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I do not propose to go over the details of the targets set in the excellent report of the Committee on Climate Change. Whether we focus on the 34 per cent reduction in emissions that it proposed for 2020 or the 42 per cent that it suggested if we reach agreement in Copenhagen, both will require enormous changes in every aspect of our lives. That means we must address both local social changes and global challenges. Individuals and nations often put off doing what is right for the planet because of fears over cost, economic consequences or impracticality. People want to protect the planet, but they also wish to live within their current means. Those in power should understand the pressures people face and try to help them to take environmentally friendly decisions.

One way to square the circle is to develop superior technological solutions to global environmental challenges. There are two stages to doing this. First, there are incremental steps to lowering energy consumption. We can develop and deploy photonics and plastic electronics that will deliver high-quality, low-energy lighting. Lighting causes as much as 20 per cent of UK emissions, so this would help consumers to change their impact on the environment. Such steps might also involve finding better alternatives to plastic bags and the more energy-efficient use of public transport during the school run. These technological and social changes will have a minor impact individually but will make major differences as they accumulate.

Next, major step changes in the way in which our society works, such as modal shifts in transport, have an impact not only on individuals but on the way in which we all live. On these, we need to take a cradle-to-grave approach to emissions reduction. For example, implementing electric cars requires a major network of power supply stations. Yet if our energy transmission and production systems are not green, reducing tailpipe emissions by burning ever more coal and gas is unsustainable. We might well be better investing our resources in lightweight materials, tyre technology and driver assistance systems, especially if other countries cannot plug cars into a national grid without building dozens of new power stations. After all, we need to develop low-emission technologies that are applicable globally if we are to drive social change worldwide, not just at home.

The International Energy Agency says that we will see a growth in global CO2 emissions from 27 gigatonnes in 2005 to 42 gigatonnes by 2030. India and China will account for almost half of that emissions growth. Why are their emissions rising so fast? Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that 6 per cent of

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global emissions, or 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2, were caused by goods exported from China. That is a third of China’s total emissions. As one of the biggest consumers of those exports, we must recognise that our relentless hunger for low-cost, high-tech goods creates emissions elsewhere in the global economy, and we must take steps to address the emissions that are created by our demand. That is the issue lurking in the sustainably sourced woodpile, if the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, will forgive the pun.

To reduce emissions, we must make individual, society-wide and global changes at the same time. To take one example, we know that western businesses and drivers cause the greater part of car emissions, so we need stricter regulations to reduce tailpipe emissions. We saw just this week the agenda that President Obama and Governor Schwarzenegger have set up to help to reduce car emissions; but we cannot leave it at that, welcome though such regulations are. We must also help to change the behaviour of individual members of our society. A driver employing a low-carbon driving style can save up to 40 per cent of their fuel consumption, according to Japanese research that builds on work done by our own Institution of Mechanical Engineers just across the road. That kind of saving will happen only if thousands of drivers are trained to have a low-carbon driving style and if we develop technology—such as stop-start ignition systems, which are already there—that makes it simple for everyone to drive with lower emissions. Yet even this will not be enough. The scale of the green challenge cannot be confined to one individual or one society alone.

We know that many of the component manufacturers that supply parts for our cars are located in other countries, so the emissions from component production are kept there. We also know that as the population of developing countries becomes wealthier, there will be increased demand for vehicles, just as we have seen in Britain in the past 60 years. Component and car manufacturers around the world must develop sustainable technologies if we are to reduce global emissions. Today, those businesses are looking for our help. We must offer it or be left behind when others do. If we work with suppliers, manufacturers, technologists and researchers around the world, we stand a better chance of making the changes that we need at home and helping emerging markets to cut their own emissions. This will help our global partners to make changes in their society as we improve our own. It will make reducing emissions far more co-operative and far more profitable for us.

We cannot know for certain the most effective path to reduce emissions. We do know that, whatever happens, the research and work that is being done around the world will find ways to reduce emissions. In transport, this could be through battery technology, hybrids, driver education, tyre technology or lightweight materials; it might well be all of these together. However, if Britain is to contribute significantly to this global environmental challenge, we must help individuals to change their behaviour, research to develop new technologies, and co-operate on a global level to reduce emissions. This effort must reach every corner of our society.

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There are two societal changes we must make if we are to help deliver a lower emissions world. The first change is to take responsibility for changing our own behaviour step by step, process by process, and technology by technology. The second is to invest in global, low-emissions technology, both for ourselves and for those around the world who have a shared interest in a greener global society.

