The first question is: how successful was it at really facing up to what is predicted will happen, and what were its successes and failures? The second question is: what are the implications of the agreements made for the policy of our own Government, in particular for our own nationally determined contribution—our NDC?
First, the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to put it into operation in the coming period is much welcomed. Whether or not this is viewed as a just restitution for the damage caused by the industrialised nations over the last 200 years in relation to less developed ones, the fact is that there is now—and will be so in the future—severe loss and damage and dire human need. We now have an agreement that there will be a fund to enable the world to respond to it. However, no agreement has been reached on who should pay the money, how or how much. Recommendations will be made on operationalising the new funding arrangements next year. The process of reaching agreement on payment will need to be kept under close scrutiny in the year ahead before COP 28 in December 2023.
The immediate question for our Government is this. Where is our contribution going to come from? It is not good enough to divert money from the foreign aid budget, which is already reduced to 0.5% from the pledged 0.7%. That would simply mean that other vulnerable people formerly helped by aid projects will suffer. I know that the Government have said that the reduction is temporary, and they intend to restore the 0.7%, but even if this happens, the loss and damage fund is meant to be an extra resource and not a diversion from other much-needed projects. I hope that the Minister will address this issue. Exactly the same point applies to the Adaptation Fund; it should not come from diverting money from other much-needed projects. This issue has been raised in your Lordships’ House on a number of occasions and the answer has never been very satisfactory.
The key issue is the need to reduce the rate at which the globe is warming. COP 27 reaffirmed the Paris Agreement temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and agreed to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. This is very soft language. The reality, as a number of people have noted, is that the 1.5 degrees goal is either dead or on life support. It is not totally impossible to achieve the 1.5 degrees reduction, but to achieve it will require all nations to do much more than they are now. While COP 26 requested countries return to COP 27 with improved nationally determined contributions, only 34 countries did so, and some, including the UK’s, were largely unchanged.
As stated at COP 26, the world is heading for a 2.4 degrees rise in warming under the current 2030 target. The UN emissions gap report states that, under current global policies, there is only a 1% chance of limiting temperatures to 1.5 degrees and only an 8% chance of limiting temperatures to 2 degrees. Emissions, which have risen by 1.1% a year over the past decade, must fall by three times that amount each year just to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees. The challenge is absolutely enormous.
In his Statement in the other place on November 9, the Prime Minister said that
“we will fulfil our ambitious commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% by the end of the decade”,—[Official Report, Commons, 9/11/22; col. 259.]
and to achieve this mentioned accelerating transition to renewables, investing in nuclear power stations and giving financial support to the green industrial revolution. One promising development, as mentioned the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is the new deal with Morocco on wind and solar power. It has the sun, and the trade winds there, unlike our own, are steady. This could supply 8% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030. Perhaps the Minister will say more on this source and how it fits with our overall plan to reduce emissions faster.
It was recently announced that Sizewell C is going ahead. James Lovelock, the distinguished scientist and environmentalist, very early became concerned about the threat of global warming. In 2004, he broke with many fellow environmentalists by stating that only nuclear power could halt global warming. In his view, nuclear energy was the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfil the large-scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
I understand that the aim is for 25% of the UK’s energy to be supplied by nuclear power. However, with five generators closed or being phased out, are the Government confident that we will have enough capacity to achieve that target? More than that, is the target high enough? France has 70% of its energy needs supplied by 56 reactors. China has only 4.9% of its energy supplied from its 53 nuclear reactors, but over the next 15 years it is planning to build 150 new reactors, which is more than the whole of the rest of the world has built in the last 35 years. Should we not be raising the amount of energy from nuclear generation from 25% to at least 50%?
The purpose of this transition to nuclear power—and other measures, of course—is to stop having to use fossil fuels, but nothing was agreed at COP 27 about stopping their use. The final text did not advance on the previous policy of a phase-down of unabated coal power and a phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. We all recognise the current difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine and the consequent sanctions against Russia, but that war will have to come to an end sooner or later, and we already need to look beyond it to be rid of this key cause of global warming. Will the Government say something about their policy in relation to new oil drilling? Are they still committed to ending the use of coal power by October 2024?
Like many of your Lordships, I heard the speech of the President of the Maldives, which is low lying and under severe threat from rising sea levels, as well as the rising number of typhoons. Whole villages there are being relocated to higher ground. The President made the point that, in addition to spending 30% of its GDP on this kind of work, it is paying 24% to service its national debt. Like many of your Lordships, I was around in the last century, when many poorer countries were totally crippled by debt. But the pressure of the Drop the Debt campaign, initiated by churches and NGOs, eventually led to significant relief at the millennium. The President of the Maldives put forward the idea of a certain amount of debt relief—debt being cancelled—with the money being used to finance high-quality decarbonisation projects, or “debt-for-climate swaps”, as he termed this. This seems a helpful idea; have the Government given any thought to it yet?
In relation to our own country, the Committee on Climate Change’s progress report to Parliament found that the gap between future levels of risk and planned adaptation had widened in the last five years and that planning for a global warming level of 2 degrees was not happening. The CCC also found that many of the UK’s critical energy, water, digital and transport providers are struggling to take account of climate-related risks to connected infrastructure systems, which could lead to cascading failures. Can the Minister confirm when the Government intend to act on the priorities identified by the CCC, in particular by ensuring that adaptation plans incorporate proposals to accommodate temperature rises of up to 2 degrees? What progress have Government made in addressing risks to critical infrastructure?
Important progress was made on sustainable forest management and conservation, with the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership—FCLP—which aims to unite action by Governments, businesses and community leaders. Some 27 countries, representing 60% of global GDP and 35% of the world’s forests, have already joined the new partnership and are committed to leading by example on one or more of the FCLP’s action areas. There is also the special partnership of Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo. To ensure accountability, the FCLP will publish an annual global progress report that will include independent assessments of global progress towards the 2030 goal. We look forward to receiving and discussing that report in due course.
In this connection, I note that there is new hope in the election of Lula da Silva and his pledge to reverse the policy of his predecessor and protect the Amazon forests from the terrible devastation that they have been experiencing. I very much hope that the Government will be able to offer significant moral and political support to him and his Government, for this matter concerns the whole globe. It should also concern the whole globe, but sadly does not at the moment, that West Papua, which has huge forests that are being devastated, is being immorally and brutally occupied by Indonesia. The Government in exile have promised that, when a proper referendum takes place and they are elected, they will turn West Papua into a green state.
It is clear that, whatever we do to reduce carbon emissions, our country and the whole globe will face increasingly turbulent weather conditions. As John Gray recently pointed out, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia could not move suddenly out of oil and gas without imploding and anarchy following. He also pointed out that the switch to renewables is not cost-free: there is both the political scramble for the rare metals needed—lithium, nickel and cobalt—and the environmental cost of mining them. So we have to be realistic and realise that the progress to net zero will be slow and fraught with political difficulties, and all the time we must face and prepare for the very severe turbulence that lies ahead and, not least, help the least developed countries both to do this and to repair and rebuild when they have suffered—hence the importance of the loss and damage fund, which we can indeed celebrate. I beg to move.
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, on securing this debate and on the very realistic assessment he has just given us. He has shown not only speed but agility in giving your Lordships’ House a chance to address the post-COP 27 situation so early. We will of course come back to it again and again, because all the issues are enormous and ongoing.
Outside, there has been a mild—or, more than that, a quite strong—feeling of disappointment at what came out of COP 27. But there was no surprise because, even before it got going, many people felt that the priorities remained wrong in relation to the serious issues that we face. I will quote the excellent chair of COP 26, Alok Sharma, who I believe will join us shortly in your Lordships’ House. As he said, there was no mention in the text of emissions peaking before 2025, and emissions of course continue to increase at a considerable rate, collectively. We are drifting further and further away from the Paris targets—this realism has to be faced if we are going to mobilise the right answers to the situation.
Alok Sharma added that there was no
“Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal.”
That is understandable, because Asia and Africa are driven largely by coal, and new coal stations are being constructed now. The proportion of electricity, or power generally, generated from coal across Africa and Asia is not decreasing, I am afraid; on the contrary, it is increasing. He also said that the text of the communiqué did not contain
“A clear commitment to phase out … fossil fuels.”
Again, that is a reflection of an ugly fact: 85% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels. So, over two or three decades, we are talking about the most colossal undertaking in human history, far exceeding the industrial revolution or any other vast technological change in the past, to transform the world so that it no longer depends upon fossil fuels. It will take time and will have to be orderly, and just passing resolutions and putting them in texts is no contribution at all.
Most people rightly point to what is missing from all this. There are clearly some good things: the idea of a loss and damage fund to help those in real difficulty over climate change is obviously desirable, but it has to be formulated and organised. But everyone says, “Where’s the strategy? What is the grand strategy to meet this huge challenge to the stability of nations and the well-being of the 8 billion people, as we now are, on this planet?”
To my mind, the priorities are wrong on two levels. First, on our own contribution, which the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, mentioned, if you ask the experts what we in the United Kingdom are doing, the answer is, first, setting an example. I am always a little uneasy about that: if you talk to friends in Delhi, Beijing or anywhere in Asia, they do not seem to be taking much notice of our example. Still, we are trying and doing our best, and I do not deride that for one moment. The second answer is that we are aiming for net zero—for production, not consumption, because of course we continue to import massive amounts of carbon through our huge import facilities. Will that contribute much, given the size of the challenge? We produce about 1% of world carbon emissions; I am told that China produces in a week what we do in a year, so it is a very small pimple on this vast problem.
I am sure we could do much better in our contributions if we were more focused on what the issues really are. The issue is the ever-rising level of emissions from thousands and thousands of coal-fired stations, and thousands of other sources of carbon throughout Asia, owing to the size of the human race. If we are to make an effective contribution—more than just feeling we have done our bit with net zero—we will have to mobilise our technology and resources on a scale not contemplated since the wars of the past. Even they were on a smaller scale because we were talking about a far smaller world population and a far smaller problem in the world. We are now being called on to face up to the need to use our most brilliant talent and to make real sacrifices in the interests of curbing the ever-rising level of emissions.
