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The Minister has worked hard to make this Statement sound optimistic and forward-looking and I agree that there is much more that needs to be done. We must continue to focus all our efforts on achieving the commitments that proved so elusive last month. The Minister talked of strengthening the agreement and making it legally binding. Surely he agrees, however, that much more work must be done to resolve the many outstanding areas of disagreement before anything meaningful can be made legally binding. What steps will the Government take to bring round those countries which have yet to sign up to the accord? What progress has been made on those areas that did not even make the accord?
I am happy to see that there was little of the blame game in this Statement that the Government indulged in last month and I hope that this marks a new understanding on the part of the Government that
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The Prime Minister likes making apocalyptic statements about saving the world, but that sort of overblown rhetoric is not really what is needed, especially when it is combined with government delay and obstruction on exactly the sort of projects that will lead us to a sustainable economy. Over the past 15 years, Labour has been far too slow to legislate and implement policies on rolling out smart meters, developing carbon capture and storage, providing and producing the planning guidelines for nuclear power stations or supporting renewable technology and microgeneration investment. The Minister called attention to the great advances that have been made in the past few decades and he is quite right to identify the enormous support that there now is from scientific evidence and public opinion. I hope very much that that support will lead to a meaningful agreement very soon and will not, as has been the case in this country with the Government, result only in yet more talk and still no action.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for making the Statement. I echo the thoughts of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, but I would make the point even more strongly: this conference was an absolute failure. Let us be clear about that. We did not move forward; particularly psychologically, we moved back to before Bali and all the optimism and work that had been done before Copenhagen at the end of last year. That is a great challenge and a great problem.
Of all the words and phrases that could be found in the diplomatic lexicon, "accord" was chosen. It means "agreement", but agreement about what? As the Minister said in the Statement, the accord was deposited in the Library of the House. I went there earlier, as I had not read the accord word for word, and found that it had just 12 paragraphs. It contains hardly any numbers-the figure of 2 degrees at the beginning, a wish for a $30 billion transfer of funds, with $100 billion by 2020, and one other figure, which I shall come to later. That is it. There are fewer promises in it than in the Tories' pre-election manifesto, which we heard about yesterday. That is something to beat in terms of aspirations. We have a great failure.
Another thing that Copenhagen showed was a massive transfer of global power. What did we have? We had the deal led by China with South Africa, Brazil and India. Russia was not even there. More important, the
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As the Minister said, there were some good points. One that has not been mentioned was the agreement for verification across the world, particularly by China, which should, we hope, eventually make an agreement deliverable by the United States Senate. There was also the agreement straightaway for a $30 billion transfer of funds, which will primarily relate to forests. The REDD-plus agreement moved forward, which I hope will be one of the major achievements to be delivered from the conference, because if we lose rainforests they are lost for ever.
We will have a debate next week, when I will broaden out some of those themes, but I should like to know from the Minister what the European Union is going to do now in relation to the reduction of 20 per cent versus 30 per cent. This agreement cannot fulfil the requirements for a 30 per cent reduction by 2020 at the European Union level. Where does Europe go from here, after this diplomatic disaster at Copenhagen? I am also interested in the Copenhagen green climate fund that it was decided should be set up. Perhaps the Minister could say a little about whether that is about to happen. Is it part of the United Nations? How does it fit in? How do we know whether this transfer will work properly? I would be interested to understand a little more about the technology transfer organisation.
One of the ironies of the accord lies in paragraph 12, which says, "After we've done all this by 2015, we'll then reconsider whether we should strengthen the target to 1.5 degrees, as the island nation states demanded". Of course, with the weak agreement that we have, that target has become impossible. In many ways, that is the hypocrisy of the accord.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for their responses. I say to them both that it is important to be optimistic and to look for the positives that came out of Copenhagen. We should map out a trajectory, setting out those parts of the discussions that led to the accord that lead us to see the progress that can be made over the next few months. It is important that we build on those foundations.
There are risks in simply writing off Copenhagen as a failure. It is important that we remain as optimistic as we can be and, over the next few months, build on what was agreed by 49 nations. Of course there cannot be complacency. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, was right to point to two aspects of the accord that were not mentioned in the Statement: first, verification, which is vital to the integrity of what was agreed and what we hope will be agreed in the future; and, secondly, deforestation.
