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Lords Chamber

Volume 816: debated on Thursday 18 November 2021

House of Lords

Thursday 18 November 2021

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Ely.

New Hospitals

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards their commitment of building 40 new hospitals.

The Government committed in October 2020 to build 40 new hospitals by 2030. We have confirmed an initial £3.7 billion to support these schemes for the first four years of the 10-year programme. This, together with eight previously announced schemes, will mean that we will have 48 new hospitals by the end of the decade. Six of the 48 new hospitals are currently in construction, including the first of the 40 new hospital schemes, and one scheme is now complete.

My Lords, as the Minister said, eight NHS capital schemes already under way when the promise was made were added to the Prime Minister’s pledge for 40 new hospitals by 2030, but now their cost overruns will have to be paid for out of the original pot of money. Can the Minister say how many of the originally promised 40 will now have to be postponed and how many are really new?

The Government have said that we will deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030 and in October 2020 we published the full list of the 40. This includes eight schemes that were announced by previous Governments but are to be delivered this decade and 32 new hospitals. We have also confirmed that we will identify further new hospital schemes, the process for which is ongoing, with a final decision to be made in spring 2022. This means that 48 hospitals in total are to be delivered over the decade.

My Lords, I have here the New Hospitals Programme Communications Playbook, which the noble Lord’s department has put out and which makes it clear that if you build a new wing of a hospital, that counts as a new hospital. What is worse is that NHS bodies are being instructed to lie and propagandise on behalf of the Government. Will he withdraw this disgraceful communication?

I hope that the noble Lord will recognise that whenever a new project is started and there is a decision to build a new hospital in a community, it surely makes sense to look at whether there is space on existing sites. Otherwise, if we start criticising new hospitals on existing sites, there may be a perverse disincentive for a hospital to say, “Well, let’s build elsewhere”. when there is a perfectly good site. It is important, whatever you call it, whatever the semantics, to recognise that we are building modern, digital, sustainable hospitals for the future.

My Lords, we very much welcome the investment in physical buildings, but the modernisation of the NHS also depends on digital infrastructure and training. Will the Minister please tell us what steps he is taking towards a programme of technological improvements that are needed to modernise the NHS?

I thank my noble friend for the question—I have picked up many of the things that he started when he was in post. One of the great things about being the Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences is having a real ability to drive through digitisation of the health service, making sure that we have a modern health service that is fit for the future, so that if you are a patient in one part of the country and something happens to you, all your information is available elsewhere for the clinicians at the time and you get the best possible care. That is something that we should be celebrating.

My Lords, one of the principles of managing taxpayers’ money is to take account of the revenue implications of a capital budget. In view of the projected increases in building costs, is the Minister confident that the new hospitals programme managers understand this? What is being done to recruit the necessary doctors, nurses, technicians and maintenance staff for these new and existing hospitals?

One thing that is exciting about the new hospitals is that we are going to transform the way in which we deliver new healthcare infrastructure. First, it will be sustainable, with net-zero carbon across the NHS. Digital transformation is key, making use of the latest technology, so no longer will we have microscope slides couriered between sites, but we can instantly see a digital image and assess it using AI. There will be standardised design and modern methods of construction and new hospitals will be integrated with local health and care systems. This is a project for a health system that is fit for the future.

Many of these new hospitals will be built in existing centres of population. My concern, though, is for areas of high projected population growth, such as the Oxford-Cambridge arc, where we always seem to be playing catch-up when it comes to medical facilities. Can my noble friend simply reassure me that the principles of “I before E”—infrastructure before expansion—will be applied when choosing where these hospitals will be?

I assure my noble friend that, in deciding where to build a hospital, among the things that the NHS and others look at are the needs in the community, existing infrastructure and making sure that we can build hospitals that are fit for the future, that are digital, that are transformative, but are led by clinicians as opposed to construction experts.

The Minister said, just a moment ago, “whatever you call it”. When David Cameron was Prime Minister, he gave a pledge on district general hospitals and the definition of hospitals became important. Many of us said that, in order to be defined as a hospital, it had to incorporate 24-hour accident and emergency. What is the Minister’s definition of a hospital and is the pledge from David Cameron on district general hospitals current?

Each of the building projects will be a new hospital that will deliver brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities. One thing that we must be careful of is that if we say, “Well, you can’t call that a new hospital, even though it is a new facility, because it’s on an existing site”, we do not create perverse incentives, where the local NHS or the local ICS says, “We mustn’t build it there, because we will be accused of not having a new hospital”. Surely what we should be focusing on is outcomes, not inputs, and the fact that we are delivering modern, digital hospitals for the future.

My Lords, leaving aside the dubious and overinflated claims of 40 new hospitals, many of which are, in reality, upgrades—as welcome as they are—I and others in the House raised with the Minister’s predecessor but one in 2019 that there was an alarming repairs and infrastructure crisis, which was then in the region of £3 billion. Could the Minister explain to the House which part and how much of the new hospitals programme will address the immediate and urgent matter of crumbling wards, sewer leaks in wards and old and dodgy kit?

The noble Baroness will recognise that we need not only to build new hospitals but to upgrade existing infrastructure and this is all part of the capital programme. The decisions on individual hospitals and upgrades will be taken in local communities in consultation with clinicians and local ICSs.

My Lords, will the Minister avoid getting caught in a numbers game? We need an adequate number of beds in a good geographical spread to deal with the needs of the whole population. I hope that he will see this as part of an integrated expansion of the health service and that we will not get tied up with the numbers, as we did years ago—how many hospitals, how many this, how many that. We need an improved health service. This is a vital part of it, but it is only a part.

I completely agree with the sentiments expressed by my noble friend. Surely what we should focus on is output; surely what we need is the best healthcare system across the country. We need up-to-date healthcare with the best information from patients to make sure that we can diagnose and give them appropriate treatment, working with the very latest technology such as artificial intelligence to spot patterns, to make sure that we can also build in prevention when we look at tackling health issues in the future. I welcome my noble friend saying that we have to focus on output—modern digital infrastructure and modern digital hospitals fit for the future.

My Lords, my local hospital, Watford General, is on the list of 40 so-called new hospitals, although the plans have been in place and supported cross-party for close to two decades, and its infrastructure is failing. Despite a clear promise of funds by the Prime Minister during a visit to the hospital in October 2019, the trust is yet to be allocated funding from the Treasury and it remains a pathfinder. I want a clear outcome. When will funding be confirmed and granted?

On the point about the noble Baroness’s local hospital, I am afraid that I am not aware of where she is situated geographically, but I can tell her that six of the 48 hospitals are already under construction and one is now completed. I hope that the noble Baroness will write to me on the hospital that she referred to so that I can give her an answer.

My Lords, will the Minister stop waffling and put on record an answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mann, saying precisely what he means by a “new hospital”? I tell him not to waffle back.

I thank the noble Lord for his advice just before I was about to answer. Whatever you call it—and we can debate semantics—the important thing is surely that we build new hospitals and upgrade existing infrastructure. Surely we should celebrate the fact that we are building 48 new state-of-the-art hospitals—

We should not celebrate building new hospitals? Well, there we are. We should celebrate the fact that we are building new hospitals to give patients the best possible care, aided by digital technology and making sure that they are sustainable.

Retained EU Law

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Statement by the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office (Lord Frost) on 16 September (HL Deb, col 1533), whether the review of the substantive content of retained European Union law has commenced; and what engagement they are planning to undertake with stakeholders, including those in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, I have now launched two reviews: one into the substance of retained EU law and one into its status in law. As regards the substantive review, departments have been asked to review and map the content of retained EU law that falls within their responsibility in order to be clear where the heaviest concentrations are and what the effect is. Departments are responsible for consulting stakeholders as appropriate in order to complete this task, including, of course, those in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, the freezing of EU law in domestic law at the end of last year delivered legal certainty and stability, including for the position of Northern Ireland in relation to the EU single market. Will the Government take great care in unravelling that? How do they intend to implement any change to retained EU law? Will they commit to doing so through primary legislation only?

My Lords, as regards Northern Ireland, we will of course proceed with an eye on stability and with predictability, as we have made clear on many occasions. On retained EU law more broadly, I noted in my Statement on 16 September that many such laws had not been discussed or agreed to in this Parliament in any way during the course of our EU membership and any amendments to those laws in future would need to reflect that reality.

My Lords, the Minister visited Northern Ireland yesterday and the day before and I understand that he met various people. Who were those stakeholders? Did he discuss this issue about the review of retained EU law? Did he also discuss the need, in his own words, to provide political stability and sustainability and the need to promote the benefits of the protocol through access to the EU single market and the UK internal market?

My Lords, I indeed met a wide range of people in Northern Ireland yesterday, as I always try to. It is fair to say that I heard a lot of concerns about the way the protocol is being implemented. I heard some concerns about the democratic legitimacy of laws being imposed without consent and a great wish to do something about the current situation, which is what we are trying to do.

My Lords, in answering my noble friend Lady Ludford, I am not sure that the Minister actually dealt with the question of whether any changes to retained law would be dealt with through primary legislation. Could he possibly try again? He suggested that the retained law had not necessarily been scrutinised by Parliament before and that any changes needed to reflect that reality. But surely, if we are taking back control, this House and the other place should be able to decide any changes to retained law. If so, how are the Government Whips going to find parliamentary time to do so?

My Lords, the best way I can answer the question is to refer back to what I said on 16 September, when I referred to the democratic deficit issue of such law, and note that

“we will look at developing a tailored mechanism for accelerating the repeal or amendment of this retained EU law in a way which reflects the fact that, as I have made clear, laws agreed elsewhere have intrinsically less democratic legitimacy than laws initiated by the Government of this country.”—[Official Report, 16/9/21; col. 1533.]

There are various ways of achieving that end, and that is what we are working on.

My Lords, a bonfire of regulation or a selective shredding of EU retained law here in Great Britain will of course not apply to Northern Ireland because we still remain under EU control and EU laws and, as the Minister has said, with no democratic input whatever from anyone elected in Northern Ireland. How is Northern Ireland going to remain competitive or even on a level playing field if Britain diverges from it continuously, not just now but over years and decades to come, unless the protocol is changed?

The noble Lord raises a very good question. It is indeed one of the difficulties with the protocol, as constructed, that EU law, in areas of the single market for goods, is imposed without any agreement by the institutions in Northern Ireland. That is a situation we are seeking to remedy in the negotiations I am currently conducting.

My Lords, the Minister is being rather slippery in his responses to questions about retained EU law. The reason I say this is that we were promised—in the other place at least and, I am sure, in here too—that changes to retained EU law would be subject to primary legislation, and I can remember vividly Secretaries of State Raab, Barclay and Davis saying in terms at the Dispatch Box that this would be the case. Is the Minister now overriding that commitment?

A number of things have happened since those commitments were made, including a general election, which we won with a clear set of policies. Our policy on this matter was as I set out on 16 September in my Statement, and we are considering the best way of delivering that policy.

I recall an earlier review of the balance of competences between the UK and the EU. Does the Minister recall that one of the most prolific submitters of evidence was the Scotch Whisky Association, of which he was then, I believe, director? All of them argued in favour of the advantages of the single market and shared regulation. Can he explain when, why and how he went through a damascene conversion from the evidence that was then submitted to his current extraordinary ideological position?

My Lords, actually, I was not CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association at the time; I was an official, working on the very review the noble Lord refers to. The policy of the Government at the time was to remain in the European Union, and therefore it is not surprising that the review reached that conclusion.

Will my noble friend ensure that any such review of retained EU legislation will be based on fact and science? He will recall that when the EU nitrates directive was adopted, the bar was set very high to prevent any recurrence of blue babies. There has been no blue baby for 400 years. Why then are we actually extending the nitrates provisions and making them even more stringent on our farmers, when we should be reducing the restrictions?

My Lords, I am not familiar with the detail of the points my noble friend raises. The general point that the EU tends to legislate in a highly risk-averse way, which has economic consequences, is a good one, and we will obviously have it in mind as we take this review forward.

My Lords, one of the key tenets of Brexit was the removal of substantive undemocratic layers above sovereign lawmaking to enhance democratic accountability. But does the Minister recognise that this control over laws is not yet a real, live felt experience for voters? If so, does he appreciate that the retained EU law review is an opportunity for a democratic engagement with voters—not stakeholders—about what they believe should be prioritised in the legislation, and that it should not be left to committees?

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes an extremely good point, and it is our wish to widen this debate as far as we can. One of the ways of doing it, we hope, will be the standing commission on deregulation, which I referred to in my Statement of 16 September, on which I hope to be able to update the House fairly shortly.

My Lords, the Minister talks repeatedly about stability in Northern Ireland, which is very important. How can he possibly think there will be stability in the future if Northern Ireland, under all these retained laws, will not get the benefit of them? Will he say now whether he actually contemplates Northern Ireland remaining under the EU’s VAT rules, for example?

My Lords, we set out our position in the Command Paper of 21 July on VAT and many other points. Having two different systems of lawmaking on important points within the United Kingdom is likely to build up tension and divergence and create difficulties over time. We are trying to design a system in these negotiations that will resolve that. I wish we were making a bit more progress, but we will keep trying.

Leaseholders: Costs

Question

Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that leaseholders and others do not bear the costs of repairing building safety defects for which they are not responsible.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

The Government are investing £5.1 billion to remediate unsafe cladding and residential buildings over 18 metres. The Building Safety Bill will require building owners to consider other cost recovery routes for remediation before passing them on to leaseholders. A new developer tax and levy will ensure that industry contributes towards making buildings safer. For the small number of 11 to 18-metre buildings with remediation costs for unsafe cladding, we are exploring all options to make sure that leaseholders are protected.

My Lords, does the noble Lord agree with his Secretary of State, the right honourable Michael Gove MP, when he expresses concern at leaseholders having to pay for all the faults and mistakes of others? If he shares that concern, surely the right thing, after all this time, is to make those responsible for this scandal—this crisis—pay up, not the innocent victims.

My Lords, unsurprisingly, I completely agree with the Secretary of State on those principles, and I add a third: first, we need to protect leaseholders as far as we can; secondly, we must ensure that the polluter pays, and that goes beyond the developers to every single person who has contributed to this crisis; and thirdly, we need a degree of proportionality, so we do not create an industry that profiteers off the back of the poor leaseholders affected.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for what I know he was doing behind the scenes to sort this. Can he confirm that when his Secretary of State was given his new job, he was instructed by the Prime Minister to resolve the cladding crisis? This clearly involves measures beyond those that my noble friend has already referred to. If innocent leaseholders are to avoid financial distress, bankruptcy and eviction, either the Treasury or those responsible for building these defective flats will have to dig deeper into their pockets. Does he agree?

My noble friend makes it easy for me: yes, I agree. Implicit in the fact that the Treasury would have supported a subsidised financing scheme is that we need more taxpayer subsidy, but it cannot be the only answer. We need to make sure the polluter pays, and the Secretary of State is looking at every avenue to do that.

My Lords, I remind the House of my relevant interests as in the register. If the Government are to avoid a torrent of bankruptcies by April next year, as has been predicted by Inside Housing, action must be swift. In particular, I ask the Minister about shared ownership. Somebody with shared equity of 25% is being asked to pay 100% of the remediation costs. That might be right in law, but it cannot be right in fact. What on earth are the Government going to do to safeguard shared owners?

My Lords, I feel the burden, particularly on shared owners, who have a fraction of the equity in their home but face intolerable bills. I am surprised when I hear that social landlords, who should be caring for the people who live in those homes—the nurses and other people who support our NHS—are considering massive remediation schemes, very often for buildings that really require only mitigation at far lower cost instead. An MP raised a case with me yesterday of a nine-metre building where shared owners are facing bills of £20,000. That is because there is no sense of proportion. Let us get a sense of proportion, protect leaseholders and shared owners, and make sure that the polluter pays.

My apologies to Members. My list was the list for the fourth Question, not the third Question. I think we are on the right track again if I call the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti.

My Lords, faced with repeated variations on this question from my tenacious noble friend Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I have heard the always affable Minister talk about this injustice in terms of complexity, sometimes referring leaseholders to their contracts. I am delighted that the new Secretary of State takes a more bullish approach, suggesting that leaseholders should pay nothing and acknowledging that we collectively—the department, some in local government and others in the private sector—failed people at Grenfell. That is a wonderful acknowledgement of principle. Why did it take four and a half years, and when will we move from principle to practice?

We will move from principle into practice in a matter of months, but this problem has occurred over decades. Sadly, every decade, there has been a significant fire in a high-rise where there was a loss of life: Garnock Court in 1999, Lakanal House in Southwark in 2009 and the tragedy of Grenfell in 2017. Governments knew that cladding was often the cause, as it was in Garnock Court, and the regulations were actually dampened down under a previous Labour Government, who inserted the word “adequately”. It is a mess that took decades; give us months to sort it out.

Notwithstanding the Minister’s earlier comments, housing associations and councils too face a challenging situation. Both the LGA and the National Housing Federation have evidenced the double whammy of the financial burden to remedy the fire safety issues for the tenants and, consequently, less money to invest in their existing stock—in particular, to build new social and affordable homes. In the recent rethinking, please will the Minister agree to look specifically at the situation faced by housing associations and councils and consider widening the criteria for support for any money that is available? This is their tenants’ rent money, after all, and they too should not have to pay for 20 years of industry failure.

Of course we want to protect leaseholders and ensure that social landlords can build new homes of high quality but, far too often, they as developers were in charge of building homes of poor quality, and they need to fix those homes. The figures are that, as of 31 October, £97.3 million has been approved from the building safety fund, and there is the £200 million to remove cladding of aluminium composite material. We are doing what we can to protect leaseholders, but we recognise the challenges faced by registered providers.

My Lords, further to that very point, the Secretary of State, in front of the HCLG Committee, acknowledged the unfair and undue burden on both leaseholders and social housing tenants to shoulder the remediation costs. How do the Government plan to alleviate what the Secretary of State referred to as the Sophie’s choice of the housing associations between safety and investing in stock and quality?

