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Treasury Green Book

Volume 815: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what changes, if any, they plan to make to HM Treasury’s Green Book and related guidance to demonstrate global leadership as chair of COP 26.

My Lords, when I tabled this Question for Short Debate, I was of course aware that it would be on the day after the Budget and the first ping-pong on the Environment Bill, and on the House’s last Sitting before the commencement of the COP 26 climate talks.

I thought that meant that I would be able to bounce off the Budget announcements, which would take full account of the climate emergency and nature crisis, the former of which the Prime Minister has at least, somewhat grudgingly, acknowledged in his own words. I hoped—perhaps against hope—that we might have seen the Government accept the majority of the 14 carefully considered amendments to the Environment Bill that your Lordships’ House sent to the other place, particularly the crucial amendments on the power and independence of the office for environmental protection and on the acceptance of the need for interim targets, as provided for under the Climate Change Act. I also hoped that they would have accepted my own amendment on soils and the amendment driven by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, which would see the Treasury and the military included under the crucial five environmental principles at the heart of the Act. That would have seen us, as the chair of COP 26, beginning this crucial fortnight for the future of the planet, if not in the place where our nation should be, in at least a moderately prepared state.

Instead, we can feel a palpable sense of shock across the nation at the delivery, yesterday, of a Budget that can only be a reminder of the movie “Back to the Future”, for those old enough to remember it. For the Budget yesterday was one that, almost to the last word, could have been delivered in the year in which that film begins, 1985. The words “climate” and “nature” appear in it an easily measurably number of times: none. The word “growth” appears 14 times. The phrase,

“biggest business tax cut in modern British history”—[Official Report, Commons, 27/10/21; cols. 282-83.]

appears, in a manner wholly redolent of the sixth year of Margaret Thatcher’s prime ministership.

The only significant new measure that the Government might call “green”—a chunk of funding for new nuclear power—is also a return to 1985 and the movie where the dangerous vehicle that drives the plot is powered by plutonium. This is a reminder of how nuclear power seemed to be the future then, whereas it is clear now, to most of the world at least, that it is an outdated, astonishingly expensive and inflexible technology that is deeply unreliable in delivery.

However, it was of course in 1985 that the first major international conference on the greenhouse effect, in Villach, Austria, warned that greenhouse gases could, in the last half of the next century,

“cause a rise of global … temperature which is greater than any in man’s history”,

adding the risk of sea-level rises of up to one metre. Some 36 years ago, this was, we now know, an astonishingly accurate warning, yet it seems one that parts of this Government at least, most notably the Chancellor and the Treasury, have still not heard.

Yet we have a Government who also say that they accept the legal duty in the Environment Bill—indeed, they wrote it—that Ministers must have due regard to the environmental principles policy statement when making policy across government. Of course, the Treasury’s Green Book is an important guide to that policy-making. In a Written Answer to Green MP Caroline Lucas in the other place on 16 June, Rebecca Pow confirmed:

“These principles will … be embedded into existing government policy making guidance, including HM Treasury’s Green Book.”

Yet that policy statement still exists only in draft form, on which the Government completed a consultation on 2 June. Noble Lords can read on the government website that the results would be published within 12 weeks, which by my calculation is 26 August. It is now 28 October.

In a Written Answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, on Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, said for the Government that the result of the consultation would be published “later in the year”. This does not compute, and I hope that the Minister will be able to provide a firmer timetable for the completion of this process, which would seem to be essential for the urgent process of making Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Green Book fit for the age of the climate emergency, which the Green Alliance, among other organisations, called for as a matter of urgency in its submission to that consultation.

The first of the five environmental principles listed in the Environment Bill is the integration principle. It is there on page 11 of the Bill, in its current form, which cites

“the principle that environmental protection should be integrated into the making of policies”.

Yet the Green Book and the Budget are built on an assumption of growth as a desirable and achievable outcome of investment. I go to Professor Jason Hickel of the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, writing in Nature Energy earlier this year:

“Established climate mitigation scenarios assume continued economic growth in all countries, and reconcile this with the Paris targets by betting on speculative technological change. Post-growth approaches may make it easier to achieve rapid mitigation while improving social outcomes.”

Carbon capture and storage, new nuclear and nature- based off-setting—check, check, check—all sound like “speculative technological change”. This is not to mention it not being possible to square these with number 5 of the environmental principles: the precautionary principle.

