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I take nobody's word for it. Scientists divide on the principle or pace of climate change. Unanimity does not exist. Professor Morner, former chairman of the International Commission on Sea Level Change, regarded Al Gore's claims of 20-foot rises in sea levels by 2100 as a scare story. So too did Professor Lindzen of MIT, a leading climatologist. Nearer home, Sir David King, a former chief government scientific adviser, affirmed that if China and India continued to support the USA, the planet, apart from Antarctica, would be uninhabitable by 2100.
In the spirit of the Royal Society's motto, I offer some observations. The G77 demanded hundreds of billions of dollars in addition to development aid. The notion that richer countries would be willing to surrender so much of their wealth in perpetuity was always for the elves. Nations are unlikely to be disposed towards policies with such high economic costs, least of all during an international recession, in spite of the rhapsodising by western political leaders, each purporting to be more virtuous and generous than the other. But then candour has never been at the heart of this debate. Take Canada, a Kyoto signatory. It has increased its emissions by more than the USA, a Kyoto dissenter.
David Miliband, when he was Environment Secretary three years ago, claimed that the scientific and popular debates were coming to an end. These words did not chime with stronger-headed businessmen before or during Copenhagen. Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, pleaded for business to be given a clearer sense of direction. After all, businesses and taxpayers will bear the brunt of moves to low-carbon technology. It will be hard for the UK in our present plight, Europe or depressed Japan to continue to endorse policies or aims that burden economies by harming competitiveness.
The USA is central to what happens before and at Mexico. Congress and the White House remain preoccupied with other priorities: health reform, the deficit and, of course, the mid-term elections. President Obama arrived in Copenhagen declaring that the time for talking was over, but straight talking in the USA has not begun in earnest. Has the President dared to persuade people to pay higher taxes to subsidise China, with its aggressive currency policy, to become more energy-efficient and economically competitive?
The principle of comparative advantage haunts Congressmen and, of course, it is accompanied by the risks of green protectionism, already advanced by President Sarkozy. Surely our leaders grasp that China, the world's number one emitter, avoids action because of its burgeoning energy needs and its efforts to join the ranks of the industrial powers when it would also be subject to the tougher restrictions under any future treaty, however unenforceable it might be in reality.
Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winner in economics in 2008, stated that if an economists' creed existed, it would be: "I understand the principle of comparative advantage and I advocate free trade". This powerful creed will lurk just below the surface in Mexico, and it will be certain to influence the outcome.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for initiating this debate, and for doing so in an immediate way that put individuals on the spot. I declare an interest as the chairman of a start-up company seeking to promote the development of tidal power in this country.
I think that those who were shocked by the Copenhagen outcome must have had expectations that were beyond the reasonable. Global governance involving over 190 countries will not progress by a number of heads of state arriving and using megaphone diplomacy at each other. Copenhagen was in some senses an important gathering in so far as it underlined the widespread-indeed, now almost general-concern about climate change. It was, however, completely inadequately prepared. It could result in a protracted and inconclusive negotiation if the faults of the process are not recognised and considered very deeply by our Government, who have a long experience of attempting to take the lead in international negotiations.
Copenhagen is not alone in standing for the incapability of multinational organisations to produce satisfactory outcomes. In the past year we have witnessed the Doha round coming to a standstill in a most distressing fashion. Then as now at Copenhagen, there were multiple reasons for this. I think it is necessary not to be dismissed as a dewy-eyed utopian if one stands back and says that the modes of reaching global decisions have to be considered in a new way. I do not think that we are getting a lead on this from the United Nations or the leaders of the United Nations. I would commend the forum of the European Union as an appropriate one at least to seek to bring together the voices of developed countries, many of which have very strong ties to developing countries, and which are perhaps collectively less nationalist in their outlook than some of the other participants in the international debate.
