Previous Section Index Home Page

28 Oct 2008 : Column 753

Mr. Lilley: Do I understand from my right hon. Friend’s logic that, while there is a case for being ahead, if others do not follow us we should cease to give leadership, and that therefore a Bill that binds us unilaterally, by law, to targets 42 years ahead goes too far?

Mr. Gummer: No, I do not agree with that. If I may say so, I think that my right hon. Friend is entirely wrong. The world is faced with the biggest threat that we have ever known about in advance, and for us not to take these measures would constitute a deep dereliction of our duty to this generation, the next generation and the generation after that.

I must tell my right hon. Friend that I deeply disagree with the approach that if no one else helps as we go over the precipice, we had better run with them. That is a totally unacceptable position. We must stand up. That is why the Bill is so important, why the Conservative party supported it from the beginning, why it is a triumph of cross-party agreement that we have secured it, and why it is so important to tighten it up in the areas that it does not currently cover. But to do that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We must not get more than two steps ahead in moving towards Third Reading.

Mr. Gummer: With accustomed care, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you enabled me to get off my chest what I needed to, but did not allow me to proceed too far down that avenue, and I shall not do so.

Let me return to the difference between shipping and aviation. I ask the Minister to concentrate on shipping. Shipping can provide the most carbon-efficient mechanism for transporting goods, and we therefore must take care in how we deal with it. However, it is not like aviation in a number of other ways. First, the EU trading scheme does not easily apply to shipping; it is difficult to see how we can use that as a mechanism in the same way as we can with aviation. Secondly, a great deal can be achieved in the shipping industry through taking steps that are not open to the aviation industry. For example, if it were demanded that over a short period ships increasingly used a higher quality of fuel, that could rapidly reduce the carbon impact, but that step is not open to aviation in the same way or over the same time scale.

5 pm

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I have been listening to his comments with great care, and I agree with much of what he has said. With regard to the point he has just made, does he agree that it is important for the Government to be in deep dialogue with the International Maritime Organisation about addressing such matters? It would be helpful if the Minister were to describe the sort of discussions that she has had with the IMO.

Mr. Gummer: The hon. Gentleman is right, and I pressed the Minister earlier about this issue, because there is a feeling abroad that we have not been sufficiently hard-working in this area and that we have failed to produce as much pressure as we should. It is thought that perhaps we should ginger up our role in international shipping, because we do not want the EU to set proper standards for the kind of fuel that is provided for, and
28 Oct 2008 : Column 754
used by, ships docking at its ports, including Felixstowe in my constituency, only to find that they therefore unload outside the EU, such as in Morocco or Turkey. We need to find ways of achieving the ends we want without producing untoward results, but that does not excuse us from being seen to be an effective pressure on the international shipping community, which in many respects wishes to be pressed and wants to move. The Government must show that they are doing that.

My last point on this issue refers to a question raised by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb). He talked about the need to include shipping and aviation as a matter of equity. That may be the case, but I think there is a more important reason: if we do not have a system that covers the whole of commercial and industrial life, we will automatically create damaging kinds of discrimination and diversion. There is a commercial reason for doing this, and we ought to be citing it; otherwise, there will be untoward consequences. If we leave out shipping and aviation, not only will other areas be disproportionately affected, but if the carbon costs of imports are not included businesses that rely on imports will be able to compete disproportionately with businesses that manufacture at home.

I do not want to be protectionist, but I do want to have equality in this commercial context, so that we ensure that the home-produced product—whether it be food, an area in which I am particularly interested, or manufactured goods—is not disproportionately affected because those businesses are paying the cost of the carbon that they use, whereas other businesses are not paying the cost of the carbon that is used when their product is flown or shipped in from a far-away country. I therefore beg the Minister to take seriously the point that this is not only a matter of theoretical equality, much as I believe in that as an issue. It is a matter of commercial justice and a crucial one for an island that has lost much of its manufacturing ability and ought to gain much back.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): My right hon. Friend has just put forward a very good case against unilateralism in shipping and aviation, as those industries would be adversely affected by it. I cannot understand why he feels that those industries should be protected from unilateralism but other parts of industry should not be protected from it elsewhere in the Bill.

Mr. Gummer: I have obviously not made myself very clear to my hon. Friend. I was making the point that if we do not include those two industries in the Bill there will be untoward results because they are excluded. In fact, I was making the opposite argument.

My hon. Friend is a doubter about whether we should be doing all this at all, and the reason for his doubt is that he has not committed himself to the scientific view of the damage that climate change is likely to bring and the fact that human beings are causing it. I understand that someone who takes that view can argue that we really ought to sit back and wait for someone else to do something, because it does not matter anyway. In my view, which is based on the scientific advice, it matters desperately and may matter much more than we think.