I have long argued, as have many others, that the immediate national role that we can develop—I should like to hear how the Minister thinks we are getting on with this—is using our technological skill to reduce and cheapen considerably the methods of carbon capture, storage and usage. We should also cheapen the methods of installing those carbon-capture technologies in, as I said, thousands and thousands of smoking chimneys from coal-fired stations across the whole of the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa, and using that to start curbing the main sources of emissions growth. That is where these emissions are really coming from. America is the biggest source—it may be getting some kind of grip on it now, although it has a long way to go—but the really fast-growing sources are India and China. We do not really know about the figures for Moscow. They say they are doing things and planting trees, but the net effects are not easy to see.
These areas are where we can really make a contribution, nationally, with our technological skill, but I am not convinced that we are doing that now. I am not convinced that the resources we are putting into NZ might not be better used for contributing the technology that will actually reduce climate emissions globally. It may not make us feel so good, but that is where the real impact can be made nationally.
Then we come to the wider world effort, and here the scene does fall short. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, rightly said, it falls very considerably short of what we should be achieving. We must bring a halt to, or start reducing, the parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere, now reckoned to be at the level of 422 parts. That is much too high—it must come down. The UNFCCC says that it must come down, our own Climate Change Committee says that it must come down and every expert says that it must come down. How can it be done? The answer is that we have to move on to a totally new area of innovation in carbon absorption: the direct extraction of carbon from the atmosphere on a scale not yet contemplated—and, alas, not discussed very much at Cairo.
This is where we should take a lead nationally, in a huge international effort to create the kind of schemes that Imperial College is now proposing: huge new carbon sinks and huge new ecosystems of every kind around the world, which can be developed. The first is now being suggested in Morocco. The noble and right revered Lord, Lord Harries, mentioned Morocco, as I did the other day; it can supply us with about 10 gigawatts—three or four nuclear power stations’ worth—of solar, low-carbon electricity in a few years’ time. More than that, it and other countries can provide huge desert areas in which new ecosystems can be built.
None of this was discussed, as far as I can make out, at all in Cairo. Therefore, I think the time has come for us to raise our game massively and to recognise that this is the biggest single move in the organisation of our planet since the Industrial Revolution. I saw a figure this morning that said it would require $100 trillion. I think that is far too high and we can do it for less, but we need innovation and ingenuity on a scale we did not see at Cairo. I hope, however, that in this nation we can at least point out the realities and raise our game.
My Lords, thank you for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today. As someone who faced discrimination in my country of birth, I am immensely proud to have studied, worked and created businesses in the United Kingdom. This country has become my much-loved home. It has given me hope, opportunities, freedom and, most importantly of all, a voice. In this Chamber, I will use that voice to speak up for the discriminated against, the disadvantaged and the displaced, and to defend social justice in the United Kingdom and across the world. As the first Labour Peer of east and south-east Asian heritage, this will of course include providing a voice for these communities in the UK.
I begin by offering my thanks to the incredible staff here: the doorkeepers, security personnel, clerks and other officials without whom none of us would survive in, or indeed escape from, this building. I must also give them fair warning that I will undoubtedly continue to depend on them all for some considerable time. However, while the complex traditions of this institution may be confusing to newcomers such as me, and completely baffling to most members of the public, the unquestionable importance and urgency of today’s debate, on the need to take action on climate change and to safeguard our planet for future generations, is understood by more and more people.
On a personal level, I understand this keenly. Last week, as I was introduced to this House in so many ways by my supporters, my noble friends Lady Smith of Basildon and Lord Kennedy of Southwark, we were watched from the Public Gallery by my 90 year-old mother, who had flown thousands of miles especially to be here. So my appearance in this Chamber has already generated a significant carbon footprint, one I feel honour-bound to offset by my activities here.
The titles and traditions of this House reach back centuries, yet the world is changing increasingly rapidly. For example, it is estimated that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have yet to be invented. Alongside noble Lords with esteemed careers in politics, the law and public services, we may in the future also be introducing YouTube content creators, social media influencers and renewable technology entrepreneurs to our Benches. It is those young entrepreneurs whom I will be seeking to encourage, develop and support, as it is they who will need to find innovative ways of delivering on the commitments made by today’s political leaders, not least on climate change—a heavy responsibility indeed, and one not necessarily of their making.
The outcomes from COP 27 in Egypt were profoundly disappointing. There were further delays and dilution of targets, promises of funding remained unfulfilled and there was a failure to agree stronger language around fossil fuels, despite extended discussions. World leaders need to do more, and to do so more quickly; they—we—must connect with the passion and urgency of our children and grandchildren now to safeguard the planet for the future. Yet I am hopeful because, in my experience, young people possess an incredible “can do” attitude and fantastic enthusiasm and optimism. This is not necessarily limited to one area of their lives. The passion and urgency with which young people engage with TikTok, Snapchat or the next level of computer games, as any parent who has tried removing them from their device of choice will know, is matched by their passion for preserving the planet, demanding action on climate change, and calling out their elders when they do not feel that we are doing enough, quickly enough.
The computer gaming industry is a huge UK success story of recent decades, contributing over £7 billion to our economy last year. There is no reason why the UK cannot lead the world and have even greater success in the growing green technology industry. Labour’s shadow Cabinet Ministers here and in the other place have already developed plans to drive this green growth, decrease our dependence on imported fossil fuels and create well-paid, high-skilled jobs in this sector.
We have seen the remarkable changes in a world that has shifted from analogue to digital. Generation Z and the generations beyond them—whatever they are to be called now we have reached the end of the alphabet—will experience a further leap from the digital to the quantum age. I want to find ways to harness the creativity, passion and energy of our young people to enable them to become environmental entrepreneurs; to equip them with the skills they need to survive in the rapidly changing world of their future and to be as agile, responsive and nimble in running their businesses as the avatars in their virtual worlds; and to empower them to meet the environmental challenges, known and unknown, that they will face through their lifetimes and into the 22nd century.
I look forward to working alongside many noble Lords across the House during the months and years to come on the challenges laid out in this debate. As I do this, I shall always imagine my mother watching me from the Public Gallery, as she did last week, expecting and encouraging me to do better, to do more and to make a difference for those who will be here long after I have gone.
My Lords, it is an enormous pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Leong, and to congratulate him on what I think everyone will agree was an outstanding maiden speech. The noble Lord is very modest in his summary of his own career. He has been a hugely successful and entrepreneurial businessperson and has had great and creative success in many organisations, but what came over loud and clear from his speech is his commitment to making a difference. That thread has gone through all his achievements, not just in publishing and business but in all areas of his work within the Commonwealth and beyond. He has made a commitment nationally—in this country, of which he has become such a loyal citizen—and internationally.
He has had great achievements, and he will understand that I was particularly delighted to hear of his passion for making progress on climate change. No one in this Chamber begrudges the emissions caused by his mother’s flight to be here. I am sure that the quality of his contribution today makes us all certain that he will more than offset those emissions in his future contributions to the House. I first heard of the noble Lord because he was vice-chairman of Future First, an organisation which my own son was involved in setting up. At the time, I asked my son about his vice-chairman, and he said, “He’s one of the good guys”. I think that is an assessment we would all make after having heard him speak today.
I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet. I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for the way he introduced this debate and his success in securing it in such a timely slot. I thank him, too, for what he said about that organisation.
I think all three of the speakers before me used the word “hope”. I am always interested in the distinction people make between optimism and hope—optimism being a fairly passive belief that things will be all right or turn out okay; hope being much less certain about whether things will turn out well, but believing that if things are done properly, they can turn out well. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned earlier, we heard Alok Sharma’s view of COP 27:
“Emissions peaking before 2025 … Not in this text. Clear follow-through on the phase down of coal. Not in this text. A clear commitment to phase out all fossil fuels. Not in this text. And the energy text, weakened, in the final minutes. Friends, I said in Glasgow that the pulse of 1.5 degrees was weak. Unfortunately, it remains on life support.”
That is not an optimistic view of COP 27.
However, there is reason to have hope. The Prime Minister went to COP 27, which was important in terms of UK leadership—an issue that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, spoke about and that I will come back to later. The Prime Minister said—I think this is very important for those of us in this House—that in playing our part,
“Keeping the 1.5 degrees commitment alive is vital to the future of our planet … More must be done.”
He went on to say:
“It is not the work of any one Department or any one Minister; if we are going to make this commitment work, we are all going to have to play our part.”—[Official Report, 9/11/22; col. 263.]
That is absolutely right.
We made important commitments at COP 26, and we made a historic breakthrough at COP 27 in agreeing to set up a fund to assist vulnerable nations hit by climate disasters. But much more difficult will be delivering on commitments and getting agreement on how the world can come together to fund this and, crucially, how we can resurrect global ambitions for reducing the emissions that cause the damage in the first place.
The other thing that discussions at Sharm el-Sheikh brought into sharp focus was that while the destination we are all aiming for may be the same, the challenges we face as individual countries in responding to the climate crisis are not. In the UK, legislators focus on the potential of a green economy, the opportunities for better health, air quality and jobs, and all sorts of opportunities for our entrepreneurs and innovators in the new industries that the noble Lord, Lord Leong, spoke about. But for legislators in other countries, their focus is on survival, and on managing the devastating impacts of climate change they are facing immediately. Every country will have its own unique climate challenges and will have to plot its own pathways out of the crisis.