The Green Book starts with the idea of a project and then counts its effects. If it were truly to meet the environmental principles, it should surely adopt the approach of the “mission-oriented government”, as advocated by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, founder of the Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose at UCL:

“instead of having an industrial strategy that is a list of sectors”

that government is

“going to give subsidies to … the question should be: What are the problems you’re facing (climate change …, for example). And then work backward to figure out how all sectors and actors in the economy … can help deliver solutions.”

That is what a 21st-century Budget and Green Book fit for the age of shocks in which we live, on a planet where humans have stretched right up to, and all too frequently exceeded, the limits and boundaries of what the earth can bear, would look like.

Indeed, in its own review of the Green Book in 2020, the Treasury acknowledged serious faults: a failure to ensure that the strategic relevance of projects was clear from the outset and too heavy a reliance on the benefit-to-cost ratio because of a lack of strategic direction in the appraisal process. It has since attempted to remedy these faults with what is generally accepted as limited success. There are also attempts, through the supplementary guidance, to integrate consideration of well-being in project proposals and guidance for enabling a “natural capital approach”, which the Treasury could of course be drawing on from its own Dasgupta review. But there is still no consideration of our inability to continue GDP growth, an alternative qualitative metric to the benefit-to-cost ratio or an assessment of the overall impact of Treasury spending, rather than a project-by-project approach.

But I do not just want to posit all of this in the abstract; I am a Green, so of course I am ready to set out solutions. One worked-through example of this approach, to which I have already referred in your Lordships’ House, is the New Zealand Living Standards Framework, which is underpinned by four measured forms of capital that, it directs, must be enhanced and protected: natural capital, human capital, social capital, and the combination of financial and physical capital.

If you look at the budget delivered in New Zealand this May, you can start to see what a truly green budget, and a Green Book approach, could look like. It is called a well-being budget, and that is not just spin in the title. It is clear that the strategic direction driving every part of it is improving human and natural well-being. It is not just looking at this year, or the problems of this moment; it has a focus on the well-being of future generations—an approach that the noble Lord, Lord Bird, has been so clear in promoting in your Lordship’s House, which the Welsh Government are already well on the way to promoting, and which the UK Government have yet to even consider.

Underlying this is an ability to think systemically, to truly operate within the framework of the sustainable development goals that the whole world—the UK included—has signed up to. But I am a realist, and it is clear that to suddenly update the Green Book to truly measure and advance, in a balanced and systematic way, natural, human, social, financial and physical capital, would be well beyond the capacity of Her Majesty’s Treasury. So, I am going to offer a simpler solution, one that would enable the Government to expand beyond their one 20th-century, outdated, misleading, measure of GDP, into at least two dimensions. It is something the Green Party has been proposing for many years—that each government spending decision, each project, should have a carbon budget attached, as well as a financial one. Many critics have pointed out the lack of such in the Government’s other recent big announcements—the net-zero review and the heat and buildings strategy. It is not that difficult; it is entirely appropriate licence for the chair of COP. Can the Minister tell me when the Treasury plans to provide at least that modest step towards systems thinking?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, for bringing this debate before the House, and I share her consternation at the Budget presented yesterday. It was shocking but, in a sense, unsurprising, given the history of the Treasury on these issues.

The Green Book exemplifies everything that is wrong with our approach to policymaking. It embraces a myopic Treasury view that has somehow survived through multiple changes of Government, despite the damage it has done to our economy and our society, as well as to our planet. The Green Book claims that it provides objective analysis to support decision-making but, in fact, it represents an approach that elevates a narrow cost-benefit approach over long-term policy objectives.

