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14 Jan 2010 : Column 614

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, given the complete and predictable failure of the Copenhagen conference and the fact that it is clear that the world as a whole will have no curbs on the growth of aviation passenger transport, can the Minister assure the House that he will look at the matter again and not do anything to curb the use of air travel for British citizens, particularly in view of his answer to the earlier question, when he expressed his desire to see greater mobility?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we need to strike a balance. It is important that we meet our carbon reduction targets, but we are mindful of the social and economic importance of aviation, which is why we welcome the key recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change that an increase of 60 per cent in the number of passengers and 54 per cent in the number of flights is compatible with our climate change obligations.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is strong evidence at the moment that aircraft manufacturers are taking this very seriously, particularly where the next generation of aircraft is concerned? I speak as the president of BALPA.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, my noble friend makes a good point, and the Committee on Climate Change emphasises that the development of technology such as novel airframe configurations, advanced lightweight materials, innovative laminar airflow control techniques and more electric airframe aircraft systems all significantly improve aircrafts' environmental performance and fuel efficiency.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, what progress are the Government making in reducing groundborne emissions around airports? Clearly, the two are directly related.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the airport operators have targets for improving the efficiency of air traffic movements on the ground, all of which of course also contribute to the reduction in carbon emissions.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I declare an interest as a supporter of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign. Encouraged by his earlier answer, and in view of declining passenger numbers and the emissions issue, will my noble friend commit the Government to withdrawing explicitly their support for BAA's plans to expand runway capacity at Stansted and thereby end 10 years of blight on that area?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the decision on an application to expand the airport is a matter for the airport operator. However, I would not overdo the decline in air passenger numbers; if one looks at this in any historic context, they are continuing to rise sharply. In 1982, the number of air passengers was 60 million; in 1997 it was 146 million and in 2007 it was 240 million. Even in the midst of all the economic problems that we have had over the past two years, the reduction on that figure has only been very slight. There is still enormous economic and social demand for air travel, and there will be a need for additional airport capacity in the future.

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Lord Elton: Is the Minister aware of how difficult it is for those who are amateurs in this field to swallow the statement that increasing traffic by 54 per cent will enable us to reduce emissions? That means that they will have to be reduced by at least 55 per cent in relation to each aircraft.

Lord Adonis: I do not wish to blind the noble Lord with facts, and I am an amateur myself in this business. Perhaps I might, however, simply give him the facts; today's aircraft are 70 per cent more fuel-efficient than the first commercial jets were, and each successive generation of aircraft is significantly more fuel-efficient than its predecessors. That will give him some idea of how it is possible to significantly expand air traffic without increasing carbon emissions.

Railways: Passenger Satisfaction


11.47 am

Asked By Lord Bradshaw

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the bidding process for the most recent rail franchise awarded by the Government, to Govia for Southern railway, included an evaluation not only of punctuality and reliability but passenger satisfaction in respect of trains, stations and passenger information. Those customer satisfaction improvements are part of the franchise and financial penalties apply if they are not met. I intend to include similar requirements in future franchise bids and contracts.

Lord Bradshaw: Is the Minister aware that Passenger Focus is undertaking work on the use of sampling passenger experience where the station, the car park, the cleanliness of the train, luggage space, information and many other factors are taken into account in a statistically rigorous manner? That is much better than the crude measure of public performance, which can be easily abused both by operators and by Network Rail.

Lord Adonis: I am well aware of the points that the noble Lord makes. Indeed, it was thanks to research done by Passenger Focus that the passenger satisfaction indices that I mentioned in my initial Answer were included in the Southern franchise. Passenger Focus is doing similar work for us in respect of forthcoming rail franchises, and I intend to see that a wider range of passenger satisfaction targets are included in those franchises.

Lord Snape: Does the Minister agree that the punctuality figures for our railway system in 2009 were probably the best in railway history? Would he also like to pay tribute to railwaymen and women for that excellent performance over the past year?

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Lord Adonis: My noble friend is absolutely right. The punctuality figure now stands at more than 90 per cent in terms of the public performance measure, which is the best it has been since we started collecting these statistics. However, of course, "no complacency" are my middle names and I certainly do not regard that as high enough. We want to see it continuing to rise month by month and year by year. I point out that the public performance measure is for trains to be regarded as punctual if, in respect of long-distance trains they arrive within 10 minutes of their scheduled time and in respect of commuter trains they arrive within five minutes of their scheduled time. I do not think that most passengers regard that as absolutely punctual and we might have a more exacting target in the future.