I think it important simply to reflect again that this endorses the limit of 2 degrees Celsius as the benchmark for global progress. I remind noble Lords that the countries that signed up to the accord-"agreed to the accord" is probably a more appropriate description-have agreed to make specific commitments to tackle emissions, which are to be lodged in the agreement by 31 January. One hopes very much that the commitments that those nations lodge will build on the offers that were made in the lead-up to Copenhagen. We should not ignore the progress that has been made in terms of the countries that have lodged actions that they will take in relation to climate change. We need to build on that. We remain committed to a legally binding agreement and we will work hard to ensure that that happens.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, asked what happens next and what actions the UK Government will take. Clearly, we are still thinking through some of the implications and it is right that we should do that. I welcome the opportunity that we will have in eight days' time for a Thursday debate on climate change, which I am sure will be helpful. Of course we will redouble our efforts to encourage countries to associate themselves with the accord. We will work to get finance flowing to developed countries. We will work hard to contribute to the establishment of a high-level panel on sources of finance and we will do everything that we can to encourage countries to consider the benefit of a legally binding agreement.
The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, said that she was glad that we were not engaging in blame. We have never sought to engage in a blame game. My right honourable friend has, in describing the process at Copenhagen, pointed out simply and accurately why certain countries could not sign up to a legally binding agreement. That is not a blame game and I do not think that it would be sensible for us to indulge in one. We have to take the good bits of what happened at Copenhagen and build on them in the future, engaging with those countries. We are not seeking to inhibit the growth of developing countries, many of whose citizens live in abject poverty. I agree with the noble Baroness about that. We wish to see a sustainable, low-carbon economy developing both in this country and in other countries. I do not accept her criticism of this Government in relation to the action that we have taken to encourage a low-carbon energy policy. We have taken action in relation to new nuclear, the development of clean coal through carbon capture and storage, the reform of the planning legislation, the commitment in the Climate Change Act to an 80 per cent GHG reduction by 2050 and the development of smart meters. All of this is hard evidence of a Government strongly committed to the benefits of a low-carbon economy.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, specifically raised the role of the EU. The EU was at the forefront in developing policies prior to Copenhagen. We should not ignore that. The EU has shown leadership capacity in that regard. It is not accurate to say that the EU was excluded from the agreement on the accord. Other countries were around the table when it was agreed. Of course there were side meetings. I think the noble Lord is referring to one such side meeting. It is fair to point out that there were any number of such meetings
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On the issue of holding climate change to 1.5 degrees, my understanding is that, on the current trajectory, even if all emissions were stopped now, 1.4 degrees of warming is inevitable. I do not think that, in any circumstances, 1.5 degrees could be practical, but the noble Lord is right to remind us of the importance of pursuing progress with great energy; building on the accord; encouraging more countries to agree to the accord; making their commitments known by 31 January; and doing everything that we can to secure legally binding agreements in the future.
On the question of the green climate fund and the technology mechanism, it was encouraging that decisions were made. We believe that, essentially, it was recognition of the importance of international financial and technological support for the development and diffusion of low-carbon and climate-resilient technologies. The details of how that will be taken forward have yet to be agreed but I am always happy to discuss this further with the noble Lord when we have more information.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, it is difficult to engage with the Minister, since his answers to previous questions have made clear that he is not living in the real world at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to some extent pointed out. Nevertheless, does the Minister recall that last year I pointed out that his own department put the cost of the Climate Change Act to the British economy at anything up to £18 billion a year, year in, year out, and that there would be no conceivable benefit unless there was a global agreement of the same kind? Therefore, I asked him a year ago whether he would undertake, if there was no such agreement at Copenhagen, to repeal the Act, or at least to put it into suspense. He replied that the question did not arise because he was confident that there would be a wholly satisfactory agreement at Copenhagen. Since the Minister's confidence, like everything else that he has said, has been proved to be wholly misplaced, will he now undertake-unlike the European Union, which has made this conditional-to put this wholly unconditional, hugely damaging and hugely costly burden on an economy which is not in the most robust condition anyway into suspense as a result of the total failure of Copenhagen to achieve what he was confident it would achieve? Clearly, no useful purpose can be served by carrying on with this at present.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, as ever, for allowing me to debate these issues with him. But I do not agree at all. Whatever the outcome of Copenhagen-and the accord represents significant steps forward and a foundation
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The noble Lord mentions China, but China, as part of the process leading to Copenhagen, announced policies such as energy-intensity targets in the current five-year plans and 2020 targets for renewable and nuclear power. We estimate that those will reduce emissions by around 10 per cent against business-as-usual projections. They also show that China is embarked on a pathway towards a low-carbon economy. That is happening and it is inevitable. It would be foolish in the extreme suddenly to say, "We are going to stop. We will reverse our policies and move to a high-carbon economy". It is very foolish to think that a high-carbon economy will, long term, be low-cost to this country. It will not.
Lord Smith of Finsbury: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Environment Agency. I observe first, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, that we are living absolutely in the real world. The real world is one in which climate change is happening and poses the biggest threat that any of us faces over the coming generation. The scientific evidence for that is overwhelming and irrefutable.