I take the most recent example of the heat and building strategy introduced last week. Among other things, the strategy introduces a new grant scheme aimed at installing 90,000 air source heat pumps each year. The purpose of introducing heat pumps is presumably to reduce carbon emissions in order to contribute to our net-zero objectives, yet the Treasury has turned this objective on its head. The grant scheme it has approved—or, most likely, imposed on BEIS—has cut the link between the size of the grant and the carbon emissions saved, and has focused instead on maximising the number of heat pumps installed regardless of the impact on emissions. This, in the world of the Green Book, is value for money, presumably based on what it calls its benefit-cost ratio model, and which the rest of us know as a cost-benefit analysis. The Treasury’s language, like its priorities, is back to front. The Treasury’s own review of the Green Book made the point that it was far too reliant on that model.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the approach the Treasury has approved on heat pumps risks a colossal misallocation of finance, significantly inflating the cost for every tonne of carbon saved compared with alternative models. The BEIS Treasury scheme requires individual households to apply for grants to cover the cost of installing an air source heat pump, meaning the installation of these pumps will be on an atomised and inefficient basis, which will make planning for the electricity grid almost impossible and will come with the inevitably high costs of grant administration. The Treasury seems to have lost sight of the real objective, which should be maximising the reduction in carbon emissions, rather than installing the maximum number of heat pumps. The two are not necessarily the same, but Her Majesty’s Treasury does not seem to understand that fact.

Neither BEIS nor the Treasury makes any reference to having looked at comparative models of net cost for different deployment strategies, and it appears that they have not done their own work on the subject either. Can the Minister tell us, for example, what consideration the Treasury gave, if any, to an alternative network solution for heat pumps, installing collective ground arrays on a neighbourhood basis which individual households could then choose to connect to, just as households previously chose whether they wished to connect to the gas or electricity grids or the sewage system? Would that not be a much more cost-effective solution and much more practical for households, rather than each installing their own individual pump? Similarly, what objective analysis did the Green Book model imply for assessing the costs to, and practicalities of, the national electricity grid, for making provision to meet the huge spikes in demand that significant numbers of individual air source heat pumps, haphazardly located around the country, could place on the grid when they have to switch to electric coil mode in cold conditions—the equivalent of a vast number of kettles being switched on at the same time?

The current approach that the Government are taking is as if, at the time we switched to gas in our homes, we had offered an individual grant scheme for any home to install a Calor Gas heating system without any thought as to how the Calor Gas would be distributed or of the huge additional costs to individuals and the economy of such an atomised approach. Thankfully, local and national government back then took a more thoughtful approach, creating first local and then national gas grids, which households could connect to. In those days, of course, the Treasury’s dead hand lay much less heavily on local government than it does today.

Can the Minister tell the House what options the Treasury considered? Did it, for example, consider alternatives such as issuing tenders for the installation of network heat pump arrays on a street-by-street basis? Such a model could ensure that installation was carried out in a planned way in tandem with the national grid; it could also ensure that deployment was prioritised for the coldest areas of the country and areas of greatest need. In turn, this could have driven the Government’s levelling-up agenda. Did the Government consider using a regulated asset-based model, allowing capped connection and standing charges to fund the necessary infrastructure over its lifetime? Did the Treasury use the Green Book approach to assess these various options before rejecting them, or did it just not consider them at all?

I dwell on the issue of heat pumps because it perfectly illustrates the failure of the myopic Green Book approach—the failure to look at the actual policy objectives that one is trying to realise, instead judging everything on a financial cost basis. It is on this basis that the Treasury can rationalise a policy that maximises the number of heat pumps installed while minimising the amount of carbon saved per pound spent and directing the majority of the spending not to those in most need but to the wealthiest areas in the country most likely to apply for the grant. In the weird and wonderful ways of the Treasury, it will most likely call that a success.

Of course, that is not the only area where the Treasury’s myopic approach makes it penny-wise and pound-foolish. There is a litany of examples down the ages in a whole range of areas, but particularly on the green agenda. First, there is the Green Deal, and the Treasury’s lack of vision or understanding of the carbon impact on our planet from a massive leakage of energy from our homes, leading it to insist on rates of interest that doomed the scheme to failure. On renewable energy, Her Majesty’s Treasury’s constant resistance ensured that the industrial benefits of Britain’s hugely successful shift to wind generation were largely enjoyed by competitor nations. The current short-sighted failure to take advantage of our industrial leadership on green hydrogen production makes it likely that, once again, we will hand that advantage to our overseas competitors.

Most recently, there is the monumental debacle of the Green Homes Grant scheme, which failed to deliver the home energy efficiency improvements that it promised, was catastrophically counterproductive in undermining the willingness of the construction industry to develop the skills needed for the green economy of the future, and failed even to provide the short-term stimulus that the Treasury claimed as the scheme’s raison d’être. In fact, the only stimulus that it really provided was to the private sector, in administrative fees of more than £1,000 per home. Such is the cost-effectiveness of Treasury thinking.