We therefore have to act rapidly and achieve a delicate and difficult balance by acting sufficiently unilaterally to lead but not going so far as to make it difficult for
28 Oct 2008 : Column 755
others to follow by giving them an advantage that they do not want to give up. It is quite a delicate step, and the Government are trying to do that. We as an Opposition have a duty to support them in so far as they are, and they ought to give us a bit more help in supporting them by making clear what they are doing practically to make the amendments a reality.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I welcome new clause 15 and pay tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East and Saddleworth (Mr. Woolas) not only on the Bill but on raising the issue of aviation and shipping on the international stage. We all know that that is where it has to be raised.

We recognise the need to count in the emissions from aviation and shipping, but we all accept that calculating how to apportion them to individual countries is fraught with difficulty. As our Climate Change Bill is often referred to as a world first, it is crucial that we include aviation and shipping. We do not want to give other people the idea that those matters can be left out of legislation. They should be included because we need to raise consciousness among many other nations that may follow suit by producing similar legislation. However, we realise that there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to reach an international agreement about how any mechanism might work, and we still need to work hard on the international stage in many other spheres. We all recognise that what we do here can be worth while only if it is mirrored elsewhere in the world.

We certainly might be able to use a system involving sectoral emissions, but we must remember that one problem with the EU emissions trading system is that we sometimes lose manufacturing industry from this country because it relocates to a country where the emissions trading scheme does not require it to meet our standards. We may find that, in the aviation and shipping industries, transport routes and refuelling stops become much more about avoiding the emissions being counted than about producing the lowest possible emissions.

Our Bill is also important because we do not see it merely as a legal sanction. Once we have exceeded targets, it is too late—those emissions are out there and causing damage. We should see the Bill as an important monitoring tool and as a process rather than as an end in itself.

John Hemming: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Nia Griffith: I shall give way, but if the matter is about oil, I suspect that you would prefer me not to refer to it at this stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

John Hemming: I find it somewhat confusing when we talk about shipping emissions. A significant point about shipping is that the consumption of energy is linked to the fourth power of the velocity, which is an important reason why it is possible to reduce shipping emissions. However, all these things are powered by oil. If we do not take any view about whether we need a constant supply of oil, there will be a problem.

28 Oct 2008 : Column 756

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady was prescient. Obviously, we want to have a good debate, but we have a formidable Order Paper before us and we need also to make reasonable progress.

Nia Griffith: This issue is about counting and monitoring, which is why it is important that we include mechanisms in the Bill such as making provision on advice and listening to the Committee on Climate Change. Those are the tools that we are using. The monitoring and reporting processes, and the targets that we put in place, will make us think about how we achieve the necessary reductions in emissions and how we create a low-carbon economy.

Motor manufacturers came to the Joint Committee on the draft Climate Change Bill saying, “You tell us what we have to do and when we have to do it by, and we will need to take decisive actions.” The same applies in respect of aviation and shipping; they need to be included in international debate, because we need to set the parameters on an international scale. If enough of the powerful economies say that ships can come to their countries only if they meet X, Y and Z conditions, a sea change—if I may say that—will begin to take place in how boats and ships are fuelled.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): We are about a quarter of the way into the period from 1990—the base year—to 2050. In the first 15 years of that period, the UK cut its CO2 emissions by 6.4 per cent. Does my hon. Friend think that we can include aviation and shipping and make 80 per cent. cuts by 2050, or does she think that that is fantasy politics?

Nia Griffith: I think that we need the mechanism of the Bill in order to give us determination. My hon. Friend rightly points out that we have so far lagged behind in making ourselves take the action that will produce the emissions cuts that we all want, and that is the area in which we must move forward. As I say, we cannot make progress on this issue simply on a national basis, but it is important that new clause 15 is included in the Bill to send a clear message to the rest of the world. We will have to continue to use it as a tool both internally in the UK and in our external negotiations. That is why it is important that the wording of new clause 15 not only gives us a certain flexibility, but sets out clearly that aviation and shipping must form part of the advice that we must take in order to move forward and choose what we are going to do to reduce our emissions and meet targets, rather than exceed them.

Mr. Yeo: I declare an interest that is in the register: I am a director of Eurotunnel, which provides a low-carbon transport route between Britain and the continent.

