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9 Jun 2008 : Column 92

Clause 80, which was inserted in the House of Lords, strikes me as a sensible clause. I would hope that my hon. Friend the Minister would make that a workable and effective clause. If we are to make real progress in addressing climatic change, we need a complete cultural shift in society. That shift must come at all levels—at a personal level, in industry, in the public sector and in the private sector. We have to do that.

I agree with some of the points that were made about the need for this country to give leadership. This country has given leadership over many years in raising the issue, making the scientific arguments and offering a top-quality scientific base through the technical arguments. I have seen the respect that this country is given in international negotiations as recently as the meeting in Kobe of G8 Environment Ministers. We have influence and people look to us for a lead. There is no doubt that developing countries will not move unless they see the developed countries taking climate change seriously and putting in place the essential measures.

On a small part of that cultural shift, I disagree with some of the comments about the measures on waste and recycling. We need maximum flexibility in how we deal with such things. There is an argument not only for charging—I take the argument that we do not have to charge, as we can also offer incentives—but for introducing more imaginative ways of encouraging people to recycle more. Recycling is about reducing energy, and reducing energy is about reducing emissions. We should not forget that. It does not help the all-party approach that has been talked about to attack such measures, just as it does not help to attack the idea of congestion charging. Some of the measures that we will have to put in place will not be easy and they will not always be popular, but they are part of the cultural change that we need.

In that respect, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will try to make the Bill’s capacity to accommodate new measures as flexibly as possible. New measures will arise, and the Government will need to respond quickly and flexibly. This is an opportunity to pass empowering legislation that gives the Government that flexibility. There is a possibility of a range of actions. I very much support the idea of measures such as individual carbon allowances. I accept that its time has not yet come; it is a very radical approach. Nevertheless, elements of it could be applied to an aspect of our society, such as the purchasing of fuel or energy, for example. That also has the benefit of a very strong element of social justice, in the sense that those people who are not great energy users—whether petrol or other fuel—will have a financial advantage compared with those who are big energy users. We should not rule out such approaches; we need the flexibility to adapt.

There may well be some movement on, for example, sectoral approaches—not exactly popular with many other countries around the world. However, that might address problems in our energy-intensive sectors, such as steel, that are exposed to global competition. It will do nothing for the environment if steelworks cannot compete in a global environment and their capacity simply switches from this country to a developing country. There would be no environmental gain. That is not to say that we should not encourage efficiencies, productivity and innovation, but perhaps a sectoral approach is one way of doing that, whereby technology transfer and energy-efficiency knowledge can be shared among sectors
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and developing countries can gain from the experience of developed countries. My hon. Friend the Minister knows all about the discussions that have taken place internationally on such issues. They are not easy, just as discussions on a global stabilisation goal are not easy, as he said, but that is a prerequisite to an overall target.

I disagree with hon. Members who talked about absolute target figures, year on year. The idea of carbon budgets is a much better approach, because it gets into people’s minds the way that we have to go: to budget for carbon, to put a value on carbon and for all of us to be aware of our impact. In that respect, I strongly support the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Colin Challen) about the fact that there should be annual carbon budgets, which should be treated in the same way as the annual fiscal Budget, so that the Government’s annual carbon budget for the country is open and transparent for the future.

7.52 pm

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who has given one of the most practical and realistic speeches in the debate so far. Having studied physics at Cambridge before going on to study economics, I approach the science and, to a greater extent, the economics of global-warming alarmism with a degree of scepticism. None the less, I am predisposed to curb hydrocarbon use and CO2 emissions because my scepticism may prove unwarranted; it is sensible to seek more secure and plentiful sources of energy, and we have a duty of stewardship to the planet.

Above all, because I spent last year and the year before studying global poverty, it is clear to me that, if climate change is significantly man-made, the men and women who did not make it are the poor people of this world. Yet they will suffer most from it, and they more than anyone need to increase their energy consumption if they are to grow and prosper. So I accept that developed countries, including the UK, should bear a major share of the burden of prevention of or adaptation to climate change. However, any measure that we introduce must pass two tests—the same two tests that we apply to any Bill. First, the benefits, even if they accrue to other people, must be greater than the costs, even if they are all incurred by us. Secondly, the measures must be effective, rather than just demonstrative.

