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David Howarth: Yes, indeed. If we add up the carbon budgets over the entire period, we will get a volume target. That is how it is supposed to work. It would just make more sense to have that volume target in the Bill from the start, and to recognise that what we are
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talking about here is the overall level of emissions, rather than simply an end-year target.

My first point on targets relates to whether all greenhouse gases should be included in the Bill. At the moment, only carbon dioxide is included, although the other five greenhouse gases have greater greenhouse effects than carbon dioxide. It is important, therefore, that the Bill covers not only carbon dioxide but all the gases that can cause this problem. The Government now seem to be conceding that point, at least in principle, and saying that there should be a power to include the other gases in the Bill. I want them to go further, however; I want there to be a duty to include them. This relates to the question of credibility and of the Government giving away power.

My second point relates to international aviation and shipping. The Tyndall centre’s figures show that, even assuming a reduction in the rate of increase in aviation over the next 40 years, international aviation and shipping will add about a quarter to the greenhouse gases that we emit—about an extra 1.5 gigatonnes.

There was some difference in the evidence given to the Committees by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Transport. The DFT was keen to say that the issue was complicated and that there were various ways to bring international aviation into the picture, but the best way forward is to make a start now, as the hon. Member for Bedford said. The Tyndall centre suggested a perfectly good way of allocating international aviation emissions. It would not be exactly the same as the eventual international agreement, but it would be close enough. It is important to start now. There would be far less disruption if we made an approximate but pretty good estimate now and then changed it slightly in a few years’ time than if we failed to act at all now and had to incorporate an enormous change before 2012, which we are committed to do under the European Union emissions trading scheme. That also needs to be a duty and not just a power.

My third point is on the target of a 60 per cent. reduction by 2050. I accept that we need an end-point target as well as a volumetric target, but the evidence is overwhelming that 60 per cent. is not enough. The Stern report said that there is between a 63 and 99 per cent. chance that a 60 per cent. reduction would lead to an increase in temperatures of greater than 2°, which is the target that we are all working to. The Tyndall centre said that if we include international aviation and shipping, the original draft of the Bill implies a 50 per cent. chance of a 4° increase, which would be practically catastrophic. We would reach the stage at which feedback mechanisms might come into the picture. We need a clearer target.

The Tyndall centre said that if we want a 70 per cent. chance of not exceeding 2°, we cannot emit more than 4.8 gigatonnes over the period between now and 2050. That implies a much stricter end-point target than 60 per cent.; it is at least 80 per cent. I know about the view that there is no consensus how far the reduction target should go, but there is a consensus that 60 per cent. is too little and that it has to be at least 80 per cent. The 80 per cent. target needs to be stated in the
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Bill and the power of the Committee to recommend a target should apply to going above 80 per cent., not 60 per cent.

Patrick Hall: The hon. Gentleman just answered my question, but perhaps he will reflect on the fact that he is saying that politicians should do the job of the expert committee on climate change. Does he not think that the expert committee should be allowed to do its job?

David Howarth: It is our job to set the starting point and to let the committee discuss that. There is an important problem with the timing. The first carbon budget is supposed to start in 2008, which is next year. We cannot wait until 2009 for the committee to report on what the end-point target should be. If we start setting budgets that are based on the wrong assumption, it will be difficult to get back on the right track.

Martin Horwood: Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the lower percentage risks on which the Government and Stern based their assumptions were from the intergovernmental panel on climate change and that there is widespread opinion among scientists that it is a conservative approach? It includes data that is as old as 2004 and does not include some of the more alarming recent science on climate change.

David Howarth: My hon. Friend is right. That is the evidence that the Committees heard. It is generally accepted that that is the case.

My fourth point is on the 2020 interim target. The Bill says that there should be a minimum of 26 per cent. and a maximum of 32 per cent. There is no reason to have a maximum target. The Committees could not understand that. The Government seem to have been persuaded to include that by the CBI on the grounds that we do not want to go too far, but we cannot go too far in tackling climate change. The Government’s latest response is that if we go above 32 per cent., that can be banked for the next period, but that lets the pressure off the next period and we should not do that.

The main point about the carbon budgets is where the debate started and where it has got to. Again, the hon. Member for Bedford is right about that. The debate started as, apparently, a debate about multi-year versus single-year targets—about whether budgets should be set over a multi-year period or a single year—but I think it has now established that we need both. We need a multi-year target to deal with variations and longer-term projects, and also an annual review. The same applies to the financial planning of Government. We have the comprehensive spending review, and we used to have the multi-year financial strategy. We need that kind of longer-term planning, but it does not preclude the need for annual audits: it does not mean that we should stop checking the position year on year.

