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Climate Change Objectives

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 27 February 2001

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3.1 p.m.

Whether they consider that they will achieve their climate change objectives.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Lord Whitty)

My Lords, the UK climate change programme that was published last November sets out in detail how we plan to deliver our climate change targets. We estimate that the policies in the programme could reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 23 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010, and our carbon dioxide emissions by 19 per cent. We remain on course to meet these objectives, and we shall continue to evaluate our progress regularly.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is the noble Lord aware that in an independent survey published earlier this month it was estimated that a reduction of CO2 emissions compared with 1990 by the year 2010 would amount to only 6.5 per cent, compared with the 20 per cent targeted, unless further urgent action is taken? Will the noble Lord comment on that estimate? Can the noble Lord also tell the House when the suspended international talks in the Hague are likely to be resumed?

My Lords, I shall deal first with the noble Lord's latter point. At the request of the incoming United States Administration the resumption of these talks, which was scheduled for May, has now been postponed to some time between the middle of June and the end of July. Intensive negotiations are in train to establish that outcome.

Secondly, the estimate in the study to which the noble Lord referred, which, I believe, relates to Cambridge Econometrics, was based on policies already in train. We do not seriously disagree with that estimate. However, it did not include all of the policies to which this Government are committed. It included only the price effect of the climate change levy, not the effect of the establishment of the carbon trust or of the reaching of agreements with the high-energy user sectors. Moreover, it did not include emissions trading effects, the effects of new building regulations on energy requirements, or the effect of the voluntary agreement between the European car manufacturers on reducing CO2 emissions from transport. There are several other policies to which we are committed at national or European level that will contribute towards achieving the 20 per cent target.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that if Her Majesty's Government gave full support to a new British bio-diesel industry this would go a long way towards supporting their aims as regards climate change?

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, will know, in response to his "green challenge" the Chancellor of the Exchequer is currently considering a number of proposals for favouring alternative fuels. However, the full benefit involved is likely to be felt to the back-end of this period and beyond 2010.

My Lords, are the Government satisfied with the availability of low sulphur petrol supplies and the current pricing at petrol pumps?

My Lords, as the Treasury indicated on Friday, the presumption is that there will not be full availability of ULSP at the time of the Budget and that, therefore, some transitional arrangements have to be engaged in as regards pricing. However, by the end of that transitional period we are confident that ULSP will be available throughout the United Kingdom.

My Lords, in view of the positive relations that we understand have been created between the Prime Minister and the new President of the United States, can the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government will use every possible opportunity between now and next June to persuade the US of the importance of coming on board with regard to the Kyoto protocol, as they are in many ways the key in reducing the dangers of global warming at the present time?

My Lords, it is important that we impress upon the new US Administration the importance that we in the United Kingdom—and, indeed, in Europe—place on reaching agreement on climate change. There was a lengthy and positive discussion between the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State Powell a few days ago.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the most effective way of reducing our CO2 emissions would be to build some more nuclear power stations?

My Lords, the target takes into account a reduction in the contributions made by nuclear power for the period to 2010. Beyond that, some assessment of the various sources of energy will need to be made in order to sustain the reduction in CO2 emissions that we are confident of achieving by 2010.

My Lords, although I accept the Government's wish to achieve their objectives, can the noble Lord comment on the whole position of the climate change levy, especially on horticulture? I realise that the Government have already given a 50 per cent reduction, but this obviously places those concerned at a disadvantage as regards their overseas competitors.

My Lords, the position of the horticultural industry was addressed by the 50 per cent reduction in the effect. We believe that the kind of competitive anxieties expressed by the industry at that time have largely been met. We recognise that the climate change levy will impose some costs on several sectors in industry. The high-energy users are, of course, now subject to discussion and conclusion of sector agreements. We believe that the anxieties of the horticulture sector have largely been met. The contribution of industry as a whole to the climate change levy will be a very positive one to reduction of the industrial emissions of CO2.