Lord McNally: My Lords, I speak from these Benches not as Leader of the Liberal Democrats but as one of the poor bloody infantry who has to use the Bedford to Brighton line to commute into London. This morning there was a fire on the line that stopped the cross-London service. Last night, inclement weather stopped the cross-London service. Previously we have had technical breakdowns, industrial disputes and a whole list of excuses from First Capital Connect. Is there not an urgent need to see whether this franchise is being served properly? I can assure the noble Lord that if he asked the commuters on that line, they would tell him very clearly, "Come back Thameslink, all is forgiven".

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am only too well aware of the substandard service that has been offered by First Capital Connect in recent months. This is a matter of acute concern to me and my department. However, I am the bearer of some modest glad tidings to the noble Lord. The drivers' ballot on the pay settlement was held yesterday, which led to a decision to accept the pay settlement. The intention is that a full, normal service will be offered from Monday. I stress that that is the intention of the company. Of course, in the current weather conditions, other factors may come into play. However, the company is well aware of the concerns of the noble Lord and of those many others who have been severely inconvenienced in using this service in recent months, and is fully intent on improving that service rapidly.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, when we previously discussed the problems of Eurostar, we talked about communications. Will there be included in the new franchises a requirement that there should be proper communications with passengers at all times?

Lord Adonis: The noble Baroness makes a very important point. Passenger information matters a great deal to passengers. We have seen the importance of that in recent days as services have had to be changed due to weather conditions. In the Southern railway franchise that I mentioned earlier, there is a requirement for improvements in passenger information, and that the passengers themselves should rate those improvements as satisfactory. I intend to incorporate similar requirements in future rail franchises.

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Business of the House

Timing of Debates

11.52 am

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed.

Business of the House

Motion on Standing Orders

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed.

Child Poverty Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

11.53 am

Moved By Lord McKenzie of Luton

Motion agreed.

Climate Change: Copenhagen Conference


11.53 am

Moved By Lord Stone of Blackheath

Lord Stone of Blackheath: My Lords, early in December, colleagues involved in climate change issues were telling me that they doubted that Copenhagen would resolve the problems. They said that the concluding agreement would fall short of what was needed and that the overwhelming effect would be disappointing. That is why I asked for this debate then, not because I feel expert in this field as there are giants in climate

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change in this House and I am looking forward to hearing what they say. No, where my expertise lies, as a retailer, is in knowing how people will react to events in the way that they eat, dress, spend their money and live their lives.

I knew that, post-Copenhagen, if we had scary, doomsday headlines saying that it was a complete failure, these would turn people off. Here are three of those predictable headlines:

"I blame Bono for the Copenhagen failure".

That was the Spectator.

"Copenhagen was an all-out failure".

That was Der Spiegel.

"Low targets, goals dropped: Copenhagen ends in failure",

stated the Guardian. The press know that doom-and-gloom headlines sell their papers, and that is their business. What we should be concerned about is that if people do not believe that world Governments can agree on what to do and set legal frameworks, that businesses, in making profits, are an essential part of the solution, or that campaigning NGOs will work with business and government to put things right, individuals will stop acting in a communal way.

However, the majority were on board. Last year, according to a Defra tracker, 91 per cent of respondents were recycling; 76 per cent cut their gas and electricity use; and 62 per cent of drivers used their car less for short journeys. But if these people think that we cannot manage the world process, they will stop all this and consider only self-preservation and the good of their immediate family and close friends. I hope that we can turn the tide a little in this debate by hearing some positive suggestions on what to do next.

Before I continue I must declare an interest. I was close to Copenhagen because I chair a charity, the Sindicatum Climate Change Foundation, which was set up to fund activities around the world that fall between two stools. We carry out projects that are considered either not profitable enough for business or too "commercial" to be adopted by NGOs. We get them both to work together. Before that, I helped found a business four years ago that reduces carbon emissions. From these involvements, I know that four sectors must co-operate in order-dare I use this phrase?-to save the planet. Their tendency, when there is apparent failure, actually is to blame each other. NGOs love to blame business; businesses blame government; Governments blame every other Government that went before them; and people blame all of the above. But now is not the time to apportion blame.

Around the world much positive activity is going on and it is not too late. It is close; but not closed. I shall say a few words about NGOs, businesses, Governments and individuals, and I hope that we can build on what is being done, not pull it apart. NGOs are not just talking, they are doing. I have seen in hospitals in Ghana how solar panels have replaced dirty diesel generators and, in doing so, not only have they reduced emissions, but they have helped facilitate life-saving operations that previously were impossible there. In India, in Delhi, thousands of tonnes of grass cuttings, previously sent to rot and emit greenhouse gases in landfills in the suburbs, are now being turned

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into biomass fuel for cooking in the city. In business, examples I have seen include the capturing and utilisation of coal-mine methane on a huge scale in Shanxi province in China to produce power. This methane was previously released into the atmosphere. Methane is 23 times more polluting that C02. In Indonesia, sugar cane husks and rice husks that were previously wasted are being used for biofuel. In the Middle East, where I was last week, a strain of tamarix tree that grows in salt water and in the desert, where you cannot grow food, is being produced to burn as biofuel to replace oil and coal. This may be the burning bush.

