Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Many of the amendments proposed by the Opposition in Committee so far have dealt with the transparency of government actions and decisions on climate change. We have felt that we

30 Jan 2008 : Column 734

have had the support of the Government in trying to achieve this, but, if the challenge is to be met, there needs to be a way of determining as accurately as possible how we contribute to it so that we know where improvement is possible. That can happen only if large companies take on this mantle and begin reporting on their carbon footprint, ideally in the way in which revenue and profit are reported now. We congratulate the businesses that have already begun to do just that voluntarily.

At present, there is no consensus on methodologies for measuring the carbon footprint of companies’ services, supply chains, products or general operations. Thus, although in principle we welcome the amendment, we cannot offer our support until more work is done towards establishing national and international consensus on how companies measure and report their emissions footprint. It is only through such practice that useful comparison will be enabled, providing customers with a genuine way of discerning between different choices in the market.

My honourable friend Peter Ainsworth, in another place, has called for the Royal Society to take forward the process of establishing a mechanism for achieving consensus. Until that is done and until another adequate way is agreed in calling for mandatory disclosure of carbon usage, we will not achieve the laudable intentions behind the amendment.

Lord Rooker: I shall be quick, as I have only a couple of minutes before this place closes down.

The primary objective of company reporting is to provide information for shareholders and investors. The Government want to encourage full and transparent corporate reporting. For that reason the House agreed the provisions of the Companies Act 2006 on the business review. They require directors of listed companies to include in their reports information on environmental matters, including the impact of the company’s business on the environment. The business reviews of these companies must also include key performance indicators on environmental matters where necessary to understand the business.

As the Committee knows, the new provisions came into force only on 1 October last year for financial years beginning on or after that date, and company reports under this new regime will not be published until late 2008 or early 2009. Obviously, we expect many companies to include information about climate change and other environmental issues in their reports. Although I support the intention of the amendment, I would be concerned that introducing provisions to require disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions would pre-empt the outcome of the narrative and reporting provisions of the Companies Act 2006.

Information is already available to companies to support them in reporting on environmental issues, including their greenhouse gas emissions. That relates to statutory guidance in Amendment No. 184A.

The arguments for and against the introduction of statutory standards were considered by BERR—the DTI, as far as I am concerned—as part of its consultations on the Companies Act. We think that we now have the right balance, as the debates in this House and the

30 Jan 2008 : Column 735

other place during the passage of the Companies Bill demonstrated. To help companies in the process, best practice guidance is prepared by the Accounting Standards Board—a body of the Financial Reporting Council—in the form of a reporting statement to support companies with their reporting on environmental impacts. My department has also produced a set of key non-financial performance indicators to assist companies in reporting on environmental matters. Defra is also supporting work by stakeholders to develop an international standard for reporting on climate change issues. We think that publishing UK statutory guidance would pre-empt the outcome of this project; it is a question of timing. We cannot support the mandatory blanket requirements on companies to report on the CO2 emissions or issue statutory guidance, given the timing, the nature of the amendments and the work that is already going on.

30 Jan 2008 : Column 736

This is going to happen but not in the way and at the speed suggested by the amendments. I am sorry that I have had to be so brief.

Lord Teverson: I thank the Minister for his reply. I understand the question of timescale, but perhaps we could find a reasonable timescale within which standards need to be agreed. This has to happen; business itself thinks that it needs to happen. I am slightly disappointed by the response of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, but there may be ways round the issues that he raised. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 184A not moved.]

Clauses 56 to 60 agreed to.

House resumed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page