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I agree absolutely with my noble friend Lord Layard about the contribution of science and research to these very important matters. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, was right to press us to engage in the scientific arena and ensure that the money we are able to put into it is as focused as possible. I take his point that given the scale of investment in other countries, along

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with the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about international co-operation, we have to make sure that the precious resources we spend on science and research are well directed. But there has been progress. The latest figure for UK public sector spending on energy technology research, development and demonstration is £151 million. I know that noble Lords will say that we should be spending much more, and I have some sympathy with that view. We should also acknowledge the work of the research councils in supporting a very wide range of areas that have the potential to develop or improve energy technologies.

This is the second time I have debated this matter with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, whose essential message to us today was to ignore climate change and go for coal. I could trade comments from various international organisations on climate change, but I shall desist doing so today. On the Stern report, he is right—

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has misinterpreted my position. It is not that we should ignore global warming—if it happens—it is not happening at the moment, but it might, who knows? Unlike the Stern report, I do not know what will happen in the next 100 years. If it does happen, we shall adapt to it, as mankind has always adapted to fluctuations in the temperature of the planet.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I knew that I should not have provoked the noble Lord. The difference between us is that the Government believe, along with many distinguished scientists, that we should do everything we can to mitigate the impact of climate change and adapt to it. I do not disagree with him about that. He also made a pretty powerful argument for coal, and I should like to come back to that point in a moment.

I know that the Stern report has come in for criticism, and there is no harm in that. Since decisions have to be taken in the light of work like the Stern report, it is very important that such work is seen to be subject to robust critique and analysis. But I think that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is right to say that whether or not the figures are exactly right, what is not in doubt is that the broad direction in which Stern is pushing us is the right one.

We have committed ourselves to tough targets: the 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases set out in the Climate Change Act which was passed in your Lordships’ House only a few weeks ago and the target that we have set within the EU target for 2020. I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, that the position is still that our proposed share of the EU target is 15 per cent. The directive implementing these targets was agreed by the Council in December 2008 and is expected to receive formal agreement in February 2009. Strictly speaking, we can still call them proposed or likely targets, but we are pretty convinced that they are the targets we will have to achieve. I understand why there is some scepticism from noble Lords and in the report about whether we will do so. However, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that we were quite clear what we were signing up to as, I think, were other heads of state. The fact is that we will have to go for it.

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Of course we are all concerned about the credit crunch and the economic situation. Of course we all know that at the moment investment decisions and access to finance are proving very difficult. And of course I cannot stand at this Dispatch Box and say with absolute clarity what I think the long-term impact on renewable investment in particular will be, given the current financial situation. However, just as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, advocated that young people should look at the energy sector as a good place of employment in the future—I share his views on that—evidence suggests that the fundamentals of the UK energy market are good and that there is broad confidence in the package of support we are putting together for renewables and the stable regulatory framework that we have in place.

I thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, was right to point out that alongside the undoubted pressures we face, a low-carbon economy does not mean a low-growth economy; it can mean many jobs and investment in this country. It is important to take advantage of that.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, must be the world’s greatest living expert on the EU emissions trading system and on carbon price. He put his points very clearly indeed. The EU allowance price has seen a considerable drop over the past year, falling from a high of €29 to a current low of €10. We are all concerned about the impact of reduction in carbon pricing. However, the noble Lord knows that the EU ETS cap has been set and will be reduced from 2012 onwards. We expect firms making long-term decisions to do so on the basis of a rise in carbon price as the EU ETS cap will be reduced. We will have to look at these matters very carefully because we want this system to work, and to work effectively.

Let me come to the question of wind, which excites your Lordships' House. I have discovered that in debates on the various Acts that have gone through the House in the past three or four months. It is true that we are looking to wind to provide an important proportion of the renewable energy that we will need to deliver over the next 10 or so years. We understand that wind power is intermittent and will require back-up generation to smooth the effects of its variable generation. There is no argument about that. Equally, it is a proven, efficient and, I believe, cost-effective way of generating carbon-free power. Although the amount of energy produced by renewables at the moment is very small and has to increase considerably over the next 10 years, even our existing offshore wind farms, where the UK plays a leadership role, generate enough energy to power more than 340,000 homes.

