Previous Section Index Home Page


9 Jun 2008 : Column 104

Mr. Maples: I expect that you will be corralled into it, too, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Let us take three points. Over the past 150 years, sea levels have risen by about 30 cm, which is the predicted rise for the next 100 years. Okay, it will happen slightly quicker, but we coped with that rise perfectly easily over the past 150 years so we can cope with it over the next 100 years. Secondly, we have urban heat islands. In cities, temperatures have risen considerably. The temperature in London has risen between 4 and 6° C since 1950, as it has in Los Angeles, Tokyo and other places. It is a fact of urbanisation called the global heat island effect. We know how to deal with that. If we are richer, we can have air conditioning. We know that if we put in more parks, water and trees in cities, we can cool them considerably. We know how to do that. We can adapt to that very successfully.

Hugh Bayley: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maples: No, I am sorry. I want to make these points myself.

We are a very adaptable people, and we can achieve much more by pursuing economic growth, and as we are richer, applying the technology that we have and that we develop to deal with these issues.

In the 2003 heatwave, there was a huge amount of publicity concerning the 2,000 additional heat-related deaths in London, but every year 25,000 people die of cold in the winter. It is not just a one-way street—there are benefits of global warming as well as costs, and those are never taken into account in the visions with which we are presented.

The whole intellectual underpinning of the Government’s policy is the Stern review. It was conscripted after they had come to their conclusions, which perhaps accounts for the methodology that Stern has used, and it has been comprehensively taken apart, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) says. Stern is accused of exaggerating the science. A review by some very distinguished people in World Economics states:

Professor Nordhaus, whom my hon. Friend quoted, said in the Yale symposium at which Stern was present:

That is the rub. Stern has exaggerated the damages that will be caused. The hon. Member for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) shakes his head, but he should read the Yale symposium document cover to cover. He will find that those criticisms are in there, and they are very trenchant indeed.

Mr. Tyrie: I have the Yale symposium document, and I completely agree with what my hon. Friend just said. Could he set out his view of the fact that Stern writes in no value at all for pure-time discounting?

Mr. Maples: The main criticism of the Stern review is the discount rate that it uses. It is quite difficult to work out what it is because Stern does not tell us, but, working backwards, it looks like about 1.3 or 1.4 per cent.
9 Jun 2008 : Column 105
He gets that from saying that the value of our generation and the one living in 3,000 years’ time is the same—there should be no pure-time discounting at all. He uses 0.1 per cent., but that is as close to zero as makes no difference. The Government’s policy is based on Stern, and because he uses a time discount rate of 0.1 per cent., 5 per cent. of the benefits accrue more than 3,000 years in the future, with 93 per cent. accruing more than 200 years in the future. That cannot be a sensible basis for making policy. I am concerned about my children and the world that they live in, and about my grandchildren and the world that they live in, but I do not think that any of us are concerned about the generations that are going to be alive in 3,000 years’ time. That is what we are being asked to pay for now.

Stern further compounds that error by saying that a sacrifice of 10 per cent. of one’s income is the same to a rich person as it is to a poor person. That is effectively what he does, because the world will be much richer in 100 years’ time than we are now, but he thinks that we should pay the costs now rather than leave richer generations to pay them in the future. That is like saying that in 1800 we should have legislated to make people living in dreadful conditions in the industrial revolution sacrifice part of their income so that we would not have the problems that we do 200 years later. That is the logic of the argument.

On top of that, Stern uses an incredibly low interest rate. The Treasury’s benchmark for real returns on capital is 3.5 per cent., that of the World Bank is 8 to 10 per cent. and most American corporations achieve approximately 7 per cent., but Stern uses 1.3 or 1.4 per cent. Of course, such a figure makes future damage much more expensive than a higher figure. If one uses a figure of 4 per cent., the consequences are far fewer. A discount rate of 1.4 per cent. makes $1,650 in 200 years’ time worth $100 now, whereas a 4 per cent. discount makes it worth 55c. One can take one’s pick, but there is a huge gulf. Stern has picked interest rates at the lowest possible end of the spectrum.

