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I wholly agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. His words reminded me of the last sermon I got from the school padre on my last day at school. He said: "You're all going out into this wonderful world. You will go in the company of a great and powerful God, but He has got very bored and tired of performing miracles to get you out of the messes you get yourselves into. Instead, He has given you all the materials you need to do it for yourselves. Now get out there and do it". I do not think we are doing it. This House should have a Select Committee on renewable energy with the objectives I have defined. It may fit into the Europe committees or another structure, but it is long overdue. I like to think that we might now start to take that powerful initiative. The issues are sustainability, which we do not have, and green, which we can have.
The other great miracle we have available to us, which has been missed, is clean coal. Clean coal is wonderful. We have a wonderful plant in Hull, which noble Lords should go and look at. It is the answer to many of our prayers. It takes carbon and drives it through to drive out the carbon from whatever else is presented to it. You end up with captured carbon for the fuel you have treated and the fuel you started with and a clean product. Coal is very cheap, and we have a lot of it. It would buy us the time, on a cost-effective basis, to solve the longer-term problems. Clean coal is a huge answer, and I would like to think that this House will pay a lot of attention to it.
Lord Rees of Ludlow: My Lords, it is sometimes said fatalistically that the UK's stance on climate change is of marginal import because our emissions are only 1 or 2 per cent of the problem, but we have leverage in two respects. The first is political. Our Government have shown leadership both internationally and through the Climate Change Act. We also have leverage through science and engineering. We have the expertise to spearhead the technologies without which there would be no transition to a low-carbon economy for the world, and it is in our national interest to take a lead. We need to keep our own lights on, but beyond that imperative we should seize the chance to pioneer clean energy to meet the entire world's growing needs.
What are the options? There is nuclear power. Many of us favour the UK having a replacement generation of power stations, but we also need worldwide R&D into fourth-generation reactors. There is wind, onshore and offshore. The technology is well tried, but the Government's expectation of the speed of deploying turbines may be unrealistic. There is wave and tidal energy, on which the UK could lead; we have the geography and marine technology from North Sea oil and gas. There are biofuels, a field in which genetic technology may have a lot to offer. There is also the need for improved energy storage for transport and to complement unsteady power sources such as the sun and wind. Nuclear fusion remains an important area of long-term research. A widely favoured long-term bet for Europe is solar energy, with huge collectors perhaps in north Africa generating power that is distributed via a pan-European smart grid. Here, as the noble Lord, Lord James, has said, the urgency of the UK's and Europe's commitment does not match the scale of the challenge or the real opportunity.
Even the optimists among us worry about whether renewables can take over from oil and gas before the CO2 concentration has risen to a threatening level. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, has said, carbon capture and storage is crucial. It could be widely adopted by 2030, but there is a risk if that does not happen, so some argue that we should contemplate a plan B as a fallback: geo-engineering the climate to combat the effects of rising CO2.
The Royal Society-I declare an interest as president-recently published an assessment of schemes such as modifying clouds, putting aerosols into the stratosphere, or even deploying sunshades in space. Such techno fixes have an undoubted allure for some people, but our report emphasised that geo-engineering could have unintended consequences, as well as being plainly politically problematic. Our overall message was that geo-engineering merits some long-term research to clarify its feasibility, but it is not a substitute for the high-priority pursuit of the Copenhagen goals.
Our understanding of climate science must be progressed. No one seriously disputes the rapid anthropogenic rise in CO2 concentrations: nor that, if this continues unchecked, it will lead to secular warming that is superimposed on all the other long-term trends. None the less, there is still uncertainty in the actual rate of warming and in the probability of positive feedbacks. It is therefore crucial to improve the database
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Finally, let us not forget how ambitious a goal it is to halve carbon emissions by 2050. Reaching it would be a momentous achievement in which all major nations acted together in the interests of a future beyond the normal political horizon. Ironically, the political response to the financial crisis offers me some encouragement for the future. Who would have thought two years ago that the world's financial system would have been so transformed that banks were nationalised? Likewise, we surely need outside-the-box international policies to make progress, and the UK should not lose focus on the goal of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, both in our own interests and in those of the wider world.