The Minister did not mention the final impact assessment, except in response to my intervention, yet it shows that both the costs and the benefits of the measures that he proposes are immense—so immense that it is astonishing that the House has got this far in the debate without considering them. According to the Government, the potential benefits lie in the range of £82 billion to £110 billion, but the potential costs lie in an even larger range, from £30 billion up to £205 billion. The net benefit, they say, could be £52 billion positive, but it could be as much as £95 billion negative.

The Government admit that the method that they employ in their final impact assessment

and is

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In other words, their estimates are the lowest possible and ignore quite significant costs.

Those costs are not trivial. The Government’s own figures say that

which are not included in their figure of up to £205 billion,

On the trade and competitiveness impact, which, again, is not taken into account in their costs, they say:

They go on to quote the IPCC, whose research found

if they are pursued asymmetrically—that is, unilaterally by us, without others doing the same. We could end up bearing the cost of driving UK business abroad, which is not included in the Government’s figures, without reducing carbon emissions—because, of course, those industries abroad would still be spewing forth carbon.

Martin Horwood: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the Institute of Public Policy Research report that considered the various Government models for calculating costs and said that, even if 2 or 3 per cent. of GDP in 2050 had been expended in an attempt to meet the 80 per cent.,

So surely he is talking about a marginal amount in the end.

Mr. Lilley: Professor Stern said that, if global warming goes ahead and causes all the damage that he anticipates, the world will be only four times as rich by the end of the century as it is now, not fives times, as it would be if we cured global warming. The hon. Gentleman should first take that on board.

The Government’s report moves on to benefits, and it is very terse, saying only:

They are using that figure to calculate benefits, without mentioning that virtually all those benefits will fall outside this country. I accept that we ought to be acting to help others. None the less, we ought to point out what we propose to do, who will bear the costs and who will get the benefits. A document that does not do that is not worthy of acceptance by the House.

David Howarth: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware, of course, that the shadow price of carbon approach has been heavily criticised by a number of economists, and the Government are on the verge of abandoning it.

Mr. Lilley: That is as may be, but that is a criticism of the Government, not of me. I am only quoting what the Government have told us and how they have assessed things.

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The second test is how effective the measures are likely to be. We know that current policies are not working: CO2 emissions are not perceptibly lower than they were in 1997, when the Government were elected. Moreover, the target measure does not include aviation emissions, which have been rising, so CO2 emissions are actually higher now than when the Government were elected. A UN report said that Britain’s national target of reducing CO2 emissions to 20 per cent. below its 1990 levels by 2010 is now unlikely to be met, and that the outcome is likely to be about half of that. Again, that is without taking into account aviation and shipping emissions.

It is extraordinary that although the Government have failed to meet the modest targets that they inherited and set themselves, we now hope that we can compel Governments, by statute, to meet far more demanding targets. It is a bit like suggesting that we can legislate for better weather, but not quite as extreme as that. It might be presumed that the Government would impose sanctions, but what are they? On closer inspection, there are no sanctions for failure to meet the targets. If the Government fail to make the 26 per cent. reduction by 2020, the Minister will not be clapped in irons. If by 2050 we fail to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent., there will not be a condign punishment for the Prime Minister of the day.

The sole effect of enshrining the targets in statute will be that the Government’s policies will be open to judicial review. Judges will be asked to assess whether measures introduced will be likely to be effective in ensuring that targets are met. I do not have a great deal of faith in the ability of Ministers of this Government, or perhaps any Government, to meet the targets, but the idea that judges should decide on policies costing billions of pounds, without being accountable to the electorate for the billions that they might decide need to be incurred, fills me with foreboding.

It is pretty daft to suppose that merely passing laws can help to bind us to, or help us meet, targets, but it is dafter still to suppose that passing laws can make other countries follow us. The Bill is unilateralist, and just as I was suspicious of unilateral disarmament, I am suspicious of measures that require us unilaterally to incur huge costs, regardless of whether others do likewise. I remind hon. Members that the UK accounts for only 2 per cent. of world emissions, so even if we achieved our targets the contribution would be negligible as far as global warming is concerned, whereas the impact on the UK economy would be crippling.

There is, of course, merit in setting an example and taking a lead, but what if no one follows? No one has mentioned a most extraordinary development that took place last Friday, when a Democratic measure in Congress, which was intended to embarrass President Nixon by requiring emissions targets—

Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): Bush.

Mr. Lilley: Yes, President Bush; I am a bit behind the times. Many people equate the two. The Democratic measure collapsed. It was not possible to get sufficient support from Democrats. To imagine that the US will follow in our slipstream is the simplest moonshine. If
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we pass this measure, we should at the very least ensure that it has binding effect only if a sufficient number of developed countries follow us—and that, I think, is unlikely to happen.