There is much we can do nationally, but there are many issues where we do not have that pipeline or attention in every department in every way. The Minister will not be surprised that I raise the issue of onshore wind with him; it is a perennial favourite, and one I would be very happy to ditch by getting a good result on it. In this country, if we cannot even agree that we should have a normal planning process for onshore wind development and the replacement of existing onshore wind, I will lose the will to live on how we will achieve all the much bigger things that we need to do. It is one example, but there are many others. The Procurement Bill, which reaches Report in your Lordships’ House next week, still has no reference to climate change, despite the enormous potential in it for both good and bad in terms of climate. So there is much that we can do to put our own house in order.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, talked about our contribution as a country and whether other countries looked to our example. He is absolutely right that we will not be judged by the quantity of the emissions that we reduce as a country compared to everywhere else in the world; we will be judged by the quality of the leadership we give and the innovation we nurture and showcase, which can be used in other countries. I believe that we will not have the credibility to do that unless we put our own house in order. That is why the ongoing work of achieving our own goals and creating the green economic future that we talk about are so important, and why I feel hopeful—if not optimistic—that we can build on what came out of COP 27.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I add my support to her words on onshore shore: it really is a missed opportunity of mammoth proportions. It is low-hanging fruit, so we should grab it and not put artificial barriers in its way. I also thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for securing this very important debate. I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Leong, on his excellent maiden speech—it will be good to have yet another strong voice in support of tackling climate change.
I declare my interest on the register as a director of Peers for the Planet. I begin by saying a few words about why the COPs—the Conferences of the Parties—matter. Recently, there has been much said about them being only a talking-shop, where promises are made but not followed through—much of which is warranted. However, while there is much truth in this assertion, it misses the bigger picture. The COPs are important for several reasons.
First, they have great convening power, particularly of world leaders—witness our own Prime Minister bowing to the inevitable and succumbing to the pressure to attend COP 27. The power of crowds is a sociological phenomenon and describes the crowd’s ability to exert influence. When world leaders are physically together, the atmosphere palpably changes to one of “can do”, and agreements are reached which previously seemed impossible. Secondly, COPs give climate scientists a forum where they have the attention of world leaders. Thirdly, they are important in giving voice to smaller developing countries which are already suffering massively under the impact of climate change. It allows them to share a stage with the big emitters. Last but not least, COPs attract a media gathering par excellence, with a resultant high profile of the main issues under discussion. For a period of two weeks, climate issues are at, or very near, the top of the news agenda.
Without the COPs, progress that has been made to date would not have been possible. The rise in energy from renewable sources has been given momentum by these annual talking-shops, and the role of fossil fuels is becoming more marginalised. We could all hope for a far faster elimination of fossil fuels, but I think that is only a matter of time, given that the economics are so much against fossil fuels at the moment.
What has the 27th Conference of the Parties achieved and not achieved? I will focus primarily on two issues: first, one that is seen as a success of this COP, that of climate justice for vulnerable countries, known as loss and damage; and, secondly and to a lesser extent, on fossil fuels, a lack of action on which can be seen as a shortcoming of this COP.
First, the bald fact is that loss and damage matters, because countries in the global South cannot lift themselves out of poverty if they face increasing devastation from climate-related disasters, which for some of them are becoming routine occurrences. Failure to tackle the climate crisis has been perpetuating reliance on a humanitarian aid system that was not designed to respond to cyclical shocks of such scale and frequency. The polluter pays principle is well established, but are we really saying that it is only applicable for western entities? Why does it not apply to countries in the global South that are bearing the brunt of climate devastation, which they, in practical terms, did not cause? Justice must prevail. It is utter hypocrisy to insist that developing countries must reduce their reliance on fossil fuels when they are the ones suffering the effects of our historic emissions today, with, to date, no funds in place to help them cope with the loss and damage they suffer. So I welcome the major achievement of COP 27 in establishing for the first time a fund for loss and damage. This is a historic achievement, and it is crucial that it is urgently operationalised so that countries on the front line of the climate crisis can quickly access fair and automatic financial assistance and support in the wake of immediate climate impacts and slow-onset impacts such as sea level rise.
I have two questions for the Minister. How does His Majesty’s Government believe that a loss and damage finance facility should function, and how should contributions be calculated? Will the Government consider a debt swap arrangement, like the one advocated by the Maldives, where the debt of vulnerable countries is cancelled in exchange for commitments to invest in high-quality decarbonisation projects, which they would dearly like to do but cannot afford to do both?
Secondly, I turn to fossil fuels. While emissions already in the atmosphere mean that further heating of the planet and associated loss and damage are unavoidable, the best way of minimising loss and damage is to ensure that fossil fuels stay in the ground. It is deeply concerning that countries have failed to agree on an equitable and urgent phase-out of all fossil fuels at COP 27, and, as hard as it may be to believe, it is a fact that coal, oil and gas still enjoy massive financial support from both state players and commercial entities.
The COP 27 decision text agrees to phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Our Government have argued that they do not give any fossil fuel subsidies because they use an International Energy Agency definition of consumption subsidies as
“measures that reduce the effective price of fossil fuels below world market prices”.
However, the IEA does not claim that this is the only type of subsidy. Indeed, the OECD has done a more detailed analysis of consumption and production subsidies, which found that UK subsidies in 2021 gave £200 million for decommissioning, £250 million for oil and gas investment, £l billion for fuel oil, £1.5 billion for ring-fenced oil and gas trade corporate income tax relief and £2.1 billion for red diesel. Each of these measures provides support to the oil and gas industry which could otherwise be supporting rollout of low-carbon electricity, heating and transport.
Are our Government committed to phasing out all forms of fossil fuel subsidy, and in a way which supports the UK’s net zero objective by transferring the support to low carbon technology? We must walk the talk at home and fulfil promises made on the world stage to phase down reliance on fossil fuels. A year ago at COP 26 we asked countries to accept that fossil fuels must be phased out. How does the Minister reconcile that statement with the announcement that we will resume the issuing of new licences for oil and gas exploration? The fact is that just a few weeks ago, the UK opened up a new licensing round to allow oil and gas companies to explore for fossil fuels in the North Sea, despite threats of a legal battle from climate campaigners. Almost 900 locations are being offered up for exploration.
Finally, will the Minister urge the Government to revoke licences for North Sea oil and gas exploration, scrap plans for the Whitehaven coal mine in Cumbria, and urgently roll out a just transition to renewables, which would secure our energy supply and prevent further emissions in the atmosphere devastating communities and the environment?
My Lords, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for securing this debate and welcome the noble Lord, Lord Leong, to this place; I very much enjoyed his speech. It is also a great pleasure to follow the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Sheehan. The figures the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, has just set out and the commitment she asked for if the UK is to claim any form of leadership require that those subsidies end now. That is a statement of the absolutely obvious.
However, today we are focused on COP 27. At the start of COP 27, there were many reasons to be concerned about what might happen. One of the more minor factors, but rather telling, was that especially for the occasion, the Tonino Lamborghini Convention Centre had been renamed the International Convention Centre for the length of COP 27, which perhaps left a loud throaty echo in the background.
There were 35,000 delegates at COP 27. Of those, more than 600 were oil and fossil fuel industry lobbyists—more than had ever attended a previous COP. There were more lobbyists from the oil and gas industries than from the 10 countries most affected by the climate emergency.
I want to draw on the interesting work of Alix Dietzel, senior lecturer in climate justice at the University of Bristol, who analysed last year’s COP. Men spoke 76% of the time, indigenous communities faced language barriers and racism, and significant numbers of those who could not obtain visas to get into the UK were excluded. I was also at COP 26, just as I have been at a number of previous COPs, and saw for myself how difficult it was for those crucial voices to be heard. But Dr Dietzel was again at COP 27 and found that Africa’s COP was even worse: the high prices, the surveillance concerns, the fears of Egypt’s police state and the extreme pressures on civil society all had an impact.
None the less, when I look back to COP 26, my most memorable recollection is a speech by Jumas Xipaia, from the Xipaya people in the Pará state in Brazil, at an event I chaired on ecocide. That was such a powerful voice that it moved everyone in the room. Voices such as that, which I have often called the “shadow COP”—not the official negotiations, but the gathering of civil society, people, campaigners and indigenous groups from around the world—have an enormous impact. I will come back to that.
An account in the London Review of Books by Laleh Khalili is well worth a read. Wandering around the pavilions she sees PwC, Deloitte and EY—representatives of the financial system that is built on and continues to fund the ongoing oil and gas exploration and exploitation that the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, referred to. She also noted the presence of Agip, ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron and Total. Will the Minister make a commitment? Will the UK agree to push at future COPs to exclude oil and gas lobbyists, just as big tobacco lobbyists are excluded from WHO deliberations on tobacco control? The model is there.
That point is particularly interesting because the next COP will be in the UAE. Your Lordships’ House has just debated the World Cup in Qatar, which has some similar parallels. We have heard how the UK has been lobbying for respect for human rights and an open voice for civil society. Will the Minister commit the UK to pushing the UAE to have as open a COP as it should be?
I have been a bit depressing up until now, so I will get more cheerful. Despite all those barriers and difficulties, there was powerful evidence at COP 27 that campaigning works, although not that it is always very quick. For 31 years there have been calls, pushes and work on getting loss and damage payments—what is, in effect, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, said, the polluter pays principle put into action. Finally, it was delivered, or at least started. There is still a huge way to go, but this was a big win for climate justice and, I would posit, a win for something much further. It is a win for the whole issue of reparations and the damage being done by robbing the global south of wealth and resources and the labours of its people to enrich the global north. A principle has now been set. What plans do the Government have to work with others—the G77 plus China and civil society groups—to deliver on loss and damage?
I apologise for now going back to being depressing. Noble Lords may not know that there is one country in the world that is on the path to deliver the 1.5 degrees that the world agreed to at COP in Paris: Gambia. Well done, Gambia. That does not, of course, cover the UK. The practical reality is that talking about net zero by 2050 and all that the Government plan is just kicking climate action down the road. We cannot afford to do that. What the UK has to do is to commit to net zero by 2030. That is the figure that is in line with 1.5 degrees. It should be put out loudly and clearly that that should be our contribution. I do not expect the Minister to commit to that today, but you never know; I will put it on the table, at least.
It is worth looking at the words of Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders, a group of former world leaders, and a very respected, clear voice. She says that
“the world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe … Progress made on [cutting emissions] has been too slow. We are on the cusp of a clean energy world, but only if G20 leaders live up to their responsibilities, keep their word, and strengthen their will. The onus is on them.”
As we stand in your Lordships’ Chamber today, it is clear that the onus is on the UK Government.
