|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
That proposal would benefit everyone in the economy. From day one, it would reduce energy consumption and bills, even after repayment, for the people who engage in such improvements. It would reduce our CO2 emissions and provide work for energy efficiency installers at a time when the construction industry is suffering. It would also provide apprenticeships. It would provide a stimulus to the economy that would not have the effect that the Government's stimulus is having-namely, to saddle future generations with debts without the means of repaying them. There could not be a better designed
policy for the times, and it is a source of sadness to me and others outside the House that the Secretary of State has not had the imagination to put such a proposal into the Queen's Speech.
John Mann: One group of people who cannot benefit are local authority tenants living in accommodation with communal heating systems. The only way they can reduce the heat is to open their windows, and they are still billed for the total cost of the heating by the local authority. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that local authorities that refuse to deal with such inefficiency and continue to bill their tenants, who have no choice, need to be tackled robustly and immediately by the Government?
Greg Clark: I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that, if people are having to open their windows to maintain the right temperature in their homes, that is a problem that should be addressed. I am sure that the modern controls on boilers should be able to address it. In general, I share the Secretary of State's enthusiasm for district heating systems that can provide a more efficient alternative to individual boilers. However, the energy efficiency improvements that we have been talking about apply just as much to the tenants that the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned as to the occupiers of any other kind of house.
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman knows that we have published our own home energy efficiency plan for 700 million households to be insulated by 2020 and we have said that we will pilot it in the low carbon transition plan, which we will be announcing shortly. The problem with the hon. Gentleman's position is that he says that we can give £6,500 to everybody on day one. I do not know how he will pay for every household to have that. I asked him in my speech to clarify-perhaps he can advise us now-how he will pay for that £6,500 on day one.
Greg Clark: I cannot understand why the Secretary of State does not listen, if not to me then to his own speeches. Perhaps he has been too long in the Treasury. Let me remind him of what he said to the Environmental Audit Committee, and I shall comment on it after I have read it:
"The truth about energy efficiency is that it pays to do it, but the problem is the upfront costs. And the task is to spread those costs over time, not over the time that someone lives in a house, because that might be eight or nine years and that's probably not enough time, to spread it over a longer period so the repayment, if you like, is connected to the house not the person and to find ways"-
"in which I think the private sector and others, local councils maybe... can come in and provide that upfront finance".
That is what the Secretary of State said on 27 October to the Environmental Audit Committee, so I suggest that he listens to the evidence that he gives to Committees and puts it in the Bills that he brings before the House.
It is not surprising that we have been in this mess over such a long period when over the past 12 years of this Government we have had 15 different Energy Ministers. If Ministers are moved every nine months, it is not surprising that they cannot get their heads around this relatively technical subject and do not get enough time to act. It is not as though the creation of the new Department has solved all these problems, although it is a step in the right direction. I discovered the other day that a shadow Department of Energy and Climate Change, if we can believe it, has been set up in Lord Mandelson's empire. Not only is there a shadow Department in the Opposition, but there is a shadow Department-shadowing everything that the Secretary of State does and presumably picking holes in it-in the Government. Not only that: I have discovered that 15 civil servants are employed to do that work. The problem has not been solved; the Government are eating themselves. We are in such a tailspin that the Government are setting up Departments to shadow themselves, which is a pretty poor state of affairs.
We are where we are and this opportunity to achieve a degree of cross-party consensus on some of the necessary measures has arisen; in many cases, we agree on what needs to be done, but a lack of urgency has prevailed during the past 12 years and, sadly, it prevails to this day.
John Battle: I want to be absolutely clear about what the hon. Gentleman is offering the people. If he is offering £6,500 to every family, to be paid for by the energy companies and backed up by either the Government or local authorities, how much does he expect the public coffers to put forward? I understand that he is offering it immediately to every family in Britain.
Greg Clark: I am grateful for that intervention because it allows me to tell the right hon. Gentleman that it will cost the public sector precisely nothing. The savings made on energy bills will be brought forward to pay for the costs. [Interruption.] Let me commend something called the McKinsey cost curve to the Secretary of State; I am surprised that he is not familiar with it. The McKinsey cost curve is well known to those of us familiar with the literature. What it shows is that some ways of improving energy efficiency and saving carbon actually save money at the same time-and that is where we should start. It seems to me that if the Secretary of State is aware of that, he is not able to translate it into policy.
I want to talk about an area where there is greater agreement-on the international dimension. The Copenhagen summit, meeting in less than two weeks' time, is a crucial opportunity not just for Britain but for the world. We cannot say for sure that the floods in Cumbria were a result of climate change, but what we can say is that events like it are going to be more likely, more severe and more frequent in the future.