After Copenhagen, it is important to re-emphasise the disaster for development if we do not go on working together to find more successful and comprehensive ways to manage climate change. It is now clear that the challenge of overcoming world poverty is inextricably linked to the challenges of global warming; if we fail on one, we fail on the other. The vast populations that now live in dire poverty and produce the lowest emissions of carbon will undoubtedly suffer the most.
One of the most recent sources of alarming prediction in this area is the 2010 world development report, Development and Climate Change, by the World Bank. I highlight this report because the World Bank is after all an organisation that is dedicated to driving free market growth and free enterprise; it is not an environmental pressure group or a body that is happy to see limits on technology, and it cannot be accused of a green bias. The World Bank lists the particular vulnerability of the developing world region by region. For example, it notes that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa is especially exposed to increases in floods and droughts, threatening the agriculture that employs 70 per cent of the population. In east Asia and the Pacific, one of the major drivers of vulnerability is that millions of people-40 million in Vietnam alone-live in low-lying coastal areas that are liable to disappear under rising sea levels. In the world's driest region-the Middle East and north Africa-per capita water availability is predicted to halve by 2050, with a devastating impact on food production which accounts at the moment for more than 80 per cent of the region's water use.
The results for already fragile food security are obvious. Even in middle-income India, crop yields could decline by up to 9 per cent in the next three decades. Not surprisingly, food and water shortages lead to related predictions of more debilitating diseases such as cholera and malaria, progressively undermining
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One of the most positive outcomes of the Copenhagen accord was the agreement by developed countries to commit $30 billion immediately to the developing countries to tackle some of these challenges, and to provide $100 billion more a year by 2020. I congratulate our Prime Minister on leading this commitment, but in general the Copenhagen accord could call only for "a goal of mobilising" long-term funding. Nothing is binding. Since Gleneagles, we have learnt, perhaps not to our surprise but to our concern, that other countries constantly fail to meet their promises. Only half the 2010 targets that were agreed five years ago in Scotland have been achieved. Post-Copenhagen, there is also absolutely no clarity about what will count as special climate mitigation aid and whether what is promised will be new money that is additional to existing overseas development aid. I would be very grateful if the Minister could clarify the UK's position on these two points when he replies. I echo the noble Lord, Lord Stone, and other noble Lords who have spoken, in saying that we must look again before the next meetings at the possibility of reforming international decision-making. I am glad that Ed Miliband has already called for this.
The UN principles of universality, transparency and accountability should be maintained in all these discussions, but work should now be done on possible changes to those broad principles. There is a case for using the UN multilateral forum for a discussion on financial mechanisms to mitigate climate change. These are the most relevant matters to the developing countries, which obviously must have a voice and a vote. At the same time, the hard negotiations on legally binding reduction targets could be handled by a smaller group. I have been interested in suggestions that this should be the G20; I am quite clear that it should not be exclusively the G2.
The most pressing challenge this year before the Mexico meeting is to maintain momentum, and above all to strive for a higher level of trust between the developed and the developing world. Perhaps the Commonwealth could have a role to play in this. If we can achieve this greater trust, we may be able to move fairly rapidly towards the most significant milestone: a binding and enforceable legal treaty.
Lord Patel: My Lords, hitherto most of the debate around climate change has revolved around limiting the increase of greenhouse gases and shifting to a low-carbon economy and other technologies, some of which have been mentioned. Although this is important, while we wait for the new technologies to deliver, climate change strategy that does not take into account human dimensions and population dynamics will in my view and that of many others not succeed. In this context, that includes the relationship between the sexes and, importantly, the well-being of women.