I thank the Minister for his Statement and pay tribute to the role that the UK has played in seeking international agreement, both at and prior to Copenhagen. However, the outcome of Copenhagen is obviously deeply disappointing. We have emerged with an imperfect, flawed and partial document that offers only a tiny part of a solution to a tiny number of relevant issues. However, the worst possible response to Copenhagen would be to throw up our hands in horror and say that nothing can now be achieved and we must all pack up our bags and go home. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that we redouble our efforts to secure, by the end of this calendar year at the very latest, a binding international legal agreement that will ensure that we reach the two-degree target that was agreed as part of the partial accord?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I am grateful to my noble friend and pay tribute to him and the Environment Agency for their work in this important area. I well understand that he is disappointed by the outcome of the discussions in Copenhagen. As I have intimated, the Government, too, are disappointed by the outcome. The noble Lord is also right to say that we should not throw up our hands in horror and say that we should reverse all our policies.
We should not ignore two facts. First, the accord contains some important gains; it was very important that we put these in the bag. Secondly, several significant offers were made by both developed and developing countries in the lead-up to Copenhagen. We must hope that they translate themselves into the commitments that are made by those countries that agreed to the accord at the end of this month. My understanding is that the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, shows that if you combine the impact of those offers, particularly the highly ambitious end of them, you are within
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I repeated in the Statement the intention of the German Government to host a ministerial meeting. UN negotiators and negotiators from the relevant countries will also meet in Germany in the summer. We will do everything we can to reach the outcome the noble Lord has suggested.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: The most disappointing aspect of Copenhagen was the failure to establish institutional mechanisms to quietly take forward discussions between nations which, for the most part, engaged in grandstanding and exchanged abuse. Many significant nations absented themselves from direct participation in the key decisions. Although Britain could lead by example in what we do about the carbon economy domestically, is it none the less futile for us to seek to work on our own in this area? Will the Government seek to give the European Union the clout which its collective economies ought to enable it to wield, and to do this significantly before the discussions which are to take place thanks to Chancellor Merkel? We have to begin now to get these institutional arrangements in place. We cannot simply wait for suggestions that may emanate from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, which are bound to take time and to require widespread consensus of a kind which will probably be too weak to deal with the urgency of the situation.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord referred to the negotiating process in Copenhagen. He will understand that we found it a frustrating experience. Much of the discussion was about process rather than the substantive points that needed to be agreed. It is very important that lessons are learnt from that. One cannot underestimate the challenge of achieving consensus among more than 190 countries. However, it is clear that the process needs to be improved. We were encouraged by the remarks of the UN Secretary-General about his willingness to look at that. I agree with the noble Lord that this is not something the UK can achieve on its own. We have to work with our partners. Working with the EU is particularly important and has been shown to be beneficial.
However, on the whole question of institutions, it is worth saying to the noble Lord that for the first time the Copenhagen accord will see developing, as well as developed, countries subject to monitoring, reporting and verification. That is very important. Clearly, we have to work very hard to make sure we have the right mechanisms in place to ensure the integrity of those processes. I assure him that the Government will discuss those matters with our partners in Europe.
Lord Clinton-Davis: Is it not clear that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is living in a world of his own? Is it not evident that he is incapable of making any constructive suggestions about this most important
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is well able to make his views on these issues known. Since I have been in this post, he has shown every sign of being able to do so with vigour. I do not agree with him but I enjoy our discussions.
We will vigorously promote the need for an internationally binding agreement, as my noble friend has suggested. We are considering what specific actions we need to take. I am sure that our debate next week will be very helpful in informing the Government on those matters. My noble friend mentioned the USA and China. Comment has rightly been made about the importance of the role of both those Governments in international negotiations. In the lead-up to Copenhagen, China announced policies which we found encouraging. It is also worth pointing out to my noble friend that the USA recently announced, through its President, that it was prepared to table an emissions commitment of 17 per cent below 2005 levels. The President has made it clear that that is the start of that process. Although, historically, there has been great disappointment about the position taken by the US, it seems to me at least that it has come a long way in a very short time. We are not going to make progress internationally by hectoring and lecturing. We have to work very hard to persuade and to act through consensus. We need to acknowledge progress when it has been made.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying that he has certainly not erred on the side of not accentuating sufficiently positive aspects. However, that is a mistake because it underestimates the distance we still have to travel and that is not sensible, frankly, because that distance seems to me very long. Could the Minister clarify the position as regards verification and monitoring? Frankly, the passage in the accord that deals with that is totally inadequate and will prove to be a flimsy and fragile thing which will gradually fall to pieces. I hope he can confirm that we need to get on to the table a much more robust and international system of verification and monitoring, because if we do not there will be no agreement on a legally binding treaty, and if there is
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