12.01 pm

Lord Reay: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith for introducing this debate, which has given us two interesting speeches already. Last week, when we debated the climate change orders, my noble friend Lord Leach of Fairford, at the start of his brilliant exposition which thoroughly demolished the Government’s case on climate change, picked up a metaphor which he said had been used by the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, although I have not been able to find it in Hansard. This was to the effect that the debate reminded him of ships passing in the night. Endorsing this metaphor, my noble friend Lord Leach said that he would rather sail on HMS “Lawson” than on HMS “Stern”. I, too, would rather sail on HMS “Lawson”, and in the absence today of the captain of that ship—and of the first officer—as a humble rating, I step on deck to put an opposing view to that of the Government.

The Minister’s boss, the Secretary of State, Mr Ed Miliband, has famously said that he would like opposition to wind farms to become as socially unacceptable as not wearing a seatbelt or failing to stop at a zebra crossing. Incidentally, not wearing a seatbelt and not stopping at a zebra crossing are both offences, as I know only too well, since the only endorsement I ever received to my driving licence was for failing to stop at a zebra crossing. However, the Minister is, I know, too democratic to wish to stifle debate, and I am sure he will not repeat his boss’s remark, which is as overbearing as it is wrong-headed. He has absolutely no chance of getting those who oppose wind farms to be treated as social pariahs. Up and down the land, the most respectable of citizens—pillars of their local societies who would not dream of not fastening their seatbelts or not stopping at zebra crossings—are coming forward to protest against the destruction of our finest countryside, despite the iniquitous pressures lined up against them.

One of those pressures is the regional targets. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool is to speak in a moment. To judge from his intervention the other day, he seemed to be asking for sanctions to be applied to local authorities in cases where regional renewable energy targets have not been met. I hope we will see nothing of the kind. Regional renewable energy targets were set by unrepresentative, unelected and now defunct regional assemblies. In the case of the north-west region, with which I am familiar, the targets set for Cumbria were entirely inappropriate and were opposed throughout by the elected county council.

If one believes in the desirability of reducing carbon emissions, encouraging wind energy is the most absurd way to go about it. Why? Because wind power has to be backed up by fossil fuel power stations, which have to be continuously turned on and off as the wind

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comes and goes. Nuclear power stations are no good for that purpose as they lack the necessary flexibility. However many wind turbines are eventually built, there will still have to be a sufficient capacity of conventionally generated electricity to satisfy on its own peak demand plus a margin of perhaps 10 per cent. Wind turbines also destroy the coastline and the finest landscapes in the country, which have been a magnet for visitors from all over the world. They are viable only with colossal subsidies, which the Government constantly have to ratchet up in a desperate bid to maintain the momentum of their renewable energy commitment.

Perhaps I can illustrate the extravagance by the example of the London Array offshore wind farm, which is now back on track as a result of the Government having substantially increased in the Budget the subsidies available to offshore wind power. This wind farm is planned eventually to have up to 341 turbines, spread over 245 square kilometres, 12 miles off the Kent and Essex coasts in the Thames estuary. Let us suppose that the turbines each have an installed capacity of 3 megawatts. The total installed capacity will be more than 1,000 megawatts, producing something more than 300 megawatts per annum, assuming a 30 per cent load factor. At a conservative capital cost estimate of, say, £2.5 million per installed megawatt, the cost will be something of the order of £2.5 billion, or perhaps £3 billion. The ROC subsidy, which is now increased, that is available to the developers should amount at current ROC prices to something between £250 million and £300 million a year, a sum which is added to consumers’ electricity bills.

Meanwhile, in the field of unsubsidised energy, the recently consented 2,000 megawatts combined cycle gas turbine due to be built at Milford Haven will produce up to 1,800 megawatts a year, compared to London Array’s 300 to 400 megawatts. Each one of its five turbines will therefore produce as much electricity or more as the London Array in its entirety ever will. It will cost £800 million, according to the developer, compared to £2.5 billion to £3 billion for the London Array. It probably will occupy about 20 acres as opposed to 90 square miles. The London Array will have to have fossil fuel power stations backing it up. Which of those would make the most efficient contribution to our economy?

Incidentally, I have seen it written that the London Array will produce enough electricity to power 750,000 homes. Such claims are frequently put forward for wind farms, but they are thoroughly misleading. No wind turbines can ever produce enough electricity for any homes unless the occupants wish to be without power for between 10 and 100 days a year at moments which they have not chosen and usually when the weather is at its coldest.

I find it hard to understand why the Government think that wind power is the route to reduce CO2 emissions. The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark are all way ahead of us in the amount relatively of wind-generated electricity they produce, yet none has succeeded in bringing down its per capita CO2 emissions, which are all higher than ours. The two European countries which display considerably lower per capita

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CO2 emissions than us are Sweden, which produces much of its electricity by hydro-electric power, which this country cannot do much to increase, and France, which produces 80 per cent or most of its electricity from its nuclear power stations. Yet it is the policy of Germany and Denmark, not of France, that the Government have been so keen to follow.