It is time for wholesale change to that model of government. It is time to recognise that we cannot keep talking about our net-zero targets while taking actions that completely contradict them; while we put forward a Budget that reduces taxation on the highest-polluting form of travel, at the same time as imposing record rail fare increases on one of the least carbon-intensive forms of travel. The country cannot afford to allow the Treasury to keep steering the ship of government on to the rocks on climate change issues. We need a wholly changed approach.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on securing this short debate. The speakers’ list may be short, but it is perfectly formed. The Question before us and the guidance it refers to may be highly technical in nature, but it is hugely important. It also follows on nicely from Monday’s Oral Question on the extent to which government departments are adopting National Audit Office guidance on climate-related risk. Before turning my attention to the Green Book, I would like to wish luck to everybody involved in the delivery of COP 26. The Prime Minister has sought to manage expectations in recent days, but it is in all our interests that the summit is a success. Recent Environment Bill debates on topics such as air and water quality do little to instil confidence that the Government are willing to show the type of global leadership that is needed. However, for the next two weeks we must work together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the planet.

The Government’s recent review of the Green Book was triggered by their wish to level up poorer parts of the UK, amid concerns that the previous guidance was preventing investment reaching such communities. The outcome has been to place greater emphasis on the strategic case of a project from the very beginning. Officials are told to present their projects in the context of the Government’s political priorities, in the hope of ensuring that the “right” projects progress to the benefit-cost ratio stage. The impact of projects on carbon emissions will need to be considered as part of the appraisal process, which is welcome. A number of other green strands feature in the Green Book, although contributing to the 2050 net-zero target is not quite the prerequisite one might expect.

The Dasgupta review included consideration of important areas such as how to boost recognition of the value of natural capital. While some metrics have been introduced, that review expressed concern that few business cases were making use of them. Unfortunately, there is little sense that the latest Treasury guidance addresses those issues. Dasgupta is not the only person to voice such concerns. An upcoming report by the UK100 network of mayors and local leaders will argue that government financial decisions fail to give sufficient weight to environmental and health benefits when deciding policy. They also worry that not enough emphasis is put on the potential savings and benefits of decarbonisation.

This intervention is timely as it follows the outcomes of the Treasury’s review of discount rates, which are central to this debate, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s updated valuations of greenhouse gas impacts. Both were published last month. The decision not to update the discount rate for long-term environmental benefits is predicated on the notion that under the revised guidance, initial forecasts of costs and benefits can be improved. One would certainly hope that the accuracy of such assessments will be boosted but it appears a risky strategy. Indeed, in correspondence with the Commons Treasury Committee, the Treasury’s Permanent Secretary conceded that the methodology for assessing environmental impacts of projects

“will always to some extent be ‘work in progress’”.

The Minister may be tempted to say that if the current approach does not work, a new iteration of the Green Book will take that into account. This may be true, but it will not account for the missed opportunities between times.

Another workstream being undertaken by the Treasury is the development of a dedicated means of valuing biodiversity during the benefit-cost ratio stage. Your Lordships’ House has just had a series of major debates on biodiversity as part of the Environment Bill, and the Government have set themselves the target of halting what they call “species abundance” decline by 2030. How does the Minister envisage the Green Book contributing to that target and when are we likely to see the new metrics?

It is hard to achieve absolute perfection in any bidding process. In a sense, we are always playing catch-up as guidance is designed to reflect and promote best practice, rather than adopt experimental approaches. Nevertheless, the outcomes of the Green Book review point to a certain lack of ambition in terms of securing environmental improvement and striding, rather than shuffling, towards the 2050 net-zero target. That same lack of ambition can be found elsewhere in government policy—indeed, in too many areas to list. That would appear to undermine the UK’s presidency of COP 26. For now, we must trust that Ministers have a grand plan, first to secure the commitments needed in Glasgow and then to start delivering on the promises made. If they do not, I am that sure your Lordships’ House will have much to say in the future.