All major landlords, including social landlords, will have to do that as a matter of course. We are providing funds that will protect leaseholders where the balance sheet does not enable them to do so, and I have given those figures already. However, we ask for a sense of proportion from registered providers—I have reached out to the noble Baroness’s chief executive—not to inflate the bill just because the taxpayer sums are there, but to keep costs down. We need to ensure that together we remediate, mitigate where that is preferable to remediation, keep tenants safe and use the affordable homes programme to build more homes.

It is not just the remedial work, it is also the fact that insurance premiums have gone up, leaseholders cannot sell their property and they sometimes have to have a waking watch, which is a 24/7 dedicated project to protect from future fires. The Minister said that the polluter pays, but that is not how I see it. The Government are using taxpayer money to finance this. Why are the Government not insisting that builders pay? Is it more corruption: these builders and developers are government friends, so they should not have to pay?

I think that is an unfortunate line. Developers have caused this, and there are the insulation manufacturers and product manufacturers in the frame—for instance, for fire doors that do not act as fire doors. We have announced both a tax and a levy, and the new Secretary of State has further plans to ensure that the polluter will pay.

My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, what assessment has been made that the building safety levy will provide the most balanced approach for funding historical remediation of building safety defects? Have the Government carried out an impact assessment?

The building safety levy is one in a suite of measures. The Gateway 2 levy which the noble Baroness refers to runs alongside the residential property developer tax. There is a levy and a tax. That will make a contribution but, by and large, we are seeking to fund the running cost of a high-risk regime, so her question is not actually hitting the mark.

Rail Infrastructure: North of England

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to improve rail infrastructure in the north of England.

My Lords, this Government will be investing more than £35 billion in rail over the spending review period, including rail enhancements and vital renewals to improve passenger journeys and connectivity across the country, focusing on the Midlands and the north to level up the economy. Furthermore, the Government have today published our independent rail plan, a £96 billion programme to transform services in the Midlands and the north.

My Lords, there has not been a major new rail line in the north of England since the Victorians. The Government promised to change that. Northern Powerhouse Rail was announced seven years ago, and the Government have re-announced it 60 times, but today’s announcement turns its back on that. Does the Minister accept that haphazard dollops of money—a scattergun approach to rail upgrades—will not create a transformation, and that cancelling the HS2 eastern leg is seen in cities such as Sheffield, York, Leeds and Bradford as nothing else than another broken promise?

I advise the noble Baroness to read the documents, which, when I left my office just now, had not actually been published. If she were to look at the integrated rail plan, she would see that it is comprehensive and very well thought through. It sets out exactly how the different pots of money will be used to create the sort of system that delivers for people in the north far sooner than other plans were going to. It also saves the taxpayer billions of pounds.

My Lords, I think I should say that I am very grateful for this further opportunity to speak. If, as it now appears, the Government are backing away from large-scale rail infrastructure projects in the north in favour of less-costly targeted schemes, does this allow other regions, such as the east of England, to dare to hope that the damage they have suffered from the Beeching cuts will be reversed sooner rather than later?

My noble friend is not quite right to say that the Government are backing away from away from large-scale projects, as the IRP—when he is able to read it—will demonstrate to him. However, my noble friend is right that Network Rail has recently completed a study on the west Anglia main line and we are considering its findings. Network Rail is required to conduct similar studies for all parts of the network, and these provide helpful advice to government on potential investments for the future.

Has the Minister seen the front-page banner headline in today’s Yorkshire Post? It says: “PM breaks his own rail pledge.” I want to ask a question about Leeds—and I gladly declare to the House what you might call a family connection. To be practical, can the Minister explain what impact today’s plans are going to have on a station such as Leeds where, as I understand it, HS2 would have had the effect of freeing up platforms for much-needed extra capacity? Without HS2, the existing platforms are going to have to cope with all existing and future demands.

My Lords, it is very difficult to have a sensible discussion on this topic on the basis of front pages of the media. It is impossible that the noble Viscount has been able have a look at the documents which, as we know are being published, possibly as we speak. However, I can assure him that we are well aware that Leeds is an incredibly important station. It is the fourth busiest in the country outside London. Passenger demand has increased by 30% over the last 10 years and the Government are committing to £100 million to look at the options for how to run HS2 services to Leeds, to build capacity and also to finally develop and deliver a mass transit system for Leeds.

I have a little quiz for the Minister. I am sure she will be able to come up with the right answer, but here goes. Which city has half a million people, considerable deprivation, a train service that takes over 20 minutes at just over 30 miles an hour to go nine miles to take people to jobs and connect them to the rest of the country and where 74% of jobseekers give poor transport links as a major barrier to getting on in life? Having named the city—and I am sure the Minister will be able to—perhaps she will, since she is so excited about the integrated rail plan, be able to confirm that that city is going to have its brand- new railway station which will give it the connectivity it needs and deserves.

Bradford—ah, when the noble Baroness has been able to read the documents that are about to be published, she will see in there that we will be electrifying the route from Bradford to Leeds. The journey time will be hugely more reliable—it will take 12 minutes.

The economy of the West Midlands, and Birmingham in particular, has been boosted by the construction and pending completion of the fast new rail service that is HS2. Despite what the Minister has been seeking to say, it appears that Leeds and the local West Yorkshire economy will now be denied the estimated full £54 billion of economic benefits of their HS2 link. Leeds, for example, will be a less attractive venue than it would have been for new and expanding businesses without its promised high-speed rail links. Northern Powerhouse Rail delivered in full was also set to deliver £22 billion for northern economies, including Bradford, by 2060, according to a report by Mott MacDonald. What is the Government’s estimate of the loss of projected economic benefits to Leeds and the West Yorkshire economy of the decision to backtrack on previous promises on the HS2 high-speed rail link to Leeds and on full delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail? What is the loss of those economic benefits that were projected?

As the noble Lord will see when he gets to read the documents that are being published today, a huge number of projects are being brought together, and so many of those are around Leeds. It is the case that the core part of Northern Powerhouse Rail will be constructed, and that will provide those fast links through to Manchester. It is the case that there will be significant upgrades to the east coast main line and, of course, there will be electrification of the Midlands main line. Combining that with the construction of a mass transit system, I think, somehow, that Leeds is going to be all right.

My Lords, I look forward to reading today’s document, and I hope it is good news for the north and the Midlands. I appreciate that I am a lone voice on this matter but, given that HS2 has been the disaster that everybody thought it would be, is doing huge damage to the environment, is going to bring little benefit to anybody and is costing now, or is supposed to cost, £150 billion and counting, could the Government not consider—if they cannot scrap it, which I think they should, even though it has cost money already—pruning it back seriously as quickly as possible and using the money saved and the expertise gained to look after railways in the West Midlands and the north of England?

I suppose we are doing a small amount of what would make my noble friend happy. We have looked at the different options. I would be the first person to stand there and warmly welcome a brand-new, big, expensive, shiny rail system— I love them. However, sometimes they take many decades to build, and they can be very expensive, and sometimes they just fly by various communities. What we have done is look at the amount of money that we have, the options that we have and the opportunities that we have to join up many more of the communities that were being missed out by previous plans. I am sure when we come back to discuss the integrated rail plan, we can go into that in more detail.

Can the Minister confirm that upgrading an existing Victorian railway as opposed to building a brand-new railway is not a pain-free option? It will lead inevitably to weekend closures, disruptions to services, replacement bus services and all the paraphernalia of building a railway while you are trying to run one at the same time. How long will this disruption continue? Can the Minister also please tell us why it takes us far longer to build high-speed railways in this country compared with all our competitor countries and longer even than it took the Victorians who built them with picks and shovels?

The noble Lord is quite right to highlight the disruption caused by construction. It is the case, whether you are upgrading the east coast main line or, indeed, constructing a brand-new, HS2-type railway that there is disruption. We try to keep the disruption to the minimum. Obviously, when the RNEP is published and all of the programme is set out, we will be able to see how long each element of the plan is going to take and when the disruption will happen. Of course, the Government will try to minimise that as much as possible.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Impact on UK Internal Market

Question

Asked by

To ask the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office (Lord Frost) what assessment Her Majesty’s Government have made of the impact of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland on (1) Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom internal market, and (2) the flow of trade.

My Lords, the protocol recalls the importance of maintaining the integral place of Northern Ireland in the UK’s internal market and is clear that Northern Ireland is part of the UK’s customs territory. We are concerned that these provisions are not reflected in the way in which the protocol is being implemented. As a result, there is clear evidence of trade diversion. Trade data shows that trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland has increased significantly in both directions this year.

My Lords, the Minister knows that the protocol is having a major adverse impact on trade flows between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, never mind the massive destabilising effect on the political institutions and the political process in the Northern Ireland. The chairman of Marks & Spencer says the EU proposals threaten to increase the administrative burden on imports to Northern Ireland. They could result in “worsening friction”, he says and, as a result, his firm and others might have to stop sending goods to Northern Ireland.

The head of the Road Haulage Association in Northern Ireland referred to the EU proposals as “window-dressing”. He knows, as we all know, that the EU proposals do not address the fundamental issues of the protocol. Will he now tell the House and tell the people of Northern Ireland when he is going to implement the proposals set out in the Command Paper of July this year to finally restore Northern Ireland’s place in the UK internal market fully, to fully restore Northern Ireland’s place inside the UK customs union, not on paper but in reality, and finally restore full democratic accountability to Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom in the 21st century?

My Lords, the noble Lord sets out serious concerns, which we share. I should like to make our position on these negotiations and Article 16 100% clear, as he asks. Whatever the messages to the contrary that the EU may think it has heard or read, our position has not changed from the one I set out on 10 November or, indeed, in July at the time of the Command Paper. We would prefer to reach a negotiated agreement if we can. That is the best way forward for the stability and prosperity of Northern Ireland but I want to be clear that, as the responsible Minister, I would not recommend any outcome from the negotiations that I did not believe safeguarded political, economic or social stability in Northern Ireland. In such circumstances, we obviously would need to provide the necessary safeguards using Article 16. Those safeguards remain very much on the table and they are a legitimate provision in the protocol. No decision has been taken to exclude a priori any specific timing for Article 16. That will be shaped by whether and how quickly negotiations make progress.

My Lords, the Minister is once again equivocating on a very important issue, just as he did when he praised the treaty he had negotiated and then rubbished it. When he threatens to trigger Article 16, he then says, “Oh no. There’s no way I am going to do that”. Would he be surprised if increasingly, he is known here and in Northern Ireland as the “Grand Old Duke of York”?

My Lords, to be honest, what I have just said cannot be described as equivocating. I have tried to make my position 100% clear on these negotiations and on Article 16, and it has not changed. It is that if we can find a negotiated solution, that is better. If we cannot find one, then the safeguards are legitimate.

My Lords, Belfast Queen’s University’s most recent survey found that 52% of those who responded think that on balance, the Northern Ireland protocol is a good thing. Does the Minister agree that, rather than threatening to invoke Article 16, 52% is a sufficient mandate to get these practical changes done and to make the protocol work for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland?

My Lords, I have indeed looked at the polling conducted by Queen’s University, where I had a good meeting yesterday, by the way. There is a lot of other polling around on this subject, and the conclusion I draw from it is that there is significant and stark division of opinion in Northern Ireland. Different polls have slightly different numbers but there is a clear division about the benefits of the protocol or its difficulties. In those circumstances, it is difficult to implement and that is why we are in the situation in which we find ourselves.

My Lords, some overstated language has been employed regarding the potential implications of Article 16, such as its detonation being a nuclear response. Would my noble friend care to say a little more about what the normal procedures would be, were the article to be invoked, for ensuring that the UK’s rights under Article 16 and national rights are properly safeguarded and protected?

I thank my noble friend for his question, which is a good one. The safeguards in Article 16 are what they say they are: safeguards. They are not an on/off switch but are significant and potentially capable of being used in a significant way. We as a Government will always proceed on the basis of predictability, certainty and clarity. There is a one-month process of consultation for the use of Article 16 between notification and activation, and we would expect to follow all the necessary procedures to provide the maximum possible legal certainty—if we reach that point.

My Lords, can the Minister say to what extent the protocol situation has affected the operation of the trade and co-operation agreement and the other EU-UK workstreams?

My Lords, the trade and co-operation agreement and the withdrawal agreement are obviously separate. I have said that the difficulties we are having on the protocol are at the heart of some of the broader mistrusts that exist in the process at the moment. That said, the implementation of the TCA is going well. The specialised committees have largely met. The trade committee met earlier this week and, despite difficulties on issues such as fisheries, we are nevertheless implementing the TCA well and effectively, and the processes are working well.

My Lords, there is a problem here, because the response the Minister gave to the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, seems to contradict the impression given to the UK and European media—and Simon Coveney, who said that he welcomed the change of tone from the Minister and anticipated that with political will, this issue could be resolved by Christmas. Earlier, I implied that the Minister was not in the mood for answering questions today. Can he prove me wrong by giving us his percentage assessment of the chances of success by Christmas?

My Lords, it is somewhere between 0% and 100%, to be honest. It does not help to put specific numbers on these sorts of things. The noble Baroness makes a good point, though, about the comments of the Foreign Minister of Ireland and many others about what they perceive to be going on in the negotiations. Actually, I will talk to Simon Coveney later today. When I do so—and as I do in all those contacts—I will make our position abundantly clear, as I have set it out to this House. That remains our position, whatever else may be read in the media or by figures in the EU who are interpreting it.

My Lords, it is the Government’s policy, not the EU’s, to enforce the system whereby any goods entering Northern Ireland will have to be marked as conformity assessed, separate from those sold within Great Britain. That was referred to by the chair of Marks & Spencer, who the noble Lord, Lord Dodds, quoted. It is nothing to do with the European Union; it is British government policy. The British Government have not asked in the negotiations on the protocol for that to be changed. So when will it change? Or is it the Government’s policy that it is permanent?

My Lords, the processes that goods undergo when they enter Northern Ireland are those that, in our view, are required by the protocol, which, of course, has direct effect in UK law in many respects through the withdrawal Act. People would not want us to proceed in any way other than is consistent with those legal obligations. That is what we are required to do; the difficulty is that it is not consistent with social and economic stability in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, as we have failed to reach the end of the list on the previous two Questions, I implore noble Lords to keep their questions to half a minute, as recommended by the Procedure Committee. That will allow my noble friend to answer even more questions than he is already doing.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: Court of Justice of the European Union

Question

Asked by

To ask the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office (Lord Frost) what plans Her Majesty’s Government have to involve the Court of Justice of the European Union in dispute cases regarding the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

My Lords, the Government have proposed changes to the governance arrangements in the protocol involving the Court of Justice of the European Union. The court’s jurisdiction in settling disputes under the protocol is currently limited, of course, to those covered by the second sub-paragraph of Article 12(2), Article 5 and Articles 7 to 10 of the protocol. In other withdrawal agreement disputes, including those under Article 16, cases are ultimately resolved by arbitration, with a role for the court only where disputes raise questions of interpretation of EU law.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that he has created an impression that his position is softening on many of these issues? A German journalist asked me bluntly after the noble Lord’s 10 November Statement, “Is it true that Lord Frost is moving from his earlier position?” Would the noble Lord care to comment?

My Lords, the answer is “no”. We are trying to reach an agreement. That has always been our position; it was our position in July and it is now. I suggest that our friends in the EU do not interpret the reasonable tone that I usually use in my discussions with them as implying any softening in the substantive position.

My Lords, despite bordering four EU countries and being part of Schengen and the single market, with an excess of 120 bilateral agreements, Switzerland does not permit EU law to override Swiss law. Therefore, the ECJ cannot be the final arbiter of any dispute. As a third country, as the UK now is, can my noble friend reassure the House that there will be no role for the ECJ in Northern Ireland or across the UK and that the provisions of the trade and co-operation agreement will be interpreted in line with international law, including the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, as agreed?

My Lords, my noble friend asks a very good question. I assure her that there is no role for the court of justice in the trade and co-operation agreement. There are provisions in that agreement which make it very clear that interpretations by one court cannot bind the courts of the other and that they are to be interpreted in line with the normal provisions of international law. That is 100% unambiguous. Regarding the withdrawal agreement and the protocol, we know that we have a problem. Most people would regard it as unusual for disputes between two parties to be solved in the court of one of the parties.

My Lords, the Minister baffled the House earlier with his answer to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Chapman. He is now baffling the House again. The conceptual core of the protocol is that the EU agrees that Northern Ireland may remain in the single market. The necessary concomitant to that is that the ECJ must have a role. I agree that we should not be shocked by the Minister’s line. He told us in his speech in Oxford during October that difficulties with the protocol come not from the way that it is being implemented but from the way that it was constructed. Coming from its constructor, that could seem a curious statement, but that is what he said, and that is what he goes on saying.

If the Minister insists on attempting to remove the court of justice, which is central to the conceptual core of the protocol and the deal struck by him, he cannot do it under Article 16, because, as he has just explained, that is simply about trade safeguards. Under what powers would he do it? He has the powers by regulation under the withdrawal Act to act in a way that is consistent with Article 16 to act on trade measures, but he has no power to withdraw the court of justice. Are we back to primary legislation and a specific and limited breach of the treaty and international law? If so, I doubt that the House will agree.

My Lords, I cannot believe that I have really baffled the noble Lord, with his deep knowledge of EU affairs that is much greater than mine. The Government will set out the basis on which we would use Article 16 if and when that eventuality arises. We hope that it will not, but obviously we will be clear when and if we reach that point. Of course, it is well understood that the court has a role as the final arbiter of EU law. We do not seek to change or challenge that. What is not working is the role of the court as the arbiter of disputes between the two parties, which is unusual.