I hope we hear in this debate of many more scalable and sustainable projects that can grow rapidly, given the right resources and support. An example of resources needed is new mechanisms. Organisations in the field tell me that CDM is not capable of delivering the kinds of emission reductions that we need. Developers are focusing only on countries where CDM can be, or has been, implemented, rather than working in countries which lack the basic infrastructure to support CDM. They say that this is because CDM is at one end of the spectrum and cap-and-trade regimes at the other, and there is nothing in between to act as a ladder. Government should promote new mechanisms to fill the gap. Given the right incentives and mechanisms, the private sector will finance these kinds of initiatives.

I have mentioned British NGOs and British businesses. We can be proud also of our UK Government. We are leaders here, being the first to pass a Climate Change Bill. Here in this House we have world expertise. The Lord Speaker chaired a pre-Copenhagen debate, and we heard the noble Lord, Lord Rees, say that the science was solid and had been consistent on this for decades. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, has calculated what needs to be done and said it is expensive but affordable. The noble Lord, Lord Turner, who apologises for not being here today, made it very simple and clear to me. He said that we need, as a species, to find alternative sources of energy that are cleaner and better, and that we need to find more efficient ways of using them and a different way to live. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, who is stuck due to the weather today, said that the politics were complicated but doable. I hope that we will now hear from some of these experts what the Government should do next.

Again, as a retailer and a negotiator, one thing that I know the Government must do is to put some leadership into the negotiating process. The Copenhagen process was clearly badly managed and that was a huge factor in not producing a binding treaty. We must, before Bonn in June and Mexico in November, know what the process is, specify the unified text on which we are negotiating and draw up realistic timelines. Hence, the Government must now demonstrate a real commitment to the Copenhagen accord, take leadership in managing the process, defining it before the next summit so that we can integrate the Copenhagen accord into the UN process, and develop a realistic administrative road map for negotiations on one central authorised text. We should strengthen co-operation on the UK-German axis and tighten co-ordination within the EU delegation. In that way, we can agree ambitious and binding medium and long-term targets

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for action that make the 2 degrees centigrade a realistic pathway; we can agree binding commitments by developed countries to deliver jointly on the $30 billion for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries from 2010 to 2012; and we can include a binding timeline and cost-sharing formula between developed countries. Then, we can agree a road map to pursue new mechanisms to promote cost-effective mitigation action, with their integration into the European Emissions Trading Scheme, and, finally, a binding timeline for the establishment and entry into force of a REDD-plus mechanism dealing with afforestation.

I am conscious that I have spoken a lot about mitigation, and there are those here who feel that it has already gone too far. In fact, I am sure that we will hear from some that what we should concentrate on now is adaptation for the United Kingdom.

Knowing that, I want to add a point which may seem odd and perhaps a little too spiritual coming from someone secular. Earlier, I referred to the heroic, pragmatic and positive actions of individuals, but there is also a human role for individuals in terms of context. We are wrongly led to believe by some quarters of science, business, the media and politics that we are each completely separate and responsible only for ourselves, our family, our friends, our colleagues or our country. It is true in a way that we feel physically, emotionally and intellectually separate. There is me, there is you and there is the rest of the world. However, the ancient wisdoms, the pre-monotheistic religions, monotheism, the philosophies of the East and even quantum physics have all known that actually we are one. Rabbi Hillel said:

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?".

Geoffrey Bamford of the Society for the Wider Understanding of the Buddhist Tradition has said:

"Feeling as one isn't a question of intellect and will. It depends largely on our frame of mind. Are we acting upon a situation here that is separate from ourselves? Are we trying to solve a problem, where we are merely external observers? No, clearly we ourselves are bound up in this process of environmental change and of adaptation to it".

Everything that we do affects the universe, and everything that happens in the universe affects us. Today, each of us here can have a positive effect on the planet and the universe if, with good intention and with space to contemplate, we show what the Government, business, NGOs and individuals can do when we act together as one. I beg to move.

12.04 pm

Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for instigating this important debate, on which I congratulate him. Two and a half years ago the Royal Society published a pamphlet entitled Climate Change Controversies: A Simple Guide. It stated:

"This is not intended to provide exhaustive answers to every contentious argument that has been put forward by those who seek to distort and undermine the science of climate change".

In other words, only doubters of science dispute or query the conventional wisdom. The authors overlook the proud motto of the Royal Society: "Take nobody's word for it".

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