The Government’s renewable energy policy adopted to prepare us for the distant and debatable threat of climate change of course does nothing to help us deal with the much more immediate threat to our energy security posed by the closing down of up to one-third of our obsolete power stations and—taking up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bhattacharyya—perhaps I might add that it is aggravated by a prospect of a London filled with electric cars. Indeed it detracts from the achievement of that objective because it leaves huge quantities of capital up a complete cul-de-sac and it positively retards the other objective of the Government’s energy policy, namely to abolish fuel poverty by 2016 and in vulnerable households by 2010. This is because the vast subsidies made available are added to consumers’ electricity bills. The effects can be seen already. In a parliamentary Written Answer given in another place on 12 May, the Minister revealed that the number of households in fuel poverty rose from 2.5 million in 2005 to 3.5 million in 2006 and was expected to rise by a further 1.2 million households by 2008. So, not much progress there.

It is, however, a relief that after 10 years of going nowhere, the Government have eventually decided to revert to nuclear power, currently the only method of viable generation that will reduce carbon emissions on any scale. But we cannot expect any new nuclear power stations to come on-stream for another 10 years, so where do we go in the mean time? A headline in the Times last week neatly illustrated the risks attached to increasing any further our already alarming and continually growing dependence on imported natural gas. Talking of the Arctic, it ran:

“Russia warns of war within decade over hunt for oil and gas”.

Beneath that heading, the article stated:

“Moscow appears willing to defend its interests by force as the region becomes ripe for exploitation in a world hungry for energy”.

With the North Sea running down, the proportion of the gas we use that is imported is due to rise from 50 per cent today to upwards of 70 per cent in a few years. We will have to build coal-fired power stations, and indeed we have in this country any amount of unmined or ungassified coal—300 years’ worth, I have heard it said. The Government are inching towards making greater use of it, but everything is made dependent on progress in the EU-led drive to achieve carbon capture and storage.

Two questions pose themselves. Can we close the energy gap in time if we wait for CCS, and is it in any case worth the stupendous cost? I do not know the answer to the first question, and the answer to the second depends on which way you look at it. If it is the case that CO2 in the global atmosphere has increased by no more than 23 per cent since 1900 and that at today’s rate of increase it cannot double for another

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200 years, and that if it doubles it can only produce an increase in the global temperature of less than 2 degrees centigrade, I think that we have more urgent things to think about.

That brings me to the heart of the problem with the Government’s whole renewable energy agenda. Nothing we do, whatever policies we pursue, could make anything but the most infinitesimal difference to the world’s carbon footprint, yet this Government appear willing to see businesses bankrupted, to impoverish consumers, wreck the countryside, destroy the economy and put out the lights, making in the process some completely negligible reduction in our carbon emissions, and all in the hope that we may influence other countries to adopt our largely foolish policies. I only hope that they will have the good sense not to. So it is not society that I wish to see adapting itself to the Government’s renewable energy policies, it is the Government’s energy policies that I wish to see adapted to suit the national interest.

12.13 pm

Lord Rees of Ludlow: My Lords, this is a timely debate and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, deserves our thanks for raising the key issues so clearly. It is important to remember that the entire debate is in the context of an aim to bring down world emissions of CO2 by 2050 to half the level they were in 1990. In deference to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, I think there is a real chance that if business as usual is maintained, the carbon concentration could more than double during this century. This target of halving CO2 emissions by 2050 has been espoused by the G8 and the European Union. It corresponds to two tonnes of CO2 per year from each person on the planet. For comparison, the current American figure is 20, the European figure about 10, and the Chinese level is already over four. So to achieve this 2050 target without stifling economic growth in the developing world is indeed a huge challenge. It is clear that the deepest percentage cuts are expected of the countries that now have the highest per capita emissions. Here in the UK, of course, an 80 per cent cut by 2050 is enshrined in the Climate Change Act. In the US, there is no legislation yet but President Obama has publicly espoused a similar goal.

What matters for the next century’s climate is the cumulative amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere, so there is a real urgency in reversing the year-by-year rise in annual emissions. Indeed, many climate scientists argue that unless this rising curve can be turned around by about 2020, the atmospheric concentration will reach a level that is threatening in the long term. That is why it is urgent to implement interim steps and why the Committee on Climate Change is setting targets for 2020 and 2030 as well as 2050.