I warmly welcome the Government new clauses that we are debating and the Government’s acceptance of amendment No. 72, just as I welcomed the Bill on Second Reading in the summer. The Minister knows that, like me, the Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair, would much prefer the Government to go further and faster in relation to both aviation and shipping. I particularly hope that the Government will be—or will continue to be—in the forefront of efforts to bring aviation into the European Union emissions trading scheme on a basis that really drives carbon prices to a
28 Oct 2008 : Column 757
level that will incentivise investment in low-carbon infrastructure, encourage the faster introduction of more efficient aircraft and accelerate the use of more efficient practices by airlines as they move planes both on the ground and in the air. Those benefits could flow quite quickly, but they will do so only if the terms for the introduction of aviation into the scheme are a great deal better than those that applied in phase 1 for the power generation industry.

Joan Ruddock indicated assent.

Mr. Yeo: I am glad to see the Minister nodding her assent. As I mentioned in my intervention, I also hope that the Government will lead the debate on how to accelerate a switch by the shipping industry to some of the more efficient, less polluting and more low-carbon methods referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). Britain is a great maritime nation, and the shipping industry would respond to a lead from the Government on these matters. Indeed, the industry is looking for a lead, and the evidence given to my Committee this morning suggested that while it is not very concerned about the precise policies, it would like to know how the Government intend to accelerate those changes.

5.15 pm

I also urge the Government to consider what more can be done to speed up a switch from domestic flights to lower carbon alternatives. There is a strong probability that those countries that have a low-carbon transport infrastructure, such as France has, and that Spain and others are rapidly developing through their high-speed rail networks, will enjoy a huge economic and commercial advantage in 10 or 15 years. Because those projects take a long time to build, it will be too late for us if we wake up in 2020 and wish that we had implemented our own when we first realised that it was important.

Many of the supporters of the Bill and the Government’s approach are dismayed that other parts of the Government appear to be moving in the opposite direction. Reference has already been made to Heathrow, but I wish to refer to Stansted, an issue in which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may have a passing interest. Only two weeks ago, the Government approved a substantial increase in the number of flights from Stansted. That was an environmentally catastrophic decision for my constituents in South Suffolk, for people in East Anglia and for Britain. It was taken at a time when usage of Stansted is falling—the figures for 2008 are lower than those for 2007—so there was no reason for that decision. There was no pressure to make it, especially as the low-cost airlines that dominate the airport are experiencing a drastic change to their business prospects and business model.

The replacement of domestic flights with low-carbon alternative transport choices would not harm Britain’s competitive position internationally; in many respects, it would help it. For example, it would free slots at Heathrow for the introduction of strategically important long-haul international routes. While I welcome the Government’s fresh approach on aviation as reflected in the Bill, the amendments and the Minister’s remarks, I urge them to be bolder. In particular, I hope that the Minister and the new Department—I wish it a successful future—will bring colleagues in the Department for Transport into line.

28 Oct 2008 : Column 758

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister and her former ministerial colleagues on steering the Bill so successfully through Committee and, in particular, on listening carefully to the various representations made over many months, especially on aviation and shipping, as well as on the overall target for 2050.

I am struggling to understand how the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) can believe that new clause 14 is significantly different from the proposals in Government new clause 15, with the addition of amendment No. 72. I support amendments Nos. 68 and 69, but in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), I am happy that they should be superseded by amendment No. 72. I urge all Members to consider the context of amendment No. 72, because it would simply add aviation and shipping to those matters that must be taken into account by the Secretary of State and the Committee on Climate Change, which include

Logically, if the hon. Gentleman seeks to suggest that Government new clause 15 and amendment No. 72 are inadequate, he should table additional amendments that spell out how the references to all the other items in clause 10(2) are inadequate, but he is not doing that.

There are uncertainties about the method of calculating emissions from aviation and shipping. There are uncertainties about the method of assigning the emissions to different nation states. There is always the question of a future Government who do not have the same determination as this Government to reduce UK emissions. Although I accept those points, I cannot see the purpose of new clause 14. I fear that although we have successfully built up impressive cross-party consensus over many months, there is a bit of game playing going on as we reach the end point. That is regrettable.

Steve Webb: Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that Government new clause 15 is entirely about a duty on the Climate Change Committee to give advice? The only duty placed on the Secretary of State is to publish that advice. Amendment No. 72, as redrafted, puts in place another thing to which the Climate Change Committee must have regard. The duty that we have proposed in new clause 14 is a duty on the Secretary of State with regard to carbon emissions, while amendment No. 3 gets rid of an opt-out for the Secretary of State. It is not taking anything away from the cross-party consensus, but going further and trying to oblige the Secretary of State to do something.

Mr. Chaytor: I do not agree. Clause 10 is very specific when it states:


There is hardly any difference. There is a difference between the wording used in new clause 15 and amendment No. 72 and that used in new clause 14, and that is why I urge the House to reject any attempt to move to a vote on new clause 14.

Next Section Index Home Page