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28 Oct 2008 : Column 771

I welcome Government new clause 15 and amendment No. 72, which will mean that the Bill includes emissions from aviation and shipping. That is right, but I want to counterpoise that with the 80 per cent. cut by 2050. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) was absolutely right when he cited T. S. Eliot, rather than George Eliot, on being two steps ahead. If we as politicians are one step ahead of the electorate, that is leadership. If we are two steps ahead, that is eccentricity. If we regard the inclusion of aviation and shipping as one step in that paradigm, the second step is the 80 per cent. cut.

Trying to do both is unrealistic. Probably for the first and only time ever, I agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) said. Government amendment No. 1, to which we shall come later, talks about the 80 per cent. cut. We are talking about aviation and shipping, but one has to counterpoise them, because we cannot achieve both. We cannot include aviation and shipping and have an 80 per cent. cut by 2050. That will just not be possible.

The baseline year for the percentage calculations is 1990. My figures for the United Kingdom are from DEFRA’s website and are for the period 1990 to 2005, a 15-year period, which is one quarter of the period 1990 to 2050. One would not expect to make much progress in the first couple of years, but then the technological benefits should kick in, albeit before the law of diminishing returns starts to apply as we approach 2050, thereby lessening savings in CO2 emissions. However, my figures, which are for the first 25 per cent. of that period, show that CO2 emissions, which constitute 84 per cent. of the basket of greenhouse gas emissions in DEFRA’s calculations, went down by 6.4 per cent. Overall greenhouse gas emissions in the United Kingdom went down by 15.3 per cent. in that period.

For all our debate so far and for all the importance of cutting emissions and including aviation and shipping, as highlighted by new clause 15 and amendment No. 72, we are deluding ourselves and the electorate if we think that we as a society can include aviation and shipping, which we should, and have an 80 per cent. target for 2050.

Mr. Tyrie: I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman’s line of argument. He might also like to point out that almost all the 6 per cent. improvement that he mentioned was a result of gas privatisation and the consequent dash for gas, which was opposed by the Labour party throughout its passage in the House. Since that one-off change, which mainly happened before the end of the millennium, there has been virtually no improvement at all. In fact, that figure has gone into reverse in recent years.

Rob Marris: The figures that I received from the Library about nine to 12 months ago indicated that between 1999 and 2006, which were the latest figures that the Library could supply, per capita CO2 emissions in the United Kingdom increased—not by a lot, but they did increase. The trend was in the wrong direction. Therefore, to suggest that an 80 per cent. cut is feasible troubles me greatly.

The youngest Member of the House is the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who was here for the earlier part of the debate, but has had
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to slip out. She is 28. She will be 70 in 2050. It is unlikely that she will be an active Member of the House by then. [ Interruption. ] I hear chuntering, which will no doubt be recorded in Hansard as an interruption. I carefully used the adjective “unlikely”. I did not say that she would not be a Member. That is a measure of the problem, when our youngest Member will be one of the oldest Members, if she is still here, in 2050. It is an abdication of responsibility and comes close to misleading people to say that we can include aviation and shipping and have an 80 per cent. cut when, on tables of life expectancy and life patterns, no one who is currently in the Chamber will be an active politician in 42 years’ time.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I take my hon. Friend’s point about the seriousness with which we must approach the targets. Clearly we have woefully missed them so far. We have a target of achieving a 20 per cent. cut in CO2 emissions by 2010, which we are nowhere near. What informs the targets for 2050, however, is surely the need to limit the overall concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore, it is up to us to find the mechanisms to help us to achieve those targets. By saying that we cannot achieve them, we are already being faint hearted. We could have achieved the earlier targets that we set ourselves had the will been there. We must have the will to achieve the new targets.

6.15 pm

Rob Marris: Willing the means does not mean that we will get there and it can be counter-productive. If I challenged my hon. Friend to run 100 m in 14 seconds, for example, she might train and try to do it. If I challenged her to run 100 m in 10.5 seconds, I suspect that she would not even bother to start training. That will be the position of the electorate, particularly when they see us, rightly and as I hope that we will, including aviation and shipping in the approach to cutting emissions, which we must do, as well as addressing adaptation. However, the thought that will strike many of my constituents is this: “We can’t do both, so why should I bother doing anything?”

Mr. Gummer: But surely the alternative is even worse. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that we should have targets that are not sufficiently good to solve the problem, nobody would take any part at all. The targets are not invented; they are necessary if we are to counter climate change. We owe it to our constituents to say, “That’s what we’ve got to do and we’ve got to find a way of doing it,” not to pretend that we can go for an easier target because it is better electorally.