It seems to me that Copenhagen was vitiated by the quite long parallel discussions going on in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Rio summit and the Kyoto Protocol directions. The fact that there was no success in bringing together those two parallel developments seems to me to be due largely to a lack of preparation. This is a subject in which we as a single country cannot lecture the Chinese, any more than we can lecture the President of the United States, on what their interests are or how they must conform; we cannot do it even within the 27 member nations of the European Union. However, we can engage in continuing dialogue and activity. It seems to me that that is what is principally lacking in the world governance development. The support systems for these periodic conventions are wholly inadequate. They are too ad hoc. I believe that a step in the right direction has been taken by the Lisbon treaty. I very much hope that the External Action Service enables Europe not to be sidelined at the decision-making moments, as it was at Copenhagen. It was absent from the discussion that was initiated and led to the accord. That is a pretty shocking indictment of the preparation that we in Europe put into this.
Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, I had not intended to talk about science today because the science was not seriously questioned at Copenhagen-it was not the issue. On the other hand, it is worth making a comment or two on it. When the former leader of one of the world's important countries said, as he commonly did, that the science is not certain, that was pretty much a content-free statement. It does not mean anything unless you specify what question the science is supposed to answer. Although scientists, climatologists and so forth disagree about a great many of the details, the general direction of change is not seriously questioned by many.
It is very difficult to question the influence of our greenhouse gases in controlling the earth's temperature and question the fact that during the past 150 years we have significantly increased those by roughly 30 per cent. People who deny that really have to recognise that they have to come up with a whole new theory for temperature distribution in the terrestrial planets, which has stood the test of time for about 100 years, if they want to throw out the concept of greenhouse gas perturbation. When you come to the precise consequences of this-how much ice melts where; whether we are talking about 2 or 3 degrees-there is much more scope for disagreement over modelling and between the different approaches taken. However, there is nearly uniform agreement on the general direction of change.
Turning to the Copenhagen conference, certainly the outcome was a disappointment to many. One cannot avoid the feeling that the approaches to the conference were buoyed up on a somewhat unsubstantiated froth of optimism. There is nothing wrong with that, but that is what I think it was. Certainly, many small and developing countries must have come away with a feeling of deep disappointment because they believe that they are the innocent victims of environmental damage which they had no part in creating.
One of the favourable outcomes of Copenhagen was that there appeared to be a willingness on the part of the developed world to recognise that and to help both with adaptation and mitigation. There is some way to go and a great many details have to be worked out. However, arguably, the most important consequence of the conference was that simply by going to Copenhagen in the numbers they did, world leaders demonstrated the importance that they attached to tackling climate change.
As regards the developed countries, existing climate change initiatives really must be pursued with increased urgency. Copenhagen simply means that a great deal more hard diplomatic work must go on in parallel. But for many developed countries, the climate change agenda and the energy security agenda are quite close. We in this country must continue to attach high priority to using less energy in a whole range of ways and, in addition to reducing our overall energy consumption, to obtain our energy from more sustainable sources. On top of that, as long as we are obliged to use fossil fuels, if we are to avoid calamitous climate change, we have to prevent the emissions from those fuels escaping into the atmosphere. The means of doing that is by
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A different and serious question relates to the pivotal role of the United States. Opinion polls suggest that in spite of US Government commitment to action and the extensive support that they are giving to work on many technologies that will be needed to tackle climate change, significantly fewer than half the US population believes that human beings have anything to do with changing the earth's climate. For a mixture of complex reasons climate change has in the United States become embroiled in party politics. This is really serious and of great concern because it is hard to see any world accord being effective without the enthusiastic support and commitment of the United States.
However, public opinion can change. I watched a politically significant shift in Australian public opinion over a period of 12 months, triggered by a combination of extreme climatic events and a successful and well publicised lecture tour by Al Gore. It is not clear how a similar change could be achieved in the US, particularly in the face of overt hostility on the part of some news networks and even some indication of the spread of disinformation. It is clear, however, that the message has to be that action on climate change, taken in conjunction with the rest of the world, would promote rather than damage the US economy. Indeed I believe that there is an opportunity for all Members of this House to help this process by making these arguments whenever they meet opinion leaders and opinion makers in the United States.