Stern also compares one possible solution with doing nothing. One would expect such a study to compare a range of solutions. The most important IPCC scenario that he left out assumed high growth and lower fossil fuel usage—exactly the policy that we all want to pursue. He picked and chose his scenarios and his data, and he chose a low interest rate.

The only argument for acting radically now is if there is a tipping point—a point of no return. None of the scientists whom I have read predicts that.

Some man-made warming is going on. It is worth taking action now: a price mechanism through carbon tax, energy efficiency and nuclear power are worth pursuing, especially nuclear power. Research into alternative power sources—fusion, carbon capture and adaptive strategies—is also worth conducting. The Stern review is worth recasting along the lines that I suggested. However, if we go down the road that we are following, we sacrifice a huge amount—perhaps 1 or 2 per cent. of GDP—now and for ever, for a problem, most of the consequences of which will not be felt for 200 years.

8.41 pm

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I welcome the Bill and I accept that human activity is affecting the climate adversely. I am not a flat-earther
9 Jun 2008 : Column 106
and I welcome the Government’s leadership, especially that of the then Deputy Prime Minister at Kyoto. However, I do not accept tonight’s cosy consensus.

The cuts in CO2 emissions are measured against a 1990 baseline up to 2050. We are 30 per cent. of the way into that period, and there has been roughly a 30 per cent. change in CO2 emissions on a world level in that time. However, it is a 30 per cent. increase, not a 30 per cent. cut. United Kingdom per capita emissions are up since 2000. According to the National Audit Office, the Government have increased their emissions. Between 2003-06, the Department for Transport showed a 50 per cent. increase in emissions; between 2000-06, the Department for Constitutional Affairs showed a 66 per cent. increase; and the Department for Work and Pensions—the second biggest consumer of energy in the civil estate—increased its emissions by 14 per cent. between 2000-06.

Oil prices have increased massively, not because production has decreased but because demand has increased—we are burning more of the stuff. We need to consider what has to be done to get anywhere. The Paris-based International Energy Agency told the Bali conference on climate change that in the world we need 30 new nuclear power plants, 17,000 wind turbines, 400 biomass power plants, two hydroelectric dams, each the size of the Three Gorges project in China, and 42 coal or natural gas plants using carbon capture or storage if we are to cut emissions by 50 per cent. by 2050. We need all that by 2013, and we need it every year from 2013 until 2030.

We have heard arguments in the Chamber and outside about an 80 per cent. cut. They are presented with the best intentions. However, it is not a piddling up the wall contest, but reality. I say to hon. Members, “Wake up and smell the coffee.” We are not going to achieve 80 per cent.—it will be hard to reach 60 per cent., if we consider the number of air trips our constituents make or the simple fact that most Members and their staff will not even turn off the lights in the toilets in Portcullis House.

I learned about greenhouse gas effects at university in 1974. By that token, many hon. Members are speaking with the zeal of recent converts. The 80 per cent. figure represents gesture politics, albeit from the best intentions. As far as I know, the youngest Member is the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who was here earlier. In 2050, she will be 70 years old. It is unlikely that she will be an active politician then.

There has been an over-emphasis in this debate, with 17 Back-Bench speeches before mine, on causes. Of course causes are important, but in opening the debate, the Minister almost spent longer on plastic bags than on adaptation, which many hon. Members know I have a thing about. It was the same with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers.

The under-emphasis on dealing with the effects is nonsense, because the effects will come anyway, almost regardless of whatever we do, because we are responsible for only 2 per cent. of emissions. Yes, we need to show leadership, but the effects are coming anyway. Amazingly, I have a lot of sympathy with the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) on the unilateralist approach, which could mean that we take our eye off the ball on the adaptation that we need to engage in.