I want to point to some positive things and have questions for the Minister. If he is not able to answer them now, perhaps he could write to me. We have seen agonisingly slow but significant progress in just energy transition partnerships, with South Africa at COP 26 and with Indonesia at COP 27. Can the Minister tell me what accelerated progress is expected and what the UK is doing to contribute to more and much broader ways in which we can deliver essential development for the global South with the support of the global North?
I come back, finally, to the point that I made about the shadow COP, and the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about hope and optimism. It is worth noting that, as is often the case, one of the best events at COP 27 was the people’s plenary. During that event, the participants drew attention to the continuing incarceration, as I speak, of Alaa Abd el-Fattah. They chanted, “Free Alaa!”, and chanted his watchword, “We have not been defeated”.
The message that comes from COP 27 is the one that comes from all COPs: that we have a huge societal determination to stop trashing this planet as we are doing now, while also delivering a society that works for all the people on this planet. We have to change COPs and change our politics, and we have to change our society. The slogan that I have chanted on many a street is, “System change, not climate change”. COP is part of this process, but only a small part of it.
[Summary of Lord Prescott’s speech]
As a Member of Parliament in the other place for a long time—I was there from 1997—I made recommendations on all matters of climate change. I have tried to come to this Chamber and get back to doing the work that I was doing a long time ago. It was a major question—and this country has had some major achievements, along with other nations. I have learned a lot from that, in looking at what has happened since that period. I was very proud to take the regional chair at COP 3 in 1997.
There are only so many times this can be put forward. It has been a tragedy. All countries had hoped there would be a statement to be made on CO2 which would make things better. We can hope to have a better achievement and that it will go on to include other countries.
It is good that we are having this debate. I was not here for the last discussion on this in this House, about 10 days ago, but I wanted to say that we have an opportunity to make progress, and that is crucial. But with all the claims that have been made about these measures, they have not achieved what was said would happen, in the way that we set out to at the start. After those days spent at the COP, we are the only country that has failed to produce what we said we would.
I am very pleased to be here again—and I thank noble Lords.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a co-chair of Peers for the Planet. I congratulate the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, on securing this debate and on his introductory comments. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Leong, on his excellent maiden speech.
I want to make three points in this timely debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, we will return to these topics, which are so fundamental to so many issues. First, I want to reflect on the COP process and to posit that we are now, perhaps, setting unrealistic expectations for a single event and a single treaty under the UN framework. I also want to talk about the role of legislators in international treaties and to touch on the policy and technological exemplars that the UK can provide.
On expectations and the way the UN climate talks proceed, it strikes me that we are putting too much hope and expectation on a single instrument. Climate change touches on virtually all aspects of human development and nature. To expect one set of talks to solve this, even if they happen annually, is utterly unrealistic. It may explain why we have this odd paradox where the negotiations are not actually achieving very much. Much of the new framework was determined and decided in Paris. In those talks and in that rulebook, it was stated that countries are now able to determine their own contributions. There is no longer any top-down process to be negotiated; the rulebook is now largely set. Yet, outside those negotiations, an enormous body of people—stakeholders, influencers and representatives—is seeking and demanding more of this process. We probably need to look at making a higher level of demand of the UN, not simply focussing on UNFCCC which is now 27 years old and has not necessarily covered itself in glory in getting to grips with the problem. As other speakers have stated, from the time of the first COP to now, emissions have consistently risen. We do not appear to have a handle on this problem.
Supplementary treaties and negotiations are almost certainly needed. There is already one—the Kigali amendment to the Montreal protocol was recently ratified by the US. It is a sign that we can, when we put our minds to it, come forward with much tougher, top-down regulations that constrain the source of the problem. There may be other gasses for which we can do this. Perhaps we need to start thinking about the supplementary treaties we need to request the UN to initiate. Methane might be a good example. Methane emissions are rapidly rising. They do not receive the degree of attention that they need. There are many technological fixes for methane, in the oil, gas and coal sectors, for example. New solutions are also coming to market in agriculture. More targeted and focused negotiations on this problem may produce a more rapid response and results than UNFCCC can be expected to manage within its broad framework.
Another example is a plastics treaty. In March, a new mandate was adopted to negotiate a formal plastics treaty. Talks in Uruguay in the coming weeks will begin to put a shape around this international agreement on plastics in response to the huge, growing concern about the impact of plastics on the environment. It should be noted that plastics are one of the fastest growing sources of demand for fossil fuels. There is a direct read-across from it to our climate goals.
A resolution was agreed at UNGA very recently on international tax co-operation. If we are to solve this problem, we need to work out how we will pay for it. Private sector investment will be a key feature. As Governments, we are not unable to collaborate on finding new sources of revenue. The effect of an international tax co-operation mandate under the UN could reveal new sources of finance to help us bring about the huge transformation that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed to. It is an extraordinary undertaking. We need to harness all the tools available to us.
Another example where a dedicated treaty could be considered is in the fossil fuel supply sector. Paris, by and large, involved all nations in looking at the demand for fossil fuels and their combustion at a country level. However, fewer countries are responsible for the supply of those fossil fuels. At present, there is nothing to stop them continuing to exploit and develop fossil fuels to the extent that they will rapidly burst through any kind of safe climate budget.
One example of why supply is such a difficult problem can be seen in the UK. Here we are, leading on climate change and recognised globally for that leadership. Yet we are considering licensing new coal mines and new rounds of oil and gas and, not long ago, we even considered fracking. It shows a real tension. This cannot be solved by cutting with one side of the scissors; both blades are needed. Both supply and demand sides need addressing. A fossil fuel treaty which negotiates a fair and equal glide path to constraining supply, with the rich and more developed countries going first, would allow some room for developing countries to continue to exploit it. This makes absolute sense. Calls for it are growing. Two countries—Tuvalu and Vanuatu—have already taken this idea to the UN. I hope this is a sign of growing interest in constraining supply and in deciding on a fair and equitable rulebook that can help us take action to constrain the ultimate tragedy we have in common. Every country will want to extract and sell fossil fuels. Without a rulebook, I cannot see how we can prevent a huge overshoot in our climate emissions.
In other sectors, there is already the potential for rules to be written. The IMO governs shipping. The ICAO governs aviation. These are examples of UN treaties brought into being in the 1950s to facilitate global trade. They now exist as rule-making bodies which can pass ambitious laws to help us decarbonise these sectors. I recently noticed that the global steel industry is asking for something similar. It has come together under the Global Steel Climate Council and is now calling on legislators to bring in a global standard for environmentally friendly steel. This is a call to the UN to legislate. This kind of level playing field will facilitate industry and benefit everybody. We need to see much more attention given to sectoral level standards to drive investment.
I will quickly touch on agricultural subsidy reform. Agriculture is responsible for a quarter or more of our global emissions. It is the one sector where public money is driving the problem. In most other sectors, some sort of tax has to be levied or regulations imposed. With agriculture, all that is needed it to divert current public spending into solutions and away from problems. We need a G8 a G20 or some form of GX conversation around agriculture subsidy reform. It is an easy lever; we should be pulling it as fast as we can.
In my remaining time, I will pick up on the role of legislators. I was lucky enough to attend a grouping of parliamentarians in Luxor ahead of COP, organised by the Climate Parliament. It brought together over 100 legislators to discuss important issues, including how we can make greater progress domestically and have our voices heard internationally. It is time we recognised the hugely important role of legislators in the COP process. Often, they are forgotten and not even classified as stakeholders, yet when countries come back from talks and want to see action domestically, they need their legislators to be able to support it. They need an informed, cross-party consensus that action is needed. If we can include legislators more formally in this process, we will see a smoother transition from pledges made at international talks to domestic delivery. So I encourage all future COPs to make a more formal arrangement for the role of legislators in driving both collaboration and domestic action.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, in opening, mentioned technology and what the UK can offer in this respect. There are two technologies where we are world-leading, and we should be very proud of this. The first is in transmission: the boring process of connecting countries together with sub-sea cables to allow us to trade electricity across borders. We have a hugely important story to tell there, as it is a fundamental aspect of any kind of transition to clean electricity. We have already demonstrated that we can lay these cables over thousands of kilometres and other countries are looking to follow our lead. We should be very proud and encourage others to do the same.
The second technology is nuclear. We have a choice ahead of us. We can either become an importer of technologies from other countries or go back to our strengths and develop a UK reactor that has export potential. We can develop a modern, high-temperature nuclear reactor in this country that all countries, especially those in Asia, can use rapidly to replace their coal-fired power stations, repowering those sites with high-temperature reactors. The UK can lead in this. I strongly encourage the Government to continue on the path they have already started, as these advanced reactors will be hugely important. We are at the lead and should continue on that path.
My Lords, I applaud, as I am sure all other noble Lords will, the manifest expertise of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington—an example of the House of Lords at its best. I also of course welcome the noble Lord, Lord Leong, and congratulate him on his maiden speech. I hope he will carry the ideas of this place into not just the United Kingdom but the wider world.
It was one step forward in Glasgow, but I fear more than one step back at Sharm el-Sheikh. While we should not forget that emissions across the G20 are in general decline, in four countries—China, India, Indonesia and Russia—they have massively increased in the 10 years since 2010 and, importantly, continue to grow. In spite of the melting glaciers, the unfreezing of the tundras, the calamitous floods, the raging forest fires and the ever more blistering temperatures, a permissive approach to hydrocarbons crept back on to the agenda at the very last moment at Sharm el-Sheikh, demonstrating that the global battle of ideas is not yet won. However, as others have touched on, Alok Sharma’s passionate and punchy riposte at the very conclusion of the conference demonstrated that the fight is still very much on.
Present the will, all nations can achieve net zero. Take the progress the UK has made in the past quarter-century in massively reducing the role of coal in electricity generation and incentivising the switch towards renewables. In the eight years between 2012 and 2020, UK territorial emissions of CO2 dropped by 30%. It can be done.
With 40% of Europe’s share of north Atlantic wind blowing hard across the UK, continuing investment at scale in offshore wind offers us an easy and cost-effective opportunity and commands wide assent. However, I do not think that we should save the planet by bespoiling our part of it. Some land sites are perfectly appropriate, but there are areas of our unusually beautiful country that need to remain unspoiled. A couple of months ago, I walked the Cumbrian Way with my wife, right through the heart of the Lake District from south to north. It is one of the most glorious landscapes on earth, but I did not welcome the sight of a wind farm at its gateway.