I understand the point of the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, about the output from wind turbines during the recent extended period of low pressure. I accept that wind power is a variable resource, but the chances of having no wind generation across the UK simultaneously are pretty low. In fact, wind turbines work around 80 per cent of the time, although not at full output. The effects of intermittency can be mitigated through a range of options, such as geographic dispersion, increasing use of energy storage and back-up generation.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, National Grid has concluded that the costs of 20 per cent wind penetration are low.

Wind is important but it is not the only element of renewable energy. I am particularly interested in marine technology. Other technologies have been mentioned today, such as biomass, biogas, solar heat and heat pumps. They all have a contribution to make. Some are nearer to market than others and some need a great deal of support. A range of various government policies and strategies will seek to do that. We are not relying on wind to deliver the whole target. The estimate I have is that biomass for heat and electricity sectors could provide about 30 per cent of the target.

At Questions today we debated the report which looked at the contribution of gasification and biomethane to the National Grid. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, described it as a stretching target—actually, it is an impossible target. But there is no doubt that the report contains some very important matters that we need to take forward. Incidentally, it is also a way of providing income to the farming community. I shall put on my Defra hat for a moment and say that that is very welcome.

The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, spoke about waste oils. The Environment Agency has consulted on a draft protocol; I understand that it is hoping to publish a post-consultation draft shortly. If I can find out some more information, I shall write to the noble Earl. I understand the issue, but it is not particularly easy to resolve.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, when the Minister looks into this, perhaps he could impress upon the Environment Agency that as a number of companies will go bankrupt in the short term—in the next few months—some alacrity in coming up with the protocol is necessary.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that point is well taken and I will make sure that the agency is informed.

I fully accept the points raised by the noble Lords, Lord Dixon-Smith and Lord Teverson, about heat and its potential, and the transport sector. All this provides challenges to the grid. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, raised a number of important points about the transmission access review. There is no doubt that the connection of a significant increase in renewable generation sets an unprecedented challenge for our electricity networks. We put a package of measures together in last year’s transmission access review, which will help inform the renewables energy strategy.

On the question of offshore wind which, again, is a point well taken, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Ofgem are leading a project to put a new regulatory regime in place.

I understand entirely the points the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, raised. These are matters of very urgent debate. I am very happy again to feed his views in to that debate. I cannot really say more than that, but I am very well aware of the issues under discussion now.

We had a very good discussion about the potential of nuclear energy. With the noble Lord, Lord Broers, we took part in a debate on these matters only three or

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four weeks ago. I echo his comments very much. We hope that the passage of the Planning, the Energy and the Climate Change Acts will allow a much more rational and, I hope, speedier path to making the decisions that have to be made. He is surely right about the contribution that engineers in particular and scientists in general can make. We are very committed to doing that. I again echo the point the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, made about the huge potential for young people, and not just young people, to go into the energy sector. There are an enormous number of jobs with great potential. One of the reasons we have to encourage young people to be interested in physics, chemistry, engineering subjects and maths subjects is because we have to grow people to go into these jobs, and we wish to do that.

As regards the timetable for the national planning statements so that the Infrastructure Planning Commission can get on with its work, I am glad to say that we expect to publish draft national policy statements later this year for consultation. They will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny this autumn. We hope that they will be ready by spring 2010. We know that we need to get on with this.

Coal of course has an important role to play. In relation to that, we believe that carbon capture and storage has great potential. That is why we are one of the first countries committed to supporting commercial scale demonstration and one of the first countries to put in place a national regulatory regime for the storage of carbon dioxide. This is a very important area for UK plc in terms of what we can do in this country, but also in terms of our export potential from what we learn from the pilot demonstration.

This has been a very high-quality debate indeed and will be very helpful to the Government in terms of our renewable energy strategy. Noble Lords have raised a number of very important matters. I finish by saying that I am well aware that the 2020 targets for renewables are very tough. We face some critical decisions about energy in the short, medium and long term. The Department of Energy and Climate Change was created to enable government to do that. We are determined to do that.

I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, for his marvellous opening speech tonight, for the excellence of the report that he and his committee have produced, and say how much I welcome the opportunity of further debate with noble Lords on matters that are of the utmost importance.

