Examination of witnesses (Questions 128
WEDNESDAY 3 MARCH 1999
128. This is the Committee's second session
on the United Kingdom climate change programme. I welcome you
to the Committee and ask you to identify yourselves.
(Mr Derwent) My name is Henry Derwent. I am Director
of Environment: Risks and Atmosphere in the Department of the
Environment, Transport and the Regions. I have with me Mr Leslie
Packer on my right, who is Divisional Manager with responsibility
for sustainable energy policy and on my left is Gabrielle Edwards,
who works in our Global Atmosphere Division.
129. Why does the United Kingdom climate
change programme not consider measures to deal with adaptation
to climate change in addition to policies to reduce emissions
of greenhouse gases?
(Mr Derwent) It is a little early to say that
on the basis of the consultation paper which we put out. The consultation
paper focused very much on mitigation; in other words, things
that could be done in various parts of the economy to reduce the
total of our emissions. Obviously, we have an international obligation
to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in the United Kingdom,
and adaptation is not a substitute for that. However, adaptation
is an extremely important part of any country's overall response
to climate change and the new programme that we shall be putting
together in part as a result of, and certainly informed by the
consultation process, will cover adaptation responses as well
as mitigation. We have established research programmesin
particular the UK Climate Impact Programme at the University of
Oxfordto help any form of organisation to assess what their
own vulnerability is to climate change and to help them plan appropriate
adaptation strategies. We are talking about flood defences or
whatever. I think you will find that adaptation becomes more part
of the argument and more part of the overall message from Government
as this process of formulating our programme goes through its
130. I want to ask you something about the
costs. What work has been done to estimate the costs of, for instance,
the policy to reduce emissions, the impacts of climate change
and policies to cope with the direct impacts of climate change?
(Mr Derwent) We have attempted, in the consultation
paper itself, to address the costs associated with the various
mitigation policies that we have talked about in the consultation
paper. Obviously, one of the main purposes of the paper is to
get people's reactions to, in some cases, the very tentative figures
that we have put on the table. If they say, "No, it is not
like that, it will cost us a great deal more", or "it
will cost us a great deal less", then the purpose is to take
that on board and feed that into the creation of a full scale
programme. As to the costs of adaptation, the work that we are
doing within the research programme that I have mentioned, and
that other departments are doing, is aimed at working out some
ball-park figures for various forms of adaptation, but it is,
frankly, early days yet. These are very difficult figures conceptually
to get right with any degree of accuracy. We accept the need to
work on them and improve them and that is what we are doing.
131. Could we actually have some figures?
(Mr Derwent) Some figures for
132. The cost of reducing emissions, for
(Mr Derwent) I think you will find that there
are figures throughout the paper addressing the costs of possible
measures that might be taken, typically on a cost per tonne of
carbon basis. Given my answer to the previous question, I am not
sure whether it would be easy for us to put together a full set
of costs for all the policies which we are adopting now exclusively
for the propose of climate change. Perhaps I am misinterpreting
(Ms Edwards) At the moment we do not have a total
cost figure for meeting the total targets in the UK. We have been
doing a bottom up analysis of the costs of particular options.
133. Could you speak up, please?
(Ms Edwards) Where we have costs for the options
we have put them into the consultation paper to try to get views
on those figures. As we move to a full programme, we shall have
to start costing up the total cost of the programme which is a
far more detailed piece of work. We shall be setting that in train
as we develop the programme over the next few months.
134. Do you not think that it is important
to give people a clear idea of what the programme might cost?
(Mr Derwent) Massively important. The trouble
is that at the moment we really do not know. We have made the
best estimates that we can for some of the proposals and policies
that clearly ought to be part of the range of polices considered,
but we are not yet at the stage of saying, "We are going
to do this, this and this, and the total cost of all that is X".
We shall certainly be much closer towards that ideal when we have
taken on board the results of the consultation paper and when
we have put together a programme for the UK climate change response.
We are under no illusions about the importance of the answer to
135. When do you expect to have that answer?
(Mr Derwent) We shall be putting together the
draft programme in the light of the consultation paper responses
over the next few months. As to when the paper will come outthe
next stage is likely to be a draft programme, and we shall be
seeking people's views on that draft programmelater this
year is about the best that I can say at the moment. Obviously,
Ministers want to know exactly what has been said in the consultation
exercise so far and want to come to a view about what needs to
be said in the programme itself.
136. Presumably, within the same sort of
timescale you will be producing the costs of not doing "this,
this and this"?
(Mr Derwent) As best as we can. The costs of not
doing "this, this and this" break down into two types,
if I may say so. The first and most obvious is the cost for the
UK of being overwhelmed by changes in the climate which could
have been avoided as a result of the world adopting a number of
policies of which our contribution is but a part. Trying to get
that figure with any accuracy, I think you will see, on the basis
of the way that I have described it, is harder, but we shall do
the best that we can. The other cost is not so much a monetary
cost as essentially a legal, international cost. We will be under
an international obligation to meet a particular level of emissions
reduction and the cost of not achieving that in terms of our international
standing is that we will be open to accusations of breaking international
law, which will not be negligible.
137. We are talking about cost benefit analysis.
You are actually saying, "What is it going to cost if we
do it?", and in relation to your answer to Mr Brake, "What
is it going to cost if we do not do it?" What are the benefits?
Let us move on to the benefits and the targets. Am I right in
thinking from my brief readingalthough not all that briefof
the consultation paper that the baseline figure is already 10.5
per cent out of our 12.5 per cent target by 2010?
(Mr Derwent) We are doing pretty well in terms
of the six gas basket mainly as a result, as is well known, of
changes within the energy supply sector. The overall picture again
in terms of the six gas basket is that at the moment we are about
7 per cent below the 1990 emission levels which are taken as a
base for the purpose of the international procedures. We think
that by the year 2000 we shall be at 12.5 per cent. However, by
2010 we think we shall be at about that 10 per cent figure. That
probably reflects what you have seen. I should stress, however,
that if you look from the point of view of carbon dioxide, carbon
dioxide is not falling at quite the same rate. By 2010, in respect
of carbon dioxide, our emissions are forecast only to be about
3 per cent below 1990 levels. In other words, we have done rather
well from the inclusion in the target for the international procedures
of the non-CO2 gases.
138. Off the top of my head I cannot remember
the target, so could you remind me? Under Kyoto we had a six gas
target of what and a CO2 target of what?
(Mr Derwent) I am afraid the answers to all these
questions tend to be rather complicated.
139. I am a simple chap. You have 10 per
cent of six gases by 2010. At the moment it looks like being 3
per cent of CO2? Is that right?
(Mr Derwent) From an international obligations
point of view, it is 12.5 per cent below the 1990 levels for the
six gas basket. We have focused a lot on CO2 here,
partly as a result of the way that the commitment was put together
for the Government's manifesto and partly because CO2
is, despite what I said about the supplemental benefit that we
got from the other gases, the biggest, 80 per cent of the UK emissions
and it is going in the wrong direction comparatively. It is something
on which we are focusing. There are complexities about the status
of the UK's current obligation under the Kyoto Protocol which
is minus 8 per cent, as is the case for all the EU members, but
there is a process, known in a rather unhelpful piece of jargon
as "bubbling", which means that the EU re-defines its
own targets between the Member States, so that 12.5 per cent is
the UK figure.