This time last week, I was in Bangladesh with the charity Christian Aid, looking at the experience of people living in that part of the world, particularly those living on a delta near the coastline. What struck me about all the villages that I visited was not that flooding, erosion and cyclones were out of their historical experience-life in the delta is clearly dangerous and prone to such events-but that people recalling their childhoods were unanimous in the view that events taking place there now were occurring with much greater severity and frequency than was the case even a generation ago. We cannot say that any individual event is categorically indicative of climate change. However, I think there is consensus between us that such events are happening across the world, and are happening more frequently and more severely.
The meeting in Copenhagen that the Secretary of State is about to attend represents an important opportunity. As we have said before during exchanges on this subject, if a deal is to be done at Copenhagen it must be rigorous and consistent with what the science considers necessary to contain catastrophic climate change. A serious attempt must be made to find a new mechanism enabling us to generate funds covering the additional costs of climate change-additional, that is, to the costs that we have already accepted are needed to help people across the world to deal with their poverty in other respects. It is particularly urgent for the rain forests to be protected by a tangible deal. If there is one thing we can do immediately, it is to stop the destruction of rain forests that can not only reduce the stock of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but help the countries in which they are located.
I am optimistic that a positive deal can be struck at Copenhagen. I am sure that there will be tense moments during the weeks ahead when it will seem likely that a deal is slipping away, but I think that it can be done. One by one, countries that were opposed to international agreements-such as the United States, Australia and Japan-are coming aboard. I think that the intervention of China in recent weeks is highly significant. Many of its efforts have been overlooked by the west, but it has made considerable progress.
I also think that the Chinese sense an industrial opportunity. In my view, one of the reasons why the Chinese Government have reversed their position, or at least advanced it towards greater urgency of action on climate change, is that they see that a global economy based on low-carbon sources can offer jobs and prosperity to their people as it can to ours. For instance, 4,000 miles of high-speed electric railway have been installed in China in the past few years, and it has a new and ambitious nuclear power programme. It is clear that the Chinese Government are booking their place for the future.
I share the fear of some of my hon. Friends that we may be falling behind the pace somewhat. Carbon capture and storage is an example. It would be a tragedy for this country if that were indeed the case. We have some of the best resources for the new energy economy. We could not be better placed in terms of our marine engineering skills, some of our research institutions and some of our process engineering skills-not least in Teesside, where I grew up. It is important that we harness those skills to provide jobs for the future, and to serve as a new source of buoyancy in our economy. It
makes me angry to observe the dithering on carbon capture and storage which has resulted in countries around the world such as China, Canada and Germany stealing the lead that we could have had if we had been true to what the Labour party said that it wanted to do a while ago.
Tim Farron: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that hydropower, particularly in counties such as Cumbria, provides an opportunity that we have missed massively in recent years? We had a thriving localised hydroelectricity system until the 1950s, but successive Governments have let it go. We know-obviously-about the power of the water in the county of Cumbria, but there are only four working hydro schemes there today. Is that not an outrage, and should we not be building on what is available?
Greg Clark: I completely agree. We have failed across the board to capitalise on our technology. The first industrial revolution started with a reliance on water, not least in the north-west of England. The part of the country that the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) represents is teeming with energy possibilities. It has been described as the energy coast, and that applies a bit inland as well. We should be leading the world in this and it is frustrating that we are not.
The Queen's Speech should have contained a set of urgent actions: an emergency plan to keep the lights on in this country and to reduce CO2 emissions as we need to and to keep fuel bills down for those in greatest need, not least through energy efficiency. If the Conservative party is elected to government, that is what one will find in the Energy Bill that will be included in the first Queen's Speech of a new Government. We would immediately deploy clean coal technology and would not dither as the Government have done through the competition. We would publish and, subject to a vote in Parliament, immediately ratify the planning guidance that is needed on nuclear-
We need to have diversity. Churchill said that diversity and diversity alone guaranteed energy security. We should abide by that principle. We will mandate the national grid to extend its network offshore as well as onshore, so that we can better harness the power of the waves, tides and offshore wind. We need to be able to get the benefits to consumers onshore and we need that offshore grid.
We will build marine energy parks-perhaps there might be one in Cumbria-to provide the grid connections and the planning requirements necessary to allow entrepreneurs to promote new energy projects, making
use of our fantastic coastal resources. We will provide those parks so that we can have that head start. Rather than hectoring communities that host wind farms, telling them that they are somehow immoral if they entertain any objection at all, we will engage them in dialogue and allow them to share in the benefits of renewable energy. We would allow every community that hosts a wind farm to keep six years' worth of business rates that arise from that investment. Why is that not in the Queen's Speech? It will be in the Queen's Speech if we are elected to government next year.
We will upgrade our 50-year-old national grid to be a smart grid so that it can better balance the supply of electricity, especially from renewables, and the demands. We will speed up the deployment of smart meters. For some reason the Government have been bludgeoned into thinking that smart meters cannot be introduced until the end of 2020, 11 years away. Across the world now, communities are benefiting from the interactivity and the cost savings that come from smart meters. We need to get on with that. Why do we not have this urgent action?