My Lords, I am trying to follow the Minister’s answers as well, and with some difficulty. In answer to the question on the Northern Ireland protocol, he spoke about changing the arrangements. Does this mean that he is no longer arguing for removal of the court of justice’s jurisdiction over the European single market, which, if we are to keep no border in Ireland, must still apply in Northern Ireland? If we keep the border open, does he agree that he must accept some role for the court of justice?

My Lords, I cannot add very much to what I said earlier, which is that the EU defines the court of justice as the final arbiter of what EU law means. We do not challenge that and cannot do anything about it. For as long as EU laws apply in Northern Ireland, no doubt the court will continue to assert that right, but that is not the same as saying that it is reasonable for disputes to be settled in the court or for infraction processes to be launched by the Commission, as they already have been in this context. It is the settlement of disputes that is the difficulty.

The noble Lord just said that the role of the court is not working; as far as I am aware, the court has not yet been asked to adjudicate on anything in terms of the operation of the protocol. If that is correct, why was the Minister so prepared to sign up to a role for the court in 2019, when he is now implying that it is a constitutional outrage?

My Lords, it is true that the dispute has not reached the court yet but, nevertheless, an infraction process was launched in March. The Commission’s launch of an infraction process, seemingly on a hair trigger, has created many of the concerns that we now have about the court. That sort of process is appropriate for member states, with all the checks and balances that exist when you are a member state. As we can now see from the way that it is being used, it is not appropriate for this country, of which Northern Ireland is a part and which is not a member state of the EU.

My Lords, I am not the only one scratching my head as a result of these exchanges. Can the Minister help us by outlining what the benefit to the UK position of triggering Article 16 would be? Surely it would only set the clock ticking and increase the pressure, while he would be negotiating on the exact same issues with the exact same people, probably in the exact same rooms. What do we gain by triggering Article 16?

My Lords, Article 16 is a safeguard. It changes reality because it enables us to safeguard, within the provisions of the protocol, against certain effects of the way that it is currently being implemented and working out. Of course, it begins a new and slightly different phase if Article 16 is used, but it also creates a new reality and safeguards against some of the difficulties that we currently find. That is why it is such a relevant provision.

Naturally I wish my noble friend success in his negotiations, but as he bears some responsibility for the protocol, can I urge him not to rule things in and out from the Dispatch Box, but to negotiate as a trained diplomat, which he is—calmly, gently and with the aim of coming to agreement with our friends and neighbours?

My Lords, my noble friend is right, as always. It is good to negotiate calmly and find the best possible agreements between two parties. That applies to both sides. I urge the EU not to overplay the significance of using Article 16, as perhaps it has in the last couple of weeks. It is a legitimate provision within the protocol which we are discussing, and can as such be used if the situation arises.

Ireland/Northern Ireland: Solid Fuels

Question

Asked by

To ask the Minister of State at the Cabinet Office (Lord Frost) what discussions Her Majesty’s Government have had with the government of Ireland about that government’s plans to introduce physical checks on solid fuels entering the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland.

My Lords, we are aware of the Irish Government’s plans to introduce new standards for domestic solid fuels under their forthcoming clean air strategy. Of course, the implementation of this policy is for the Irish Government. Our understanding is that they plan to introduce it in 2022. We hope to have technical discussions with the Irish Government later this week to establish some further detail on how and when they plan to bring these measures into force.

The Minister for the Environment in the Republic of Ireland said that

“inspections of cross-border fuel movements will be required.”

Does the Minister not think that shows huge hypocrisy from the Irish Government? The border sometimes matters—when it affects them—but as far as anything to do with the protocol is concerned, there could not possibly be any kind of border at the frontier. The Minister is being very patient with the European Union. Is he beginning to feel that time is running out and that it is time to simply say, “This is not working; it has to go”?

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very good point. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are obviously different countries divided by an international border, and most areas of national life—for example, legal systems, currency, taxation and many others—change when you cross that border. Some of those arrangements relate specifically to the movement of goods—VAT and excise, for example. These differences are nevertheless managed in market, without the need for physical infrastructure at the border, so I wait for the discussions with the Irish Government. I do not want to prejudge them, but obviously I do not see why we would have any difficulties if the Irish Government wished to manage one further regulatory difference between our two countries in a sensible and pragmatic way, as goods go on to the Irish market.

My Lords, both this Question and the Answer are misleading, as 100,000 tonnes of smoky coal goes from north to south on the island each year, and the stricter regulations being applied in Ireland come under EU directives for cleaner air that have been retained and so also apply across the UK today. In Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs under the DUP’s Edwin Poots said last year that there will soon be no smoky coal in Northern Ireland. Any future inspection on premises in the Republic of Ireland—not on some border that does not exist—to prevent the illegal sale of such dangerous solid fuel, especially from third countries, is nothing to do with Brexit, borders or customs. It is everything to do with the far more urgent and important challenge of tackling climate change and protecting public health.

The noble Lord makes a very fair point about the objectives of this legislation. That is why we need to establish the detail of what the Irish Government intend to do and how they intend to go about it. What he says rather proves the point that we have always made: it is perfectly possible for two separate jurisdictions to pursue complementary policy ends that do not involve accepting exactly the same legislation in exactly the same way. That is the approach we have tried to take.

My Lords, to come back to what the Irish Government actually said about this matter—not the interpretation that has just been put on it—are we not in an ironic situation? The Irish Government and others said that any checks on the island of Ireland equalled a hard border and that a hard border would lead to violence. Now the Irish Government are proposing such a thing—that is the reality of it. People can shake their heads all they like, but the fact of the matter is that the Irish Government, when Varadkar came to power, changed what Enda Kenny was doing and said that no checks—even away from the border or digitally—would be acceptable. Will the Minister go back and indicate to his good friend Simon Coveney, whom he is meeting and talking to later today, that no checks means no checks if what they believe is true?

My Lords, there has indeed always been some complexity in interpretations of this matter. It is certainly true that in areas such as red diesel, for example, where there is a need to avoid fraud due to different excise rates between Northern Ireland and Ireland, there is very good co-operation between HMRC and the Irish Revenue Commissioners. There is lots of multiagency and cross-border co-operation, intelligence and information sharing and so on, and that works perfectly well. I do not necessarily say that is a model you can generalise to absolutely everything, but it certainly shows that this issue is not quite as black and white as it is sometimes painted.

Can the Minister say whether the discussion and fuss over fuel is merely an example of Mr Castex’s call for aggressive action against the United Kingdom?

My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. We have been concerned about the threats made against us in the last few weeks, which are not really consistent with a reasonable negotiation. I am glad to see that the French Government have, for the moment anyway, withdrawn those threats. I hope they will do so permanently, because they do not make it any easier to conduct a good process and put relations on to a better footing.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his measured responses to earlier questions on this subject, because it is very sensitive. I have in front of me the answer in the Dáil, and there is no reference to border checks. There is reference to Irish local authorities having increased powers to check on solid fuels imported from Northern Ireland, which they had already. Indeed, the north-south Joint Agency Task Force has been operating since 2015 in this regard. Can the Minister please reassure the House that this will not be used to inflame some of the tensions that already exist and that the north-south Joint Agency Task Force will operate normally on fuels to ensure that there is proper consensus on this?

My Lords, we do not wish to inflame tensions in any way, of course, and I do not think we go about this in a way that would do that. The point that I and other noble Lords have been trying to make is not that this proposal from the Irish Government would require checks at the border—they are not saying that, we are not saying that and nobody wants that—but that it is possible to manage differences without such checks in certain circumstances. This is perhaps a concrete case of that; there are some others.

My Lords, far from adding to tensions, is this not actually a rather hopeful sign? As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, said, it is envisaged that local authority officers will check for goods coming into the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland that should not be coming in. Is this not a pattern that could be applied, to great benefit and great effect, as a substitute for the ridiculous and unworkable attempts to operate the protocol as it currently works? It might even be called mutual enforcement. It is very hopeful.

My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point, as always. It is a concrete case that demonstrates that it is possible to manage these matters in other ways. This is one of the reasons why what we put forward in the Command Paper is a compromise. It is not my noble friend’s proposal. It is that we would for most purposes police goods going into Ireland and the single market in the Irish Sea, but would wish to see goods flowing freely into Northern Ireland. That is a workable and sensible compromise proposal, and in the negotiations we have not yet heard why it could not work.

My Lords, this situation rather highlights the need for a certain amount of bandwidth on behalf of the Government, in that occasionally they need to negotiate simultaneously with the EU and with individual member states. Does the Minister think that the undeniable damage to the Prime Minister’s authority in recent weeks is leading to a bit of a problem with government bandwidth? I ask this because it is really easy to talk tough about Article 16, at least when he is here, but not if the Minister and the Prime Minister do not have the backing of the entire Cabinet to see through the consequences, which would be further damage to international relationships and possibly a trade war. Is he confident that any of his Cabinet colleagues will be with him in the trenches if he leads us into further disputes?

My Lords, the Cabinet and the Government stand fully behind the policy that we set out in the Command Paper in July, which is a very good compromise policy that we still hope to negotiate. We have made it clear that a negotiated outcome is the best one, but that policy paper, which we all stand behind, also makes it clear that Article 16 is a legitimate and useful tool if necessary. That remains the Government’s position.

Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland: EU Negotiations

Commons Urgent Question

My Lords, it is a pleasure now to repeat an Answer as delivered to an Urgent Question made in the House of Commons by the Paymaster-General earlier today. The Answer is as follows:

“Let me begin by reaffirming the Government’s commitment to keeping both Houses of Parliament updated on the UK-EU relationship. We remain committed to doing just that. My right honourable friend Lord Frost provided an update to the House of Lords on EU relations just last Wednesday, 10 November, in the form of an Oral Statement. Unfortunately, as this honourable House was in recess at the time, that could not immediately be repeated on the same day. The timing of that update was unavoidable, led by external international business. However, I recognise the importance of keeping both Houses duly informed.”

My Lords, it is shameful that we have come to this today. Last week, the Minister came to this House and committed to ensuring that an equivalent Oral Statement would be made in the other place to reflect his remarks here last Wednesday. That did not take place; instead, the Government attempted to get by with a Written Statement issued on Tuesday, and the words that we have heard today in the other place were only as a consequence of the Minister there being dragged there in response to an Urgent Question. That is not good enough. These issues are of intense interest to Members on all sides of this House and the elected House. It is essential that we do not have this situation again. If the Minister wants to come here and make a Statement then he must ensure, as he promised, that a Statement is made in the equivalent way in the other House at the earliest opportunity.

My Lords, the noble Baroness is of course correct that I said on Wednesday that a Statement would be made in the other place in due course and that it was made in the way that she describes. How the other place runs its business and chooses its Statements is obviously not a matter for this House. Obviously, I respect the right and responsibility of the Opposition to hold the Government to account, which is why I am here today answering five Questions on very similar subjects, and will continue to do so as long as it is necessary.

My Lords, the Good Friday agreement requires that there is political balance and respect for both traditions in Northern Ireland. I therefore ask the Minister: in his negotiations with the EU, who is he negotiating for—unionists, nationalists or other? To me, representing the nationalist community in Northern Ireland, it looks very much as if the Minister is negotiating only for unionists.

My Lords, our interest, and the way that I am pursuing these negotiations, is the interest of everyone in Northern Ireland, and of the prosperity and stability of everyone in Northern Ireland and of Northern Ireland. That is how we seek to pursue this. I believe that is a common aim between us and the European Union, but it seems we interpret that in rather different ways. Nevertheless, I hope we can move forward and get to a position that provides a better outcome for everyone in Northern Ireland than the one that we have now.

But does my noble friend accept that the noble Baroness opposite had a point? I wish my noble friend absolute good fortune in what he is seeking to do, and he knows that. But, particularly when we have the good fortune to have the Cabinet Minister in this House, it is particularly important that the other House is informed, if not simultaneously then at the earliest possible moment. I urge him to tell his Cabinet colleagues that there should have been a Statement on Monday in the other place. We really must keep in step on these things. Again, I wish him success. Delicacy is important, but so is parliamentary protocol.

My Lords, I have said what I have said. I must say that I have a degree of sympathy with the point that my noble friend makes. It is obviously extremely important that both Houses are kept up to date in the most timely and appropriate fashion possible —certainly, I try to achieve that.

What exactly would be the consequences should Article 16 be triggered? How much weight does the Minister give in his negotiating strategy with the EU to the fact that an overwhelming majority of 55.8% voted to remain and 44.2% voted to leave? What were the reasons for that?

My Lords, we have always said that there will need to be a treaty arrangement between this country and the European Union to deal with the special features of Northern Ireland and to protect the Belfast/Good Friday agreement. I think it is common ground that there will need to be some such special arrangements. That is not the same as saying that Northern Ireland should remain some sort of shadow member of the European Union for certain purposes. In some ways, that is the situation that we have in certain aspects of policy, and that is what we need to change. But it is of course important to respect the balance, and that is why we talk about trying to find a new balance—the right balance—between all the different interests in Northern Ireland.

My Lords, can the Minister say whether a possible decision to invoke Article 16 is more likely to be influenced by an analysis of changes to trade flows resulting from the Northern Ireland protocol or by political factors? Will he undertake to inform this House of the criteria used to take any such decision?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right that there are a number of conditions referred to in Article 16 for its use—economic and social disruption, trade diversion and so on—and, although they are conceptually separate, they all sort of feed into each other and create the conditions that might require the use of safeguards. I repeat what I said earlier: obviously we will be transparent and clear and set out our approach to Article 16 and the justification, if and when it comes to that point.

My Lords, I very much welcome my noble friend the Minister’s original Statement, and his repetition today that we are prepared to say that the threshold for triggering has been met. It is indisputable that there has been trade diversion and that there is a political crisis if half the population and every unionist party is against the protocol. Will my noble friend the Minister take this opportunity to confirm that, if we go down the route of Article 16, it will not be simply for the purpose of extending waivers, derogations or exemptions but to take the opportunity to tackle the jurisdictional problem that part of our country is governed from abroad? We exported to the world the sublime idea that laws should not be passed nor taxes raised except by accountable representatives. We should extend that principle to our fellow countrymen in Northern Ireland.

My noble friend is right that the current situation in Northern Ireland, with various grace periods and other easements in the implementation of the protocol, is nevertheless generating tensions and difficulties, and that the full implementation of the protocol, were that ever to be required, would generate even more difficulties. I think it is correct to think that, if we use Article 16 and safeguards, it will be to improve the situation over the one that we have now.

My Lords, the Belfast agreement has been mentioned, and I was very much involved in its negotiations. Can the Minister confirm that, in the agreement, all communities were involved and both the Irish Government and our Government were involved? Can he confirm, as Article 1 states, that they unanimously agreed that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland? Can he confirm that the protocol was imposed on Northern Ireland without any consent?

My Lords, the noble Lord is obviously much more deeply expert in the Belfast/Good Friday agreement than I am, given his background. He is, of course, absolutely right in what he says about the article to which he referred. As regards the protocol, I point out that it was approved by this Parliament, but nevertheless it has created significant difficulties in its implementation. We seek to find a way forward from that and come to a better balance.

Is George Peretz QC’s opinion correct when he says that,

“it is not at all clear that the government has a solid legal basis for invoking Article 16, at least in relation to the large majority of concerns set out in the July Command Paper. Therefore, if the UK government chooses to implement measures that are otherwise in breach of the Protocol but which are justified solely on the basis of Article 16, it is at real risk of having those measures struck down in the domestic courts, especially if the measures exceed a limited duration or scope.”?

My Lords, we will, of course, set out our justification for using Article 16 and the legal basis and so on, if we get to that point. As regards to the legal opinion quoted by the noble Lord, to be fair, there is quite a lot of debate among learned lawyers on this subject. I imagine that, if we were to use Article 16, that would be subject to a degree of legal testing. We will see where that gets to, if and when Article 16 is used.

Climate Change: COP 26

Motion to Take Note

Moved by

That this House takes note of the outcome of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) and the challenges of implementing measures to tackle climate change.

My Lords, I am very pleased to be able to kick off this important debate today. I declare my interest as chairman of the Woodland Trust, and president and vice-president of a range of environmental charities. I look forward to a lively debate, and particularly to the contribution of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter in his maiden speech.

This debate is kind of a post-match analysis of COP 26, which very definitely went into extra time. In the end, China scored in the penalty shoot-out when the wonderful referee, Alok Sharma, temporarily lost control of the game. The small island states, otherwise known for the purposes of this very protracted football analogy as San Marino, lost comprehensively. But before I strain this football metaphor so far that it twangs, let me make a more serious assessment of the COP 26 outcomes.

Overall, much was achieved, but it was not the almost overwhelming success, with just a touch of sadness, that the PM’s over-exuberant statement implied. However, my congratulations—and I am sure those of the whole House—go to Alok Sharma and his negotiating team, and the Minister here today for their monumental efforts in the year of the run-up to COP 26 and for their negotiations during the conference.

I will highlight some of the deliverables that I think are key. The first, which got next to no coverage in the media, is the completion of the Paris rulebook, which I am sure noble Lords read every night before they go to bed. Completing the rulebook was an important move forward, since it sets the frame for global carbon markets and will allow countries to move ahead with more ambitious, enhanced and nationally-determined contributions because they know what the rules are more clearly.

Another deliverable was that more countries were involved in the COP process, and more have signed up to net zero—even India, after a fashion. Coal was included in the Glasgow climate pact for the very first time in 26 COPs. It was diluted to “phasing down” unabated coal rather than “phasing out” all coal, but it is a start; 1.5 degrees cannot be achieved while the world still burns coal. The inclusion is an important signal about the trajectory, particularly to those fossil fuel companies that still have not got the message.

Perhaps most notable were the side deals that were outside the formal COP process on methane and on halting deforestation. They were as important as the main business, although we have to note that they lack, as yet, formal monitoring and reporting mechanisms that the COP process applies to those deals that were within the process. I highlight the huge amount of energy that the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, put into landing the support of the 133 countries that signed up to the deforestation deal. It was an amazing effort, and he is looking older by the day. I hope he will, however, set an example back home by not destroying or damaging our remaining fragments of ancient woodland, which is our equivalent of deforestation.