9 Jun 2008 : Column 107

Various agencies and others are getting their teeth into adaptation, but not the Government, or at least not enough. They include the Environment Agency, the Association of British Insurers, the European Union, which has produced an excellent report, the Met Office, the British Beekeepers Association, the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, the Wildlife Trusts, the Local Government Association, the Oxford Research Group and so on. Lots of people are doing stuff on adaptation, but the Government have just one clause on it, following my private Member’s Bill. That clause, which was clause 37 in the draft Bill, has, thank goodness, been expanded to 14 clauses, after what was inserted in the Lords, in order to adapt to the climate change that has already started and which will get worse, whether we on this small island go for 50, 60 or 80 per cent.

Those effects mean the effects on wildlife, plants, food production and pests and of diseases such as malaria coming to this country, and they will affect issues such as building design and planning regulations; roads and railways, with rails buckling in the heat; water supply, with a need for new reservoirs; what we have to do about coastal defences with rising sea levels; inland flooding, which we saw dramatically last year and which will only get worse; possible civil unrest and its security implications, which other countries and, potentially, we will face; and international development. That is an entire adaptation agenda, which has been almost completely overlooked not only in this debate, but for all the time that we have been talking about climate change.

I have been campaigning on adaptation for two years. The Government are starting to get it, but like Dickens’s Oliver, I want a bit more. Specifically, I want a bit more than the Minister spending 35 or 40 minutes opening the debate, but spending just two minutes on adaptation. There needs to be a whole lot more on adaptation, because adaptation is within our control. World emissions are not within our control, and only a complete ostrich or fantasy altruist would think that they were. Of course we try to show a way, but adaptation is much more important, because it is about what happens on these islands.

It would be much better if the relevant clauses in the Bill asked for three-yearly reports, not five-yearly reports. I do not want five-yearly reports on adaptation; I want three-yearly reports. I want the first report within one year, not within three years. And for goodness’ sake, why do we have a sub-committee of the Committee on Climate Change dealing with adaptation, when it is at least as important to deal with the effects in this country as it is to deal with the causes? I say this to the Minister here now: it is complete nonsense to have a sub-committee dealing with adaptation. We need the full membership of the Committee on Climate Change to deal not only with causes, but with effects.

8.48 pm

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): I welcome the Bill on behalf of Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party. I am speaking in this debate as a substitute. Had the circumstances and timing been different, my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) would be speaking. He is hoping for a place on the Public Bill Committee.


9 Jun 2008 : Column 108

Combating climate change has been a central part of my party’s policy and that of the SNP for many years. Indeed, a former colleague in this place, Cynog Dafis, who has spoken eloquently on such matters, was the first to reach the House of Commons on an overtly green ticket, being elected in 1992 as the official Plaid Cymru and Green party MP for Ceredigion.

The Bill, if strengthened by Lords amendments and any amendments accepted in Committee, will be a major step towards preventing catastrophic climate change. The Bill commands wide support and has been the subject of much of the mail that I have received in the past few years. From speaking with other hon. Members, I know that my constituents in Caernarfon are no different from those in other parts of Wales and the UK. Furthermore, the Bill is supported by a wide range of campaigning bodies, academics and non-governmental organisations.

Only this morning, I received a further brief from Friends of the Earth. As far as I am concerned, it is also important that Christian Aid has made climate change a foremost element in its campaign to eradicate poverty and injustice. Last October, I was proud to walk with thousands of other people from City Hall through central London to St. Paul’s in support of the 18 marchers who had walked 1,000 miles in the “Cut the Carbon” march. There was a great deal of public support for that.

We in Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party support the key changes that the United Nations Development Programme has said are necessary, particularly the overall target for an 80 per cent. cut in emissions by 2050. Mindful of comments made today, we also support the shorter-term targets and, indeed, the very short-term targets of the three years mentioned by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris). We also support the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions, although I note the Minister’s earlier statement. I am a signatory of early-day motion 736. As it states, if the Bill were applied to every developed country without those elements, global temperatures would rise well beyond the 2° C limit. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us her estimation of the rise in temperature if we stick only to the 60 per cent. target. Friends of the Earth has said:

Climate change is not a concern limited to enthusiasts. Some people in my constituency are very concerned. I recently met a constituent, Mrs. Gaffey, who has a waste disposal firm and was concerned about the effect of climate change. She wondered about the availability of landfill in the constituency and pointed out that her firm had been recycling as much as possible for many years in order to limit the use of landfill and also because she was concerned about the effect on the environment. We support mandatory reporting of carbon emissions by business. It would be good if business reported greenhouse gas emissions simply as a matter of good practice, but transparency and standardisation in reporting is essential, as there is a lack of quantifiable, publicly available information.