Rob Marris: I humbly suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he is completely wrong. There is no question of “solving the problem”. The 80 per cent. target is proposed in order to limit climate change to an average of 2° C, not to keep at a certain level with no change. The figure of 2° C is somewhat arbitrary—indeed, anything that we do in that regard is arbitrary—but if we set ourselves up to fail, then fail we surely shall.

Mr. Weir: I will be relatively brief, as most of the issues have probably been covered by now. I welcome the amendments from the Government, who have moved a long way from where they started. I listened carefully
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to what the Minister said about the Government’s amendments and why they were not going slightly further than we would wish.

I appreciate the difficulties with aviation and shipping. I heard what she said about the possibility of going for a sectoral system, along the lines of the EU emissions trading scheme. I can well see how that might be attractive for aviation, since we are talking about a relatively small number of international airlines flying into the UK. However, I am not sure that that would work so well for shipping, which is a very different industry and may, I suspect, need different treatment. As an aside, the point that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) made about ships not always using oil is an interesting one. If I remember my history correctly, the development of warships in the early 20th century led the movement towards the use of oil to power shipping rather than steam or sails, but that is by the by.

It is important to include shipping, however, because apart from the quantity of emissions in general, there is a problem with shipping, particularly with older ships that use heavy oil, which is very polluting, thereby contributing greatly towards climate change. Aviation also contributes to climate change, but the other day I noticed a report saying that Boeing believed that it would be able to develop biofuels for aircraft within the next few years. Given the problems that have been experienced with biofuels in other areas, however, I am dubious about how much that will move matters forward.

Listening to the Minister and appreciating the difficulties, I come close to agreeing with her. However, when she talked about the need to reach international agreement, I heard the call of the long grass, because, to a large extent, that has been the problem until now.

The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who is no longer in his place, said that one reason that international shipping and aviation were not included in the Kyoto protocol was simply that international agreement on the issue could not be reached at that time. It seems unlikely that it will be any easier to reach an international agreement now than it was then. Indeed, given that the world is undoubtedly going into a recession—we have heard the views of some hon. Members on that today—some Governments are already trying to rein back from their green policies for fear of their impact on their national economies. The chance of reaching an international agreement is therefore receding rather than improving. The idea of being able to reach such an agreement before the Copenhagen conference is pie in the sky.

I definitely got the impression from the Minister that there had not been a great deal of progress on this matter, yet I note that the section of the Library research paper on calculating emissions states:

It goes on to say that the Department for Transport

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That point was made by the Minister. It goes on:

That point is also made by Friends of the Earth. So these emissions are calculated, and I believe that that gives the United Kingdom a basis for moving forward.

Joan Ruddock: It might be helpful if I clarify this point. There is a real difference between knowing what global emissions are—having a figure for global emissions that is calculated in a particular way for this reporting under Kyoto—and being able to account for a proportion of those emissions in any particular sovereign state. That is the issue.

Mr. Weir: But there is a basis for calculating the figures for sovereign states, as I understand it, and progress has been made. This is not a question of starting with a blank sheet.

Much has been made of the point, which was raised by the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe, that we must take into account these emissions. That is also a concern of mine. In Committee, I raised concerns about the get-out clauses, the ambiguities relating to the setting of the 2050 target and the carbon budget, and the fact that economic differences and various changes should be taken into account. In my view, there are too many get-out clauses, if we are serious about attempting to reach the carbon targets that we are setting. I would be tempted to support the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb) if he were to put it to a vote. It places a duty on the Secretary of State and removes some of the dubiety and some of the possibility of a get-out. That would be useful.

What is needed is leadership. We have to show the way in which these emissions are to be included in international agreements. It is all very well to talk about reaching such agreements, but I have never seen one that was quickly negotiated, and I suspect that this one will drag on as well. The Scottish Government have pledged to include aviation and shipping in their Climate Change Bill. That shows leadership, and this House should also show leadership by moving down that route.

Sammy Wilson: First, I have to say how pleased I am that, at least towards the end of the debate on this group of amendments, I heard some voices querying what is being done in this part of the Bill. That shows that there is another side to the argument. The tactic of those who have driven the Bill forward has been to give the impression that those who take a contrary view are cranks who do not care about the environment and are isolated. This is in spite of the fact that the most recent survey of climate scientists indicates that 46 per cent. of them disagree with the view that climate change is solely down to the activities of man. There is no scientific consensus on this, and there have been attempts to silence those who take a different view.