The joint issue of a statement by China and the US was interesting. It is the equivalent of the two Chief Whips conferring behind the Woolsack. We want to watch and see what these unusual—as opposed to usual —channels deliver, but it will be something, I am sure.

There were some parts of the process that were really encouraging. Business took a real part in the COP negotiations for the first time. It did not send the deputy post-boy: it was the chairman and the CEOs who were there in force. The agreement to come back with enhanced commitments within a year signals an annual ratchetting-up process, which is very much to be welcomed. To get back to the football, GFANZ—which stands for the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero—has now doubled the assets globally that are under management for tackling the climate crisis. That is a major step forward.

However, there were things, of course, that did not come through, and some of them are very important. No progress was made on meeting the $100 billion-per-year funding commitment: it was not reached. The question of compensation for the poorer countries and small island states for the impact of historic emissions emanating from the richer countries—from us—is still unresolved. Though nature-based solutions were endorsed and in the final text, there were fewer mechanisms for their delivery than I would have liked to have seen. It is absolutely axiomatic that 1.5 degrees cannot be delivered without restoring biodiversity globally.

Although the budget for adaptation to the impacts of climate change was doubled at COP, it was a doubling of not very much at all—although I welcome the agreement for a two-year process for a global plan for adaption, because adaptation to the impacts of climate change is absolutely unavoidable. It is going to become increasingly important, not just in Bangladesh, small island states and the increasingly arid regions, but right here in the UK, with floods, extreme weather events, fires, heatwaves, droughts and, above all, immigration pressure, as the population of the world seek a living when their territory becomes increasingly hostile due to climate-change impacts.

These are big lists associated with the COP 26 and associated commitments. If they are all delivered—and that is a big “if”—they would bring the world closer to the two degrees above historic levels of temperature, and would probably just about keep 1.5 degrees alive—although, as Alok Sharma himself said, probably only on life support.

What next? I would like to offer—kind as I am—a plan for the Government for the next 12 months. First, the presidency is a game of three halves. We have done two of them: the work up to the presidency and the official negotiations of COP 26. The really crucial part, however, is the next year, as we continue to be president of COP for the next year.

I am sure that Alok Sharma is sucking an orange right now and being treated by the team physio, but that is probably all the rest that he will get at half time. He will need to continue to energise the process over the next 12 months to ensure that the enhanced nationally determined contributions are brought forward, particularly by the most polluting states. He needs to encourage the willing to apply pressure, or worse, to the recalcitrant and make sure that there is a real outcome from the China-US pact and from India.

The Government need to set an example back here by not supporting the Cambo oilfield and the Cumbrian coal mine. Mr Sharma needs to ensure processes for implementation for the commitments that have already been made, particularly for the side deals. He needs to make sure that we get over the line on the $100 billion annual funding and that private sector funding is leveraged alongside that. He needs to soften up the resistance to the compensation discussion, and I am sure the House wishes him great success.

But, back here in the UK, we need to lead by example during that 12-month period. So here are six examples that I believe that we should set for the next 12 months. First, let us introduce zero-carbon and biodiversity tests for all policies. This thing is too important to be driven off stream by inadvertent policies that get in the way.

Secondly, let there be no more trade agreements without climate change parity being a precondition. If our farmers and businesses are to meet climate change standards, we should not sign trade agreements with countries that do not meet equivalent standards—that is bad for our companies, our trade and the planet.

Thirdly—noble Lords have heard me on this before—we need a land-use framework to ensure that we can use our scarce land most effectively to combat climate change and to make sure that trees and peat to sequester carbon can be established in the right places, particularly with the right tree in the right place, at a fast pace. A land-use framework is also needed if we are to make an orderly and just transition to lower emissions, particularly methane, from food production. If we are to see a reduction in meat and dairy, which is absolutely essential to reducing methane, and increases in plant-based food, as outlined in the National Food Strategy, while retaining a vibrant farming industry, we need a proper plan for land.

Fourthly, following the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, we need clear action plans, with timescales, funding and transparent, monitorable pathways, for our highest carbon and greenhouse gas-emitting areas: energy, buildings, transport and agriculture. The Net Zero Strategy is a bit of an expression of hope, rather than a blueprint for how we get there. In it, the Government overfocus on the white-hot heat of technology solving our climate change problems and not enough on fiscal and taxation changes to do that very simple thing that has to be delivered: reducing the price of climate-friendly technologies, goods and services and increasing the price of polluting goods and services.

Fifthly, all public procurement should adopt zero-carbon targets. Public procurement is a huge lever for driving the development of climate-friendly goods and services, not just in things that public authorities buy but for the whole market. No Government have ever successfully used, or even tried, that lever. The climate crisis says that we must.

Sixthly, and possibly most importantly, I do not think the Chancellor quite gets climate change yet. Most of the big changes that we need to make in the UK need upfront funding and, more importantly, fiscal and taxation measures. We do not yet have a climate change commitment from the Treasury, whose analysis accompanying the Net Zero Strategy was all about other government departments, not the Treasury’s philosophy. Rishi Sunak needs to show that he has a more ambitious and thought-through strategy, beyond modest funding for new technology and implementation, which he has already granted for heat pumps, nuclear and e-cars. He needs a world vision for what our economy will do in climate change terms, and he needs to reinstate now, as an earnest good intent, the overseas aid budget after its cut and stop subsidising Drax in inappropriate biomass extraction, which is adversely impacting on international biodiversity.

I finish with a personal reflection on why all that action over the next 12 months is important. Some years ago, when I was in Madagascar as a birder, I used to pay a young lad from the village a fiver to go out at night and find whatever bird I pointed to in the bird book. He would find where it was roosting and, at dawn, I would call him, we would go out and I would see the bird and tick my life list—birders are a bit mad. They were all short-range endemics, less than 25 kilometres in range, and, in the whole world, they occurred only there. The spiny forest habitat was much threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture, and all of these birds are endangered. I thought that this bloke was about 12 years old because he was little and skinny, but I found out that he was 19 but tiny and malnourished. People and biodiversity were under threat in Madagascar.

Now, it is much worse. Deforestation has played its part and, when you fly over, you see a 12-mile plume of red soil, where the earth, on which people depend, is eroding into the sea. Climate change in south-east Madagascar is even more pronounced. It is now arid, and the country is on the verge of being declared officially in famine. Slash-and-burn agriculture does not work at all because the soil becomes useless after a couple of years of farming, so the rate of deforestation is galloping, as subsistence farmers chop down trees and then move on. The birds are no more. This is a major cause of the internal refugee problem that Madagascar suffers, as the population in the south-east moves to the north. But, there, they have no land and depend on state aid and support.

I am talking about Madagascar and its tragedy for people and biodiversity in the face of climate change because this is not somewhere over there that has no impact on us. Mass movements of refugees will only increase. In a year when double the number of migrants have gone to extraordinary lengths to cross the English Channel in small boats, we need to reflect on what a growing global refugee problem will mean for them and for us here in the UK. This is the next big climate change emergency, and it will increasingly knock on our door.

We must get behind the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and the efforts of Alok Sharma for the rest of the presidency. I look forward to hearing from the Minister on my six-point plan. I thank him and his colleagues for all that has emerged from the negotiations to date, but there is much more to do, and they need to redouble efforts over the next 12 months to get more goals over the line in this most important game of the century. At this point, I will make no more football allusions. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for providing us with the opportunity to reflect on the outcomes of COP 26 and for her superb introduction to this debate.

Incremental progress was made at COP 26, but it was certainly not in line with the urgency required. Like the noble Baroness, I applaud the efforts of Alok Sharma and other government Ministers. It is fair to acknowledge that the outcomes expose the challenges of securing a global deal. But you did not need to be in the blue zone, like me, hearing the delegates from Palau and Tuvalu, or on the climate justice march on the streets of Glasgow, to know what the outcomes of this COP 26 will mean. The resulting frustration, anger and incredulity at the pace of progress are indeed warranted.

Given the length of time that we have, I have two questions for the Minister. First—this follows on from one of the noble Baroness’s remarks—what will the Government do for the duration of their presidency of the UNFCCC to get us back on track for 1.5 degrees? Clearly, we have to double down on diplomacy, and I am sure that his department will lead that effort, but building back trust will be critical.

I am sure that other noble Lords will mention how the cutting of the 0.7% aid budget hurt trust in the run-up to COP 26 and whether that will be re-established in the forthcoming year. They may mention, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has suggested, a bold move, such as the Government joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, launched by Costa Rica and Denmark.

However, I want to raise just one point on what they are going to do in their presidency, which is the imminent opportunity in the next few weeks at the WTO 12th ministerial conference in Geneva. We know that trade rules are one of the strongest mechanisms to create the conditions to push climate laggards and get them to act. Are the Government pushing for a multilateral statement on trade and climate goals or a commitment to a new work programme and dedicated discussions on integrating climate goals and the global trade system at the WTO 12th ministerial conference?

Secondly, I ask the Government: how are we going to meet our own pledges, given that we are not currently on track for our own climate carbon budgets in the 2020s? On the eve of COP 26, our House of Lords Select Committee on Environment and Climate Change wrote to Alok Sharma on the evidence that was provided by Ministers and the departments that not all departments are sufficiently embedding climate change into their policy-making processes and, further, that the mechanisms that the Government have to hold them to account—the two Cabinet committees—are just failing. Will these committees carry on post COP 26, or are there any further measures to hold the departments to account? There seems to be, from the evidence we were provided, insufficient staff and resources in individual departments to embed climate change, in addition to the net-zero test that noble Baroness, Lady Young, so ably mentioned. If we do not have enough staff and resources then we will keep getting perverse decisions, such as having a heat and buildings strategy that does not have any new policies for insulating homes, or cutting air passenger duty on domestic flights. They not only undermine our own climate pledges but stop our ability to call on other countries to up their pledges.

Finally, we all accept that it is not just state actors who can get us from where we are now to 1.5 degrees; all of us need to play our part. As the Climate Change Committee said, 60% of the change required needs to come from behaviour change—what we eat, how we heat our homes, how we fly. I am therefore delighted to say that this House’s Environment and Climate Change Committee has launched this week an inquiry on behaviour change, so that we can use this moment of impetus for climate change to encourage people to make the changes and get the policies that we need to deliver it.

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Parminter, and I echo all that they have said. I also very much support Alok Sharma and our own Minister; I think that they played a blinder in Glasgow—the successful effort of the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, over deforestation was magnificent. However, as others have said, there were lots of pledges and new initiatives, but they do not total enough. The importance of the decision to make the next COP in Sharm el-Sheik a ratchet event cannot be overestimated. Humanity literally depends on it.

1 spent the whole of last week in Glasgow, where I went between events in the official zones and events in the fringe. The blue zone was a very ugly place; it is hard to imagine an entrance that was more unwelcoming. There was so much metal and wire and, while I appreciate the need for security, there are other ways of doing it. Once inside, you found yourself walking through narrow corridors in between the stands. All of them reflected the relevant financial might of each country; hence Saudi Arabia had an enormous stand and young women were standing around that were contracted for the job from the model agencies in Glasgow—we could have been at a car fair. Next door was Qatar, with models of beautiful net-zero buildings; but Qatar’s buildings are constructed by slave labour and it shows no signs of weaning itself off fossil fuels. The small countries had almost no space and no flashy rolling films or brochures. Are we meant to assume that their presence mattered less?

Gender-wise, it was appalling: there was one woman for every six men registered for the blue zone. And, for the record, the largest group of delegates was the oil industry, with 503 of them. The meat industry also put in a jolly good showing with 300 delegates. Of course, for the oil industry the investment paid off, as there was a downgrading on future restrictions on the speed of phasing out fossil fuels. President Biden is still handing out licences. Some two dozen projects—pipelines to new terminals—are under way in the US, which will cause emissions equal to 404 coal-fired power stations. Between 2020 and 2022, Shell will put in 21 new major oil and gas projects. As we have seen in these last two weeks, lobbying pays off.

The first time I approached the chain gates to the blue zone, there was a very small man wearing a long pale green robe with a headdress of orange feathers. The headdress came right over his head and down to the ground, as though he was travelling within his own arch. He did not have a ticket, it was raining and it was freezing. He was from the combined Amazon headwaters collective, and had flown across the world to plead for his culture’s right to exist. And he was not alone: on the streets and in the meeting rooms around the city there were groups of activists from all over. Revolutions, it is said, happen slowly to start with, and then they happen quickly. I think this is one that is going to happen quickly.

For all of us, and for the world, the next COP is our last chance. I urge the Government on this and, like others have said, would very much like the Minister to respond to question of whether Alok Sharma will be set up with his own department. If ever there was a time for work, it is now. It is time to double down on all our efforts. Lobbyists must be silenced and humanity must triumph. Will that happen, or will this be tucked away?

The early omens are not good: COP only finished on Saturday and yet, on Tuesday, I watched the entire “BBC News at Ten” and there was not one item about it. As a former newspaper editor, I know that when you are covering a war on a daily basis, there comes a strange moment when you realise that your readers are bored, so you bring your correspondent home. What you are effectively saying in the newspaper is “That war is over; we are not covering it any more—it’s okay, we’re not covering Sudan and Syria.” We must not let this happen now. Alok Sharma needs to be empowered to challenge every Government on earth to raise their game, and we must all have an obligation to be here to support him.

I return to my man in the green robe—I cannot really get him out of my head. We owe him, his family and his tribe their livelihoods. We have taken his, and it has empowered our culture and western society for many centuries now. It is time to change.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, on securing this debate; it is such a hot topic and noble Lords have already emphasised that.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, I was able to attend a couple of days of the conference, as my family has a long association with Glasgow. I declare my interest as a land manager in that area. Glasgow is very proud to have been chosen as the venue for such a prestigious conference. Noble Lords will be aware that it has been on a big transition from an area dominated by heavy industry. Now, it likes to brag that in 2020 it was called a “Global Green City” and rated as the fourth city in the global destination sustainability index. This accolade could have attracted Boris Johnson but, by coincidence or otherwise, it had considerable advantages for a conference being held in the midst of the Covid epidemic. It was far enough away to reduce the number of voluntary participants and objectors, but not so far as to deter foreign visitors. As it was, there was an unending emphasis on Covid prevention. There appear to have been about 30,000 or 40,000 people attending the venue, so at times there were queues in a massive orderly scrum. All told, my impression was of a copious air of optimism, endless ambition, followed by copious promises—but no great sense that the latter would match the other two demands.

The first day that I attended, there was an event entitled “Making the global transition to clean power a reality”. There was a great parade of banks and investment institutions promising a variety of funding streams to expand renewable energy generation. There was also an emphasis that the programme in south-east Asia, let alone the rest of the world, would have to build connections to 150 million homes that are currently without electricity as part of seeing that nobody was left behind. There then was a session based around the 42 countries that are offering to phase out the use of coal in their energy mix. We learned that south-east Asia contributes 50% of world carbon emissions, mainly from coal. As we know, however, in the final agreement, India and China agree only to phase down coal.

On the second day, I attended a session chaired by my noble friend the Minister. In a great innovation for COP, delegates actively addressed forest, agriculture and commodity trade and its effect on nature. This included the promise that 75% of forest supply chains will become sustainable.

There was then a session on acceleration to sustainable agriculture. We were conscious that we will need three times our present level of food production in 40 years’ time. In the end, there were two schools of thought. One was that, if all existing promises are kept, we might be able to contain warming to 1.8 degrees. We were more familiar with the other: that we could control it to just 2.6 degrees. Can the Minister tell us how we can fulfil our ambition?

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, on her opening speech. To pick up on her football analogy, we will all be familiar with the football commentary, “They think it’s all over”. It was not over until the surprise and hoped for goal came. We are looking for that goal with passion, which is why we are encouraged by the passion and commitment that came through so strongly from the Minister and from Mr Sharma throughout COP 26. It has built my confidence that the momentum will not be lost, and our remaining presidency will be no less crucial for the future of this planet than the conference itself. I applaud the Minister for his work on deforestation, and I commend further work on sufficient soil improvement, both in this country and overseas, which will provide the best carbon capture.

The difference between the many pledges made at COP 26 and the world we will actually bequeath to the next generations tilts one way or the other on the fulcrum of implementation. For all the promises of this and earlier COPs, we are now dangerously close to tipping beyond any ability to recover. As we have already heard, every gap between promise and action, between target and trajectory, will be delivered directly to the front doors of every one of us through flood or drought, failed crops and empty oceans. We already have one rapidly depleting Dead Sea; we dare not risk others.

This country’s success as COP president can be counted only in the currency of scientific accounting, physics, chemistry and biology. I look forward to the maiden speech of my right reverend friend the Bishop of Exeter, who has already sought a sustainable rural life in Devon.

Implementation cannot happen without government playing its full role both in regulation and in releasing the market through private finance. For this to happen, it is now vital that the Treasury come fully on board as the vehicle for clear and stable government policy operation. Both the financial costs and benefits of keeping 1.5 alive must move from periphery to becoming the warp and woof of Treasury planning and all governmental activity.

Only government can protect the most vulnerable, whether at home or abroad. Internationally, the Government must decouple export credits and other subsidies currently going to oil and gas projects in developing nations. Decoupling will both increase the cost of extraction and end the crowding out of green developmental investment in the global south. Similarly, the poorest in UK society must be shielded from the immediate financial costs of decarbonisation. I urge the Government to set the costs of short-term support for low-income households against the long-term financial benefits of transition—not least the benefits in health and wealth that will come through better homes insulation and energy use.