As many have emphasised, a lot can be achieved by increased energy efficiency. In particular, we can cut the energy used in heating buildings. That and other similar measures will actually save money. But to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further while still ensuring energy security requires a diverse mix of technologies. Moreover, the clean technologies for power generation that are available for immediate deployment

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are limited. That is why we are hard-pressed to reach the EU’s 2020 renewables targets. Technologies such as offshore wind are mature enough to be deployed, but their contribution is limited by the sheer engineering challenge of constructing them fast enough.

At present it is necessary to back-up intermittent sources of energy with fossil fuelled power plants in order to maintain a reliable supply of energy when it is needed. So any credible mix is likely to include nuclear power, with enough new build, at the very least, to replace existing plants being decommissioned in the period up to 2020. These new nuclear power stations will be of well-tried design. Concerns over waste disposal and security must none the less be openly addressed and allayed.

Even optimists have to acknowledge that it will be at least 30 years before renewables or nuclear could fully take over from coal, oil and gas, which seem set to be important in the UK and, more importantly, to dominate the world’s ever growing energy needs for at least that long. That is why it is important to explore the various technologies for carbon capture and storage. Full-scale demonstrations can be delivered before 2020 if we start now. Only then will we know the feasibility of this technology. The recent commitment by the Department of Energy and Climate Change is welcome and the UK Government can send a strong signal by approving the building of new coal-fired stations only on condition that operating permits will be withdrawn if the plants fail to capture 90 per cent of their carbon dioxide emissions beyond some target date. The UK has the chance to play a leading role in the development of this technology across Europe. Making retrofitting of existing plants economically viable will require the legal, regulatory and financial markets to be changed.

In most contexts, 2050 seems so far away that it is beyond the planning horizon. But the timescale for replacing our infrastructure is 50 years. Power stations now being planned will still be operating in 2050, so it is not too soon to focus on moving towards a zero carbon economy by that date. However, this will require real innovation. We can exploit waves and tides. We have the geography—capes around our coasts with fast-flowing tidal currents—and we have marine technology from North Sea oil and gas exploration.

Then there is bioenergy. There has, rightly, been ambivalence about first-generation biofuels, but the prospects for biofuels that convert cellulose or for intensively cultured marine algae merit further investigation. Beyond that, genetic technology may have a lot to offer, but the tension between land use for food and for fuel will indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, emphasised, get sharper.

Another need is for better energy storage such as lithium batteries and super-capacitors, not only on the scale needed for cars, but also for larger-scale use in power stations, to smooth over peaks and troughs in demand, and to complement unsteady power sources such as sun and wind.

Synthetically produced fuel is also needed—for instance, methanol, combining CO2 from carbon capture with hydrogen from carbon-free sources. Parenthetically, though, I note that the United States has de-emphasised hydrogen in the short term in favour of prioritising improved battery technology.

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We should also bear in mind that the nuclear power stations now being built are designs that were established decades ago. There is scope for developing so-called fourth-generation nuclear-fission power stations, and that is where, again, more research and development is needed.

As discussed in an earlier debate in this House, nuclear fusion remains a hugely important area of research with major long-term potential. Payoff there is so far ahead that it all has to be publicly funded, but it is surely worth the global investment of $1.5 billion or $2 billion a year, given the scale of the problem.

I will put my personal long-term bet, however, on solar energy. Huge collectors in the Sahara could generate power that was then distributed via a pan-European smart grid. Achieving that by 2050 would require vision, commitment and investment on the European level from both governments and industry.

These are all exciting long-term prospects. There have been welcome positive steps in the UK and in the EU, but energy R&D is still far below what the challenge demands. It is a mere 0.2 per cent of what is spent on energy consumption, in glaring contrast with, for instance, the equivalent percentage in the health sector. When he addressed the National Academy of Sciences last month, President Obama declared that the centrepiece of his science and technology policy would be energy, just as in the 1960s it was space exploration and the Apollo programme. Europe has equivalent economic power and innovative skills to the United States, and it needs to make a matching commitment. We in the UK are well placed to lead this effort. There is a need, but for us there is also a real opportunity.

In summary, there are two big questions. First, are the declared targets of 80 per cent cuts by 2050 technically feasible? Here I am confident that the answer is yes. We could by then have developed a low-carbon economy that would not impede our economic growth or quality of life. This cannot happen, though, without sustained R&D followed by massive investment and vast infrastructure projects co-ordinated at the European level.

The UK contributes only 2 per cent of the world’s energy. We cannot abate global warming by ourselves. So there is a second question: can a political commitment to a low-carbon economy be adopted internationally and sustained? Here one cannot be so confident, but what happens in Copenhagen in December will be crucial in determining the odds on that.

12.24 pm

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord for tabling this important debate, especially at a time of economic crisis when some voices, even in your Lordships’ House, are questioning the priority being given to creating a low-carbon economy.

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