I am still undecided on whether the multi-year framework should be five years or some other period. The Government have advanced an argument for five years, but a three-year target would be in line with domestic policy and the CSR. Ultimately, we must decide not just how to set the targets but how to fulfil them. According to my many years’ experience of government at local level, if the money is not there, the
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policy is not there either. Policy is governed by money. I think that there is still quite a strong case for a three-year domestic policy cycle.

I want to know why the Government are resisting the notion of an annual debate. Such debates should take a particular form, which I think is what the Government are resisting. We need to check each year whether enough progress has been made. The Government should come to the House and say either “We think that enough progress has been made: we may have missed the target by a bit, but it is not necessary for us to do anything about it” or “We need to change course: here are some proposals.” The Opposition can then say whether they agree that we are on course, or whether they agree with the proposed policy measures.

That would put the Opposition on the spot as much as the Government. The Opposition could not just hang around saying “The Government are not succeeding: they should do better.” They would have to say what they would do instead. I think that an annual process involving a substantive motion, amendable by the Opposition, would sharpen the debate considerably. The fact that the Government oppose the idea strikes me as another example of their unwillingness to cede power.

The issue of the budgeting framework also involves the question of banking and borrowing. I do not agree with the proposition that if the budgets go off course a little, nothing need be done. A proper annual review would prevent the problem from arising, but allowing banking and borrowing simply lets the Government off the hook when it comes to keeping on course over the multiple years.

A further problem with budgeting is the use of foreign credits, which arose in all the Committees. It seems that the Government intend to use foreign credits to get themselves out of a hole when missing targets or budgets. The Committee of which I was a member recommended that the climate change committee should advise on the use of foreign credits and set numerical limits. That, I think, is the key point: while the Government appear to recognise the problem caused by excessive use of foreign credits, they seem unwilling to accept the idea of numerical limits. Again, I think that that is to do with the balance of power between the committee and the Government, and I think that the Government will have to give way.

Other technical matters could be raised, such as the question of legal enforceability, with which I could bore the House for many hours. The matters that I have raised today all relate to the same question: they all relate to whether the Government are willing to give away more power and accept more duties. If they do, their credibility will rise, and their ability to act both internationally and domestically will improve. I urge them to make those changes.

2.54 pm

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) who served with me on the Joint Committee on the draft Climate Change Bill. He underlined a number of issues concerning the Bill which I also wish to address.

Before addressing the detail of the Bill, it is necessary to reflect on what it now represents. I say to those who
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claim that the Queen’s Speech is not visionary and lacks substance that this Bill has an astonishing amount of substance. The architecture will, we hope, last many years and ensure that we move from a profligate carbon-energy economy to a low-energy and low-carbon economy. It provides the means and framework by which we can achieve that. It is right to say that we must get this right and that there might be ways in which we could better move towards achieving our goal, but it is momentous that we will in this coming parliamentary Session be debating—and, hopefully, all agree on—a Bill that achieves that goal.

The Bill sets that architecture up not only in terms of the targets that have been mentioned. It is important that we pay attention, as we have done in Committee and elsewhere, to the question of which target is likely to enable us to get to the point—which must be a global point, not just a national point—that we want to reach: the point above which we start encountering serious feedback effects. The generally recognised level for that is 2°, and therefore talking about degrees rather than percentages might provide us with a more appropriate target in the long term.

There are two important aspects of the architecture. There are the arrangements on carbon budgets so that we can continue to drive down the quantum of carbon year by year—five-year period by five-year period. That is an essential element of the way forward because it is at least theoretically possible to reach one’s targets over particular periods by being extremely profligate in the use of carbon and then shutting everything down for a short time, so that the target will have been met but nothing will have actually been done about the carbon that has been released over that period and which cannot be taken back.

Another important aspect that is substantially covered in the Bill, but which has not received particular mention this afternoon, is the architecture of how we trade carbon in future within Europe and, hopefully, on a worldwide basis. The setting up of a number of protocols relating to how that carbon trading takes place is an important element of the Bill because, among other things, it will create pressure by establishing a value and price for carbon that drive the decisions that will be made within the carbon budget periods. That will help begin to ensure that decisions on different forms of energy use, and different forms of housing and land use, can be based on how carbon is running through the economy rather than just on bottom-line financial arrangements.

It is important that we address the issue of carbon price in the context of another piece of proposed legislation in the Queen’s Speech: the energy Bill. I have mentioned that some people have said there was little vision in the Queen’s Speech. To address that, we need point no further than at other Bills referred to in it that should, can and will back up the Climate Change Bill architecture in terms of moving from a high-carbon to a low-carbon economy.