Whatever role the Government foresee for Defra regarding climate change, unless they join together strategy with concern for equity across all departments, we will not make enough progress; it will be hard to see the Prime Minister’s much-needed green revolution succeeding. Business is ready to invest, as the global transition from coal to renewables has already proved. Consumers increasingly see the problems; they too want to act, as several recent opinion polls have shown. Until government connects and energises these different sinews and muscles of activity, our body politic will move too little, too slowly.

Finally, the Government must walk as they talk. They must align responsibility with obligations to future generations and the opportunities of the COP presidency. We cannot credibly urge others to make sacrifices to keep 1.5 alive while issuing new fossil fuel extraction licences in our own coastal waters. We cannot demand that others consign coal to history while issuing new licences to extract it ourselves.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. I associate myself fully with the words of congratulation and thanks to my noble friend Lady Young, to Alok Sharma and to the Minister.

I have made no secret of my admiration for the work of UK Fires, a five-year research programme, involving academics from six universities and a growing industrial consortium, focusing on resource efficiency as the key means of reducing emissions. They have done a simple, compelling analysis of the COP 26 agreed solutions for delivering zero emissions by 2050 and have come to the devastating conclusion that they cannot and will not be delivered while the mechanisms required to deliver a safe climate continue to be overlooked. They say that, as a result, the mechanisms of policy and finance have been activated in pursuit of an unrealisable solution. Unless this changes, billions of people living near the equator face the probability that they will starve this century. Their countries cannot provide sufficient food, nor purchase it, while the rich nations will be plunged into an entirely unnecessary energy austerity.

The argument behind this is very simple. I shall attempt to summarise it, but the expanded version is available online for anyone who wishes to read it in detail. If the incumbent companies of today’s high-emitting sectors and their political supporters are to deliver climate mitigation as assumed at COP 26, their non-emitting technology substitution can rely on only three fundamental resources: non-emitting electricity, carbon capture and storage, and biomass. The necessary total demand for these resources will vastly exceed future supply. Averaged over the world, we have 4 kilowatt hours per day of clean electricity per person, growing at 0.1 kilowatt hours per day annually. However, the COP 26 plan requires 32 kilowatt hours per day. We have 6 kilograms per year of carbon capture and storage per person, growing at 0.1 kilograms per year. The COP 26 plan requires 3,600 kilograms per year. We eat 100 kilograms of plant-based food per person each year, but producing enough biokerosene to fly at today’s levels requires 200 kilograms of additional harvest. “Don’t worry—we will just expand the supply faster,” say the authors of this technology fiction. It is too late. It takes time to plan and deliver large energy infrastructures. For example, Hinkley Point C will have taken at least 22 years from political commitment to commissioning. Hornsea 2 wind farm will take 16 years.

We already know the maximum possible capacity of non-emitting electricity generation that we will have in the UK by 2030. We are not on course to maintain even the linear growth rate of the past decade. We have no carbon capture and storage operating in the UK. We cannot expand—indeed we should stop—the use of biomass because it harms other peoples and ecosystems. It is a painful truth that the incumbent high-emitting sectors cannot deliver a zero emissions future in the time available. Rather than facing this, COP 26 perpetuated the fiction.

There is a credible, socially acceptable path to a safe zero emissions future, based solely on a realistic continued expansion of our non-emitting electricity generation. This requires electrification of all energy uses, while reducing the total demand for electricity by around 50% and closing anything which unavoidably releases emissions, particularly in land use and specific agricultural and industrial processes. Temporary restraint, lasting for a few decades, is an essential and unavoidable component of delivering real zero emissions in developed countries. Pretending this is not the case and not talking about it does not take away the reality.

On 20 October, when Boris Johnson launched the net zero strategy, he pledged that Britain would meet its ambitious net zero targets

“without so much as a hair shirt in sight.”

He said that by 2050 we would

“still be driving cars, flying planes and heating our homes, but our cars will be electric … planes will be zero emission … and our homes will be heated by cheap, reliable power”.

I ask the Minister to put that behind him, engage with reality, outline the physically achievable pathways to zero emissions, both in the UK and globally, and that our Government begin the essential discussion with the public about the real path to a safe future climate—one that does not come at the cost of the mass starvation of the poorest.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this debate. I attended COP in my capacity as an adviser to Banco Santander, as recorded in the register. Banco Santander is a member of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, which the noble Baroness mentioned. GFANZ is a horrible acronym; a 1990s pop band comes to mind.

I left as a slightly worried optimist. I pay tribute, of course, to the extraordinary work that Alok Sharma and my noble friend did. I left optimistic because Glasgow was fizzing with ideas of new ways to harness the power of the market and of the private sector to get to 1.5 degrees. I am optimistic because, as the noble Baroness and others have said, further commitments were made on coal, forests—where my noble friend made a massive contribution—shipping, methane, carbon markets and of course finance. I am optimistic because, although much more needs to be done at pace, there is now, I sense, real momentum to turn words into action. Clearly, the task over the next 12 months, as others have rightly said, is to keep that momentum up.

However, I am worried not just about the lack of commitment from certain countries, but even more, if noble Lords will forgive me for saying it, about the need to keep this debate in context. As we turn our commitment into action, we cannot afford to ignore the other challenges we face, the most immediate of which is growth. We need economic growth to fund the transition. We cannot, as others have mentioned, have a green strategy unveiled one day and a separate growth strategy or budget unveiled the next. We need a clear strategy for green growth. I ask a question—a hypothetical one, as I do not expect my noble friend to answer it. How does allowing the tax burden to hit its highest level for 70 years, its highest level in peacetime, doubling the number of higher rate taxpayers and increasing corporation tax rates encourage investment and enterprise? Is that the path to growth?

Related to that—it is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Browne, has just been talking about—is energy: we need, as he so eloquently put it, reliable, affordable, renewable energy to power growth. All across the world, we see energy prices rising. Meanwhile, however, investment in oil and gas exploration has fallen. That second point is good news for hitting net zero, but demand is going to rise, especially in developing countries. It is clear that we are walking a tightrope between the fossil fuel past and the renewable, carbon-free future. Real care is needed as we consider new taxes and green regulations. Prolonged higher energy prices could stoke inflation and push up interest rates. I would be grateful for my noble friend’s thoughts on how the Government plan to walk this tightrope in their domestic policies and their international approach.

In passing, I want to flag another challenge that we sometimes ignore and forget when we talk about climate change, which is that, as we go green, we are also going to have to pay for an ageing population. The IFS forecasts that by 2030-31 the additional pressures on that alone will total £18.5 billion on top of the level of 2025-26. We will have to pay that bill as well as the cost of going green.

My final point is one that the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, made: we have made these pledges and we now need real progress to mobilise not just Governments and companies but people, to help them go green and to make it easier and cheaper for them to do so. My final point is on retrofitting homes and clean energy. Planning, skills, finance, energy supply: these separate challenges need a co-ordinated approach across government to provide a clear framework, so companies and people can invest with confidence. I look forward to reading the new road maps that the Prime Minister has said will be published soon, to see how he will join the dots and ensure that government departments, local authorities and business work together.

I am optimistic, yes. The necessity of the green transition offers untold opportunities, but it does not sit in a silo; it touches on everything we do and everything has an impact on it. Without a coherent strategy that tackles all these challenges in a clear way, we may land up without the economic growth that we need to fund the green transition.

My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for securing this debate, and to the COP 26 president, Alok Sharma, and the Minister at the Dispatch Box for their good intentions in trying to get a successful outcome. I shall restrict my remarks to the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and the regrettable failure to build in the urgency with which action is required.

There is irrefutable evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased meteorically since the 1850s. Before the Industrial Revolution, the highest recorded concentration of carbon dioxide over the previous 800,000 years was 300 parts per million. In just 170 years since the Industrial Revolution, it has soared to 417 parts per million. We are already in uncharted territory. There is no question but that levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere cause the earth to warm, and there is plenty of compelling evidence that our climate is changing rapidly. Global temperature rise is already over 1.1 degrees and accelerating at an alarming rate. The years 2016 and 2020 are tied for the warmest year on record. The heat domes over Canada and the US this summer have shaken scientists by their extent and intensity, which exceed even the worst-case scenarios of climate modelling. Global sea-level rises have been enormous, such that the very existence of Tuvalu is under threat. In Madagascar, the rains have failed for four years running, leaving the population facing famine. To our shame, neither nation received any succour at COP 26, despite the COP 26 president’s best efforts.

This lack of regard for science-based evidence by policymakers is causing despair in younger generations, who see a dangerous future in which—I say this advisedly—the planet will not be hospitable to humans. It is shocking that even today, knowing what we know and observing the planet shuddering under the weight of immense imbalances to its natural moderating cycles, we failed at COP 26 to call out the burning of fossil fuels as a major contributor to this emergency. I am sure that the Minister will say in response that, after 26 years, just getting a mention of fossil fuels into the agreed text was a success, but how can we expect a different response from other polluters when our own Government, enriched by historic greenhouse gas emissions, will not say no to a new coalmine in Cumbria or to the planned new Cambo oilfield off the Scottish coast? The leader of the SNP has voiced her opposition to it; will the Minister urge the Government to oppose it also? Or does he take the same line as the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, that it is better to produce oil and gas domestically than import it from overseas?

Cambo’s oil has little to do with satisfying domestic demand: 80% of UK oil is exported and sold on global markets. The new investment in oil will only drive demand and take investment and support away from proven, scalable sources of renewable energy. Cambo will not even provide jobs in the UK, because contracts for the construction and installation of rig have gone to overseas firms. This is but the tip of the iceberg. According to Friends of the Earth, there are 40 other new UK fossil fuel projects awaiting government approval, something that the IEA and the IPCC have said cannot happen if we are to stay within 1.5 degrees centigrade. I am reminded of the words of the playground rhyme: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words alone are not enough: we need firm, cross-government policy, consistent with our domestic and international climate commitments, in which “no new fossil fuels” is a central plank.

I do not intend to make a detailed assessment of the outcomes of the COP 26 conference; I wish to say only that I share the disappointments and anxieties that others have expressed. Instead, I propose to examine the achievements of the first country in the world to declare net-zero targets for carbon emissions, which, of course, is the United Kingdom.

In agreement with the recent pronouncements of the UK Climate Change Committee, I wish to say that we are liable to miss these targets by a substantial amount. The Government’s overall strategy and detailed policies are not adequate to achieve the targets. The lack of meaningful plans for achieving a green industrial revolution threatens to consign this country to poverty and social dislocation.

The essential requirement is for a plentiful supply of electrical power, which should be available to replace the fossil fuels that power our transport and energise our industrial processes. Without this electricity, we would not be able to replace fossil fuels, and if we were to forgo these fuels without replacing them, we should suffer an economic collapse.

Other European nations that have hesitated to declare targets for staunching carbon emissions have been far more active than we have in pursuing industrial strategies that are appropriate to a decarbonised economy. It is undeniable that Britain has greatly reduced its carbon emissions in the course of the last 20 years. From 1990 to 2020, the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide fell from 800 million to 420 million tonnes per annum, which is two-thirds of its former amount.

These reductions have come largely from one source in a way that cannot be expected to continue. It is in the generation of electrical power that the main reductions in emissions have occurred. The remainder of the reductions are illusory. They have arisen from the deindustrialisation of our economy and from the transfer of manufacturing to other countries where there have been little or no reductions in emissions.

The reduction in the UK of the emissions from generating electricity has arisen from the closure of coal-fired power stations and from their replacement by gas-fired power stations and wind farms. Power utilities in the private sector have managed the transition without any intervention from the Government. This has created an illusion that the private sector can be relied on to achieve the necessary investments in industrial infrastructure. However, it has become clear that, on its own, the private sector is incapable of accomplishing the next phase of the transition, which should see the elimination of natural gas as a source of power.

The successive failures of projects to build new nuclear power stations have shown that other means of financing large projects are called for. In the process of providing the necessary assistance, the Government will have to relinquish the free-market philosophy which proposes that capital markets should provide the necessary funds for investment.

The Government should be able to raise the necessary funds without paying the surcharges that normally accompany financial borrowing. They will be able to borrow the funds without paying a risk premium under the supposition that they do not default on their debts. If the funds are not readily forthcoming from the financial markets, the Government may resort to creating money to enable them to pre-empt the resources that will be demanded by the project, thereby avoiding the payment of a scarcity premium. Underlying the commercial rate of interest payable on borrowed funds is a discount factor, whereby future returns are valued at less than present returns.

A Government that propose to be custodians of our futures should not think of applying a discount to the future benefits of projects that are designed to avert or mitigate the damage caused by emissions of greenhouse gasses. By creating the money, the Government can avoid paying any surcharge that might be embodied in the commercial rate of interest on borrowed funds.

A more hopeful recent development has been the announcement by Rolls-Royce that it is prepared to go ahead with its project to build small modular nuclear reactors despite the paucity of government support. This is a technology in which we have a comparative advantage. Through the export of these devices, we should have a chance of contributing greatly to the reduction of carbon emissions throughout the world. It is agonizing to contemplate the loss of this opportunity.

My Lords, arriving as Bishop of Exeter eight years ago, I have become a Devonian by adoption and grace. Although proud of my Essex roots, I now know that the only way is Devon.

As I listen to Devonshire farmers grappling with environmental land management schemes or residents in south Devon who are increasingly anxious about coastal erosion, or engage with scientists at the Met Office in Exeter, I am conscious of the urgency and immensity of the task confronting us.

In scripture, we learn that Joseph—of technicolour dreamcoat fame—interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams of times of plenty and times of famine and advised Pharaoh to prudence in managing the nation’s resources, and we know that Noah heard God’s voice warning him of a devastating flood. Today’s prophets are the scientists and environmentalists who present us with stark choices that demand action.

The Church of England is responding to their warnings. In 2017, we set up the Transition Pathway Initiative, a joint initiative between us and the Environment Agency Pension Fund. Aimed at investors, it assesses companies’ preparedness for the transition to a low-carbon economy. It has already evolved into a global initiative, with over $39 trillion of combined assets under management and advice.

In the diocese of Exeter, we are taking co-ordinated action towards a target of net zero by 2030, including investing in a net-zero officer. With nearly 600 churches, three-quarters of which are medieval buildings, your Lordships will realise that this is challenging. That said, the majority of our church buildings are the ultimate in sustainability: built centuries ago with local materials, they are still meeting the needs of local communities, with a very low carbon footprint.

Our churches, situated in the heart of the majority of communities across the county, are well placed to spot opportunities such as installing solar panels on underused land, planting trees, better insulating a village hall or improving recycling facilities. I recognise that this is a complex subject, and I feel very much the amateur. I console myself, however, with the knowledge that whereas the Ark was built by amateurs, the “Titanic” was built by professionals.

I have one final thought. My diocese is twinned with the Province of Melanesia. The bonds of friendship were laid over 150 years ago when John Coleridge Patteson left Ottery St Mary to take the Gospel to the Solomon Islands, where he was beaten to death by islanders who mistook him for a slave trader. The very island on which he was martyred is now virtually uninhabitable because of rising sea levels, and within five years it will have disappeared. It is small developing countries with relatively low carbon footprints, such as Melanesia, which are being asked to pay a heavy price for the rest of the world’s wastefulness.

COP 26 may be over but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, reminded us, the United Kingdom remains in the chair for a year. Her Majesty’s Government must seize the opportunity for international leadership.

My Lords, what an honour and pleasure it is to speak after the right reverend Prelate, who, while he has been a bishop for seven years, has finally joined us in this place. During this time, he has already made a great reputation for himself as particularly dedicated to rural matters and sustainable rural affairs.

Maybe the highlight of his life, from my point of view, was being the chaplain at Trinity College Cambridge when both our children were there—but that might be a slightly elitist comment. He has also been a Benedictine monk for 10 years and much else besides, so we are looking forward greatly to his contributions. I have not heard Noah discussed in this place before, but I really like talking about him. With theology, high policy and practical examples, we look forward to many more of his speeches. In particular, I am looking forward to hearing about his funeral ministry, because that is a growth industry and one that we know a lot about in this House. So, I say to the right reverend Prelate: welcome, and congratulations.

I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, a very old friend of mine, on her hugely knowledgeable —as ever—speech. I always want her to say that health is her first love, but I know that she left the health service to go and follow the birds, the Environment Agency and much else. However, she has to be forgiven for this. As ever, her six practical, realistic and achievable points are very much with us.

I also echo the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter. She talked about 60% of the challenge being behaviour change. We have had the easy wins; we now need to persuade people to change, and that is very difficult. People sometimes change out of fear. We should not forget that, but this is where we are.

I want to add my warm congratulations to all those involved in COP 26. I went slightly worried and uncertain. I am very enthusiastic about my colleague’s comment about being hopeful but cautious. It was excellent to see the noble Lord there working incredibly hard, along with many other Ministers and leaders from the Government. No one could underestimate the effort that had gone into the preparation.

My purpose for being at COP 26 was not to think about what Governments were doing, important though that is. I am speaking as the chancellor of the University of Hull. Hull and the Humber comprise the most carbon-generating estuary in the country. If you cannot solve Hull and the Humber, you cannot get to net zero. Start off with the most difficult living lab, and if you can tackle it, you have a great recipe and a tool book for the future.

It is extraordinary how this region, with all its former carbon-producing industries—steel, refineries, pharmaceuticals and so on—where the fishing and shipping industries have declined, has now seized the green revolution in the most extraordinary way. In 2016, Siemens launched its wind farm there, which the Queen, I am delighted to say, visited. It is now the largest offshore wind farm in the country. There was a major government announcement about hydrogen, and a major announcement about carbon capture providing real opportunities, such as a partnership with the city council, which has some of the largest social housing estates in the country, which are very deprived, modelling how homes can become carbon-reduced or net zero.

I want to talk about the university, which has provided a benchmark and real expertise in renewable energy, carbon capture and flood resilience, which is such a critical issue, with the Humber remaining one of the most important parts. The wonderful Professor Dan Parsons is the director of the Energy and Environment Institute, which has led critical research in offshore wind and environment matters. It is now producing PhDs and apprenticeships and is providing the skills for the future that are so essential if we are to seize those opportunities.