My Lords, I am pleased to respond to this debate at what is a significant moment for efforts to tackle climate change. I also want to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for bringing forward this debate at a time when we must ensure that we all work together more than ever to preserve and enhance the world for ourselves and, as she alluded to, for future generations. I applaud the ingenuity of her timing, which I gather is by design. As she said, it is just after the Budget and just before COP 26. Perhaps, before I begin, I should recognise the key role that the United Kingdom is playing this year. At the COP 26 gathering in Glasgow, the UK will seek to boost global climate action and help to deliver a long-term transition to a net-zero, resilient and environmentally sustainable global economy.

I realise that the focus of this debate is on the Green Book, but I should just like to address some points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, on the spending review. I simply do not agree which either of them, particularly the noble Baroness and her pessimistic and negative assessments of the Budget. Let me say why. The spending review confirms our plan to deliver more than £600 billion in gross public sector investment over the Parliament. Our investment plans over the next five years mean that we will deliver the highest sustained levels of public sector net investment as a proportion of GDP since the late 1970s. The UK will lead international efforts to agree co-ordinated action on climate change, and the spending review reconfirms the Government’s commitment to doubling international climate finance from 2021. It also provides a significant increase in R&D funding to help UK researchers and business push the frontiers of knowledge in order to find solutions to major international development challenges, including on climate change. We do not hear this from the noble Baroness, and I wanted to put her right because it is easy to hear the negativity.

COP 26 will be the biggest summit of its kind the UK has ever held, with over 120 world leaders attending. Our ambition at this summit is to ensure that action is actually taken on the ground and across the world to tackle climate change, as it is these actions, not words, that will result in a transition to an environmentally sustainable global economy. The Government’s agenda has been simple: we are urging all countries to submit bold nationally determined contributions—NDCs—transformational long-term strategies and net-zero commitments, and to come forward with new adaptation and finance plans to ensure that this is a decade of ambitious climate action.

Day three of COP 26, the finance day, will include a strong focus on mobilising public and private capital to reach global net zero. The UK is leading the way here—for example, through our new infrastructure bank and the issuance of green gilts. The Treasury’s work, including on the Green Book—which I will come to in a moment—is part of our wider aim to mainstream climate into all decision-making.

The Government are convinced that to do this, international co-operation is key. That is why we have taken our influential work on the Green Book to international fora, such as the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action and the Paris Collaborative led by the OECD. Sharing our knowledge and expertise, but also the challenges we face when appraising policy, is crucial to making sure that climate change is tackled not just at home but internationally.

The Treasury’s Green Book plays an important role in framing decisions on domestic public spending. The Green Book provides guidance on the appraisal of policies, programmes and projects, and sets out a framework for providing objective advice to decision-makers by public servants. That does not mean that it represents the be-all and end-all of government spending, and we should be wary of giving it undue emphasis. That is because it does not outline the Government’s policy objectives. It simply provides an official framework for ensuring that policy objectives are met, such as our goals at COP 26 and our commitments on net zero, and that the relevant costs, benefits and risks of alternative approaches for meeting those objectives are also considered.

As I said earlier, it is actions that matter—and yes, leadership, which was alluded to in the title of this debate from the noble Baroness. For example, the net-zero strategy confirmed £26 billion of public capital investment since the 10-point plan. The Budget and the spending review confirm that since March 2021 the Government will have committed a total of £30 billion of domestic investment for the green industrial revolution. Taken together, this spending package, along with action on regulation and green finance, will keep the UK on track for its carbon budgets and 2030 nationally determined contribution and establishes the long-term pathway towards net zero by 2050.

I want to address the main focus of this debate. I will highlight the five areas of recent and planned action to comprehensively improve the Green Book on environmental appraisal to best support our policy objectives on net zero. From the tone of her speech, the noble Baroness is wholly unaware of such improvements and I am pleased, if I may, to put the House right and to inform the noble Baroness on this.

First, the 2020 Green Book review specifically focused on ensuring that strategic objectives are central to policy development and judging whether a proposal is value for money. When using the Green Book to appraise policy interventions, officials must start by assessing the strategic case for investment and how their intervention affects government objectives. Your Lordships will know that the Government’s policy objective to achieve net zero is a legal commitment.

In 2019, we amended the Climate Change Act 2008 to commit the UK to achieving net zero by 2050. The previous target was an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. This was the world’s first legally binding national commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the net-zero target, the Climate Change Act 2008 sets out a system of interim carbon budgets, which are also legally binding, to ensure targets are met.