Lord Oxburgh:In conclusion, all was not lost at Copenhagen. It is essential for the UK to move ahead both at a practical and diplomatic level, but above all we need to do everything possible to bring the US fully on board as quickly as possible.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I, too, am grateful for the constructive way in which the noble Lord, Lord Stone, introduced this significant debate. Clearly, post-Copenhagen we need to find ways of making progress that will lift spirits. A recent Brookings Institution paper by Alex Evans and David Steven, entitled Hitting Reboot, is the best analysis that I have read, recommending 12 specific ways forward.
There are many other people in your Lordships' House much better qualified to speak about the specifics. We have already heard the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, talk about the necessary work in transforming our global institutions and we have heard something about the confidence in the scientific consensus, which, if opinion polls are to be believed, is under threat. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Rees, in particular, reflecting on that.
The climate challenge starts with science but the action needed to deal with it depends on politics and, as we all know, politics revolves around the electoral cycles. Ed Miliband called for civil society to exert pressure, but the challenge is so complex and the canvas so vast that uncorking the kind of constructive passion that made a success of the Jubilee Debt Campaign on debt relief and the Make Poverty History campaign has been difficult to do. As we have heard, NGOs have been active, but what we need are mass civil society movements that are not afraid of messages about ethics and justice, sacrifice and solidarity-movements that have legitimacy and social influence around the world.
Religious organisations and communities are in touch with more than 85 per cent of the population of the globe. Even in Greater London, 650,000 Christians are at worship every week in more than 4,000 churches, not to mention substantial communities of believers from other faith traditions. Recognition of the potential of such communities lay behind the joint effort mounted by the UN and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation to organise an event in November as a preparation for Copenhagen. Under the aegis of the UN Secretary-General and the Duke of Edinburgh, a cross-section of world religious leaders unveiled their seven-year plans for their own communities. The plan for the Church of England is called Church and Earth.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt was another participant. He outlined a programme of teaching about climate change in Islamic schools. We heard earlier about the extraordinary importance of making profound common cause with the Islamic community, and he has been planning for climate change lessons in Islamic schools, using renewable energy in mosques and the inculcation of green habits in places of pilgrimage. The message is spreading. The Pope, in his New Year message, took as his theme, "If you want to cultivate peace, protect the creation".
Ed Miliband has pointed out that, if Martin Luther King had said "I've got a nightmare", rather than a dream, nobody would have taken much notice or followed him. The task now is to build a global movement that goes beyond G20 territory and embraces Africa and the poorest communities in the world, on which the burden of adapting to climate change is already being felt most acutely.
Polling evidence reveals a dispiriting picture of the growing numbers of people feeling bored, paralysed and disempowered by talk of climate change. Copenhagen was a demonstration of the limits of the global reach and capacity of our present institutions. The experience of the conference should challenge us all to find the wisdom and care for the common good capable of unlocking the vast resources of altruism and the resources of the knowledge that we have acquired through the progress of science.
It was in a speech to the UN 20 years ago, in 1989, that the challenge was most clearly expressed, by someone who is today a member of your Lordships' House. These words continue to have enormous resonance for us. It was said then that,
Lord Giddens: My Lords, I take no particular pleasure in saying that in my book on the politics of climate change, which was published nine months ago, I predicted what would happen at Copenhagen. In my five minutes, I want to make just four brief points about what I think are the implications, although there are many of them.
First, the collapse of COP15 marks the end of the road for Kyoto-style agreements. Nevertheless, the Copenhagen accord arrived by the back door at what needed to be done anyway. It brings the large polluters together and it cross-cuts the developed/developing societies divide. Two countries, the US and China, produce more than 40 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Six countries produce more than 80 per cent. We will need bilateral and limited multilateral negotiation alongside the accord in future. This should be explicitly linked to the G20, which is an emergent body that is quite close to being a representative body and, certainly in respect of climate change, includes virtually all the large polluters.