Per capita income and population numbers are important factors in CO2 emissions. At 11.46 am today, the population of the world was recorded at 6,902,586,727. There are 220,990 births each day and 27 per cent of the world's population is under the age of 15. World population has increased from 300 million 1,000 years ago to 1.6 billion in 1900 and 6 billion in 2000; according to UN projections, it is heading towards 10 billion by 2050. The majority of the increase will be in the developing countries, where the per capita contribution to greenhouse gases today is low. As a result of industrialisation and patterns of consumption, that is changing. For example, according to a recent report, the number of new car sales in China has outstripped that of the USA for the first time. Some of the developed countries, such as the UK, are also growing demographically. Our population is estimated to rise to 70 million by 2030 and 77 million by 2050.
The developing world, with four-fifths of the world population, has legitimate aspirations for better standards of living, but that also constrains the necessary debate related to population stabilisation. A yearly increase of 80 million in world population adds 90 million tonnes of emissions, which is equal to another Brazil or Australia. The current level of population growth would require a per capita emissions reduction of 1.2 per cent per year. We have not achieved even a 1 per cent reduction over the past 40 years. Recent data on population management are better. In 1970, there was a growth rate of 2.1 per cent, while today the rate is 1.2 per cent. It could be improved even more if strategies for reducing unintended pregnancies and the education of girls were more universally promoted. Without strategies for population stabilisation, any targets for the global reduction of emissions will not be met.
My questions for the Minister are quite simple. Why was there no discussion related to population stabilisation? After searching the material from the Copenhagen meeting, I found barely a mention of it. Does the Minister agree that population growth has to be included in any debate, if not at Copenhagen, then subsequently? Does he also agree that any funding arrangement should support strategies of population stabilisation, particularly the education of girls?
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stone, for the opportunity that this debate gives. I declare an interest as a member of the climate change adaptation committee. I am notably a gloomy person, but I am desperately trying to be positive about Copenhagen. First, I should like to commend the efforts of the Government and the leadership that was shown to take forward the climate change agreement in what was an unsatisfactory negotiating process. I am afraid that I have to confess that I am a fully paid-up member of the Ed Miliband fan club.
Copenhagen was unsatisfactory, but who even a year ago would have believed that we would be in a position where the United States of America, China and many of the developed and developing countries would, if not stating targets, commit themselves to
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Even if there is a deal, CO2 reduction targets notably slip. Even now, there is enough carbon in the atmosphere to cause impacts. Plan B is even more vital now than it was before. This is not the techno-fix plan B of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, but the plan B for how to adapt to the impacts of climate change. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for clearly outlining the impacts on a global scale. The UNFCCC negotiations on adaptation made progress in Copenhagen, but they were not concluded. The green fund is only a start.
In the UK, the Government stated a clear commitment to planning to adapt to climate change and to consider what may happen to us as a nation and to our economy as a result of increased heat, drought or floods and their impact on health, biodiversity, land use, infrastructure, food security, farming and migration. There could be opportunities-for example, increased tourism. Indeed, I continue to rile the people of Aberdeen by saying that climate change is the only thing that might make Aberdeen habitable.
Action needs to be taken at many levels, including at the national, regional and local government levels, as well as by the utilities and infrastructure providers. We need to take adaptation action. A perception of what needs to happen to mitigate the risks of climate change impacts should be threaded through the work of all these bodies in the planning and implementation of their day-to-day activities.
I should like to highlight four forthcoming domestic opportunities. The climate change risk assessment that is being undertaken and its associated economic appraisal will report early next year. There will be national and regional versions of this. This process needs not just to be an academic appraisal of climate change risks in this country but to engage and involve those who will have to take action over the forthcoming years in order to ensure that they are fully involved, understand their roles and begin to get a sense of excitement and challenge into their work.
The third domestic opportunity is that, in the spring, each government department will produce a departmental action plan. Again, they need to be about real activity and real action with targets and timescales; they must not be as limp as lettuce-a phrase that I got from Mr Miliband last night. There is a possibility that departments will fail to grasp the importance of their work on adaptation to the impacts of climate change.