Martin Horwood: The right hon. Gentleman is very kind to give way to me a second time. Does he accept that California has already pledged to make an 80 per cent. reduction on 1990 levels? It is setting an example, and it is one of the most industrialised and richest economies in the United States.

Mr. Lilley: Great; I do not doubt that some countries have taken action, and others will do so, but only if a sufficient number does should we make the targets binding on ourselves and commit ourselves to up to £205 billion of expenditure at net present value or more, for benefits that may be less than that.

There was mention of the shadow carbon price. When all the measures were being thought about, the price of crude oil was about a third of what it is now. There is general agreement that the best way to reduce carbon use is to set a carbon price that reflects future costs. If we consider the Government’s assessment of the cost of ensuring reductions, the current price of crude oil does the trick. Their assessment and the calculations in their impact assessment assume that the high cost relative to the base cost produces an extra one-third reduction in emissions. That “high cost” was a crude price of $72 a barrel by 2020. The price is already nearly twice that; it will presumably produce two thirds extra emissions cuts. It will help us to meet the targets without the binding commitments to policies that may be damaging to British industry, costly to British taxpayers, and additional to the huge burden that they already bear by paying the high price of crude oil. I hope that Members will show a considerably greater degree of scepticism towards the Bill in its later stages in the House than they have done today.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. I point out to all right hon. and hon. Members that the time limit imposed on Back Benchers’ speeches is seven minutes, with effect from now.

8.5 pm

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): I warmly welcome the Bill as an environmentalist and an economist. I congratulate the civil society campaign that made the case for such legislation, and I should especially like to mention the Friends of the Earth’s Big Ask campaign. There is great public interest in the measure; I have held three public meetings on the subject in my constituency in the past year, each attended by more than 100 people. I agree with what many Members have said in this debate: the greatest responsibility for cutting emissions must rest with developed countries, because we are the largest emitters. It is the stock of carbon in the atmosphere that is warming the planet, not the emissions made year by year, and our country—the first to industrialise—and others like it have been large emitters for two centuries.

One of the consequences of the Kyoto treaty is that we tend to focus on the responsibility of states to cut emissions, and of course they must do so, but sometimes
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that obscures the fact that a state’s emissions are simply the aggregate of the emissions of the people in that state. It is important that we stress each person’s responsibility to reduce their carbon footprint.

Last autumn, I was asked to make a speech in India about the need to reduce emissions. It is a difficult place in which to make such a speech, because the Indians simply point the finger at us and say, “Your emissions are far higher than ours. This is a problem that you’ve created; you solve it.” However, one has to remember that the emissions of rich people in India are broadly the same as the emissions of people in this country. Per person, the emissions of the richest 10 per cent. of people in cities in India are 10 times that of the rural poor in India. The former have washing machines, air conditioning, refrigerators and cars, just as we do, so it is not just a matter of pointing the finger at the rich world.

I should like to respond to the points made by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) about the danger that, if we enact such legislation, we will undermine the UK’s competitive position. To an extent, he answered the charge himself, because with oil at $150 a barrel, becoming less carbon-dependent would surely make this country more competitive. It is also morally right to take action. When this country abolished the slave trade, we put our country at a commercial disadvantage, but it was the right thing to do. When we abolished child labour, the same charge could have been made; it could have been said that we were undermining the profitability of British industry. Nevertheless, it was the right thing to do.

Mr. Maples: After the Bill abolishing slavery was passed by the House, the British Navy patrolled the Atlantic, stopping other countries indulging in the slave trade. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we do the same with global warming?

Hugh Bayley: No, I do not suggest that we do the same with global warming, because a British frigate cannot stop what a rich person in Los Angeles does. I make the point—and I stick to it—that we should do the right thing, and we should take a lead. We cannot expect other countries to participate in reducing carbon emissions unless we, as a large emitter, lead by example.

Global warming is caused largely by emissions from countries such as ours, but its impact is felt mostly by people in poor developing countries. The Government set a target of an average increase in temperatures of no more than 2º C by the middle of the current century, but we must be aware that averages are sometimes misleading. If I put my head in the fire and my feet in the fridge, on average it is quite a comfortable temperature, but it is not a comfortable way to exist. An average increase in temperatures of 2º C will mean an increase of much less than 2º C over the oceans and much more than 2º C in the centre of continents, because the land heats up faster.

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