We all understand that renewables are intermittent and that nuclear has a key role to play in offering a carbon-free baseload on the national grid. But we do need to speed up. I was working at No. 10 in 2005 when the decision to rekindle the nuclear programme was made, yet Hinkley C will not be commissioned until 2027, more than two decades later. What about Sizewell C? Three decades later? Our inability as a country to deliver major infrastructure projects expeditiously has become a national malaise. Our can-do 19th-century forefathers turn in their graves.
As to next steps, as a country we have recently been far quicker to sign up to bold and welcome net-zero targets than to explain how we shall meet them. The challenges ahead are certainly far harder than those faced hitherto. Various technologies such as green hydrogen and carbon capture and storage have their energetic champions, but their economics as yet remain uncertain, as some excellent but largely ignored analytical work on hydrogen by BEIS officials demonstrates.
I am the owner of an electric vehicle and have direct experience of the perils of charging. Can the Minister say when the Government will set out a comprehensive, coherent framework defining the route map towards easy access to charging—wherever you travel or live, whether in a tower block, a terraced street or a remote village—and the responsibilities and accountabilities for delivering that? When I installed a charger at my village home, the engineer joked that I was lucky that I was the first in the village to do so, as there was as yet insufficient power for a second. Where is the plan to upgrade our local electricity distribution networks?
When will the Government define the road map towards decarbonising the heating of homes and buildings? With the oldest housing stock in Europe, only a tiny fraction of which is insulated, and with heat-pump technologies slow to build up heat and produce a comfortable ambient temperature in winter, how will we incentivise the decarbonisation of heating homes and buildings? What will we do about our vast current dependency on gas? By what multiple will we have to increase electricity generation as a country over the coming decades, and how?
I do not underestimate for one minute the difficulty of these challenges. They would be enormous for any Government. However, can the Minister explain the mechanism—I presume it is in the Cabinet Office, and I do not mean a Cabinet sub-committee—for plotting the optimum route to net zero for the UK and for marshalling the many departments across Whitehall that need to combine effectively if that target is to be achieved and delivered? The prize is to be one of the countries showing the way, for the benefit of everyone on earth and our and their grandchildren.
My Lords, I thank my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries for introducing this topic, and we have had a great maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Leong, whom I congratulate.
Let me start with a contrast to the proposition made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about hope and optimism. I am going to talk about disappointment or despair, but not cynicism. Sharm el-Sheikh was a complete failure. The whole process by which we think we are going to achieve 1.5 or 2.4 or whatever degrees by international or inter-governmental negotiations—45,000 people turned up at Sharm el-Sheikh—is a delusion. Many people are very idealistic, and I respect their idealism; they sincerely believe they know what has to be done, and they hope that their Governments will agree to these sorts of steps. The Governments are all cynics, of course; they say yes at the conference, then go home and do something entirely different. We have had this proposition that somehow the globe is one. We saw a picture of the earth from space, and we suddenly got the delusion that the globe is one and that therefore our interests are identical, but our interests are not identical—certainly not as represented by Governments.
Sixty years ago, I got to America from India and the most popular book was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which argued that the use of insecticides kills birds, and that this was the first signal that we were doing things that were against our own nature. Early in the 1970s, there was a conference in Stockholm on climate change with a slogan: “One week to save the world”. That was in 1971. Fifty years later, we are still trying to save the world. It is quite clear that we live in a system not of identity of global interests, but of power relations, where powerful countries do what they want, as they want and when they want. We saw that at Glasgow. In Glasgow, poor Alok Sharma was practically in tears because he could not convince India and China to agree to the coal target.
The same thing happens again and again. At Sharm el-Sheikh, everybody says, “Oh, there has been a fund created”. That fund has a quarter of 1% of the original planned fund—£250 million. The original planned fund was in billions, so this is pin money. It is not seriously going to compensate anybody for anything, but it salves the consciences of the various parties who are there. The world ought to really ask whether there is not a better process for doing these negotiations and making these decisions, because it reminds me of the worst kind of things done in the United Nations. The United Nations has a General Assembly. Whatever the General Assembly does, it does not matter a hoot because the five permanent members decide what the UN will do, and the five permanent members do not obey anything decided by the UNGA. We live in a very unequal society and therefore it is no good pretending that somehow the next conference, or the conference after next, will arrive at a decision which we will all agree to and heaven on earth will descend.
We have to hope that we can achieve better results on the carbon front within the UK, and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and various other speakers have already detailed what we can do to clean up our environment, whatever anybody else may do. That at least can be done.
I welcome the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Leong, that, ultimately, we will have to rely on enterprise and innovation, which will come from the private sector and not from anywhere else, to find alternatives and better ways of doing the things we do so badly now. I do not know what they are because I am not technologically literate, but during my lifetime on a number of other fronts, such as communications, telephones, digital technology and so on, things have happened which have considerably simplified the world. They all happened because people wanted to profit. They will not happen for any idealistic reasons; they will happen for profit. Going along that path, I hope that we will get some solution. It will not come from any number of meetings of any number of countries, anywhere. In business, solutions pay for themselves. This would be paid for by taxpayers.
En passant, I ask: who decided to meet in Egypt? Why do we go and meet in the worst dictatorships going? We are going to the UAE. Why do we not just have every conference denouncing fossil fuel in Saudi Arabia, so at least we know we will not get anywhere? We will all have a fun time going there, but at least we will know that the outcome will be hostile to whatever we want to do.
However, at some stage we will have to find ways of making international decisions where global problems are involved in a way other than what we have constructed from the Rio conference onwards to many other international meetings, also attended by NGOs and very idealistic people, who all have to be disappointed. There are urgent tasks that need to be fulfilled. For example, who will look after the people who will face rising sea levels and will be made homeless? Do we have any plan to move those people away to safer countryside? That will be an urgent problem because people will drown if we do not do something like that.
We ought, at least privately, on our own as the UK, to try to think of some of those problems and see what we as a single country, and as one of the P5, G7, or whatever we are, can do. We are an important player in this context. We as a country ought to think through on our own what the urgent problems are so that we can solve the world’s problems, regardless of what the rest of the world does. I hope the Government will take on that task along the lines suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and I hope we get somewhere.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries for introducing this topical debate and join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Leong, on his most impressive maiden speech and his commitment to the work of your Lordships’ House with his vast experience.
I have to say that I have mixed emotions after this conference. My son, who is a climate change management consultant, was in Sharm el-Sheikh for the entire two weeks so I had a daily update on what progress was being made, and particularly on what progress was not being made. On the one hand, it was good news that the nations historically responsible for the climate crisis agreed to pay for the loss and damage that it is causing, particularly to less-developed countries. This is a huge step forward for justice. It is well known that Africa accounts for less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions but suffers from some of the worst impacts of climate change, from flooding to increased droughts and reduction in access to clean water, as well as food insecurity.
On the other hand—the negative—it was exasperating that, yet again, there was no tangible progress on emissions reductions and insufficient action to keep within the immediate 1.5 degrees centigrade global temperature rise. My noble and right reverend friend Lord Harries was right when he said that the 1.5 degrees centigrade target is us simply being on life support. If the global temperature rises to in excess of 2 degrees—figures have been raised of us potentially going irreversibly to 2.4 degrees—the Arctic is likely to keep melting and there will be flooding as a result in many parts of the world, which the noble Lord, Lord Desai, raised, and the coral reefs will continue to die.
Sadly, the loss and damage costs will inevitably come to exceed the ability of any group of countries to pay for them, and of nature to regenerate. One of the key points I want to make is that the 2 degrees increase in global temperature is not a target. It is a scientifically proven point of no return. I noted the comments of the United Nations Secretary-General at the start of the conference when he said:
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Despite the ambitious climate targets made at COP 26 in Glasgow last year, the Global Carbon Project reported that carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a new record high this year and that they are on track to increase by 1% every year. The World Benchmarking Alliance found that 40% of financial situations disclosed long-term net-zero targets but only 20% acknowledged this impact. Renewables account for only 80% of new power generation capacity in 2021 but comprise only 4% of the global energy mix. It is well known that energy demand is expected to grow by 6% globally every year.
We are transitioning, but not fast enough. McKinsey estimates that to reach net zero by 2050, $275 trillion of investments will be required. That equates to $9.2 trillion a year. Clearly, the question is: where will this investment come from and how will the world be able to achieve a “just transition” to one that brings maximum energy to the planet with minimum emissions and, I hope, allows the underdeveloped world to see the standards of life that we see here in the West? While I warmly welcome our Government’s Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, can the Minister tell us what is being done to embrace new technologies and new innovations to achieve the objectives? This question was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and my noble friend Lady Worthington.
By way of example, algae when used in conjunction with AI-powered bioreactors is up to 400 times more efficient than trees at removing CO2 from the environment. I welcome the initiatives of the Centre for Climate Repair in Cambridge, spearheaded by Sir David King, who was the Chief Scientific Adviser to four of our recent Prime Ministers. The centre is working on projects with the potential to remove at least 1 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, such as refreezing the Arctic by marine cloud brightening and marine biomass regeneration. I hope also that the Minister can give us more encouragement on what is being done in order to transition to more nuclear power in the UK.
When addressing climate change, we need to differentiate between mitigation and adaptation. It is clear that, with rising global emissions and a lack of policy consensus on how to reduce emissions, this COP has been a failure in the mitigation agenda, with a lack of a global road map for how to move forward. However, it has been heralded as a success in the adaptation agenda, helping the world to adapt to the consequences of climate change which are being felt, sadly, by many underdeveloped countries, including, I might mention, many countries in Africa, where I have a special interest.
We need to transition to a balance between mitigation and adaptation. On the positive side, one of the successful breakthroughs at the conference, which no one has so far mentioned in the debate today, was in the building sector. I understand that the global building sector accounts for 37% of global emissions. Countries and companies, both public and private, at the conference committed to transitioning to a net-zero building target with investment in green cement and tighter regulations. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Birt, earlier was speaking about the call for decarbonisation of homes and buildings. Clearly, there has been a commitment and I hope there will be some follow through on this.