The Prince of Wales said that business has to show the lead now, not just Governments. We have seen the way businesses have taken up this opportunity. Today, John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate wrote in the Financial Times:

“Companies that quickly embrace green technology will clean up”

both the environment and commercially. The transition to net zero presents the greatest opportunity since the industrial revolution, certainly in the Hull area, led by Reckitt and many others and supported by the CBI. There is great reason for optimism—hard work, but optimism.

My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet,. After the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter, I hope we may recruit him to the group. I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, on her comprehensive introduction and to the whole team, led by Alok Sharma and the Minister here today on what they achieved in Glasgow. Like many others who spent time at the conference, I came back feeling that progress had been made. As the Prime Minister said on Monday:

“COP26 has filled me with optimism.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/11/21; col. 335.]

He also said there can be

“nothing more dangerous than patting ourselves on the back and telling ourselves that the job is done.”—[Official Report, Commons, 15/11/21; col. 334.]

Far from feeling that we in the UK have discharged our responsibilities by hosting the meeting in Glasgow, it has never been more important for us, as we continue to hold the presidency throughout the next year, to lead action both domestically and on the international stage.

In my contribution, I want to focus on a rather technocratic, but, I believe, essential, aspect and a key building block for action in any post-COP strategy, which is the measurements and the metrics by which we judge progress. If we are to keep global warming within liveable limits and reverse biodiversity loss, we need milestones and metrics behind them that are deliverable, consistent, transparent and fair. Reliable metrics will help in many ways. They will enable us to make the personal choices the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, was talking about: how we eat, travel and heat our homes, and how we use our financial power in relation to pensions and investments with confidence that we are acting effectively.

Nationally, robust metrics ensure consistency and support every sector to adjust their business models and develop credible plans for the transition to a low-carbon future and help Governments keep on track in delivering net-zero and nature commitments. Internationally, they bring transparency and accountability. They depoliticise decision-making and are structural enablers of co-operation and trust between countries. They will strengthen transparency and create confidence in government decisions, especially when there are difficult choices ahead. Crucially, they can help protect the high levels of consensus we have enjoyed politically in the UK on climate issues, even as we move from commitments on paper to the more challenging and potentially more divisive task of delivering.

COP 26 has provided a launch pad for progress. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, the Paris rulebook was completed. The UN announced a high-level expert group to propose standards for non-state actors’ net zero-commitments, as well as metrics to enable businesses, cities and regions to verify the climate resilience impact of their actions. There is the opportunity for the UK to lead on robust, science-based green and brown taxonomies, learning from the deficiencies in the EU’s process, but the Government need to ensure that they are science-based and avoid undue influence from polluting industries. Perhaps the Minister can provide an update on the progress of the advisory panel convened to develop that taxonomy.

I will end with the words of my noble friend Lord Deben, who said that we have to have optimism in mind, but also the word “apocalypse”.

My Lords, the whole House owes a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lady Young for enabling us to have one of the timeliest debates on one of the most important subjects you could possibly have in this House, which is the future of our planet earth. I, too, congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter on his excellent maiden speech. I only recently made mine. I think it was five weeks ago today, so I know what it is like to go through it and how relieved I hope he feels now it is over.

It is hard to judge, yet, in what way we will look back on COP 26, and it is hard to know, yet, what longer term success it will have in tackling the problems that we face, but I would like to pay tribute to Alok Sharma and the Minister for the work that has been done, of which we can be very proud. The emphasis on the phasing down of coal rather than its phasing out may have received the most immediate headlines, but there are other issues just as critical to the future, and in my short contribution to today’s debate, I want to mention the risks of biodiversity loss because, as I am sure the House will know, biodiversity loss and climate change are two sides of the same coin.

Human consumption is increasing the demand for resources, and this is leading to planetary change. There is a risk that human activity could push the earth into a substantially altered state. I do not know if your Lordships are familiar with the concept of “earth overshoot day”, but it is the day in any given year when it is thought that human resource demands on the earth exceed what the earth can regenerate. The global population and overall material consumption are both rising, but the earth’s capacity to meet human needs is finite.

I choose a few examples. Land use change is a major driver of biodiversity loss, and many current agricultural practices are unsustainable in the long term. The deforestation of the Amazon is an obvious example. That is why many argue that further expansion of agricultural land should be curtailed. Biodiversity supports agriculture through the provision of natural enemies, pollination and healthy soils, yet it is at risk. Take insects; in the last 40 years in the UK, there has been a reduction of one-third in all insect pollinator species, where they have been measured. Take fish; biodiversity loss in marine fisheries is likely to continue, although populations can recover if managed sustainably, which is why the marine protected areas are so important. However, global heating can threaten that recovery completely, as it affects where different species can flourish. As the oceans warm and become increasingly acidified, the risk increases. There are those who predict that, in the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Asia-Pacific region, exploitable fish stocks might disappear before 2050 under current climate change scenarios.

My final example is the damage that climate change could do to the diversity of our food supply. It is a sobering fact that about three-quarters of all global calories eaten by human beings come from only eight crops, and about 90% of all calories we consume come from only 18. There is a real vulnerability here if global heating adversely affects our ability to grow those crops where we currently do. The Royal Society of Biology points out, as my noble friend said, that the UK is not immune to climate change and its consequences, for there is mounting evidence that it has contributed to flood damage, lost crops, lost livelihoods and lost lives.

In closing, I emphasise that when one thinks about COP 26 and its aftermath, the issue of biodiversity loss is as great as that of phasing out fossil fuels. When the Minister replies, I hope he might say a word looking ahead to next year, when our next challenge will be in April and May in China, where part two of COP 15 takes place, focusing on biodiversity. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in reply.

My Lords, my home is about 30 miles from the centre of Glasgow, and for two weeks I have been host to something like 50 delegates from all over the world, attending or taking part in the COP 26 negotiations. I do not think I am alone in having to admit that, until recently, I had been supremely unconcerned about the imminent perils of global warming. Of course, I knew it was an issue of concern and that some drastic action might have to be taken soon to counteract it, but I never appreciated how imminent it was. It was only after meeting so many indigenous people from all over the world that I have become aware of how urgent this issue has become. Global warming is not something we will have to deal with in four or five years’ time; it is happening now and we must deal with it now. Because we have already left it too late, the solutions are likely to be painful.

So far, climate change has had only minimal effects in Britain, restricted mainly to excessive flooding in Yorkshire and the Midlands, but in many other parts of the world global warming is already changing the ways of life of indigenous people and permanently endangering their future. Staying in my home were people from Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, South Africa, New Zealand and the Marshall Islands, a lady representing Amazon Watch from Brazil and a teacher-diplomat lady from the Caribbean island of Grenada. By talking and listening to them, I got a first-hand worldview of what is really happening to our planet.

Of course, we are all aware of the melting ice cap and the imminent threat to the low-lying islands of the Pacific, the disappearance of the glaciers in the Alps, the ferocious forest fires in north-west America, the drought in South Africa and the floods in Pakistan, but it is the crop failures in so much of the world’s farming land that are causing the most concern. We must not get complacent, because so many of the worst effects of global warming have not yet directly affected us. The repercussions, at least, soon will.

I have no idea whether COP 26 will eventually be regarded as a success or a failure, but I believe that at least the publicity surrounding it has made more people, such as me, more aware and more knowledgeable about the imminent threat of global warming. By the time my visitors had left, I had been convinced that, apart from the continuing need to drastically reduce our emissions, the most important single issue is the preservation of the world’s rainforests. I therefore ask the Government whether they are putting sufficient pressure on Brazil, which seems to be ambivalent on this matter, to put an end to the present destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

My Lords, I begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter on his notable maiden speech. His eloquence is worthy of the beauty of his cathedral, and his timekeeping is an example to us all.

I will say just a few words about China, India and coal. It is right that coal should be at the heart of the problem, and it was the statement on coal that was a disappointment at the end of the conference, but I think we need to see this matter in context. For a moment, I will turn the clock back 50 years. At that time, in the 1970s, one of the world’s great challenges was how to avoid widespread famine. I remind noble Lords of the famous Club of Rome 1972 report, The Limits to Growth, the most eloquent and influential exponent of that prospect and one that enjoyed great support among the scientific community. It turned out to be wrong. Not only has the predicted famine not occurred, but the position of the world’s poorest has been transformed for the better. World Bank figures show what has been achieved: in 1981, 42.7% of the world’s population was living in absolute poverty; now, the figure is 9.3% of a very much larger population.

The two countries that have done most to bring about this change are China and India. One of the most important instruments in enabling them to do so has been coal-fired electricity. Resolving one problem has contributed massively to creating another. The lives of millions of the world’s poorest people now depend on the fuel that is polluting the planet. While I recognise that phasing down coal, rather than phasing it out, represents a disappointing end to COP 26, I feel it represents an important step forward by China and India. If great human suffering is to be avoided, they need time to turn their economies away from coal.

The fact that they need time, however, does not mean that nothing should be done. The move must be made and they, like everyone else, must be subject to appropriate internationally verifiable targets and deadlines. At the same time, richer countries must make every effort to assist poorer countries to lessen their dependence on coal, and in that respect, the harnessing of private enterprise to governmental efforts, to which a number of noble Lords have referred, is a very important development.

Finally, the developed industrial countries that pressed for the phasing out of coal must move forward as quickly as possible to fulfil that aim. Achieving it and assisting the developing countries in reducing their dependence on coal, and indeed the efforts of China and India, will demand the most massive expenditure and huge changes in the way of life of people in this country, the developed world and the developing world. It is very important that Governments everywhere, but particularly our Government, be more frank than they have been about what those changes imply and what the costs will be. It is essential to do that if public opinion is to provide the necessary support for the required changes.

My Lords, like a number of other Members of your Lordships’ House, I went up to Glasgow to COP. I went as chairman of the Cumbria local enterprise partnership. When I was there, there was a lot of discussion about whether it was going to succeed. Having thought about it, I do not think that is really the right question.

COP is not an isolated event but part of a process of responding to the threat to earth and all of us posed by the sun, the wider solar system and the universe behaving rather like classical deities or Old Testament Jehovah because we have messed up the protective atmospheric shield around us. Indeed, it has some similarities to attacks on the earth by aliens so beloved by science fiction writers. Rather to my surprise, when I pulled the China Daily out of my pigeonhole I saw the headline “End of Life a Real Risk if Climate Crisis is Unresolved”.

Although it is frustrating, success is not attributable to the communiqué issued at the end of the proceedings. I share the frustration of Alok Sharma and the Government about that. In a world where, honestly and realistically, we cannot necessarily rely confidently on people doing what they say and Governments sticking by what they have signed up to, and where political measures are perhaps the strongest sanction against recidivists, we are in a tricky place.

Much of the debate internationally seems to echo the debate I have had about climate change in Cumbria, where various discussions vie with plans, each more ambitious, grandiloquent and dramatic than the last. What matters, though, is the speed and thoroughness of dealing with the real issues, not the superficial grandeur and ambition of the plans.

We all have a part to play. In the case of my local enterprise partnership, we are promoting clean energy generation, particularly through nuclear and offshore wind. We are emphasising decarbonisation, both of business itself and of the transport systems and networks serving it. We are promoting and trying to activate natural carbon capture, which cannot work properly unless there is proper financial recognition for those deploying and managing the assets. Finally—this has not yet been mentioned—we are recognising and pursuing the commercial opportunities that the low-carbon economy presents to business.

We often face criticism: “We’ll behave properly but the rest of the world cheats, so what’s the point?”. The point is that we all have to do this together, because otherwise we will all be doomed. We in this country should show solidarity and leadership and get buy-in from everybody where we can. I believe we should proceed with developing some kind of Marshall aid to help many countries much poorer than us that face real, immediate challenges. It is true that we exported pollution from our country to many of their countries to enrich ourselves.

I come back to the critical question I started with: has it succeeded? I do not know—certainly not completely and absolutely in itself. But if COP 26 is a real move, a staging post to achieving in time the necessary changes to recalibrate how we all behave on earth and towards the earth, it certainly cannot have been a failure.

When I look at the climate change argument, I am reminded of a friend of mine who was in a failing business. When the accountant left, he was praised for measuring its decline with great accuracy. I get that feeling because we have put an enormous amount of energy into measuring the decline and looking at things that have gone wrong. We have not spent as much energy finding the answers and solutions, except in the vaguest sort of ways.

Is it not interesting, this really weird situation, in that most of the damage to the world has been done in the last 60 years, since Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring and published it in 1962? In fact, the first 50% of the damage done to the world took thousands and thousands of years. Then you get to 1960, when the world’s population was 3 billion, and going forward you have this world in which everybody seems to be hyperventilating about the wrong we are doing to it.

I find it extraordinary that there is a plethora of organisations, hundreds of thousands around the world, that are totally committed to doing something about the environment, but one thing they will not do is work together. There is no convergence, no concatenation, no coalescence. It is almost like a replica of the marketplace in the City of London or Wall Street. Organisations will have nothing to do with each other but are supposedly going in the same direction. In my opinion, that is the biggest intellectual crisis we face today and the question we have to ask the Government to help us resolve. How can we resolve the fact that we are all so committed to the environment in hundreds of thousands of organisations that will not concatenate, come together and do things?

I went to COP and had a brilliant time. I was very impressed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said. I went into the blue zone and thought, “God, I’m in a car show!” It was like the Earl’s Court car showroom I used to go to quite regularly. There were all these people selling products; some of the stuff was pretty good. There are some brilliant answers out there. For instance, there is this kind of bacterium that eats plastic. There are all sorts of things; I met a woman who has developed a bacterium that eats nuclear waste. I met another woman who has invented a way of turning air into water at 68 degrees. There are all these energies and solutions. In this very difficult time, the role of the Government must be to bring those energies together.

I do not want to sound like an old historian—I am a self-appointed historian—but I look at what happened in the Second World War and the marvellous thing that Britain did, which nobody really ever talks about any more: the war effort. There was a convergence of energies. Little bits of aeroplanes could be made here, there and everywhere, and it was all converged. I think it was Herbert Morrison who did it. It was wonderful. We need that again and we need it now, because the talking needs to be over.

My Lords, Alok Sharma deserves very high praise for the many deals and agreements he achieved in important areas such as trees and methane. It is obvious, particularly from the speech we have just heard, that Glasgow was a fountain of fascinating new ideas, all to be developed.

Nevertheless, we are now in fact entering an extremely dangerous phase in which people, especially the young, are being deluded into believing that climate violence and greatly increased volatility in price and supply over the coming era can all somehow be averted or much ameliorated by net-zero policies that will cost little and cause minimum upheaval. This is 100% wrong and utterly misleading. In practice, the enormous world energy transition now being contemplated will cause huge disruption and bring massive social, industrial and political change—like the Industrial Revolution but on a vastly greater scale and costing trillions, not billions.

For a start, there is the sheer and complete impracticality of re-engineering the entire power and electricity systems of India, China, Africa and other countries, closing down and totally replacing their countless coal-fired and other fossil-fuel stations—which my noble friend Lord Tugendhat has just referred to—and transforming, in short order, the complex coal, oil and gas fuel mix that has dominated the world for the past two centuries. Not only can this not be done without intense human suffering or within the alleged timescale but just hand-wringing and promising not to finance any new coal-fired power stations does not begin to touch the rising emissions problem that is sitting before us.

The only way of doing so would be to go out to each one of the thousands of coal-fired stations across Asia and around the world and retrofit them with affordable carbon-capture devices—which, incidentally, are yet to be invented—and modern supercritical boilers. This is possible, but the funds required to do it, including not just the equipment but the technology, training and skilled manpower to do the fitting, exceed by a factor of at least 10 anything now being publicly admitted or any of the sums being talked about.

Actually, if aiding the most vulnerable and defenceless in our societies and easing human suffering were the real and genuine purpose, would we be going this way at all? By far the best use of funds and the most genuinely caring and compassionate route would be massive adaptation to protect people better against the inevitable periods ahead—who knows for how long —of climate violence, floods, storms, fires and heat waves, which are, historically, now due anyway.

Although, as we have been reminded, we should care deeply for the small island states, this is a direct threat to our own islands, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, quite rightly began this debate by reminding us. We should tackle the protection and adaptation task with the intensity that the Dutch showed five centuries ago, only now at 100 times the scale.

The management of this transition, phase by phase, will require the utmost skill and intricate strategic energy planning. Without this and proper back-up, we will run into terrible price spikes, causing intense hardship for the most vulnerable and the defenceless, just as we are doing at this moment, although we do not seem to have touched on it much in this debate. Of course, it will also cause real insecurity and power shortages. We can have as many conferences as we like, but it is time for some honesty, realism and real action to prepare and protect our environment, our energy security and the younger generations’ real interests, prosperity and safety.

My Lords, COP 26 can, on balance, be counted a success. There were significant stumbles, most obviously on coal, but the global consensus was shifted, momentum was increased and the pressure on the laggard nations is now too intense to ignore.

But let us be open-eyed: the challenge for every nation to meet the 1.5-degree target is absolutely enormous, including for us. In the UK, around 60% of our emissions come from just two sources: heating buildings and transport. The Government’s White Paper on heating, issued last month, offers a really authoritative and impressive account of the challenge. It identifies that many of the possible solutions—for instance, hydrogen heating—are uncertain. Other critical technologies are as yet unproven, or their affordability is not yet at all clear.

Heat pumps are a proven technology, but they are far more expensive than carbon boilers, and they will not do their job without a massive and costly programme of home insulation. For them to work, it is not just roofs that need insulating but windows, walls and floors. Absent greater clarity on how the transition to decarbonised heat is to be incentivised and organised, the Government’s target to be able to install 600,000 heat pumps a year within six years appears unreachable at this moment.