Rob Marris: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that human activity is a significant contributory factor to the change that many scientists say the climate has been undergoing in the past 50 years?

Sammy Wilson: I think I have already made it clear that 46 per cent. of climate scientists believe that climate change is not solely down to the activity of man. That
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means, of course, that there are scientists who believe that it is. There is an array of environmentalists, scientists and economists who take a contrary view, however, and who believe that the impact of man is not significant. I want to make it clear that I happen to share that view.

Mr. Chaytor: I am curious about the 46 per cent. of climate scientists. Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House why none of them is represented on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the authoritative body? Is this a global conspiracy?

Sammy Wilson: If one looks at the second IPCC report, one can see that Sir John Houghton suggested that he had excluded the views of some of those scientists because they did not fit in with the general view. There is a wide range of views among scientists who were engaged on the panel, and other views were deliberately excluded.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Gentleman give the House the source of his assertion that 46 per cent. of scientists disagree with the view that climate change is caused by human activity?

Sammy Wilson: I do not have the names of the two scientists involved, but they are associated with the Hamburg institute. The latest revision of the relevant survey took place in 2005, so this is a fairly up-to-date assertion. Indeed, let us look at some of the comments on the IPCC report. The Wall Street Journal talked about a “cover-up in the greenhouse” and pointed to some views having been suppressed.

Mr. Tyrie: Professor von Storch, who is probably Germany’s leading climate scientist, undertook that survey. Unfortunately, it has not been given a wide enough circulation. That same survey showed that one third of climate scientists did not believe that the lion’s share of recently observed warming was anthropogenic in nature. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a significant proportion of IPCC scientists have resigned in disgust because their views have not been reflected in the reports? They include some of the world’s leading climate scientists, such as Professor Richard Lindzen, who has said that

Colin Challen: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will we be able to return to the question of aviation and shipping shortly?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): These are matters that hon. Members can safely leave to the Chair.

6.30 pm

Sammy Wilson: I accept that I was probably led astray by the Members who intervened; they diverted me from the point that I was briefly trying to establish. I was arguing that a wide range of people are still sceptical about the main causes of climate change, which brings me to my point about the inclusion of aviation and shipping in the Bill.

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If we have already gone down the road of including a wide range of our industries, our domestic fuel consumption and a number of climate-change regulations, the impact will be compounded when we include shipping and aviation. As others have pointed out, all this has been done without any indication of the cost to the relevant industries. I noted what the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) said about industries paying for the cost of the carbon they use, but the truth of the matter is that it is not some anonymous “they”, as in a shipping or airline company as, eventually, this comes down to costs that are passed on to consumers, travellers and all of us in respect of transporting our food to the shops where we purchase it. Those are real costs that our constituents will have to pay.

Barry Gardiner: Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the research carried out by Lord Stern and others, showing that the costs of inaction are substantially higher than the costs of acting to mitigate climate change now?

Sammy Wilson: I note that, but as was pointed out earlier, the discount rates in Lord Stern’s report grossly exaggerate the benefits of taking action and underestimate the cost of doing so. In artificially applying a 2 per cent. discount rate, he of course got the answer that he wanted. By any stretch of the imagination, costs amounting to 2 per cent. of gross domestic product will have a massive impact on our ability to finance public services. Again, those costs will be felt by individuals.

Some of the costs identified by Lord Stern—the impact on flooding, on food production and so forth—were predictions based on models with hundreds of variables. Even scientists have accepted that they do not understand all the connections between those variables. The hon. Member for Brent, North (Barry Gardiner) will know something about economic modelling, but climate change modelling is even more complicated and even less certain. We already know the impact of some economic models and we know how true the connections have been. The inclusion of aviation and shipping in the Bill has been accomplished without spelling out the costs. We will all be held responsible and we will all be held to account for that. What are the costs for our constituents? They have not been spelled out.

Secondly, as has emerged from a number of speeches, the degree of state and international planning involved in the whole exercise is considerable. Indeed, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) pointed out that there are often unintended consequences in pursuing state and international planning. I heard the enthusiasm of some Conservative Members; they usually argue in favour of the working of the market and the market economy, yet some of them seemed to embrace a degree of state control and state planning that would make some of the left-wing Labour Members cheer and clap at the prospect. My second point, then, is that there will be a huge increase in Government regulation and Government interference in the economy, with all the consequences that will follow, yet we know how successful state planning has been in the past.

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