In conclusion, while I had mixed feelings about the successes and failings of the conference, I welcome the public and private sectors working together. The UK can, and simply must, do more to lead the global green transition and become a leading example of positive change.
I too thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for securing this debate and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leong, on his excellent maiden speech.
Before one criticises the progress that was not made at COP 27, we ought to recognise the huge progress that has been made and the general recognition that climate change is now a real problem. What happened at COP 27 is an illustration of a familiar problem: namely, where the pain to avert damage in the future, and long in the future, does not at present seem real or entails costs, it is very difficult to persuade people to live to their commitments. I want to deal with three matters: first, the rule of law; secondly, the issue of transparency; and, thirdly, leadership, because they are all clearly interlinked.
First, let me address the status of the Paris Agreement. It is a legally binding commitment, and we sometimes forget that. Our commitment as a state has always been to uphold the rule of law, and we must continue to do that. We cannot expect to set an example of leadership without doing it. In most countries, it is impossible for domestic courts, either because they do not have the guts to do so or because their legal system does not permit it, to force Governments to comply with international obligations. There is no international tribunal or court that can force states to comply with their obligations.
So what is one left with? One is left with transparency. I think the German Federal Constitution Court in considering the German Act of 2019 put the matter very well in relation to Paris. It said:
“The purpose of the transparency provisions is to ensure that all states are able to trust that other states will act in conformity with the target … Creating and fostering trust in the willingness of the Parties to achieve the target is therefore seen as a key to the effectiveness of the Paris Agreement.”
Therefore, I think that if we are to comply with the rule of law and set an example for others to do so by our leadership, that leadership must include transparency because it is critical.
Are we achieving that? Turning to the domestic plane, having moved from the international plane, we have a great deal to give thanks for to those who created the Climate Change Act 2008, but its basis is essentially transparency. You cannot hold people to account, you cannot make them do things, unless there is transparency. Here, the courts can help. In the very recent decision of the High Court in Friends of the Earth v the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the court looked at what had been made available, decided that it did not comply with the Act, and ordered the Secretary of State to do so. To his great credit, the then Secretary of State accepted that. I am sure that he did so because the mechanism of our Act is transparency. You cannot expect our Act to work unless all the facts are put forward as to how the climate reduction plan and the carbon budget are to work, unless there is total transparency.
I mention that case and the decision of the then Secretary of State because it is a powerful demonstration of the importance of transparency, and of leadership, as well as compliance with the rule of law. It is important that, although the UK makes a tiny contribution to global emissions, we can make an enormous contribution to these three areas.
The third area that I want to mention very briefly is the position of corporations. Here it is essential that we continue to take leadership. There is the question of corporate purpose. The British Academy is to be congratulated on the work that it is doing on the future of the corporation. Is our company law sufficiently up to date that there is an emphasis on the long term rather than the short term? Is there sufficient emphasis, if it is the right thing to do, on the accountability and duty of directors and shareholders in the company to the public good? Our Companies Act goes some way, but we need to ask ourselves whether that is enough, and we can certainly show leadership here.
Are our regulations that force disclosure, and therefore transparency, clear enough? It is essential that if we are to move to a system that works in practice, the disclosure regulations must be clear, and there must be international standards. We cannot in this respect think that we are on our own. We must recognise what goes on elsewhere. Also, are our regulations strong enough in relation to carbon credit, trading, and the emission trading scheme? We have seen that greenwashing across this whole sector is a major problem.
This is all very important, but I cannot emphasise enough, when one looks across the litigation that is being brought by NGOs across the world, how critical disclosure is. You need to be able to persuade people that companies which do not live up to their legal or other commitments are companies that you should shun or avoid. The market should be used for that effect. Equally importantly, if banks, through syndicated loans or otherwise, are investing in companies that are responsible for emissions, public pressure can be brought. One can see the effectiveness of this in the actions being brought by NGOs across the world, virtually. In this respect, we must show leadership. We have a leading Act, we believe in the rule of law and we have a reputation for that—which I hope is still intact—and we are pushing transparency.
But I also think that in the leadership we show—as has been mentioned by others in the course of this debate—we must lead in respect of technology transmission as well. I was in Malaysia last week and was delighted at the work being done by His Majesty’s ambassadors in this respect. This is an area where again one can say that this is of benefit to us, apart from our worldwide leadership.
So what is the ultimate problem that we have to tackle? If transparency is to work, we must find a means of ensuring that what is made and put into the public domain is put in it without party-political or other spin. That is a huge challenge. I hope that this will not be a party-political issue but that we can rely on one person who is outstanding for their contribution on climate change, who can be seen as a spokesman and who will be properly supported to make our case as leaders, as believers in transparency, and as a nation, tiny though it is, that can make a real contribution. I hope that is the lesson from COP 27.
My Lords, it is an honour to open the winding-up speeches in this very important debate, on a matter about which our Benches, like all other Benches, feel particularly passionate. I know that a number of my colleagues were particularly disappointed that they were prevented by other commitments from being able to speak today. On behalf of all of us, I thank the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, for giving us this opportunity today and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leong, on his excellent maiden speech.
As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, said early in his speech, there was something to welcome in the outcome of COP 27, specifically—as my noble friend Lady Sheehan also mentioned—the commitment to create a fund to address the loss and damage done to some poorer countries as a result of climate change. I think that we all believe that its success will depend on the specific details. I think we would all like to know, from the Minister, what practical and financial commitment the UK Government will be making to this fund.
The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, also raised the issue of forest management: those vital carbon sinks. That is why I particularly welcome the commitment of President-elect Lula of Brazil to stop deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The damage done under President Bolsonaro has been disastrous for the future of the planet. Can I therefore ask the Minister whether the UK Government will be offering any practical help, such as surveillance, to President Lula, to assist him with enforcement and to crack down on the criminal loggers who are clearing his forests?
However, at COP 27—as the noble Lord, Lord Leong, said quite sadly—it was disappointing that there was no increase in ambition on mitigation from the partners, including the UK, to reduce damaging emissions any faster than the commitments made at COP 26, despite the fact that the world is moving towards a disastrous 2.4 degrees of warming. As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, noticed, Alok Sharma MP was clearly very disappointed by the outcome. Given the further evidence of the urgency of the matter over the past year, with serious adverse weather events such as flooding, drought and wildfires, one would have hoped for better.
Many good points have been made during the debate. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and my noble friend Lady Sheehan mentioned debt relief, so that countries such as the Maldives can use the money to help with their protection from and adaptation to global warming. That is a really important point. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, also mentioned the costs of moving to net zero, particularly the availability of materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel, many of which are mined by workers in very poor working conditions and human rights situations. That matter was raised with the Minister yesterday in the debate on the report of the Science and Technology Committee on batteries and fuel cells. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, pointed out that we produce only 1% of carbon emissions: of course, we must all do our bit, but I do agree with him that we have a leadership role in helping others to reduce theirs through our technological developments—more about that later.
In his maiden speech, the noble Lord, Lord Leong, emphasised the role of the next generation, and how poignant that is when we are destroying the planet. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, mentioned many exciting technical solutions in the growing green technology area that other people had not mentioned—things to do with methane and plastics. We heard about more exciting developments from the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, reminded us of the Prime Minister’s words at COP 27 that reaching net zero is a cross-government responsibility in the UK, and also an international responsibility, so we must address it in the spirit of co-operation. My noble friend Lady Sheehan emphasised the importance of world leaders getting together at COPs and also of giving a voice to small countries and drawing the attention of the world to the challenge of climate change.
However, it is our own emissions over which we have most control, and we could start by stopping subsidies for fossil fuels, which my noble friend Lady Sheehan and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, called for, but we also have an opportunity to take a lead and to benefit from economic opportunities if we are more ambitious and innovative. The UK has done quite well on renewables since the lead given by my right honourable friend Ed Davey MP when he was Secretary of State for Energy in the coalition Government. The climate change performance index currently ranks the UK 11th in its 2023 report, but the Egyptian presidency of COP 27 called for “bold and immediate actions” on mitigation to ensure that the rise in global warming remains below 1.5 degrees. The Glasgow climate pact from COP 26 called on parties to accelerate the transition to low-emission energy systems, but COP 27 disappointed on that.
So the matter is urgent, and it is about the balance and resilience of our UK renewable energy policy that I wish to speak. According to the Autumn Statement, Sizewell C will be eye-wateringly expensive and will not produce a single gigabyte of electricity for a decade, so why not invest in a renewable energy that has been largely ignored but can produce energy long before that? When I was a little girl, I went on holiday in north Wales with my bucket and spade, and when the tide went out my dad and I dug for lugworms in the exposed sand and stuck them on hooks to go fishing for dabs. The tide came in and covered the holes we made, and then it went out again—and it did that again every day of our holiday. Then my father explained to me the link between the tides and the gravitational pull of the moon. It occurs to me then to ask, in the week that the Americans revitalised their ambition of putting man on the moon again with the launch of their Artemis rocket: if man can go to the moon, why can we not harness the regular, predictable energy of the tides?
So I would like to ask some questions about the potential of tidal stream energy—TSE—which does not vary like solar and wind and therefore has the potential to fill a valuable place in our energy baseload and keep battery storage topped up. Currently, marine energy is more expensive per kilowatt than other zero-carbon methods, but I am grateful for an excellent briefing from the catapult on offshore renewable energy, outlining research on what support is needed to reduce the levelised cost of energy—LCOE—produced from the tide and showing how it could, with the right support, be cheaper than nuclear by 2035.
It is no accident that both solar and offshore wind have reduced significantly in cost over the past two decades. It is because they have benefited from significant public development funding and energy generation subsidies. When I first installed solar panels in a property 15 years ago, the cost was pretty high, but when I installed solar in my current home, six years ago, the cost was much less because economies of scale had kicked in. That was because of government action. However, political support for the tidal stream sector has been inconsistent. This has slowed down investment and technology development compared with alternative renewables. Consequently, there has not been the chance to unlock cost reductions through deploying commercial-scale arrays, and there are only a handful of projects across the UK to date. But the opportunity for TSE to contribute to the resilience of the UK renewable energy mix and to export both technology and energy around the world and contribute to growth is considerable.