Lord Vallance of Tummel: My Lords, the cost, sustainability and security of supply of energy affects us all. In prosperity or recession, energy is vital to the economy, to our standard of living and to our well-being. That is why the Economic Affairs Committee decided to inquire into the far-reaching changes of the nation’s energy mix implied by the Government’s adherence to the European Union targets for renewable energy.

The House has made it quite clear in the debate that it too recognises the importance of getting our energy policy right. I am gratified by the degree of interest shown on all sides and by the impressive combination of experience and wisdom brought to bear by noble Lords in the course of the debate.

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I should like to thank the Minister, both for the content and the courtesy of his response. We look forward to the emergence of the Government’s renewable energy strategy in the spring—may it be an early spring. Meanwhile, I take the opportunity once more to commend to the House the report of the Economic Affairs Committee.

Motion agreed.

Human Rights: Religious Belief

Question for Short Debate

7.55 pm

Tabled By Baroness Cox

Baroness Cox: My Lords, 60 years after the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, millions of people around the world still suffer because of their beliefs and the expression of those beliefs. Article 18 is often half-heartedly supported by national Governments, and, at the United Nations, it is one of the least-developed freedoms in terms of international human rights mechanisms, and is currently being contested through anti-defamation resolutions.

The subject is so vast that I cannot do justice to it. I am therefore extremely grateful to all noble Lords speaking in the debate, who will address issues that I cannot include.

Paul Marshall, in the definitive book Religious Freedom in the World highlights the extent of violations of this freedom. He says:

“Some—the Baha’is in Iran, Ahmadis in Pakistan, Buddhists in China-Tibet, Falun Gong in China, Christians in Saudi Arabia—are now among the most intensely persecuted, but there is no group in the world that does not suffer to some degree because of its beliefs.

Atheists and agnostics can also suffer from religious persecution... violations of religious freedom are massive, widespread and, in many parts of the world, intensifying”.

I briefly highlight a few examples.

I refer, first, to Nigeria, because of the urgency of the situation there. In Bauchi state the Christian community were attacked last weekend. At least 12 people were killed, more than 1,500 were displaced, and 14 churches, eight vicarages, one mosque and numerous Christian homes were destroyed. At least one person was killed yesterday, and, with disturbing reports of,

further attacks are feared. There have been many such outbreaks of orchestrated violence since the introduction of Sharia law in 12 northern and central states, causing an estimated 60,000 deaths and much destruction.

Last July I visited a town in Bauchi state where eight churches had recently been destroyed. In Kano city, the authorities bulldozed a Roman Catholic Church the week we were there. Last November, Jos suffered a series of well-planned and co-ordinated attacks by

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Islamist extremists. Will Her Majesty’s Government urge the Government of Nigeria to fulfil their constitutional responsibility to protect all their citizens?

In Burma, the SPDC military regime is notorious for its brutal suppression of Buddhist monks and systematic oppression of non-Buddhists. Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship and suffer systematic discrimination; mosques and madrassas have been demolished and, to quote a Rohingya leader,

“We are a people at the brink of extermination”.

Christians also suffer. Last month more than 100 house churches were forced to close, and pastors were threatened with imprisonment, while in the Chin state, Christians have been forced to destroy crosses and churches and to build Buddhist pagodas in their place. Will Her Majesty’s Government make strong representations to the SPDC concerning religious persecution in Burma today?

In Sudan, in 1983 the Government's attempt to introduce Sharia law throughout this religiously diverse country led to the outbreak of civil war. Subsequently, the Islamist National Islamic Front regime, the NIF, seized power in 1989 and explicitly declared jihad against the predominantly Christian and animist African tribes of southern Sudan and the religiously diverse people of the Nuba Mountains and southern Blue Nile. I visited these war-torn areas 30 times. I witnessed the use by the NIF of aerial bombardment of civilian targets, massacres, torture, rape and scorched earth policies, resulting in 2 million dead, 4 million displaced and thousands taken into slavery.