The context in which the energy Bill is set is that in the next 15 years or so—roughly the period of the first three carbon budgets in the Climate Change Bill—we will need to renew some 40 per cent. of our power stations. All except one of the existing nuclear power stations will be decommissioned, as will a number of gas and coal-fired power stations. One thing that we do
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know is that we cannot replace those power stations with a gas power station economy, because we would simply burst open the carbon targets set in the Climate Change Bill. We also know that, whatever we think about nuclear power, when we have to replace that substantial part of our energy generating supply in that approximately 15-year period, it simply will not ride to the rescue. It will not be generating any power—certainly not by 2020, and probably not even by 2025—unless very different proposals from the current ones on commissioning, planning, justification and so on are introduced, even allowing for the context of the planning Bill, which is also in the Queen’s Speech. In renewing our power supply, the emphasis over the next 15 to 18 years will therefore have to be on renewables or near renewables.

It is at this point that the question of the ends and the means of the Climate Change Bill comes into view. The energy Bill provides a different regime. Renewable obligation certificates encourage different forms of renewable energy to come on to the market, but the decisions that we will have to take about those forms of renewable energy will often be hard ones. Although the full support throughout the Chamber for the Climate Change Bill is most welcome, the reality is that once it is enacted, we will have to consider what we actually do—either with assistance and advice, or through the mechanism of this Chamber—to ensure that those carbon budgets are maintained.

We will undoubtedly face some controversial decisions, such as that on the Severn barrage. I welcome the recent announcement of substantial Government assistance for a feasibility study of the Severn barrage, which, if built, will provide some 5 per cent. of our future energy supplies on a renewable basis. However, its environmental impact on the Severn estuary, wildlife and so on will be controversial, so there will be trade-offs between our ends and our means.

What concerns me is the bad signals emerging from early attempts to ensure that those future trade-offs have a positive impact on climate change. Reference has been made in this Chamber to the fact that the Conservatives are resisting the climate change levy, and the question was asked earlier this afternoon why we need carbon budgeting in the Climate Change Bill.

We also heard a disgraceful depiction of a policy that is being put forward, which is deeply involved with the questions of what we do about climate change and how we organise our lives in such a way as to reduce our carbon emissions and the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions on our environment. I trust that the Climate Change Bill will contain this policy of ensuring that residents who act positively on recycling get rebates from their local authorities, that local authorities have the power to do that and, possibly, that people who take no action on recycling or on ensuring that their waste is managed in a reasonable way face some form of consequence. That relates very much to climate change, because if we do not recycle more, if we do not stop burying our rubbish in the ground, and if we do not use that waste as a resource to remove the sucking in of virgin materials and to ensure that the carbon consequences of that alternative way forward are recognised, we will simply allow our waste arisings
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to become a substantial repository of additional carbon emissions over a very long period of time.

Simply to characterise such a policy as a spy in the bin, a chip in every waste bin and a stealth tax is disgraceful in terms of climate change commitments. I hope that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), who will sum up for Opposition, will dissociate himself from that characterisation. I respect the hon. Gentleman for his knowledge, experience and understanding of environmental matters, and he surely must have been squirming in his seat while that pantomime characterisation of a policy that is essential to an early approach on climate change and waste minimisation was discussed in this Chamber.

This is about means and ends. We must get them both right. I welcome the measures in the Bill that get both of them right.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. The hon. Gentleman’s time is up.

3.6 pm

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Naturally, the essence of any Queen’s Speech is to identify challenges and attempt, through legislation, to address the issues of the day. Casual conversation and my constituency postbag alike convince me that demographic change is one of the most pressing challenges facing our nation. The requirement for a substantial increase in house building, which was discussed earlier, for a much-vaunted educational opportunity Bill and for the further promotion of local transport initiatives has, to a great degree, been dictated by the impact of largely unchecked immigration to these shores since the beginning of the decade.

It is essential that immigration is assessed with a clear vision of the type of country in which we should like to live over the next 20 to 30 years. It is an uncomfortable truth that the British people have never been consulted, or honestly informed, about the scale of demographic change in this country over recent decades. We now need a long-term strategy that will both promote our economic welfare and enhance the quality of life and social cohesion for all.

The mainstream political consensus over the past decade or so has been that the UK should play a full part in a free-market, free-trade global economy. I subscribe to that consensus along, I suspect, with many hon. Members. Given our history of political stability, our culture of openness and the benefits that arise from world business adopting our mother tongue as its lingua franca, ours is also a country to which many people seeking asylum from political turmoil will come. As a result, the political decision has been made enthusiastically to embrace skilled and hard-working people wishing to settle here from both outside and within the European Union.

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