Through a number of demonstration projects, the industry in the UK has achieved a reduction in its levelised cost of energy since 2016 of more than 40% with little or no revenue support, so it is crucial that this technology continues to drive down costs to become competitive with other forms of energy. However, the industry needs the help that other forms of renewable energy have received. Its innovation and development and its effective demonstration projects warrant government support to help us achieve the title of “science and technology superpower” and reach zero carbon emissions.
So, what is needed? The first answer is long-term commitment and certainty. Will the Government set a long-term deployment target for the sector? Secondly, the supply chain needs to see a clear project pipeline to enable investment in workforce and facilities. The Marine Energy Council’s UK target of one gigawatt of ocean energy by 2035 is feasible, and there is no reason why TSE should not make up around 900 megawatts of that. Such a target would encourage the flow of private capital, but an industry target needs to be backed by consistent revenue support. In the UK, the best way to support an industry in this crucial early stage is to maintain a ring-fenced amount in upcoming contracts for difference rounds. That is important, since TSE is an emerging technology and currently unable to compete with the large scale of more established forms of renewable energy.
I hope the Minister will consider these requests in the interests of energy security, diversity, resilience, predictability and the opportunity for serious export opportunities and growth.
My Lords, before I embark on my comments, I echo the thanks given by all Members of the House today to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for introducing this debate, with his prescient and occasionally optimistic summary of the outcome of COP 27.
I also join all those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Leong on his maiden speech today. As he reminded us, he is Labour’s first Peer of east Asian origin; we hope to have many more. I have known my noble friend for some years, and his warmth and generosity of spirit are very welcome in your Lordships’ House. I loved his comment about seeking, by joining us, to offset his mother’s carbon footprint, and the fact that he balanced that with his enthusiasm for inspiring a new generation of young people concerned about the future of our planet. Worthy words indeed.
Before moving on, I very much welcome my noble friend Lord Prescott to the Chamber today. He played a major part in ensuring that the British Government addressed at the Kyoto conference the impact of adverse environmental activity across the world. As one of our first major leaders and spokespeople on the environment, he played a key part in ensuring that we kept to the task in tackling major environmental issues.
Because the Prime Minister raised it in his Statement following COP 27, I want to raise again the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, which the Prime Minister also raised when he was in Sharm el-Sheikh. Amnesty International reported yesterday that after ending a seven-month hunger strike, Alaa is in critical condition. It is vital that he be released as soon as possible and gets the urgent medical care he needs. In view of the Prime Minister’s comments, I wonder whether the Minister can update us on what further steps the Government are taking to end his suffering.
The implementation plan agreed at COP 27 and its breakthrough agreement to create a fund providing loss and damage funding to vulnerable countries that have been victims of climate disasters is very welcome. This ends almost 30 years of waiting for the nations facing the devastating impacts of climate change. Sadly, there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s Statement on loss and damage. Other noble Lords have said that we need more detail on our funding commitment. I look forward to the Minister picking up that point.
There were other welcome developments, as noble Lords have said, such as pledges on adaptations—that is, adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems in response to climatic changes—totalling more than $230 million. The SCF will report on doubling finance in this area at next year’s COP in Dubai. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, raised the importance and value of looking at both adaptations and mitigation.
The implementation plan also set out the cost of moving to a low-carbon economy. This is a small but important step towards it, priced at around $4 trillion to $6 trillion per year in investment. There were other, vital continued deliberations on the $100 billion pledge, climate finance and global stocktake, which will hopefully continue to lead to further progress in these areas.
Outside the implementation plan, the new annual high-level ministerial round table was a welcome development in symbolic terms; in future, it could be a productive tool in raising global ambition. Less welcome was that most Ministers in attendance said that limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees—which we will all be talking about and which I will say more about—was a red line.
A joint work programme was launched in respect of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will surely play a key role in accelerating the development of technologies that do not yet exist, but which we will be unable to reach net zero without, and to which noble Lords have referred. We also saw the launch of the Forests & Climate Leaders’ Partnership—a too-often forgotten aspect of the climate fight—following last year’s declaration. Forest loss and land degradation simply must be stopped. Using the $12 billion committed at last year’s COP and the further $4.5 billion since in an effective joined-up way must be a priority. Here in the UK, we are beginning a much-needed debate on our own lost rainforests and their recovery.
Despite all this welcome progress, the fact is that on the most crucial issue of 1.5 degrees, the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh cannot be seen as anything but a failure. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has warned of what we face. He said, quite simply, that
“at the present level, we will be doomed”.
He is not wrong.
What are the Government going to do in the next year to change direction? A number of noble Lords, such as the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Hayman, raised the issue of leadership. We have had lots of Secretaries of State for the Environment, but an absence of leadership. This is long overdue; we need clarity of direction.
We are currently at 1 degree of warming compared to pre-industrial levels—the hottest the world has been for over 100,000 years—and we are already witnessing the disastrous effects. According to the UN, instead of another 0.5 degrees, the limit we need to halt at, we are currently on track for another 1.8 degrees. Unless something changes, and changes now, our generation will leave behind a shameful legacy.
We should be leading on the climate. It is our responsibility, but also an opportunity to set the pace and transform the UK for the future. This does not just mean turning up at COP once a year. How will the Government show leadership every day? That is what is needed. Will they commit, as the Opposition have, to a 2030 zero-carbon power system—the new gold standard of international leadership? Will they end the damaging ban on onshore wind and the blocking of solar, which are the cheapest and cleanest forms of power available to us? Will they acknowledge the continuing damage of fossil fuels?
It was of course welcome that the outgoing COP 26 president, sadly sidelined by the Government, argued that the conclusions of COP 27 should include their phasing out—but these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. COP 27 did not conclude with a timetable or even reassurance that polluting fuels would be phased down by all countries. India’s proposal foundered after opposition from oil-producing and gas-producing nations. The extraction of the reserves that remain would lead to warming far beyond 1.5 degrees, yet that is the path that the Government are set on. Dashing for new fossil fuel licences—a number of noble Lords referred to these—which will have minimal, if any, impact on the bills that the country is currently struggling with, and refusing to rule out a new coal mine in Cumbria, speak loudly of the Government’s commitments in the wrong direction. So why are they continuing along this path, while arguing that the rest of the world should stop?
This is a form of international hypocrisy. Leadership on the climate also means meeting targets, not just setting them. Will the Government finally get on track with the targets that we have set and fix the net-zero strategy, which was found to be unlawful? Indeed, at Copenhagen in 2009, wealthier nations committed to mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. Despite the worsening climate crisis, and following COP 26, this target has still not been reached. How will the Government ensure that the target is not only met but exceeded during the five-year period to 2025 and beyond? In the Minister’s discussions with other countries, has the Government’s decision to cut our overseas aid budget been helpful in achieving that end?
Next year, leading up to the 2023 global stocktake, is the last real chance to save the target of 1.5 degrees. In years to come, every Government and politician will be judged on how they responded at this moment of jeopardy for the world. I hope—the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, spoke passionately of hope today—that the Government might begin to give the House some clues about how they aim to rise generally to the challenge of that jeopardy.
I join other Members in paying tribute to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for bringing forward this debate on the commitments made at COP 27. It has been excellent, and I will endeavour to address as many of the points made as possible.
Before that, I join the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Leong, on his superb maiden speech. In welcoming him to this place, we can reflect on his excellent business career at home and internationally. We recognise his success in establishing Cavendish Publishing, which went on to become one of the country’s biggest academic law publishers. We also recognise his work in social enterprise and establishing networks such as the Mulan Foundation Network and Future First, all of which work to promote social inclusion and raise awareness of the various issues that he described. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in saying that we very much look forward to hearing all his contributions in the future. My only regret is that his excellent business entrepreneurial career obviously has not made him a Conservative, which it surely ought to have.
I was also delighted to hear the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Prescott. Again, I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in saying how delighted we are to see him back in his place. We can all pay tribute to the enormous contribution that he has made to this important policy area throughout his long and distinguished career.
I also place on record my thanks to the COP unit, and all the other departments in government involved in representing the UK on the global stage, for all their work in representing us at COP and demonstrating the UK’s commitment to keeping 1.5 degrees alive.
Given the broad range of questions raised by noble Lords, I will address them in two halves. I will first address questions regarding COP 27 and then follow that up with some comments on the domestic points raised.
Let me start by disagreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and, unusually, agreeing with the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, in saying that COPs matter. They have the convening power of world leaders to make agreements, they bring forward voices from across the world, and they help to put climate at the top of the news agenda. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, suggested that there were perhaps unrealistic expectations for a single event to cover all sectors, and I think that she is right; perhaps placing too much hope on a single instrument is indeed not sustainable. However, as she also reminded us, work is also going on outside this space; to take one example, the UK has signed up to the global methane pledge at COP 26, we published the UK’s methane memorandum, and the COP 27 cover decision reiterates an invitation to parties to consider further actions to reduce by 2030 non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions, including methane.
The UK continued to show global leadership through its COP 26 presidency in Glasgow. As the House will be aware, all 197 parties agreed to the Glasgow climate pact to urgently keep 1.5 degrees centigrade alive, and to finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris rulebook. When we began our COP presidency, just one-third of the global economy was covered by net-zero commitments. Today it is 90%, with 34 new or updated NDCs submitted since COP 26, including the UK and countries such as Australia, India, the UAE and Indonesia.
This represents progress towards implementing the Glasgow climate pact and helps to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach, and these have all been core objectives of the delivery of our presidency year. At COP 27, as has been noted, we had to fight to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade alive, and obviously we were disappointed not to make progress on fossil fuels. The deal in Egypt preserves the historic commitment that countries agreed to last year in the Glasgow climate pact, but we did not make progress. However, as the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, both reminded us, 1.5 degrees centigrade remains on life support. It is clear that we need to see much more progress ahead of COP 28 in the UAE, and this Government will certainly be working towards that.