We need charging points for electric vehicles all around the country. We need the kind of consumer revolution that my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Baron)-he has momentarily left his place-talked about. We need information on bills that says not just how much the consumer has consumed-often an estimate at the moment-but how one could go to the cheapest possible tariff, with the number and the link to be able to do that immediately.
We need transparency on wholesale prices. When the wholesale prices of gas are falling, consumers rightly expect that their bills will fall, too. I am not at all satisfied that the present system is clear enough as to whether the right reductions in domestic fuel bills are happening at the right pace. That needs to be investigated and acted on immediately.
We will give every household in the country a green deal that would allow them to have the energy efficiency improvements that would cut our CO2 emissions, save them money and get people back to work in this country. Immediate action to keep the lights on, to create jobs, to make the UK the industrial leader that it should be in all these technologies and to safeguard our planet-that is what is needed from a Queen's Speech from a Government of this country. The only power cut that we want is an end to the power of this Government and the election of a Government who take these matters seriously. Britain will be better for it.
Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East) (Lab): I want to address my remarks to the climate change negotiations. They are critical and I think that all speakers recognise that. I also want to set my speech against the background of my experience at Kyoto, because many aspects of that seem to be being repeated as we approach the negotiations at Copenhagen, which I call "Kyoto 2" as we are not developing a new convention, but merely an extension of Kyoto.
The current developments are important. I agree with what the Secretary of State said. The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark), said some things about climate change
towards the end of his speech that I agree with, particularly about how China and other countries have begun to develop in respect of these issues. Momentum is now beginning to develop. People had, however, been suggesting that Copenhagen was going to end in breakdown, and I want to say something about that.
Let me explain something that we learned from Kyoto, as it is important. There seems to have been the view that the Copenhagen negotiations must result in a legally binding agreement. There was not a chance in hell of getting a legally binding agreement, however, as anybody who has looked into the matter will know. I have been saying that for almost 12 months, and I have been criticised for undermining negotiations, but I am pleased to see that we have moved away from plan A, and we are now looking at plan B. What is important is to get an agreement, not a breakdown-everybody agrees that that is critical. I have to note, however, that we did not do a deal in December 1997; we established the principles, and it then took us three years to negotiate the processes by which we would achieve those, and it took us another three or four years before the deal was ratified by the 55 countries that had to ratify it. The time taken was, therefore, up to seven or eight years. In my view, the current situation will not be different. I recognise the 2015 and 2020 timetable and the argument that if we do not meet that, we might fail; however, the real point is to get an agreement.
As we approach the Copenhagen conference, similar lines of opposition are beginning to develop. At the time of Kyoto, a combination of people from the coal, steel and iron industries-all great carbon emitters-got together in America and went to Kyoto and said, "We can't accept this agreement." Fortunately, they were ignored at Kyoto and an agreement was reached. We are, however, already seeing the first signs of a similar line of opposition developing now. I was in America a few months ago, where the same people were again putting in hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the idea of climate change. They were employing a technique that is also now emerging here. I am sure that Members will be well aware that we are suddenly seeing attacks on the science. It has, for instance, been said that some event was merely an exceptional incident, and questions have been raised as to whether someone used the word "trick" in an e-mail, all in order to attempt to undermine the science.
A thousand scientists have said they believe in the science, however. Not so many of those involved at Kyoto said that, but now there is no doubt. Everybody everywhere agrees about this-except Lord Lawson, as I see from the statements he has been making.
Mr. Lilley: Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the study of all registered climate scientists carried out by Dr. von Storch of the Planck Institute in Germany? It showed that two thirds of scientists agree with the scientific conclusion that the majority of recent warming is produced by anthropological means, but that means that a third of them disagree. Moreover, only 8 per cent. of all scientists thought it was the most important threat to the world's future.
I am sure that studies come up with such results, but I do not think that the people who disagree with the science are in the majority; they are a very small minority. There were people who still believed
that the earth was flat, but the rest of us did not generally agree with them. At Kyoto, one or two research bodies were found who came up and said that the science is now doubted. The overwhelming opinion now in almost every country is that the science is accurate, however. That is not the same situation as at Kyoto.
The right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) quoted an article in The Guardian. I read the article, and it also made a statement about not detracting from the central argument about the accuracy of the science. Why did he not quote that? Why did he quote only the bits about the university in question, and so forth? [Interruption.] Well, it would be very good if he actually gave us a proper and objective opinion, instead of just selectively quoting from the article, as he did.
I shall now return my attention to Lord Lawson. In an article in The Times, he casts doubt on the science, but he also says that he has no idea whether the science is true. He is quite sceptical about it; he produced a book a few years ago making it clear he is sceptical about it. I am bound to say, however, that the fact that he announces this now has the same ring as what happened at Kyoto. Just before people come to the negotiations, they start throwing in all the doubt about the science.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|