The technology solutions for decarbonising transport are far clearer, but their implementation is also fraught with difficulties. A few months ago, I bought my first electric vehicle. The car is a dream, but the charging is an absolute nightmare. I have a charge point installed at home. On a fair number of occasions, our power supply has dipped below the required statutory voltage and automatically disabled our charge point. The following morning, ready for a long journey, I have found the battery close to flat and my journey stymied.

When you venture out on to the public charging networks, the nightmare continues. Many public charge points are simply not working, and you do not know that until you get there. In some areas, any car is able to park in front of a street charger and block it. There is no standardisation of payment systems, and only a minority allow contactless. Charging systems lack transparency on pricing. A multiplicity of apps and proprietary cards is needed if all charge points are to be accessed. There are different and incompatible sockets for fast chargers. Many charging spaces are unsuitable for drivers with disabilities or for vans.

In short, the charge-point system is a complete mess. There are currently 33 million cars in the UK, only 1 million of which are EVs. If we are to achieve our target of 12 million EVs by 2030, the Government rapidly need to bring order to this chaos. Unless and until EV drivers can soon enjoy an equivalent experience to those driving petrol and diesel vehicles, confidence in EVs will simply evaporate.

I do not for one moment underestimate the challenges for government of achieving net zero. But I do say to the Minister that, post Glasgow, the Government need to roll up their sleeves and concentrate not just on proclaiming what our or others’ net-zero targets are but on working out in granular detail just how we are going to achieve them.

My Lords, this rich debate has been bursting with good ideas for the Government, so I will not repeat proposals but add to them. I note that I entirely agree with the six-point list of the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and thank her for securing this debate and introducing it so brilliantly.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, that the World Trade Organization talks must enter the 21st century and make the climate emergency central to their progress. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, that Alok Sharma, having done a fine job in Glasgow, should be given his own department, although I add that the real change that we need to see is in the Treasury. It has to take a revolutionary step, following New Zealand in throwing out the nonsensical neoliberal idea that resources are all infinite or substitutable. You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. The planet is at or beyond its limits and the climate is only one of them.

I have already asked the Leader of the House if the UK will sign up to the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, which is leading the way on fossil fuels, and if we would counteract one of the great failures of COP 26 and put money into loss and damage. But I took the answer that I got as a firm “no”, so I will not ask the Minister to overrule that. After what we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, we have a pretty good idea of why we are not signing up to BOGA.

So I have two requests to the Minister. As the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, at COP it was entirely evident how dominant fossil-fuel delegates were—so will the Minister commit to demanding that, at COP 27, the fossil-fuel advocates are expelled? They were the largest delegation at COP 26: there were 503 of them. The comparable World Health Organization tobacco-control talks ban big tobacco. Let us get big oil and gas out of COP.

I want to make a second point, which is broader. Along with many Members speaking in this debate, I was in Glasgow for nearly all of the two weeks. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, that the blue zone was often depressing. There were some real high points, such as the cryosphere zone—although perhaps “high point” is the wrong term. What we had was the scientists from the frozen, or should I say currently frozen, parts of this planet and indigenous people from those areas providing powerful testimony on just how much even the COP process is not fully accounting for the dangers that we face. The peatland pavilion and the water and health pavilions were starting to tie together the sustainable development goals with the understanding that we have to have system change, not climate emergency.

However, the real innovation—the energy and hope—was in what I call the shadow COP. You might call it the alternative COP; on the streets were 100,000 people, many of them young, who came out despite Covid-19 and some truly classic Glasgow weather to deliver the voice of urgency, innovation and change. There were so many halls with informal gatherings: “SHE changes climate” was another brilliant gathering there. There were people campaigning on ecocide, about which I have talked to the Minister before. Dr Saleemul Huq, the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, based in Bangladesh, based in Bangladesh, did not call it the alternative COP. He called it the good COP, as opposed to the bad COP. Will the Minister ensure that Defra’s halls are open to the people from the good COP and that the Government are listening to those people’s voices?

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for securing this important and timely debate. The Government, and the COP 26 president personally, deserve credit for their efforts in securing the Glasgow agreement, fragile as the prospects remain for keeping global temperatures within the recommended target range. A key priority of the UK Government at COP 26 was to put us on a path to keeping 1.5 degrees centigrade within reach through ambitious targets. Following the end of the summit, it is now clear that this goal was not fully realised, with the world en route to 2.4 degrees of warming by the end of the century, based on individual countries’ current 2030 commitments.

Over a decade ago, developed countries committed to mobilise US $100 billion a year to support developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce their emissions. However, developed countries have not yet met their pledge to provide this amount of money, despite it being a critical part of the grand bargain that underpins the Paris Agreement. This was a key sticking point in negotiations at COP 26; it is critical that progress on this is made ahead of COP 27 to ensure an ambitious outcome in all areas of the climate agenda.

We know, and it was graphically brought to life by the testimony of some delegates, that some countries are already in grave peril and facing humanitarian crises. These include island nations which are threatened with imminent extinction and coastal communities in many other countries too. The people in these affected parts, who have done nothing to cause this man-made emergency, lack the means to mitigate or even escape the fate that awaits them. We also know that it is true that all nations and people will be required to make changes to ensure sustainability, but it would be most unfair to ask countries in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and South America, which already have a very low standard of living, to make further sacrifices without the support of the richer nations which have played a far more significant role in creating the situation.

If we want the effort to keep global warming within the target range to be successful, it is essential that the funding provided to poorer countries makes it possible for them to play their part without increasing existing disparities. Does the Minister agree that we should lead the world and set an example by supporting the climate-vulnerable countries, which are already being affected by climate change, with additional climate finance commitments throughout the UK’s COP presidency?

My Lords, I join those congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, on securing this debate. I add my congratulations to the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Exeter on his excellent maiden speech. We are looking forward to hearing many more contributions and I hope I can work with him on rural areas. I declare my interests: I am a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Water, a vice-president of the Association of Drainage Authorities, president of National Energy Action and a member of the rural action group of the Church of England synod.

I join those paying tribute to the president, Alok Sharma, who came into his own in securing the agreement that was reached during COP 26. I warmly congratulate our own Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, hot from his triumph and excellent work on the Environment Act, on being able to build on that at COP 26. Glasgow and Scotland also came into their own by hosting and rising to the occasion.

One of my regrets is that population growth did not really feature at all in the procedures and processes of COP 26, yet it is generally recognised to be one of the greatest challenges that we face. A number of speakers have alluded to this in the debate so far. I hope we can grasp the nettle on that, certainly next year—not just in terms of communities being displaced but the rise and explosion of population growth globally, which contributes hugely to climate change. What will the test of the success of COP 26 be? Will it be the effects being reduced on the remote island communities? Will it about the cost and impact on the competitiveness of rich nations in helping to reduce those incidents of climate change? In recognising the effects of climate change globally and at home, I would like to focus on those four areas that were targeted for progress at COP 26.

My own experience, certainly domestically, is that of flooding in North Yorkshire. On the floodplains of the Vale of York, indeed in the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber, along with parts of Cumbria and many parts of Gloucestershire—and in the rest of the UK —flooding is something that we experience on an annual basis. On mitigation and adaptation, we can learn to work with nature: to plant trees intelligently; to value the role that farmers have to play in putting food on our plates; and by encouraging them to become more self-sufficient and not putting barriers in their way.

I decided to be environmentally friendly and attend COP 26 only remotely. I was very impressed by one of the sessions I attended on reimagining the future of water, by bringing together communities not just from across the EU but from the island nations. The cost of flood resilience, especially at home, and of installation—alluded to by my noble friend Lord Bridges—bears closer examination. We need to ensure that we give them the tools for what they have to produce. Here I praise the work of the report I was associated with, Bricks & Water, for its sensible recommendations that seem so simple yet are so hard to implement.

Finally, I echo the thoughts of all those who want to see rich and developed countries working with poorer developing countries to ensure that pollution is reduced so that we can, in the long term, tackle climate change.

My Lords, the Government’s export plan, published yesterday, expressed commitment to safeguarding the environment, fostering high-value jobs in a low-carbon economy and fuelling technological innovations that can be exported around the world. A section entitled “Modernising trade” went on to present a vision of

“an enhanced EDG that will allow for longer-term financing for clean growth sector exporters”.

I join in the concerns regarding the Treasury and FCA recognising these lofty ambitions. There is concern that the UK is lagging in the ability to implement such change across the economy. Failure to raise capital for deployment in green projects has now only just begun to be addressed. Even if the Government’s green bonds should be raised, how will this money find its way down for projects? What has been done to combine green projects with the important financing agenda?

Growth by SMEs crucially depends on accessing export finance. UK industry can make an impact to the goals by providing world-leading solutions and products, with entrepreneurs filling the gaps left by banks by being allowed to access finance with less scrutiny from regulators.

Free from European rules, the Treasury and the FCA must encourage capital flows with innovative solutions, not constrain markets with wider regulatory powers. The result of doing so is the growth of the non-bank alternative finance industry and is a reflection of the inability of banks to finance SMEs. Financing for high-input projects, accessing the funding needed, will be hampered unless policy changes are introduced. Companies that cannot get funding in the UK will simply leave, with the resulting brain drain of technology further impeding delivery of COP 26 targets. Many UK companies have already gone to the Frankfurt stock exchange to raise capital, putting pressure on the image of the City as a hub of financial services innovation.

The UK has some of the most innovative alternative financing businesses in the world. The rise of alternative finance, which started with consumer lending, has succeeded in bridging the financing gap but these businesses have seemingly come under attack from the FCA. Policymakers must allow for the flow of capital down to the innovative mid-sized private companies by investing heavily in future technologies through grants and subsidies. Employment, innovation and rebalancing trade require capital and the internal market should be allowed to grow without overreliance on bank financing.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for raising this subject and allowing us to debate this most important topic in such a timely manner. I want to make some comments about the mitigation aspects of the Conference of the Parties that was held in Glasgow. The conference itself covered many topics, but in four minutes I would not be able to do it justice.

My first comment is that this was a paradoxical COP as in one sense it was a success but in another an absolute failure. How could it be those two things at once? The first thing to say is that our expectations have been so lowered over the last 26 years that we are now facing a situation where the simple inclusion of the word “coal”—one word in the 57 legal documents that were produced—is seen as a success. This has been the effect of a huge amount of lobbying. Other noble Lords have spoken about the fact that delegations can include the very companies that these talks are meant to regulate and control, which distorts the outcome of these meetings.

There is also the fact that the COP process itself is not a healthy one. Alok Sharma and his team deserve a huge amount of praise for bringing this COP to a successful end, but no-drama Sharma was himself reduced to tears. The secretary-general issued a statement that reads more like a statement from an NGO about how disappointed he is and how people have been let down by the process. It is a very opaque process and hugely complex. Some 57 legal papers were negotiated over three different legal fora in the space of two weeks, full of jargon and technical language. Even the lawyers struggled to keep up. How are poorer nations meant to do the same? How is this inequitable system allowed to continue?

To steal the phrase of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter—whom I congratulate on his maiden speech—it seems that the experts have built a “Titanic”. Perhaps it is time now for the amateurs, the observers and those people affected by climate change, to take over and demand more of this process.

In the short time I have available, I want to outline a six-point plan—that seems to be the way of things—much of which will overlap with the noble Baroness, Lady Young. On the global front, the first thing the Government must do is maintain the resources going into the departments that have led to the successful outcome of the COP. We cannot see a shrinking-back of our diplomatic effort at this time. We have another year to land a successful outcome in Egypt. We must keep the pressure on. Please let us see the civil servants being kept in their roles and continuing to push for more.

The second point is that it would be timely, ahead of the global stocktake, for us to do a review of this COP-MOP process to see whether it is fit for purpose. How can it be made more relevant, simpler, more accessible and more representative? How can we make sure that we are focusing the debate and the negotiations on the things that matter most? That is about increasing the pace of ambition in cutting emissions. The wider context could not be clearer. The nationally determined contributions that have been put together to date under the Paris Agreement would have emissions higher in 2030 by some 14% than they were in 2010 and we need to see them cut by 25% to 50% over that timescale if we are to have any chance of staying below 2 degrees and seeking to get to 1.5 degrees. Something is broken. We need a review. This COP-MOP process and the subsequent COPs could be made far more effective.

We should be looking at supportive parallel UN negotiations. We have had pledges on methane; let us turn those into an actual treaty on reducing methane globally. Let us look again at the supply of fossil fuels. A non-fossil fuel proliferation treaty may now be needed to cut back on the exploration and the digging out of fossil fuels.

I am out of time. Very quickly and thirdly, let us turn those pledges into action and NDCs. On the domestic front, we must revise our own net-zero targets and look again at whether we move faster. Symbolically, we need to lead so that others can follow. We must look at our supply-side issues—let us stop Cambo. On agriculture, let us get really quickly into reforming agricultural subsidies and then tell the rest of the world how we did it.

I thank noble Lords for their patience and I am sorry to have overrun, but I would just like to say the words of my friend who said:

“At least 1.5 is alive—just like Elvis.”

My Lords, I declare my interest as chair of the advisory board of Weber Shandwick UK. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, on securing this debate and on her very powerful speech. I also congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter—where I had the pleasure of spending three years as a university student—on his excellent maiden speech. I also commend my noble friend Lord Glasgow for hosting such a large number, and such a variety, of guests in Glasgow. I get the impression that his house may be a little bigger than mine.

As we have heard in this debate, there are a number of perspectives through which we can view the COP. The first, perhaps, is as a disaster because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, said, the measures agreed did not come anywhere near meeting the targets needed to avoid catastrophe and the NDCs, as she said, envisage even higher emissions in 2030 than today. Secondly, COP 26 could be seen as a missed opportunity for a much more comprehensive agreement, which was marred by the poor leadership from the Prime Minister and a series of spectacularly damaging decisions in the lead-up to the conference. Finally, perhaps the conference can be seen as a partial success because, while the speed of the journey is still far too slow and must urgently be sped up, we are at least facing in the right direction.

The truth is that all three perspectives have validity. If you represent an island state that faces inundation of its clean water supplies and the prospect that it will sink below the waves altogether, how could you see the failure to take more urgent and comprehensive action on fossil fuels as anything other than a disaster? The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter gave us an example of one of those islands that is now uninhabitable and is soon to be under the sea.

There was the astonishing way in which the Government set out, sometimes seemingly almost intentionally, to sabotage the chances of their own success and COP’s success by alienating in turn key players who were needed to secure a more comprehensive agreement. That was done: first, by betraying the global south by slashing our aid budget in a callous betrayal of the Conservative manifesto pledge; then, less than two months before the conference, by announcing a military pact nakedly aimed at containing China and which was hardly likely to encourage its co-operation; and, finally, by generating the maximum bad blood with the EU, which we needed as a highly engaged ally to exert maximum leverage if a more comprehensive agreement was to be achieved.

In light of all that, it certainly looks like a missed opportunity. In fact, from that perspective, it is perhaps remarkable that there was any agreement at all. Nevertheless, while both those perspectives have validity, I cling to the final perspective of COP as a partial success that at least has us facing in the right direction, even if at times it looked like the world would remain paralysed with inaction from setting off down that road. I cling to that perspective because the danger of pessimism is that it leads to defeatism. I do not believe that humanity can countenance that. I also cling to that belief because there were positive developments out of COP on which we need to build and go much further. Also, a challenging but positive approach to the issues ahead will be vital if we are going to succeed in this, humanity’s most vital task.

On the positive side, COP delivered some things. It kept 1.5 degrees within reach, if very distant reach. The agreed annual reviews of the NDCs are a potentially vital ratchet and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, we cannot overstate how important that is and how important Sharm el-Sheikh will be. The forestry agreement was also another positive. We will have to see whether some of the signatories, particularly President Bolsonaro, actually deliver on the agreement but it was a step forward and we should recognise that. I, like others, commend the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, and Alok Sharma, for the work that they have done.

Also, if it was disappointing that India’s net-zero target was set at 2070, it was at least a positive sign that it committed to trebling clean energy in less than a decade. Also significant was the deal with South Africa to work with that country in phasing out coal-generated power. The Prime Minister said that we had succeeded in uniting the world in calling time on coal. That seems a big claim, given what went on around that issue. However, it is not insignificant that coal was mentioned, although, of course, not nearly enough was done. China and India also found themselves a bit exposed on this subject and they may be nervous in the future. There were other agreements on methane and electric cars that offer us some positive hope.

I was in Glasgow for the finance day in particular. One of the encouraging things there was that, although some of the claims about the hundreds of trillions of dollars under management were perhaps overblown, it was key that there was much greater focus and commitment to greening finance. That was important. It was the first time that a US Treasury Secretary had ever attended a COP meeting, which is also important. The announcement ahead of the COP by the Prudential Regulation Authority that it would be reviewing capital requirements to ensure that they adequately factor in climate risk was encouraging, and the ECB also said that it was taking steps in that direction as well. Finance and the role of financial regulation will play an ever-increasingly important role in our battle to address climate change. While much more is to be done, I was encouraged by that.

However, we have heard a lot about the disappointments in other respects—the failure to meet the financial commitments to assist the global south in transitioning their economies. At some point, we are going to have to address the issue of loss and damage, particularly for the island states. COP failed, as we have heard from my noble friend Lady Sheehan, to agree an end to the burning of fossil fuels. That will be vital if we are going to achieve what we need in terms of net zero.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, highlighted the importance of transparency and fairness over metrics and measurements. As we go down the road towards net zero, how we measure and know that accurate measurements are taken will be critical. We still are painfully behind the timescales needed in terms of global agreements on financial regulation to ensure that, across the world, climate change is properly priced into risk.

There are lots of challenges, but we must not play into the hands of the deniers, delayers and defeatists by running a despairing narrative. We have heard a raft of positive proposals today—not least the six-point plans from the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Worthington. We have heard highlighted the importance of not thinking that we can just keep on acting as we are now. We have to restrain energy; we heard that from the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, and, as my noble friend Lady Parminter said, it is so disappointing that we have not moved on that in the building and heat strategy.