Secondly, Copenhagen expressed the weaknesses of the United Nations. The UN has done a significant job in promoting world consciousness of climate change yet, as all noble Lords are well aware, it tends to be paralysed by internal divisions. A crucial question facing us, therefore, is what the role of the UN will be. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, put it very well in a recent book, in which he discussed the weaknesses of the UN but also said that it is an indispensable institution. It remains so for what is a global task. There are many things that we will need the UN to monitor. For example, we will need an agreed framework for measuring emissions and a robust system to assess different countries. We have to keep the pressure on China. What Google did yesterday is significant. You cannot be a country that benefits from and faces the risks of global interdependence, climate change being the main risk, and yet stick with a very narrow notion of sovereignty.
Thirdly, the success or otherwise of the accord will depend to a large degree on the coherence of the plans to reduce emissions to be drawn up by the industrial countries by 31 January this year. I have frequently spoken on this in previous debates, as I have carried out an in-depth analysis of the climate change policies of the industrial countries. One can say bluntly that the industrial states have not lived up to their historic responsibilities in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a lot more hype than real action. We have a small number of countries, such as Germany, Sweden and Denmark, in the vanguard, but there is a long tail of countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada and many others, where greenhouse
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Fourthly, climate change sceptics have mounted an organised campaign around COP15; indeed, we heard an expression of that point of view today. We have to give a lot of thought to the political consequences of how we cope with the necessarily sceptical nature of the scientific enterprise. Science depends on scepticism; it feeds on disagreement, not consensus. We know that the impact of the climate change sceptics has been massive among the general public; a previous speaker referred to that. The proportion of the general public that is sceptical about the claims that climate change is dangerous and is caused by human activity is much larger than the proportion in the scientific community.
There are real issues to be confronted. Having written extensively about this, I am worried about the increasing political polarisation around climate change. Climate change is not intrinsically a left/right issue, but it is beginning to polarise around the left and the right. The situation in the United States, which the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, mentioned, expresses this political polarisation. We have at least to consider looking again at the IPCC. We have to consider whether producing a single set of documents, even with different scenarios in them, is the best way of addressing the relationship between science as a sceptical enterprise and the need to convince the public of the crucial importance of action.
Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords, I am not firmly of the view either way about climate change, but I am very concerned about the adverse consequences that may flow from Copenhagen from another perspective. I am anxious that we should not take the view that that failed, but never mind because there will be another conference along soon and we will catch that bus instead. I do not believe that that is a safe approach to take. The subtext of this dialogue is sustainability and green energy, and it distracts us from those two great objectives if we are overconcerned with the scientific proof in the short term. In the long term, it does not matter. We need sustainability and green, so let us get on with it. That is where I start my major concern.
Are we getting on with it? I do not think we are at the national level, the European level or the international level. Recently, I was hugely impressed when, along with a few other Members of your Lordships' House, I listened to a talk by Professor Niall Ferguson, the author of The Ascent of Money, who was asked what is the one thing we could do that would give us a more optimistic future. He said it is the achievement of a single, cheap, sustainable source of fuel. It would wipe out the cause of international strife, free up an enormous amount of GDP that would be sufficient to cure world poverty and bring peace and economic stability to the world. I buy that argument.
Where are we on that? The Government are concerned with building a vast amount of wind on a very cost-ineffective basis, for which we have no adequate grid structure to link up the resources. Beyond that, we do
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Beyond that, we have other developments that ought to be brought into effect. If we look across into Europe, the other great failure of Copenhagen was the total lack of a unified voice on behalf of Europe. No European strategy was identifiable from Copenhagen. That is a disgrace. This Government or the next need to take a major initiative in inspiring leadership of Europe. In general, Europe has the same problem that the UK has in microcosm. It does not have a smart grid.
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