In 2005, a comprehensive peace agreement, CPA, was signed, but the National Congress Party's policies in Darfur still include forcible Arabisation of African peoples and lands, and the imposition of its extremist form of Islam. Will Her Majesty’s Government do more to impress upon the Government of northern Sudan their responsibility to ensure the safety of all their citizens?

In India, the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, which caused such massive suffering, is widely believed to have been Islamist-inspired. Previous outbreaks of violence include massacres in Gujarat in 2002 when up to 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, perished and, subsequently, in 2008, attacks on Christians in Orissa state by Hindu fundamentalists with more than 50,000 people displaced, 70 confirmed dead—some burnt alive—252 Christian places of worship and some 4,000 Christians’ homes destroyed. Christians continue to be threatened with forced conversion to Hinduism if they return to their villages. During a visit in October, we met many of the thousands of Christians still living in appalling conditions in overcrowded camps. Will Her Majesty’s Government urge the Indian Government to ensure that the state Government bring to justice those responsible for the violence, provide all help needed to enable people to return to their homes and, in the mean time, ensure adequate health care and food in the camps?

In North Korea, given the obligatory personality cult of the political leadership, there has been harsh repression of religion. Buddhist temples and other places of worship have been eliminated and defectors testify to public executions of Christians and their

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harsh treatment in prison camps, where many perish. Three weeks ago, my noble friend Lord Alton and I visited North Korea. We concluded that it is better to build bridges than walls and recommended, inter alia, that the time has come for the United States to normalise relations with North Korea. We welcomed educational exchanges with Britain. However, we also emphasised concerns over human rights violations, including religious persecution.

We visited the Roman Catholic church in Pyongyang and expressed our concern that there is still no Catholic priest in North Korea. We were slightly more encouraged by the beautiful new Russian Orthodox cathedral, with two priests who had studied in Moscow. We were pleased to see that the Protestant church at Bongsu has been enlarged since I worshipped there five years ago and that there is now a seminary with 10 students, which has academic links to Kim Il-sung University and the Academy of Social Sciences, allowing academic exchange between secular and theological institutions.

In Egypt, there are serious concerns over human rights violations of non-Muslims. Muslim converts to Christianity are regularly detained without charges and tortured. The Egyptian state continues to prohibit changes in the religion section of national ID cards, with dire consequences for the Baha’is and Muslim-background Christians with regard to marriage, education and even the custody rights of their own children. Throughout 2007 to 2009, incidents of violence against the 10 million-strong Coptic community increased, often resulting in serious injury and material damage. The historical Abu Fana monastery has been attacked 15 times since 2004, and those responsible were not brought to justice. The Copts are still treated as second-class, or “dhimmi”, citizens, with limited access to their civic and political rights. Even here, in Britain, there is concern over pressures in some communities to inhibit freedom to choose and change religion—in particular, over reported cases of intimidation of British Muslims who wish to leave Islam and/or convert to another faith.

The final issue that I wish to raise is the worrying resolution, adopted by the UN General Assembly for a fourth consecutive year, entitled “Combating defamation of religions”. This calls on national Governments to legislate for the protection of religion from defamation. It is sponsored by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and seeks to criminalise any criticism of Islam, with specific reference to human rights abuses and terrorism. It is widely seen as a device to protect Islamic states from any criticisms of violations of human rights. In an interim report, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief highlights concerns that:

“The lack of an objective definition of the term ‘defamation of religions’ makes the whole concept open to abuse”,

and that,

I ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will continue to resist these proposals.

In conclusion, many people argue that freedom of religion and belief should be given greater weight in British foreign policy. Unlike the US State Department,

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which has an entire department dedicated to freedom of religion and belief, the Foreign Office has only one person in its human rights team responsible for this issue, along with other human rights concerns. I therefore ask the Minister whether Her Majesty’s Government will give serious consideration to responding positively to this proposal, perhaps by the appointment of a special envoy for freedom of religion and belief.

We who have freedom surely have an obligation to use our freedom on behalf of those who are denied it. It is my hope that this debate may make some contribution, however small, to highlighting these issues and the need to respond more effectively to those suffering for their beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be. William Wilberforce’s words when introducing legislation to end the slave trade apply to violations of religious freedom today:

“We can no longer plead ignorance. We cannot turn aside”.

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