Briefly, on the devolutionary aspects of the Bill, I note in passing that Welsh coal powered much of the industrialisation of the 19th century and that we share
9 Jun 2008 : Column 109
some of the responsibility for it. We also welcome the Bill’s recognition of potential differences across the UK, and the House should note that the Scottish Parliament is already in the process of producing its own climate change Bill to drive change towards an 80 per cent. reduction in respect of all six greenhouse gases. We look forward to the Bill being presented to the Scottish Parliament towards the end of the year.

As to Wales, we welcome the provisions for consulting on targets and budgets and on reporting requirements and guidelines for local authorities. We also welcome the possibility of establishing trading schemes within Wales and we certainly want to see the Committee on Climate Change giving advice to all UK Administrations. We are certain that the concordat on roles and responsibilities must be strong, clear and detailed.

8.53 pm

Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): It is valuable to hear sceptical voices in the debate, because when there is a consensus it is important to test the arguments to the limit. I would not criticise anyone who has put forward a contrary point of view. I would ask those on each side of the debate to ask themselves, “What if I am wrong?” The consequence of taking urgent and drastic action now, which I propose we should, may have an economic cost, but it will bring in return a lower dependence on finite fossil energy resources. There will be an increase in resource efficiency, which will improve the atmosphere and biodiversity as a result. To me, those are desirable outcomes.

Along with the science and the effects on the environment, we should take some other considerations into account. One of those is growth in the earth’s population, which is already past 6 billion and forecast to be 9 billion by 2050—more mouths to feed, more demands on limited resources, and more demands for wealth, jobs and the ability to buy things. We must take that challenge into consideration. The further challenge is that while we deliberate on what action to take, investment decisions are being made about the future. We are in danger of laying down a second carbon economy while we decide what action should have been taken. That is another reason why urgent action is required.

On the crucial issue of the targets for 2020 and 2050, and the other issues between us, I ask people to bear in mind the fact that the eventual wording of the Bill, which is a forerunner and the first of its kind in the world, will determine the credibility of the final law with people beyond the Chamber, and with UK citizens whom we want to change their behaviour in order to contribute to a low-carbon future. It will also determine our credibility in the eyes of other countries and Governments around the world whom we want to follow our example, and of those who make investment decisions on whether to go for a carbon or low-carbon future. In the years that follow our decision on the Bill, those investment flows will make the biggest difference to the future. I therefore ask for cautious wording to be adopted on the crucial issues that have been dividing us tonight.

The Bill has just the one instrument: emissions trading. It is important to bear it in mind, however, that the Bill anticipates not just one emissions trading scheme, but a whole series in this country and hopefully around the world. If the Stern approach to achieving a low-carbon future through the price of carbon is adopted, it is
9 Jun 2008 : Column 110
important that emissions trading schemes are successful and credible with markets. As other Members want to speak, I have insufficient time to discuss the tools that are not in the Bill. Clearly, however, when we announce a carbon budget next year, and an action plan for five years, all those other instruments—economic instruments, regulation, education, publicity and, hopefully, media support—will come into play.

On the specific issue of power generation, 30 years ago Germany chose the route of a feed-in tariff to promote greater renewables use, whereas this country chose the route of obligations—the non-fossil fuel obligation, and now the renewables and renewable transport fuel obligations. I do not say that they were right and we were wrong, but given this summer’s consultation about feed-in tariffs, and all that we have said about smart meters during consideration of the Energy Bill, I hope that this country can at least graft those on to our existing tools as part of our solution.


Next Section Index Home Page