In summary, we had an outcome from COP that at least pointed in the right direction. It was more success than failure, but it still leaves us perilously far from what we need to achieve. We have to ensure that we do not, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, warned us, allow this issue to slip down the agenda. All of us have to redouble our efforts—including the Government, business and NGOs—to ensure that we can ultimately deliver that 1.5 degree target.

I join noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lady Young for introducing this debate on the outcome of Britain’s hosting of COP 26 in Glasgow. I declare my interest as having a stake in the outcome.

It is important to consider where this leaves the global challenges to halt and deal with continuing emissions. The reality check is that, while emissions fell 5.4% in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdowns, this year the rise in emissions has been one of the highest ever, likely to be around 8%, far eclipsing the temporary 2020 fall, according to the Global Carbon Budget report. Glasgow COP 26 was an important moment, but one of the many along the pathway towards sustainability, where we are all participants, not spectators.

My noble friend Lady Young has picked a very important day for this debate, as today is precisely the first anniversary of the Prime Minister’s scattergun 10-point plan—his first foray into the issue, without any plan or coherence. Many strategic holes have slowly been filled since. Naturally, one year on, progress against the Government’s targets has been patchy. At the last minute—highly favoured by the Prime Minister—before COP 26, the Government managed to complete their strategy plans with the publication of the Net Zero Strategy, with far more encompassing coherence about how the UK will meet its carbon targets.

Still, small steps are encouraging, even ticking off some of the nature milestones of 2020-21—for example, the £80 million through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund and the £5.2 billion into flood and coastal defences. However, it is clear that progress has fallen well shy of the scale of action required. As the country and the world are exhorted to return in one year’s time with enhanced nationally determined contributions, do the Government plan to come forward with fresh and enhanced plans to be achieved by the end of the UK’s presidency in Egypt?

I thank all those who have contributed to the debate today. I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter on his thoughtful remarks, especially recognising the importance of scientists. We wish him well with his diocese’s net-zero plans, to follow the design of the Ark rather than the “Titanic”.

Speakers reveal that the threat today now comes more from climate delayers. The world is making slow progress against quickening climate reaction. This is indeed the decisive decade. Far more importance needs to be placed on 2030 targets, rather than portraying them merely as an interim towards 2050, thereby putting off achievement to further along the line. As many have said, 1.5 degrees is on life support, and we need to roughly halve emissions by 2030. We need to cut emissions by then to 25 billion tonnes from the 58 billion tonnes today, yet the UNEP Emissions Gap Report confirms that total emissions cuts at Glasgow amount to just 4.8 billion tonnes, less than one-fifth of what is required. Shifting the goalposts to 2050 and net-zero dates from then puts the focus further away.

While the one new but major announcement by India to meet net zero by 2070—even further away—can be welcomed, success cannot be claimed on the basis of vague and often vacuous net-zero targets three or more decades hence. The most dangerous mistake that the Prime Minister likes to make is to dress up modest progress as transformational. This only lets off the hook the big emitters who want to go along with the crowd and pretend that more progress has been made than reality suggests. The Climate Action Tracker report calculates that, rather than 1.5 degrees, the pledges for 2030 put the world on track for a devastating 2.4-degree warming, where millions more people and their communities will face extreme weather events and the natural wonders of the world will be devastated.

The test of Glasgow is the commitments for 2030. Yes, Glasgow was a start for this recognition, but serious work needs to follow through with urgency, consistency and determination. On coal, yes, there was an announcement for the first time, but only 46 of the 190 countries and organisations are indeed countries, and the big emitters of China and India watered down the deadlines, putting the commitment well into the future by replacing “phase out” with “phase down”. No wonder this sounds to so many like “blah blah blah”.

The Government need to set the example and show their determination by ending all fossil fuel developments. One of the encouraging developments at Glasgow was the launch of BOGA, the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance of 11 national and subnational Governments such as that of California to deliver a managed and just transition away from oil and gas production. What consideration are the UK Government giving to joining that alliance?

On trees, yes, there is a plan to end deforestation by 2030, but with no enforcement mechanisms. A similar announcement was made in 2014, but deforestation has merely increased. On cash and climate finance, the promise of $100 billion each year for developing countries has not been reached. The total had previously stood at $78 billion. I thanked the Leader of the House on Tuesday for pointing to the paper on the 2021 to 2025 climate finance commitments, but from this it is extremely hard to calculate what total has now been reached. Does the Minister have that global figure?

A further new development at Glasgow was the recognition of loss and damage payments, to build on the Santiago network of data on repairing the damage already occurring. Do the Government recognise their inconsistency towards developing countries when they cut the overseas aid budget? Plans to restore this many years into the future, while making caveats, do not help build the trust that is so needed if concerted responses across the globe are going to take place. What plans do the Government now have to increase funding further and spend more on adaptation than on emissions cuts?

The Government must be consistent right across all departments. Does the Minister recognise the contradiction from his colleague the Chancellor with the announcement in the Budget of the reduction in air passenger duty? Government retorts are beside the point. The impression is that the Government do not take climate change seriously. Does the Minister suffer any despondency about his job looking harder when he sees the Department for International Trade deleting chapters on climate change in the UK’s agreement in principle with Australia, to enable the Prime Minister to boast of the announcement of a trade deal at the G7 conference in Cornwall?

Recently the Australian Government reaffirmed their 2030 target, but this is only consistent with 4-degree warming. If the Government are to be serious in continuing with the presidency for a further year, they need to finalise all trade deals—especially with Australia, as a country committed to coal—putting chapters on climate change consistent with 1.5 degrees in the negotiating mandate and in final texts. Can the Government act tough on climate change?

Many organisations are now bringing forward their own plans for net zero emissions by 2030. I thank the National Trust for its briefings, and many noble Lords mentioned biodiversity action plans today and at Tuesday’s Statement. Through the Agriculture Act 2020 the Government have many opportunities, through ELMS and the sustainable farming incentive, to build detail on the local nature recovery scheme, to link with the six specified goals of the 25-year environment plan. Does the Minister’s department need to work better and hand in hand with the business department?

The recent Net Zero Strategy committed to restoring 280,000 hectares of peatlands by 2050. However, that represents only just over one-third of the UK’s peatlands and does not match the recommendation of the Climate Change Committee to restore all upland peatlands by 2045. Will the Government now raise the ambition and increase the commitments for next year by meeting this recommendation?

I recognise that the Government have made important strides at COP 26 and that there are many aspects that I have not mentioned—not least, the announcements on methane. I thank Alok Sharma, his officials and the Government for their commitment at COP 26 and their dedication. The challenge is to maintain momentum, stop facing both ways and implement the net-zero test for all government departments and procurements so that the handover of the presidency in Egypt is at a far more advanced and substantial place.

Labour has pledged £28 billion extra each year until 2030 to create a greener, fairer country for all communities. That must include insulation for homes, greater energy efficiency in the built environment, creating modern, well-paid jobs in new industries such as renewables and hydrogen, and helping existing industries such as steel to make the transition to a modern economy. Affordable transport is still far away. Will the Government agree today to bring forward deeper plans with the new national determined contribution for 2022? What next steps do the Government plan?

We are still in the game. As Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, recently said:

“We must use the final year of the UK’s presidency to rescue what COP26 hasn’t achieved.”

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to this debate on the outcome of COP 26, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who gave an excellent opening speech providing valuable context. I also thank her for her kind words.

COP 26 brought together 120 world leaders and more than 38,000 representatives from Governments, civil society, business and youth. It was the biggest summit that we have ever hosted in this country. In many respects, it was also the most important. The backdrop could not have been clearer. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its report this year, it is code red for the climate. The final COP 26 text follows two years of intense diplomacy and campaigning by the UK presidency. Climate negotiators ended two weeks of intense talks on Saturday with a consensus on urgently accelerating climate action.

As COP 26 president, our overarching goal was to keep alive the possibility of keeping global temperatures within 1.5 degrees to ensure much greater support for countries to adapt to what we know will be inevitable changes, even if we stay within 1.5 degrees, and to ramp up the availability of finance, in particular for small island developing states but for climate vulnerable nations generally, and to put nature at the heart of our global response to climate change. That was particularly important given how marginal nature has always been to this issue, a point made well by the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate.

Although a gap remains between where we are and where we need to be, as many speakers today have pointed out, there can be no doubt that we narrowed that gap considerably further than anyone had predicted and that we have indeed kept alive the possibility of keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees. Therefore, I share that cautious optimism that was expressed by a number of speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and my noble friends Lady Bottomley and Lord Bridges.

We have seen significant and meaningful progress with net-zero commitments in the final negotiated text, which was agreed by all 197 parties, and on protecting and restoring the natural world. We have also, critically, seen action from countries and the private sector, particularly around coal, cars, cash and trees, to drive down emissions this decade. However, none of this will count for anything unless we continue to ramp up ambition and until and unless promises are kept in full, which will be our priority in this year, while we continue to hold the presidency.

To limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees, we know we must secure global net zero by the middle of the century and halve global emissions by 2030. With all the additional country commitments that we secured in the run up to and at COP, 90% of the global economy is now covered by net-zero commitments, which is up from 30% when the UK took on the presidency in 2019. While long-term strategies are obviously key, we know we need urgent ambition this decade. That is why we have consistently called for all countries to submit ambitious 2030 commitments that put us on a path to global net zero.

It is sometimes said by commentators that our efforts in the UK are pointless if China and other similar countries continue to ramp up their coal use. That misses the point that we have now seen significant commitments from countries, including new 2030 commitments from Brazil, China and India. China has already committed to peak its carbon emissions before 2030, achieve climate neutrality before 2060 and end overseas coal financing this year. We will always be asking for more, but it would be wrong to pretend that this is not very serious progress. India, too, has committed to net zero for the first time and announced ambitious plans for half its electricity capacity to come from renewables by 2030. A total of 154 parties have now submitted nationally determined contributions to date, representing around 80% of global emissions. This is real progress, but we must see more from the remaining parties and improved NDCs when countries come back for COP 27, to be hosted next year in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The UK has led by example. We were the first major economy to commit to net zero in law and to reducing carbon emissions by 78% in 2035. We will completely phase out coal power in 2024, and we are also ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030. We have also set out our commitment to increase our international climate finance by a further £1 billion on top of the £11.6 billion that we had already committed to in climate and nature finance, at least £3 billion of which will be invested in nature-based solutions to climate change. The UK and the science have been clear that phasing out unabated coal power is the single most important step to keeping 1.5 degrees within reach. At COP, we saw 65 countries commit to coal phase out, including four of the world’s top 20 coal-power generating countries.

All major coal-financing countries have now committed to ending international coal finance by the end of 2021, with $20 billion in funding to support the coal-to-clean-power transition announced at COP 26. I note the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, who feels that the Prime Minister may have exaggerated the success in relation to coal, so rather than quote him, I will quote the Executive Director of Greenpeace:

“a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”

We have also taken a big bite out of international public financing for oil and gas, with almost 40 countries, including all of western Europe, the USA and Canada, following the UK’s lead earlier this year in ending overseas public financing for all unabated fossil fuels. This will free more than $24 billion a year that could now flow towards clean energy.

The new global green grids initiative—One Sun One World One Grid—launched by the UK and India, and backed by more than 80 countries, will also further accelerate the development of interconnected electricity grids across continents, countries and communities. We saw a partnership of the UK, US, France, Germany and the EU to launch a just energy transition partnership with South Africa, backed by an initial $8.5 billion to enable decarbonisation and the just energy transition in South Africa. These sorts of partnerships will be critical as countries kick-start their transitions away from fossil fuels. With support from the UK presidency, more than 100 countries which are responsible for just under half of all methane emissions have joined the global methane pledge to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030. This includes six of the top 10 methane emitters.

I note the comments by my noble friend Lord Howell about the energy transition currently being proposed. However, it is not a transition that is being proposed; it is a transition that is already well under way, irrespective of the politics. That is illustrated by the fact that coal use fell faster under President Trump, who lavished public money trying to keep it alive, than it did under President Obama before him. More money now flows into new renewable capacity year on year than flows into fossil fuels, so this transition is happening.

On cars, we worked to build consensus on the pace of the transition to zero-emission vehicles. At COP 26, the UK co-ordinated a joint statement in which signatories committed to work towards all new car sales being zero emission by 2040 globally and by 2035 in leading markets. That was backed by more than 30 countries, together with six major manufacturers—GM, Ford, Mercedes, Volvo, JLR and BYD—28 fleet owners, 13 investors and 41 cities, states, and regions from all over the world. Around one-third of the global car market is now covered by manufacturer commitments to phase out polluting vehicles, up from close to zero at the start of this year. Domestically, the UK has also committed to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030. From 2035, all new cars and vans must be zero emission at the tailpipe. Phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 will put the UK on course to be the G7 country that will decarbonise cars and vans the fastest.

I note the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Birt, regarding the difficulties with charging. When I first bought an electric car, I found myself stranded in the first week, which was at the time a very significant put-off. However, on the back of the commitments that have been made and the signals being sent to buyers and car manufacturers and between government and the private sector, that infrastructure will continue to be rolled out, and faster.

More public and private finance has been committed to support climate action in developing countries than ever before, and the global financial system is finally aligning behind a net-zero, resilient world, as a number of speakers mentioned. In fact, under the UK’s presidency, 95% of the largest developed-country climate finance providers made new, forward-looking commitments.

The $100 billion finance goal, referenced by a number of noble Lords, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will be met by developed countries. It is late; we know that. We have not got there fast enough. We have tried, but we have made progress and we will continue to push countries to go faster. Climate finance is now expected to increase to between $113 billion and $117 billion in 2025, compared with around $80 billion in 2019. It is now likely that $500 billion will be mobilised over the period 2021-25. This means more money for developing countries, which is critical as they decarbonise and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

We saw new commitments by the public and private sector to provide scaled-up finance to support developing countries to take climate action and to align trillions of dollars of finance with a net-zero, resilient future. Over 450 private financial institutions, responsible for over $130 trillion in assets, have committed to net zero by 2050 through the GFANZ alliance, which was also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. That is within the UN’s Race to Zero.

On trees, or more accurately on nature, the UK has turned the tide. We delivered at the world leaders’ summit a package of commitments, each one of which is unprecedented and meaningful. Combined, the whole is undoubtedly bigger than the sum of its parts. As Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, the WWF global lead on climate and energy, said:

“Nature truly arrived at COP26.”

Justin Adams from the Tropical Forest Alliance said that the commitments signify

“the biggest moment we’ve had in forests and nature, probably ever.”

He also said:

“What is happening is historic. I think we’ll look back and realise that this was the day when we finally turned the tide on deforestation.”

Forbes described the commitments as a “‘Paris moment’ for forests”. I will explain why I think that is broadly right.

More than 140 countries, including Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia, accounting for over 90% of the world’s forests, committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 in the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use. Donor countries, combined with philanthropy, committed $20 billion of climate finance. In addition, $1.5 billion was secured to protect the forests of the Congo basin, an area of incalculable beauty and importance. Nearly $2 billion was secured for indigenous people; I will come to that shortly.

However, we know that pledges and finance alone will not be enough. That is why, alongside those finance commitments, we focused on the necessary systemic change. We secured extremely hard-won commitments from all the main multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, which committed to aligning their portfolios not only with Paris but with nature. That alone will have a big impact on the market.

As importantly, we secured a commitment from the world’s biggest buyers of agricultural commodities, including the Chinese-owned COFCO, that their buying policies will be aligned with 1.5 degrees and our overall deforestation goals. It is hard to exaggerate the potency of that signal to some of the more reluctant forest countries, which we simply were not going to get over the line but succeeded in doing so because of that commitment from the commodity buyers. In addition to all that, we secured commitments from financial institutions with nearly $9 trillion in assets that they too will align their portfolios with the same deforestation goals. While I commend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter on his excellent maiden speech, I also thank the Church of England through him for its leadership on this issue, because on many of the commitments I just described we were helped significantly through working with, among others, its representatives. I heap praise on that institution.

I mentioned support for indigenous communities, and that is key. They have protected the world’s forests for generations, often in the face of serious threats to their lives, but their status in their lands is uncertain. In addition to the well-understood and very obvious issues of justice, there can be no better—and probably no cheaper—way to protect large areas of intact forest than by supporting those who have been looking after them for so long. The new finance that has been committed will be focused largely on issues of land tenure and will have a major impact. As one indigenous leader at COP said, “We have protected 80% of the world’s forest biodiversity without any support at all; can you imagine what we will do with that support?” Tuntiak Katan, the co-ordinator of the Global Alliance of Territorial Communities, said:

“After attending these climate events for years, this one is different. The UK has put tremendous effort into raising our visibility at this COP.”

The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, rightly pointed to next year’s CBD COP 15. It is the next big opportunity and the next big step. We will do everything we can to build on what was secured on nature in this COP to maximise the chance of an even more ambitious COP 15. We are not the hosts, but I can absolutely commit that the UK is bracing and ratcheting up every tool we have to make the biggest possible impact on that.

One area that has long been contentious, which has been raised by a number of people, including the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, is the issue of loss and damage. We know that even if we keep warming to 1.5 degrees, the world will change and the most vulnerable countries, particular small island states, will be very badly affected. Indeed, they are already being affected. This is an existential issue for them. What makes it worse in a sense is that, in addition to being those hit hardest, they tend on the whole to have the most progressive climate policies and are very forward-leading. That means that, when they speak, they have huge moral authority.

It is welcome then that, within the Glasgow climate pact, countries agreed to double their climate finance for efforts to cope and adapt to climate change impacts. Although we did not secure what was rightly demanded on loss and damage, the Glasgow countries agreed to establish the Santiago Network for loss and damage and initiate a dialogue around the financing of these ac