Last but not least, your Lordships skilfully put into the Climate Change Bill a reporting requirement on more than 100 key bodies. Again, we want to see action from that reporting requirement; it must be about real activity and not just going through the motions of reporting. The activities that all these bodies need to undertake to meet the impacts of
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Will the Minister give assurances that the Government will continue not only to show vigour and leadership in mitigating climate change, but also to inject a similar degree of vigour and leadership into pushing forward here and internationally plan B, the actions that we need to ensure that the nation adapts to the impacts of climate change?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, while, along with my noble friend Lady Young, we can garner some consolation from bits of Copenhagen and perhaps flagellate ourselves about raising expectations too high, we should not forget that the real position of Copenhagen was that of a gigantic historic failure and a missed opportunity. As a number of noble Lords have said, it was a failure of international process and of national will in a number of different countries. We are running out of time. We are now over 20 years on from Rio and 10 years on from Kyoto, but global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are still rising.
If we accept the scientific consensus, which, along with the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, I do, we are already on track for a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees, which in itself will bring some drastic changes to our weather patterns and therefore to our ecology and land use. Moreover, if we do not turn the corner by reaching a peak of greenhouse gas emissions before the end of this decade, together with achieving a pretty steep curve of decline thereafter, because cumulative emissions matter more than annual figures, we will fail completely to limit the rise in temperature to 2 degrees by the middle of the century. Most calculations now suggest that we need to be over the peak of greenhouse gas emissions by around 2017. That is seven years away. It is only six years away by the time we reach Mexico and, on the heroic assumption that we get an enforceable agreement there, around five years by the time any new mechanism comes into effect and, at best, four years before it has any real effect on greenhouse gas emissions.
International mechanisms are vital and we need them, but the reality is that in the short term, and for their effect on the long term, it is national actions and perhaps cross-national actions at the EU and other regional levels that will, we hope, deliver the returns that we need at the beginning of this process. The outlook post-Copenhagen is slightly better on that front, because we at least have generalised commitments from the US, Canada and China, as well as commitments from the developing countries to take action. We may well also get some serious and aggressive targets from those countries against which national trading schemes and fiscal and regulatory policies can be set and which may therefore deliver.
Not only do we have to look at the emphasis on switching-through the use of nuclear fuel, through carbon capture and storage and through moving over
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The biggest of these challenges is, of course, to reduce the demand for energy in the first place. I have spoken many times on energy efficiency and I declare an interest as honorary president of the Combined Heat and Power Association. It is not only in heating that we need to achieve greater efficiency; we need to do so in relation to buildings, transport and virtually every aspect of our behaviour from the domestic to high-level industrial. That involves behavioural change on the part of consumers as well as business and here I declare an interest as chair of the organisation Consumer Focus. In order to get consumers to change, however, the Government have serious responsibilities in terms of regulation, fiscal intervention and education policy. These are somewhat outwith the zeitgeist. Neither tax nor regulation is regarded with great affection by the population or by our political leaders, yet their effective use in these fields is vital.
I do not want to cross swords with the might of the Royal Society in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, but we have to pay some attention to issues that can buy us a little time in terms of geo-engineering and techno-fixes. I do not say that that is an immediate position but, if we find ourselves well off target in 2020, 2025 and 2030, we will regret not having put at least some effort into developing some of the more Professor Brainstorm versions of geo-engineering, which may or may not work but certainly need serious investigation.
Finally, we need a programme of adaptation; the committee on which my noble friend Lady Young serves will be a vital part of that. In the end, some climate change is inevitable, so not only how we mitigate and avoid it but, more important, how we adapt to it will determine how humankind and, indeed, life itself can survive on this planet. Like my noble friend, I am an admirer of Ed Miliband and, obviously, of Martin Luther King, but I am not sure that the right reverend Prelate was entirely right. We need a dream, but the vision of a nightmare is important in motivating people as well. If we do not take action, the nightmare scenario may well eventuate.
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