Secondly, the Green Book is continually updated so that it reflects the latest evidence, particularly for understanding the impacts of policy interventions on the environment, so that decision-makers are presented with robust evidence before making decisions. This work to continuously update the Green Book is led by the Treasury, with support from other departments.

Thirdly, the Treasury has worked with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to update supplementary guidance to the Green Book on carbon values. These are used across government for assessing greenhouse gas impacts in cost-benefit analysis. Only last month, these values were updated to reflect the latest evidence. They are consistent with the UK’s domestic pathway to net zero and meeting the Paris 1.5 degrees climate commitments. Noble Lords will be interested to know that reflecting these updates in appraisals leads to an increase in the cost estimates resulting from higher emissions.

Fourthly, Defra’s supplementary guidance to the Green Book, Enabling a Natural Capital Approach, was updated in August this year to incorporate new values available for environmental appraisal when using the Green Book.

Fifthly, the Treasury has convened a group of experts—including academic economists and scientists, and officials who use the Green Book—to inform and advise decision-makers to produce supplementary guidance on biodiversity valuation for the Green Book. This will lead to new supplementary guidance to the Green Book for valuing biodiversity as part of appraisal.

I would like to go slightly further and raise three further points to address some questions the noble Baroness raised. First, the Green Book mandates the consideration of climate and environmental impacts in appraisal. That applies to appraising spending, including spending review bids from departments. Secondly, the Treasury continues to develop the Green Book and its supplementary guidance alongside its cross-government chief economist appraisal group, which oversees developments, so that it is at the forefront of the latest evidence, including its environmental appraisal. Thirdly, the Treasury is currently working alongside the group of experts. I go further by saying that this is supplementary guidance on the biodiversity valuation.

We have taken significant steps to update the Green Book, but it is also true that improving policy appraisal and evidence in the Green Book is a continuous and cross-government effort that will continue after COP 26. That is particularly true for environmental appraisal.

The noble Lord, Lord Oates, in most of his speech, raised some important points about heat pumps. It may well be that I need to write a letter to him about the specific and technical questions he raised, but I will say this. The approach we are setting out will ensure that the transition is fair and affordable for consumers. These are two important points. It will mean people living in warmer and more efficient homes that are cheaper to heat. We will work with the grain of consumer choice. No one will be required to rip out or scrap their existing boiler and we will ensure that the biggest polluters pay the most for the transition.

We will work with businesses to continue delivering deep cost reductions in low-carbon tech through support for the latest state-of-the-art kit to bring down costs for consumers and deliver benefits for businesses. Our £450 million boiler upgrade scheme will provide £5,000 towards the costs of new air source heat pumps, making green heating more affordable. That is just a short answer, but the noble Lord raised a lot of questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, talked about the Dasgupta Review and raised an important point. I think he will know that the Government published their formal response to the review in June. The Government agree with the review’s central conclusion that nature, and the biodiversity that underpins it, ultimately sustain our economies, livelihoods and well-being. Economic and financial decision-making must account for this. Building on the ambitious existing nature agenda, the response sets out the ways in which the Government will go further, framed around two high-level commitments.

The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, mentioned the discount rate. I think we could probably have a whole debate on that subject. I will say very briefly that, as committed to in the 2020 Green Book review—to bring us back to this subject—the Treasury worked with leading academics to understand whether there is a case for reducing the discount rate for environmental impacts. He will know that the outcome of this was published in September. Following a series of workshops and engagement, the academic consensus was that discount rates should be no different for environmental impacts from other impacts considered in appraisal.

The focus of COP 26 will be on how we continue to take ambitious climate action. As I am sure the House will agree, tackling climate change is a huge undertaking requiring both national and international action. Updates to the Green Book are a small but influential element of that action where we will strive to remain at the forefront of international best practice.

It is fair to say that we cannot be certain of the outcomes of COP 26, but one thing is sure. I want to emphasise to the House today that this Government have worked tirelessly to ensure that climate stays at the very top of the global agenda in the international effort to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

I conclude simply by again thanking the noble Baroness and the other noble Lords for their insightful and constructive contributions. As David Attenborough said only a few days ago on the news, which I happened to see:

“If we don’t act now, it’ll be too late.”

He is absolutely right.