Now, as raised by many Members of the House, including again by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, action on loss and damage matters, and it is not something that developing countries can solve themselves. Crucially, COP 27 saw a breakthrough on funding arrangements for loss and damage, with an agreement that a fund will be created to support the most vulnerable. This deal responds to the concerted calls from the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
In response to the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I can assure the House that the Government will continue to work with other countries on the details and design of the fund and wider funding arrangements. These will be worked up next year through a transitional committee. A range of sources and contributors are to be considered, with parties affirming that funding for loss and damage comes from humanitarian development and climate communities. The UK would assess the value of providing a contribution once the modalities of the fund have been agreed. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Desai, for his question about the level of funding for the new loss and damage fund but reiterate yet again that no level of the fund has yet been agreed.
We all know that we must continue to support climate-vulnerable countries—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord St John—by making sure that these commitments on adaptation and loss and damage are honoured, driving real, practical action on the ground. A key part of making progress has been to ensure that the views of those at the front of tackling climate change are part of these crucial conversations. This was something that the noble Lord, Lord Leong, raised—the importance of youth in climate. This was also a view held by the COP presidency, which supported indigenous youth attending COP 27, and the Climate Youth Negotiators Programme helped young negotiators from the global south across those climate change negotiations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, also raised the issue of the exclusion of some voices within COP and fears about the limits on civil society. We expect that the discussion of lobbyists will have new momentum behind it. The UK’s priority, as always, is on ensuring that the voices of important non-party stakeholders such as indigenous people, women and young people are heard in addressing and responding to the important issue of climate change. At COP 26, the UK was pleased to fully fund an indigenous people’s pavilion, which proved to be an important space for indigenous-led events. The Glasgow climate pact also saw strengthened language on the role of indigenous peoples. During our presidency year, we worked closely with Egypt to stress the important role played by indigenous peoples and young people in civil society in calling for higher levels of ambition.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, raised the important human rights case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah. The UK Government remain deeply concerned about this case, and we continue to work hard to secure his release. We continue to raise his case at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government. The Prime Minister raised the case with Egyptian President Sisi, and COP 26 president Alok Sharma followed up with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry. We continue to use all channels to raise the gentleman’s case with the Egyptian authorities.
COP 27 was hailed as an implementation COP. As the outgoing presidency, we were clear that targets needed to be underpinned by real progress on the ground. At COP 27, the UK presidency demonstrated that the UK is once again leading global efforts and decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. As the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, raised, the UK led, with other world leaders, the launch of the Forests and Climate Leaders’ Partnership to accelerate momentum to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030.
Although I accept the point raised by my noble friend Lord Howell and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, about coal and fossil fuel phase-out not being included in the cover decision, I remind the House that we have made progress. We have accelerated the clean energy transition, maximising the implementation of and opportunities from commitments made at COP 26. The pipeline of new coal power projects has continued to collapse, with 76% of planned projects cancelled since 2015. Countries have delivered robust policies on financing fossil fuels. We have announced over £65 million of investment to help speed up the development of new green technologies; that funding is much needed, and it responds to the point made by my noble friend Lord Howell.
The breakthrough agenda launched at COP 26 will have tangible actions taken forward by countries accounting for over 50% of global GDP. One of these will be creating standards for green steel, which I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will be delighted to hear. The noble Lord, Lord Leong, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, both discussed the important issue of green jobs. Again, here the breakthrough agenda will make clean technology affordable, available and accessible to all, and in so doing create millions of those important green jobs worldwide. The noble Lord, Lord St John, raised the need to address emissions from buildings—something close to my own heart. We are delighted that France and the Kingdom of Morocco are planning on launching a buildings breakthrough under the breakthrough agenda to help address this.
Of course, none of these actions will be possible without mobilising climate finance. We continue to work with countries, international financial institutions and private financial institutions to meet the commitments they have made and help secure greater access to finance. The Prime Minister announced at the world leaders summit that the United Kingdom is delivering on our commitment of £11.6 billion of finance.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, also raised the issue of the slow progress on energy transition projects. We were delighted to see strong progress with South Africa, which presented its just energy transition partnership investment plan at COP 27. The new Indonesian transition plan was also launched at the G20 in Bali, and that will mobilise $20 billion over the next three to five years. The UK once again continues to lead, and there are EU efforts towards a similar agreement with Vietnam.
I turn now to some of the points raised about our domestic policy, starting with those of the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. I can say that the Government remain committed to nuclear energy as a key part of our energy security strategy, providing the baseload energy which many noble Lords talked about and which is required to keep the lights on, even when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. In last week’s Autumn Statement, the Government announced that we will proceed with the new plans at Sizewell C. With respect to the enormous potential of solar energy, including from countries such as Morocco, I can confirm that we have had early-stage discussions with the Xlinks interconnection project.
We continue to be grateful to the Climate Change Committee for its analyses. It has agreed that our net-zero strategy and the British energy security strategy represent comprehensive and viable plans for reaching our world-leading 2050 net-zero target. To answer the questions on climate adaptation raised by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and the noble Lord, Lord St John, the Government accept the Climate Change Committee’s view that more action is needed to improve the UK’s resilience to climate change, and Defra is currently working across government to develop a third national adaptation programme which we expect to be published in summer next year.
To address my noble friend Lord Howell’s question on the importance of technology and carbon capture to reduce emissions—which was also echoed by the noble Lord, Lord St John—we are committed to this domestically, and we announced the phase 2 shortlist for CCUS in August. We will use our strengths as an innovative nation and the net-zero strategy committed at least £1.5 billion-worth of funding to support net-zero innovation between 2022 and 2025. Internationally, I note the announcement of £65 million-worth of support to the Clean Energy Innovation Facility to accelerate a deployment of clean technology globally. The Government will of course continue to look carefully at the full range of technologies available to meet our net-zero targets, and we will carefully consider the points about tidal power raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.
On the issues raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Birt—I expected nothing else from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman—the Government recognise the importance of onshore wind to our energy mix. As one of the cheapest sources of electricity generation, we will undoubtedly need more of it. However, the Government understand the strength of feeling that some people have about the impact of wind turbines in England—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Birt—so we will consider all options for increasing deployments in Wales that local communities will support.
In response to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on the issue of the proposed Cumbria coal mine, I am sure that she will understand that I cannot comment since a government decision is due in a couple of weeks. However, I stress that our net-zero strategy makes it clear that we are phasing coal out from our electricity mix by 2024.
On fossil-fuel subsidies, the UK supports international efforts to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and to promote greater transparency. Moreover, in response to points made on fossil fuels by my noble friend Lord Howell and others, no other major oil and gas-producing nation has gone as far as the UK has in addressing the role of oil and gas in their economy. Our signal on the withdrawal of international fossil fuels, our transformation of the North Sea transition deal and our new checkpoint for licensing all provide a global example of the shift away from hydrocarbons. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, will know that the point I continue to make is that it makes much more sense to gain gas as a transition fuel, which we will continue to acquire from our own resources, rather than importing carbon-heavy liquid LNG on tankers from across the world.
To answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, our 2050 net-zero target was considered in line with advice from the Climate Change Committee as the earliest feasible date for achieving net-zero emissions.
On the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, about the Procurement Bill, your Lordships will be aware that the national procurement policy statement covers climate change and will be put on a statutory footing in that legislation.
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, we are introducing three environmental land management schemes that will help reward farmers for delivering public goods.
The noble Lord, Lord Birt, talked about EV infrastructure. The Government have committed £2.5 billion of funding towards electrical vehicle transmission since 2020, over £1.6 billion of which will be used to support charging infrastructure. I quite understand the noble Lord’s frustration that it is not always available in the places where we would want it immediately, but we are making progress.
On home insulation, reduction in energy demand is obviously a national effort. That is why the Government have announced a new long-term ambition, which noble Lords will have seen from the Chancellor’s Statement, to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030 against 2021 levels. We have also announced the establishment of Energy Efficiency Taskforce.
To address the question from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, on the judicial review ruling: we of course accept the court’s judgment on the levels of detail provided and will respond in due course.
In answer to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, on the net-zero strategy, it remains government policy and has indeed not been quashed.
As I have set out today, the Glasgow climate pact remains the blueprint for accelerating climate action in the critical decade to keep 1.5 degrees in reach. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, raised an excellent point about the balance of optimism and hope. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, again—twice in one speech—that the UK has been and will continue to be a leader in tackling climate change, with the Prime Minister’s attendance at COP demonstrating this. The UK’s ground-breaking presidency year has been a pivotal moment when we redouble our efforts, resist backsliding and ultimately go further and faster. We cannot collectively retreat from that and achieving our net zero target must be a shared international endeavour requiring action from all of us and everyone in society.
I am happy to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on the important objective of tidal stream energy. With regard to fossil fuel lobbyists, it was not a cheery sight, although there are different issues and many fossil fuel companies are also engaged in renewal energy. Many of the biggest players in our own country are fossil fuel companies as they seek to transition through. We will certainly look closely at the issue of lobbyists, but who does and does not attend is not necessarily always our decision.
My Lords, it remains only for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken. There have been a number of very interesting and important contributions; some of the suggestions may not always be heard in debates such as this. I thank the Minister for his thoughtful response and express the hope—if I may on behalf of us all—that some of these interesting, and not always usual, suggestions will be passed on to the appropriate departments.
In 1987, I was part of an Anglican Peace and Justice Network meeting, in which the agenda was dominated by the question of third world debt. At the end of the meeting, those of us from the developed world who had far too many meetings looked languidly at our diaries and thought about a meeting perhaps three or four years ahead. At that point, a good friend of mind, a bishop from a country where something like 80% of the country’s income was being used to service debts run up by corruption, exploded with anger. This, for him, was literally a matter of life and death. Ever since then, his sense of righteous anger has echoed in my mind on a number of issues. Clearly, this issue will continue to come before the House, as it ought to. I believe it needs something of the urgency that my friend felt, with something of that righteous anger also echoing around. I commend the Motion to the House.